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.

From Basic Vocabulary to Building Sentences in Autism Education: Using Picture Cards

This week, we have helpful tips and specific uses for the Stages Language Builder Picture Cards from creator Angela Nelson. 

The most popular use of the Language Builder Picture Card Series is to build vocabulary. The realistic and current photos help students to learn the name of various nouns, occupations, and emotions. In the beginning, this task can be very repetitive and basic, focusing only on learning single-word responses. When a child with autism begins to gain expressive language skills, parents and educators are thrilled to watch these new words emerge.

Labeling Sentences

After a child has mastered numerous single-word labels for the picture cards, the next critical step is to build these one-word answers into more complete and functional Labeling Sentences.

Building sentences will start simply. As a first step, you may just ask the child to use the article along with the word. For example, move toward an answer of “an apple” or “a car.” The next step would be to work toward “It is an apple,” or “It is a car.”

As you expand your student’s communication skills to include full sentences, you will no doubt need to use prompts in the beginning. The most common method is verbal modeling. But it is important to fade the verbal prompt as soon as possible. To help your student answer in full sentences without need for a verbal prompt, you can move to a visual cue prompt.

Written cue cards are a great method to remind your student to use full sentences. For example, if you show your student a picture of a car, and ask “What is it?” your student is likely to just answer “car.” To prompt your student to use the article “a” with the word car, you can start by putting a cue card in front of the picture with the word “a” on it. Have your student touch each card (the “a” card and then the picture card) as they say the words “a car.” The next step would be to add cue cards for “It is a car.” When your student starts to grasp the concept of speaking multi-word sentences, you can begin to fade the visual cue card prompts.

Requesting Sentences

Another important type of sentence that your child will need to learn to use is a Requesting Sentence. When your child learns to use communication to make requests and get their needs met, it will reduce the child’s frustration, which will in turn reduce the frequency of tantrums and outbursts.

Sort through the picture cards for which your child knows the labels. Find pictures of items that your child likes and that you have available to give to them. Food items are often the most successful to start with. For example: Cheese, Raisins, Juice, Popcorn, and Apple. Stick a magnet to the back of each picture and place the pictures on the refrigerator. Write the word “I” on one index card and the word “want” on another and place those on the refrigerator also. When you know your child wants a specific food (as most parents often do), pull the corresponding picture down into the “I want” sentence. Use the visual cues as a prompt to help your child remember to use the full sentence to request their desired food. As always, you should fade the prompts as your student begins to master this full sentence activity.

A Note on Using Cue Cards to Prompt

You may think: Why am I using written words to prompt my child? He isn’t speaking well, so why should I assume he can read?
The cards are not meant for your child to read. They are merely place markers. It makes as much sense to use the words as anything else. However, you could also use something as simple and nondescript such as blocks or blank cards for your child to touch as they say the words. The idea is to give your child a physical reminder to speak the extra words. In fact there are schools of thought suggesting that if you tie spoken words to physical activity that it creates more neural pathways for the words to attach to. Regardless, you can choose to use the word cards, or to use a more neutral object. Decide what works best for your child.

Additional Activities to Develop Sentence Skills

Labeling and Requesting are the most basic of all full sentence activities, and provide a basis for your student to understand that communication requires more than single word utterances. The following list of activities offers just a few examples of the many lessons you can use to help build full sentences and a more complete system of communication with your child.

Adjectives

You can use picture cards to discuss adjectives or descriptive words. Some adjectives are clear from the pictures, such as “the apple is round” or “the frog is green.” Other adjectives draw more on a child’s real-world experience, like “the bunny is soft” or “the banana is sweet.” To teach adjectives, you can start with a receptive task. Place cards in front of your child and ask them to “find something green” or “point to something that is round.” This receptive language activity will allow your student to hear some of the adjectives you use, before trying to come up with their own descriptive words when you start to build sentences with them.

To transition this activity to expressive language, you can hold up a picture and ask your student, “What color is the frog?” You will need to prompt your student at first either verbally or using a cue card method as described above.

Wh-questions

Picture cards provide a great opportunity to practice “Wh” questions. You can show your student a picture and ask him or her to answer questions such as “What color is the frog?” “Where would you find a plate?” “When do you use a pillow?” “Why do you use soap?”

To start, some of these questions will fall easily out of the Adjectives lessons you have already practiced, such as “What color is it?” Other questions will provide a new challenge for your student.

