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.

Tips for Costumes & Trick-or-Treating for Kids on the Spectrum: Getting Ready for Halloween

October means it’s time for trips to pumpkin patches, ghastly goblin decorations, and candy corns galore. So what better time than now to share this wonderful guest article about getting ready for Halloween by BCBA Claudia Mármol.  Claudia shares with us a few tips on how to make dressing up and trick-or-treating as seamless as possible for a child on the spectrum.

_______________________________________________ 

Wouldn’t it be fun to have your child dress up in their favorite TV character or have them pick up their costume for this Halloween? Most parents would answer “Yes” to the above question, as we all dream of having our child walk down the streets and go trick-or-treating. Thus, as much as children enjoy this holiday, so do adults. However, we have to keep in mind that children with autism and related disorders have sensitivity to certain stimuli such as textures, colors, smells, loud noises, and such that make wearing a typical Halloween costume difficult.

Below, you will find some helpful tips to keep in mind before we try to make our child wear all sorts of costumes, masks, make-up, wigs, and the like:

  • Try to avoid masks or anything on their heads: Since children dislike certain textures, their costume should not include anything that will disturb their head and/or skin (such as masks, make-up and/or excessive facial paint, big hats). These also become uncomfortable to carry, fade after a few hours, and can even be a little scary for our little ones, so avoid them as much as possible.
  • Make it comfortable: Whether your child will be trick-or-treating or not, make sure that the length of the costume (both legs and arms) is not too long for him/her as to impede their ability to walk and run with their friends. Also, keep in mind the material of the costume and the weather (i.e., avoid materials that will make your child sweat). I would suggest having a cotton costume and having a back-up plan, such as a Halloween-inspired shirt in case your child does not want to remain in his/her costume
  • Try it on before it’s that special day: In order to avoid a meltdown on Halloween night, have your child wear his/her costume around the house so that he/she gets used to wearing it and feels comfortable in it. Also choose shoes that your child can comfortably walk in to ensure that he/she will be okay during trick-or-treating.
  • Choose something FUN for them: Have your child take part in this special holiday by having them choose what they want to dress up as, but always keeping in mind the above stated. Here are some additional ideas and all-time favorites for Halloween:
    • Favorite TV/Movie Characters, such as Disney characters and super heroes.
    • Halloween favorites, such as witches, ghosts, wizards, and monsters.
    • Others: Animals and insects, such as cats, ladybugs, bees, dogs, and spiders are all simple yet fit the occasion!

Here are other tips to ease the difficulties related to Halloween:

  • Practice the trick-or-treating route in advance: In the days leading up to Halloween, walk with your child around your neighborhood and note his/her reaction. If your child feels scared with some decorations that include excessive lighting, have strobes or scary monsters, ghosts, and witches, then you will know to avoid these houses on Halloween.
  • Consider alternatives: If your child is not the one to walk around and may not like the Halloween decorations, then you may want to join with other parents so that you can host a Halloween party that is autism-friendly. If you don’t want to host a party, then consider attending a mall, local children museums, or any child friendly location that will have a themed activity.
  • It’s okay to stay home: If you think your child will not enjoy the Halloween festivities of going trick-or-treating and dressing up as something, then stay home. You can have your own Halloween fun by watching a movie, creating Halloween-inspired foods together, as well as arts and crafts that will get your child involved (stay tuned for our other post on Halloween Arts & Crafts).

Thus, Halloween should be a fun holiday for all of us! But do know that it can be a scary time for some children, so keep in mind all of the tips discussed above and be aware that comfort is key for your child’s happiness.


WRITTEN BY CLAUDIA MARMOL, BCBA

Claudia Mármol is a Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA) and the founder of Heal the World Behavioral Services, a private ABA center that provides quality ABA therapy to children diagnosed with autism and related disorders in South Florida. Since 2007, Claudia has worked with numerous children of various ethnicities, backgrounds, and related disorders as well as typical children exhibiting problem behaviors in clinical settings, family homes, and schools. Claudia specializes in the development, implementation, and supervision of Verbal Behavior Programs in both English and Spanish.

“When This Mom Couldn’t Find What She Needed To Help Her Autistic Daughter, She Created A Site That Could”

We’re incredibly THRILLED to share this inspiring feature on our President and Founder Julie Azuma just published today on Huffington Post. Julie was recently featured in Marlo Thomas’ new book It Ain’t Over… Till It’s Overwhich reveals the stories of 60 different women who prove that it’s never too late to live out a dream. Brimming with anecdotes that will inspire smiles, tears, and—most of all—hope, Marlo Thomas’ book will speak to women of all ages.

Julie HuffPost Feature

We’re so proud of Julie and appreciate the invaluable help she’s given to so many. Congratulations, Julie!

