Tip of the Week: Read Books from the Autistic Perspective

If I were to describe my job in one sentence, it would be this: My primary goal is to increase the independence of my students in ways that are meaningful to them and to their families. With that goal in mind, it makes sense that I would seek out input from my students and their families, but also seek out writings by people with autism, Asperger’s, and other developmental delays in order to gain a comprehensive picture of needs, desires, and issues of which I may be unaware.

Sometimes a book or article written by an individual with autism hits the news in a big way. I encourage you to read more than one book, because you’ll quickly find that each individual’s experiences and personalities are quite different. It is not helpful to read the perspective of one person with a developmental disability and apply it to all people with developmental disabilities, but this frequently happens with autism. Here are a few resources you may want to check out:

 

The Reason I Jump by Naoki Higashida – This book was all over the news last year. Set up as a series of questions and responses, Higashida answers all sorts of questions related to autism. His writing is very direct and he shares a lot about the emotions he feels but is unable to convey.

 

 

Any books by Temple Grandin – Temple Grandin is a force in the autism community and has provided a wealth of resources. You can read some of her early work, such as Thinking in Pictures to get a view inside the mind of an individual with autism, but I also have great appreciation for her later work as an advocate for people with autism, such as Different…Not Less.

 

 

Episodes by Blaze Ginsberg – This is one of my all-time favorite books. Ginsberg sets up his life experiences and relationships as if they were different seasons of television shows. He presents his teen years as if you were flipping through the channels, seeing different episodes of his life. He even has songs for each episode!

 

 

Finding Kansas by Aaron Likens – This one is unique because it is written by a man who was diagnosed with Asperger’s in his 20s. Likens is eloquent in his use of metaphor to help clearly define aspects of his behavior.

 

 

www.wrongplanet.comWrong Planet is a community forum for individuals with autism and their families. You will see a wide range of questions and opinions here. It also serves as a forum for individuals with autism to express their feelings about topics such as whether or not they prefer people-first language, how people with autism should be depicted on TV, legislation related to autism, and more.


WRITTEN BY SAM BLANCO, MSED, BCBA

Sam is an ABA provider for students ages 3-12 in NYC. Working in education for ten years with students with Autism Spectrum Disorders and other developmental delays, Sam has developed strategies for achieving a multitude of academic, behavior, and social goals. Sam is currently pursuing her PhD in Applied Behavior Analysis at Endicott College.

Pick of the Week: Sensory Tubes – Reinforcers filled with endless possibilities of stimuli!

We love these Sensory Tubes here at Different Roads to Learning! This set of 4 clear and sturdy Sensory Tubes is remarkably versatile.
What we love about them is that you can fill each one with assorted visual or auditory stimuli that a particular student finds reinforcing, completely individualizing them. This week, take 15% off* your order of the Sensory Tubes by applying promo code TUBES15 at checkout!

Each tube features dual openings with 2 solid lids along with four vented lids that let children explore their sense of smell or even observe little critters.

The lids easily twist off and on, and the solid lids hold liquid securely inside. The tubes measure 12 inches in height and 2.5 inches in diameter. These Sensory Tubes will make your student’s reinforcement possibilities endless!

Don’t forget to save 15%* this week on your set of Sensory Tubes by applying promo code TUBES15 at checkout!

 

*Offer is valid until 11:59pm EST on December 23rd, 2014. Not compatible with any other offers. Be sure there are no spaces or dashes in your code at check out!

5 Tips on Teaching Safety Skills to Children with Autism

This week, we’re thrilled to bring you a second guest article by Sarah Kupferschmidt, MA, BCBA. Sarah has written a very comprehensive article on teaching street safety skills in children with autism and other developmental disabilities. Learning to navigate the real world involves many complex skills that we may often take for granted. So how do we teach our children when to cross the street and what to watch out for? Read on for Sarah’s tips on how to teach and reinforce safety skills in children.


I am passionate about empowering children with special needs and their families with skills and knowledge that they can use to improve their quality of life. This is why I am super excited to be sharing tips and strategies that relate to keeping your child with autism safe on the street. Learning to navigate the real world involves a lot of complex skills that we sometimes take for granted. For example, learning to determine when it is safe to cross the street requires the ability to attend to your environment, the ability to identify moving cars from cars that are still, the ability to identify the signal at the cross walk that lets you know it is safe to cross, among many, many, more. In some cases even more advanced problem solving is required because if the sign says it is safe to cross and a motorist continues through the intersection we need to be able to identify the moving car is approaching and that we need to wait for it to pass before crossing the street. So where do we begin?

