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Dr. Chris’ Autism Journal
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Early Results of National Center for Technology Innovation (NCTI) Study with TeachTown Efficacy in Pre-1st ASD Classrooms


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Boy at chalkboardThe following is a summary of our results to date in a study in progress.  This is a collaborative research effort with Jigsaw Learning (TeachTown), Los Angeles Unified School District, and Cal State University, Los Angeles.  The study will conclude in June, 2009 and final results will be posted this summer.  In addition, the results will be submitted to a peer-reviewed journal this fall.
To address the increasing need for solutions for serving children with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) in the schools, it is important to consider options that are more accessible and affordable such as Computer-Assisted Instruction (CAI).  However, it is even more essential that these solutions are effective and research is needed to address this issue.  In this collaborative study with TeachTown, Los Angeles Unified School District, and California State University, Los Angeles, a CAI program which targets language, cognitive, academic, social, and life skills will be assessed in a large public school system.  Approximately 50 preschool and kindergarten-1sTeachTown Mapt grade children with ASD are participating with 25 children in a treatment group and 25 children in a control group.  Children in the treatment group received 50-100 minutes per week of CAI and 50-100 minutes per week of supplementary off-computer activities designed to enhance generalization to the natural environment.  The CAI and off-computer activities were provided through TeachTown: Basics, which is currently being used in many schools across the United States, but which has not yet been tested in a randomized research study.  In addition to the automatic data collection provided by the software, students were assessed using behavioral and standardized outcome measures.  It was anticipated that the classrooms using the TeachTown: Basics program would demonstrate significantly higher rates of acquisition across learning areas and would also show more improvement in their spontaneous language and social interaction.  It was also expected that children in the treatment group would exhibit less inappropriate behaviors following treatment than their peers in the control group. Following this Gen Webinar study, it is also anticipated that teachers and parents involved in the Children at computertreatment group will show higher satisfaction ratings with their child’s program than those parents and teachers associated with the control group.  The results of this research will help demonstrate to school districts the effectiveness and social validity of implementing CAI, and will help districts such as LAUSD secure funding for these types of programs by having data to demonstrate the effectiveness.  The behavioral observation data is currently being coded by graduate students at California State University, Los Angeles, and children in both groups will use TeachTown: Basics through the rest of the school year to assess effectiveness between groups and within the control group.

About LAUSD Population
District Population: 688,138
Special Education Students: 82,326
English Language Learners (ELL) Students: 39,455
Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) students: 8,516

  • Primary eligibility
  • Additional 55 with ASD as secondary eligibility

LAUSD Autism Programs
Preschool Autism Special Day Programs (SDPs) - 1/2 day
Intensive Comprehensive Autism Program (ICAP) (ages 3-6)
Autism SDP (primary – high school)
Autism SDP for students with High Functioning Autism (HFA) /Asperger
Any/all other options

Issues in Autism Programs

  • Staff-student ratios
  • Funding
  • Staff training and implementation
  • Accountability
  • Behavior problems of students
  • Access to general curriculum
  • Rapid increases in ASD
  • Access to evidence-based interventions
  • Paucity of appropriate staff (have to contract out)

Potential Benefits of TeachTown: Basics for LAUSD Students
Evidenced-based intervention with built-in data collection
Differential instruction
Collaboration with parents
Curricular guidance for teachers
Motivation for “hard to teach” students
Flexibility as students transition to different settings

Treatment Procedure

  • TeachTown: Basics Curriculum (Dev Ages 2-7 years)
    • Academic/Cognitive Skills
    • Social UnderstandingPicture3.jpg
    • Receptive Language
    • Life & Community Skill Understanding
  • Daily computer sessions on school days for 20 minutes/day (can be done in 2
  • 10-minute sessions)
  • Daily off-computer activities on school days for 20 minutes/day (1:1, small group or circle activity)
  • 3 months of intervention

Purpose and Design of Research

  • Purpose: To assess the efficacy of the TeachTown: Basics program in self-contained special education classrooms in a large, urban school district.
  • Design: Between and Within-Subjects Group Design, 4 schools – each randomly assigned in the fall to Treatment or Control, in spring, Control classrooms begin treatment.

