Pick of the Week: Save 30% on “A Work in Progress” Companion Booklets & DVDs!

Building on the popular guide and curriculum A Work In Progress, this companion series of booklets and DVDs synthesizes information on various teaching strategies with demonstrations of actual sessions with students on video. The Work in Progress Companion Series aims to blend a natural, child-friendly approach to teaching while remaining determinedly systematic. This series offers viewers the unique opportunity to see these approaches implemented in actual teaching environments.

This week, we’re offering the entire Set of 6 Work in Progress Companion Booklets & DVDs for only $99.00 (a $150 value)! Or get one (1) Companion Set for $24.95 only $17.50!  Just use our promo code AWIPSET at check-out to redeem these great savings. View our entire sale here.

AWIP_Companion_Booklets_and_DVDs

Parents and teachers will find this series to be a helpful companion and extension to A Work in Progress. All author proceeds from the Work in Progress Companion Series will go directly to the Autism Partnership Family Foundation which was developed to provide services to families with limited resources, fund research that will investigate new strategies and programs that truly make a difference in the lives of children and families, and disseminate information about evidence-based treatment and provide resources for training parents and professionals.

Volume 1: “Cool” versus “Not Cool” teaches students foundational as well as advanced social skills in the difference between behaviors that are socially appropriate (i.e. cool) and those that are inappropriate (i.e. not cool). In later stages, they go on to actually practice the appropriate form of the behavior and receive feedback on their efforts. Research confirms the clinical experience that “Cool” versus “Not Cool” is effective in teaching social skills and enabling students to monitor their own behavior.

Volume 2: Learning How to Learn teaches and demonstrates programs that researchers have found helpful in teaching students how to learn.

Volume 3: Teaching Interactions offers a conversation-style of teaching which adds the all important element of leading students to understand rationales for why they might want to change their behavior and learn new skills. This booklet and DVD teaches students how to develop understanding and insight that help form their internal motivation.

Volume 4: Token Economy provides step-by-step instructions on how to ensure there is a strong connection between the target behavior and the reward that follows. Token economies have a number of advantages and can be very flexible in adapting to the age of the student, the types of rewards used, and the skills and behavioral targets you are seeking to improve.

Volume 5: Developing Reinforcers shows parents and teachers how to be creative in developing new sources of reinforcement, which is especially useful for students who have limited interests.

Volume 6: Bullying & ASD – The Perfect Storm focuses on the tools needed to help children with autism combat bullying. Students with ASD are particularly at risk because of their behavior issues and their vulnerability. This volume provides practical suggestions that help prevent the devastation of bullying.

Buy one (1) volume for only $17.50* this week using promo code AWIPSET at check-out! View our entire sale here!

*Offer is valid for one-time use only through January 26, 2015. Promotion does not apply to past purchases. Be sure there are no spaces or dashes in your code AWIPSET at check-out!

 

“Underwater Basket Weaving Therapy for Autism: Don’t Laugh! It Could Happen…” by David Celiberti, PhD, BCBA-D & Denise Lorelli, MS

This month’s featured article from the Association for Science in Autism Treatment (ASAT) is by Executive Director David Celiberti, PhD, BCBA-D and Denise Lorelli, MS on the abundance of so-called “therapies” available for children with autism, why some fall trap to these “therapies,” and how to assess what therapy is right, and most importantly, effective in the long run. To learn more about ASAT, please visit their website at www.asatonline.org. You can also sign up for ASAT’s free newsletter, Science in Autism Treatment, and like them on Facebook!


Underwater Basket Weaving Therapy for Autism: Don’t Laugh! It Could Happen…
by David Celiberti, PhD, BCBA-D and Denise Lorelli, MS

Yes, sadly it can happen. With 400+ purported treatments for autism, there is no shortage of such whose name begins with an activity, substance, or favorite pastime and ends in the word “therapy.” A cursory internet search would reveal such “therapies” as music therapy, art therapy, play therapy, sand therapy, dolphin therapy, horseback riding therapy, bleach therapy, vitamin therapy, chelation therapy, and helminth worm therapy joining the list of the more established habilitative therapies such as physical therapy, occupational therapy, and speech-language therapy (this is by no means an exhaustive list of the array of “therapies” that are marketed to consumers). Touted therapies can involve all sorts of things. I recall sitting on a panel at Nova University in the late ‘90s with another provider boasting the benefits of llamas and lizards as well.

