Pick of the Week: Robot Turtles – The Game for Little Programmers

We’re thrilled to announce the arrival of the highly-rated game Robot Turtles: The Little Game for Programmers to our store. Robot Turtles an innovative board game that teaches the fundamentals of computer programming to kids as young as 4 years old without a screen. That’s right – no screen, no keyboard, no special effects; just great design and an innovative concept! And this week only, we’re offering a 15% discount* on this great new game. Just enter TURTLES3 at checkout to redeem your savings on your set of Robot Turtles.

With its origin as the most backed board game in Kickstarter history, Robot Turtles sneakily teaches the fundamentals of programming, from coding to functions, while making silly turtle noises! This game takes seconds to learn, minutes to play, and provides endless learning opportunities. With 4 different levels of play, including basic game play, unlocking obstacles and lasers, unlocking a “write program,” and unlocking the function frog, Robot Turtles is a wonderful game for preschoolers to grow with.

Each set of Robot Turtles comes with:

  • 1 game board
  • 40 game tiles
  • 4 robot turtle tiles
  • 4 jewel tiles
  • 4 code card decks, with 45 cards each

As the best selling board game in all of Kickstarter history, Robot Turtles has been highly anticipated by game creators and consumers alike, and has received a considerable amount of mainstream press. In a recently published New York Times article, creator of the game Dan Shapiro explains his rationale behind creating the game. “Those [game] pieces are intended to represent the commands of a computer program.” Children are required to select cards to move their pieces around the board, pushing or destroying obstacles in their way. With the glowing reviews it has received on trending social media sites, Robot Turtles is sure to teach young learners the fundamentals of a necessary skill in modern technology in a fun and interactive way.

Don’t forget – this week only, take 15% off* your purchase of the brand-new Robot Turtles game by applying code TURTLES3 at checkout!

*Offer is valid through 11:59pm EDT on June 3, 2014. Not compatible with any other offer. Be sure there are no spaces or dashes in your code at checkout!

Urge U.S. Congress to Cover ABA for Military Kids with Autism

A new bill was introduced requiring TRICARE to cover Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) for all military children with developmental disabilities, including autism. The Caring for Military Children with Developmental Disabilities Act of 2014, sponsored by U.S. Representatives John Larson (D-CT) and Tom Rooney (R-FL), marks the latest effort in Congress to improve and standardize medical coverage of ABA therapy for military families affected by autism and other developmental disabilities.

It is estimated that 23,000 military dependents, including children of active duty, reserve and guard families, are affected by autism.

Excited returning soldier hugging her son

Given frequent duty station changes and social turmoil of military service, military children affected by autism often face additional challenges that their civilian counterparts do not necessarily face every day. “Our common sense bill helps ensure that the children of our troops and military retirees have access to the health care services they need,” Rooney said.

The bills, HR.4630 and S.2333, would provide access to ABA for all military children with developmental disabilities, improve coverage to address medically recommended treatment levels, and allow for coverage of the ABA tiered service delivery model which includes Board Certified Assistant Behavior Analysts and ABA Technicians.

TRICARE now has three different programs delivering ABA services in three different ways, and not one of them is permanent.

Please urge your U.S. Representatives and Senators to pass the new bill to make ABA coverage a permanent medical benefit under TRICARE for all military children affected by autism and other developmental delays. Visit Autism Speaks and take action by sending an email with your message of support for these military families in need.

Julie Azuma featured in the new Marlo Thomas book It Ain’t Over…Till It’s Over: Reinventing Your Life-and Realizing Your Dreams

Julie_Azuma_It_Aint_Over_PhotoWe are beyond excited to announce that our wonderful president and founder, Julie Azuma, is featured in the new Marlo Thomas book It Ain’t Over . . . Till It’s Over: Reinventing Your Life–and Realizing Your Dreams-Anytime, at Any Age.