About the TeachTown: Basics Program (the Intervention)

Vacuum Reward.pngCheck out the website for information about the program: www.teachtown.com

TeachTown: Basics includes the following:

  1. ABC Screenshot.PNGOn-computer lessons where the child gets on the computer and completes lessons in an ABA (Applied Behavior Analysis) format with engaging reward games to keep them motivated;
  2. Off-computer activities to work on skills that are not targeted on the computer (e.g. Expressive Language, Play, Imitation, Social Interaction, Motor Skills) and to enhance generalization of skills learned on the computer to the natural environment;
  3. Automated data collection and tracking to assess the child’s progress as they move through the computer program and for school staff to use to assess the effectiveness of the intervention and to determine which skills may need more work off the computer;
  4. Note taking system for school staff to jot down anecdotal information about the child’s performance or any other relevant information to the child’s success with the program; and
  5. Synchronization and updating of data which allows the teacher to eventually share information with the families (not in this study) and for the child to be able to use the program at home (not in this study).  In addition, this feature allows the research team to look at data on a regular basis to determine how the study is progressing and to conduct final data analysis.

Participants Results: TeachTown: Basics Software Program
LAUSD Feb Melvin Dontell Computer_0001.jpgFifteen of the 22 students mastered lessons using the TeachTown:Basics software program.  This does not mean that the other students did not make progress on the program, it just means that some of the children are still working toward mastery on their lessons, which will likely result in some mastered lessons by the end of the school year for most students.  It is not unusual for students to not master lessons in only 3 months time.  Students not meeting mastery are those with more severe cognitive delays, and those that were unable to complete 20 minute sessions.  Data below is shown for the 15 students who did master lessons in 3 months time.  There was statistical significance at the p>0001 level from the Pre tests to the Post tests, which are a part of the TeachTown: Basics program and test the child’s knowledge of concepts using a different set of stimuli from the training to ensure that the children are learning the concepts (i.e. targets) and not just memorizing pictures. In 3 months, students, on average, mastered lessons in about 43 minutes (Preschool) to 52 minutes (K-1) and mastered 5-6 lessons (20-24 concepts/targets).

Results: Language Changes on the Brigance Assessment from Pre (November, 2008) to Mid-Treatment (Feb, 2009)
The Brigance is a standardized developmental assessment that is frequently LAUSD Feb Parthenia Isaah Computer_0001.jpgused to identify deficits and track progress in various developmental areas including language, cognition, social skills, and motor skills.  LAUSD uses the
measure in their ICAP and other autism programs to asess the progress of the children enrolled in their programs.  This measure aligns well with the TeachTown: Basics curriculum and was used in this study to measure progress for students
in the Treatment and the Control groups.  Body Parts measures the knowledge of body parts; Receptive Language measures comprehension and vocabulary; and Expressive Language measures labeling and expressive communication.
All classrooms demonstrated improvement in language areas on the Brigance, but
–         The TeachTown Treatment Group showed much bigger changes in Body Image (i.e. identification of body parts) and Expressive Language.
–          The students in the preschool groups performed similarly on Receptive Language, but,
–         the K-1 students in the TeachTown Treatment group showed greater change than the Control K-1 students

NCTI- Brigance2.bmp

Results: Cognitive and Social Skill Changes on the Brigance Assessment from Pre (November, 2008) to Mid-Treatment (Feb, 2009)
The Preschool students had similar improvements in Matching on the Brigance, but TTB students (Tx Grp) made bigger gains than the Control group in Auditory Memory, General Concepts, and Social Skills.
The K-1 Students had similar improvements in General Concepts and Social Skills, but the TTB students (Tx Grp) made bigger gains in Matching and Auditory Memory.
Matching measures the child’s ability to match objects and categorize, Auditory Memory measures the child’s ability to understand and follow directions and to remember information that was presented to them, General Concepts measure the child’s basic early academic abilities (e.g. letters, numbers, etc.), and Social Skills measure the child’s knowledge of social situations (e.g. emotions, friendship, etc.).