What concerns us are the assumptions – made by consumers and providers alike – that promoted “therapies” have legitimate therapeutic value, when, in fact, there is often little-to-no scientific evidence to support them. Some might rightfully say that many of these touted methods are “quackery” without such evidence. The focus on such unproven methods or “therapies” may result in financial hardship and caregiver exhaustion, further exacerbating the stress levels of participating families. What is most alarming is that these “therapies” may be detrimental because they may separate individuals with autism from interventions that have a demonstrated efficacy, thus delaying the time of introduction of effective therapy.

This concern is echoed by the American Academy of Pediatrics. In their guidelines focusing on the management of autism spectrum disorders, they state: “Unfortunately, families are often exposed to unsubstantiated, pseudoscientific theories and related clinical practices that are, at best, ineffective and, at worst, compete with validated treatments or lead to physical, emotional, or financial harm. Time, effort, and financial re-sources expended on ineffective therapies can create an additional burden on families” (p. 1174).

If a child diagnosed with cancer were prescribed chemotherapy, there is a reasonable expectation that chemotherapy would treat or ameliorate the child’s cancer. Parents of individuals with autism have that hope as well when their children are provided with various therapies. While this hope is understandable, it is often placed in a “therapy” for which there is an absence of any legitimate therapeutic value. We hope the following will help both providers and consumers become more careful in how they discuss, present, and participate in various “therapies.”

SOME FAULTY ASSUMPTIONS REGARDING “THERAPIES”

1. Anything ending in the word “therapy” must have therapeutic value. The word “therapy” is a powerful word and clearly overused; therefore, it would be helpful to begin with a definition. Let’s take a moment and think about this definition:

Merriam-Webster
Therapy: noun \ˈther-ə-pē\ “a remedy, treatment, cure, healing, method of healing, or remedial treatment.”

When a “therapy” provider or proponent uses the word “therapy,” he/she is really saying: “Come to me…I will improve/treat/cure your child’s autism.” The onus is on the provider/proponent to be able to document that the “therapy” has therapeutic value, in that it treats autism in observable and measurable ways or builds valuable skills that replace core deficits.

2. Providers of said “therapy” are actually therapists. It is not unreasonable for a parent or consumer to assume that the providers of particular “therapies” are bona fide therapists. It is also reasonable for a parent to believe that someone referring to him/herself as a therapist will indeed help the child. However, simply put, if an experience is not a therapy, then the provider is not a therapist. He or she may be benevolent and caring, but not a therapist.

Some disciplines are well established and have codified certification or licensed requirements, ethical codes, and practice guidelines (e.g., psychology, speech-language pathology, occupational therapy). Consumers would know this, as “therapy” providers will hold licenses or certifications. Notwithstanding, consumers can look to see if the provider has the credentials to carry out a particular therapy, and these credentials can be independently verified (please see http://www.bacb.com/index.php?page=100155 as an example). A chief distinction is that licenses are mandatory and certifications are voluntary. In the case of licensure, state governments legislate and regulate the practice of that discipline. It cannot be over-stated that just because a discipline has certified or licensed providers it does not necessarily mean that those providers offer a therapy that works for individuals with autism. This segues into the third assumption.

3. All “therapies,” by definition, follow an established protocol grounded in research and collectively defined best practices. Let’s revisit our chemotherapy example. Chemotherapy protocols have a basis in published research in medical journals and are similarly applied across oncologists. In other words, two different oncologists are likely to follow similar protocols and precise treatments with a patient that presents with similar symptoms and blood work findings. This is not the case with many autism treatments. Most therapies lack scientific support altogether and are often carried out in widely disparate ways across providers often lacking “treatment integrity.”

4. If “XYZ therapy” is beneficial for a particular condition, it would benefit individuals with autism as well. Sadly, this kind of overgeneralization has been observed and parents of children with autism are often misled. Suppose underwater basket weaving was demonstrated through published research to improve lung capacity. Touting the benefits of this as a treatment for autism would clearly be a stretch. Therapeutic value in autism must focus on ameliorating core symptoms and deficits associated with autism such as social challenges, improving communication skills, and reducing or eliminating the behavioral challenges associated with autism.

Continue reading

Simplifying the Science: Choiceworks App – Increase Self-Monitoring and Autonomy in Students with ASD

Finding the appropriate educational setting for individuals with autism can be quite challenging. And in working to provide the least restrictive environment, sometimes students are placed in classrooms where they can do the work but requires additional supports. This makes teaching self-monitoring all the more important as we strive to help our students attain independence in all areas.

