Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Taking a Break

Hi all,

There's been a lot going on around here...and I am leaving tomorrow to take a trip to Senegal with students from one of the schools I work for....No, the students with autism who are included are not coming with us. They could if their families wanted them to do so, but they did not apply. We are taking our multicultural group by train to DC tomorrow in the morning, and then catching a flight to Dakar at 7:30 PM.  So I will not be blogging here for at least a week.

Take care and enjoy your April vacation!

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Wading Through Information: Tons of it!

I have a question: how do you readers wade through the extraordinary volumes of blogs, newsletters, research reports, articles, studies, and organizations that are available to us on the Internet? I need help!

Sometimes I just troll and click on items that look interesting. I try to keep up with the published literature, but I am interested in parents' blogs, incidental reports on such things as Rapid Prompting Method, the fact that Syracuse University still supports and teaches Facilitated Communication, and try to understand, in general, the puzzle that is autism. I like first-person accounts and, despite the research, I believe that there are genuinely adults who communicate by typing and that the Rapid Prompting Method, although not evidence-based, has helped children learn. Do I believe that there is any method that succeeds with ALL children? No.

So, how do you keep track of the enormous amount of autism information that is out there?

 And, just FYI, the writers at are still condemning the CDC for causing autism by hiding the 'truth' of how vaccines are responsible for the autism 'epidemic'.....apparently we can't trust the CDC at all. Check it, and be sure to comment about how you handle wading through topics in which you are interested.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

New Autism Prevalence Rates Announced Today by the CDA

CNN reported today that the CDC published the results of a study that the prevalence of autism is now 1 in 68, and not 1 in 88 as had been the agreed-upon rate in 2009. The CDC has an Autism Monitoring Network (which can be found here: Keep in mind, however, that this figure was based on information from health and special education records of children who were 8 years old and lived in areas of Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Georgia, Missouri, New Jersey, North Carolina Utah and Wisconsin in 2010. This new estimate does not represent the entire population of the United States.

This new estimate is roughly 30% higher than the estimate for 2008, roughly 60% higher than 2006, and 120% higher than in 2000 and 2002.

White children were more likely to be diagnosed with ASD than black or Hispanic children. And these figures differ depending on where you live. these vary as much as 1 in 175 children in areas of Alabama and 1 in 45 in areas of New Jersey.

This table does not include data from the most recent study.

About 1 in 42 boys were identified,  and 1 in 189 girls.

The majority were not diagnosed until age 4, which is too late for early intervention.

Increase in diagnoses due to increased awareness by pediatricians and neurologists? Likely. Kids I see today would have had different diagnoses in the late 70's (language impaired, mental retardation, intellectual disability)

Increase in diagnoses due to environmental factors? Likely. There is a lot of 'stuff' in our environment that affects developing fetuses.

Increase in diagnoses due to genetic factors ?Likely. Older parents, autism running in families, several generations.

Increase in diagnoses due to vaccines? Not likely at all, although there are many organizations which still believe in autism-regression-due-to-vaccines.

Well, it's mostly just Age of Autism: Check it out. Get their slant on all this!

Saturday, March 15, 2014

New Study: Autism, Environmental Factors and Intellectual Disability

There is a new study published last Monday that connects autism with environmental influences. The particular environmental influences are not teased out, but this county-by-county study points to the environment as a contributing factor to autism and what the authors call "Intellectual Disability". Here is a quote from the Science Daily report:

The team found that every one percent increase in malformations in a county was associated with a 283 percent increase in autism and 94 percent increase in ID in that same county. Almost all areas with higher rates of autism also had higher rates of ID, which the researchers believe corroborates the presence of environmental factors. In addition, they found that male children with autism are almost six times more likely to have congenital genital malformations. Female incidence was linked with increased malformation rates, but weakly so. A county-by-county map of autism and ID incidence above or below the predicted baseline for the entire US is included in the study.

The report on the study can be found here:

I've always thought the autism 'epidemic' (not my word; theirs) would have as a contributing factor environmental toxins. However, in my experience, some of the students identified as having autism whom I see now would not have had that diagnosis in the 70's when I first started in this field. But I also think the fact that more families have multiple children on the spectrum rests on environmental issues. We didn't see families with more than one child on the spectrum in the 1970's. If they had one, their other children were neurotypical, except in extreme situations. 

What do you think? Toxins or changes in diagnostic categories?

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

A Little Egg On My Face Today

Well, apparently I owe some of my readers an apology. Today someone with whom I work took me aside to tell me that some of my readers expressed concern about something I had published. I was embarrassed, but was glad to have had the talk. First of all, this demonstrates the challenge of keeping a blog which I thought no one was reading, since I never get comments, but indeed, I have readers and I offended some, or at least made them uncomfortable. So now I am glad I have readers.

And I apologize to those of you who were uncomfortable. I was talking mostly about my own discomfort in bringing up a potentially new approach in a situation in which we had little time to discuss and about which I did not accurately predict the team's reaction. I also was not comfortable bringing it up without having clear support for my idea, and I had wanted to research the intervention. I did not mean to imply that the team was not supportive; in fact, I love what I do and the people I work with. I value their experiences and training and know that we are a genuinely collaborative group.

