Temple Grandin and Dr. Jed Baker to Speak at Upcoming Autism Conference in White Plains, NY – April, 24

10409199_10153276032427780_6229927242485176303_nTemple Grandin and Jed Baker are  speaking at this one day conference brought to you by Future Horizons.
Dr. Grandin describes the challenges she has faced and offers ideas on how others dealing with autism can meet these obstacles and improve the quality of their lives. Backed by her personal experience and evidence-based research, Temple shares her valuable insights on a wide variety of topics, and offers useful do’s and don’ts.


Dr. Baker is a behavioral consultant for several New Jersey school districts where, nearly two decades ago, he organized a group to help children with social communication problems.

This conference is intended for family members and professionals. ASHA, APA, AOTA, and NAPNAP Credits are offered and APA Continuing Education Credit = 6.

For more information, visit the Future Horizons’ Website here.

Tip of the Week: Read Books from the Autistic Perspective

If I were to describe my job in one sentence, it would be this: My primary goal is to increase the independence of my students in ways that are meaningful to them and to their families. With that goal in mind, it makes sense that I would seek out input from my students and their families, but also seek out writings by people with autism, Asperger’s, and other developmental delays in order to gain a comprehensive picture of needs, desires, and issues of which I may be unaware.

Sometimes a book or article written by an individual with autism hits the news in a big way. I encourage you to read more than one book, because you’ll quickly find that each individual’s experiences and personalities are quite different. It is not helpful to read the perspective of one person with a developmental disability and apply it to all people with developmental disabilities, but this frequently happens with autism. Here are a few resources you may want to check out:


The Reason I Jump by Naoki Higashida – This book was all over the news last year. Set up as a series of questions and responses, Higashida answers all sorts of questions related to autism. His writing is very direct and he shares a lot about the emotions he feels but is unable to convey.



Any books by Temple Grandin – Temple Grandin is a force in the autism community and has provided a wealth of resources. You can read some of her early work, such as Thinking in Pictures to get a view inside the mind of an individual with autism, but I also have great appreciation for her later work as an advocate for people with autism, such as Different…Not Less.



Episodes by Blaze Ginsberg – This is one of my all-time favorite books. Ginsberg sets up his life experiences and relationships as if they were different seasons of television shows. He presents his teen years as if you were flipping through the channels, seeing different episodes of his life. He even has songs for each episode!



Finding Kansas by Aaron Likens – This one is unique because it is written by a man who was diagnosed with Asperger’s in his 20s. Likens is eloquent in his use of metaphor to help clearly define aspects of his behavior.



www.wrongplanet.comWrong Planet is a community forum for individuals with autism and their families. You will see a wide range of questions and opinions here. It also serves as a forum for individuals with autism to express their feelings about topics such as whether or not they prefer people-first language, how people with autism should be depicted on TV, legislation related to autism, and more.


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.

Video Modeling by Mary Beth Palo of Watch Me Learn

Mary Beth is a dear friend of ours. Many of you know her as the amazing mother who used video modeling to help her son learn to speak. From there came the Watch Me Learn Video Series which has received near unanimous praise. Here are her thoughts on Video Modeling and how Watch Me Learn came to be.

“I was fortunate enough to see Temple Grandin speak years ago…. before she became a star….. I went to the presentation on a whim – I guess to get out of the house (pathetic right?)  Being the mother of an autistic child leads you to do things that a “normal” person wouldn’t be caught dead doing!  At the time, I believe that she only had one book published; Thinking in Pictures.

In that book and in her presentation she referred to her thought process as going back in her mind, retrieving a video tape from her mind’s library and then playing the proper video to think/see….  This hit me like a 2×4 across the head…. 

I am mostly an auditory thinker….. so I guess it didn’t dawn on me that this could be so impactful on educating. Couple this information with 2 years of therapy for my son with no progress, and a light bulb went off in my head.  Pure desperation led me to video modeling.  After my first attempt at VM, as a result my son was speaking within 2 ½ weeks.  Well, needless to say, video became my life and my son just kept learning and learning.  Video was our main teacher and our therapy hours were used for generalizing the skills he learned on video.