It Ain’t Over . . . Till It’s Over introduces us to sixty amazing women who are proving that it’s never too late to live out a dream—to launch a business, travel the world, get a PhD, indulge a creative impulse, make a family recipe famous, escape danger, find love, or fill a void in life with a challenging new experience. Julie’s story of leaving her career in the fashion industry to start Different Roads to Learning after her daughter’s autism diagnosis is featured and will leave readers feeling uplifted and inspired.

Brimming with anecdotes that will inspire smiles, tears, and—most of all—hope, It Ain’t Over speaks to women of all ages with an empowering message: The best is yet to come! Congratulations to Julie on the well deserved recognition for her incredible  and inspiring efforts!

Interview with Ron Suskind, author of “Life Animated: A Story of Sidekicks, Heroes, and Autism”

A few weeks back, we shared the wonderful article in the NY Times by Ron Suskind titled Reaching My Autistic Son Through Disney. 

This week, CBS Sunday Morning profiled Ron and his son Owen, sharing their journey and experiences. It’s an incredible, moving story and we hope you’ll find the time to watch their interview as they share Owen’s story of reconnecting with his family and finding his voice through the movies of Disney.

Interview with Alex Jackman, Creator of “A Teen’s Guide to Autism”

Alex HeadshotOur consultant Sam Blanco recently had the opportunity to talk with Alex Jackman about her  video, A Teen’s Guide to Autism. Alex created this film when she was in eighth grade to educate high school students about autism. You can view the 15-minute film here. For those of you in Florida, the film is going to be showing this weekend at the Palm Beach International Film Festival in the short documentary category. There will be a Q&A afterwards. For more information, click here.

Here is Sam’s interview with Alex about her experience making the film, as well as her thoughts on teaching kids about people with special needs.

Q: What inspired you to make the film?

What inspired me mainly was how people in my school, how little they knew about autism. I realized that a lot of people, because they don’t know what makes people with special needs different, they don’t take the chance to get to know them. I’ve met really incredible people with special needs and I thought it was so unfortunate for both the people with special needs and everyone else who wasn’t getting to know them because they are missing out on this opportunity. I looked up stuff, but I hadn’t seen anything that was geared towards teens about it.

Q: What kind of sources did you use to find the statistics and information you presented?

That was definitely difficult because there are different statistics for the same [information], like for how many people have autism. There were conflicting sources, and with new research, it’s changing. (All information from the film clearly states “as of 2012.”) I used very respectable, well-known, large organizations that I, or groups, like medical groups, that have really researched to get statistics.

Q: If you could narrow it down to one thing, what did you learn from making this film?

That’s so hard.  I think I’ll have to say two.  For kids, I think that teens especially, are so willing to learn and are willing to take in this information they just haven’t been given the opportunity to.  And then, the other thing was just that adults and people are so much more supportive than I thought and it’s not an uphill battle for everything.  People really want to help.

Q: Bullying in schools is a big concern for parents and educators. Do you think providing information about what special needs could have an impact on bullying?

Yes.  Because – well, I do think there are resources, but it’s not taught in schools and it’s not really thrown in their faces, which I kind of tried to do – get teens to watch. Where it’s not something they have to search for, t’s right in front of them… I think that a large part of bullying is misconception and ignorance.  I don’t understand the bullying, of course, but I understand why people would be a little bit confused and would look at someone a little bit differently, if they don’t know why they’re doing something differently from them. If they have never learned, then I can’t blame anyone for being confused and not knowing how to respond.

Q: In the process of making the video, what was one of the more common misconceptions you found high school students had about autism.

Well, one thing I was so surprised by was how many people just didn’t know what it was.  I was really surprised when I thought about it, we never really learned about it in school…You know it’s a big part of my life now, and so I kind of assume that more people know about it, but there were just so many people who didn’t know.

Q: In the process of making the video, you talk with high school students who have autism. What type of questions did you ask them to be a part of the video?

I said, “What’s something cool about you”, “What’s something interesting about you”, “What do you want to be when you grow up”, “Do you have a favorite song.”  Kind of based on their responses, I just kind of started with one question and then I didn’t have anything planned.  I just kind of went off of their answers, and whatever they wanted to talk about, that’s what they talked about.  This was the part I really loved.  It was so much fun.