Tip #1: The Learner is Never Wrong

I love the saying “the learner is never wrong” because of what it implies. Whenever considering teaching a new skill to a child or student we need to focus on that unique child’s strengths and weaknesses. Where do we need to boost up their skills and what do they already know so that we can capitalize on those strengths. Before going out to teach your child with autism how to cross the street safely, they should have some imitation skills, be able to respond to instructions and attend to you or a teacher amidst a lot of distractions (e.g., cars, background noise and pedestrians, just to name a few). Once you have determined they are ready to learn this important skill you would want to use things that are of interest to them and that you know align with their learning style. For example, are they a visual learner and if so, how can you incorporate visuals to maximize their learning potential in how you go out and practice crossing the street safely?

Tip #2: Simplify the Complex Skills

As mentioned earlier in the post, many of the skills that we use actually have many components, something we take for granted. In this case, teaching how to cross the street might involve the following steps:

  1. Stop at the curb/crosswalk
  2. Look at the crosswalk signal
  3. Decide if it is safe to cross (e.g., does it say ‘walk,’ or does it say ‘stop’)
  4. If the sign says walk, then look both ways
  5. Decide if it is safe (e.g., is there a car moving or not)
  6. Walk safely across the street (e.g., this means walking not running, perhaps holding your hand)

It is important to remember that these steps are just an example of what you might teach. You would individualize this based on the environment in which you live (e.g., if there is a crosswalk sign or crossing guard, or not) and the expectations you have as a family (e.g., to hold the hand or not). Teach this using tools that you know are effective with your unique child. For example, you may decide to print out a visual depiction for each of the steps and show them as you talk about it and practice. This depends on your child’s unique learning style. As with every skill that that we teach, it is never enough to just tell someone or show someone how to do it. We need to actually go out and practice.

Tip #3: Practice, Practice, Practice

Use every opportunity that you have to go out and practice this very important skill. I would also recommend that you set up specific times to go out and practice. You can use the visuals that you printed and go through each of the steps while you are out. If you notice that your child is struggling on a particular step, then practice that particular step at home even more. For example, if your child is not identifying the walk signal when you are out on the street, set up times to go over that at home.

Tip #4: Monitor Progress

In order to see how your child is doing on each of the steps it is a good idea to record how they do on each of the steps. You might print off a checklist with each of the steps that looks something like this:

Street Safety Chart

You would calculate the number of times you recorded a Y over the total number of steps (e.g., in this case 6). For example, if I worked on this with my child and he did all of the steps he would get a 6/6. If he missed a step his overall score would be 5/6 or 83%. This score can then be used to monitor progress. I would also suggest that anytime you go out and practice you highlight whichever step(s) that they missed, if any. This will allow you to see if you need to work on something a little bit more before you go out and practice.

Tip #5: Notice the Good Stuff

Feedback is critical when you are teaching a new skill. Otherwise how is your child going to know how they are doing? This means that when they get it right we need to notice it and we need to be specific about what it is they did well. You can even use the visuals if you have them. You might say something like “I love the way you followed all of the steps of what to do when crossing the street safely! You stopped at the curb, looked at the signal…etc.” You may point to the visual as you tell them. If they missed a step remind them that next time they should try to remember what it is that they missed. Anytime they do one of the steps spontaneously, point it out to them and give lots of praise. Over time we can fade the praise out but it is really important when teaching a new skill, especially at the beginning.

If you have any questions about any of the tips listed here feel free to contact me or a local Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA). I am passionate about keeping our kids safe! Sign up for my newsletter or follow me on Twitter for regular tips and strategies!

WRITTEN BY SARAH KUPFERSCHMIDT, MA, BCBA

Sarah Kupferschmidt is a Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA) who has worked with hundreds of children with autism and their families across Ontario. She has had the privilege of supervising ABA programs and training clinical staff in those programs.  Currently Sarah offers parent coaching and workshops to teach parents but also educators on the most effective ways to teach children using the principles of ABA.  She is also a part-time faculty member at Mohawk College in the Autism Behavioral Science program, in the social sciences program at McMaster University, and an Adjunct Professor at Sage Graduate School.  Sarah is CEO and co-Founder of Special Appucations, Incwhich is a company that creates educational products that help maximize the learning potential for children with autism because they are designed using the principles of ABA.  Sarah has appeared as a guest on CP24, CHCH news, Hamilton Life and the Scott Thompson radio show as an authority on autism.