Video modeling can be used in sooooo many ways – self modeling, peer modeling, etc…  and it can be used to teach sooooo many skills – from simple receptive language, imitation skills to complex social skills.  Research supports video modeling as an evidence-based teaching method and it has been recognized by the CEC(Council for Exceptional Children) as a valid means of teaching.  The research exists and more will be coming. 

Now, when I teach my son, I always have visuals.  Of course, he was most successful with video, but after years of strictly video, we have been able to branch out into other visual inputs. The learning is always faster with visual inputs ….. even in 6th grade when we are using cookie dough and chocolate chips to make a visual model of the atom nucleus – who would have thought?

Why does it work?  Well, I don’t have the scientific answer to that – as I have yet to find a study researching the brain activity while watching VM.  Watching children for years and knowing how and what they react to, it is easy to see the reason why VM works.  Children love tv, children love other children, children have an inherent desire to be social and VM provides not only repetition but also removes outside distractions enabling a child to concentrate on one thing.

Today, there are many VM products on the market.  These products allow you an easy way to experiment with VM and a great learning opportunity for your children.  VM can also be done in the home, school, therapy and out in public.  You need to decide what is best for you and the child.

I am the proud mother of Brett Palo – a 12 year old boy who is now mainstreamed in 6th grade.  Without VM, he would not be there.  As a result of his success with VM and a zillion phone calls from other desperate mothers, Watch Me Learn Videos were created.  Watch Me Learn’s goal is to teach children in their natural environment – at home, in school and most importantly through play!  A child’s job is to play – let them do their job and learn at the same time!   They will learn without even knowing it!

Night of Too Many Stars!

We had the best Saturday night ever! Julie treated the Difflearn gals to the taping of the Night of Too Many Stars: An Overbooked Concert for Autism Education at the Beacon Theatre in NYC.

Hosted by Jon Stewart, we were treated to side-splitting appearances by Tina Fey, Chris Rock, Ricky Gervais, Steve Carrell, and many others with live performances by Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings!

We won’t spoil it for you – the show is going to air on October 21, at 9 pm EST on Comedy Central – but some highlights included how much people will actually pay to meet George Clooney and what it’s worth to have Chris Rock call someone you’re really mad at. Temple Grandin was in the audience and our good friend Dr. Bridget Taylor was featured in one of the segments.

The event was incredible, both in the hilarity of the performers and in the intense generosity of the attendees. We were particularly impressed at how tuned-in the organizers were to the real and pressing needs not just of children with autism, but of their families and their futures and how it will continue to impact them across the lifespan.

This is the third time that Jon Stewart has teamed up with Comedy Central to put on this event and to date, they have raised more than $7 million for autism education!!!!

The money raised benefits a variety of autism education and family service programs across the country. In 2008, the benefit raised over $2.8 million dollars, with money going to:

  1. Establish the Autism Training Institute at Hunter College for teachers and therapists to learn how to teach children with autism. Many of these trained teachers have now entered public school systems where appropriately trained special education teachers can be scarce.
  2. Program Expansion for more than a dozen model schools for children with autism, especially ones that were struggling financially to keep their doors open.
  3. Development of a program that teaches public school students to become peer mentors and teach individuals with autism.
  4. Expansion of an innovative afterschool program  that focuses on play and community from Illinois to several other states.
  5. Fund a program in Arizona that trains teenagers with autism for jobs at places like the zoo and library where they can work aside their typical peers.
  6. Fund a program in Seattle that helps teens develop social skills.
  7. Fund a program in Georgia that trains First Responders about autism.
  8. Support the New England Center for Children’s “Autism Curriculum Encyclopedia” which is an online manual that features lessons and programs that teachers can use to educate children with autism worldwide.

This year, one of the new initiatives is the Institute for Brain Development, an all-inclusive center positioned to undertake collaborative research into the most effective treatment of autism spectrum disorders. It will be a collaboration between New York Center for Autism, New York Presbyterian and it’s medical schools of Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons and Weill Cornell Medical College.

Please tell your friends and do tune in on October 21 at 9pm. The show is fantastic and there will be more opportunities to contribute to an excellent cause.