Q: For me it was very refreshing to see people interviewed who really had autism or Asperger’s and were representing themselves. Do you have any thoughts about depictions of autism in popular culture?

I think there are some good and some bad because, as the quote goes “If you know one person with autism, then you know one person with autism.”  I think that’s hard especially if you don’ t know anything else about it and you don’t have any interactions or knowledge on autism and special needs.  It can be a bit misleading when the media portrays someone who is specifically high-functioning. Then everyone thinks that’s what all people with autism are like or vice versa, if someone’s low-functioning or somewhere in the middle.

Q: How has your video been used?

I’m really excited because it’s been – even though I directed it towards teens – it’s really been shown to people of all ages. People have used it for anti-bullying, people have used it for training, people have used it for class and it’s just been used in so many different ways than I expected. It kind of took on little legs of its own.

Q: When you first started this, what would you have described as your goal with it?

To make a relatable guide for teens letting them know what autism is in a positive way – something that was relatable for teens, and that kind of was very interactive and engaging. I was just thinking locally.  If I could get it shown in like Roosevelt, which was my middle school at the time, if it could’ve been shown in some classes there, that would’ve been kind of what I was hoping.

Q: It sounds still very it sounds like your video is still doing that, but it’s done more. Has the goal changed?

I just want as many people as possible to watch it in hopes that they’ll learn from it.

Q: How do you think this video might be beneficial for parents?

I just speak from what parents have told me.  One parent of a child with autism has told me that their child watched it and said “Yeah, I do that, that’s why I do that.”  And another mom said that the video helped her child understand himself, because he was just kind of coming to terms with his special need and learning a little more about it.  It kind of showed him, helped him to know why he does that and that’s it okay and there’s a reason for it and he’s not just, he shouldn’t feel isolated because of that.

Q: Do you have ideas for further exploring the subject of Autism Awareness in the future?

I’m looking at ways to kind of direct better resources on available information and events because… there are so many amazing events and there are so many people who want to go to these amazing events, but they just don’t know about it.  And I’m also doing something at my school probably starting next year, but I’m kind of getting it organized this year that would be like a peer system – some sort of club after school where kids who are in school who are neurotypical and kids who have special needs get together.

Q: Can you just tell us about the film festival? It’s showing April 6th.

It’s the Palm Beach International Film Festival and it’s going to be in the short documentary category shown with some other shorts – some other short films.  And there is a Q&A afterwards. (The film is showing on April 6th at 12:00. For more information, click here.)

Q: Do you think you’ll work with people with special needs as an adult?

When someone asks me what I want to be, I, you know, if I’m not working and interacting with people with special needs as my job, I’m 100% doing it on the side. It’s definitely going to be a part of my life.

You can also follow the film on Facebook.

How Are You Lighting It Up Blue?

April is Autism Awareness Month, and we are excited to know how you are bringing awareness to your community! From our home, New York, all the way to Sydney, Australia, each April 2nd marks the day communities all around the world honor the significance of Autism Spectrum Disorder. In commemoration of the UN-sanctioned World Autism Awareness Day, many iconic landmarks, hotels, sporting venues, museums, and bridges within thousands of communities take part to Light It Up Blue, as an initiative to raise awareness about autism.

Help us spread awareness for autism by sharing with us your photos of how you’re Lighting It Up Blue on April 2nd. Send them to us on Facebook or pin them up on Pinterest and mention @DifferentRoads in the caption, or share them on Twitter with #LightItUpBlue and mentioning @Difflearn in your tweet! If you’re preparing with other ways to spread awareness, let us know, as well!

Ideas to spread awareness among your family and friends:

  • Wear blue – Incorporate blue into your outfits for the month of April, starting on April 2nd. Encourage your relatives, friends, and co-workers to do the same.
  • Light your home up blue – Get blue light bulbs for your front porch light or outdoor lights.
  • Post blue online – Share photos of Autism Awareness icons on all your social networks.

