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AUTISM Advocate FIR ST ED ITION 2010, Volume 58


making Friends of social Skills

In this issue: Research on Social Skills Training A High School Peer Mentoring Program Teaching and Supporting Social Skills at School Making Connections Online And more... FIRST EDITION 2010 •

The critical Importance

Autism Advocate 1


Spring 2010




By Carol Gray

4t1 ional ST

Social Context, Social Stories™ and Change


Key elements to improve the social understanding of individuals with ASD

on & Expositi

i l lu s t r at i o n co u r t e s y o f v e c to r s to c k



Page 66

page 8

»»Advocacy »»Conferences »»Chapter News

page 14

page 30

Effective Social Skills Training for Children and Youth with ASD

Incorporating Social Skills Learning into the Curriculum

By Shoshana Farber, Danielle Ferrante, Jessica Lally and Margaret Poggi

AUTISM Advocate

L.E.A.A.D for Teens™ Peer Mentoring

Teaching Art to Developmentally Disabled Adults

Promoting Social Bonding through Creative Nurturing

By Erika Pumilia

By kathleen Blavatt

AUTISM Advocate

AUTISM Advocate

F IR S T E D IT IO N 2 0 0 9 , Volu m e 5 4

S ECO ND E D IT IO N 2 0 0 9 , Volu m e 55

T HIRD E D IT IO N 2009, Vo lume 56


By Alexander Plank

Perspectives page 62

Encouraging Diversity, Tolerance and Respect

AUTISM Advocate

FO U RT H E D IT IO N 2009, Vo lume 57

Wrong Planet: A Web Community for Those on the Spectrum

By Jennifer Neitzel, Ph.D.

LearningSpring School




Finding a Home

The Autism Advocate

As a member of the Autism Society, you will receive this publication. For membership information, visit

Making Connections Online

page 44

page 19

By Michelle Garcia Winner, M.A., CCC-SLP, Pamela Crooke, Ph.D., CCC-SLP, and Stephanie Madrigal, M.A., CCC-SLP

page 56

Peer-Mediated Instruction and Intervention

By Patricia Wright, Ph.D., MPH, Bob Siegel, M.Ed., and Leslie Jackson, M.Ed., OT, FAOTA

Hyatt Regency Da

g/conference or y. et ci o -s sm ti u .a w Visit ww . for more information

By Jed Baker, Ph.D.

Inclusive Child-Care Centers

Social Thinking and Social Skills in Girls, Teens and Women with Social Learning Issues

By Sheri S. Dollin, M.Ed., Lori Vincent, M.Ed., BCBA, and Sharman Ober-Reynolds, MSN, C-FNP, CCRP

Current Research and Integration

An Opportunity for Social Skills Development for Young Children with Autism

July 7-10, 2010 Dallas, Texallsas

It’s a Girl Thing…Right?

Teaching and Supporting Social Skills at School


IN THIs IssUE: Involving Your Child in the Post-High school Transition Process Transitions in the Elementary Grades successfully Transitioning Between Jobs Transitions in sibling Relationships And more…


Early Intervention

Transitions in Autism Meaningful Planning to enhance Quality of life

The Culture of



IN THIs IssuE: Addressing the Inequality of Adult Autism services Designing spaces for People with AsD What to Look for in Residential services When Your Child Leaves Home And more…

IN ThIS ISSuE: Learning the Signs Importance of the Medical Evaluation The Role of Assessment Temple Grandin’s Mother on helping Parents Cope And more…


Improving the Lives of All Affected by Autism

IN ThIS ISSuE: Being a Parent on the Autism Spectrum Sibling Perspectives Learning Altruism Through Stories Autism and Employment And more…

»»Autism Society News

page 50

The FRIEND Program

What’s New at the Autism Society

page 24

Social Skills Training for Children on the Autism Spectrum


COVER photograph: copyright 2009. Courtesy of college Internship program


m tis Autism

u ng i A d a e ’s Le h t n ion i t a o J r the N

y! t e ci ence

The developer of Social Stories™, the author offers a new working definition of social context, as well as an introduction to Social Stories™ for those unfamiliar with this approach in supporting people with autism as they learn to navigate the social world. Finally, since change is a common source of anxiety for people with autism spectrum disorders in many social situations, this article also discusses incorporating social context into the process of creating Social Stories™, with a specific eye on how individuals react and adjust to change.


Page 38


Improving the Lives of All Affected by Autism



Autism Advocate 3

message from the President & CEO In the 2007 publication, 32nd Institute on Rehabilitation Issues, Rehabilitation of Individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorders, it was pointed out that of all diagnostic groups, individuals with ASD had the lowest placement of employment in the nation of those who went through vocational rehabilitation services. The study discussed that among the most valued qualities that employers sought in their employees was that of being sociable and a “team player,” a skill that can be challenging to master for those on the autism spectrum. Furthermore, the report emphasized that vocational rehabilitation counselors and job coaches need to emphasize, in

Board of Directors

(July 2009-July 2010)

OFFICERS: Lee Grossman, President & CEO Cathy Pratt, Ph.D., BCBA, Chair James Ball, Ed.D., BCBA-D, Vice-Chair John Reedy, Treasurer Liz Freeman Floyd, Secretary

BOARD MEMBERS: James Adams, Ph.D. L. Lynn Stansberry Brusnahan, Ph.D. Jose Cordero, M.D. Barbara Becker-Cottrill, Ed.D., PPA Chair

addition to specific job tasks, teaching the “soft skills” needed for success in the workplace,

Stephen Edelson, Ph.D.

“including but not limited to, appropriate behavior, appropriate dress, timeliness, personal

Doreen Granpeesheh, Ph.D., BCBA

hygiene, respect for coworkers and supervisors, appropriate communication, and taking on

Judge Kimberly S. Taylor

Herman Fishbein Stephen Shore, Ed.D.



Temple Grandin, Ph.D.

This edition of the Autism Advocate focuses on the need and importance to provide appropriate and valuable social skills training to people with autism. These are skills that are too often neglected or given little consideration. Without these skills people with ASD will have difficulty being included and, more than likely, will be kept from achieving and optimizing their fullest potential because of the standards that society sets for actions and behaviors. With some concentrated effort and timely emphasis of social skills programming, almost all people with ASD can and will acquire the social skills necessary to be included and succeed in the world. As this edition of the Advocate so well demonstrates, this training needs to be taught throughout the lifespan and ingrained into every setting, service and support program.

Ruth Christ Sullivan, Ph.D.

Autism Advocate The Premier Magazine on Autism Spectrum Disorders

Publisher Lee Grossman, President and CEO

Vice President, Constituent Relations Marguerite Kirst Colston

Director of Programs Jennifer Repella

Managing Editor Robin Gurley

Media Specialist Carin Yavorcik

Web Specialist Selena Middleton

On another important note, April is National Autism Awareness Month. It is an exciting time of year for all who are affected by autism as it brings much-needed attention to our cause. We hope you will use the opportunity to assist others in gaining greater understanding of the condition and how our people with autism, when provided with proper services and supports, are capable of contributing significantly to society. So, “put on the puzzle” this month, wear the autism awareness ribbon, and make a friend!

LEE Grossman Autism Society President & CEO

Design n2design, inc.

Advertising Sales Potomac Media

Your child trusts you. Who are you going to trust?

The Autism Advocate is a publication of the Autism Society, 4340 East-West Highway, Suite 350, Bethesda, Maryland 20814. Copyright 2010 by the Autism Society. All rights reserved. No part of this magazine may be reproduced in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means, including photocopying, recording or any information storage and retrieval system, without written permission from the publisher. The information, views and any recommendations or endorsements expressed by authors, advertisers and/or other contributors appearing in the Autism Advocate do not necessarily reflect the views, opinions or recommendations or endorsements of the Autism Society. The publication of such information and the advertisements included within the Autism Advocate do not constitute an endorsement of such information or of any treatment, product, methodology and/or service advertised.

Trust Bob. Trust Bob’s Red Mill. Our gluten free and casein free production facility and rigorous onsite product testing make our products as safe as they are irresistible and easy to prepare. What’s more, we now give you two new reasons to celebrate – our decadent and delicious Gluten Free Vanilla Cake Mix and Gluten Free Shortbread Cookie Mix. Look for them and our more than 50 gluten free, casein free products at your favorite grocer or

The Autism Advocate is published four times a year. To receive the publication, please join the Autism Society. For more information, please visit To contact the editor, please e-mail

All other inquiries should be directed to: Autism Society 4340 East-West Highway, Suite 350 Bethesda, Maryland 20814 Toll free: 1-800-3AUTISM | Fax: 301-657-0869

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Autism Advocate 5

New and Expanded ! The Social Times, Volume 2!

message from the Board Chair Most educational programming for those on the autism spectrum is focused on academic skill development. Sadly, it is not unusual for professionals to comment that there is little or no time to teach social skills. However, social skill deficits and the difficulties involved in making good social judgments present a tremendous challenge for individuals on the spectrum, and can result in poor self-esteem and failure. Unfortunately, there is no single or simple proven model for teaching social skills. Knowing when to engage in which skill, in what environment and with what person is an incredibly complex process that requires

James Ball, Ed.D., BCBA-D Margaret L. Bauman, M.D.

Margaret Creedon, Ph.D. Geraldine Dawson, Ph.D. Anne M. Donnellan, Ph.D.

the spectrum or not) make social mistakes on a routine basis. Teaching individuals to choose

Stephen M. Edelson, Ph.D.

approaches is introduced, ranging from peer-mediated instruction to Social Thinking to Social Stories. These authors bring tremendous expertise and experience to a topic that is vital for any family member or professional who interacts with individuals on the spectrum. Just remember, the ultimate goal of these articles is not to simply enhance social skills but to create a meaningful life for individuals on the autism spectrum that includes friends and community connections. Thank you to the incredibly talented authors who contributed their

A Fun Supplement to Any Social Skills Program – Your Students Will Love It!

Glen Dunlap, Ph.D. V. Mark Durand, Ph.D. William L.E. Dussault, J.D.

coaching across settings. In this issue of the Autism Advocate, an array of strategies and

A great resource for professionals working with students who have social cognitive deficits, grades 3-9.

Lois J. Blackwell Eric Courchesne, Ph.D.

accurate and quick decision making. It is such a complex skill that most people (whether on

the right social skills requires an individualized approach using various tools and ongoing

Now consists of 9 issues, covering the entire school year!

Panel of Professional Advisors Barbara Becker-Cottrill, Ed.D. (Chairperson)


f you were lucky enough to subscribe to the first volume of this wildly popular magazine, we’re sure you will agree that there’s nothing else out there like it! If you don’t have a 2009-2010 subscription, we suggest you go to and download a sample copy to see what you have been missing. We’re sure you’ll agree with your colleagues who so enthusiastically have endorsed this innovative publication.

Judith E. Favell, Ph.D. Peter Gerhardt, Ed.D. Temple Grandin, Ph.D. Doreen Granpeesheh, Ph.D., BCBA June Groden, Ph.D. Paul Millard Hardy, M.D. Robert L. Hendren, D.O. Martha Herbert, M.D., Ph.D.

“The school district that I work for purchased The Social Times for use with our Asperger students. I am enjoying every issue . . .” – Julie, Social Cognition Specialist

Jill Hinton, Ph.D. Ann Holmes, M.S., C.C.C., BCBA David L. Holmes, Ed.D. Susan Kabot, Ed.D., CCC-SLP Martin Kozloff, Ph.D.

time and expertise to this edition.

NEW AND EXPANDED! Volume 2 is expanded to include 9 issues, one for every month of the school year, on the following topics of vital importance to most students including those with ASD: • Handling Change • Handling Disappointment • Basic Manners • Personal Space • Getting a Thought Stuck in Your Head • Having a Conversation • Transitions • Full Body Listening • Self Talk

Rebecca Landa, Ph.D., CCC-SLP

While you are contemplating your summer plans, do not forget to register for the Autism Society’s National Conference. This year’s conference will be held July 7-10 in Dallas, Texas, and will encompass a range of important and relevant topics to the autism community. April is the designated month for autism awareness. Those of us involved in or touched by the autism spectrum know that every month needs to be about building awareness. However, during April we especially thank you for your invaluable efforts.

Gary LaVigna, Ph.D. Bennett L. Leventhal, M.D. Brenda Smith Myles, Ph.D. Cathy Pratt, Ph.D., BCBA Edward Ritvo, M.D. Frank Robbins, Ph.D. Stephen Shore, Ed.D. Ruth Christ Sullivan, Ph.D. Luke Y. Tsai, M.D. Diane Twachtman-Cullen, Ph.D.,CCC-SLP

Your 2010-2011 subscription includes: • 9 issues, 10 student copies of each issue – only $5.10 per student; $.57 per issue • Opportunities for both you AND your students to submit ideas and receive feedback • Online teacher support materials geared to the specific topic of each issue – saving you time and ensuring you have relevant resources at your fingertips

Jennifer Twachtman-Reilly, M.S., CCC-SLP Margaret Whelan Michelle Garcia Winner, SLP, MA-CCC Harry Wright, M.D., MBA

Cathy Pratt, Ph.D., BCBA Autism Society Board Chair

Emeritus Members Edward Carr, Ph.D., BCBA (1947-2009) O. Ivar Lovaas, Ph.D.

Price: $51.00 Code: 9301

Gary Mesibov, Ph.D.

Be among the first to subscribe to this exciting new magazine. Order by June 11, 2010!

Bernard Rimland, Ph.D. (1928-2006) Eric Schopler, Ph.D. (1927-2006)

Panel of People on the Spectrum of Autism Advisors (PSA) Lars Perner, Ph.D. (Chairperson) Dena Gassner, MSW

Autism Asperger Publishing Company

Sharisa Joy Kochmeister Sondra Williams • 877-277-8254 (phone) • 913-681-9473 (fax)

Zosia Zaks, M.Ed.

6 Autism Advocate



Autism Advocate 7

feature ]

Social Skills Training

Social Skills Training [


many of the strategies described above can lead to positive changes. Many of the

Major Types of Skills Training Applied Behavioral Analysis  Discrete Trial Training: Lovaas, 1987

CognitiveBehavioral   Relationship

Development Intervention: Gutstein, 2007

 Verbal Behavior

Therapy: Sundberg & Partington, 1998

 Pivotal Response

Treatment: Koegel & Koegel, 2006

 Video Modeling and

Video Self-modeling: Bellini & Akullian, 2007

Social Skills Training for Children on the Autism Spectrum

 Augmentative

P h oto co u r t e s y o f p h oto e d it i n c .

Communication and Visual Supports used in the context of ABA (e.g., PECS system): Frost & Bondy, 2006

Current Research and Integration

8 Autism Advocate


Greenspan & Weider, 1998

 Son-Rise Program:

Garcia-Winner, 2006

Kaufman, 1994

 Social Stories: Gray, 2010

 Structured learning: McGuiness & Goldstein, 1997; Baker, 2003, 2005

 Visual Supports to

expand understanding of events and tasks

prompting and reinforcement, have been shown to be effective in teaching a variety of social skills, including attention/eye contact, appropriate content and initiation of conversation, play skills, and frequency and duration of interactions (see Mateson, Mateson, & Rivet, 2007, for a review of 79 studies). Strategies that involve showing children what to do through videomodeling and Social Stories™, developed by Carol Gray (see article in this issue), have also shown positive results (Bellini & Akullian, 2007). Michelle GarciaWinner’s Social Thinking strategies (see article in this issue) are being investigated with the ASD population (Crooke et al., learning enjoys a large evidence base with varied populations not specific to autism (McGinnis & Goldstein, 1997). Trimarchi (2004) investigated the use

an instructor might prompt a student

relationship is a primary factor in

of structured learning with those with

to greet his peers and then reward the

influencing the development of new

Asperger’s Syndrome using my social

student for doing so.

skills. Through following the lead of

skills training manual (Baker, 2003) and

the child and respecting his or her

found at least minimal improvement on

share some of these assumptions

preferences, trust and motivation

90 percent of targeted skills compared to

about manipulating the environment

develop so that learning can occur.

a control group based on parental report.

• Cognitive-behavioral approaches

app r o ac h e s can b e e ff e c t i v e . rewards and those stressing the importance

to change behavior, but they extend

See table 1 above for a listing of some of

the notion to consider how an

the most popular approaches in these

As clinicians and researchers learn from

of building intrinsic motivation.

each other, there has emerged a trend

Some of the major approaches to skills

what happens in the environment. To

towards blending the structured modeling

training can be categorized into three

this end, individuals’ thoughts and

and prompting strategies of behavioral

types as follows:

perceptions become a primary focus

and cognitive-behavioral approaches

 DIR®/Floortime™:

...there is still a gap between the science and practice of skills training in school settings.

