Expert Articles

  • Ready Set Play! Strategies for Modifying Games

    Ready Set Play! Strategies for Modifying Games

    By Sam Blanco, MSEd, BCBA

    Choosing games for learners with autism can be quite challenging, especially when your goal is to provide social opportunities through playing games with peers or siblings. Sometimes you find a game that you think your learner will find highly motivated, only to discover there are aspects of the game that make your learner lose interest quickly. Here are a few tips to help modify games to meet the needs of your individual learner. Read More »
  • Prompting Behavior Change

    Prompting Behavior Change

    By Steve Levinson, PhD, Inventor of the MotivAider

    If you're a parent or a teacher who's trying to change a child's behavior, you're probably frustrated. It's not easy to change a child's behavior. But before you blame the child, consider this: It's not all that easy to change your own behavior either! Even when you have a good reason to make a particular change, and you're really serious about doing it, changing your own behavior is rarely a snap. Read More »
  • Toilet Training Tips

    Toilet Training Tips

    By Stacy Asay, LMSW

    I've taken to spending the majority of a weekend with families when it comes to toilet training their child. It's highly glamorous, really. Just the mom, the dad, the child and me, cooped up in the family bathroom for six or more hours at a time. All kidding aside, it's really the only way to do it. During the weekend you are free from the week's distractions and you have the entire family there for carry over, which in the long run is the deciding factor in a child's success and generalization. Read More »
  • You Get More With Sugar Than You Do With Vinegar

    You Get More With Sugar Than You Do With Vinegar

    By Lisa Squadere-Watson, Parent

    Everyone has a story about how their child came to be labeled with an autism spectrum diagnosis. Most are heartbreaking tales that make any parent shiver. However, one of the most important topics that should be discussed is how we as parents can proceed to traverse the maze surrounding the massive amounts of information and tap into people who share their knowledge of what has worked for them.

    The following are tips and resources my family has found beneficial. I hope that they will aid you in becoming a successful advocate for your child.

    Read More »
  • Dealing with a Bully

    Dealing with a Bully

    By Ronald Leaf, PhD, John McEachin, PhD, and Mitchell Taubman, PhD
    Autism Partnership, Seal Beach, CA


    Bullying has become a prominent issue in today's world. A recent survey of 400 parents conducted by Massachusetts Advocates for Children found that 88 percent of children with autism have been bullied at school. Interactive Autism Network (2012) surveyed 1,167 parents and found that 63 percent of children with ASD have been bullied at some point in their life. Whether in the form of cyber bullying, verbal abuse or physical assault, we frequently hear terrible stories of students being tormented by peers. Read More »
  • On The Need for Crisis Intervention Training

    On The Need for Crisis Intervention Training

    By Bobby Newman, PhD, BCBA-D

    Crisis intervention remains a sensitive issue in the field of developmental disabilities. One prevailing argument contends that schools should not risk permitting their staff to become overly physical with their students by implementing more rigid crisis intervention training protocols. Rather, they should trust their staff to deal with behavioral crises with the "unofficial" policies or procedures that have grown up in their programs. Bobby Newman, PhD, BCBA-D proposes changes to these outdated protocols in schools, in favor of a formalized system that trains staff members to teach students self-control and alternate behaviors and to nurture environments that are not likely to trigger crises in the first place. Read More »
  • Our Autism Journey

    Our Autism Journey

    By Debora Thivierge, BCaBA

    When my son Jason was diagnosed with autism at twenty months old, I was lucky enough to discover the book "Let Me Hear Your Voice" by Catherine Maurice. Her story became a beacon of hope for me; a light through the early darkness of Jason's diagnosis. She inspired me and set me on a path to help my son, myself, my family and others on this autism journey. Read More »
  • Functional Behavior Assessment Ideas for the Most Effective Approach

    Functional Behavior Assessment
    Ideas for the Most Effective Approach

    By Keith Amerson, MSEd

    The foundation behind conducting a Functional Behavior Assessment (FBA) is that behavior occurs within a particular context and serves a specific purpose. Individuals learn to engage in behaviors that satisfy a need or that result in a desired outcome. This is known as the function of the behavior. When a method for meeting a need is reinforced, the individual is more likely to use that method again. Conversely, when individuals use maladaptive behavior to reach a desired outcome, they only alter their behavior when it is clear that a different response will more effectively and efficiently accomplish the same goal. Identifying the need (or function fulfilled by the behavior) provides information for developing instructional strategies that can reduce or eliminate behaviors that interfere with successful classroom performance or participation. Read More »
  • Let's Cook! Providing Learning Opportunties for Special Needs Students in the Kitchen

    Let's Cook! Providing Learning Opportunties for
    Special Needs Students in the Kitchen

