“Night of Too Many Stars” Airs on Comedy Central, Mar. 8, 2015

This year’s “Night of Too Many Stars: America Comes Together for Autism Programs”, a big TV charity event for autism programs, hosted by Jon Stewart on Comedy Central, will air on Sunday, March 8, 2015. Be sure to tune in at 8:00pm ET/PT. Live phone banks manned by celebrities including Larry David, Martin Short, and Larry Willmore will also be available during the event. Funds raised by the live event will go directly to programs to help kids with autism and other developmental delays immediately.

Since 2006, “Night of Too Many Stars” has raised over $18 million to benefit autism programs around the nation. In 2012, “Night of Too Many Stars,” gave almost $4 million in grants to 50 programs in 20 states through the efforts of partner organization New York Collaborates for Autism.

We had the hilarious pleasure of attending the taping of the show last Saturday, February 28, 2015 at the Beacon Theatre in New York City. Members of the audience had the opportunity to interact with performers like John Oliver, Paul Rudd, Sarah Silverman, and Louis CK on stage to raise funds and awareness for autism. We’re incredibly grateful to Julie at Different Roads, who gave us the opportunity to attend such a memorable and charitable event!

For more information about the event and submitting donations to New York Collaborates for Autism, you can visit www.cc.com/toomanystars.

Tip of the Week: Recognizing Fad Autism Treatments

Learning that your child has autism is incredibly overwhelming. You’re under intense stress to make the best decisions possible for your child, and to do so quickly. Add to the fact that autism is a popular topic in the news and social media, so tips and quick fixes frequently show up in headlines and news feeds. Autism is considered to be a fad treatment magnet, and while some of the fad treatments are ineffective, others are flat out dangerous. How is it possible to parse through all this to find reliable information? Here are a few tips to help you out:

  1. Avoid products or organizations that promise a cure or rapid progress. All children respond to intervention at different rates. There is no known cure for autism, and there is no “quick fix” either.
  2. Avoid products or organizations that use scare tactics. Anyone who is trying to scare you into using their products or services does not have your best interest at heart. Instilling fear in parents can make it more difficult to make knowledgeable choices and increase the pressure already felt. Scare tactics are generally used to encourage you to make a snap decision, often at a high monetary cost.
  3. Avoid products or organizations that utilize subjective testimonials instead of data-driven science to measure progress. Testimonials may be compelling, but without scientific research it’s impossible to know what actually caused progress. Research should be completed that illustrates an intervention or treatment is directly linked to progress.
  4. Avoid products or organizations that advertise easy solutions which don’t require a professional’s help. Many of the behaviors presented with autism are incredibly challenging. Approaching those issues without the assistance of a trained professional can be detrimental or potentially dangerous for your child, especially when your child exhibits self-injurious behaviors.
  5. Avoid products or organizations that do not measure progress for the intervention being used. It should be very clear what the expected outcome of a product or treatment is, as well as how it will be measured. Relying on informal reports from either parents and/or teachers does not supply valid information about the effectiveness of the product or treatment.
  6. Be wary of treatments that require “faith” to work. If a treatment is not working, it is not because you didn’t believe in it, it’s because something in the treatment needs to be changed to meet the unique needs of your child.

So where can you find valid information? The Association for Science in Autism Treatment is a reliable source for up-to-date information about the many types of treatment available for individuals with autism. The website is packed with useful information, but you may find “Questions to Ask Marketers of Autism Interventions” especially helpful as you make decisions about your child’s treatment. You may also want to pick up Sabrina Freeman’s book, The Complete Guide to Autism Treatments: A Parent’s Handbook: Make Sure Your Child Gets What Works!

 

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: NEW! Photographic Matching Cards

One set of cards, so many different skills to work on! Photographic Matching Cards contains 260 cards – 130 unique cards with an identical match – that cover 12 basic categories: Actions, Clothes, Colors, Emotions, Everyday Objects, Farm Animals, Foods, Pets, Shapes, Toys, Transportation, and Wild Animals.

This week only, take 15% off* your set of Photographic Matching Cards by using our promo code MATCH15 at check-out!

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These cards are ideal for developing expressive and receptive language skills, as well as sorting and classifying skills. Students who are ready can use the cards to stimulate discussion and conversation. The cards portray children in a variety of settings, full of real life and childhood enchantment. Each of the 260 cards measures 5½” x 8½”.

Don’t forget to apply or mention promo code MATCH15 to save 15%* when you purchase your set of Photographic Matching Cards this week online or over the phone with us!

*Offer is valid until 11:59pm EST on March 3rd, 2015. Not compatible with any other offers. Be sure there are no spaces or dashes in your code at check out!

Pick of the Week: NEW! Inferencing Card Sets

Help students improve their inferencing skills with these brand new inferencing cards we’ve just added to our catalog! This week, you can save 15%* on the Inferencing Quick Take Along! Mini Book or the WH Inference Question Cards by applying our promo code INFER15 at check-out!

