Evidence-based Practices + Autism

In a world of endless interventions and treatments for children with autism, parents and professional have a big job of sifting through which ones are likely to be effective, and have some scientific backing (aka evidence-based practices) and those that are not.

Fortunately, there are a number of free and easily accessible publications to help you navigate this process:

(1) AUTISM SPECTRUM DISORDERS: GUIDE TO EVIDENCE-BASED INTERVENTIONSThis is the newest publication from the Missouri Autism Guidelines Initiative, and companion document to the widely respected 2010 publication, “Autism Spectrum Disorders: Missouri Best Practice Guidelines to Screening, Diagnosis, and Assessment”, which can also be downloaded from their website.

The director of Autism Speaks, Alycia Halladay, PhD, says, “This is an excellent resource for information on evidence-based interventions. It clearly spells out types of interventions and how they can be useful for individuals with ASD in a way that is understandable for multiple audiences. Parents and professionals working together on an intervention plan can use this guide to work through ideas, suggestions, or behavioral concerns.”

(2) A PARENT’S GUIDE TO EVIDENCE-BASED PRACTICE AND AUTISM: The National Autism Center has published a number of documents based on the National Standards Project, including this one, aimed at providing parents with information on evidence-based interventions.

Peter Gerhard, Ed.D., the Founding Chair of the Scientific Council Organization for Autism Research says,“In a field rife with fads, pseudoscience, and popular, yet unproven, interventions, the findings of the National Standards Project are a welcome and much-needed counterbalance to much of the hyperbole for both professionals and families.”

(3) THE NATIONAL PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT CENTER (NPDC) ON AUTISM SPECTRUM DISORDERS (ASD): While not a guideline per se, the NPDC on ASD has identified 24 practices that meet the criteria for evidence-based practices for children with autism and has developed Evidence-based practice (EBP) briefs for all 24 that you can download from their website. They are also in the process of developing online modules for each of the evidence-based practices, which are available on the Autism Internet Modules (AIM) website.

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Teaching Safety Skills to Children with Autism

Here are the highlights from another talk that I attended at the 39th Annual Applied Behaviour Analysis International (ABAI) Conference in Seattle on the importance of teaching safety skills to children (and adults) with autism.

Teaching Safety Skills to Individuals with Disabilities:                                                                    

Every parent wants their child to be safe. And for many parents of children with autism, safety skills are often top of mind. Safety skills cover a broad range of skills, but when you boil it down, they can be put into one of two categories: (1) dangers in the social environment (such as kidnapping, abuse); and (2) dangers in the physical environment (such as poisons, matches).

In this talk, Miltenberger stressed the importance of reliably assessing the safety skills of children with autism and other disabilities after they have been taught. Because you want to (need to) know that if your child found a firearm in the home (there was a heavy emphasis on this during the talk, assuming because this is more common in the US because of their laws around firearms), that they would in fact: (a) not touch the gun; and (b) go and tell an adult immediately.

It turns out that it doesn’t matter if your child can tell you what needs to be done when faced with a safety threat, nor demonstrate that he/she could act it out successfully in a role-play situation; it’s the real-life simulation (i.e., your child doesn’t know that he/she is being tested) that will give you the real measure of how your child will stand up if it actually happens. It’s like those “quality” daytime talk shows when they set kids up by knocking on their door when their parents aren’t home, and pretending to be a stranger to see how the child will respond (all the while their parents and a video crew are watching from a live feed in the backyard). It looks like Oprah wasn’t so off on this one.

Miltenberger also stressed that these real-life assessments need to be carefully designed with the child’s safety and well-being in mind. It’s meant as a protective measure and a learning opportunity.

Sound scary? Definitely. But in this case, isn’t knowing better than not knowing? If you want to learn more, check out this article by Miltenberger that looks at the different types of safety skills, how to assess safety skills, and general guidelines for teaching safety skills to children.

What are your top safety concerns for your child? What strategies have you found to be effective?

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38th Annual ABAI Conference Highlights

I’ll be the first to admit, I’m a self-professed “Behaviour Geek”, and any opportunity I have to learn about the wonderful science that is behaviour, I’m in. And so, every year I pack up and head to a number of different cities to attend training seminars, workshops and conferences. This year, I had the wonderful opportunity of going to visit one of my favourite cities in the States for the Association for Behavior Analysis International® (ABAI) 38th Annual Convention in Seattle (aka a Behaviour Analyst’s heaven).