    By Cricket Azima

    Growing up, I never considered myself a traditional learner. Instead, I found myself excelling when I was able to utilize all my senses. I enjoyed a method of tactile learning that was extremely beneficial to me as a child. In 1999, I formed The Creative Kitchen, which works to produce a positive relationship between children and food. Read More »
  • The Role of Counseling in the Treatment of Autism Spectrum Disorder

    The Role of Counseling in the Treatment of Autism Spectrum Disorder

    By Marlene Driscoll, MA, LMFT

    Traditionally, intervention for children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) has focused upon reducing interfering behavior and teaching language, academic and self-help skills. More recently there has been a greater emphasis upon social skills awareness and skills to independently navigate the social world. This change is in response to the widening of the diagnostic criteria, allowing for the identification of a greater number of individuals with social skill and social understanding impairments. Prioritizing social skill development within treatment has been essential in improving the lives of all children and adolescents with ASD, regardless of the severity of symptoms presented. This evolution of treatment services has also helped us recognize how counseling services can be an essential companion to skill-based intervention for many individuals on the spectrum. Read More »
  • Bringing Mobile Technology and Apps to the Forefront in Educating Students with Autism Spectrum Disorders

    Bringing Mobile Technology and Apps to the Forefront in Educating
    Students with Autism Spectrum Disorders

    By Mary E. McDonald, Ph.D, BCBA-D & Jamie O'Brien, MS Ed

    Research tells us that students with autism typically benefit from visual, rather than auditory teaching strategies. Research has also begun to examine the benefits of using technology when teaching students with ASD and has even begun to show that teaching with technology can be effective and efficient for teaching students with ASD. Read More »
  • A Sister's Love

    A Sister's Love

    By Sophie Spiegel, NYU Student in Psychology, Daughter of Different Roads President Julie Azuma

    {**}
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    My sister, Miranda, was diagnosed with autism at the age of six. Throughout most of my childhood, I was overcome with fear, anger, and resentment. I was embarrassed to be out in public with Miranda because a tantrum was inevitable. I vividly recall peoples' judgmental eyes as this ten-year-old girl tossed herself on the ground for no reason. I never expected her to sneak up behind me and smack me in the face and I did not understand why she wanted to hurt me or embarrass me in public. It took me years before I understood what it meant to have a sister on the autism spectrum and today I honestly still do not know everything. I learned to accept it was not her fault and it still is not her fault, but it is simply just who she is. Read More »
  • Reinforcement Development Strategies for Teaching Students with ASD

    Reinforcement Development Strategies for Teaching Students with ASD

    By Ronald Leaf, PhD, John McEachin, PhD, and Mitchell Taubman, PhD
    Autism Partnership, Seal Beach, CA


    If rewards were made to be contingent upon behavior, the student would indeed change behaviors. Read More »
  • What Happens When You Grow Up? Developing Effective Services for Adults with ASD

    What Happens When You Grow Up?
    Developing Effective Services for Adults with ASD

    By Joanne Gerenser, PhD, CCC-SLP

    With the rising incidence of autism spectrum disorders comes the challenge of providing adequate and appropriate services. It has been widely established that Early Intensive Behavior Intervention (EIBI) offers children on the spectrum the greatest hope for positive outcomes. In fact, a percentage of children with ASD who receive effective EIBI eventually lose the diagnosis and move fully into general education. What happens, however, to the children who do NOT achieve this outcome? That is, what does the research tell us is the most effective model of intervention for teens and young adults with ASD who continue to need significant supports? Read More »
  • Speech Language Pathology and Applied Behavior Analysis Can't We All Just Get Along?

    Speech Language Pathology and Applied Behavior Analysis
    Can't We All Just Get Along?

    By Danielle McCormick, MA, CCC-SLP, Co-Founder Bridge Kids of New York
    Contributor: Ashley Stahl, MSEd, Co-Founder Bridge Kids of New York


    I have vivid memories of a professor in graduate school essentially condemning the field of Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) as the most "robotic" and "unnatural" way to help a child learn communication skills. As a passionate and dedicated Speech-Language Pathologist (SLP), I took these words to heart and kept them with me as I continued my career. That was until my first job as a Clinical Fellow at an Early Intervention center—that (insert gasp!) followed the principles of ABA. This center was also filled with the most diverse, beautiful children I have ever known, many of whom were diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder—my passion. Read More »
  • Steps for Social Success

    Steps for Social Success

    By James T. Ellis, PhD, BCBA-D and Christine Almeida, MSEd, EdS, BCBA

    In the past ten years, we have certainly heard much more about social skills or social pragmatics with young children. We are also seeing many more children diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder, for which one of the primary diagnostic criterions is deficits in social skills. Additionally, many more children are presenting with delays in their social skills development, with or without any type of formal diagnosis. Read More »
  • Looking at Autism - ABA and a Behavior Analysis of Sensory Needs

    Looking at Autism - ABA and a Behavior Analysis of Sensory Needs

    By Carl Sundberg, Ph.D., BCBA-D
    Executive Director/President, Behavior Analysis Center for Autism (BACA)


    On numerous occasions, I have been asked to consult for a team or review a program developed to work with children who have autism or other developmental disabilities. During these consults, I have heard the following statements: "We don't do ABA" or "We don't believe in ABA."

