Meet Sam Blanco, BCBA, MSEd and Consultant to Different Roads

Sam Blanco, BCBA

Sam Blanco, BCBA

When we stumbled across Sam’s blog, we thought we had died and gone to ABA heaven. Here she was, in New York, with this incredible passion, expertise, dedication to ABA and data collection, and she organized her toys according to what tasks they could be used for in the ABLLS-R and VB-MAPP!? It was like a dream come true! We went to lunch and we happily agreed to work together and bring Sam’s vast experience and expertise to you, our readers.

We’re thrilled to announce that starting tomorrow, Sam is going to be bringing us a “Tip of the Week” touching on everything from strategies for changing frustrating behavior to maximizing the impact of your smartphone. Sam is going to bring the breadth of her experience to create modified instructions for games and follow-up ideas for extending the lesson for mainstream toys and products. She’s also going to focus on creating resources that specifically support paraprofessionals and SEITs working with kids on the spectrum. Sam is an organized force of knowledge and know-how and we’re so excited to be collaborating with her.

If you haven’t visited her blog on teaching through play, we suggest an immediate visit to You’ll find incredible tips on how to use games, apps and toys to teach foundational skills through play and a thoughtful, insightful voice on teaching children with autism.

We asked Sam a few questions so that you can get to know her and her approach…

 A lot of people think still think of Applied Behavior Analysis only as discrete trial, as a rote teaching style. You utilize ABA in all of your teaching, specifically in play. Tell us a bit about what ABA truly is and why you’re such a believer?

At it’s core, ABA is really about understanding the principles of learning and the function of a behavior, then making changes that benefit the learner based on that understanding. This can be applied to skills and behaviors related to language, social skills, daily living skills, academics, and more. Discrete trial instruction is a piece of that, but natural environment teaching has always been an important part of ABA. Over the years, I have found that isolating skills in discrete trials then practicing those skills during play has produced great results for the lives of my learners. And research backs that up!

Your blog is all about toys, games, books and apps and we consider you a bit of an aficionado on the topic of play. If you had to name your absolute top three, what would they be?

I don’t even know how to begin to answer this question! I think because I travel around the city so much for work, I always love things that are small, lightweight, work with a range of age groups, and are still highly motivating. With those characteristics in mind, I’d have to say I love the Melissa & Doug Sandwich Stacking Game, Math Activity Mats, and the Saxoflute. Oh, and marble runs and Creatures Card Game! And Math Dice. (Sorry, I just can’t narrow it down to three.)


Sam Blanco is a Board Certified Behavior Analyst, an ABA provider for students ages 3-12 in NYC, and the creator of a blog (at devoted to teaching students with autism through games, apps, toys, and books. 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. She is the lead contractor for Theatre Development Fund’s Autism Theatre Initiative, working to modify Broadway shows such as The Lion King and Spiderman. She also provides workshops for professionals and parents about assessment, managing difficult behaviors, verbal behavior, and using games and technology effectively in teaching practices.


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About Different Roads to Learning

Our Difflearn blog was created specifically for sharing. Here, we’ll collaborate with trusted professionals and parents to share experiences, concerns, new and exciting products and events and best of all, our collective treasure of information. It is our hope that you will find the information posted here helpful, practical, and interesting and that it will help all of us – especially our children – learn and grow. And this is just the beginning…We hope that professionals and parents who have advice, information or a story to share will contact us and submit thoughts and ideas for blog posts. We intend for this to be a true community and all who are interested in the education of our ASD children are invited to participate.