Special Tours and Programs with New York City Museums for Children with Autism and Developmental Disabilities

New York City’s Museum of Natural History and Museum of Modern Art (MOMA) are introducing special tours and experiences for children with Autism.

The Museum of Natural History’s ‘Discovery Squad’ meets on select Saturdays for children ages 5- 14, accompanied by an adult, before the museum is open to the general public. Specially trained museum guides will lead a 40 minute tour through the North American Hall of Mammals (ages 5-8) or on an adventure through the Koch Dinosaur Wing.

For more information on the Museum of Natural History’s Discovery Squad, please visit their website here.

Each month the Museum of Modern Art’s program ‘Create Ability’ follows a different theme through the galleries to explore the art work and workshops to create in the classroom. These workshops are intended for individuals with developmental or learning disabilities ages 5-18+ and are free with pre-registration!

For more information on MOMA’s Create Ability programs, visit their website here.

 

Autism Awareness Month Interview Series: Getting the Services Your Child with Autism is Legally Entitled To with Gary S. Mayerson, JD

This week, our exclusive interview series with BCBA Sam Blanco features the renowned Gary Mayerson, JD, founder of Mayerson & Associates, the very first civil rights law firm in the nation dedicated to representing individuals with autism and related developmental disorders. In this interview, he reveals valuable advice for parents and caregivers on how to find and obtain the services their children are entitled to.


Getting the Services Your Child with Autism is Legally Entitled To
with Gary S. Mayerson, JD

SAM BLANCO: Can you address any common misconceptions related to IDEA or LRE?

GARY MAYERSON: The federal IDEA statute is governed primarily by what is “appropriate” for the student, as opposed to what is “best” or “optimal.” Unfortunately, the IDEA statute does not define the word “appropriate” and that confusion accounts for many of the conflicts that will arise between parents and school districts, who are obligated to provide a FAPE (a “free and appropriate public education”). On the other hand, LRE, otherwise known as “least restrictive environment,” is one of the few “maximizing” provisions in the IDEA statute. LRE is Congress’ mandate that students with disabilities be educated with their non-disabled peers to the “maximum extent appropriate,” even if doing so requires supplemental aids and services. The LRE mandate requires school districts to consider what is known as “the full continuum” and not rely upon “one size fits all” special education classrooms.

SB: What is the most important piece of advice you can give to parents as they begin the process of finding an appropriate school placement for their child?

GM: The best advice I could give parents who are just getting started is to seek out the best possible baseline of assessments and evaluations to tease out the strengths and challenges, identify and address any interfering behaviors, and hopefully get a good sense as to how their child learns, i.e., what kinds of programs are likely to be effective or not. Without the benefit of solid evaluations, the discussion at the IEP meeting will likely be relegated to “this is what the parents want.” When parents are able to provide quality evaluations, the discussion is elevated to “this is what professionals are recommending.” School districts are far more likely to take action based on the recommendation(s) of experts. Early intervention is always best. Accordingly, once evaluations and assessments are available to guide intervention, services should start ASAP. Parents of children diagnosed on the autism spectrum who are just getting started will find very useful information at www.autismspeaks.org. Autism Speaks offers an online “100 Days Kit” to help parents wade through the initial time frame following a diagnosis.

SB: Many parents struggle with the costs associated with autism. What advice do you have for them to alleviate some of the expenses?

GM: This is a thorny topic because even families with significant financial resources will struggle to pay for the daunting cost of effective programming where autism is the core disability. Today, most states (including New York) have enacted insurance reform, which means that many intervention services will be covered by private insurance, typically limited to an annual cap of approximately $40,000 or so. Parents should also consider obtaining home and community based services by filing for a “Medicaid waiver.” In addition to accessing insurance benefits and applying for a Medicaid waiver, families should register with early intervention (“birth to three”) and later, with their Committee on Preschool Education (3-5) and later, with their Committee on Special Education (5-21) to secure a public program. If, however, the public program is not appropriate or adequate, with timely advance notice, parents can file for a hearing to seek to obtain reimbursement or other funding for services and programming that is appropriate. Even short of a lawsuit, if parents are unhappy with the school district’s evaluation, they can request an “independent (private) evaluation” at the expense of the school district.

SB: Do you have recommendations for how parents keep track of records for legal purposes?