T h e r e i s n o o n e m e t h o d t o t e ac h s o c i a l s k i l l s t h at w o r k s f o r

By Jed Baker, Ph.D.

Relationship Based

2007) with positive feedback. Structured

Brushing horses at a children’s ranch

a l l s t u d e n t s a l l t h e t i m e . H o w e v e r , e v i d e nc e s h o ws t h at m an y

 Social Thinking Model:

ABA strategies, which involve modeling,

individual interprets or perceives

• Behavioral approaches, such as

three categories.

Relationship Development Intervention (RDI) and DIR /Floortime® have also been shown to lead to positive changes in behavior, yet there is a lack of controlled studies evaluating these models.

in understanding how someone will

What Evidence Do We Have for the Effectiveness of Social Skills Training?

and practice of skills training in school

Despite these promising outcomes, there is still a gap between the science

with aspects of the relationship-based

Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA),

behave. For example, an instructor

Deciding whether social skills training

approaches that stress the importance of

focus on altering observable events

might explain to a student how others

works is challenging as the definition of

settings. In 2007, Bellini, Peters, Benner

respecting the child’s preferences in order

in the environment (antecedents and

would think and feel if he did not greet

social skills, the social skills targeted,

and Hopf challenged the social skills

to build intrinsic motivation. Too often in

consequences) in order to increase

his peers.

and the ways to teach, generalize and

world after concluding that most school-

the past, the field appeared unnecessarily

certain behaviors and decrease

measure progress differ across studies.

based social skills training efforts were

split between those advocating extrinsic

undesirable behaviors. For example,

That being said, there is evidence that

minimally effective according to their

• Relationship-based approaches posit that developing a trusting


Autism Advocate 9

Social Skills Training

Social Skills Training [


review of 55 outcome studies. They pointed out the problems with many social

Motivation Strategies

skills interventions in schools, including

EXtrinsic Rewards

failure to match targeted goals to the child’s needs, lack of generalization of skills into natural settings, short duration of treatment and failure to motivate skill performance.

Presymbolic language

Key Components of Effective Social Skills Training Based on the outcome research, there are certain critical components of skills training that must be considered in order to ensure skills are taught effectively. I

Use of material rewards or social praise provided after skill enactment. The reward may have no natural connection to the skill in that the reward may not be available in naturally occurring settings. This characterizes the earlier Lovaas discrete trial approach, yet the more contemporary Lovaas approach utilizes intrinsic methods as well.

Intrinsic Rewards Pivotal Response Training often imbeds the child’s interests into the skill lesson and intersperses challenging tasks between easier ones to maintain intrinsic motivation. Verbal Behavior Training starts with “mand” training in which the child learns to request favored items or activities, so that the skill lesson and reward are naturally connected; the reward is intrinsic to the learning situation. DIR®/Floortime™ and the Son-Rise Program follow the lead of the child to gain motivation. RDI attempts to make social referencing fun and engaging in and of itself.

have outlined a flexible model to address many of these issues (Baker, 2003, 2005). The model involves the following five key components: assess relevant skill goals, establish motivation for skills training,

Those with good symbolic language can benefit from strategies in which skill steps are explained in addition to being modeled and prompted.

Good symbolic language

choose appropriate strategies for initial

Extrinsic rewards are provided as above, yet often through the accumulation of symbolic rewards, such as tokens or points on a behavior chart.

skill acquisition, plan for generalization

•E  xplain rationale for working on

challenging skills (that it will help the student reach their own future goals)

• For students who seem not to care about their future, increase self-awareness of strengths and talents to establish future goals prior to focusing on their challenges • Have students teach necessary skills to others to help them feel competent themselves

and consider training typical peers.

1 Assessment: Prioritize relevant skill

P h oto co u r t e s y o f p h oto e d it i n c .


The computer is a useful tool for teaching skills.

• Make socializing fun through high-interest activities

goals based on input from key stakeholders (e.g., the student, parents and teachers) Trying to teach a universal set of skills in a short amount of time has not been effective (Bellini et al., 2007). Recent research suggests that we focus on specific, relevant skill deficits of a student and work on them for a longer period

Based on the outcome research, there are certain critical components of skills training that must be considered in order to ensure skills are taught effectively.

setting? Examples might include

cannot talk about situations or events

There are two considerations in deciding

not responding to peers or teachers,

in the abstract versus those with good

how to teach skills to students. First is

not asking for help when needed,

symbolic communication skills who

the type of strategy used. This depends

not managing their hygiene or dress

can discuss past and future events, and

on the students’ symbolic language and

appropriately and not initiating

other abstract concepts like how people

cognitive skills. Those with good symbolic

interactions with others.

think and feel. For those with excellent

language can benefit from strategies in

symbolic communication, it is possible to

which skill steps are explained in addition

“talk them into” wanting to learn skills by

to being modeled and prompted. Many

highlighting the positive consequences

cognitive-behavioral strategies can be

in the future, such as the promise of

used with such students who are capable

extrinsic rewards or achieving their

of understanding others’ perspectives and

own personal goals. Those with fewer

social cues when they are explained or

2 Motivation: Establish motivation to learn and use skills across settings

according to a particular theory. Instead,

Examples might include violating

Just because we identify skill goals does

I take a functional approach in which

others’ space, interrupting others,

not mean a student is motivated to learn

I ask what skills are necessary for the

talking at others about their interests,

those skills. Table 2 on the previous page

student to function in a desired setting.

imposing their wishes on others,

To help articulate skill goals, I ask the

avoiding frustrating work, insulting

key stakeholders (i.e., student, teachers

others or handling disagreements in

consistently prompt these skills to ensure

and parents) to consider the following

aggressive ways. These are often what

generalization across settings.


we call “disruptive behaviors.”

of time. I typically ask that students, caring professionals and family help prioritize three to four skills to work on for months at a time across settings. This is a manageable number of goals if we are going to require parents and teachers to

In deciding what skills to target, I do not

• What does the student do too much

• What does the student not do

describes ways to motivate students. The table is divided into those strategies that emphasize extrinsic motivation (i.e., rewards after skill use) and those that emphasize intrinsic motivation (i.e., making skill use itself rewarding).

need more immediate extrinsic rewards or experience intrinsic pleasure from the activities themselves.

highlighted for them. For students who have great deficits in symbolic language, one cannot “talk about” how to perform a skill; instead, the instructor must model and prompt the skill in the actual

3 Initial skill acquisition: Teach skills

situation, and perhaps supplement this

using strategies that match the student’s language, cognitive and attention abilities

process with the use of pictures or video

of that might interfere with social

enough of that might interfere

strategies useful for students with less

be taught in a certain sequential order

functioning in a desired setting?

with social functioning in a desired

symbolic communication abilities who


to maintain a future orientation, will

The table is also divided into those

ascribe to a model in which skills must

10 Autism Advocate

symbolic skills, and therefore less ability

of skill steps. FIRST EDITION 2010 •

Autism Advocate 11



Social Skills Training

Social Skills Training [

ensure generalization of skills by involving Crooke, P.J., Hendrix, R.E., & Rachman, peers, teachers and parents in prompting

J.Y. (2007). Brief report: Measuring

Pivotal response treatments for autism:

skills across natural settings.

the effectiveness of teaching Social

Communication, social, & academic


Thinking to children with Asperger

development. Baltimore, Md.: Brookes

Syndrome (AS) and High Functioning

Publishing Company.

Baker, J.E. (2008). No more meltdowns.

Autism (HFA). Journal of Autism and

Arlington, Texas: Future Horizons, Inc.

Developmental Disorders. DOI 10.1007/

Baker, J.E. (2006). The social skills picture


book for high school and beyond. Arlington,

Dunn, M. (2005). S.O.S. social skills in our

Journal of Consulting & Clinical

Texas: Future Horizons, Inc.

schools: A social skill program for children

Psychology, 55:3–9.

Baker, J.E. (2005). Preparing for life: P h oto co u r t e s y o f p h oto e d it

Peers can be taught to be “helpers” or coaches to students with autism during play or work. The second issue to consider is where to teach the skills: in a group, classroom

and coaching to perform skills in natural settings. In Bellini et al.’s (2007) review of

The complete guide to transitioning to adulthood for those with Autism and Asperger’s Syndrome. Arlington, Texas: Future Horizons, Inc. Baker, J.E. (2003). Social skills training for students with Asperger’s Syndrome and

Father and sons shopping together

worse yet are being teased, it is crucial that training of “typical” peers become

related social communication disorders. Shawnee Mission, Kan.: Autism Asperger

with Pervasive Developmental Disorders, including High-Functioning Autism and Asperger Syndrome, and their typical peers. Shawnee Mission, Kan.: Autism Asperger Publishing Company.

teaching prosocial skills. Champaign, Ill.:

The Journal of Speech-Language Pathology

Research Press.

and Applied Behavior Analysis, 1, 103-110

Sundberg, M.L., & Partington, J.W.

generalization (Bellini et al., 2007). There

in social skills training efforts and one

are, however, benefits to smaller group

of the reasons for mediocre results. I

work (see Dunn, 2005). They can also be

instruction in which students have a

have found it crucial to create written

taught to be good “bystanders” by taking a

chance to befriend each other. Positive

reminders (cue cards, behavior charts

protective role when their disabled peers

results were found for the type of group

or skill lesson sheets) for those parents

are teased or bullied (see Baker, 2003,

instruction provided in my social skills

and teachers working with students.

2005). In addition, they can participate

training manual (see Trimarchi, 2004,

These written reminders are sent home

in social skills groups with their autistic

for a controlled outcome study on group

to parents and distributed to the child’s

peers to provide opportunities to interact

training described by Baker, 2003). If

teachers. Ideally, parents and teachers

in conversation and play.

students have significant behavioral

should have the opportunity to not only

challenges and difficulties attending in

hear what they should prompt their


group settings, it may be best to begin

students to do, but to actually observe how

with individual treatment prior to

the student can be prompted.

one-size-fits-all curriculum in which

to use the skills in natural settings and

generalization, reduce isolation, increase

students are taught skills in isolated

capitalize on interests and preferences

opportunities for friendship and decrease

settings. We must instead target relevant

In addition to establishing contrived or


skills, select teaching strategies that

intrinsic motivation to perform skills as

When targeted students have little

match the child’s language abilities,

described above, students need reminders

opportunity to interact with peers, or

increase motivation to use skills and

12 Autism Advocate


(1998). Teaching language to children with autism or other developmental disabilities.

Bellini, S., & Akullian, J. (2007). A meta-

Texas: Future Horizons, Inc.

Pleasant Hill, Calif.: Behavior Analysts.

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Greenspan, S., & Wieder, S. (1998). The

Trimarchi, C.L. (2004). The

self-modeling interventions for children

child with special needs: Encouraging

implementation and evaluation of a social

and adolescents with autism spectrum

intellectual and emotional growth. Reading, skills training program for children with

disorders. Exceptional Children, 73,

Mass: Addison Wesley Longman.

Asperger Syndrome. Unpublished doctoral


Gutstein, S.E. (2007). Evaluation of the

dissertation, State University of New

Bellini, S., Peters, J., Benner, L., & Hopf,

Relationship Development Intervention


A. (2007) A meta-analysis of school-based

program. Autism, 11(5): 397–411.

Winner, M.G. (2006 ). Think social! A

social skills interventions for children

Kaufman, B.N. (1994). Son-Rise: The

Social Thinking curriculum for school-age

with autism spectrum disorders. Remedial

miracle continues. Tiburon, Calif.: H.J.

students. San Jose, Calif.: Think Social

and Special Education, 28(3): 153-162.

Kramer Inc.


schools. We need to move away from a

typical peers as necessary to increase

4 Generalization: Coach students

An overview. Behavior Modification, 31, 5.

communication disabilities in SLP-ABA.

Baker, J.E. (2001). Social skills picture books. Gray, C. (2010). The new Social Story book Arlington, Texas: Future Horizons, Inc. (10th anniversary edition). Arlington,

5 Peer sensitivity training: Target

children with autism spectrum disorders:

child: New strategies and perspectives for

to students with autism during play or

considering a group.

T.T. (2007). Social skills treatments for

behavior for assessment and treatment of

situations was often a missing ingredient

training in typical settings such as

Mateson, J.L., Mateson, M.L., & Rivet,

Skillstreaming the elementary school

can be taught to be “helpers” or coaches

the science and practice of social skills

functioning in young autistic children.

language: Using B.F. Skinner’s verbal

part of the social skills intervention. Peers

There continues to be a gap between

and normal educational and intellectual

McGinnis, E., & Goldstein, A. (1997).

skills training studies, coaching in natural

teaching in a classroom can increase

Lovaas, O.I. (1987). Behavioral treatment

Frost, L., & Bondy, A. (2006). A common

Publishing Company.

or individually. There is evidence that

Koegel, R.L., & Koegel, L.K. (2006).

About the Author Jed baker, ph.d. Dr. Baker directs the Social Skills Training Project in Maplewood, N.J. He consults for schools across the U.S. and Canada. He has published five books: one dealing with challenging behaviors (Baker 2008), picture books on social skills training ( Baker, 2001, 2006) and manuals on social skills training (Baker, 2003, 2005). Dr. Baker and his resources can be reached at


Autism Advocate 13

feature ]

Inclusive Child-Care Centers

Inclusive Child-Care Centers [

services and supports. The goal is that

early childhood center, there is great

child with a disability for the first time.

all children are active participants in the

potential to focus on that child’s social

To focus on providing a resource that

classroom and that they and their families

development. Not all early childhood

offers knowledge about working with

have a sense of belonging.

teachers have the requisite expertise

children of all abilities, Easter Seals has

The early care and education environment

to encourage the social development

also produced the Training Modules for

of a child with autism; however, their

Inclusive Early Care and Education (Easter

significant background and training

Seals, 2008). These modules provide

in supporting and assisting social

teachers of young children the necessary

relationships for typical children can

tools and resources to effectively meet

be adapted to support children on the

the needs of the children with disabilities

typically utilizes a developmental model and is designed to support the healthy social, emotional, cognitive and physical development of each child. In the context of this developmental approach, these

T h e e a r ly ca r e an d

programs can also serve the secondary function of helping to identify young

e d u cat i o n s y s t e m

children who might have developmental

o ff e r s fa m i l i e s

delays or disabilities. Historically, early P h oto co u r t e s y o f e a st e r s e a l s

tr aining services as w e l l as h e l p i n s u pp o r t i n g t h e i r children.

Inclusive Child-Care Centers

An Opportunity for Social Skills Development for Young Children with Autism M.Ed., and Leslie Jackson, M.Ed., OT, FAOTA

14 Autism Advocate


a strong focus on supporting the social

spectrum. Specialized professional skills

they are supporting. Each child can be

can be developed, and educators should

successful in his or her classroom. With

be part of a team of professionals that

training and support, a child-care setting

helps the child achieve optimum social

can be an inclusive and welcoming place


for children with autism. Much of our best early learning happens

children’s developmental progression. In

Supporting Child-Care Centers in Meeting All Children’s Needs

an effort to identify children with autism

Unfortunately, it can be very difficult for

at a younger age, many of the Easter Seals

parents of a young child with autism to

Child Development Centers have initiated

even find a child-care center to accept and

screening using the Modified Checklist

enroll their child. There continues to be

for Autism in Toddlers (M-CHAT),

reluctance on the part of center directors

which is designed to screen children aged

to serve children with disabilities

16-30 months for an ASD. Parents are

(Rosenzweig, Brennan, Hufstutter, &

encouraged to complete this screening

Bradley, 2008). This reluctance may be

for their child. Ideally, systemic use of

related to fear or the lack of necessary

this screening tool will help us recognize

knowledge to address the needs of these

children who are showing signs of autism.

children. Easter Seals has developed two

As with all types of assessments and

tools over the last few years in hopes of

development of young children. Providers in the system are well attuned to the needs of the children they support. Spending a great deal of time with

Young children performing in a bell choir

By Patricia Wright, Ph.D., MPH, Bob Siegel,

care and education programs have had

In the United States, there are close to 12 million young children under the age

Unfortunately, it can be very difficult for parents of a young child with autism to even find a child-care center to accept and enroll their child.

children in their settings makes them well positioned to informally evaluate

For many families, child-care programs are

of five enrolled in early care programs

the first contact with any type of institution

(NCITAC Resource Guide, 2008), and given

outside the home context. Ideally, entry to

the prevalence rise in autism, increasing

these programs is a supportive experience;

numbers of children with autism

however, opportunities can vary depending

spectrum disorders (ASD) are being

on the people and issues involved. A variety

enrolled in such settings. When provided

of programs are available in our nation,

screenings completed in the early care and changing this reality. Through the use education setting, the center staff should of the Operating Standards for Quality

effective services and supports, all

work with parents to learn more about


Inclusive Child Care, center directors

children can be successful in an inclusive

their child in order to address the need

have a resource that can support their

• child-care programs

child-care setting. Inclusive early care

for additional assessment or services as

efforts in running an inclusive program

• Head Start and Early Head Start

and education strives to serve every child


(Easter Seals, 2006). The Operating

• traditional nursery schools

in the typical setting, including those

When a child who has already been

Standards provide information that can

• pre-K classrooms and programs

children receiving special education

identified as having autism attends an

directly address the fear of including a

through our relating to other people. Through these interactions, children become aware of others, learn to make and hold eye contact, observe what others are doing and begin imitating others’ actions. As parents, caregivers and other children respond to a child’s emerging social attempts, the child learns the “rules” of making, keeping and ending contact with others. This back-and-forth between the child and his social partners can be likened to a dance: the child initiates contact and the partner responds; the partner initiates contact and the child responds. As children develop and mature, they learn over time how to use verbal and non-verbal language, gestures and objects to initiate and sustain contact with others. Many children with autism require direct intervention to develop these social skills. An inclusive child-care setting provides FIRST EDITION 2010 •

Autism Advocate 15


Join the Autism Society and add your voice to the growing number of families and professionals supporting those with autism.