 

Guest Article: Tackling Tantrums by Bridge Kids of New York

For parents, it can be difficult and frustrating to help their children through tantrums. We’re pleased to share with you a second guest post by Bridge Kids of New York (BKNY), who shares with us a few (humorous) words of advice on tackling tantrums.

T-A-N-T-R-U-M-S
by Bridge Kids of New York

Young girl indoors cryingHere at BKNY, parents reach out to us for support in a variety of areas. Not surprisingly, one of the most popular reasons we hear from parents is for support in managing tantrums! Why is this not surprising? Well, it’s not surprising because very few of us will make it through life without ever throwing a tantrum! We’ve all been there, right? Whether you were 5 or 35, you’ve most likely engaged in a tantrum. For our little ones, who are still learning about rules, expectations, effective behavior, and self-control, it makes sense that we will periodically see a tantrumit’s often part of the learning process. So, for all of our parents out there who are tackling tantrums, here are a few words of advice for you:

Take a deep breath
Analyze why the tantrum is occurring and Avoid reinforcing it
Neutral tone and affect
Tune out the bystanders
Remember the big picture
Understand that this is a learning moment for your child
Make objective decisions rather than emotional ones
Stop beating yourself up

Take a deep breath.
Tantrums can be stressful for everyone involved! As a parent, it may be emotionally difficult, frustrating, or potentially embarrassing to work through a massive tantrum with your child–these are common emotions! But here’s the thing: when your child is mid-tantrum and about as far away from calm as possible, that’s when it’s the most important for us to be calm. After all, someone has to be! Whatever emotions you feel in these moments are perfectly valid—acknowledge themthen take a deep breath and try to release them. One of the most important things you can do for your child during a tantrum is to remain calm

Analyze why the tantrum is occurring and Avoid reinforcing it.
All behavior occurs for a reason. Whether or not you fully understand your child’s tantrum, rest assured that there is a function behind it. In order to handle it appropriately and use proactive measures in the future, we need to analyze what is going on. We need you to become a tantrum detective! Think about what happened right before your child’s tantrum (i.e. the antecedent). Were you talking on the phone instead of paying attention to her? Did he have to share a favorite toy with another child? Did you ask him to do something challenging? Looking at what happened right before will probably give you some information about why the tantrum is happening. Thinking about (and potentially reconsidering) how you typically respond in these situations may also help. Once you determine why the tantrum is occurring, the next step is to not give into it. So, if your child is tantrumming in the middle of the grocery store because you said “no” to the box of over-processed chocolate cereal, you want to make sure that you do not give in and buy the cereal. If you cave during a tantrum, you will likely reinforce that behavior and see it again in the future. So do your best to stay strong!

Neutral tone and affect.
We’re all human and it’s natural to lose our cool from time to time under stressful circumstances. Tantrums can get the best of you sometimes! In these moments, try to remind yourself to use a neutral tone and affect. Let your face and your voice send the message that you are unphased by the tantrum (even if you don’t totally feel that way on the inside!). Channel your inner actor (we’re in NYC after all!) and put on your game face!


Tune out the bystanders.

Let’s be honest, a tantrum that occurs in your home feels very different than a tantrum that occurs in public. When you are out in the community, there may be additional safety concerns (e.g. running into the street), worries about disturbing others (e.g. crying in a restaurant or movie theater), and, perhaps the most challenging of all, those darn judgmental bystanders! You know the ones we’re talking about. Those people who either can’t relate to what you and your child are going through, or the ones who pretend like they can’t relate because, after all, their children NEVER, EVER, EVER had tantrums (read: sarcasm). Then, there are also the people who get involved, thinking they’re helping you, but are actually making the situation worse. You know these people toothe sweet older lady who tells your child that Mommy will buy him a candy bar if he stops cryingyou’ve met her, right? Unfortunately, you cannot always control what other people will say, do, or think. But, fortunately, you can control what YOU will say, do, and think! In these moments, do your best to turn OFF your listening ears and do what you know is right for your child.

Remember the big picture.
Okay, so here were are in the middle of a huge tantrum. Could you make that tantrum stop in a matter of minutes or even seconds? Yes, in many cases you probably could. All you have to do is give in. If your child is tantrumming because you told her you would not buy that candy bar in the checkout line, you could probably put a quick end to it by just caving and giving her the candy. And that option can be pretty tempting sometimes! This is where we urge you to remember the big picture and think long-term. The goal is not to stop that particular tantrum in that particular momentthe goal is to reduce those tantrums from happening in the long-run. We want to decrease the behavior that interferes with your child’s success and increase the behavior that supports itthat’s not going to happen by giving in. Caving in the middle of a tantrum may stop it in the moment, but ultimately it will teach your child that throwing a tantrum is an effective way to get what he wants. So the next time he wants something, he’s likely to resort to that behavior again. As you can imagine, this may easily turn into a cycle of increasing tantrums. Although it’s easier said than done, try to remember the big pictureyou’ll thank yourself later!