A recent study by Miller, Doughty, & Krockover (2015) used an iPad app as part of an intervention to increase self-monitoring for three students with moderate intellectual disabilities in their science class. The goal was to increase autonomy in problem-solving activities linked the science lesson for that day. The app they used was called Choiceworks, which the authors described as: “a daily routine board maker [that] contains prompting tools to assist users through daily tasks. Checklists, schedule boards, activity timers, and a communication board can be developed using this system” (p. 358).

Over the course of a two-week period, each student was provided with three training sessions for how to use the iPad based on a task analysis the authors had devised. Skills taught included swiping, changing the volume, and operating the Choiceworks app. Next, the authors introduced five steps of problem-solving and provided mini-lessons on each of the steps. The authors used stories that required problem-solving, then taught the students how to use the app to navigate through the five steps of problem solving. Finally, the intervention was introduced in the science classroom.

All three students in this study significantly increased their independence in problem-solving. Furthermore, the results were generalized to solving problems related to daily living and were maintained over time.

The results of this study are important for several reasons. First, it demonstrates one method for increasing independence in individuals with developmental disabilities. Second, this increase in independence provides opportunities for more natural peer interaction since the individual with the disability will not have an adult always standing next to them. Finally, using a tool such as an iPad mini (as these researchers did) or iPhone is beneficial because many people are walking around with such devices, allowing individuals with disabilities to use a device to promote independence without increasing the threat of social stigma. The authors clearly show that, when provided with proper instruction, students with developmental disabilities can use the iPad mini to become more independent with both academic and daily living skills.

REFERENCES

Miller, B., Doughty, T., & Krockover, G. (2015). Using science inquiry methods to promote self-determination and problem-solving skills for students with moderate intellectual disability. Education and Training in Autism and Developmental Disabilities, 50(3), 356-368.

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.

7 Tips for Choosing Educational Apps for Your Learner

While tablets can provide a wealth of material for teaching all sorts of skills, it can be incredibly challenging to wade through all the mediocre or just terrible apps in order to find something worthwhile for your learner. Here are a few tips for finding apps that are appropriate for your learner’s skill level and interest.

  1. Use social media to get suggestions. I’ve found several apps that I love to use with my students simply through following facebook groups focused on apps in education or apps in special education. If you love twitter, following teachers may also help you get good recommendations.
  2. Look at websites such as teacherswithapps.com or graphite.org. Both of these websites are chalk full of recommendations and reviews from teachers, and both have sections devoted specifically to special education. Graphite.org, in particular, has great search capabilities for you to easily find apps based on subject matter, grade level, or skill type.
  3. Take a look at this exhaustive list from Autism Speaks. This list is focused on apps specifically for learners with autism, and it allows you to filter your search by category of app, age group, and type of device.
  4. Don’t ignore apps with in-app purchases! Many parents and teachers I speak with can’t stand in-app purchases. I’d like to re-label this as a free trial. You can take a look at the app, assess the quality on your own, and see if your child enjoys it. If it looks good, then you get to add content after you’ve tried it out.
  5. Look at the developers of apps you’ve already had success with. There are many app companies out there that are putting out consistenly good educational apps (Tiggly, Toca Boca, Pepi Play, Artgig Studios, and Motion Math just to name a few). So once I find a good app, I always look at the other apps created by the same company.
  6. If you’re a teacher, look for options to modify or individualize material. I always want to use an app with multiple students, so if I’m able to level the material or even add in individualized material, that’s ideal. For instance, Mystery Word Town just added an aspect to the game in which you can put in the individual learner’s target spelling words. What’s better than that?!
  7. Ask other parents, other kids, and your kid! You might find some of your favorite apps simply by starting the conversation with other people. You can even start a conversation by sharing your favorite app.

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: “Introducing Inference” Workbook

Teach inferencing and problem-solving skills to young learners with this comprehensive workbook by Marilyn M. Toomey! Our ability to infer or to draw conclusions given partial information is a cornerstone of our reasoning process. Guessing, implying, hinting, suggesting, supposing and reasoning are just a few of the mental processes in which we draw inference. Throughout Introducing Inference, students are encouraged not only to draw conclusions using inference, but to explain how they solved the problem at hand. The aim is to teach students that using inference in their reasoning process is using their best judgment.