Inclusive Child-Care Centers

many opportunities for instruction

Because social skills are so important,

providers structure classroom routines,

with both typically developing peers

quality early care and education programs

transitions and activities so that children

and with staff members who encourage

spend significant time supporting young

know what to do, how to do it and when

the development of socials skills for all

children in learning how to manage social

to do it. This is also true for the ways that

children. Lindsay Bogar, a teacher in a

situations and play negotiations. Some

toddler classroom in the Washington,

children will need support from adults

D.C., area, describes the social skills that

or peers in terms of choosing an activity

Jay, one of her students, has developed

as well as participating in the activity.

while enrolled in her classroom:

Other children may need ongoing positive

may use a “buddy system” to pair children

may suggest play ideas for the buddies.

order to remain engaged with the activity.

relations have changed from a fleeting

Focusing on modeling and acknowledging

Stories™, developed by Carol Gray; see her

appropriate social behavior is an

article in this issue) that feature the child

important strategy for caregivers. This

with autism engaging in a social activity

may require some thought about how

or model a social behavior with puppets.

Jay responded to a crying classmate by

• The Autism Society’s quarterly magazine, the Autism Advocate, a leading source of information on autism-related issues.

together for specific class activities or they

interactions and purposeful social

expresses concern for his peers. Recently,

• Access to a community that provides comfort and essential information to families living with autism.

of young children with autism. Caregivers

feedback from adults and/or peers in

sense of others’ feelings. He regularly

Membership benefits include:

caregivers support the social development

Jay’s attention, engagement, emotional

lack of connection to acquiring a fine

When you join, your membership is good at both the local and national levels. Become a member today — you can help!

• Membership in your local chapter.

They may also use stories (such as Social

• Valuable resource information and advocacy for autism-related issues. • A 5% discount when you shop at our online store. (You must be logged in at the site in order for your discount to be applied.)

Membership Levels:

saying, “Sally, don’t cry. Why? No cry Sally, no crying.” This was immediately followed by his own Barney rendition, singing, “I love you, you love me; we’re family. With a great big hug...hug for Sally.”

Addressing Social Skills Development

Some children will need support from adults or peers in terms of choosing an activity as well as participating in the activity.

o $25 ~ Household

o $75 ~ Champion

o $50 ~ International

o $150 ~ Professional

o $1,500 ~ Lifetime

Donation Levels: o $25

o $50 o $100 o $500 o $1,000 o Other

Total Amount: Name (s)

Young child and teacher work with building blocks.


All young children, with and without

City State

disabilities, have difficulties at times Zip

figuring out “the rules” about following directions, negotiating and sharing toys,


sitting near others without invading

(By providing your e-mail, you will receive our e-newsletter. Your e-mail will be kept confidential.)

their space, or using language to get what

Payment Information:

they want, especially if they never had

o Check o Visa

o MC o AmEx

to do these things before. In addition Name on card

to the challenges that many children with autism have in reading others’

Card #

non-verbal language (facial expressions,


harder time participating fully in a group,

To join, please mail or fax the attached form, or go to our website,, and join online using

out play disputes and managing personal

our secure server. Please mail or fax to: The  Autism Society

for all young children, and instruction in social skills is an important part of the learning process in the early care environment. 16 Autism Advocate


P h oto co u r t e s y o f E a st e r s e a l s

including following directions, working space. These challenges are very typical

According to a 2009 study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as many as one out of every 110 children today will be diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder. The Autism Society estimates that 1.5 million Americans and their families are now affected. Autism is costing the U.S. at least $35 billion annually. Autism knows no racial, ethnic or social boundaries and can affect any family regardless of income, lifestyle or education. The chances of knowing a person or family affected by autism are increasing every single day. Although the overall incidence of autism is consistent around the globe, it is four times more prevalent in boys than in girls.

Autism is treatable. Help the Autism Society improve the lives of all affected by autism today. Become a member today.


body gestures, etc.), they may have a

Today, 60 families in America will learn their child has autism.

P.O. Box 96223 Washington, DC 20090-6223 Fax: 301-657-0869 Your donation is tax deductible to the extent allowable under the law. Thank you for your support!

1 in 110 children born in America will have autism. Please help by texting AUTISM to 50555 to make a $10 donation.

April is Autism Awareness Month! See page 66 for lots of ways to get involved! FIRST EDITION 2010 •

Autism Advocate 17

feature Inclusive Child-Care Centers

Through training and education, children with autism can learn alongside their typical peers. Benefits of Working Together Easter Seals child development centers strive to meet the child-care needs of all children. Using the Operating Standards and Training Modules helps form a bridge that allows early care and education programs to support children with autism in participating with others and gaining necessary social skills. As with all effective early childhood programs, success in any endeavor will always be a function of the quality of the partnership between the setting and the family. The stronger that relationship and shared focus is, the better opportunity each child has for developing and progressing to his or her highest potential. Marsha Herman, a classroom teacher in an inclusive childcare center in Virginia, gives a glimpse into the success that a child can achieve when everybody works together:

Incorporating Social Skills Learning [

Michael entered the preschool at just barely two. His mother was very excited about his acceptance into our program and expressed her desire to work together with our center to accomplish whatever would be in Michael’s best interests. Initially, Michael was very active and showed little interest in group activities or any toys on the shelf. While the rest of the class sat for a story, he would move about the room, unable to sit. Sometimes he would take toys off the shelf, dumping them on the floor or table and ultimately leaving them where they lay only to move on to another item. Michael did not play with other children, but would wander about seemingly without purpose. Over the next several months, Michael was screened by an occupational therapist, physical therapist and speech therapist. He was found to be on the autism spectrum. He began to have individual therapy while the teachers in his classroom strove to meet his needs. All of those involved with Michael’s care feel the success that comes from a team approach to a child’s care combined with the examples set by other classmates within a program that believes in inclusion. This success can best be noted when he completes a puzzle and looks up at the teacher’s face with a wide smile and sparkling glint in his eye. You know at that instant that he feels happy with his own accomplishments.

Early care and education provides support to millions of children and families in the United States. Increasing numbers of children with autism are in urgent need of quality child care, and many receive it in an inclusive program. Through training and education, children with autism can learn alongside their typical peers. With effective

This year

services and supports, all children can be


successful in an inclusive child-care setting.



c o m m e m o r at e s 1 0

Easter Seals (2008). Training modules for inclusive early care and education. Chicago: Author. Easter Seals (2006). Operating standards for quality inclusive child care. Chicago: Author. Rosenzweig, J.M., Brennan, E.M., Hufstutter, K., & Bradley, R. (2008). Childcare and employed parents of children with emotional or behavioral disorders. Journal of Emotional and Behavioral Disorders, 16(2):78-89.

y e a r s o f e d u cat i n g

P h oto co u r t e s y o f m a rg a r e t p o g g i


chil dr en diagn osed on the au tism sp e c t r u m . Students learning and accomplishing by sharing the slide.

LearningSpring School

Incorporating Social Skills Learning into the Curriculum

Survey of Income and Program By Shoshana Farber, Danielle Ferrante, Jessica Lally and Margaret Poggi

Participation (2008, May). National Childcare Information and Technical Assistance Center Resource Guide, 2-3.

About the Authors Patricia Wright, Ph.D., MPH, Bob Siegel, M.Ed., Leslie Jackson, M.Ed., OT, FAOTA

Patricia Wright, Ph.D., MPH, is the National Director of Autism Services for Easter Seals. She has a passion for education and advocacy, and has dedicated her career to ensuring that individuals with ASD are fully included in society.

Leslie Jackson, M.Ed., OT, FAOTA, is a pediatric occupational therapist and child development specialist with a passion for children and their families. Leslie coordinates a family support project for Easter Seals and recently concluded work on a training project aimed at training early care providers on inclusion of young children with disabilities. • FIRST EDITION 2010

direction of our educational curriculum

a small group of parents and supporters

coordinator. We differ from other schools

who shared a common need and goal: All

in that we also employ a social skills

children should have a place to learn, to

curriculum coordinator and a social

grow and to belong. In the fall of 2001,

programs coordinator, who, along with

LearningSpring School opened its doors

our school psychologist, is a certified

to give our students the chance to be all

Relationship Development Intervention

that they can be, while learning in an

(RDI) consultant. The social programs

atmosphere that fully recognizes how

coordinator is responsible to our students,

they struggle in developing their social/

our parent body and our community as

emotional skills. We are unique in our

an RDI consultant. She provides training

mission of incorporating social skills

to our staff and plans RDI lessons for

learning into the curriculum.

Bob Siegel, M.Ed., is currently the National Director of Easter Seals Children’s Services, with over 100 sites around the country. This follows a long career of leadership in the field of early care and education.

18 Autism Advocate

When we started our school, there was

each class; she also works with parents interested in carrying over RDI into

A Multi-Faceted Social Skills Curriculum

their family life. We have adapted RDI

LearningSpring adheres to the New

into our everyday activities to address our

York State Learning Standards under the

students’ core social deficits. Our talented

strategies (which are described below)


Autism Advocate 19


Incorporating Social Skills Learning

Incorporating Social Skills Learning [

The six main relationship-based objectives of RDI Z

Emotional Referencing




Social Coordination

Declarative Language

Flexible Thinking

core deficits of autism. According to the

• foresight and hindsight.

R Relational Information Processing

X Foresight and Hindsight

silly words or stop speaking altogether

founders’ theory, the most important

The second objective, social referencing,

to more naturally prompt the child to

goal for people diagnosed on the autism

demonstrates how an RDI objective is

reference for information. Staff and

spectrum is a fulfilling quality of life,

addressed at LearningSpring. To learn

students both enjoy the activities and

which includes close friendships,

“eye-contact,” social referencing is used

strategies RDI instills, thereby increasing

reciprocal family relationships, rewarding

to imply that there is a purpose and

the chances of intrinsic motivation and

employment, independent living and

information to be gained from looking at


long-term relationships/marriage. RDI

a person’s face rather than just looking

is essentially designed to be a parent

at their eyes. During a formal lesson,

training, with the parent in the “master”

Using a Multi-Sensory Teaching Approach

a planned activity may be “Follow My

role and the child in the “apprentice”

LearningSpring uses a multi-sensory

Eyes to the Prize” (Gutstein & Sheely,

role; however, it has been adapted to

teaching approach to address the

2002). This activity includes a master

Students explaining their science experiment to their teacher.

fit our needs in a school-based setting.

academic needs of our students. Students

(staff member), beanbags, a desired object

learn through hands-on activities that

via the social skills homepage on our

community. For the past two years, we

LearningSpring’s school psychologist and

and an apprentice (student). The staff

encourage them to examine, explore

have been fortunate to be able to visit a

social programs coordinator have been

member hides an object under one of the

and make connections using all of

neighboring school for structured recess.

certified in RDI, and during our yearly

beanbags, then the master and student sit

their senses. Students work in groups

Our four youngest classes have visited our

staff development week, other staff are

across from each other with the beanbags

or with partners to promote social

In addition to formal social skills lessons

partner school weekly, and we hope that

trained in the techniques of RDI as well as

between them. Using no language,

interaction, collaboration and flexibility.

At the beginning of each academic year,

and ongoing social skills reinforcement in

we cannot only continue this program, but

how to implement it throughout the day.

the master looks at the beanbag under

Our teachers and therapists facilitate

we read a Social Story™ to our students

each classroom, we lead weekly interest

expand it to include all of the elementary

Monthly refreshers are utilized to update

which the object has been placed. The

communication and help our students to

to explain our special program: “In social

groups. Since most of our students have

grades we serve.

staff on the skill area of focus and to offer

child must reference the master’s face,

problem-solve together. Classrooms are

skills, we learn how to be a good student,

specific interests, we use them to promote

Finally, realizing that there is only so

ideas of how to elicit desired behaviors

particularly his or her eyes, to determine

arranged to facilitate this interaction;

friend and member of our community.”

social interaction. Groups are determined

much we could do during the school day,

in the classroom and during therapeutic

which beanbag is hiding the object.

tables or desks are clustered together to

These include skills such as “saying

by student choice. They gather weekly in

we recently developed an after-school

times. Each class is scheduled for a

Upon success, the master and apprentice

allow students to share ideas and work

hello,” learning the listening position,

structured meetings supervised by one

formal RDI lesson weekly, which is led

celebrate together with excitement

together. Throughout the day students

by both the school psychologist and the

and possibly high-fives to reward the

are encouraged to interact in simple ways,

social programs coordinator, with active


such as handing out materials, using each

RDI specialists have worked tirelessly to integrate the curriculums in such a way

P h oto co u r t e s y o f m a rg a r e t p o g g i

For the most part, all of our social skills classes focus on the same theme at the same time in order to promote school-wide consistency.

website (see

that every academic session also addresses along with suggestions for carrying over students’ individual goals, as well as the classrooms’ social goals.

learned skills at home.

developing frustration strategies, knowing or two teachers. The idea is that students spend this time together focusing on their the words we say versus words we think

program that allows us to incorporate RDI components into fun activities to maximize our students’ social progress.

participation from the classroom and

other instead of their teachers as sources

and interrupting politely. Such skills are,

interests, but in a social and dynamic way.

in turn, parts of larger themes, such as

For example, this year the Pokémon group

communication, feelings and teamwork.

has spent the past few months working

For the most part, all of our social skills

on costumes, creating a script and filming

classes focus on the same theme at the

a movie that they created. Our interest

Basics of RDI

• emotional referencing,

a teacher might prompt a child to pay

Teachers Working Together

same time in order to promote school-

groups have encouraged and fostered

Relationship Development Intervention

• social coordination,

attention verbally by perhaps saying the

Over the years, we have found that

wide consistency. In order to encourage

friendships school wide.

(RDI) is a foundation-based therapeutic

• declarative language,

student’s name and then redirecting him

staff communication is fundamental in

carry-over at home and generalization of

We also encourage social skills

approach created by Dr. Steve Gutstein

• flexible thinking,

or her. Using RDI strategies a teacher

connecting the academic and social skills

skills, weekly updates are given to parents

development through partnerships in our

and Dr. Rachelle Sheely to address the

• relational information processing, and

could change the tone of his/her voice, use

curriculums successfully. This connection

20 Autism Advocate


As our after-school program grows, we plan to include typically developing peers from neighboring schools.

related services staff.

In the classroom, simple techniques can be used to engage students in an activity

The six main relationship-based

or lesson when they may be losing focus

objectives of RDI include:

or need redirection to attend. Commonly,

of information and, at appropriate times, assisting in small conflict resolution with their peers.