However, that said, I probably should not have written what I wrote. And I will be more discrete in the future. I use this blog to describe my current thinking/planning/experience with both ABA and Floortime. In my current position,  I am exploring the meaning and impact that our approaches have on the children we serve. And sometimes I think that DIR/Floortime wins out. At other times I am not so sure. I think the reader deserves to know that I read a LOT of blogs/ articles/chapters by adults with autism who deplore their years of ABA 'training' in schools, and who believe that compliance training is actually torture. (Yes, I do have that chapter on my desktop).

But I recognize that one cannot compare two different ABA instructional programs. That writer may have had, indeed, a very bad educational experience. Years ago, I worked at a place that used ABA. One staff person quit after two weeks because she could not tolerate the use of ABA, and believe me, that was a very good, fun place for kids.

So please accept my sincere apologies, and know that I will try to leave others out of this blog. I am usually a shoot-from-the-hip person and I also talk/write a lot; and when you talk/write a lot, a lot of what comes out is garbage. And when you shoot from the hip, someone can get hurt.

And to the team that was concerned enough to ask someone to talk to me: THANK YOU!

And I am happy I have readers! I would like a comment once in a while, even if it is to say, "You are way off base here".

Fair enough.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Another Wonderful Point of View

I speed-read this post this morning, as I am getting ready for work (It was a relaxing February vacation at home!).

I seem to be in a position that might seem anti-ABA, but I am not anti-ABA. I am anti-ABA-ONLY, I am anti-ABA-limited thinking, anti-anyone who wants to put children in boxes based on a system of intervention that is, by its nature, limited.

Are your behaviors only reinforced by automatic reinforcement, tangibles, attention or escape? I know mine aren't.


Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Questions To Ponder

How do we handle different points of view?

 I wrote the last blog post ( about my interactions with a young boy with whom I work.  I got into a conversation on Facebook with a person who friended me as a result of being referred to me by a parent with whom I had worked previously. This parent thought we'd be compatible.  This person described what she does as "natural environment teaching", an intervention with which I am not familiar. She had told me previously she enjoyed reading my blog.

After reading that recent blog post, we had a conversation on Facebook. She told me the 'comment' section on my blog was not working, although I did go back and check that it was, indeed, working. So we had a couple of conversations on FB, and then I asked if she would private message me rather than having the conversation in public. She said she had nothing to hide, and then did not contact me again.

What was the conversation about? At first, she asked questions about what I was doing. However, what has me puzzled is this: she analyzed my 45 minute intervention with this boy as, and I am paraphrasing here since I cannot find the original conversation: "Well, you interrupted a favorite activity, then waited for a mand, then you reinforced that mand". Well. I had thought I was doing a whole lot more:

1. I was following his intention and initiations.
2. He was smiling and having fun.
3. His eyes almost never left my face, except for when he hid his face, smiled, and waited to ehar me say, "Where's A.? I can't see him. Where is he?", at which point he turned his head to me with a huge smile.
4. We had reciprocity going. I did not limit my words to specific instructions or demands, and instead waited out his desires.
5. We had joy. We had connection.
6. We (including myself) were having fun.
7. He was connected to me in a way that at a table or chair or walking in the halls he does not have a  connection.

Why did she not see all that? Oh, I know why. Those are 'mentalisms', or ideas that can't be measured and therefore cannot be manipulated. Therefore, they don't count.  Love, for example. You can't measure 'love'. You can measures kisses, smiles, hugs, and so forth, but you can also do these things in the absence of love. Love is a mentalism.

But we have all felt love (I hope). We have the experience of love. I do not think even a strict behaviorist would believe that because love can't be 'operationalized', that it doesn't exist.

 But in that moment with this boy, my heart was bursting. I was loving him. And he, in his own way, was loving me back. Yes, I could have stayed in that room, stopping the swing, waiting for a mand, then reinforcing, but that is sterile. That is not connection. That is not in-a-relationship-with. And it would not be fun.

I can think like a BCBA. I have learned all that terminology, and can see some times and places where it can be useful. But in my opinion, it does not go far enough to explain the human connection. Don't we all work better with people we like, trust, and care about?  Or are we simply a collection of behaviors  that we string together in our day-to-days?

There is a blog I like called "Child In Mind". In this blog, the doctor explains how to put the child first in any treatment option, and calls upon us to consider the particular circumstances we find ourselves in. Is a child acting out simply because he wants attention? Maybe he does want attention. Did he have a new baby in the house? Is dad no longer living there? Did they just move? Was mom in the hospital for a while? Is the child sleeping? Are the parents sleeping? What other developmental challenges is the child experiencing? Certainly we should explore any and all of those before prescribing medication....but, unfortunately, we don't. There's no time. Parents and teachers want a quick fix....get him to behave in class, not throw things, not bite or kick. We don't talk about teaching ways to be emotionally regulated; we talk about antecedents and consequences. And that's not terrible. It just isn't enough.

Here's the link:

Please....I'd love comments!