    At this point I realize I have some educating to do, but must tread carefully as I am in the midst of "nonbelievers." I must avoid the temptation to spew out sarcastic remarks, such as "You mean you don't believe in behavior analysis?" or "You don't believe there is a cause for all behaviors and that it's helpful to have an understanding of variables that lead to behavior?" I think to myself that it's not a matter of whether or not you believe in behavior analysis. The principles that govern behavior (e.g., reinforcement, punishment, extinction, shaping, etc.) are operating on all of us all of the time. They are ubiquitous. Read More »
  • Promoting Independence Throughout the Lifespan: Functional Skills

    Promoting Independence Throughout the Lifespan: Functional Skills

    By Michael Mueller, Ph.D., BCBA

    Defining characteristics of children on the autism spectrum include underdeveloped language and communication abilities. Early language is absolutely essential if a child will eventually come to control their world, express their wants and needs, develop peer relationships, and interact with others in myriad settings and situations throughout the lifespan. Because language and communication skills are of such vital importance, it is best to teach these skill sets as early as possible. Language skills are very commonly the focus and thrust of early intervention programs and ABA programs in homes and schools. Read More »
  • Developing Active Learning Participation by Children with Autism

    Developing Active Learning Participation by Children with Autism

    By James W. Partington, PhD, BCBA
    Partington Behavior Analysts, Walnut Creek, CA


    The field of behavior analysis has been instrumental in helping parents and professionals identify effective methods for teaching skills to others particularly children with special needs. It is possible to conduct "task analyses" to break down complicated tasks into very small units of behavior and to develop each of the sub skills. However, what we really want is for these children to be able to learn from their everyday interactions with others who have not been highly trained nor use precisely defined teaching procedures. Read More »
  • When Do I Begin Transition Planning?

    When Do I Begin Transition Planning?

    By Ernst VanBergeijk

    This is a question parents often ask me as the Dean of a U.S. Department of Education approved Comprehensive Transition and Post-Secondary (CTP) program. Most expect me to give them an answer aligned with timelines inherent in the Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act (IDEIA) of 2004. They expect me to give an answer between ages 14-16. I tell them it depends upon the developmental and cognitive level of the child, but if possible they should start at age 5 or 6 years old. That's when I get odd looks, as though I have two heads. Read More »
  • Socialization for Those on the Autism Spectrum

    Socialization for Those on the Autism Spectrum

    By Michael John Carley
    Founder and former Executive Director of GRASP (Global & Regional Asperger Syndrome Partnership)


    As the Executive Director of The Global and Regional Asperger Syndrome Partnership (GRASP), I certainly see a large amount of disagreement in the autism/Asperger world. But I also see a clear, unifying element that binds the parents of young children who span the entire spectrum: They worry how their offspring will merge someday into that greater collective that exists outside home. Amidst so many unknown variables to come—what experiences will occur along the way, what will we learn about the spectrum in future years—it is enormously hard to predict our children's future. This anxiety is true for parents of non-autistic children as well, but like everything else separating the spectrum from the neurotypical, this concern is significantly increased in our community. Read More »
  • Time Timer: Time To Build Independence

    Time Timer: Time To Build Independence

    By Jenn Choi, Editor, www.ToysAreTools.com

    I thought I was making yet another 'need something new purchase' one day when I bought the Time Timer. I felt like I was "treating" myself. I had other timers at home that cost about $7-8 in kitchen stores. However, the Time Timer I bought was over $20. "I just can't," I first said to myself.
    But then you look at it and you sort of just know: this is going to be a good thing. The hallmark trait of this timer is that a red disc disappears as your preset time diminishes. Kidspeak: no more red = no more time. For kids, you just can't be any clearer than that.

    Read More »
  • Emerging Language & Building Vocabulary

    Emerging Language & Building Vocabulary

    By Angela Nelson, Ed.M, J.D.

    Language development varies from child to child, and there are wide ranges of expected "normal" language development in young children. The first stages of language development involve listening to words, imitating words, and building a basic vocabulary. Picture cards are a useful tool when building vocabulary because, while we certainly want our kids to learn the words bus and airplane, it's difficult to get those items into your living room! Read More »
  • The Importance of Assessment in Treatment Planning

    The Importance of Assessment in Treatment Planning

    By Mark Sundberg, Ph.D.

    Every child with autism or other developmental disabilities presents unique needs and challenges. An important step in developing a treatment plan and curriculum for a child is a thorough assessment of his or her abilities, as well as the barriers that might be affecting learning. To establish a starting point in a language intervention program information should be obtained as to what the child can do consistently and reliably, and how his or her skills compare to those of typically developing children. Read More »