Autism Advocate 21



Incorporating Social Skills Learning

who says you can’t have it all? Advance your career without putting it on hold.

is facilitated through weekly class meetings and individual consultations between our coordinators and teachers. In addition, we use a planning for

No matter how busy your life is, The Chicago School can help you build or advance a career doing what is important to you. Our master’s and doctoral programs prepare professionals to work with a wide variety of mental health issues and developmental disabilities to make a lasting impact in the world. You’ll learn from practitioner faculty who are seasoned leaders in the field, you’ll take classes at times that are convenient for you, and you’ll graduate with a degree and résumé-worthy experience in a field you love.

integrated teaching model, called Lesson Plan a la Carte™, developed by autism professionals Valerie Paradiz, Todd Germain and Sarah Borris. At least once a month, the classroom team, including

Master’s and doctoral degrees offered weekdays, weekends, and evenings at our Chicago, Southern California and Online campuses. P h oto co u r t e s y o f p h oto e d it i n c .

the head teacher, assistant teachers and therapists, collaborate to plan a lesson. Together they identify appropriate therapeutic goals to address social, sensory and communication deficits, as well as academic goals for the lesson. Therapeutic goals specifically address the

Psy.D. in Applied Behavior Analysis Concentrations include: Instructional Design, Developmental Disabilities, and Supervision and Consulting Psy.D. in Clinical Psychology M.A. in Clinical Psychology-Applied Behavior Analysis Specialization M.A. in Clinical Psychology-Counseling Specialization Certificate in Applied Behavior Analysis ...and more

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Teacher facilitates group learning

core deficits of autism, such as recognizing emotions, fine motor difficulties, initiating

of what they read about is reinforced

consistently strived to provide our staff

interactions and problem solving.

through their formal social skills lessons.

with the newest research, but more

We are constantly looking for

importantly, we have worked together to

opportunities to teach our students

translate this research into best practices.

to be good community members. This

We now understand that we will always

extends beyond assigning jobs within

be updating our curriculums in order to

our classrooms. In the past, students

best serve our students, both academically

have banded together in an effort to raise

and socially.

money for charity. They are currently


Other Initiatives that Reinforce Social Skills This year LearningSpring has introduced a new literacy curriculum that aptly combines literacy instruction with character development and social skills. Voices Reading is organized into six themes: Identity Awareness, Perspective Taking, Conflict Resolution, Social Awareness, Love & Friendship, and Freedom & Democracy. The curriculum incorporates differentiated reading instruction, while touching on topics

participating in our LearningSpring-athon, where they have chosen to dance, read or play games with each other for an extended period of time. The money they raise will be donated to the Red Cross for Haiti relief efforts.

that are relevant and significant to our

Much has changed at LearningSpring

students’ social development. Much

School over the past 10 years. We have

Dr. Rachel Tarbox

Gutstein, S., & Sheely, R. (2002). Relationship Development Intervention with children, adolescents and adults: Social-emotional development activities for Asperger Syndrome, autism, PDD and NLD. London: Athenaeum Press.

About the Authors Shoshana Farber, Danielle Ferrante, Jessica Lally, and Margaret Poggi The authors are all staff at LearningSpring School: Shoshana Farber is the Social Skills Curriculum Coordinator. Danielle Ferrante is the Admissions Coordinator. Jessica Lally is the Educational Curriculum Coordinator. Margaret Poggi is the Head of School. For more information about LearningSpring School, visit 22 Autism Advocate



Autism Advocate 23

feature ]

Teaching and Supporting Social Skills at School

Teaching and Supporting Social Skills at School [

For the amount of time children spend in school, the relationships students develop with their peers are significant for their current and future quality of life.

On an y g i v e n sc h o o l d ay, s t u d e n t s can b e o bs e r v e d r u nn i n g , c l i m b i n g an d p l ay i n g w i t h f r i e n d s at r e c e ss .

P h oto co u r t e s y o f p h oto e d it i n c .

Enjoying music therapy class

The FRIEND Program Teaching and Supporting Social Skills at School By Sheri S. Dollin, M.Ed., Lori Vincent, M.Ed., BCBA, and Sharman Ober-Reynolds, MSN, C-FNP, CCRP

During lunch students can be seen

24 Autism Advocate


The school experience can be a lonely

with a list describing what a friend should

one, particularly for individuals with

not do, such as bullying or teasing. They

autism spectrum disorder (ASD) or

do not think of positive characteristics of

other social differences. The core

a friend. Research regarding individuals

characteristics of ASD, which include

with high-functioning autism and

social, communication and behavioral

Asperger’s Syndrome revealed that the

challenges, affect the development of

amount of time spent with friends during

meaningful social relationships. However,

childhood significantly predicts their

when children with ASD or other social

later quality of life. For the amount of time

differences are prompted, encouraged and

children spend in school, the relationships

supported by their peers throughout the

students develop with their peers are

school day, they have the chance to learn

significant for their current and future

and practice social skills.

quality of life.

As a result of a deficit in communication

Bauminger et al. (2008) studied the

and social skills, individuals with

friendships of students with high-

ASD may not have the ability to form

functioning ASD and Asperger’s

meaningful friendships. Without a

Syndrome. A comparison of friendships

plan to teach and support social skills,

between a child with ASD and a typical

students with ASD may not initiate social

peer (“mixed” friendship) and a child

interactions with typical peers during

with ASD and another child with ASD or

unstructured times, such as lunch, recess

other disability (“non-mixed” friendship)

or free play (Hauck, Fein, Waterhouse, &

revealed that typical friends do influence

Feinstein, 1995). Also, students with ASD

the quality of the interaction. Mixed

may not respond to initiations or other

friendships were found to be comparable

demonstrate appropriate social behaviors

spectrum. In fact, social challenges are

social approaches by their typical peers

to friendships between two typically

independently with minimal structure

not limited to students on the autism

(Lee, Odom, & Loftin, 2007). Recess,

developing students. In addition,

and support.

spectrum. There are many students with

lunch and other unstructured times of

students with ASD in mixed friendships

social differences who struggle during

the school day may be associated with

exhibited higher receptive language, more

these times. Not understanding why a

isolation and low engagement for a child

complex levels of coordinated play, more responsiveness and cohesiveness to their

eating and talking with their classmates.

Social Challenges at School

Both settings are filled with the

Although students share a common space

peer is “different” may lead to teasing,

with social differences (Nelson et al.,

sounds of students interacting with

during lunch and recess, the quantity

bullying or social shunning. Without the


friends, and higher levels of positive social

one another. Like most schools, lunch

and quality of their peer interactions

implementation of a comprehensive social

According to Dr. Tony Attwood (2001),

orientation as compared to the students

and recess are the two activities where

may differ between typically developing

skills program, some students may be

when students with ASD are asked, “What

with ASD in “non-mixed” friendships.

students are expected to learn and

students and their peers on the autism

vulnerable to bullying or social isolation.

makes a good friend?,” they often respond

However, the researchers also found that


Autism Advocate 25


Teaching and Supporting Social Skills at School

Teaching and Supporting Social Skills at School [

P h oto co u r t e s y o f p h oto e d it i n c .

The FRIEND Program includes three primary components: the FRIEND Program Peer Sensitivity Curriculum, FRIEND Playground Program and FRIEND Lunch Program. Time for lunch!

The FRIEND Playground Program (FPP) offers school-wide support on the

of targeted students with peers as well

playground to structure and facilitate

interactions. The parents of a student in a

activities, which can create an inclusive

FRIEND Lunch Program reported when

environment for all students. School staff

they started the program their son began

structure and facilitate activities on the

to have more friends over to the house

playground that are geared around the

after school. They also felt the program

specific interests of students with social

gave them a better understanding of how

differences. No student is required to

to provide support during these visits;

play; however, by providing preferred

therefore, creating a positive experience

structured activities, these students

for everyone. School administrators at

become interested and have the support

several schools also noted a decrease in

to be successful at interacting with their

problematic behavior on the playground

peers. During these activities social

for all students when the FRIEND

coaching is provided to all students to

Program was implemented.

develop and practice appropriate social,

While implementing the FRIEND

communication and play skills.

Playground Program, a second-grade

The FRIEND Lunch Program (FLP) is a structured lunch group consisting of one student with ASD or other social difference and same-age, typically developing peers. School staff create opportunities for students to develop and practice appropriate social communication skills during lunchtime.

as the quantity and quality of these

boy with ASD was playing a game with two peers. A classmate approached the group and asked the adult facilitating the FRIEND Program if she could play too. The adult prompted the girl to direct her question to the kids playing the game. The girl did this and the young boy with ASD responded by saying, “Sure, you can play too.” The girl looked at the adult with an expression of surprise and said, “I didn’t

children with ASD in “mixed” friendships

FRIEND (Fostering Relationships in

Program Peer Sensitivity Curriculum,

had fewer opportunities to take on

Early Network Development) Program.

FRIEND Playground Program and

leadership roles during activities, which

The program supports the development

FRIEND Lunch Program. These

suggests the need for teachers, clinicians

of social and interpersonal skills for

components, or interventions, can be

and parents to ensure that interactions

school-aged children; creates a culture for

implemented individually or in any

with typical peers are structured in such

understanding and accepting individuals

combination as a comprehensive program.

a way that the special skills and talents

with ASD and other social differences;

of students with ASD are recognized and

...this program often creates opportunities to improve the overall acceptance of and teach appropriate social behaviors to students during lunch and recess.

know he could understand.” During the FRIEND Lunch Program, one member of a typical peer group, a longtime companion to the student with ASD, demonstrated kindness and

Program Implementation

This program is not designed to replace

The FRIEND Program Peer Sensitivity Curriculum (PSC)

and effects school-wide change benefiting

other evidence-based social skills

impacts awareness and understanding of

implemented in schools throughout

students, faculty, staff and families alike.

interventions, such as video modeling,

ASD and other social differences. The peer Arizona and has become part of the school

This program offers an evidence-based

priming or social skills curriculums.

sensitivity curriculum provides direct

culture. Implementation of this program

realized the child was capable of doing

strategies to peers and school faculty

often creates opportunities to improve

these things on his own. The facilitator

Based on the research on social deficits,

framework to teach social, communication Rather, it creates a framework in which and play skills by adding structure in these intervention models can be

to learn how to interact appropriately

the overall acceptance of and teach

directed the peer to prompt his friend

social relationships and social skills

natural settings to increase appropriate

meaningfully implemented and social

with students with social differences.

appropriate social behaviors to students

to request help rather than just do

interventions, the Southwest Autism

social interactions in schools.

skills can be generalized throughout the

This curriculum can be implemented as

during lunch and recess. Evaluations

everything for him. The typical peer

Research & Resource Center (SARRC;

The FRIEND Program includes three

school day. The three components are as

a collaborative process between school

of these strategies have demonstrated

immediately changed his behavior and developed the

primary components: the FRIEND


faculty and parents.

significant increases in the engagement

told his friend to ask if he needed help. A


The FRIEND Program

26 Autism Advocate


The FRIEND Program is currently being

friendship by doing everything for his friend with autism, such as opening his friend’s milk cartoon and bag of chips at lunch. The FRIEND Program facilitator


Autism Advocate 27


Teaching and Supporting Social Skills at School

Teaching and Supporting Social Skills at School [

few moments later the typical peer turned

lunch and recess. Students with ASD

the interactions among typical peers and

to the facilitator and asked, “What do I

may have challenges relating to their

peers on the autism spectrum. When the

do if he needs help during class?” The

peers, and likewise, the peers do not

typical peers learn skills that help them

facilitator suggested he apply the same

always know how to relate to students

relate to students with ASD, all students

rule during lunch to all situations. He

with ASD. In addition, peers commonly

can learn and grow together. Whether

should prompt his friend to raise his hand

interact with a student with ASD through

the typical peers are kind, helpful and

and ask for help. With this information the an adult. The first story demonstrates peer’s eyes opened wide, he let out a laugh missed opportunities to interact between

accepting, or are hurtful and ignore

and said, “Oh, yeah. I get it. I could do this

their peers with ASD, their behavior can

the girl and boy, which makes us wonder

interfere with the opportunity to develop

all the time.”

how many missed opportunities there

or practice meaningful functional skills.

Both of these stories shed light on some

are among all students. These scenarios

common issues related to inclusion during

illustrate the importance of the quality of


References Attwood, T. (1998). Asperger’s Syndrome: A guide for parents and professionals. Philadelphia: Kingsley. Bauminger, N., Solomon, M., Aviezer, A., Heung, K., Brown, J., & Rogers, S.J. (2008). Friendship in high-functioning children with autism spectrum disorder: Mixed and non-mixed dyads. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 38, 1211-1229.

Hauck, M., Fein, D., Waterhouse, L., &

of academic achievement: A longitudinal

Feinstein, C. (1995). Social initiations

analysis. School Psychology Quarterly, 17,

by autistic children to adults and


other children. Journal of Autism and

Nelson, C., McDonnell, A.P., Johnston,

Developmental Disorders, 25, 579-595.

S.S., Crompton, A., & Nelson, A.R. (2007).

Lee, S., Odom, S.L., & Loftin, R. (2007).

Keys to play: A strategy to increase the

Social engagement with peers and

social interactions of young children with

stereotypic behavior of children with

autism and their typically developing

autism. Journal of Positive Behavior

peers. Education and Training in

Interventions, 9(2): 67-79.

Developmental Disabilities, 42(2): 165-181.

Malecki, C.K., & Elliott, S.N. (2002). Children’s social behaviors as predictors

All children deserve a positive school experience where they can maximize

About the Authors Sheri S. Dollin, M.Ed., Lori Vincent, M.Ed., BCBA, and Sharman Ober-Reynolds, MSN, C-FNP, CCRP

their social and academic achievements. Malecki and Elliott (2002) found that social skills significantly predicted

Sheri S. Dollin, M.Ed., is the Director of Education & Training Programs for the Southwest Autism Research & Resource Center (SARRC) and co-author of the FRIEND Program. She is also a member of the NATTAP Steering Committee.

end-of-year achievement test performance

Lori Vincent, M.Ed., BCBA, is the Senior Educational Consultant for SARRC and co-author of the FRIEND Program.

on high-stakes testing. A comprehensive

Sharman Ober-Reynolds, MSN, C-FNP, CCRP, is a family nurse practitioner, research coordinator for SARRC and co-author of the FRIEND Program. She is the mother of three terrific sons, the oldest of whom has autism.

social skills program can provide the foundation for such an environment by inspiring attitude and behavior changes in young people that last a lifetime. Tolerance, acceptance and understanding are important messages for today’s youth. While schools may present these ideas to

Photographs can serve as an important tool for socialization.

P h oto co u r t e s y o f B r i a n k i r st

students, they are not always provided sufficient opportunities and support to practice the appropriate behaviors that support these concepts. Once educated, all students can develop the understanding and skills to engage and interact with each other. Schools and parents share a common desire that all children be happy at school. Extending learning beyond the classroom and into the lunchroom, the playground and beyond is essential to

Once educated, all students can develop the understanding and skills to engage and interact with each other.

providing students with the appropriate social learning to become successful and caring adults. The FRIEND Program provides the structure and strategies to support social learning across school environments throughout the day.

28 Autism Advocate



Autism Advocate 29

feature ]

Peer-Mediated Instruction and Intervention

Peer-Mediated Instruction and Intervention [

S o c i a l i m pa i r m e n t

With young children, social play and interaction with at least one peer is the primary focus of peer-mediated instructional strategies.

an d d i ff i c u lt y w i t h s o c i a l r e c i p r o c i t y— o r u n d e r s tan d i n g t h e bac k- an d - f o r t h

interpersonal and personal-social

peers will increase social responding,

development, and may be the most

sometimes expand social exchanges and

effective and empirically supported type

heighten their social engagement. For

p e r h aps t h e s i n g l e

of social intervention for children and

children and youth with ASD who have

most defining

youth with ASD (Maheady, Harper, &

functional communication skills (i.e.,

Mallette, 2001).

can express their needs to adults and

nat u r e o f s o c i a l

P h oto co u r t e s y o f p h oto e d it i n c .

i n t e r ac t i o ns — i s

f e at u r e o f a u t i s m (American Psychiatric Association, 1994; National Research Council, 2001).

Effective Social Skills Training for Children and Youth with ASD

30 Autism Advocate


PMII is designed to increase social engagement with peers for children and youth with ASD. Specifically, the goals of PMII are to:

Brothers enjoy an outing together.

Peer-Mediated Instruction and Intervention

Goals of PMII

By Jennifer Neitzel, Ph.D.

instructional approaches can address

Research has shown that children and

these concerns by teaching children and

youth with autism spectrum disorders

youth with ASD new social skills and

(ASD) respond less frequently to social

increasing social opportunities within

initiations and engage in shorter

natural environments, often a primary

interactions due to their difficulties in instigating communication and

goal of families.

