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Dr. Chris’ Autism Journal
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Help Kids with Autism and Laugh with Dana Carvey in San Francisco on April 25th


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I found out about this event and just had to share it, this is a great opportunity to have a fun night out (and see Dana Carvey!!) and help raise money for autism and other special needs children.

AN EXCLUSIVE INVITATION

Join the legendary Dana Carvey and friends for a five-star evening of
food, wine, and wit for a worthy cause
benefiting

Oak Hill School, the Ryder Foundation and the ASHA Academy.

Enjoy a VIP cocktail reception followed by an intimate gourmet dinner prepared by
Bay Area celebrity chefs. Laugh out loud at a private stand-up comedy show
featuring Dana Carvey and friends. Meet the talent at an exclusive after-party with
divine desserts and drinks, and groove to the beat of the Back Burner Blues Band.

Friday, April 25, 2008

THE REGENCY CENTER

1290 Sutter Street, San Francisco, California
Entrance on Van Ness Ave.

EVENT SCHEDULE

Dana Carvey.jpg

5:30 - 6:30 pm, VIP Cocktail Reception
6:30 - 8:00 pm, Celebrity Chef Dinner hosted by Joey Altman
8:30 pm, Dana Carvey and friends (Doors open at 8:00 pm)
10:00 pm - Midnight, Meet the Stars After-Party

- cocktail attire -

For more information, please contact Nancy Frumkes Events at
415.789.1969 or nancyfrumkes@earthlink.net

ABOUT OAK HILL SCHOOL

Oak Hill kids.jpg

Located in Marin City, California, the Oak Hill School is certified by the California State Department of Education and provides an academic and therapeutic program for children from kindergarten through adolescence. Their staff includes special education teachers, speech and language pathologists, occupational therapists, creative arts therapists and psychotherapists.

While the range of disabilities among children is broad, classroom groupings cluster children with similar academic levels and learning styles. Their education program includes groups of children with good verbal skills and strong academic potential as well as groups of children with emerging language and academic abilities. Children who have struggled in the traditional classroom environment have an opportunity at Oak Hill to develop academic and social skills, high self-esteem and become leaders among their peers.

ABOUT THE RYDER FOUNDATION

ryder_lake.jpgThe mission of The Ryder Foundation is to provide funding to organizations that research the environmental causes
of autism and effectively treat afflicted children.

The Ryder Foundation funds research that investigates the link between environmental toxins and Autism Spectrum Disorders.
The Ryder Foundation funds research aimed at establishing empirically-proven treatments for autism.
The Ryder Foundation funds programs that assist low-income families in getting treatments, therapies and supplies.
The Ryder Foundation funds programs that help local autistic and developmentally challenged children reach their full potential.

ABOUT THE ASHA ACADEMY FOR AUTISM

ASHA is a holistic, multidisciplinary academy in Bangalore, India, providing special education to children with severe disabilities, particularly autism. Founded in 1995, ASHA endeavors to “render exceptional love, care, hope, and educational assistance to children with special needs, to help them develop and utilize their potential.” The school also provides family support, community outreach, and training.

TeachTown Receives Federal Funding for Autism Software Development


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teachtown cloud background.JPGWith the success of our first program, TeachTown: Basics, we were getting very antsy to start our next product to help school-age children with autism.  We are thrilled to announce that we have received a Department of Education Stepping Stones Technology grant to develop our next product and to do the initial research to help make this product effective, appropriate, and of the highest quality.  Stayed tuned for further updates about this upcoming product, we are anticipating using the new program with children starting in 2008!

To read more about our exciting news, check out the press release at: http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/medicalnews.php?newsid=69034

Continue checking back to this site and the TeachTown website for announcements and opportunities to participate in our research and development process.

Schools Need Help!


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It seems like every week I am reading an article about another school district struggling to keep up with the expenses of educating children with autism and how instead of adding resources, they keep getting taken away!

In South Carolina, $1.4 million were taken away from the already struggling programs.  This means that children might not get the needed treatment that they need, such as ABA.  More than $700,000 is being dedicated to serving the children with autism, which will cover ABA for only 30 students.  It seems to me that solutions must be found which can spread the limited amounts of money further, how can schools serve more children with the same amount of money while still providing the quality treatment that is needed?

