About Julie Azuma

Julie Azuma is the Founder & President of Different Roads to Learning, a company that sells learning products for children diagnosed with autism and other developmental disabilities, and DRL Books which publishes books and manuals for parent and teachers of autistic children. The companies provide over 100,000 customers with educational materials and tools that help shape the learning behaviors of autistic children.

Remembering Dr. Nathan Azrin, Psychologist Who Developed the Token Economy


Perusing the New York Times this morning, I ran across an obituary for Dr. Nathan Azrin.  The name rang a bell but it wasn’t until I read the article that I realized that he had taken B.F. Skinner’s work and made theory into practice.  He created the “first token economy” and was able to change and shape behaviors for many different types of patients. 

 I wonder if Dr. Azrin had any idea of the hundreds and thousands of children he supported and helped through the years.  It’s boggles my mind to think of all of those token boards, penny boards and reward boards we’ll all created and used.

As we quoted in our most recent catalog, according to Matson & Boisjoli (2009): “One of the most important technologies of behavior modifiers and applied behavior analysts over the last 40 years has been the token economy.”

While we’re working with our kids today, let’s take a moment and thank Dr. Azrin for making a difference in the lives of those on the spectrum.  Here’s the whole article:



The Success of Early Intervention!

The other day our wonderful consultant Stacy Asay came to chat. Stacy has been working with young children in early intervention for 15 years.  Whenever we look at new products or books, we always ask her to give us an opinion on its value to teaching children on the autism spectrum.

We were discussing the benefits of Early Intervention – what kids on the spectrum are like when they are two years old and the amazing skills and capabilities that they acquire through applied behavior analysis and verbal behavior teaching.  Children who can’t make words or eye contact at 2 are able to hold long discussions about their favorite topics at 4.

As Abigail and I started thinking about the astounding success that these children have been making over the years, it dawned on us that our mission here at Different Roads is being fulfilled by these kids!

Our mission is to make a difference in the lives of children diagnosed with autism, giving them tools needed to find success in gaining independence.  We just figured out that by the time our pre-school students get to a school age program, they know how to label, ask questions and do math.  What they need is guidance in social skills.

We are amazed by the progress of so many of our young students…..we know that our products have made a difference and we’re so happy to share in each child’s success. Many of you have stories of these successes. We hope that you will find the time to share stories of the new capabilities and skills that your child has acquired through early intervention.

A Walk in the Woods

When you’re a parent of a child diagnosed with autism, the smallest things become a challenge.  Getting to the car without an incident or going to the store always holds a bit of anxiety for me.  My level of parent alertness was and is always on high.

Miranda loves attention and will approach strangers in her own very unique way. She loves elastic hairbands and is always on a mission to find them on the ground. You would be surprised at how many she can acquire on an outing.  All the while, Miranda uses her own version of words.

The other day, we took a walk, an outing with no anxieties.  It was such a pleasure to walk in the woods with her.  She was cheerful, responsive and appropriate.  I could put my arms around her and just walk along with her.  It was a moment of enjoyment together, a moment to treasure.



Drive Me to the Sea

Last month, I was asked to support a viewing of a Japanese film about autism, “Drive Me to the Sea.”   I was so excited that the Japanese community was interested in autism awareness that I threw myself into promoting the film without knowing the details of the story.  I was doubtful that the film would portray autism appropriately (by my standards).  Upon viewing it, it does.  Everyone on the ASD spectrum is different but this film thoughtfully connects all of us affected by autism. The screenwriter, Kuniaki Yamashita, was a parent of a young man on the spectrum and a core advocate of people affected by ASD.

Jun, the young man with ASD, loves everything about cars and driving.  He has very limited language and independence and lives at home with his family.  There are scenes of what life is like for the family; his mother, his brother and their ties to the disability community. A young woman who knows nothing about autism gives a ride to Jun because he reminds her of someone in her past.  Jun loves everything about cars and vans, so of course, he got in the car and the adventure begins.

The film is about autism awareness, education, advocacy but more importantly acceptance; acceptance of behaviors and inclusion into the mainstream community.   The film gives the autistic person a place in our community.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we were able to gain acceptance for our children in the global community?  The film was a glimpse of promising possibilities.

Miranda and her Handbags

Everyone knows Julie, the president extraordinaire of Different Roads to Learning! For more than 16 years, she’s been sourcing new product, providing guidance and support on the phone, and helping families and organizations in the autism community. For those of you who haven’t had the privilege of talking to Julie, she’s an amazing storyteller. Every Monday morning, she has all of us in the office bent over with laughter or tears as she regales us with the stories of her weekned. As many of you know, Julie’s daughter Miranda has autism. The adventures that Julie and her family go through, the incredible highs and lows, are what inspire all of us every day. We’ve been encouraging Julie to share some of her stories as they’re what link us all together. So, here’s last weekend’s adventure….

Our daughter, Miranda, loves handbags.  She has a ton of them.  Some boys on the spectrum love trains and cars, she loves handbags and hairbands. We have actually had to build storage for her handbag collection.  I recently had to hide my handbags in the office closet to keep them out of her collection. 

 If we go to Kohl’s or to Target, she knows she gets another handbag.  She goes directly to that department. No matter how hard we try to say no, she always finds a way to get that handbag.  We go in for other things but come out with a handbag.  

The last time we went to Kohl’s, she needed a winter coat. Before we left, over and over again, I said “What are we going to get at Kohl’s?” and she said “handbag”.  I said “No, coat.”  She replied “coat”.   “What are we going to get, Miranda?”…the correct response came: “Coat.”  And we did that routine over and over again. Once in a while she would mutter “handbag” but I was on point!  “What are we going to get?”  “Coat!”

 Just before we went into the store, I reminded her of the other issue.  No screaming!

When we get inside, ”no screaming!”

 We walked into the front door of Kohl’s and Miranda is so excited and delighted to get there, she lets out a loud shriek of happiness!  The entire store goes quiet….and then a voice from Check Out #2 says “NO HANDBAGS for you today!”