GM: Good record keeping is absolutely essential for parents. A great low tech, low cost method every parent should employ– keeping a $.99 notebook “log” of all your conversations with evaluators, school district personnel and providers. Everything important needs to be confirmed and documented in writing. This, however, does not mean sending a letter by certified mail. Faxes are just fine (but be sure to keep the fax transmittal confirmation), as are emails. Make sure to save every notice, letter and communication. For the IEP meeting, parents should either take good notes or, in situations where distrust has arisen, consider tape recording the meeting. Parents who observe schools that are being recommended by the school district also should record their observations, both good and bad.

SB: What resources do you recommend for parents to educate themselves about their legal rights?

GM: While there often is no substitute for seeking the assistance of an experienced attorney or other advocate, there actually are a number of good resources for parents to turn to in order to become better informed as to their child’s rights and entitlements. Parents, for example, will find useful information at www.wrightslaw.com and at www.mayerslaw.com. Our law firm invites parents to sign up for the firm’s quarterly informational newsletter. In addition, parents should carefully review the “parental rights” booklet that all school districts are required to provide in the context of the IEP process. Parents can also contact their local SEPTA or PTA. Finally, each state’s department of education will post, online, valuable information that parents can access free of charge, 24/7.

SB: Do you discuss estate planning for parents of children with special needs? When do you advise parents to begin making those plans?

GM: Parents of special needs children live with constant worry, knowing that they will not be able to live and protect their child forever. All parents–even those without any financial resources–should have a will that addresses estate planning issues, and the question of who will take over the parental role when the parent is no longer around to do so. Parents with financial resources, or who expect to come into money in the future, need to engage counsel to set up a “special needs trust” for their child—so as to allow the child to receive Medicaid and Social Security benefits without endangering the estate when such benefits are accessed. It is never too early to discuss estate planning issues, and too many parents overlook estate planning issues until it is too late. Parents also should timely commence guardianship proceedings well before the child reaches the age of majority (18 in most jurisdictions). Otherwise, a child who reaches the age of majority without a guardianship order may leave the jurisdiction and put themselves in danger with parents being left with little, if any, legal recourse. This is not to say, however, that obtaining guardianship is a given. Obtaining guardianship requires a showing, deemed acceptable to the court, that the child is incapable of making their own decisions.

SB: Can you describe legal considerations across the lifespan? For instance, what should the preschooler’s parents be considering as opposed to the teenager’s parent?

GM: The perspective and legal considerations when a child is a preschooler are different than when a child reaches his or her teens. While learning can and will continue into adulthood, most scientists and educators are in agreement that the same effort will produce greater learning, with a greater “rate of acquisition,” when the same child is younger. For this reason, judges and hearing officers are most comfortable “investing” significant public resources in the younger child. Because of the value of “early intervention,” parents need to obtain a diagnosis and classification as soon as possible. This means obtaining quality assessments that come with specific recommendations. Parents of children at the preschool age should thus timely receive the services and service levels that are being recommended by professionals. When the child enters his or her teens, that child still may require intensive services. However, as mandated by federal and state law, when a child is about to turn 16 (15 in New York), the IEP is supposed to shift into high gear with “transition” assessments, vocational training, and post-secondary outcomes. At all stages, parents should make sure that educators and service providers are promoting “generalization,” and that increased independence and self –sufficiency is the constant beacon on the horizon.

ABOUT GARY S. MAYERSON, JD

Gary Mayerson is a graduate of the Georgetown University Law Center and the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University. In early 2000, Gary founded Mayerson & Associates as the very first civil rights law firm in the nation dedicated to representing individuals with autism and related developmental disorders.

Gary speaks regularly at national conferences and major universities and has testified before Congress on the subject of the federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act (“IDEIA”). At the invitation of the United Nations, Gary spoke on the subject of facilitating inclusive education. Gary is well published in the field and is the author of How To Compromise With Your School District Without Compromising Your Child (DRL Books 2005), the “Legal Considerations” chapter appearing in the Second Edition of Dr. Donna Geffner’s book, Auditory Processing Disorders (2013), and the “Autism in the Courtroom” chapter appearing in the Fourth Edition of Dr. Fred R. Volkmar’s seminal treatise, Autism and Pervasive Developmental Disorders (2014).