Tell Me About

Use pictures with which your student is already familiar. The best pictures will be the ones you have practiced extensively on the Adjectives and Wh-Questions. Show your student a picture and ask him or her to tell you about the item in the picture.

The first things that your student should be able to tell you about the pictures are the responses that they learned in Adjectives and Wh-Questions. The difference with this drill is that you student has to generate the content themselves rather than respond to your question. When you ask your student “What color is it?” they know color is the relevant detail. In the Tell Me About lesson, students have to decide for themselves that color is a relevant thing to tell you about the picture.

You can start with scripted responses, using the picture to cue your student. Then you can progress to more creative responses that might not be so obvious from the picture. For example, show your student a picture of a duck. Ask your student, “Can you tell me about a duck?” By looking at the picture, your student can get some basic answers. “A Duck has feathers.” “A duck has webbed feet.” “A duck has a bill.” As your student becomes more familiar with this activity, you may progress to things about a duck that are not readily apparent from the picture. “A duck can swim.’ “A duck says ‘quack quack,’” “A duck lays eggs.”

The Tell Me About Lesson also gives you the opportunity to increase the length of your student’s verbal activity. Start by requiring the student to tell you only one detail about the picture. Then move up to two, or three or more details. Of course, if you ask your student to tell you three things about the picture, you may have difficulty if they haven’t mastered counting skills. Here’s a trick: hand your student three blocks and have them toss a block into a bucket with every detail they tell you. This is a great way to help your student count their answers, and it makes it fun for them!

Storytelling

The next step in this language building series is Storytelling. Again, this activity builds on the previous lessons. Show your student a familiar picture card and ask your student to “Tell you a story” about the picture. The first elements of the story will likely be familiar from the Tell Me About lesson. For example:

“Tell me a story about a duck.”
“There was a duck, it had webbed feet, feathers, and a bill. The duck went for a swim in the pond, then it laid some eggs and said ‘quack quack’”

As your student’s language skills grow, so will the creativity of the stories!

Generalization

The setting in which you begin to teach language skills is very structured and formal. However these new skills will become more valuable as they generalize across time and setting, and with various communication partners. To help promote generalization, you can start by moving your therapy session to different places – starting even with different rooms in the house.

Next, it is important that the skills your child has learned in the formal therapy session be practiced throughout other aspects of the child’s life, such as during family time and at school. Make sure to bring the cardsto dinner, to the store, to school, etc. Whenever you communicate with your child, require the same full sentences that are expected during therapy. Stop and take the time to use the prompt cards if necessary.

Finally, keep good records and good communication channels open with all of the other professionals and family members in your child’s life. You can send a notebook back and forth to school, or perhaps start an electronic communication log to make sure teachers are requiring the same sentences, using the same words, and bringing in the same prompts as you are at home and in therapy. Consistency is a major key to building and generalizing successful language skills to help your child interact with the world around them.

Posted in ABA

Pick of the Week: Take 20% off products from Stages Learning Materials!

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Stages has a new look! To celebrate, we’re offering 20% off our entire line of Stages products through May 22nd!

*Promotion is valid until May 22nd, 2017 at 11:59pm ET. Offer cannot be applied to previous purchases, combined with any other offers, transferred, refunded, or redeemed and/or exchanged for cash or credit. Different Roads to Learning reserves the right to change or cancel this promotion at any time. To redeem offer at differentroads.com, enter promo code STAGES20 at checkout.

10 Things To Know Before You Leave Home

 

This week, Dana Reinecke, PhD, BCBA-D gives us ten important things to keep in mind if you are helping a young person transition to living on their own.