The pocket-sized Inferencing Quick Take Along! Mini Book is perfect for the busy speech-language pathologist, special educator, teacher, or parent. Help students practice their inferencing skills by responding to 520 prompts in 13 different categories covering: Actions, Categories, Cloze Sentences, Context Clues, Descriptive Clues, Emotions, Locations, Naming Tools & Devices, Occupations & Jobs, Problems & Solutions, Pronoun Antecedents, and Time & Seasons.

This small 5″ x 3″ book is spiral-bound, so you can easily flip pages and keep it open to the page you’re working on. The sturdy, laminated pages are tear-resistant and easy-to-read. Includes an Answer Key.

WH Inference Question Cards is a robust set of five card decks ideal for helping students reach the next stage of Wh-development, once they have mastered the basics. Each deck contains 56 double-sided cards that provide clues and hints to answer various Wh- questions. Side A has a colorful picture and a Wh-question (“Why is Karla waving?”). This picture provides clues that the children must use to infer the correct answer. Side B has a second, related picture and the answer (“She is going on a trip”).

The durable tin comes with 5 decks for Who?, What?, When?, Where?, and Why? Questions, each on a long-lasting metal ring for convenient use and storage. Leave the cards on the color-coded rings as you teach, or easily remove them as needed. Each of the 56 cards in the five decks measures 2½” x 3½”.

Don’t forget – you can take 15% off* either or both of these inferencing card sets by using our promo code INFER15 at check-out this week!

*Offer is valid until 11:59pm EST on February 24th, 2015. Not compatible with any other offers. Be sure there are no spaces or dashes in your code at check out!

Tip of the Week: Stop Behavior Early in the Behavior Chain

Recently I was working with a family to toilet train their son Jonathan, a six-year-old with autism. (Names and identifying characteristics have been changed to protect confidentiality.) When he eliminated in the toilet, part of his reinforcement was getting to watch the water go down the toilet after flushing. At some point, he developed the behavior of putting his hands into the toilet water as it was flushing.

When I went in to observe the behavior, one of my goals was to identify the steps in the behavior chain. Pretty much everything we do can be viewed as part of a behavior chain, in which one action is a cue for the following action. For Jonathan, each time he placed his hands in the toilet water, the behavior chain looked like this:

Pulled up pants
Stepped towards toilet
Pressed button to flush toilet
Stepped back
Watched water as it flushed
Stepped forward again
Leaned down
Put hands in water

Behavior chains can be even more detailed than the one above, depending on the needs of your learner. Identifying the steps in the behavior chain for an undesirable behavior can have a huge impact on your interventions. For Jonathan, we were able to stop the behavior of putting his hands in the toilet water by interrupting the behavior early in the behavior chain. It’s too late and unsafe to stop him once he’s leaning forward to put his hands in the water. Through prompting, which we faded as quickly as possible, we changed his behavior chain to this:

Pulled up pants
Stepped towards toilet
Pressed button to flush toilet
Stepped back
Watched water as it flushed for 3-5 seconds
Stepped towards sink
Leaned forward
Turned on water
Put hands in water

Instead of waiting for him to engage in the inappropriate behavior, we redirected him several steps earlier in the chain, providing a gestural prompt toward the sink and had him start washing his hands 3-5 seconds after he had started watching the water flush. This was ideal for two reasons: first, it was the expected step in an appropriate toileting behavior chain and second, it provided an appropriate and similar replacement behavior since Jonathan was still able to put his hands in water.

This behavior chain was relatively easy to change. While it may not be as easy in some interventions you may try, it’s essential to remember to stop the behavior early in the behavior chain. It’s much easier to give a child an activity that requires use of their hands as soon as you see them lift their hands out of their lap than it is to remove their hand from their mouth if they’re biting it. And it’s much easier to redirect a child to put their feet back under their desk than it is to get them to stop once they’re sprinting out of the classroom. Looking at the behavior chain and considering when to intervene as a part of your intervention plan is quite possibly the extra step that will make your plan successful.


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: NEW! Socially Savvy – An Assessment and Curriculum Guide for Young Children

No child should be left to flounder in a confusing world of social nuances and expectations. Social competencies pave the way for a child to have fun at birthday parties, resolve conflicts with friends, feel heard, and stand up for oneself.

As our Pick this week, we’re thrilled to feature our newly printed assessment and curriculum guide Socially Savvy. Get your copy for an introductory price of only $39.95!

Socially Savvy: An Assessment and Curriculum Guide for Young Children helps educators and parents break down broad areas of social functioning into concrete skills. The included checklist pinpoints a child’s specific strengths and challenges—which in turn makes it possible to prioritize the skills most in need of intervention, develop strategies to address them, and track the effectiveness of those strategies.

This manual includes targeted, play-based activities that foster the development of social skills critical to a joyful childhood and future academic success. Socially Savvy is designed for all parties—from educator to the parent—working with children in planned and naturally occurring opportunities to help develop essential social skills. This manual serves as a resource to make both learning and teaching social skills a fun, rewarding experience. This guide:

  • Introduces the Socially Savvy Checklist and how to effectively integrate it
  • Describes the 7 areas of social development in detail
  • Provides skill-specific sample IEP objectives
  • Offers detailed step-by-step teaching plans
  • Includes 50 specific games and activities for teaching targeted social skills
  • Offers specific ideas on progress assessment and data collection
  • Shares two case studies to illustrate the process from initial assessment to intervention and data collection

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Soft cover, 256 pages, by James T. Ellis, PhD, BCBA-D and Christine Almeida, MSEd, EdS, BCBA.