In between waking up early to walk down to the market to Le Panier to devour the most incredibly decadent almondine croissants,  drinking the most delicious coffee on the earth from Monorail (a really cool, walk-up coffee window in the heart of downtown, almost too conveniently located a block away from the Convention Center), and meeting up with a few of my incredible advisers and professors from UBC, Dr. Joseph Lucyshyn (see wonderful, and this equally wonderful book on Positive Behaviour Support with families) and Dr. Pat Mirenda (see amazing, and this equally amazing book on AAC), I managed to pack in quiet a hectic schedule of workshops and lectures, leaving me tired and delighted, my brain filled with all things ABA.

Over the next few posts, I’ll highlight some favourite workshops and talks. Here’s the first:

Interventions for Obsessive-Compulsive Behaviour in Children with Autism:                          

Anyone working with children with autism has probably experienced what I call the “Thomas the Tank Engine” phenomenon – an almost obsessive interest in all things Thomas.

There has been a lot of interest the field of autism and ABA regarding the presence of OCD-like behaviours in children and adults with autism (sometimes referred to as autism obsessive-compulsive, or autism “OC”). The main difference it seems is that autism OC behaviours are not always related to relieving anxiety; rather, many individuals with autism often enjoy these repetitive behaviours (whether it be reciting lines from Thomas, talking about Thomas, playing with Thomas toys, looking at Thomas books, etc.).

The second part of this talk was about finding ways of taking these restricted “obsessive” interests and behaviours that are all too often seen as a hinderence and using them to teach skills. I love this! Embrace the laser-like focus children with autism have for these interests! I mean, what would have happened if someone told Stephen Wiltshire that he was drawing too much as a kid? Or told Temple Grandin that she thought too much about cows?

One of many the areas that the researchers are exploring is the use of these interests in teaching joint attention skills.

What are your child’s special interests and talents?

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BCBA Supervision Calgary

CABA is now offering BCABA and BCBA supervision in Calgary (and remotely)! 

If you’re interested in being supervised to qualify for certification with the Behaviour Analyst Certification Board (BACB) or want to know more, check out our BCBA Supervision page or Contact us!

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Autism-Friendly Summer Camps in Calgary 2012

The end of the school year is fast-approaching and for families of children with autism this can be both wonderful (see: lot’s of free time) and stressful (see: lot’s of free time). Yes, summer is almost here, but it’s not too late if you’re looking for a summer camp and there are quite a few options here in Calgary to choose from:

Janus Academy has three, 2-week long, full-day (9am-3pm) summer camps. Kids can go for just one, all three sessions. This is a popular camp, and spots fill up quickly.

Between Friends (BF) offers a range of camps for children with and without disabilities. In most of the camps, kids are in small groups (from 1:2 to 1:6 camper to counselor ratio). As with most of the autism-friendly camps in Calgary, a 1:1 ratio is not offered, BUT they’re super open to outside support coming into the program (wahoo!).

  • Bonaventure is their outdoor summer day camp for kids and teens (between 4 and 17) with a list of activities that make ME want to go to camp (like horseback riding, canoeing, wall climbing, swimming, sailing, and arts and crafts).
  • Camp Fun’zAmust is a residential camp (i.e., it runs for a week during August, including overnight) and is designed for youth and teens (between 7 and 17). This camp is at the Easter Seals Camp Horizon site near Bragg Creek, and has some really cool activities like ropes courses, river rafting, hiking, archery (for all the Hunger Games fans out there!), and swimming.
  • I.C.A.N! (Inclusive Community Activities With No Barriers) Camps  is a program set up by Between Friends where they’ve partnered with a number of community summer camp providers to train Recreation Inclusion Coordinators (RIC) to educate staff on inclusion, best practices, and offer some support while your child is at camp (note: this isn’t a 1:1 support model, but rather camp staff have someone to go for guidance). Here are some of the ICAN! camps to check out:

The Talisman Centre is one of the many programs to partner up with BF, and offers a schwack of integrated programs from “play for life” (a little bit of everything camp), to gymnastics to yoga.

The Calgary Zoo has the same deal going on as the Talisman. They’ve also partnered with the BF to make sure that all kids, including kids with disabilities can go to camp. So if your child is an animal lover, or Zoologist at heart, this might be the camp for you! The Zoo Tots (ages 4-6) is sold out, but they still have spots left in their Discover the Zoo Camp (Grades 1-6), Art Camp (Gr. 1-6), and Youth Wildlife Workshop for Teens (Gr. 7-12).