Results: Language Changes on the PPVT-III and EVT Assessments from Pre (November, 2008) to Mid-Treatment (Feb, 2009)
The Peabody Picture Vocabulary Test (PPVT-III) and the Expressive Vocabulary Test (EVT) were used to further measures changes in Receptive and Expressive Language skills.  Age-Equivalents are not shown because many students did not establish basal in Oct.  In Feb, there was a larger increase in the number of Preschool students establishing basal in the TeachTown group (4 additional students on PPVT, 5 additional students on EVT) compared to the Control group (1 additional student on PPVT & EVT).  The TeachTown (Tx) group also had slightly more students establishing basal in Feb (2 additional students on PPVT & EVT) compared to the Control group (1 additional student on PPVT & EVT).

Summary of Results

  • The Treatment group demonstrated much bigger increases in
    • Receptive and Expressive language using the PPVT-4, EVT-2, and the Brigance
    • Auditory Memory, General Concepts, and Social Skills for the Preschool students using the Brigan000_94_Bill_throwing1.pngce
    • Matching and Auditory Memory for the K-1 students using the Brigance
  • They also showed slightly larger increases in
    • Matching for the Preschool students using the Brigance
    • General Concepts and Social Skills for K-1 students using the Brigance
  • After 3 months of using the TeachTown: Basics program, students in the Treatment group:
    • Made significant gains from Pre to Post Tests in the TeachTown: Basics software
    • Learned 34-39 target concepts (on average) in the TeachTown: Basics software with the largest gains in Receptive Vocabulary

This is a summary of our results to date in a study in progress.  This is a collaborative research effort with Jigsaw Learning (TeachTown), Los Angeles Unified School District, and Cal State University, Los Angeles.  The study will conclude this summer and final results will be posted later this summer. 

Cal-ABA Conference: March 12-14, 2009


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San FranciscoThe California Association for Behavior Analysis (Cal-ABA) is having its 27th annual conference March 12-14 at the San Francisco Airport Hyatt Regency.  The Jigsaw Learning team will have 2 presentations this year: 1) a workshop, presented by Manya Vaupel, and 2) a symposium chaired by me with presentations by Manya, Shannon, me, and Debbie Moss (from LA Unified School District). 

Both presentations are described below….

The conference is of special interest to college and university faculty, researchers, administrators, and practitioners in behavior analysis, psychology, regular and special education, rehabilitation, public health, behavioral medicine, speech and language, social work, business, and human services. Undergraduate, graduate students and family members of individuals with special needs are also encouraged to attend.

The conference offers information, resources, and prSan Francisco 2ofessional development opportunities for Board Certified Behavior Analysts, Board Certified Assistant Behavior Analysts, psychologists, marriage and family therapists, social workers, speech-language pathologists, regular and special educators, students in those and related fields, and parents and/or consumers of behavior analysis services.

Keynote addresses will be delivered by CalABA’s public policy consultant James Gross, who is sure to inspire listeners to get involved in public policy work, and Sigrid Glenn, a visionary behavior analyst who will clarify burning conceptual questions about what it means to be a “radical” behaviorist. The 2009 Outstanding Contributor to Behavior Analysis, Jon Bailey, will describe “pillars of professionalism” for behavior analysts in his address. This year’s Glenda Vittimberga Memorial Lecture will be on the important topic of psychotropic medications for challenging behaviors, delivered by Jennifer Zarcone.

JigsawLogo.jpg

 

 

 Jigsaw Learning Presentations:

Friday, March 13, 2009     
Fri., 3/13 · 1:45 pm - 3:15 pm
Symposium
(ED, AUT)
(1.5 CEUs - BACB)
Sandpebble A - C
(ID #1149)    

Add #1149 to my program
#1000118770     

Chris

Manya 3

Shannon

Debbie Moss

 

 

Computer-Assisted Instructional Planning in California Schools
Chair: CHRISTINA WHALEN, Jigsaw LearningSchool districts in California are faced with many of the same problems as other states in the U.S. for serving children with special needs. These problems include insufficient staffing, teaching materials, data collection, and finding and implementing effective interventions. One of the biggest problems for schools is lack of funding to address most of these issues. Interventions that can reduce the burden on schools in California is much needed and computer-assisted interventions such as those provided by Jigsaw Learning may help. In this presentation, several computer-assisted programs will be presented by Jigsaw Learning staff and Los Angeles Unified School District including single-subject, case, and group design research.     

