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.

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

 

Guest Article: Tips on Encouraging Picky Eaters

This week, we’re thrilled to share some exclusive tips from Julia Singer Katz at the Kutest Kids Early Intervention Center on how to deal with picky eaters, from using colors and schedules to modeling good habits.

Don’t let picky eating ruin meal time or divide your family at the dinner table. Encouraging healthy eating habits with a stubborn child requires patience with a firm touch. Here at Kutest Kids Early Intervention Center, our therapists are all too familiar with this phenomenon and would like share some common tips. Begin by setting the stage for healthy choices, thereby helping your child overcome their picky habits with a few key strategies.

Start With a Schedule.  Hungry kids are often less picky than those that have been snacking on junk foods all day. Scheduling snack time – and sticking to it – ensures your kids are hungry when a healthy meal is served. Don’t just schedule snacks, though. Having breakfast, lunch and dinner at regular times further encourages kids to eat only when the food is available.

Skip the Junk.  A pantry or fridge full of unhealthy options further encourages picky eating. What kid is going to fill up on broccoli when they know there are ice cream and chips just a few steps away? If the only options are healthy options, a hungry child is more likely to choose those with few complaints. Keep the healthy snacks accessible – cut up carrot and veggie sticks and keep raw fruit washed and cubed for easy serving.

Add Some Healthy Elements.  Even the most adventurous eater may turn up their nose to a completely unfamiliar food. Instead of making a full change out of the gate, begin by introducing healthier elements to their favorite dishes. Try oven-baked chicken fingers with a whole-meal coating instead of processed and fried nuggets. Mix in some shredded zucchini with their macaroni and cheese. Add fruit to a no-sugar cereal. Small changes can win over a picky eater.

Eat the Colors.  Most kids respond well to games and challenges. Brightly colored foods, such as vegetables and fruits are healthier than most dull and bland-colored foods. Make a game out of eating as many colors in a day as possible! This may encourage an otherwise picky eater to eat more vegetables and to try new foods.

Loosen Up the Rules.  A strict clean-your-plate rule does more harm than good. In the end, it just encourages over-eating while also making the dinner table a place of stress and tears. Allow your kids to decide when they are full. If they want a snack later, it’s not an issue if you have a scheduled after-dinner snack time, and they only have access to healthy snacks.

Model Good Eating Habits.  Often, picky eating is a learned behavior. Only serve foods that you will eat, and don’t complain about any food within the child’s hearing. Have meals at the table, and never encourage mindless snacking while watching television.

Many kids naturally go through phases of picky eating. Keeping unhealthy food to a minimum and only serving it as an occasional treat will help your family weather these finicky moments.

WRITTEN BY JULIA SINGER KATZ, MSS, LSW

Julia Singer Katz MSS, LSW is the Supervisor of Clinical Program Development at the Kutest Kids Early Intervention Agency, an all-inclusive therapy center in Philadelphia. She’s very passionate about helping each child reach his or her fullest potential and making a difference in the community.

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.

Upcoming New York Family Workshop & Support Group Events

Parent to Parent New York, Inc. will be hosting a free workshop and several family support groups throughout March that you won’t want to miss! Their free workshop “Special Education Mediation: A Collaborative Option for Resolving Disputes” aims to help parents and school districts become more effective partners, offering attendees an opportunity to look at conflict differently, learn about resources that enable people to communicate more effectively, and meet with representatives from organizations to assist parents and schools with communication issues.

Special Education Mediation: A Collaborative Option for Resolving Disputes
10:00am–12:00pm EST
Thursday, March 19th, 2015
Institute for Basic Research
Parent to Parent NY, Inc.
1050 Forest Hill Road
Staten Island, NY 10314

Those who wish to attend should RSVP by calling (718) 494-4872 or emailing SIPTP@aol.com.

They will also be hosting several support groups throughout the rest of the month. The Aspergers, Mothers, and Sibling Support Groups will also be held at the Institute for Basic Research. The Fathers Support Group will be held at the Page Plaza Diner in Tottenville, Staten Island. Please find the times and dates below for each support group:

Aspergers Support Group
10:00am–12:00pm EST
Wed, March 4th & March 18th, 2015

Mothers Support Group
10:00am–12:00pm EST
Wed, March 11th & March 25th, 2015

Fathers Support Group
6:30pm–9:00pm EST
Wed, March 11th, 2015

Siblings Support Group
6:30pm–8:00pm EST
Fri, March 6th & March 20th, 2015
RSVP is required, by calling (718) 494-4872.

For more information about these parent support groups, please call (718) 494-4872 or send an email to Parent to Parent New York at SIPTP@aol.com.

NEW Product Spotlight: Independence Day GPS-Enabled Clothing for Kids with Autism

This week, we’re thrilled to introduce you to a one-of-kind clothing line developed by autism mom Lauren Thierry. These unique shirts improve the quality of life, self-esteem, safety, and independent dressing skills of children and teens with special needs. Inspired by preppy American fashion brands, these stylish shirts come with a discrete GPS tracker embedded in the seam enabling you to locate your child at any time. Each pullover features stretch Lycra panels instead of buttons, zippers or laces, and no scratchy tags at the waist and neck, optimizing the shirt for comfort. Best of all, each shirt is double-faced so it can be worn backwards or inside-out and still be on the “right way”!