Pick of the Week: “Getting Started” by James Partington, PhD, BCBA-D

The latest book from James Partington, PhD, BCBA-D, author of the ABLLS®-R and AFLS, Getting Started: Developing Critical Learning Skills is an accessible guide that teaches parents and educators how to develop critical skills for learning in children who have no, or very limited, language skills. Save 15%* this week only on your copy of Getting Started. Just use our promo code GETSTART at check-out to redeem these savings!

Written in non-technical language, Dr. Partington explains how to teach these children how to ask for items they want, imitate actions and vocalizations, attend to actions with objects, and to initiate social interactions.

Getting Started provides evidence-based Applied Behavior Analysis and Verbal Behavior methodology along with critical information on where to start and the procedure involved in teaching these critical learning skills that form an important basic foundation for a child’s overall development.

Step-by-step instructions allow a parent or teacher to implement training and track the child’s acquisition of these important skills. All of the strategies in this book are linked to the skills in the ABLLS®-R. In addition, it provides the reader with strategies to motivate the child to participate in those learning activities as well as identify appropriate goals. This book is printed in soft cover with 260 pages.

Don’t forget to apply our promo code GETSTART at check-out to take 15% off* your order of Getting Started: Developing Critical Learning Skills for Children on the Autism Spectrum.

*Offer is valid until 11:59pm EST on December 9th, 2014. Not compatible with any other offers. Be sure there are no spaces or dashes in your code at check out!

Special Education Students Learn How to Share and Prepare for Thanksgiving

(SGVN/Staff photo by Leo Jarzomb/SWCITY)

In the spirit of the Thanksgiving holiday, we thought we would share this wonderful report we came across on learning how to prepare for Thanksgiving festivities at Dexter Middle School in Whittier, CA. With weeks of preparation for their annual tradition, sixth-, seventh-, and eighth-graders in this school’s special education program learn about manners, responsibility, budgeting at the grocery store, and treating others with respect, especially at the dinner table.

How are you preparing for Thanksgiving with your special student this year? What’s your annual tradition?

Click to read: Thanksgiving comes early for Dexter Middle students

Download our 2014 Holiday Gift Guide today! Find the perfect gift for your special child

Around the holidays, parents often get calls from grandparents, friends and relatives asking for gift ideas for children with special needs. Our 2014 Holiday Gift Guide will make it a bit easier for everyone to find something special for the special child in their life. Our trusted consultant Sam Blanco, MSEd, BCBA has put together some of her favorites that are sure to bring delight. From our Different Roads family to yours, we wish you all the joy and happiness of the season.

Holiday Gift Guide

DOWNLOAD OUR 2014 HOLIDAY GIFT GUIDE NOW!  

AND we’re slashing the prices of the toys and games in our Holiday Gift Guide, so be sure to apply or mention our promo code GIFT14 to save 15%* on these featured products!

 

Join us at the Long Island Behavior Analysis Conference with Keynotes Dr. Mark Sundberg and Dr. Patrick Friman: December 5, 2015

December 5th, 2014

We are so excited to be a part of this upcoming Long Island Behavior Analysis Conference! The conference will be held at the Long Island Marriott in Uniondale, New York. Registration information can be found here.

With keynote speakers Mark Sundberg, PhD, BCBA-D and Patrick Friman, PhD, ABPP, this 2-day conference will be a great opportunity to hear about what is going on in the field of ABA. Sessions include “Teaching Language and Social Skills in a Child’s Natural Environment”, “The Role of Play in ABA Programs: Analysis, Assessment, and Intervention” and “That’s Not What I Recommended! Merging Treatment Integrity with Reality to Support Caregivers with Behavioral Recommendations in the Home.”

Come say hi! We will have a table at the conference, where we will be selling the VB-MAPP, Teaching Language to Children With Autism, ABA Curriculum for the Common Core: Kindergarten, and a number of our other favorite titles and products – all at discounted prices!

This conference is geared towards ABA professionals, with Type 2 CEU’s available. There is also an alternative track for parents interested in attending.

For more information, visit the ELIJA website here.

Pick of the Week: “I Feel Angry When…” – A Social Skills Game to Teach How to Express & Respond to Anger

I Feel Angry When… teaches children the important skills of learning how to express their anger in a nonthreatening way, and to respond in positive ways when they feel angry. This week, we’re giving you 15% off* your order of the I Feel Angry When… game by applying our promo code IFEEL at checkout!

With this game, kids learn how to use I-Messages – a verbal template that offers a way to communicate how you feel and what you want without offending others. This method, when combined with basic anger control strategies, gives children an opportunity to express their anger in a calm way without resorting to aggression.