Linking Standardized Measures and Curriculum Standards to Intervention
MANYA VAUPEL, Jigsaw Learning
Christina Whalen, Jigsaw Learning
Shannon Cernich, Jigsaw Learning

The development of intervention often involves a ‘learning-as-you-go’ approach where various practices are tried out, often in a single-subject design or case study format. This approach is effective and accepted in most cases. However, when developing a computer-assisted intervention, this is often not possible due to the time and money required for development of the intervention. To ensure quality intervention, computer-assisted programs should be built from best-practices in assessment and intervention including the use of standardized measures, curricula, and national and state content standards. TeachTown programs including TeachTown Basics and TeachTown Avenue use top-notch measures, curricula, and standards to develop these interventions. In this presentation, the method in which the ABLLS, California Content Standards, and other resources were utilized in development will be presented.

Teaching Language and Social Skills Using an Animated Tutor
SHANNON CERNICH, Jigsaw Learning
Christina Whalen, Jigsaw Learning
Manya Vaupel, Jigsaw Learning
Molly Robson, Independent Consultant
Lauren Franke, Independent Consultant

Information on Team Up with Timo computer-assisted instructional programs for students with ASD and language delays will be presented. Team Up with Timo products utilize a lip readably accurate animated tutor, scaffolded teaching and other ABA techniques. Timo targets vocabulary acquisition, reading comprehension, and narrative language skills. Timo Lesson Creator enables educators and interventionists to create individualized social, language, and academic lessons that tie directly to IEP goals. Research supporting the use of Timo in the laboratory will be reviewed, and new research with 3 ASD students in a school setting will be presented. This study uses a multiple baseline design to target narrative language skills in the classroom environment.

Using Teachtown Basics Computer-Assisted Intervention in a Public School Setting
DEBBIE MOSS, Los Angeles Unified School District
Christina Whalen, Jigsaw Learning
Shannon Cernich, Jigsaw Learning
Manya Vaupel, Jigsaw Learning

The implementation of interventions in a public school environment is often difficult and many schools are experimenting with computer-assisted interventions to address their issues with funding, staffing, and resources. In a grant supported by the National Center of Technology Innovation (NCTI), a clinical trial with more than 50 children with autism was implemented. Data will be presented on the effectiveness of the intervention (including on and off computer TeachTown lessons) as assessed by the Brigance and other standardized measures, the usability by staff, and automatic data collection by the TeachTown software. In addition, video clips of children using the on and off-computer lessons will be shown.

Automatic Data Collection and Reporting on Students of Teachtown Basics in the State of California
CHRISTINA WHALEN, Jigsaw Learning
Paul Fielding, Independent Consultant
Asif Rahman, Independent Consultant
Shannon Cernich, Jigsaw Learning
Manya Vaupel, Jigsaw Learning

Data collection and student outcome are one of the biggest problems for effective implementation of intervention. TeachTown is an ABA-based intervention that uses the computer and off-computer activities to teach children with autism, language, and cognitive delays. TeachTown provides a system for collecting data automatically on the computer and offering a system for storing and sharing anecdotal data. In this presentation, data collected automatically from the TeachTown program will be presented including individual student data, classroom data, school site data, SELPA data, and the data on all customers in the state of California, and data on all users to date. Data on more than 1,000 students will be presented along with social validation research.