The ultimate goal for any young adult is to leave home and live an independent life. For individuals with autism, independence may be more difficult to achieve, due to the impact of the disability on most areas of functioning. Regardless of disability, however, it’s important to aim for independence across as many areas as possible, because supports and services change and are often reduced at the time of transition to adulthood (Friedman, Warfield, & Parish, 2013). Most research currently suggests that long-term outcomes are better for those individuals who were diagnosed more recently, possibly due to earlier and more effective interventions (Billstedt, Gillberg, & Gillberg, 2005). This finding should encourage more effort than ever to facilitate independence, because it shows that it is possible, and indeed more likely, with good and early intervention.
What skills are important for transitioning to a more independent adult life? Here are 10 suggestions, and the reasons why.
First, the obvious:
10. Food, eating, and meals
Clearly, we all need to eat to survive, and we need to eat at least a relatively healthy diet most of the time to avoid health issues in the future. Knowing how to make a PB&J sandwich isn’t enough, though – we need to be able to plan meals, shop for the food that we need, have it available when we need it, and make and consume food on a reasonable and healthy schedule.
9. Laundry
Social convention requires neat and clean clothing in most situations (unless you’re at the end of an intense exercise session, or maybe cleaning out an attic). Knowing how to use the washer and dryer aren’t enough. We also need to be able to anticipate when we need to do laundry so that we don’t run out of clean clothes, and we should be able to fold and put clothing away so that it stays neat and presentable. Being able to iron clothing is a good bonus skill.
8. Money management
Being independent means being in charge of your money. Money skills include not just counting, adding, and subtracting, but making change, figuring out tips, and managing at least a simple budget. Other important money skills are using an ATM, writing checks, paying bills on time, and using (and paying off!) a credit card.
7. Cleaning up
A neat, clean home is socially appropriate and also better for one’s health. In addition to knowing how to use a vacuum, how to dust, wash dishes, empty the garbage containers, and organize storage, we should be aware of when these tasks have to be done. Safety around cleaning supplies is also a very important skill.
6. Transportation
Getting to the places that we want and need to go to is an important life skill for independence. For some, this may involve driving, which also includes managing and paying for a car, maintenance of the car, and insurance. For some, public transportation is an option, which involves safety skills as well as knowing the procedures of how to pay, access schedules, and so on. Transportation for people with disabilities is also available in many areas, and requires knowledge of how to access and other procedures.
5. Schedule management
Without schedule management skills, we would miss most of our appointments and commitments, and have difficulty completing projects or meeting our goals. There are many different ways that schedules can be managed, including paper calendars and to-do lists, apps for scheduling and reminders, and timers, alarm clocks, and digital assistants. We need to know what type of schedule management is needed in any given situation, how to access or create systems, and how to use systems over time.
Perhaps less obvious, but just as important:
4. Doctors and dentists
Hopefully this won’t come up too often, but we all get sick now and then, and need a medical professional to help us. Just as important, we should also receive routine health care to prevent illnesses. This skill set can be very complex, and include varied levels of skills, such as finding the right professional, making and keeping and appointment, tolerating any necessary procedures, and following up on advice or prescriptions.
3. Friends
Friendships change and evolve over time, and the friendships of adulthood require different skill sets from those of childhood. Friendship in adulthood may also be complex, and involve many different layers, up to and including romantic relationships and intimacy. The necessary skills for friendships include some very concrete skills like making phone calls, texting, and reciprocating invitations. Less concrete, but still important, skills include tolerating different viewpoints, expressing interest and concern about others, and negotiating plans.
2. Leisure time
Anyone who doesn’t have something enjoyable to do when the demands of everyday life are lifted, such as at the end of a work day, or on a weekend, or even on a family vacation, may wind up engaging in less than acceptable ways of keeping busy. Having age-appropriate, socially-acceptable leisure skills can go a long way towards keeping us out of trouble. Although leisure skills might seem less important to focus teaching resources on than some of the other skill areas here, it can’t be stressed enough that everyone needs something enjoyable to do and to look forward to doing, to be safe, productive, and happy.
1. Getting help
Finally, we all need the crucial skill of being able to get help when we need it. This involves identifying when help is needed, what type of help is needed, how to get it, and then seeking it out. There are multiple opportunities in everyone’s day to seek help – whether by doing an internet search to get information, calling a professional or friend for advice, or asking for assistance in a store or other public place. Having the ability to get help as a core skill can also help to make up for any deficits in the other areas needed for independence.
This is by far not an exhaustive list of areas to address for independence when planning on leaving home, but all of these areas are critical and should be considered well before they are needed. A balanced educational program will hopefully prioritize each of these areas and ensure that functioning is as independent as possible, for a successful outcome!


About The Author

Dana Reinecke is a doctoral level Board-Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA-D) and a New York State Licensed Behavior Analyst (LBA).   Dana is an Assistant Professor and Department Chair of the Department of Special Education and Literacy at Long Island University Post.  Dana provides training and consultation to school districts, private schools, agencies, and families for individuals with disabilities.  She has presented original research and workshops on the treatment of autism and applications of ABA at regional, national, and international conferences.  She has published her research in peer-reviewed journals, written chapters in published books, and co-edited books on ABA and autism.  Current areas of research include use of technology to support students with and without disabilities, self-management training of college students with disabilities, and online teaching strategies for effective college and graduate education.  Dana is actively involved in the New York State Association for Behavior Analysis (NYSABA), and is currently serving as President (2017-2018).