Ideas to spread awareness in schools:

  • Educate students and faculty – Hold an assembly on autism and invite an expert in the field to talk with the student body.
  • Organize a fundraiser – Seek out donations from families of students and faculty to contribute to the efforts autism-related organizations such as Autism Speaks.
  • Bake – Have a “blue bake sale” and sell baked goods decorated with blue and symbols related to autism.

For more information on the Light It Up Blue initiative and how to do your part in Autism Awareness, visit Autism Speaks.

Petition to Change Early Intervention Services in NY

This petition sponsored by the New York State Speech-Language-Hearing Association,
NY Physical Therapy Association, and NYS Occupational Therapy Association is trying to change Early Intervention laws in the state. According to the petition on change.org, as of April, 2013, NYS made significant administrative changes to the Early Intervention Program (a program for special needs children from birth to 3 yrs of age) making it extremely difficult for children born with developmental delays to continue to receive much-needed therapies that can compensate for their issues, allowing them to thrive and grow to their full potential. You can sign your name to the petition here.

Research has proven that the potential for change in a child’s nervous system within the first three years of life is greater than at any other time in development. Many developmental issues can be resolved with early therapy, resulting in children entering kindergarten with minimal or no need for extra support and eventually becoming contributing members of our adult workforce. Research has also proven that for every $1 spent on early intervention, $7 to $17 is saved in the future!

Passing proposed legislation, S6002/A8316, will assure that infants and toddlers with developmental issues continue to receive critical services from experienced providers in a timely manner. Specially trained pediatric speech-language pathologists, physical and occupational therapists, and special educators will be able to provide services free from the administrative chaos that is currently crippling the Early Intervention Program and forcing providers to leave. Half (49.5%) of the 96 surveyed agencies indicated that they are planning to reduce or close their EI programs.

Sign your name and ask that NY state Senators, Assembly Members and the Governor do what’s right for children by voting YES to pass bills S6002/A8316 without delay!

Best Kept Secret – An Award-winning Documentary About Students with Autism Transitioning Out of School

We excited to let you know about Best Kept Secret, a new award-winning documentary about special education students, opening in NYC September 5-12. Directed by Samantha Buck, the film follows Janet Mino, a spirited and dedicated teacher in Newark, NJ as she struggles to prepare her students with autism to transition from safe and protective environment of school to the daunting and sometimes harsh realities of independent adulthood. If you’re in NY, we hope you will attend. To learn more about their outreach campaign, visit https://bestkeptsecretfilm.com/

At JFK High School, located in the midst of a run-down area in Newark, New Jersey’s largest city, administrators answer the phone by saying, “You’ve reached John F. Kennedy High School, Newark’s Best Kept Secret.” And indeed, it is. JFK is a school for all types of students with special education needs, ranging from those on the autism spectrum to those with multiple disabilities. Janet Mino has taught her class of six young autistic men for 4 years. They must graduate from JFK in the spring of 2012. The clock is ticking to find them a place in the adult world – a job or rare placement in a recreational center – so they do not end up where their predecessors have, sitting at home, institutionalized, or on the streets.

Best Kept Secret is playing at the following locations in New York:

UPTOWN: At the New MIST Harlem Theater
46 W 116th St  New York, NY 10026
Premiere 9/5 7pm and Q&A with filmmakers
Screenings 9/7 4pm & 6pm with panel discussions
Facebook Event Page

DOWNTOWN: At the IFC Center
323 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10014
Playing 9/6-9/12

Product Review: Sandwich Stacking Game

We recently came across a wonderful review of the popular Sandwich Stacking Game by Melissa & Doug on TeachThrough. Here is everything you have ever wanted and need to know about the Sandwich Stacking Game and how a parent or educator would incorporate it into lessons for his or her child:

Age level: Preschool, Early Elementary

Description: This silly game come with two sets of bread-shaped gloves and fourteen sandwich fillings that attach with velcro to the bread. Add twenty sandwich cards and a booklet with ten different games you can play with the materials, and you have a recipe for a great game.