 
Saturday, March 14, 2009     
Sat., 3/14 · 1:00 pm - 4:00 pm
Workshop #10
(AUT, DD - Intro)
Room location TBA
(ID #1135)
Fee: $35
Max. enrollment: N/A    

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#1000118770   

Manya 3

Using Technology in Your ABA Programs for Children with Autism
MANYA VAUPEL, Jigsaw Learning
CHRISTINA WHALEN, Jigsaw Learning
SHANNON CERNICH, Jigsaw Learning
There are many challenges to face when implementing effective ABA programs for students with autism. Technology can provide lots of solutions to the challenges teachers, clinicians, and parents deal with in effective ABA programming for students with Autism. In this workshop we will explore what has been done in terms of utilizing various assistive technology to enhance student learning in ABA programs in current research investigations. We will discuss different ideas for using technology in ABA programming in schools, homes and the community, we will provide examples of what is being done currently in schools and clinics, and we will explore the critical components to effective ABA programming and how technology can provide more efficient solutions to some of these components that are easily overlooked. At the end of this workshop, participants should have a better understanding of current practice and research in assistive technology in ABA programming, they should have additional resources in finding and implementing the appropriate technology needed in their programs, and they should be able to identify appropriate technology that will assist or enhance their current instructional programs for students with Autism Spectrum Disorders.

Calling All IEP Participants… Some Tools for the Trade


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How do you know your IEP is a good one?  It’s simple, it’s on the child’s table, wrinkled, splattered with juice, it’s dog-fileseared with turned up corners and is coffee stained throughout it’s many pages.  These are the signs of hard work, daily lesson planning, ongoing documentation and evaluation, individualized instruction, effective and meaningful goals, dedicated teachers… And well, let’s face it, it’s what every parent wants for their child who’s participating in the special education programs in our public schools across the country.

An IEP is an Individual Education Plan, it is essentially a contract between the school and the parents of the child with special needs.  An IEP shapes the child’s education and guides delivery of support and services while also providing a system of checks and balances for all of the people involved in the child’s program.  Essentially the purpose of the IEP is to provide an individualized document that will structure and organize the programing for the child with autism or other special needs and will allow the entire team a way of determining if the student is making meaningful progress.

There is no doubt that the IEP is the most important document in Special Education.  To create an effective and meaningful IEP, the parents, teachers, other school staff, and often other outside service professionals must come together and look closely at the child’s unique and individual needs.  Each team member will contribute in some way their experience, knowledge, and committment to this particular child to design an educational plan that will allow the child, as much as possible, access to the general education curriculum while preparing the child for employment and independence to the greatest extent possible.  Without fail, the design and implementation of each student’s IEP requires ongoing teamwork and careful communication among all IEP team members.

The team needs to work together to make a plan that is easily understood by all of the child’s IEP team members and the people who are involved in working with the child on a regular basis, this would include the parents, the paras, and the even the substitute teachers.  Goals and objectives should be clearly outlined  and include data collection procedures so that the team can objectively measure the child’s progress.  The team needs to be careful to not write an IEP that is too complicated, long, overwhelming, limited, etc. for the people who are implementing it.  The IEP should be as clear and as concise as possible.  However, with it’s clarity and concise attributes, the IEP also needs to be as close to perfect as the team can possibly get it which does take a certain amount of time and detail.  All parties coming to the table to meet for the child’s IEP need to come with an open mind and be ready to negotiate and compromise.  Parents should know however, that if they are in disagreement about something that is suggested or written in the IEP, they need to speak up immediately and make sure their disagreement is noted.

IEP cycleServing the entire spectrum of autism is not easy to do in one classroom, but teachers everywhere are up to the challenge as long as they have the support and teamwork required to do so.  The individual needs of students on the spectrum are unique and can vary quite extensively from one child to another.  It’s not uncommon to see a child’s IEP state that he or she will have SLP services 2 times a week, OT services for 20 mintues each week, attend adapted PE one hour a week, participate in small group social skills twice a week for 20 minutes, play therapy sessions throughout the school year, home visits each month, and positive behavior support planning throughout the year and across all settings.  It’s also not uncommon to attend 10 IEP meetings in 2 years for the same child, while at the same time another child may only have 2 meetings across the entire preschool program.  What really makes a difference is how involved the parents can and want to be and how supported and resourceful the school is in providing effective and accountable programs for the children in the special education programs.

Students with autism take the term “individualized” to the greatest extent imaginable.  There is definitely no cookie cutter approach for designing an effective curriculum for a child with autism or any child with special needs.  Clearly, assessment and ongoing evaluation are critical in understanding what the child can and cannot do.  For the student with ASD, this likely means a great deal of time will be spent on the present levels of performance (PLOP) so that the team knows where the child currently is and what the next steps should look like for the child.