• teach peers ways to talk and interact with children and youth with ASD, • increase the frequency that children

understand verbal instructions), social skills training groups that involve both children with ASD and peers may be more effective.

PMII for Early Childhood: Peer Initiation Training In early childhood, peer initiation training involves directly teaching typically

and youth with ASD intermingle with

developing peers how to (1) socially

typically developing peers,

initiate (or start) an interaction with

• extend peers’ social initiations with students with ASD across activities in the classroom,

children with ASD and (2) appropriately respond to children with ASD when they socially initiate.

understanding social cues. Stereotypic or

Peer-Mediated Instruction and Intervention Across the Age Span

repetitive behavior (e.g., hand-flapping,

Peer-mediated instruction and

body rocking, head rolling) or other

intervention (PMII) can be implemented

inappropriate behaviors (e.g., tantrums)

with pairs or small groups of children

developing peers and students with

the primary focus of peer-mediated

also may decrease the likelihood that

across the age range, starting in preschool

ASD that are positive and natural in

instructional strategies. Social play

typically developing peers will encourage

and extending through high school. With


and interaction involve all three of the

social contact with children who have

young children (i.e., 3-8 years of age),

PMII is most useful for children and

ASD (Bass & Mulick, 2007; Lee, Odom,

practitioners can use peer-initiation

youth with ASD who have limited

& Loftin, 2007; McConnell, 2002). As

training, or a buddy approach, to help

communication skills, rarely initiate or

a result, children and youth with ASD

learners with ASD acquire important

respond to social interactions with peers

have fewer opportunities to engage in

social skills. For older students (i.e.,

and do not appear to be benefiting from

independently beside or near another

social exchanges to practice and acquire

9-18 years of age), PMII has been shown

group instruction. For these children with

child and using the same play space or

social and play skills. Peer-mediated

to have positive effects on academic,

ASD, persistent social initiations from

materials); and

• minimize teacher/adult support (e.g., prompts and reinforcement), and • promote interactions between typically

Focus of the Intervention With young children, social play and interaction with at least one peer is

following features: • orientation (being aware of other children); • parallel/proximity play (playing


Autism Advocate 31


Peer-Mediated Instruction and Intervention

• common focus (engaging in activities

1 C a s e S t u dy:

Ea r ly Ch i l d h o o d Taylor is a 4-year-old with ASD who receives services in an inclusive

directly involving one or more peers,

Peer-Mediated Instruction and Intervention [

patting, holding hands, shaking hands

variety of routines and activities (Laushey

and relationships with peers. Peer social

• provide a network of support to

(Odom et al., 1993).

& Heflin, 2000).

network interventions were developed to

students with ASD to promote

help students with ASD gain access to the

independence; and

including informal turn-taking, active

A class-wide peer buddy system also

sharing of materials, giving to and

can be used to increase the number of

requesting items from someone else,

peers who interact with the child with

asking someone to play).

ASD. With this approach, children in the

Late Elementary Through High School: Peer Social Networks As children and youth with ASD proceed through late elementary school and into

An important focus of the planning and

class have different play partners each

implementation process is to help children

day. A chart can be created that displays

address his goal of increasing his

with ASD become socially engaged with

pairs of children’s names printed on

number of initiations with typically

peers. Therefore, teachers and other

individual cards. Each day, the cards are

content, more rapid instructional pacing,

developing peers by implementing

practitioners support children with ASD in systematically rotated so that each child

and increased expectations for academic

a peer-mediated intervention. Her

acquiring the skills they need to establish

early childhood program. His teacher, Ms. Megan, has decided to

middle and high school, they are faced with increasingly difficult curricular

general curriculum as well as develop peer relationships (Carter & Kennedy, 2006).

of relationships with peers (Carter &

Goals of Peer Social Networks

Hughes, 2007; Thiemann, 2007).

The specific goals of a peer social network

Just as in early childhood, training peers

are to:

about ways to interact with students with

• help students with ASD gain meaningful ASD is a critical step at this age as well. However, the specific content of the peer access to peer relationships and the general education curriculum by

training sessions will vary according

has the opportunity to buddy with a

performance. The peer culture also

focusing on specific target skills, such

to the age of the students. For example,

as responding to peers, maintaining

with elementary-aged students, training sessions focus on teaching peers how to:

plan is to first train two typically

and maintain a common focus with peers.

different peer. At “buddy time,” children

changes during adolescence, with peer

developing peers about how to

This, in turn, provides the opportunity for

check the chart and find their name as

relationships becoming more prominent.

conversations and interactions, and

respond to Taylor’s initiations.

other social play skills, such as orientation

well as the name of their buddy. During

As a result, children and youth with

initiating exchanges with peers;

and parallel play, to develop.

free play, children play with their buddies.

ASD have an increasingly difficult time

the peers work on this skill. Ms.

Peer training typically involves two

Teachers prompt interactions as needed

establishing and maintaining interactions

Megan plans to take an active role


during this time.

Next, she will plan and implement a structured play activity to help

in the play activity at first to prompt

• direct instruction and practice with

and reinforce Taylor’s exchanges

a teacher/practitioner and other

as well as the peers’ responses.

typically developing children; and

Once the peers have begun to respond to Taylor with very little prompting, Ms. Megan will focus

• practice with at least one child with autism during a structured play session.

following skills: • Stay with your buddy. Peers learn that they must stay with their buddy

on identifying times when she can address Taylor’s target skill across

critical in helping typically developing

continually play with the same toys.

the day. Her goal is to help Taylor

peers acquire the skills they need to

initiate interactions with typically

successfully interact with children with

taught to stay in the same area with

developing peers during most

ASD throughout the day. During these

their buddy and play with the same

routines and activities. Ms. Megan

training sessions, typically developing

materials by joining in their buddy’s

peers learn how to:

activity, offering toys and asking their

some pointers about how they can help Taylor initiate conversations with his two typically developing siblings as well as with children in

• organize play (making suggestions for play activity, role or other play for peers); • share (offering, giving or accepting a

to (1) talk to their buddy about what they are playing with, (2) play pretend

hopes that by systematically


engaging in pretend play activities.

in this way, she can help Taylor acquire his target skill quickly so that he can use it in many different settings across the day.

32 Autism Advocate


Peer initiation training and class-wide

with ASD complete a task, get on play

peer buddy systems are highly effective

equipment or respond to requests for

at increasing the social skills of children

assistance); and

with ASD and can be used across the

• provide affection and praise to the

day to expand the number of social

child with ASD through hugging,

interactions that take place during a

• keep an exchange going,

• give and accept compliments,

Middle/High School

Melissa is a 13-year-old student with ASD who goes to a middle school where the majority of her education takes place within general education classes. During her time in these classes, Melissa talks with her teachers, but has very little contact with her typically developing peers. A goal for Melissa is to interact with peers more frequently, especially at lunch time where she often sits by herself. To work on this goal, the autism support professional, Mr. Douglas, looks at Melissa’s schedule and talks with each teacher to identify five typically developing peers who might be willing to take part in a peer social network. Once the peers have been identified, Mr. Douglas invites them to an initial training during a free class period. During this training, Mr. Douglas talks with the peers about the goal of the intervention as well as specific strategies that can be used to help Melissa interact with them more often. Mr. Douglas also helps the peers identify Melissa’s areas of interest, which can be used as conversation starters. Next, Mr. Douglas works with the peers to create a schedule that contains information about who will be responsible for implementing the intervention during specific classes, as well as strategies for starting and sustaining interactions with Melissa. For example, the peers create cue cards that contain conversation starters focused on Melissa’s areas of interest (e.g., “I watched American Idol last night. What did you do?”). The peers can then show Melissa the cue cards, which will hopefully prompt her to start a conversation or interaction with them. By implementing the intervention in this way, Mr. Douglas is helping to create a network of support across the day to help Melissa increase the number of interactions she has with peers.

• Talk to your buddy. Peers are taught

games, and (3) talk to their buddy while

• provide assistance (helping the child

2 C a s e S t u dy:

buddy if he/she would like to play.

play material to/from the child with

• respond to initiations,

greetings, topics),

• Play with your buddy. Peers are

their neighborhood. Ms. Megan implementing the intervention

between students with ASD and peers;

• initiate interactions,

• start and engage in conversations (e.g.,

in the same area, playing and taking turns. However, they do not need to

parents to provide them with

• decrease the widening social gap

Prior to “buddy time,” peers are taught the

Direct instruction and role play are

also plans to talk with Taylor’s

• support the potential development

• take turns and share, • help others and ask for help, and • include others in activities (Thiemann & Goldstein, 2004). During these training sessions, typically developing students also identify preferred activities of the student with ASD and generate scripts that can be used during social interactions throughout the day. Teachers encourage peers to come up with words or phrases they can say during activities to initiate and prolong conversations with students with ASD. These phrases are written on a skill sheet that contains a picture of two students with topic bubbles. The phrases or words are written in the topic bubbles. A list of prompts and models that might be necessary to promote social interactions also can be generated by teachers and peers at this time (Sasso et al., 1998). These types of strategies help peers


Autism Advocate 33


Peer-Mediated Instruction and Intervention


Initiating Interactions

After the initial brainstorming session, peers are taught to “look, wait and listen.” This approach allows the student with ASD time to initiate a conversation and/or respond to a peer. The teacher then role-plays with a peer to provide an example of how to use the skill in an activity. Peers also have the opportunity to role-play with one another to further practice the use of the target skill. Following each role play, the teacher provides feedback and reinforcement for participating in the activity (Garrison-Harrell, Kamps, & Kravits, 1997).

Training middle and high school students is a bit different because they do not remain in one classroom for the entire day and often have different teachers for specific subjects. Therefore, a special educator may be the most appropriate person to implement peer support network interventions. Middle and high school students need less direct instruction by the special educator and more active participation in the development of peer network interventions. During initial training sessions, peers are provided with the following: • the goals and rationale for the intervention (to help the student with ASD respond to peers, maintain conversations and interactions with peers, and initiate exchanges with peers); • an overview of what is expected of them during their interactions with the student with ASD; and • information about how students with ASD communicate, interact with their environment and learn (Carter & Kennedy, 2006). The special educator also may provide descriptions of the likes and dislikes of the student with ASD. 34 Autism Advocate


Next, special educators describe basic strategies peers can use to support the student with ASD during social interactions. These strategies include: • providing frequent, positive feedback; • modeling contextually relevant communication skills; and • facilitating exchanges with other peers. Special educators model the use of these strategies with peers at this time. Peers also can role-play with one another to practice skills. At the conclusion of the activity, the special educator and peers discuss when and where the student with ASD may need support from peers to engage in social exchanges with others. For instance, peers write down their daily class schedules and match them with the focal student’s schedule. A schedule of interactions is then developed based on the times the student with ASD needs additional support and when one of the peers is available to provide assistance.


Autism Advocate 35


The Hope Chest

Peer-Mediated Instruction and Intervention

during exchanges with students with

Horner, M. Snell, & J. Blancher. (Eds.),

National Research Council. (2001).

ASD and also increase the likelihood that

Handbook of Developmental Disabilities

Educating children with autism.

meaningful interactions will occur.

(pp. 310-328). NY: Guilford Press.

Washington, DC: National Academy Press.

Carter, E.W., & Kennedy, C.H. (2006).

Odom, S.L., McConnell, S.R., Ostrosky,

Promoting access to the general

M., Peterson, C., Skellenger, A., Spicuzza,

curriculum using peer support strategies.

R., Chandler, L.K., McEvoy, C.A., &

Research and Practice for Persons with

Favazza, P.C. (1993). Play time/social

Severe Disabilities, 31(4):284-292.

time: Organizing your classroom to

Garrison-Harrell, L., Kamps, D. & Kravits,

build interaction skills. Tucson, AZ:

T. (1997). The effects of peer networks

Communication Skill Builders.

on social-communicative behaviors for

Sasso, G.M., Mundschenk, N.A., Melloy,

students with autism. Focus on Autism

K.J., & Casey, S.D. (1998). A comparison

and Other Developmental Disabilities,

of the effects of organismic and setting


variables on the social interaction behavior

Laushey, K.M., & Heflin, L.J. (2000).

of children with developmental disabilities

Enhancing social skills of kindergarten

and autism. Focus on Autism and Other

children with autism through the training

Developmental Disabilities, 13(1):2-16.

of multiple peers as tutors. Journal of

Thiemann, K. (2007). Effective

Autism and Developmental Disabilities, 30:

instructional practices for teaching students


with ASD in the classroom. Presentation

Lee, S., Odom, S.L., & Loftin, R. (2007).

to Autism Spectrum Disorders-School

Social engagement with peers and

Support Program, McMaster Children’s

stereotypic behavior of children with

Hospital, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, July 9,

autism. Journal of Positive Behavior


American Psychiatric Association. (1994).

Interventions, 9(2):67-79.

Thiemann, K.S., & Goldstein, H. (2004).

Diagnostic and statistical manual of

Maheady, L., Harper, G.F., & Mallette,

Effects of peer training and written

mental disorders (4 ed.). Washington, DC:

B. (2001). Peer-mediated instruction

text cueing on social communication


and interventions and students with

of school-age children with Pervasive

Bass, J.D., & Mulick, J.A. (2007). Social

mild disabilities. Remedial and Special

Developmental Disorder. Journal of

play skill enhancement of children

Education, 22(1):4-14.

Speech, Language, and Hearing Research,

with autism using peers and siblings

McConnell, S.R. (2002). Interventions

as therapists. Psychology in the Schools,

to facilitate social interaction for young

For More Information


children with autism: Review of available

Please visit the Autism Internet Modules

Carter, E.W., & Hughes, C. (2007). Social

research and recommendations for

Web site (www.autisminternetmodules.

interaction interventions: Promoting

educational intervention and research.

org) for more in-depth information about

socially supportive environments and

Journal of Autism and Developmental

how to implement PMII in classrooms,

teaching new skills. In S.L. Odom, R.

Disorders, 32(5):351-372.

schools and the community.

Conclusion Although PMII typically is implemented within classrooms and other school-based settings, these types of interventions also can be used to support social interactions in community- and home-based settings. For example, teachers and other practitioners also can train parents about how to use specific strategies at home and in the community to foster relationships with siblings, neighborhood friends and other family members. When PMII is used across a variety of settings, it increases the likelihood that children and youth with ASD will use newly acquired social skills effectively and with a number of different individuals; thus, enhancing their social development and meaningful relationships with others.

References th

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All proceeds raised by The Hope Chest Keepsake Jewelry are dedicated to the therapeutic and biomedical support of a young child with autism.

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Jennifer Neitzel, Ph.D., is an Investigator at the Frank Porter Graham Child Development Institute, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where she has served as a content specialist at the National Professional Development Center on Autism Spectrum Disorders. Her work has focused on developing online training modules and professional development materials to support teacher and practitioner implementation of evidence-based practices in programs that serve learners with ASD. 36 Autism Advocate



Autism Advocate 37


Peer-Mediated Instruction and Intervention

S o ci a l Co n t e x t, S o c i a l S t o r i e s™ an d C h an g e Key Elements to Improve the Social Understanding of Individuals with ASD

Peer-Mediated Instruction and Intervention [

By Carol Gray


tephanie, age 11, is diagnosed

important realization: Either there are zillions of Story topics, or there is only one.

with Asperger’s Syndrome. I

In a very real sense, there is only one

work with her in the upstairs

Story. It’s called social context. I also call

office of my home. Two years ago, at the

it the “mother topic.” Most, if not all, Story

close of a session, Stephanie began to

topics can be traced back to it. In this

leave, calmly leading the way downstairs,

article, I offer a new working definition of

through the living room where her mom

social context, as well as an introduction

was sitting, to the back doorway of the

to Social Stories™ for those unfamiliar

kitchen. Suddenly, she spun around to face

with this approach in supporting people

me. Her mood had changed. Anxious, she

with autism as they learn to navigate the

asked, “Mrs. Gray, why did you change

social world. Finally, since change is a

your dog’s name to Popcorn?” On the floor

common source of anxiety for people with

in the kitchen was a bowl of water for

autism spectrum disorders (ASD) in many

Hoben, my basset hound, and written on it

social situations, I bring my newly defined

was the word POPCORN.

overlay of social context to the process of

A typical child likely would have missed the popcorn bowl on the floor, or, if the

creating Social Stories™ for them, with a

inherently dynamic.

specific eye on how they react and adjust

Relationships, co-authors Temple

agenda. And since these factors can

Social Conte xt

Grandin and Sean Barron (both

quickly change in arrangement or

individuals with an ASD) estimate that

combination—and thus priority—it is

In my study of social context, I have never

social rules “probably number in the

important to note that the interpretation

encountered a definition of the term in

billions—a staggering thought for anyone,

of social context is inherently dynamic.

any dictionary or autism resource, so I

an inconceivable image for a person who

turned to the dictionary definitions of the

name). An out-of-place object, in this case

has any level of impairment in social

individual words social and context, as

a popcorn bowl, and an inaccurate story

understanding” (2005; p. 117). Social

well as to the experience and insights from

caused Stephanie’s anxiety to rise. If this

factors and social rules have also been

people with ASD, parents and professionals, referred to as the “hidden curriculum”

Stephanie, however, the bowl was an unexplained disruption. When she saw the popcorn bowl, she created a story that reflected her unique perception (that Mrs. Gray had changed Hoben’s

is Stephanie walking into my kitchen,

to change.

to develop the following definitions:

imagine what her school day is like among

1 People, plus any place, purpose or

23 classmates. i l lu st r at i o n co u r t e s y o f v ec to r sto c k is important to note that the interpretation of social context is

popcorn bowls!), to intent, to political

intuitively known the bowl’s “story.” To

predicament; 2 the meaning derived

Although I have been working in the


Social Stories can help children understand what to expect on the playground.