Skills & Modifications: First of all, I should mention that I love any game that comes with instructions for multiple games. The fact that this comes with instructions for TEN games makes it that much more valuable to me, and it makes my job easier! I can find games that meet the skill level of my student, and then modify them as needed. Also, while I have listed below many ways in which I focus on target skills with these materials, I always end the activity by allowing the student to choose a game or to have free play with the materials for a couple of minutes.

Expressive Language – Students are usually highly motivated by these materials, so I use them to create opportunities for expressive language. Sometimes I’ll have the student create any sandwich they want and then describe it to me. Other times I will create sandwiches with the goal of targeting specific words or phrases that I am working on with the student.
Alike & Different – Sometimes I’ll have the student make two sandwiches, then describe how the two are alike and different. This provides and opportunity to talk about different ingredients, but also to discuss order of ingredients using words such as top, middle, and bottom.
Block Imitation – This is another game that, while it does not use blocks, can be used to test for generalization of block imitation skills. You can use the pictures included with the game, but those are all limited to four ingredients on each sandwich. For some students I take pictures of bigger sandwiches I have made with the game materials and have them recreate it based on the picture.
Scanning – I use this frequently to practice scanning skills. I lay out all of the ingredients on the floor (though be careful if the floor is carpeted, the velcro pieces may stick!) The student has to look at the picture card or listen to my instructions and find the correct piece. If we are playing with a peer, scanning may be more challenging because the peer may pick up the piece first, causing your student to have to scan once more to find the piece needed.
Peer Play – This is another great game for peer or sibling play. Students are highly motivated by the materials, and are frequently interested to see what other people are making as well.

Pros: This is one of those games that consistently causes giggle-fits with my students. It’s silly, challenging, active, and fun. Oh, and it’s machine-washable.

Cons: I have no cons for this game. It is a little pricey compared to most games and toys I purchase, but the materials are high-quality (which is usually the case with Melissa & Doug products.)

Cost: $29.99 You should invest in this game if: your student or child is highly motivated by active games, you are looking for materials to increase potential for peer play, or you are working with a range of ages at the same time.

ABLLS: B6, B12, B20, C41, K5, K9, K14, L2, L12, L22


Written by Sam Armstrong, MSEd, BCBA

New Yorkers: Urge Governor Cuomo to Approve ABA Licensure Bills Today

As of Tuesday night,  the bill to license Behavior Analysts was passed by both the New York State Senate & Assembly. This bill requires insurers to cover Applied Behavior Anaylsis (ABA) for people with autism. We need your help NOW! We urge you all to call New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo and urge him to sign Bills A6963 and S4862. To contact Governor Andrew Cuomo, please call (518) 474-8390 and ask him to join us in supporting New York families raising kids with autism.

Many advocacy groups, including our friends at Elija and NYSABA, have been working to get the State of New York to recognize the Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA) credential. This legislation will enable BCBAs to engage in professional behavior analytic activities independent of other licenses or certifications. Legislative members of NYSABA have met with numerous legislators and drafted recommendations to include a plan for the appropriate oversight and training in behavior analysis as part of the exemption of behavioral intervention practices from the psychology practice act. Currently, the Behavior Analyst Certification Board (BACB) has certified more than 12,000 behavior analysts in over 40 countries, 747 of which practice in New York. The BCBA credential requires a related academic degree, behavior-analytic coursework, supervised experience, passage of a psychometrically sound examination, compliance with disciplinary standards, continuing education, and ongoing supervision.

ABA professionals and supporters just need your continued support and efforts to push for the signing of the bill by Governor Cuomo and make it into a law! Please call Governor Cuomo at (518) 474-8390 and urge him to sign this important legislation.

ABA has been a validated evidence-based therapy for developmentally disabled and delayed children since the 1970s and continues to be the leading form of therapy for children with autism and other developmental disabilities today.