IEP Goal Recommendations for Teachers:

Lower functioning or younger children on the spectrumteacher

  • functional communication skills
  • play skills
  • social interaction skills
  • adaptive behavior, daily living, or self help skills
  • academic skills
  • behavior support plans

Higher functioning or older students with autism or Asperger Syndrome

  • social skills/friendship skills
  • pragmatic language and conversation skills
  • organizational skills
  • academic skills
  • indpendence skills
  • employability and vocational skills
  • self advocacy and determination skills
  • behavior support plans

Behavior Intervention Plans (BIP) - sometimes a box on the IEP is checked if the student’s behavior is “impeding learning for self or others”.  If this is checked off, then a separate document should be attached to the IEP and should lay out a very clear plan for dealing with challenging behavior.  Below are the essential components to a BIP.

  • description of the problem behavior
  • position statement regarding the function of the behavior
  • triggers, setting events, antecedents
  • prevention strategies
  • replacement behaviors
  • proactive instructional strategies
  • reactive consequence strategies
  • safety plans
  • long term prevention strategies
  • re-evaluation and on-going monitoring plans and schedules

IEP Meeting Recommendations for Parents:

Be preparedparents

  • have a copy of your child’s current IEP and current goals
  • provide a list of your child’s strengths and weaknesses
  • share goals you feel need to be addressed
  • communicate clearly your ideas of what you want for your child
  • ask for any test/assessment results before the meeting
  • bring hard copies of any new information or outside evaluations

Know your rights

  • read up on the current laws pertaining to what you are requesting of the school
  • investigate law cases and bring copies to the meeting, if possible provide before the meeting
  • read up on current research and recommendations published in peer reviewed journals and manuals, provide this information to your school team, they may not know!

Be an advocate for your child

  • understand and articulate what you feel is important for your child
  • if the IEP team says no to what you feel is a reasonable request, continue to work on it and take it one step further, continue until the team can reach an agreement
  • nobody knows your child the way you do, work hard with your school team to create an equal partnership - you are the expert on your child, they are the expert on teaching, an equal partnership between parents and teachers is beneficial to the child in so many ways.
  • as a last resort, when the IEP team just can’t find a way to come to an agreement on something you feel is very important, at least know ahead of time the process and further steps you can consider taking to ensure that your priorities for your child are not lost in the shuffle… starting with pre-mediation with an advocate, mediation, due process, etc.

parent teacher confCreating an equal partnership between parents and teachers is a critical component to developing a “good” IEP.  As much time and energy that goes into writing the IEP should also go into building positive and receptive relationships between the home and the school.  It is not a lot to ask that the teachers and the school administrators see the parents as an equal partner in this process and as an expert on autism and this particular student.  There is nothing more discouraging for a parent than to come to their child’s IEP meeting and the IEP is already written, very little input from the parent was considered, and being told at the onset of the meeting that “we only have 50 minutes.”  Likewise the parents should come to the meetings believing that the teachers have every best intention in providng effective instruction for their child and that the progress of that child is just as important to the teachers as it is to the parents.  Every teacher runs into a situation where no matter what they do, it will never be enough.  Excellent school to home communication prompted by the teachers is critical for facilitating active involvement of parents while at the same time it’s the parent’s job and responsibility in this partnership to become a knowledgeable advocate for their child.

Good IEPs, the ones that are dog-eared and coffee stained, are the ones that come from a delicate balance of parent and teacher involvement.  Open lines of communication are critical in creating and managing this delicate balance.  Parent and teacher partnerships are the key to a successful school year.

Parents: Preparing for the Winter Holidays


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The winter holidays can be a difficult time for children with ASD and their families. Difficulties may arise from too much free time, changes in routine, and gift giving.