Gary has been interviewed by the Today Show (NBC), Dan Rather (HDNet), Katie Couric, CNN, HLN, ABC, NPR, New York Magazine, the Wall Street Journal, Congressional Quarterly Researcher and the New York Times, among other media. In 2014, after being peer-nominated and vetted across 12 factors by an attorney led research team, Gary was named by Super Lawyers Magazine as one of the top attorneys in the New York metropolitan area.

In addition to the U.S. Supreme Court, Gary is admitted to the Second Circuit Court of Appeals, the Third Circuit Court of Appeals, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals, the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals, the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals, and the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals.

Gary is responsible for more than sixty reported federal court decisions, including Deal v. Hamilton County, the very first autism case to ever reach the U.S. Supreme Court. Gary’s work also was instrumental in T.K. v. NYCDOE (bullying recognized as a “FAPE” deprivation), R.E. v. NYCDOE and C.F. v. NYCDOE (cases rejecting school district’s attempts to rely upon “impermissible retrospective evidence” at trial), T.M. v. Cornwall (least restrictive environment mandate as applied to ESY), L.B. v. Nebo School District (pertaining to “supported inclusion” and Congress’ “least restrictive environment” mandate), V.S. v. NYCDOE (parents have a procedural right to evaluate the school assignment) and Starego v. NJSIAA, a federal court settlement affording Anthony Starego, a 19-year-old high school placekicker with autism, an unprecedented fifth season of interscholastic competition (incredibly, that additional season had a storybook ending, with Anthony and his team going on to win the 2013 State Championship 26-15 after Anthony contributed points from two successful field goals!).

Gary has served on the national board of Autism Speaks since its inception in 2005 and founded its Federal Legal Appeals Project, a pro bono initiative at the federal level. In addition, Gary serves on the Boards of JobPath, a not-for-profit based in Manhattan that is dedicated to securing and supporting meaningful employment opportunities for adults with autism, and ALUT, Israel’s largest autism not-for-profit. Gary also serves on the Professional Advisory Board of the New England Center for Children (NECC), a residential school for students with autism located in Southborough, Massachusetts.

Gary testified before the New York City Council in support of “Avonte’s Law,” a safety enhancement measure introduced by Councilmember Rob Cornegy that, once fully implemented, will provide an additional layer of protection for students with autism who have a propensity to wander. Most recently, Gary and attorneys Maria McGinley and Jacqueline DeVore worked behind the scenes to help secure a conditional pardon from the Governor of Virginia for “Neli” Latson, a young man with autism, previously placed in solitary confinement, who is now receiving the therapeutic treatment that he needs.

Pick of the Week: NEW Curriculum – “Teaching the Basics of Theory of Mind”

Using principles from cognitive behavioral therapy, this evidence-based curriculum Teaching the Basics of Theory of Mind by Kirstina Ordetx, PhD, is designed to enhance social understanding in children with autism or other social challenges. With lesson plans, activity ideas, worksheets, reproducible flashcards, and reinforcement activities for use at home, this curriculum is ideal for use with children who demonstrate challenges with the prerequisite skills, leading to successful social relationships and situations.

This week only, you can save 15%* on your order of Teaching the Basics of Theory of Mind by using our promo code TOM15 when you check out online or over the phone with us!

This curriculum includes 42 unlabeled Feelings Photo Cards (Student’s set), 42 labeled Feelings Photo Cards (Instructor’s set), 28 Feelings Word Cards, 8 Follow the Eye Picture Cards, 12 Riddle Cards, 4 Picture Clue Cards, 8 “As If” Cards, 7 Point of View Prompt Cards, and 9 Me vs. We Cards.

*Offer is valid until 11:59pm EST on April 7th, 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! Question Challenge Card Game

The Question Challenge Card Game is an expressive and receptive language card game that targets social and reasoning skills in young learners. This game will target skills in staying calm through self-talk, predicting, questioning in conversation, determining perspective, inferencing, cognitive flexibility, intonation, body language, and more. As they play the game, students will practice skills necessary for effective communication and problem solving.

To play the game, one player turns over a Challenge Card and reads it out loud, stating which player will answer and how many questions he or she will answer. The player asked to answer then flips over a Question Card and answers the question on it. If the student answers appropriately, he or she spins the electronic spinner and receives the lighted number of tokens. The player with the most tokens at the end of the game wins!

This week, you can also save 15%* on your set of the Question Challenge Card Game by using our promo code QCGAME at check-out!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Includes 300 color-coded Question Cards, 50 Challenge Cards, 225 Bingo Chips, and 1 Electronic Spinner.