As they respond to anger-provoking situations described on game cards, players learn how to use I-Messages to communicate their feelings. They also learn 12 anger control strategies that help them retain their composure in the moment anger erupts. Simple and straightforward, this game gives children the skills they need to keep their cool. The game comes with 2 Anger Control Spinners (one for ages 6–9 and one for 10–12), 1 I-Message Guide Cards, 200 Reward Chips, 54 Situation Cards, and 6 “Tell Me About It” Cards. This game is recommended for children ages 6 to 12.

Don’t forget to use promo code IFEEL at checkout this week to save 15%* on your set of I Feel Angry When…!

*Offer is valid until 11:59pm EST on November 25th, 2014. Not compatible with any other offers. Be sure there are no spaces or dashes in your code at check out!

Different Roads to Learning Celebrates the Release of the “ABA Curriculum for the Common Core: Kindergarten”

We’ve just wrapped up a successful event in celebration of BCBA Sam Blanco’s newly released ABA Curriculum for the Common Core for Kindergarten. We couldn’t be more grateful and proud of the work that Sam has accomplished in creating this robust and one-of-a-kind curriculum kit with us. We’d like to thank all of the educators, professionals, parents, and friends again who joined us this past Wednesday.

The ABA Curriculum for the Common Core Kit: Kindergarten and other raffle prizes. (Masao Katagami)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Guests had the opportunity to connect with each other over an autumnal arrangement of hors d’oeuvres, delicious sushi, baked sweets, and wine, while looking through all the materials and components of the ABA Curriculum for the Common Core Kit. A special raffle was also held, during which guests had the chance to try their luck at winning any of the 4 raffle prizes: one Language Builder set and the Curriculum Book for the ABA Curriculum for the Common Core, one Time Timer PLUS and the curriculum book, the What the Heck Does That Mean?! Idioms Game, and last but not least, the entire kit for the ABA Curriculum for the Common Core: Kindergarten. Congratulations to the raffle winners  Alicia, Meaghan, Linda  and of course, the big winner of the kit, Debbie!

Party attendees mingle over food and the ABA Curriculum for the Common Core Kit: Kindergarten. (Masao Katagami)

 

Sam Blanco, MSED, BCBA tells guests about the curriculum and kit. (Masao Katagami)

View all of the event photos on our Facebook page here.

For more information about the ABA Curriculum for the Common Core Kit: Kindergarten, please email info@difflearn.com. Requests to arrange a demonstration or training with the curriculum kit can be directed to Abigail at (212) 604-9637 or abigail@difflearn.com.

Simplifying the Science: Addressing Vocal Stereotypy or “Scripting”

Many parents and teachers struggle with addressing vocal stereotypy or “scripting” in children with autism. Since stereotypy is frequently automatically reinforcing, (meaning that the behavior is maintained by the sensation produced by the behavior) it is especially difficult to address. While this type of behavior does occur in typically developing children (think of a young child singing the same song repeatedly for several weeks or a toddler repeating a newly learned sound) there is concern that this behavior persists in children with autism and other developmental disabilities in such a manner that it interferes with learning.

In 2007, William H. Ahearn, Kathy M. Clark, Rebecca P.F. McDonald and Bo In Chung published a study in the Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis entitled Assessing and Treating Vocal Stereotypy in Children with Autism.” The study defined vocal stereotypy as “any instance of noncontextual or nonfunctional speech and included singing, babbling, repetitive grunts, squeals, and phrases unrelated to the present situation.” It focused on four learners (two boys and two girls) who had autism and were referred for the study because their vocal stereotypy interfered with their ability to learn. The children ranged in age from 3-11. Three of them used speech to communicate while one used PECS.

The study describes potential interventions from previous research before introducing its goal of interrupting the vocal response then redirecting. This is called RIRD – Response Interruption/Redirection. In RIRD, when the child made an inappropriate vocalization, the teacher blocked them by interrupting immediately, then redirecting them to another behavior. The redirection involved prompts for vocal behavior such as saying “Where do you live?” or “Say ‘red.’” When a child made an appropriate vocalization, it was always followed by a teacher comment.

RIRD produced substantially lower rates of stereotypy for all four of the children and an increase in appropriate vocalizations for three of the children. One thing that is striking about these results is that “sessions were 5 min in duration, and two to three sessions were conducted 3 days per week.” This is a degree of time commitment that is replicable in the home or school environments.

If your child or student is presenting with stereotypy that interferes with learning, it is valuable to look at this study, as well as similar studies by Cassella, Sidener, Sidener, & Progar (2011) and Athens, Vollmer, Sloman, & Pipkin (2008). Consult with a BCBA or ABA provider for assistance in implementing the intervention.