In The Unwritten Rules of Social

bowl had been noticed, would have

38 Autism Advocate

P h oto co u r t e s y o f c a ro l g r ay


(Myles, Trautman, & Schelvan, 2004), having a “scope and complexity [that] rival the most complicated of sciences”

from an individual’s simultaneous

(Winner, 2008; p. 213). Like a jigsaw

field of autism for nearly two decades,

identification and consideration of

puzzle with an uncountable number

developing Social Stories™ (Gray &

social factors at any point in time

of pieces, social factors and rules are

Garand, 1993) as a tool for parents and

(past, present, future), including place,

based on meaning that is derived from

professionals, Stephanie helped me learn

a person or people, a purpose, a

everything, from the arrangement or

something new that day. I came to an

predicament and/or pragmatics.

placement of objects in a room (even

If we could draw a map of social context, what would it look like? The diagram in Figure 1 on the following page places an individual (represented as “Name”) at the center of his or her own social experience in a given context. The six elements of this context (within which numerous social factors can be sorted) surround the individual:

1 Place: all places and the inanimate factors within them;

2 People: all groups and the factors they represent and generate; FIRST EDITION 2010 •

Autism Advocate 39


Figure 1.

Figure 2.

and rarely, if ever, work in isolation. In

The six Elements of Social Conte x t

S i x S o c i a l C o n t e x t E l e m e n t s an d S a m p l e S o c i a l Fac t o r s w i t h i n Eac h

terms of actual social factors, there are obviously many more, and factors from several elements are often operating at the same point in time. Social context is not new to Social


pragmatics/ Communication


N a m e ______________


past, Present & future




Pa s t , Pres en t & Fu t u re

Prag mat i c s / Communication

Public/private Time of day

Stories™ emphasize the important


connections between a present situation,

Posted rules or signs

relevant past factors and future outcomes


or implications. A defined social context,


however, is new to Social Stories™ and

Objects: placement, arrangement, ownership, wrapped/ unwrapped, etc.

makes a positive difference for people


4 Pu rp o s e & Pre d i ca m e n t


outlined in figure 2. Additionally, Social


3 Pe rs o n


to translate social factors into topics by describing the elements of social context


2 Pe o p l e


Stories™. In fact, Social Stories™ work


1 P l a ce

when we develop them.

Social Storie s™

Safety Sounds, music

As mentioned earlier, Social Stories™


describe a wide variety of events, situations,

purpose & Predicament

Collective relevance and relationship Culture, values

Relationship Responsibility, power

Number of…


Location and arrangement within a place, activity, event, etc.


Groups/cliques/ teams, including: inclusion in or rejection from; estimated average age; gender(s); general grooming; collective behavior; communication within; conflict, competition, and/or cooperation within, etc.

Health Cognitive abilities, thoughts, beliefs, intent (positive/ negative), knowledge, etc. Mood, affect Personality and personal rules Talents, interests, likes, dislikes Location, appearance

Individual or shared goals, including: activities, events, celebrations, routines, schedules, endeavors, etc., and the rules that guide them. Individual or shared obstacles (concrete or hidden), including: natural disasters, storms, weather, change (positive or negative), mistakes, setbacks, support (finance, technical, social, emotional), etc.

General and recent history of a place, people, or person

Words, spoken or written

Familiarity of a place, people, or person

Eye gaze

Immediate and/ or long- term responses and/or outcomes


Connections between current situation/ interaction, statements, etc., to past and future


Voice tone, volume Thoughts Beliefs, paradigms Facial expressions Posture Distance Communication rules

Humor (and its frequent ties to related past—or details of—current events)

Unwritten rules or agreements

activities, interactions, skills, concepts and ideas. They are developed according to 10 criteria that define the process that creates them, as well as the characteristics that contribute collectively to their overall

3 Person, including physical factors and those related to personality, interests, etc.;

6 Pragmatics and social communication.

patient and reassuring quality (the physical, social and emotional safety of the Story itself). The goal of every Social Story™

While social context surrounds each

is to meaningfully share information

individual, each individual, in turn,

about the most relevant aspects of a topic,

goals, activities and events, and the

is an element in the social context of

highlighting important cues and in some

anticipated and unanticipated factors

others. Figure 2 on the next page takes

cases describing new, more effective

that are encountered in their pursuit;

us a step further, by delineating each

responses. Text is illustrated with photos,

element of the social context, including

drawings and, in some cases, figures and

factors that lie in related past events,

some examples of social factors that fall

and/or the anticipation of responses or outcomes; and

4 Purpose and predicament:

5 Past, present and future: the

40 Autism Advocate


Today, Social Stories™ are regarded as

• interviews with members of the

definition of social context becomes

an evidence-based practice (Barry &

educational team and, if possible, the

very valuable. It helps us to refine the

Burlew, 2004; Bledsoe, Smith, & Simpson,


theories that guide the writing of the

2003; Brownell, 2002; Horner et al., 2005;

• student observation;

Story. By replacing our “intuition” of

Wright, 2007).

• first-hand experience and observation;

what the social context represents

The first step to an effective Story is developing a topic that “hits the nail on

and; • history, including general history of

with a defined framework, parents and professionals can consider the data they

the head.” Toward this goal, information

a topic and a student’s relevant past

have collected alongside the elements

should be gathered from a variety of


and factors that often present social

sources, such as:

Sometimes, gathering information is

obstacles to a student. The diagram

diagrams, and is always selected with

• data (e.g., information gathered via

not enough. You may have all of the

of social context in Figure 1 and the

within them. Keep in mind these sample

a student’s interests and preferences in

functional analysis and/or other

data, but what to actually include in the

delineation of sample factors in Figure

factors are stated in very general terms

mind to engage attention (Gray, 2010).

objective measures of behavior);

Story remains at large. This is when the

2 serve to fine tune theories regarding


Autism Advocate 41

spotlight ]

Peer-Mediated Instruction and Intervention

Social Stories™ attuned to the problematic nature of change can be very beneficial to someone on the spectrum since they break down the notion of change into understandable categories.

Peer-Mediated Instruction and Intervention [

than a week to complete, and I thoroughly

be made between Story topics, a new

frustrated my friends; however, I did

consistent, “pivotal” vocabulary emerges

discover a few basic rules of change.

to underscore their common threads. For

• Some changes are expected (leaves

example, imagine being assigned the task

falling in autumn, day to night).

of writing about the feelings of surprise

Expected changes often result in plans

and disappointment. Where to start?

or routines (raking leaves, bedtime).

They are both related to change (from

what may be challenging for a student, as

Rules are pervasive social factors; they

well as identify the factors that need to be

are listed in five of the six elements of

described in his or her Story.

social context in Figure 2. Ironically, the

(tornado). People try to predict the

very social rules that have frustrated both

unexpected changes that can affect

students with ASD and those working

their plans or routines.

Social Conte x t an d S o c i a l S t o r i e s ™ A b o u t C h an g e

on their behalf are a key to the solution. Rules structure experience. According to Nancy Minshew and Diane Williams,

To demonstrate what I mean, consider

“[i]ndividuals with autism are generally

the issue of change. Change is one of

operating on facts and rules…” (2008;

the most frequent sources of distress

p. 51). Working together as co-authors,

for students with ASD, often resulting

Temple Grandin and Sean Barron

in intense displays of negative emotion

discovered that talking with one another

or behaviors that can cost opportunities

about social rules was very helpful. “The

to build or keep friendships. To begin,

more we talked about them, the more they

consider “change” and its relationship to the elements of social context outlined in Figure 1. Change is a social factor stemming from purpose (when change is a planned goal, like turning on a favorite television show) and predicament (when change is a surprise, like a “D” on a test). At its very worst, change is a negative predicament, with the potential to suddenly and adversely impact the elements of social context—a place, the

made sense to us; new meanings surfaced.

• Some changes are unexpected

• Some changes are wanted (ice-cream cone, new car). • Some changes are unwanted (flat tire, illness). • Changes that are expected and wanted

to children with autism. Focus on Autism

and Other Developmental Disabilities, 19(1):45-51.

welcome change, a bad surprise is

Publishing Company.

both unexpected and unwelcome, and

with Asperger Syndrome. Autism,

disappointment is when a person is sad


and surprised to feel that way.

Brownell, M. (2002). Musically adapted

learning. In K.D. Buron & P. Wolfberg

Social Stories to modify behaviors in

(Eds.), Learners on the autism spectrum:

students with autism: Four case studies.

Preparing highly qualified educators.

Journal of Music Therapy, 39, 117-144.

Shawnee Mission, Kan.: Autism Asperger

Summary Although I have focused on change as

as describing concepts and strategies

people to handle (natural disasters).

for emotional regulation, explaining

of understanding” (2005; pp. 117-118).

easy to build connections between Stories

I discovered that similar doors opened

so as to reinforce an understanding of

for me when I researched the topic of

their underlying concepts. For Stephanie,

change in discussions with my friends.

the popcorn bowl was an unexpected

Last summer, I was working on The New

and unwanted change. Making a mistake

Social Story™ Book (Gray, 2010). I wanted

is also an unexpected and unwelcome

to include a chapter of Stories about

change, and can be more difficult to handle. Social Stories™ attuned to the

of control over change by identifying its

problematic nature of change can be very

future plans. Considering the perspective

rules. Also, I wanted to bring attention to

beneficial to someone on the spectrum

of a student with ASD, I can appreciate

the kinds of change that people welcome

since they break down the notion of

how change may be the veritable “bad boy” and embrace, changes that children with

change into understandable categories.

of social context.

Along with the connections that can

Myles, B.S., Trautman, M.L., & Schelvan, Shawnee Mission, Kan.: Autism Asperger

unwanted are the most difficult for

relationships to one another, making it

Autism Asperger Publishing Company.

to improve mealtime skills of an adolescent

Texas: Future Horizons.

rules, which in turn unlocked new doors

qualified educators. Shawnee Mission, Kan.:

A good surprise is an unexpected but

to address other difficult topics, such

outline of Story topics bearing strong

on the autism spectrum: Preparing highly

R.L. (2004). The hidden curriculum.

rules of social relationships. Arlington,

of our own thoughts on unwritten social

K.D. Buron & P. Wolfberg (Eds.), Learners

(2003). Use of a Social Story intervention

procedure applies to using social context

These rules of change provide an

Brain-behavior connections in autism. In

the element of purpose and predicament).

(dinner, a favorite television show). • Changes that are unexpected and

Minshew, N.J., & Williams, D.L. (2008).

Bledsoe, R., Smith, B., & Simpson, R.L.

Grandin, T., & Barron, S. (2005). Unwritten

change to give children with ASD a sense


Social Stories to teach choice and play skills

an example, the same principle and

people in it, purposes and pragmatics,

42 Autism Advocate

Barry, L.M., & Burlew, S.B. (2004).Using

are the easiest for people to handle

In a way, they helped us restructure some

ASD rarely struggle with. It took me more


the rules of friendship or addressing the importance of personal hygiene. A definition of social context can be your guide to what may be the most elusive and dynamic issue for individuals with ASD.

Winner, M. (2008). Social Thinking: Cognition to enhance communication and

Publishing Company. Wright, L.A. (2007). Utilizing Social Stories to reduce problem behavior and

increase pro-social behavior in young Gray, C. (2010). The new Social Story™ book. children with autism. Unpublished Arlington, Texas: Future Horizons. doctoral dissertation, University of Gray, C., & Garand, J. (1993). Social Stories:

Missouri, Columbia.

Improving responses of students with accurate social information. Focus on

Autistic Behavior, 8, 1-10.

It can structure the writing process for

Horner, R.H., Carr, E.G., Halle, J., McGee,

what might be easy for us as parents and

G., Odom, S., & Wolery, M. (2005). The

professionals to decode, but difficult for

use of single-subject research to identify

us to encode for those on the spectrum we

evidence-based practice in special

support and care about.

education. Exceptional Children, 71, 165–179.

About the Author carol gray The developer of Social Stories™, Carol Gray is a consultant to people with ASD and president of The Gray Center for Social Learning and Understanding. For more information, visit Launching this year, a new Social Story™ website ( will contain extensive information on current ideas and insights regarding the approach.


Autism Advocate 43

feature ]


Teen Peer Mentoring

for Young People with Autism

T h i n k bac k t o y o u r f i r s t d ay o f h i g h sc h o o l . I b e t y o u a r e im aginin g crowded h a l lway s ; ta l l e r , o l d e r k i d s yo u d i d n o t k n o w ; an d m ay b e P h oto co u r t e s y o f p h oto e d it i n c .

e v e n h o w m an y t i m e s y o u g o t l o s t.

taken aback by what I saw. In my high school the special education classrooms Learning to make pizza

L.E.A.A.D for Teens™ Peer Mentoring Encouraging Diversity, Tolerance and Respect By Erika Pumilia

I can remember my first day of high school. The school enrolled approximately 2,000 students, and I was very nervous. When I got there the halls were packed and the noise level was horrendous. This was not a very autism-friendly environment.

44 Autism Advocate


were segregated off in their own building. I have told this story so many times, and every time I tell it people ask me, “Why did this secluded set-up bother you, a


freshman in high school?” Or they would comment, “Most high school students do


PRE-K – 12 th GRADE

V illage Gle n S cho o l Bridgepo rt S ch ool Yo un g L ea r ne rs Preschool S un rise Sch o ol n

not really pay much attention to things


like that.” They are right, but I was not like most high school students.


Learning About Autism





In 2000 when I was just nine years old, my mother got a job at the

Founded in 1975, The Help Group serves children with a wide range of special needs and is the largest

Center for Spectrum Services (www.

and most comprehensive nonprofit of its kind in the United States. Recognized as a leader in the field, a school that specializes in the education of

of autism, it offers innovative day school and residential programs as well as therapeutic and assessment

In my first year of high school I never

children with autism. That summer, my

services. Each day, The Help Group educates more than 900 students ages 3-22 in its highly specialized

really saw any of the special education

mother offered me the opportunity to

autism day schools.

classrooms, or students for that matter.

be part of a volunteer program that put

When I did eventually see them, I was

“typical” children in the classrooms to be



w w w. t h e h e l p g r o u p . o r g FIRST EDITION 2010 •

Autism Advocate 45


The Glenholme School

Teen Peer Mentoring

A Devereux Center

The club has two main goals: (1) to educate “typical” peers about the autism spectrum, and (2) to establish genuine friendships and belonging. Join Glenholme’s 2010 Summer Program July 5 - August 20 peer buddies and mentors. I agreed and

An exceptional boarding school for students with special needs; The Glenholme School’s Summer Program provides a rich menu of fun and engaging camp activities designed to strengthen social skills and boost academic proficiency.

was excited to participate. I had never heard of autism before this experience and knew very little about what to expect. When I walked into the classroom it looked like a regular elementary school

Using our effective individualized services, we apply a positive behavior support model focused on development of social skills and lifelong strategies for success. The school’s milieu therapy addresses varying levels of academic, social and special needs development in students, ages 10 - 18.

classroom. The teacher paired me up with a little girl about my age, and we played together for quite some time. She was just like me; she liked to play, and for a 9-year-old girl that was fine by me. behaviors that now I know are associated with autism spectrum disorder ( ASD), but I was not afraid of or intimidated by them. In fact, I was much more interested in learning ways to help these children, and I

• Asperger’s, ADD, ADHD, emotional, behavioral and learning disabilities • Cultural immersion through social events and activities • Academics and Camp • Arts, drama, music, team sports, go-karts, equestrian and much more • Off-campus adventures also available • Minimum 3 consecutive weeks

P h oto co u r t e s y o f p h oto e d it i n c .