000_86_Eric_catching.pngIt is time for researchers to start thinking about solutions for schools, there is a large amount of data supporting ABA and some other approaches as well.  However, I would like to see studies looking at how to develop ABA treatments further so as to be able to serve more children, perhaps in small group instruction, or utilizing technology, or simplifying procedures for less expensive staff to implement, or other creative solutions to deal with this critical issue in our education system.

In addition, I would like to see more funding and grants for school programs and more education for school staff to more effectively educate children with autism spectrum disorders.  This could be done easily through online learning programs or local conferences for educators.  In addition, more funding and research is needed for how to effectively and efficiently educate school staff so that they are empowered and motivated.

The other important thing that is needed for school systems is training and accountability for student outcome.  Researchers should consider designing assessments that are feasible and easy for schools to implement, and standards should be set for what exactly schools are expected to measure and report.  While some school districts require teachers to use standardized measures of assessment, these measures are often not appropriate or informative for measuring the progress of children with autism spectrum disorders.  If measurements are required, they should be scientifically validated for the autism population.  In addition, managable and efficient tools need to be developed and available to teachers to make data collection accurate and consistent.happyboy4_cl1.jpg

Some states are taking measures to address these important issues, such as California and the Blue Ribbon Commission.  I recently served on the task force for education for this group, and was pleased to see that I am not alone in these concerns and that there are initiatives out there that are working toward solutions.  I will post updates on this Commission as they are available.  Please post other initiatives or solutions that you think are helpful! 

Social Stories Research


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087_040_Lara_Neighbor.jpgAn interested blogger asked the following question and I think it is a great one, so I thought I would respond, and hopefully this will help her, and others:

Educational professionals often teach social skills using social stories in one:one situations, not realizing that these skills do not generalize to the playground, the classroom, the community, etc. Where is there additional research to validate this position?

It is true that educational professionals often use social stories and that the skills do not always generalize to natural settings.  This is actually true about many treatment approaches.  If generalization is not planned, it is likely that it will NOT happen!  This whome_pic1.jpghat we call the train and hope approach and it is pretty common to see that with social stories.  However, if used appropriately and well-planned, this approach can be effective, although it is not clear in the research how effective.

Most studies I have read have shown that social stories are pretty effective for teaching 000_55_Clark_petting.pngspecific concepts to children such as language, social skills, play, vocational, and self-help skills.  The majority of these studies show that the approach is effective, but they also tend to use the social stories in conjunction with other approaches (e.g. modeling, rehearsal, feedback, etc.).  I have not seen many studies that solely look at social stories and those that do tend to show that some children are successful, while others may not be.

The biggest issue with the social stories research is that data on maintenance and generalization are not always reported and when they are, they tend to have modest or no maintenance and generalization.

In clinical practice, I have seen social stories work, but again, they are typicallB & E.JPGy used in conjunction with other practices and generalization of the skills is specifically planned out.

Although there are a large number of studies on this approach, I have not been able to identify a randomized efficacy study or even a study using more than 3-4 children.  If anyone knows of a study like this, please let me know and I will post it here!

000_134_Going_Potty.pngIn sum, I would suggest that if social stories are used that the facilitators do the following 3 things to maximize their success:

1) Make them motivating!  You can do this by doing the social stories in PowerPoint or similar programs on the computer and adding in sound, music, etc. to keep it interesting for the child.  You can also incorporate things that the child likes into the social story to get them interested in it.  I once worked with a boy who loved music, particularly The Beatles.  He had some difficulties with his peers during lunchtime, so we opted to try social stories.  Initially, he hated them, but read them anyway and could answer all of the questions we asked him about the stories.  But alas, he did not generalize at all beatles1.gifto the actual lunch time experience.  Next, we made a PowerPoint slide and incorporated The Beatles music and even some cartoon pictures of the band from their old cartoon.  He found this very amusing and was very attentive.  He did not generalize this initially, but he started to tell his friends about the story.  So, we decided to have the boy sit down at the computer and show the slides to his classmates one at a time and then talk about the social story.  That seemed to work, not sure which part, but it did work, and the behavior was maintained for the rest of the school year.

2) Track Progress!  Often, social stories are just used without any data tracking system.  It is important to figure out what you are trying to change and to objectively measure it.  It is the only way you will know if it works.

000_108_Abby_pushing.png3) Plan for Generalization!  Don’t just wait for it to happen, figure out what your next steps will be to generalize the behavior.  Will you add more social stories?  Will you add more environments and situations?  Will you change the words or pictures to the stories?  Will you do the stories with different people? 

 

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