Understand that this is a learning moment for your child.
Every moment of every day is a learning moment. This applies to all of us, by the way, not only our children! Believe it or not, your child is actually learning during those tantrums. He is learning all kinds of things, in fact! Your child is learning whether or not Mommy really means the things she says. She’s learning whether or not you are consistent. He’s learning about rules and limits, or lack thereof. She’s learning what behaviors are going to be effective and what behaviors are not. He’s learning how to respond to undesired situations, like not getting what he wants. The list could go on and on! So remember this when your child is having a tantrum and focus on teaching the things you actually WANT to teach! Furthermore, remember that learning is hard sometimes. It’s okay for your child to struggle a little bit in the learning processyou (and we!) are there to be his teachers.

Make objective decisions rather than emotional ones.
We’ll start this one by acknowledging that it can sometimes feel nearly impossible to be objective during a massive tantrum, especially when in public. To the best of your ability, set your emotions aside and try not to take it personally. Your child’s tantrum is happening for a reason and that reason is most likely not about trying to hurt your feelings. So, take a moment to have a mini out-of-body experience, away from your emotions, and try to look at the situation as an outsider. Remember, you want to analyze what is really happeningunfortunately, those pesky emotions can really cloud your judgment. Try to let your choices and reactions be based on facts rather than on feelings.

Stop beating yourself up!
You are not a bad parent. Your child is not a bad kid. You are not the only parent whose child has tantrums (despite those ridiculous people who make you feel like you are!) In fact, your child’s tantrum may actually be the result of you being a good parent and setting limits. You do not have to be perfect every second of every day. You can make mistakes and so can your child. It’s okay. This is a part of the process. Chin up, thumbs up, you got this!

Note: If your child engages in behavior that is dangerous to himself or others, we suggest that you consult an appropriate medical professional as well a Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA) immediately. Safety should always be the first priority. Feel free to reach out to our behavior team and/or attend one of our Tackling Tantrums workshops for more information on understanding and changing behavior!


WRITTEN BY BRIDGE KIDS OF NEW YORK, LLC

Bridge Kids of New York, LLC is a multidisciplinary team of professionals who strive to improve the quality of everyday living for the children and families they serve, providing each family with progressive services that merge evidence-based practices with play-based and social instruction. To find out more, contact them here or email info@bridgekidsny.com.

When Kids Are Just Kids: Avoiding Over-Pathologizing Behaviors of Children with Autism

A diagnosis of autism can be very challenging for a child and for his/her family. But one of the most difficult aspects of autism is that it is not clear cut what behaviors are related to autism, and what behaviors are related to just being a kid. Every child tantrums sometimes. Every child talks back sometimes. Every child engages in dangerous behavior sometimes.

When I look back on my own childhood, I think of several behaviors I exhibited: in third grade I cut my own hair while my teacher’s back was turned, in fourth grade I got mad at my brother and threw an alarm clock at him, and in seventh grade I loved Agatha Christie books so much that I frequently refused to go outside and sat in my room reading by myself for hours on end. If I had autism, any one of these behaviors may have been pathologized instead of being considered as just a part of growing up.

So how do you parse through all the behaviors your learner is exhibiting and figure out which ones you should actually be worried about? Here are a few questions to ask yourself in determining behaviors to address:

  • First and foremost, is the behavior dangerous?
  • Secondly, how often and for how long does your learner engage in the behavior
  • How different is this behavior from the learner’s same-age peers? For example, does your three year old cry for a couple minutes when told that she can’t have her favorite toy, or does she cry for two hours and refuse to engage with any other toys for the rest of the day?
  • How is this behavior interfering with the learner’s ability to learn?
  • How is this behavior interfering with the learner’s ability to engage with peers and family members?
  • Is the behavior related to a skill? For example, pacing the room and flapping your arms is typically not related to a skill, but building Lego models can be related to a skill. If it is related to a skill, think about ways to provide opportunities for expanding that skill.

The answers to these questions should be able to inform the decisions that you make in intervening with behaviors. And we should remember that above all else, kids with autism are still just kids.

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, she 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.

Simplifying the Science: Parent-Conducted Toilet Training for Kids with Autism

For many of the families I work with, toilet training their child with autism becomes a long, painful process. I typically recommend the Rapid Toilet Training (RTT) protocol developed by Azrin & Foxx (1971) but many parents struggle to maintain implementation without the presence of a behavior therapist or toilet training specialist. And while Azrin & Foxx’s results have been replicated in other studies, RTT has primarily been used in educational and outpatient settings, and the amount of time it has taken to complete toilet training has been longer than in the initial study.

This is why I was especially excited to come across the study by Kroeger & Sorensen (2010) about “A parent training model for toilet training children with autism,” which is based on Azrin & Foxx’s initial study with some key modifications. This study focuses on parent-conducted toilet training in the home and was completed with two children with autism.