Posted in ABA

Get organized for 20% less!

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We’ve put together a great collection of timers and schedules to keep kids on track!

 

*Promotion is valid until May 15th, 2017 at 11:59pm ET. Offer cannot be applied to previous purchases, combined with any other offers, transferred, refunded, or redeemed and/or exchanged for cash or credit. Different Roads to Learning reserves the right to change or cancel this promotion at any time. To redeem offer at differentroads.com, enter promo code ORGANIZE2017 at checkout.

 

Posted in ABA

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.


Here 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 tantrum—it’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 them—then 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 too—the sweet older lady who tells your child that Mommy will buy him a candy bar if he stops crying—you’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 moment—the 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 it—that’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 picture—you’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 process—you (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 happening—unfortunately, 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.

Save 20 % on our Calm and Focus Collection!

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*Promotion is valid until May 8th, 2017 at 11:59pm ET. Offer cannot be applied to previous purchases, combined with any other offers, transferred, refunded, or redeemed and/or exchanged for cash or credit. Different Roads to Learning reserves the right to change or cancel this promotion at any time. To redeem offer at differentroads.com, enter promo code CALM20 at checkout.
Posted in ABA

What Autism Awareness Should be About

In this month’s ASAT feature, Executive Director David Celiberti, PhD, BCBA-D, offer, OPs his thoughts on expanding autism awareness once April has ended. To learn more about ASAT, please visit their website at www.asatonline.org. You can also sign up for ASAT’s free newsletter, Science in Autism Treatment, and like them on Facebook!

Autism Awareness Month will soon come to a close. The blue puzzle pieces will disappear from Facebook pages and billboards, the media will focus their attention on other topics of interest, and we will return to business as usual. And business as usual is not OK, particularly given that so many children and adults with autism are not accessing the most effective, science-based interventions that will allow them to realize their fullest potentials.

When I first entered the field over twenty-five years ago, autism was considered a rare condition. When people asked what I did for a living, they often misheard me and thought I worked with “artistic” children. Today, autism is no longer the rare diagnosis that impacts someone else’s child. Our extended families, our neighbors, and our co-workers are now all touched by autism. With 1 in 68 children receiving a diagnosis, the sheer number of individuals with autism is staggering and heightens awareness in and of itself.

For many conditions, awareness is key because awareness promotes detection, and with detection comes a relatively clear path towards treatment. Take, for example, conditions such as Lyme disease and many forms of cancer. Better prognoses are attached to early detection. Within a few short weeks of detection and diagnosis, patients typically receive science-based treatment. If their conditions are not detected early, then access to such treatments is delayed and their conditions will likely worsen. In the world of autism, detection is not the “be all and end all.” We do not just have a detection issue in autism, but also, and perhaps more importantly, we have an intervention issue.

It is my hope that the conversation about autism awareness will be broadened to focus upon and overcome the obstacles that separate individuals with autism from effective, science-based intervention, and that those that separate their families, caregivers, and teachers from accurate information about autism intervention.

I leave you with 10 ideas about what “autism awareness” should be about.

  1. “Autism Awareness” should recognize the need to differentiate effective treatments that are scientifically validated from the plethora of “therapies” and “cures” lacking scientific support. Autism treatment has become a multi-million dollar industry with 500+ alleged treatments and thus, science sadly placed on the back burner. This means that heart wrenching testimonials, surveys that are pawned off as scientific research, and outrageous claims abound, making it challenging for parents to determine the best course of action for their child. The aggressive marketing of these “therapies” and “cures” is absolutely overwhelming for parents who are desperate for accurate information to help their children realize their fullest potential. For most other medical conditions, a provider that disregards proven intervention and uses a fringe treatment may actually be sued for malpractice. Such safeguards are not yet well established for autism treatment.