The book starts out with pictures of objects, each with an obvious part missing and moves to sequenced events, with a part of the sequence missing. Finally, questions requiring answers that tell what is missing complete the path to learning this basic skill. For example, an image of bike with a missing wheel is accompanied by: “A bicycle is supposed to have two ____, but this bicycle has only one. One ____ is missing.”

Introducing Inference covers topics in:

  • Missing parts: animals, objects
  • Sequenced events
  • Missing parts: sequenced events
  • Predicting outcomes
  • Identifying intermediate events
  • Analyzing outcomes
  • Inferring causal events
  • and more!

Use our promotional code INFER15 at check-out this week to take 15% off* your copy of the Introducing Inference workbook!

*Offer expires on Tuesday, December 22, 2015 at 11:59pm EST. Promotion does not apply to past purchases. Be sure there are no spaces or dashes in your code INFER15 at check-out! Call our friendly customer service team at (800) 853-1057 with any inquiries.

“Increasing Articulation in Children with Autism” by Tracie Lindblad

Following our last feature on guided playdates, we’ve partnered with the Association for Science in Autism Treatment (ASAT) again this week to bring you an article by Tracie Lindblad, Reg. CASLPO (SLP), MS, MEd, BCBA, on increasing speech intelligibility in children with autism. To learn more about ASAT, please visit their website at www.asatonline.org. You can also sign up for ASAT’s free newsletter, Science in Autism Treatment, and like them on Facebook!

How do you increase speech intelligibility (articulation skills) or the variability in the sounds produced by children with autism spectrum disorders?
Answered by Tracie L. Lindblad, Reg. CASLPO (SLP), MS, MEd, BCBA

Approximately 30–50% of individuals with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) remain minimally verbal throughout their lives, with little or no functional speech (National Institutes of Health & National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders, 2010; Johnson, 2004; Mirenda, 2003). These individuals may rely on more effortful modes of communication such as reaching for desired items, taking another’s hand to gain access, or obtaining the item independent of communication. Attempts to communicate may also take the form of challenging behaviours such as aggression, self-injury, and tantrums.

Parents face a difficult task in choosing a treatment for minimally verbal children with ASD because a wide range of techniques are routinely used by speech-language pathologists and behaviour analysts with varying degrees of success and evidence.

The following table highlights some of the most-commonly implemented interventions to target speech skills and the current evidence base for each.

Increasing Articulation Table 1Increasing Articulation Table 2

Within the fields of behaviour analysis and speech pathology, evidence-based practice (EBP) should shape and guide our treatment decisions. EBP is the integration of:

  • external scientific evidence,
  • clinical expertise/expert opinion, and
  • client/patient/caregiver perspectives.

Principles of EBP can help any professional to provide high-quality services which reflect the interests, values, needs, and choices of the individuals, and promote the best outcomes possible with the current evidence to date. Continue reading

Pick of the Week: Sensible Pencil – A Handwriting Program

Created by Linda C. Becht, Sensible Pencil is a step-by-step handwriting program developed for students with special needs. With 200 sequential worksheets, new writers will learn how to write quickly and efficiently. This week, you can save 15%* on Sensible Pencil with promo code PENCIL15 at check-out!

Sensible Pencil is presented in notebook format and contains 200 reproducible worksheets, a progress chart, and a manual. With this handwriting program, the student can start with simple horizontal and vertical lines presented in fun ways, and then go on to other basic lines needed for handwriting skills.

Don’t forget to use promo code PENCIL15 when you check out online to take 15% off* your order of Sensible Pencil: A Handwriting Program!

*Offer is valid until 11:59pm EST on November 10th, 2015. Not compatible with any other offers. Be sure there are no spaces or dashes in your code at checkout!

Pick of the Week: Occupational Octaves Piano Curriculum for Students with Special Needs

Occupational Octaves Piano is the first of its kind curriculum written in the special-needs-user-friendly language of music. Named Lee Stockner’s Music Box Method, this unique piano program has been enriching the lives of students with Autism through music since 2009. This week only, we’re offering 15%* off any or all 3 of the Occupational Octaves Piano Books within the curriculum. Just use our promo code OCTAVES at check-out!

The original language of music can be a confusing symbolic language that should perfectly instruct a student as to which notes, fingers and beats to play. Occupational Octaves Piano students read the same instructions, not through the traditional presentation of confusing musical symbols, but through colored letters in rhythmically designed boxes. This means that students on the autism spectrum, including those with severe disabilities, can play the same songs as a traditional player with the same notes, fingers and beats as a mainstream student would. Each curriculum music book comes with a set of rings that are placed on the player’s fingers to help them match their hands to the notes they’re seeing.