This week, we’re offering two of Independence Day’s stylish shirts at a 15% discount. We think these shirts offer quite a bit, helping individuals dress themselves appropriately while providing the comfort of knowing that you can locate your child if they should ever wander.

We’re also excited to introduce you to Independence Day founder and autism mom, Lauren Thierry. She’s written an excellent article just for us on her experiences with her son, Liam and how she came up with this ingenious idea. We hope you enjoy!

As Most Autism Moms Know, Revolutions are Relative
by Lauren Thierry

I have just been feted at lovely party in a lovely suburban hotel, where the emcee called my clothing line, Independence Day, “Revolutionary!”

As a former media person, I’m used to hyperbole. I know they have to have a hook, an angle. But I admit this made me blush and, well, made the journalist in me pine for “accuracy.” What I did was not revolutionary. It was simply something that had to be done. Like the moms in the 1960’s who safety pinned mittens to their kids coats before there were mitten clips. The moms did it because those “kittens” might lose their “mittens.” Revolutionary? No, just “mom sense.”
So when I figured out a way to “fashionably” GPS-dress Liam, my son with autism, it was pretty much “the mitten thing.” To the tenth power. No longer are moms talking about frozen fingers. They are talking about saving lives. Finding the one who wanders.

I took a mainstream rugby shirt and tweaked it just a bit, so that my son with autism could wear it easily, and softly folded a GPS into the fabric. That wasn’t a revolution. It was however, the start of a 14-piece clothing collection for those with disabilities. And it did start a “thought revolution.” That maybe those with cognitive impairments, or physical handicaps, could – and should – get dressed independently and look just like everyone else. And be safe and accounted for. So I cringe when I’m called a “designer.” I’m not even a fashionista.

ID Clothing Comparison

So why would someone like me start a “trendy/preppy” clothing line? Why would I carve out a niche in the preppy apparel space already dominated by Gap, JCrew, Abercrombie, Lacoste, Lilly, and Ralph?

Because that’s the stuff I wear, my typical 12-year-old twins wear. But my son with autism – and some 12 million other tweens/teens/young adults – cannot wear. Because tags, buttons, zippers – even collars – make those rugby shirts, cargo pants, and pretty pastel dresses impractical, uncomfortable, inaccessible and sensory-averse to those in that disabilities demographic.

ID Clothing Lauren MomBecause I’m an autism mom. That makes me a warrior mom. An activist mom. Someone who sees a lot of families, like mine, just trying to get through the day with a kid who can’t dress himself, except in baggy sweats and mono-color T-shirts. Even then, my Liam runs a 50% chance of getting those clothes on backwards. Or inside out. Or some other way that embarrasses his siblings and starts our day off under a cloud.

I’m not re-inventing the preppy apparel wheel here. I’ve just made some ingenious (patent pending) tweaks to these classic clothing lines, so that this population can have the opportunity of looking like any other kid going off to Greenwich High School, and the dignity of putting those clothes on independently – without Mom’s help for 30 minutes every morning.

I’m not just some suburban mom with a half-baked “really cool idea.” I’m a Columbia grad with a 20-year career behind me as a Financial TV news anchor. I’ve worked for small TV stations around the country as well as for Los Angeles and New York outfits from ABC/Disney to Time Warner. I’ve learned how to “think small” and “think big.”

ID Clothing Lauren CNNI quit my job as a CNN Financial news anchor to take care of my son and advocate for autism causes. I shot a documentary, “Autism Every Day,” which premiered at Sundance. Shooting that doc, I spent 24 hours in the homes of 8 “autism families.” I saw that, like my son, these kids learned by “rote” the fundamentals of dressing. But due to simple design obstacles like “fronts and backs,” there was a wide margin for error. That was my first “focus group” on the dressing issue, all down on film.

I shot footage of stressed-out, exhausted parents who’d given up trying to dress their special needs children fashionably, just putting their kids on school buses in pajamas.

I shot footage of siblings of these kids, embarrassed to be seen next to their minimally-dressed brother or sister. Their experiences reflected my own.

I’ve seen where my son Liam and millions of others with special needs are forced to adapt to a world that is simply not adapting to them, in some of the simplest of ways. Like getting dressed.

I’ll leave finding a cure for autism to the scientists. But I can put out a clothing line that’ll get these kids up and into clothes just as beautiful and classic as the major designers…and out the door in 3 minutes. On their own, independently. Mom won’t be here forever, you know.

Getting dressed – on trend, and on time – every morning. Now that’s Independence.