 

  1. “Autism Awareness” must recognize the responsibility that we have, as a society, to make sound choices.I use the term “society” given the myriad of stakeholders who make critically important decisions for persons with autism – not just parents, but siblings, teachers, treatment providers, administrators, program coordinators, elected officials and even tax payers. Decision-making power comes with tremendous responsibility. There are far too many individuals with autism who are not receiving effective treatment, are receiving ineffective treatment, or are subjected to treatments that are, in fact, dangerous. Every minute of ineffective intervention is one less minute spent accessing effective intervention.   Choices made have profound implications.

 

* Please see the questions that appear at the end of this article to promote more careful decision making at http://www.asatonline.org/pdf/roadless.pdf

 

  1. “Autism Awareness” must recognize that available information (and information providers) varies greatly in accuracy.As we know, not all information on the Internet is reliable and accurate. Often Internet information is deemed equivalent in relevance, importance, and validity, to research published in peer-reviewed scientific journals. It is not.

 

  1. Autism Awareness” must include careful and responsible reporting by journalistsThere are dozens of “miracle cures” and “breakthroughs” for autism that receive widespread media attention, even if they have not been proven effective. Unfortunately, treatments actually shown to be effective typically receive the least amount of media attention. It is hard to imagine that things will improve dramatically for the autism community in the absence of more accurate representations of autism treatment in the media.

 

* You will find examples of accurate and inaccurate reporting at http://www.asatonline.org/for-media-professionals/about-media-watch/ ASAT is undertaking proactive steps to enhance accuracy in media reporting.

 

  1. “Autism Awareness” should recognize the critical need for newly diagnosed children to access effective treatment as soon as possible.We also know that we have a limited window of time to prepare children for the least restrictive setting once they enter public school. The fact that resources allocated early can save a tremendous amount of resources over an individual’s lifespan does not always enter the conversation when evaluating costs and benefits. That must change.

 

  1. “Autism Awareness” should also instill hope for a better tomorrow for those individuals who are not part of the “best outcome” group.With the right treatment, individuals with autism can lead happy and fulfilling lives. Research indicates that interventions such as applied behavior analysis (ABA) can effectively help children and adults with autism realize their fullest potential. The conversation about “cure” often delegitimizes and derails important conversations about how we can help individuals with autism live and work independently, develop meaningful and sustainable relationships, reduce challenging behaviors that may limit opportunities, access faith communities, and enjoy the array of recreational pursuits that are available within their communities. Those are important conversations to have.

 

  1. “Autism Awareness” must mandate accountability from all treatment providers. Accountability involves a shared commitment to objectively defined targets, data collection, and respect for the scientific method. It is every provider’s responsibility to objectively measure outcomes regardless of their discipline. No one should get a pass on accountability. No one is immune from defining their target and objectively measuring progress. No one should get away with implementing their intervention carelessly and in no-transparent manner. No one should be permitted to boast claims that they cannot demonstrate through data. These unfortunate realities should not be tolerated.

 

  1. “Autism Awareness” must involve recognition that an abundance of clinical research already exists.Too often the plethora of peer-reviewed research that could guide and inform treatment efforts is disregarded altogether. If treatment providers and consumers are interested in published research on diverse topics such as improving conversation skills, promoting academic skills, eliminating pica, or developing tolerance for dental procedures, they can find it. Thousands of researchers have worked hard at publishing their findings in peer reviewed journals and their findings are often overshadowed by a media that practices sensationalism to provide consumers with information about the “next big thing” in autism treatment.

 

  1. “Autism Awareness” should help us identify and overcome the barriers that face our families everyday.Not every child with autism is invited to birthday parties. Not every faith community welcomes families of children with autism. Not every school provides meaningful contact between students with autism and their typically developing peers. Not every community provides recreational opportunities for individuals with autism. The absence of these opportunities is both a function of misinformation about autism and the lack of awareness about the successful efforts of others who have overcome such barriers. With 1 in 68 children being diagnosed, every facet of society would benefit from evaluating what they are doing, what they are not doing, and what they could be doing differently.

 

  1. “Autism Awareness” should be about the reality that the hundreds of thousands of children with autism will soon become hundreds of thousands of young adults with autism. We are facing a crisis in the field with a scarcity of services for adults with autism and the absence of a clear strategy for closing the gap between the ever increasing need, and an unprepared supply of resources. The Association for Science in Autism Treatment has committed to broadening its scope to be a part of an important dialogue about adults with autism.

We all play a role in bettering the lives of individuals with autism and helping their families and supporters become skilled and savvy consumers. Embrace that role with an eye toward identifying what additional steps you can take to become a contributor to important conversations and an even bigger part of the solution.