Hundreds of students with autism have successfully learned to play the piano using this method. Give your students the gift of music with the Occupational Octaves Piano curriculum series. This program is a revolutionary approach that develops cognitive, physical and emotional gains to a wide variety of soon-to-be musicians!

Don’t forget to take 15% off* your order of any or all 3 of the Occupational Octaves Piano Books this week only by using promo code OCTAVES at check-out!

*Offer is valid until 11:59pm EST on August 18th, 2015. Not compatible with any other offers. Be sure there are no spaces or dashes in your code at checkout!

Pick of the Week: NEW! Function Wheels – A Behavioral Identification and Intervention System

We’re absolutely thrilled to introduce Function Wheels, an easy-to-use system that enables users to identify the function of behavior and immediately intervene. Created and piloted by Keith Amerson, MSEd, Different Roads to Learning is a proud partner in bringing you the first all-inclusive, systematic approach for identifying the functions of problem behaviors and implementing research-based interventions to manage them.

Get your kit today at the introductory price of $149.95 through July 31st! No promo code necessary.

Click to enlarge.

Be sure to check out this nifty video below for a more in-depth look at the Function Wheels Kit!

Tip of the Week: Two Essential Considerations When Toilet Training Boys

Last year, I had the opportunity to interview Gary Weitzen, the Executive Director of POAC Autism Services and the Autism Shield Program. (You can see the blog post about that interview here.) In the months since our interview, many of his comments have stuck with me, but one in particular has impacted my daily work with students. He said, “A lot more boys have autism than females but the vast majority of educators in special ed, and in particular with autism, are females.” He went on to provide examples of how this fact influences some skill development, specifically with toilet training.

Child on Toilet 2 BlogThis leads to several considerations to take into account when toilet training boys. I agree with Weitzen that some of these issues arise from the simple fact that women are predominantly toilet training boys. However, it’s also possible that such issues arise from the fact that many boys are trained in early intervention or preschool years without consideration of the implications of those training techniques several years down the line, and without further intervention or training later in life. Either way, it’s important to recognize that training of life skills should be completed in such a way as to develop effective skills that are similar to those of the child’s same-age peers. To that end, here are two considerations:

Consider hygiene. Something I had never thought about prior to my conversation with Weitzen is that after boys use the bathroom, then zip up their pants, it’s easy for a little urine to drip onto their pants. Especially once children reach upper elementary and middle school grades, a spot of urine can be socially isolating or an invitation for bullying. Weitzen acknowledges that it can be difficult to teach boys to gently shake their penis before zipping up, especially because teachers don’t want to inappropriately touch the students. However, for the long term, it’s essential that teachers find a way to teach this simple action.

Consider the topography of the behavior. When we think about topography, we basically mean, “What does the behavior look like.” When initially toilet training, teachers will typically have the student pull his/her pants down to the floor. Weitzen shared a personal experience from several years ago, when he was a chaperone on a field trip with his son who is autistic. At one point, the teachers asked him to take the boys to the bathroom, so Weitzen went in with eight 14-year-old boys with autism. He said, “They took their pants and pushed them right down to their knees at the urinal at Medieval Times. So we had seven hairy tushies in the room. Out in public! And what happens is other dads and other boys came in there and everyone’s laughing and commenting and pointing.” This is the type of situation that teachers and parents do not want students to experience. When toilet training, it’s essential to recognize that the topography of the behavior in the male restroom is to unzip the pants, and then pull the fabric aside in order to urinate in the urinal. While it may be easier to teach students to pull their pants down in the initial phases of toilet training, it’s important to continue shaping behavior until it has the appropriate topography.

If our students continue to pull their pants down completely, they become targets for bullying, or worse. Weitzen says that on multiple occasions, he’s had parents report to him that their child used the bathroom at the urinal, and when they pulled their pants to the floor, another student took a picture of them. “Four different moms told me that, and if four moms told me that, I can’t imagine how often that’s happening,” Weitzen said. “And even if they’re not sharing the photo, well now you’re the weird kid who sticks his butt out. And you’re isolated and you’re picked upon, so we have to be real. We have to realize our guys live in the real world and teach them the skills that they need.”

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.