As the summer went on, I saw various

Teen boy gives his brother with autism a ride on his shoulders.

went back to volunteer at the school every summer.

L.E.A.A.D™ is Born

up with a way to bring in the “typical”

When I got to middle school, I became

By the time I entered high school, I had

peers. Thus, on April 17, 2007, a club was

interested in autism on a more factual

learned everything a girl like me could

born. I called it Learning and Educating

level. I spent countless hours on the

have possibly learned about autism. When

About Autism Diversity (L.E.A.A.D) for

computer and reading books on ASD.

I saw the secluded special education

teens™. The club has two main goals: (1) to

I even wrote mini “papers” on various

wing, it was difficult for me. I truly did

educate “typical” peers about the autism

ASD’s. Throughout my middle school

not understand why my peers were not

spectrum, and (2) to establish genuine

years, I learned so much about autism that

interacting with the other students and

friendships and belonging.

when I went to the Center for Spectrum

why the school had put them there. I could The difference between L.E.A.A.D™

Services in the summers I was able to

not necessarily make the school move

and other mentoring groups is that

apply what I learned.

these classrooms, so I needed to come

L.E.A.A.D™ is not meant to fulfill an

46 Autism Advocate


Open enrollment for Glenholme’s 2010 Summer Program, Middle School, High School, and Post-Secondary Program Contact Admissions 81 Sabbaday Lane Washington, CT p: 860.868.7377 f: 860.868.7413 www.


Autism Advocate 47


Teen Peer Mentoring

Individualized Education Program (IEP)

education students. These dances are

high school there is a code of conduct

goal or social skills group; therefore, the

always themed. In my experience, these

that protects students who are called

friendships are not forced. Let me break it

dances have become a judgment-free place

a variety of derogatory terms referring

down. Teen mentors, called “L.E.A.A.D™

to be a teenager and have a night of fun.

to “religion, sexual orientation, race or

ers”, meet once a week to plan activities

The very first dance was a Luau theme.

economic status.” However, the code was

and events, and discuss new autism

Everyone was dressed in Luau gear and

information in the media. Every other

truly enjoyed themselves.

week the group holds “chat sessions.” In these sessions L.E.A.A.D™ members stay after school with the students in special education classes and do anything from arts and crafts to basketball with them. The friendships don’t end there, of course; when L.E.A.A.D™ members see one of their new friends in the hallways, they don’t hesitate to say hello. This simple, yet important, act is a way for L.E.A.A.D™ members to model to other “typical” peers that a simple “hello” to a special education

not protecting those students who were called a “retard.” With a lot of time and

Dealing with the School Administration

effort, L.E.A.A.D™ had the code changed

As with all great things, our club has

economic status or intellectual ability.”

encountered challenges. Dealing with

When I first heard the news that the

the school administration was the

code’s wording was being changed I was

most difficult obstacle in starting my L.E.A.A.D™ club. Many administrators found the club “unnecessary.” I expected

to read “religion, sexual orientation, race,

overjoyed. I graduated from high school in June

this because, as a sophomore in high

2009. Graduation was the end of my term

school at the time, I was challenging their

as president of L.E.A.A.D for teens™,

ideas about human worth and potential.

but the beginning of so much more. I

While I thought, and still think to this day, gave a speech on L.E.A.A.D™ at the

student does not hurt.

that mopping floors and handling money

Autism Society National Conference in

L.E.A.A.D™ members are also encouraged

(the kinds of skills the school was teaching

St. Charles, Illinois, in July 2009 and am

to eat lunch with their new friends. A

my friends in special education) are

currently working with two other high

high school cafeteria can be an extremely

valuable, I felt that friendship and a sense

schools in my area to start their own

hostile environment. Sitting with a

of belonging were just as important. It was

friend at lunch lessens the anxiety

a challenge to meet with administrators

and makes everyone feel comfortable.

and just as difficult to face many negative

Acts such as these model respect and

attitudes and feelings of resentment.

inclusive thinking. Like many other clubs,

Despite the negativity, my L.E.A.A.D™

L.E.A.A.D™ participates in school events

members and I pushed on. To show the

like homecoming and winter carnival.

administration we were dedicated and

L.E.A.A.D™ also hosts several events

determined we collaborated with the

throughout the year. The first is Autism

school’s diversity club and Gay Straight

Awareness Day, which is held in April.

Alliance (GSA) to bring attention to

For this students purchase and wear

selective discrimination. What baffled

until a 9-year-old got the opportunity

puzzle piece ribbons, and L.E.A.A.D™

the students in these clubs was the

to experience what a true friend is.

members hand out information on ASD.

number of times the word “retard” was

Our former ideas of peer mentoring are

L.E.A.A.D also hosts a number of dances

used in a derogatory manner (not that

outdated and need a change. So, don’t

throughout the year for the special

there is an appropriate manner). In my

hesitate to take the L.E.A.A.D™!

L.E.A.A.D™ clubs. The L.E.A.A.D™ club in my high school is doing great and is in the hands of my younger sister, Amanda Pumilia, who couldn’t have made me more proud. Club members still have their challenges with the administration, but they work through them. I am going to college now to become a special education teacher, a dream I didn’t know I had

About the Author Erika Pumilia

Erika Pumilia is currently an 18-year-old freshman at SUNY Ulster Community College. She is studying childhood education with the hope of becoming a special education teacher. She is also currently planning another presentation for the Autism Society National Conference in Dallas, Texas, this year. 48 Autism Advocate



Autism Advocate 49

feature ]

Social Thinking and Social Skills in Girls

Social Thinking and Social Skills in Girls [

game is exactly the same, but the rules are hidden, vague and just plain confusing.

Typical Social Development Social development for neurotypical

For most girls and women, the activity of forming peer networks mostly made up of other females is considered a critical “lifeline.”

learners is intuitive at birth and usually manifests differently among the sexes with gender-driven and cultural nuances that develop over time. Anyone familiar with toddlers can give a multitude of examples of how boys, at times, play and think differently than girls. While girls and boys play together and co-exist

W e s t e r n c u lt u r e , e sp e c i a l ly w i t h i n t h e

developmental advances in emotional and

e n t e r ta i n m e n t an d

sexual development lead to different types

elec tronic world, h as a s i g n i f i can t say i n d e f i n i n g h o w P h oto co u r t e s y o f p h oto e d it i n c .

easily in their early childhood years,

f e m a l e s a r e s u pp o s e d t o l o o k , ta l k , ac t an d t h i n k .

of relationships between boys and girls starting roughly in third grade. In later elementary school, cliques begin to form that are increasingly defined as either girl or boy groups. By middle school, most, but certainly not all, kids hang out in gender-driven groups as boys and girls are actively noticing each other’s sexuality and recognizing the emerging feelings of

Teen girl harvests vegetables in school garden

having crushes and desiring a “boyfriend”

It’s a Girl Thing…Right? Social Thinking and Social Skills in Girls, Teens and Women with Social Learning Issues

or “girlfriend.” At this stage, most girls tend to create strong social-emotional support networks as they hang out in groups and explore their emerging feelings and emotions. As they develop a sense of belonging within a social group, they spend more time talking than playing and begin to practice relating to each other.

By Michelle Garcia Winner, M.A., CCC-SLP, Pamela Crooke, Ph.D., CCC-SLP, and Stephanie Madrigal, M.A. CCC-SLP

50 Autism Advocate


members across the country is that

peers and may feel ultimately frustrated,

being part of a group provides a sense of

depressed and anxious about their lack

belonging, which also leads to a sense of

of ability to be accepted. A middle-school

self-validation. Audience members have

girl with Asperger Syndrome succinctly

also shared that group memberships have

summarized this by saying (in a somewhat

allowed them to learn another’s point of

exasperated voice), “You have to teach

view, tolerate when others did or said things

me how to get into a group. When the

with which they didn’t agree, advocate for

bell rings at school, all the girls pop into

themselves (in high school and beyond) and

groups as if it was magic.”

express their ideas in an acceptable way.

For many years, our clinic in San Jose,

Teenage females, for the most part,

Calif., has designed Social Thinking

do “hang out” differently than males.

groups for girls in middle and high school.

Their focus is sprinkled with comments

By the end of high school, however, we

that relate and connect to one another’s

often co-mingle the sexes in a group

thoughts and experiences on an emotional

setting similar to how neurotypical

level. Comments and questions lean

students group themselves on high school

towards expressing and knowing the

and college campuses. However, we also

thoughts and feelings related to an activity

find it is critical not to group students

or to their family and other existing or

based on their age and sex alone. In fact,

desired relationships. Sometime in the late- the range of differences in social learning teen and early adult years, women become

in this population is vast and not well

more likely to have friendships that are a

described by a person’s diagnostic label

mix between male and female. However,

or even intelligence or language level.

for the most part, women (married, single,

Instead, we use a scale to help determine

partnered) form emotional connections

the most appropriate Social Thinking

and seek support from other women over

group based on what we describe as a

the course of their lives.

“perspective-taking level.”

For most girls and women, the activity of forming peer networks mostly made

Social Learning Differences

In fact, these billion-dollar industries are often the “go-to” place for information

up of other females is considered a

For those girls born with social issues,

Social Thinking PerspectiveTaking Scale

about how teens and young women can survive and thrive in the social scene that

critical “lifeline.” For years, while giving

the inability to simply join a group in

The purpose of this scale is to determine

is life. Females, we are told, are from a different planet than males. Yet a recent

workshops on Social Thinking, we would

the early years may spiral over time into

where a person with social learning

bestselling book also tells us to Act like a Lady, Think like a Man. Huh? For females with

query the audience as to why people form

issues establishing and maintaining social

challenges functions without making

neurotypical development, the ability to sift through the forest of social suggestions

social groups (cliques) in middle school,

relationships on any level. However,

assumptions based on high-level language

comes from a combination of innate social sense and cultural learning over time. But

high school and even at worksites. The

the vast majority of our clients yearn

or cognition. Services are then tailored

what happens to those girls and women born with social learning challenges? The

overwhelming agreement from audience

to have social connections with select

to the individual’s social functioning. We


Autism Advocate 51

Social Thinking and Social Skills in Girls

Social Thinking and Social Skills in Girls [

believe that treatment for social skills

own thoughts and that we manipulate

many academic learning challenges.

has historically been “one size fits all” by

each others’ thoughts;

Many are considered “good students”

targeting superficial skills (e.g., greetings,

• Challenges with reading

politeness, etc.) for this population, which is especially problematic for those

comprehension of literature; • Predictable and related challenges with

the classroom or structured peer work groups. Most struggle to find a peer group with whom they can hang out;

expected to function independently and

reading comprehension and written

with nuance in the adult world.

expression, and may appear “odd and

• Having a social executive function

The scale summarized below is part of

awkward” socially when compared to

learning challenge in that they are

our clinical tool determining the level

their peers;

able to tell you the rules for a social

of the social mind, which in turn guides

• Very high intelligence, as well as

We teach that every one of us has to literally “work” at friendship.

even if they don’t participate well in

interaction, but can’t actually follow

when neurotypical peer behavior is the standard to achieve. This approach also prevents group members from forming their own true social relationships with

group placement and the intervention

provide unique scientific contributions

the rules as they get “flooded” by

approach used. It is designed for use with

to the world. However, are easily

too much social information that

children in third grade and up. This scale

recognized by their peers as having

must be processed and responded to

assigned peer buddies.

is not sex specific nor is it intended to be

social learning problems;


Treatment groups for IIPTs are comprised

a developmental scale where children move “up” or between categories. Instead, improvement is noted within the category

• Failure to demonstrate social nuance or sophistication; • Poor social awareness of their own

as the individual makes gains. An article

behavior and how they are perceived

that describes this scale can be found

by others;

on our website (www.socialthinking.

• Generalized anxiety about the lack of


predictability about the world around


them; and

the-school-and-adult-years-for-personswith-social-cognitive-deficits). There are three broad categories that are represented on the scale, but for the purposes of this article, only the two categories that would benefit from a social cognitive approach will be described.

Emerging Perspective-Taker (EPT) Social challenges may include: • History of a language delay or disorder, but later active language users (may be less sophisticated than their same-aged

• Significant sensory integration issues that also require active therapy. This group benefits from a combination of relationship development, Applied Behavior Analysis and Social Thinking. The Social Thinking treatment should

• Acute awareness of how they are

Social challenges may include:

of 3-4 females who all have similar

perceived by peers, and most have

issues. The focus is not so much on how

some level of social anxiety; and

to use social skills when relating in the

• Likelihood to feel depression as they

mainstream classroom or during break,

age. While they look “neurotypical”

but instead on how to understand the

to adult eyes, peer groups notice the

thoughts and emotions of those sitting

differences in social fluency and tend

around the table in the moment. We

to more actively tease and bully this

work to make the implicit explicit. All


are encouraged to learn about the social

Treatment is all about teaching the social

mind, the hidden social rules (“hidden

interpretation of nuances and increasingly

curriculum”), how our thoughts relate

sophisticated response patterns when

to the social skills we are expected to

relating to their peer group.

produce, and how those behaviors impact

Treatment for the IIPT Girl

focus heavily on sorting out and identifying Our sessions focus on developing the others’ thoughts and manipulations. connection between Social Thinking and

Impaired Interactive Perspective-Taker (IIPT)

others in the group who are not their

social skills, and how they link directly to emotional responses, emotional memory and the development (or lack thereof) of longer term relationships. We do not

P h oto co u r t e s y o f Tay lo r M o r r i s a n d ro bi n r i c e


Taylor Morris

My Social Wo r ld : Inside an A spie’ s Psych e

what people think and feel about us. We explore social behavioral nuances

By Taylor Morris

by having each person in the group

Just before class I hear a necklace jingle around the neck of a pretty girl. She is

actively study the impact they have on

gossiping with another pretty girl, who is twirling her pretty hair and talking about

others in the group. They form their

the awesome party where some other pretty girl ruined her dress with a beer stain.

own sense of a group, and from this they learn how it feels to be included.

At the other end of the class, I listen to yet another pretty girl complain to her pretty best friend about how her make-up wasn’t done just right — she is not pretty enough. Meanwhile I’m on my own, at my desk, looking at my calloused hands and unkempt

believe that girls in this group benefit

They often develop their first genuine

inspection and “looking neurotypical”

from being put in social groups with

group-based friendships. We teach that

social games. Their value, their conversations, their lives. How do they devote so

(from an adult’s perspective);

neurotypical peers to model “normal”

every one of us has to literally “work” at

much time and money to that? How do they know just what to say to get “groupies”

social behavior. In fact, this is an overly

friendship. Social Thinking groups are

to follow them?" I sigh and shake my head, thinking of how I don’t own a dress, how

thoughts are different from their own

simplistic model that assumes that

not social performances of practicing

• Very weak ability to read social cues;

thoughts and that we can manipulate

participants just need to “see it” to “do

and memorizing social skills in order to

• Very sluggish in understanding that

each others’ thoughts;

it,” and dismisses the normal feelings of

“look more normal”; they are experiential

embarrassment and social inadequacy

dynamic learning groups.

peers); • Very literal, struggle with paying attention in a group larger than themselves;

your thoughts are different from their 52 Autism Advocate


• Blending in with peers on first

• Intellectually understanding that your

• Not as literal and not faced with as

nails thinking: "The jewelry, the hair, the clothes and the make–up — it’s all their

I wear the same earrings every day, and how I never seem to understand when they speak in what seems like code. With this, I’m once again reminded of how I’m an unwitting member of a social “game” I don't really know how to play. Having an Aspie continued on page 54


Autism Advocate 53

Social Thinking and Social Skills in Girls continued from page 53

mind is a hard-enough social challenge; add to that the complexities of a high school girl's social world and hierarchy and you have just added insult to injury. Over the years I have learned to associate the word “social” with scenes like these. I never have understood the social culture people practice. I just don’t have the ability

Social Thinking and Social Skills in Girls [

pushed us to teach them the process of females progress, combined with input

is heuristic, so I behave in accordance with what I see and directly experience. I can’t

friendship pyramid (see figure on next

"sense" whether or not I’m winning over a person. I have to wait and see how they

page) that helps to show the gradual

treat me in the weeks after I have met them. This creates a whole new challenge in

progression from “being friendly” to

meeting people and making friends, especially girlfriends.

having a friend. Given the Facebook

However, I have learned to use my style of mind to my advantage. For example, I use

phenomenon, where everyone on your

heuristics to decide which people I should and should not try to befriend. I know

list is called a “friend,” we feel the need to

from experience that girls who hang out in large groups of other girls tend to be

describe this process. The core components

a day than I do in a year, and those who match their entire outfit a bit too perfectly. This may seem ridiculous because everyone knows someone who wears a mountain

. Connection with this person is based on circumstances (class, club, stage in life, sport, job, family friend). May “hang out” with them a lot during that common time but connection may taper off as activity or event ends.