 


David Celiberti, PhD, BCBA-D, is the part time Executive Director of ASAT and Past-President, a role he served from 2006 and 2012. He is the Co-Editor of ASAT’s newsletter, Science in Autism Treatment. He received his PhD in clinical psychology from Rutgers University in 1993. Dr. Celiberti has served on a number of advisory boards and special interest groups in the field of autism, applied behavior analysis, and early childhood education, and been an active participant in local fundraising initiatives to support after school programming for economically disadvantaged children. He works in private practice and provides consultation to public and private schools and agencies in underserved areas. He has authored several articles in professional journals and presents frequently at regional, national, and international conferences. In prior positions, Dr. Celiberti taught courses related to applied behavior analysis (ABA) at both the undergraduate and graduate levels, supervised individuals pursuing BCBA certifications, and conducted research in the areas of ABA, family intervention, and autism.

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Help Your Child Have A Successful Play Date!

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This week, clinical psychologist Lauren Elder offers advice on setting up play dates for children with autism.

Encouraging friendships is a priority for many parents, and a play date is a good first step. Playing with peers is difficult for many children with autism. So I’m glad you realize that a successful play date can require some planning. To maximize success, I recommend the following four steps:

Make sure your child is ready for play dates.

Children with autism are more likely to succeed with other children after they’ve gained the following skills.

* Some basic play skills. Your child needs to be able to play with toys and games, ideally those that interest other children his age.

* Some awareness and interest in peers. Your child doesn’t need to be skilled in interacting with other children. But it will help a lot if he’s interested and motivated to play with them.

* Can “practice play” with adults. For most children with autism, practice play with adults is the first step to interacting with children. As adults, we tend to be more structured and predictable and can provide appropriate prompting as needed. All this makes it easier for children with autism to learn basic play skills. These include taking turns and being able to play and share several different toys.

Choose the right playmate.

It’s important to make sure that the friend is a good match for your child. Ideally, find a friend who shares some of your child’s special interests. Play dates will be smoother if they’re naturally drawn to the same activities. If your child’s play skills are behind his peers, it can also help if the playmate is a little younger. In general, look for playmates who are patient and flexible. Many children with autism do well with peers who are friendly and willing to help draw others into social interactions.

Prepare, prepare, prepare

* Preselect the activities. I recommend starting with activities that are familiar to your child and have clear steps or roles. Examples include making (simple) cookies, a board game, video game or tag. In general, structured activities are easier than unstructured ones for children with autism. However, an unstructured activity that taps your child’s special interests (cars? trains? Lion King?) can be successful.

* Prepare a structured play date plan. Many children with autism have difficulty with transitions. It can help to give your child a visual schedule listing the planned play activities. If your child likes to play with a wide variety of toys, you might make clear that he and his friend will take turns choosing what to do next. I also recommend communicating a set end time. Generally, keep it under 30 minutes for the first play date. If that proves successful, consider adding time to the next visit.

* Role play with your child. Practice how to play with friends. Practice the activities you’ve planned, and describe or show your child the play date plan. Talk about things that might happen, such as the other child wanting to do something different than what your child wants to do. That will enable the two of you to talk about how your child should handle these situations.

Be ready to coach if needed.

While you want to use as light a touch as possible, you’ll probably need to help your child – at least as he begins to master this new skill. In particular, be ready to:

* Coach your child. He may need reminders to wait his turn, share, respond when his friend speaks to him, etc.

* Coach your child’s friend. With the right playmate, it can help to offer a few suggestions for interacting with your child. For instance, to “try again” if your child doesn’t immediately respond to a suggestion and to “gently ignore” an undesired behavior such as yelling.

* Let kids be kids. Coaching is important, but it’s equally important to give your child and his playmate a chance to work things out before you intervene.

I hope these tips help you witness many enjoyable play dates!

This piece originally appeared on Autism Speaks as part of their Got Questions? series.
Posted in ABA

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*Promotion is valid until April 25th, 2017 at 11:59pm ET. Offer cannot be applied to previous purchases, combined with any other offers, transferred, refunded, or redeemed and/or exchanged for cash or credit. Different Roads to Learning reserves the right to change or cancel this promotion at any time. To redeem offer at differentroads.com, enter promo code TOGETHER17 at checkout.
Posted in ABA