Don’t forget to save 15%* this week on the Question Challenge Card Game by using promo code QCGAME when you check out online or over the phone with us!

*Offer is valid until 11:59pm EST on March 31st, 2015. Not compatible with any other offers. Be sure there are no spaces or dashes in your code at check out!

Volunteers Needed to Test Database of Colleges for Students for Autism

ASD-DR.com is launching a college-search resource to help families with autistic students. There are many online search sites with information about colleges, but few of them include information on the support services available at these institutions. This new resource allows parents and other caregivers of students with autism to search through a database of over 300 colleges across the U.S. with autism services.

They are looking for volunteers to help in developing this database by previewing the content and answering the following questions:

  1. What additional information would you like?
  2. What search options should be added?
  3. What information is not needed?

Be sure to sign up by March 30. The database will be available only for those who have a log-in and password, which Dawn Marcotte will provide on April 1, 2015. Those interested should sign up at www.asd-dr.com.

ASD-DR Volunteer Request

 

Pick of the Week: “On My Own” Activity Kits

Teach important daily living, vocational, and social skills that pave the way to independence and success to young learners with these brand new On My Own activity kits. Early learners can follow the visual cues and step-by-step directions to complete activities and art projects related to a variety of skills in daily life, such as cooking, setting the table, and creating art projects that develop gross and fine motor skills.

This week only, use our promo code ONMYOWN to take 15%* off either the On My Own: Year-Round Art Fun or the On My Own: Art, Cooking & Life Skills learning kits.

In On My Own: Art, Cooking & Life Skills, each activity is shown completed and is followed by a checklist of materials along with the directions. Young learners will be able to complete the tasks independently as they develop important vocational and recreational skills.

In On My Own: Year-Round Art Fun, learners will get to complete various arts and crafts projects independently, pairing visual cues and text from 30 different activity cards, while gaining confidence.

Don’t forget to mention or apply our promo code ONMYOWN this week only to save 15%* on either or both of these learning kits when you check out online or over the phone with us!

Pick of the Week: Assessing Language and Learning with Pictures (ALL PICS)

Assessing Language and Learning with Pictures (ALL PICS) is an assessment tool designed to be used in conjunction Dr. Mark Sundberg’s Verbal Behavior Milestones Assessment and Placement Program (VB-MAPP). ALL PICS was designed by behavior analysts who specialize in the application of Skinner’s analysis of verbal behavior and have extensive experience in assessing verbal behavior with assessments such as the VB-MAPP.

This week only, take 15%* off ($90 savings!) your order of the ALL PICS assessment program by using our special promo code ALLPICS at check-out!

ALL PICS was designed to make administration of the VB-MAPP more accurate, efficient, and cost-effective for schools, clinics, agencies, and private practitioners. ALL PICS contains all of the 2-D pictures necessary to administer the VB-MAPP Milestones.

ALL PICS consists of 3 spiral bound books, with pre-arranged fields of high-resolution images that correspond with the VB-MAPP specifications. While conducting a verbal behavior assessment, the evaluator using ALL PICS can quickly record responses on the corresponding downloadable data sheets and then turn from one page of the book to the next. For visual tasks, a corresponding box of labeled flashcards is included, permitting the tester to quickly obtain all cards needed for each milestone without the need to search for cards.

The unique benefits of using ALL PICS during verbal behavior assessment include:

  • Includes 275 labeled, high-resolution flashcards for visual performance assessment that correspond to each page of the visual performance book, saving time and increasing efficiency
  • Corresponding, free data sheets that can be downloaded for each learner
  • The opportunity to test generalization with novel pictures, as opposed to familiar flashcards that the learner has seen many times
  • Team members with limited training in behavior analysis can play an active role in the assessment process, reading from the scripts on the data sheets
  • Comprehensive image list of over 1,200 common items that can be used to assess the number of tacts or listener responses in a learner’s repertoire

Don’t forget to use our promo code ALLPICS this week only to save 15%* on your purchase of this comprehensive verbal behavior assessment tool!

*Offer is valid until 11:59pm EDT on March 17th, 2015. Not compatible with any other offers. Be sure there are no spaces or dashes in your code at check out!

“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!

DRC_057_Photographic_Matching_Cards

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!