As mentioned in previous blog posts, the best interventions usually are multi-pronged approaches. This is no different. While there are multiple steps involved, it’s important to recognize that one of these children was fully toilet trained in 4 days, and the other in 11 days. Both children maintained toilet training skills when researchers checked in at 2 weeks, 6 months, and 3 years. Setting aside a few days or a couple of weeks to complete this intensive protocol may be intimidating at first, but achieving similar results as the two children in the study has a huge impact on the life of your child and the entire family.

Prior to starting the intervention, they received medical consent and clearance from the children’s attending developmental pediatricians. They then performed a preference assessment (the RAISD) to determine reinforcers. The study then states that “The families were asked to restrict the children’s access to these reinforcers for a minimum of 3 days prior to implementing the intensive training treatment protocol.”

The intensive toilet training program had 5 components:

Increased fluids: In consultation with a pediatrician, the study states that “parents were instructed to increase the children’s access to fluids for 3 days prior to implementing the training.” This increase in fluid intake continued until 6:00 PM on the first day of training.

Toilet scheduled sitting: Since the protocol was completed in the privacy of the children’s homes, the children were able to remain undressed from the waist down while being toilet trained. The children were continuously seated on the toilet, then able to leave the toilet for voiding in the toilet, or for brief “stretching” breaks. As they achieved higher frequency of appropriate voiding in the toilet, the amount of time spent on the toilet decreased and the amount of time escaping the toilet increased. (The schedule for fading out time seated on the toilet is detailed in Table 1 of the study.) Also, while seated on the toilet, the child was able to play with preferred items, but not the most preferred items.

Reinforcement for continent voids: According to the study, “If the child successfully voided while on a scheduled sit, they were provided immediate reinforcement (primary edible reinforcement and planned escape to a preferred activity). If the child self-initiated a void while on a break, he was provided immediate reinforcement and a new break time was begun after the self-initiated break.”

Redirection for accidents: When accidents occur, a neutral verbal redirection was provided, such as “We go pee on the toilet” and then the child was physically redirected back to the toilet. Once they were on the toilet, a scheduled sit was begun.

Chair scheduled sitting: Once the child began to experience success with voiding on the toilet, a chair was placed next to the toilet. During scheduled sits, the child would sit on the chair. If he began to void on the chair, the study states that he “was provided with the least intrusive, minimal, physical prompt. When he independently moved from the chair to the toilet to void three consecutive times, the chair was systematically moved away from the toilet in 2-feet increments.”

The study goes into further detail on each of these five components, as well as how to generalize the skill and how parents were trained in the protocol. The study made modifications to the Azrin & Foxx study to make it easier to apply in the home setting for parents, and it removed any form of punishment.

While this is a comprehensive toilet training program that requires a high level of time and attention from the parents, it is set up to help parents achieve results in a relatively short period of time.

The study states, “Parents of incontinent children with developmental disabilities report higher personal stress and distress likely related to the toileting problems presented by their children than parents of toilet trained children with developmental disabilities. It could be deduced then that continence training not only increases associated hygiene factors and access to activities and placements, but also increases the quality of life for the parents by reducing stress and subsequently for other family members such as siblings as corollary recipients of the distress” (Macias et al., 2006).

The potential to improve the quality of life for both your child with autism and your entire family is worth the challenge of implementing this protocol.

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.

Pilot Study Finds that Parent-led Early Intervention Can Reduce Autism Symptoms in Babies

Autism symptoms can display in babies as young as 6 months old. A new pilot study at the UC Davis MIND Institute found that parents could reduce symptoms of autism in babies under 12 months by using intervention treatments in the home as detailed in the Early Denver Start Model.

As reported in a recent Huffington Post article, the study involved parents and their babies between 7 and 15 months of age in a 12 week-long treatment conducted by parents in home-like environments. The treatment was based on the Early Denver Start Model and revolved around parent-child interactions, such as bathing, feeding, playing, and reading. Four comparison groups were also included: Those who were at a higher risk for autism because of an affected sibling; those who were at low risk; those who had developed autism by age 3; and those with early symptoms who received treatment at a later age.

At the start of the study, all babies displayed early signs of autism, such as low interest in interactions and repetitive behaviors, which increased by around 9 months. However, by 18 to 36 months of age, the children in the treatment group produced lower autism severity scores than the comparison groups who did not go through the treatment.

The Huffington Post article “Pilot Intervention Eliminates Autism Symptoms In Babies” highlights the importance of early intervention in autism treatment. While this research is highly preliminary, the findings show that therapy and early intervention are key factors in treating infants and children with early signs of autism, and possibly in reducing them altogether. This study offers hope for parents and professionals in helping their children succeed with more tools and resources for the earliest stages of autism.

Read more about the pilot study on Huffington Post here.