BoyTreePic.JPG

Most school-age children are off school for two to three weeks for the winter holidays, leaving six to eight hours of unstructured time for families to fill each day. You’re not alone if you dread the school holidays; past experience has taught you that a lot can go wrong in two or three weeks. If you haven’t already done so, now is the time to plan how you will structure that free time for your child with ASD. Plan activities for each day of the vacation, and create simple visual supports (e.g., print a picture of a park from the Internet if you will be taking your child to the park) to prime your child about the activities you have planned. If possible, allow your child to help decide on the activities you are planning. During the vacation, review the schedule for the day the night before and on the morning of the day to which the schedule refers. Of course, you can’t plan for everything, and you will invariably have to make changes to the schedule. Let your child know of any changes as soon as possible, and provide visual supports to make the changes concrete for your child. If your family will be traveling during the vacation, changes to the schedule such as flight delays are even more likely. Prepare your child that more than likely, there will be changes to the schedule, perhaps through the use of a social story. Don’t forget to bring an assortment of things for your child to do such as coloring, books, games, or a laptop computer. plane travel.jpg
Where your child will go and what he or she will do in a day are not the only changes that may be upsetting during the winter holidays. Many people visit with friends and relatives during this time that they rarely see during the rest of the year. These people may feel like strangers to your child, and he or she may behave accordingly. Forcing your child to hug Aunt Mary because “She came all the way from Boston to see us,” is likely to induce challenging behaviors from your child and to make Aunt Mary very uncomfortable. Aunt Mary insisting on a hug may produce similar results. Inform Aunt Mary that your child may view her as a stranger and she should not be offended before Aunt Mary arrives at your home (or you at hers). If possible, show your child pictures of friends and relatives you will visit and review the names of these people before the visit.

Mansnowman.jpgy people exchange gifts during the winter holidays. This can be a source of great disappointment for family and friends of a child with ASD. As a behavior therapist, I once special ordered a beach magnet set for a child I worked with one-on-one, three hours a day, five days a week. I was sure he would love it. I imagined all the exciting language he would produce when we played with those magnets. I heard in my mind spontaneous comments he would make and squeals of delight he would emit. As you probably guessed, the boy opened the magnet set, said nothing, put it down, and picked up another toy. I tried to engage him with the magnets through my enthusiasm. Nothing worked. I have heard similar stories from parents and educators time and again. Even when the child showed intense interest in a toy when it belonged to someone else or requested the toy, the same toy is often of little interest to the child when received as a holiday gift.  As a parent, there is nothing you can do to prevent this. If you have a neurotypical child, you may have complained that he or she only played with a new toy for a day and lost interest. This is part of being a parent, but it is especially disheartening when your child is on the Autism Spectrum, has limited interests, and you worked so hard to find that special gift. Remember that your effort is special regardless of the immediate reaction to the gift. And time may reward your effort. I heard that the beach magnet set became a preferred toy for the boy I worked with over a year later.

Top Autism Treatments


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In a recent About: Autism Spectrum Disorders posting, the top 10 treatment approaches for autism were listed along with helpful links for each of these approaches.  The top 10 were determined by popularity, research, and most effective overall.

The top 10 listed were:100_0152.JPG

1) Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA)

2) Speech Therapy

3) Occupational Therapy

4) Social Skills TherapyB and Trish.jpg

5) Physical Therapy

6) Play Therapy

7) Behavior Therapy/Positive Behavior Support

8) Developmental TherapiesEl 1.jpg

9) Visually-based Therapies

10) Biomedical Therapies

I would like to see a similar list, in order, of those that are the most research-based and have evidence of effectiveness with the largest number of children with autism.  Organizations such as the National Autism Center are dedicated to coming up with good ways to make these kinds of lists and to develop rankings for treatment approaches which will be based on research and effectiveness for ASD.  This project is called the National Standards Project and the expert panel and conceptual reviewers include a prestigious group of autism researchers including several of our TeachTown science advisory board members including Dr. Ilene Schwartz, Dr. William Frea, and Dr. Aubyn Stahmer.

J computer.jpgI would also like to see more studies on technology and which programs are effective and which ones are not.  It won’t be long before Computer-Assisted Instruction is added to the list above, I just hope that developers, and perhaps more importantly, university researchers continue to conduct the necessary research to keep improving these programs.

**Please see comments from the author of the ABOUT blog, she makes some excellent comments and I completely agree with her!**

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