Don’t forget—you can get your copy of Socially Savvy: An Assessment and Curriculum Guide for Young Children for our introductory price of only $39.95 for a limited time. No promo code necessary.

Pick of the Week: Emotion-oes – Like dominoes, but for identifying emotions!

This newly added game will put a smile on any child’s face! With 56 domino-like cards, Emotion-oes for 2–6 players is especially useful for students who are nonreaders. Players will learn to recognize emotions and identify feelings in facial expressions. This week only, save 15%* on your set of Emotion-oes by using our promo code EMOTIONO at check-out!

To play the game, each player is dealt five Emotion-oes facedown and must match the face on one end of his/her Emotion-oe to one end of the Emotion-oe displayed in the center. An instruction sheet also includes variations on the game for even more fun!

Don’t forget to use our promo code EMOTIONO at check-out to save 15%* on your set of Emotion-oes this week!

*Offer is valid until 11:59pm EST on January 27th, 2015. Not compatible with any other offers. Be sure there are no spaces or dashes in your code at check out!

Tip of the Week: How to Avoid a Deficit-Based Education

One of the obstacles I face as a special education teacher is that so much of my work is focused on deficits. I am continually required to report on the milestones my students have not met. After assessing a student, I am required by law to report quarterly progress on IEP goals to help bring that student up to grade level.

Teacher and ToddlerAll of these mandates are essential to helping my students to progress, but they also serve to overlook my students’ strengths. There is little space on an IEP to focus on what my student is quite skilled at, or to detail a plan for encouraging those skills. The long-term implications of failing to nurture a student’s strengths range from increasing boredom and frustration in school to failing to prepare students for engaging careers.

Students in the general education population typically have many opportunities for nurturing strengths because they frequently have more free time since their days are not packed with various therapies, and they have access to extracurricular activities and courses that may not be available to students in special education. So how can we, as parents and teachers of students in special education, address this concern?

  • Set aside part of each team meeting to discuss developing student strengths. Your team should be asking questions such as: What activities does the student naturally gravitate towards? What can we do to expand and encourage these activities? What extracurricular groups and classes might be available that are related to this activity? What social skills or academic skills are essential to encouraging this strength?
  • Consider extracurricular activities. Is it viable for your family to add a music lesson to each week? Or to reduce therapy sessions by one hour each week to allow for practice with a track team? Can the school provide support for your learner to have access to the computer design class?
  • Push for access. Most IEPs have social skills goals listed. Consider the context needed for your learner, and push for that to be written into the IEP. For example, let’s say your learner is highly motivated by digital cameras. Request that he/she be placed in a photography class with associated social skills goals, such as “The student will be able to accept feedback about a photo and demonstrate use of feedback in 4 out of 5 trials,” or “The student will be able to work in a group of 3–4 students to take photos related to a theme.” When considering what is an appropriate education for your learner, it is definitely appropriate to outline social skills related to student interests and strengths, especially as these may lead to employment later down the line.
  • Find mentorship. Seek out high school or college students with common interests and strengths to offer tutoring/coaching in that area. Ask people you know if they have friends or family members working in the profession your learner is interested in, because they may be able to set up job-shadowing for you. Don’t rule out the potential of connecting with people via video chatting if you can’t find mentors in your area.

It is essential for the long-term interests of children in special education that we spend more time considering and encouraging their strengths.


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: Everybody Can Cook – Enriching cooking curricula for children of diverse developmental abilities

Brand new and hot off the press, this cookbook is not your average cookbook for children. With enriching curricula accompanied with adaptations to fit all developmental abilities, this cookbook goes beyond simply providing recipes to use in the classroom.

Everybody Can Cook was developed to allow instructors in both general and special education classrooms to bring hands-on cooking classes to children of all abilities, ages 2 and up, and to foster a positive relationship between children and food.

This week only, save 15%* on your order of our newly added Everybody Can Cook: Enriching cooking curricula with adaptations for children of diverse physical and developmental abilities by using promo code COOK15 at check-out!

Included in the cookbook are 15 recipes and lesson plans, each complete with:

  • shopping and equipment lists
  • related books and songs to enhance learning
  • pictorial recipes
  • adaptations for various physical and developmental abilities
  • ingredient substitutions for dietary restrictions and allergies
  • visual learning cards (pictured below)

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Children strengthen their motor skills, self-esteem, socialization, teamwork, and independence through cooking and practicing basic cooking skills. In addition, they will enhance skills in other traditional disciplines such as reading, mathematics, science, social sciences, nutrition, music, art, history and geography. The Creative Kitchen offers training workshops on implementing the curriculum. Spiral bound, 124 pages, by Cricket Azima.

Don’t forget to use our promo code COOK15 at check-out to take 15% off* your order of Everybody Can Cook!

*Offer is valid until 11:59pm EST on January 20th, 2015. Not compatible with any other offers. Be sure there are no spaces or dashes in your code at check out!

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.