The City of Calgary’s Southland and Village Square Leisure Centres offer your traditional summer day camps to children 3-12, with a range of activities such as  swimming, arts and crafts, games, sports and field trips. They have both full day and half-day programs and run from July 3 to August 31 (to see the camps, click on the link and scroll down to page 36).

Let us know if you’re planning on sending your child to summer camp, share your experiences with sending your child to camp (the good and the bad!), and Contact Us and we can help you make the most out of your child’s summer camp experience!

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Top Picks for Autism Conferences and Workshops – Summer 2012

Autism and ABA learning opportunities in Calgary are a bit of a rarity (and I’m hoping to change that – I’ve paired up with Autism Calgary and will be presenting the first of hopefully many workshops in September 2012 on a topic that’s near and dear to my heart: sleep (details to follow).  In the meantime, here are my top picks for upcoming conferences and workshops in the summer months  (on the web and around the globe):

Penn State National Autism Conference (July 30–August 2, 2012): FREE, yes you heard me, FREE webcasting! With a ton of excellent speakers (SundbergEschIwata, Vollmer, and Cicero to name a few), and a myriad of topics to choose from (AAC for ASD, peer support and promoting inclusion, planning for autism emergencies, teaching children to follow instructions, girls and ASD, and effective toilet training and so on), clear your calendars folks because this is one you won’t want to miss! And did I mention FREE?!

Autism Society National Conference and Exposition (July 25-28, 2012 – San Diego, California): With presenters like Turnbull, Dunlap and Durand (aka the godfather of sleep and children with special needs), and an eclectic mix of topics (with a surprising amount focusing on adolescents and adults, which is all too often a rarity in the field), this is another conference that if you can swing it will be a good one, plus if you’ve ever wanted to go to Disney (and who doesn’t love Disney?!), this is your excuse.

Michelle Garcia Winner and Carol Gray Together at the Vancouver Convention Centre (August 16-17, 2012, Vancouver, British Columbia): This doesn’t happen often. Two wonderful, incredible speakers like this, teaming up to host a two-day workshop. Day 1 focuses on social strategies to teach people with ASD and Day 2 focuses on teaching “thinking” and cognitive behavioural strategies. 

 

Beyond these, some of my favourite sites I compulsively check for new, upcoming conferences and workshops are:

Community Education Services (right here in Calgary, run by Alberta Health Services and Alberta’s Children’s Hospital)

Autism Community Training (from our neighbors to the West in Vancouver, BC but often have live webcastings if you can’t make the trek out there)

Geneva Centre for Autism (in Toronto, ON, but also offer most of their workshops as live webcastings)

Autism Training Solutions (an excellent web-based training site that offers FREE webinars, and keeps a large collection of previous sessions that you can access at any time)

If you know of any upcoming conference and workshops (in Calgary or otherwise) share them with us!

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Calgary Autism Resources

There are great resources for children and families with autism and other disabilities in Calgary, but unlike the other cities I’ve lived in, finding them here is half the battle. Today I went on an adventure to explore some of the wonderful resources Calgary has to offer, and I was pleasantly surprised with what I found. Here are some of the highlights of the day.

Autism Calgary has an extensive resource library that’s open to members (membership to parents and professionals is free), plus it’s open on a frequent basis ( 9am – 5pm Tuesday to Thursday).  The only downside  is that you can only take two books at a time, which is hard for me because every time I go in there to get a book I find a handful of other books I want to take home with me.

The Ability Hub is another “must have” resource for families and professionals in Calgary. Not only do they boast a large collection of books and other materials (some of which can be accessed online) in their Resource Centre, but they also have a Boardmaker workstation set up in their brand new facility so you can create visuals, print and laminate without all the fuss (and expense) of doing it at home. What a grand idea! The Resource Centre also comes with Ambassadors (aka super friendly knowledgeable types) to help you navigate your way through the the mountain of resources, and questions you may have. As an added bonus, many of the Ambassadors have a personal experience with someone with autism (e.g., a child, a family member or a  friend), so if you’re a parent and all of this is new to you, you can be confident that someone knows what you’re going through and can help you find the support you’re looking for.

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