 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Lauren Thierry HeadshotLauren Thierry is the founder of Independence Day/ID, a technology and fashion convergence designed to address a myriad of safety and dressing issues for the special needs population. A graduate of Sarah Lawrence College and the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, Thierry was a TV Anchor in local, national and business news for more than a decade before she left her job at CNN Financial News to care for her autistic son, Liam. She became a driving force behind numerous autism education initiatives. Among them, she created the fundraiser known as Autism Awareness Day at Shea – then at Citi Field – for which the New York Mets to devote one game a year to autism education. She brought in strategic partners Hess Oil, Prudential Elliman, Bear Stearns, Royal Bank of Scotland, BNY Mellon, and various hedge funds to the effort.

Thierry produced the documentary, “Autism Every Day,” described as “The shot heard ‘round the world for autism,” when it debuted at the Sundance Film Festival. Shooting the film, she saw that wandering/elopement were major issues for autism families. She also noted that the simple act of getting dressed for these families was a grueling obstacle course of “fronts and backs,” “insides and outs,” zippers, buttons and tags. That was Thierry’s first “focus group,” all down on film. Independence Day/ID Clothing was started to address those issues.

Independence Day/ID is an American Express Passion Project winner for 2013.

Tip of the Week: Using Activity Schedules to Improve Bedtime Routine

Many of the families I work with struggle to get their child with autism through the bedtime routine. An activity schedule can help your child independently manage the routine.

You should select 3-5 tasks that your child can complete independently. The final task should be something that your child finds reinforcing, preferably something that can be done in or near the bed, such as being read to or listening to music. Based on your child’s reading skills, you can use pictures or text for the schedule.

You can arrange the activity schedule as a picture schedule or a checklist. Below are two samples. For the picture schedule sample shown below, I did an online search for the appropriate images, but when possible, I prefer to actually take a picture of the item or the learner engaged in the activity.

PICTURE SCHEDULE: I use self-adhesive laminating paper (which you can purchase at any office supply store) and laminate all pieces. Each task on the schedule has Velcro so the learner can arrange items in the order he/she wishes and can remove them once that activity is complete.

CHECKLIST SAMPLE: I use self-adhesive laminating paper for checklists as well. This way the learner can use a dry erase marker or crayon and reuse the same page each day. For many learners, I attach this to a clipboard and the clipboard hangs in an easy-to-reach spot.

What I like about the activity schedule beyond the fact that it promotes independence is that it also allows for some choice. The reinforcing activity must always come last, but the learner can choose what they want to have for that reinforcing activity. The learner can also have some flexibility for what order to place the items on the schedule. For example, your learner might prefer to pack his lunch before taking a shower. When implemented correctly, it’s a win-win for both parents and children.

For more information on implementing activity schedules, I highly recommend the book Activity Schedules for Children with Autism by McClanahan & Krantz.

Note: if you decide to use the iPad as the final item on the activity schedule, you should set the timer so the iPad turns itself off. To do this:

1) open the Clock app
2) click “Timer” on the bottom right of the screen
3) click “When Timer Ends”
4) scroll all the way to the bottom of that menu and click “Stop Playing”
5) set the timer for the appropriate amount of time,
6) hit “Start”


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.

6 Tips for Preparing for a Smooth Thanksgiving Celebration

Holidays can be challenging for everyone in the family. Your to-do lists get longer, your routines are switched around, and all the little stresses can be especially difficult for your child with autism. Here are a few tips to ease the difficulties related to Thanksgiving.

Tell. Prepare your child for who and what they will see at Thanksgiving. This may include creating a social story or showing photos of people your child does not know or see often.

Help. When possible, have your child help out. This may include prep activities such as helping with decorations or measuring ingredients for a recipe, but it could also include giving your child a job, such as answering the front door or setting the table.

Access. Be sure your child has access to foods he or she will eat and to a designated quiet space for breaks. It’s helpful if other guests or family members understand where this space is and its purpose.

Notify. Inform guests who aren’t familiar with your child or with autism about what to expect and how to best interact with your child.

Keep it fun. Add in a couple of activities during the day that you know your child really knows. This may include family games or traditions.

Schedule. Provide a schedule of the day’s events for your child so they will know what to expect. This can include a visual schedule or a written schedule.

Lastly, remind your child why you are thankful for them and enjoy your holiday!

A Call for Conferences on Autism Spectrum Disorder, Applied Behavior Analysis, Verbal Behavior and Social Skills

Banner_LargeDo you know of any upcoming conference or workshops on Autism?! Please let us know of any ABA, Verbal Behavior or Speech-Language Therapy events and we will share it with our community. We strive to help our readers be informed about resources and events for parents and educators of children with autism or other developmental delays. No matter how big or how small – email info about your event to hannah@difflearn.com. Please include the date, location, scheduled sessions/speakers, registration details, contact information, and anything else you feel would be informative. If you have a flyer or website, send it over!

We’re always happy to send catalogs or a door prize for your attendees so don’t hesitate to contact us. Help us help our parents and teachers educate and inspire!

We’ll let our readers know about your event on our site where we keep a running list of upcoming conferences at http://www.difflearn.com/events.