Level 3b. On Again-Off

Will spend time with this person outside of more structured times. Bonded friends “look out” for each other and spend time together often. It’s expected that both people will initiate planning time together.


Again Friend

Level 3a. Evolving Friendship

The base is the widest part of the pyramid.

exact kind of people I want to avoid. I know these “rules” in deciding who I will try

It represents something done regularly


A lot of friendships are these!


May begin to seek out this person to talk with, have lunch with or hang out at school. Will text, fB or call occasionally.

. May have short verbal exchanges on a regular basis because you share a class or work with him/her. May be a “friend” on Facebook but don’t really hang out with him/her. Someone with whom you use “small talk.”

interests and/or values, and a gut reaction

heuristics work well. Many of the people I have excluded often did end up being the

girls who became my best friends. They don’t judge me for being slightly different

Level 4. Bonded Friend

adulthood involve trust, shared experiences,

of make-up but is still very nice. Even so, over the years I have found that these

find my way through a social game. Using this method, I have successfully identified

Level 5.

Close Friend

of friendship in adolescence through

that you simply “like” this person.

to interact with are polarizing to an extent, but they are how I have used my mind to

. This is a VERY close friend with whom you may share deeper thoughts and conversations. Not EVERYONE has a close friend ALL of the time and we may only have 1 or 2 in our entire life. Spouses, partners and romantic connections are often these.

friendship. Based on how neurotypical from our students, we developed a

girls who wear shirts worth more then my earrings, girls who wear more make-up in

The Peer-A-Mid: The progression into the development of different types of friends

How do you get a friend? Our students

to “sense” like neurotypicals because my thoughts are literal, not intuitive. My mind

mean to me. Because of this, I know to not try to connect with them. Same goes for

From Friendly to Friendship:

Friendship Pyramid (aka “Peer-a-mid”)



Level 2. Acquaintance . Friendly to this person (look, smile, greet)

Level 1. Friendly – Greeting

with many people during any given day.

but don’t really know him/her or talk to him/ her. There should be many of these each day in school, work or community.

The narrower portions of the pyramid

and don't hold it against me for not having the best sense of style. They have judged

represent something done less frequently

day long, so I guess they don’t think I’m

Curious, Curiously Social: A Guidebook to

relationships. Guys also desire friendships

me by my character, and that is all I ever really wanted.

with fewer people. The evolution in

friendly. I didn’t know that.” This girl has

Social Thinking for Teens and Young Adults

and belonging to a social group, but do not

friendship ultimately leads to the top of

spent the last several months increasing

(Think Social Publishing, 2009).

necessarily use emotional vocabulary as

the number of people with whom she

At the end of the day, girls and young

a way to relate to one another. That said,

is friendly (the base of the peer-a-mid)

women need not only core social skills,

many of the same lessons that focus on the

by smiling, greeting and responding to

but an emotional understanding of their

thinking underlying the expression of the

peers over the course of the day. She now

peer group and their own emotional

skill are beneficial for both sexes. So while

states, “I think I’m ready to move up to

expectations for others. They need to know

we say, “Men are from Mars and women are

For example, there are explicit social

the next level.” A more detailed version of

how to communicate to peers in a way

from Venus,” in Social Thinking everyone

behaviors we use to move from being an

this information is available in our book

that uses their entire body as well as the

is learning thinking and skills for living

acquaintance to developing a friendship.

for teens and young adults called, Socially

emotional vocabulary of friendships and

together on the same planet.

About the Author Taylor Morris

Taylor Morris is a high school junior and an advocate for autism and Asperger's Syndrome. Diagnosed as on the spectrum at age 2, today she no longer has a diagnosis or receives any special services, though she loves having an “Aspie mind.” Find her videos at

the pyramid and, ideally, one or two close friends in our lifetime. As we created these categories, we then began to define specific nuanced behaviors (social skills) students would use to advance from one level of the social relationship to the next.

The core components of friendship in adolescence through adulthood involve trust, shared experiences, interests and/or values, and a gut reaction that you simply “like” this person.

As these categories were developed and shared with our students, the treatment

About the Authors Michelle Garcia Winner, M.A., CCC-SLP, Pamela Crooke, Ph.D., CCC-SLP, and Stephanie Madrigal M.A.,CCC-SLP

sessions took a very different turn.

Michelle Garcia Winner, M.A., CCC-SLP, is a speech language pathologist who pioneered the concept of Social Thinking that she shares through her continued clinical work, international trainings and numerous publications.

Students began to set explicit goals for themselves. The first step was to

Pamela Crooke, Ph.D., CCC-SLP, is a speech language pathologist who is an active Social Thinking therapist as well as clinical faculty at San Jose State University. She published a study on the effectiveness of Social Thinking in 2008 and co-authors books with Michelle Garcia Winner.

recognize where they should place their peers on the peer-a-mid. A teen who

Stephanie Madrigal, M.A., CCC-SLP, is a speech language pathologist who has done clinical work with Michelle Garcia Winner for over 10 years, providing trainings and co-authoring books.

looked at the peer-a-mid for the first time said, “I don’t look or talk to anyone all 54 Autism Advocate



Autism Advocate 55

feature ]

Making Connections Online

I t was 2 0 0 4 . I was 1 7 y e a r s o l d an d i l lu s t r at i o n co u r t e s y o f i s to c k p h m

had b een t ryi n g to s u r v i v e h i g h sc h o o l .

By Alexander Plank

To say that making friends was incredibly difficult for me would have been an understatement. My grades were suffering, and I had been recently diagnosed as an autistic person.

Making Connections Online

Wrong Planet: A Web Community for Those on the Spectrum

I was depressed and my parents didn’t know what to do; they were beside themselves and were afraid that I wouldn’t even make it to graduation. Something was missing in my life and I needed to fill this void. In an effort to find support, I went online to meet other people like me. Unfortunately, at the time, the few autism communities available had at most a couple hundred active members. Consequently, I realized that I needed to create a new online community. I called it because I felt as if I were

56 Autism Advocate



Autism Advocate 57


Making Connections Online

Making Connections Online [

...I believed that I could foster a community of people who would not misinterpret my intentions because their brains would be wired similarly to mine.

Fostering a Community

large community of parents, professionals

reason for this is because the social facade

Here’s an example from my forum of

Back in 2004, I had the idea that I needed

and siblings of those on the spectrum.

that exists while interacting in person

someone introducing themselves to my

to find others who were like me because

What is even more interesting is the fact

is not required on the Internet. This


these people wouldn’t just understand

that these different sub-communities

makes us much more comfortable sharing

Subject: I’m normal; everyone else is

where I was coming from, but would

are able to not only coexist together, but

personal details and makes it easier to


understand me on a social level as well.

also to help each other by answering one

connect on a more intimate level. The

I just learned about asperger’s not 3

What I mean by this is that I believed that

another’s questions and giving each other

following Wrong Planet member writes

days ago, and have to say I’m shocked

I could foster a community of people who

insight into their different perspectives

about the stresses of direct conversations:

that everything that i know to be me is

would not misinterpret my intentions

and experiences.

from a different planet and had somehow,

Aspies [people with Asperger’s]

through some cosmic event, mistakenly

are usually very intelligent; they can

crashed into Earth. This feeling is

just lack an ability to formulate their

common among autistic people.

opinions and knowledge in a socially

because their brains would be wired

acceptable way. ...It is hard for us to

similarly to mine.

speak in person or on the phone even.

It turns out that the niche I had identified

We hear too much around us; we get

MySpace, Twitter) have allowed autistic

someone is expecting a response

in creating Wrong Planet filled a need

people and their families to communicate

immediately as this does not give me

for many others. After only 5 years, we

in ways that were not thought possible

time to process what they have said or to

now have a community of more than

even 10 years ago. Autistic people are

social, especially among our own kind. A lot of the problems we face in social

walked over in conversations or do the

interactions are the result of other people

opposite. Writing is just the preferred

misinterpreting our intentions. We

form of communication because it shows

frequently try to communicate with our

dedication to our thought. It also doesn’t

peers and can become very frustrated

allow you to interrupt and throw us off

when we can’t fit in. The following quote

course, or off what we meant to say.

from a Wrong Planet member sums up

~ Emoal6

Interacting Online The Internet and social media (Facebook,

confusion of real-time conversation. I become very anxious knowing that

translate my reply into something they

33,000 people who have cumulatively

less likely to feel inhibited when they are

posted more than two and a half million

sitting before a computer screen. The

can understand. ~ Aphonos

aspie symptoms. Certainly sheds light on why i stare at people (like Jane Goodall studying apes). Starting to understand the wrong planet concept. . . i live in the sticks where a few shots of whiskey and no one can tell who’s who anyway.

Facilitating Connections Among Parents As I mentioned earlier, parents play a large


In many ways, the autistic mind is

role on Wrong Planet. When a mother or

My website has grown to not only include

geared towards the types of interactions

father connects to, they

that occur on the Internet. We can be

frequently read the posts of those on the

very literal, and the Internet requires

spectrum. I’ve heard from many parents

people to be literal. For instance, even a

who say that reading other autistics’ posts

neurotypical (a person who isn’t on the

gives them valuable insight into the mind

autism spectrum) will not know you’re

of their own children, who may or may not

being sarcastic on the Internet unless you

be speaking. I think this is an incredibly

individuals on the spectrum, but also a

these frustrations:

speech is caused by the stress and

i l lu s t r at i o n co u r t e s y o f i s to c k p h m

You see, autistic people can be very

I think that the child-like nature of my

explicitly say so; for example, through the use of an emoticon (or smiley). What’s great about interacting online is you can reach an entire “planet” of people with whom to interact. In essence, it has made the world even bigger and has allowed people like me to finally find other autistics with whom we can relate.

significant way to bridge the gap between an autistic person and their neurotypical parent. I’m amazed at how positive people can be when they find hope on the Internet in others’ success and knowledge. When parents initially learn about a child’s diagnosis, they’re very influenced by the message they hear first, which may not be a positive one. Parents who initially

What’s great about interacting online is you can reach an entire “planet” of people with whom to interact.

find a network of support are better able to help their child. If parents find a more negative environment first, they are less positive and often become depressed or start looking for someone to blame. The following parent writes about the support

58 Autism Advocate



Autism Advocate 59


Making Connections Online

she received from fellow Wrong Planet members: When I first joined WrongPlanet, I was a

Making Connections Online [

How Wrong Planet Has Helped Me

and managed to graduate high school

I began speaking at conferences and

to give a talk about autism, so I flew out

without being single.

meeting others from my website in real

to Los Angeles in a luxury jet paid for

life. I started obtaining advertising

by UCLA and stayed in a fellow Wrong

revenue for my website, which had opened

Planet member’s mansion in Beverly Hills.

many doors to me. Business prospects

I biked around Hollywood and ran into

were growing and things were starting to

Steven Spielberg and Helen Hunt. Just

look up. Then something happened.

when it seemed things couldn’t get any

It was the second semester of my junior

better, the stock market crashed and the

year. I had been living in a house with

economy went down the tubes.

After creating Wrong Planet, I began to

College was tough for me, and I think I

feel less alone in the world. I wasn’t as

probably wouldn’t have survived it if I had

depressed and my grades improved from

been at it alone. Having the community

be able to reach his potential. I was

D’s and F’s to B’s and A’s. With the help

I created was helpful in not feeling so

scared that my former happy, sunny

of people on the dating section of my

isolated. I met an artist on my website who

child had disappeared, to be replaced

website, I was able to finally meet a girl

became my first long-term relationship.

mess. My first son had been diagnosed with Asperger’s and I didn’t know much about it. I was scared that he wouldn’t

by a very anxious, unhappy boy. I was suffering clinical depression and on

my girlfriend, and things had been going


great. I had switched my major to film

I came to WrongPlanet and immediately

and just purchased an expensive camera.

many members stepped in to mentor me

UCLA invited me to come to their campus

and my sons through.

I could no longer afford the lifestyle I had been enjoying when the economy was thriving. My girlfriend broke up with me, and I became seriously depressed.

We had therapy from an excellent clinic,

My grades started to suffer. It was now

but we wouldn’t have made such leaps

the last semester of my senior year. I

and bounds without WrongPlanet.

had to move out of my three-story house

started to get my finances in check and began to focus on how I could continue

- Smelena

and share a one-bedroom apartment. I

Finding Love

struggled to afford college on my own.

Autistic people from my website have also

But my website was like an old friend;

met and fallen in love. These are people

things began to improve because of all the

who may have never found anyone if they

social skills I had learned there. Like other

hadn’t been able to go online.

users who benefit from Wrong Planet,

Another great thing to hear about is

I too began to meet friends and started

divorced parents of autistics meeting each

seeing other girls.

other through the Internet and eventually

Although I had to take an extra semester

parents for my success and for believing in

to finish college, I created a documentary

me even when they were told I might not

about autism that got a lot of attention. I

graduate high school.

getting married. It’s hard for these divorced parents to find understanding partners, so it makes sense that they

running my popular website (which costs hundreds of dollars a month to finance) and still afford to pay my rent. With time, I finally graduated with a degree in film and now I feel I have my whole life ahead of me. The economy is starting to look up and, most importantly, Wrong Planet is growing strong. I have to thank my

i l lu st r at i o n co u r t e s y o f i sto c k p h m

would try to find a partner on an autism community site. According to Mandi: I met my fiancée on the internet. I kind of stumbled into my relationship. We started out as friends, just talking and learning more about each other and going on “friend dates.” If chemistry is good, both people will feel the same way. When you both know that you really like each other, then you know that there is something special. Both of you have to be completely open and willing to talk and listen to each

Autistic people from my website have also met and fallen in love. These are people who may have never found anyone if they hadn’t been able to go online.

About the Author Alexander Plank

other. When a relationship is real, it will

Alexander Plank, a 23-year-old with Asperger Syndrome, is the founder of Wrong Planet, a web community designed for individuals and parents/professionals of those with autism, Asperger Syndrome, ADHD, PDD, and other neurological differences. For more information, go to or email Alex at

just flow together and happen naturally.

60 Autism Advocate


But my website was like an old friend; things began to improve because of all the social skills I had learned there.


Autism Advocate 61

P h otos co u r t e s y o f K at h l e e n b l avat t

Perspectives Kristina and Kathleen in the car

Teaching Art to Developmentally Disabled Adults Promoting Social Bonding Through Creative Nurturing By Kathleen Blavatt

Sister Kraemar and Mark at Mark’s exhibit

“What was the date I started teaching you art?”

Social Interaction Through Art

My student, Mark Rimland, quickly responded, “March 14th,

In addition to teaching at the center, offering private classes has given me chance to help develop my

1991, you started at St, Madeleine Sophie’s Center, and on May

students’ skills and styles beyond the limitations of the traditional classroom. Also vital are a well-

2nd, 1991, you started teaching me privately.”

equipped studio and subject-matter and reference materials, which I provide in my private lessons.

I couldn’t remember exact dates the way Mark does, but the events leading up to that time were very memorable. I

In fact, this has become just as important as making the art itself. Developing social ability requires a community. My classes have been

as an illustrator and graphic artist when my director received

attended by a variety of students, both with and without disabilities, from

a phone call. Turning to me she said, “This would be the perfect

children to adults, all of them working at different skill levels. Over the

job for you.”

years we have shared many experiences together, forming bonds that

for developmentally disabled adults. I was a little apprehensive about the job. Although I had an extensive background in art, I had never worked with developmentally challenged adults. When I arrived at the center for the interview, I was expecting to see fairly dark, unsophisticated student art, but I was pleasantly surprised to find wonderful, colorful and whimsical work being created there. Equally as wonderful as the art were the students I met. Sister Maxine Kraemer, head of the center, casually interviewed me while giving me a tour of the classrooms and the campus. The lunch hour had begun, and the students were enjoying themselves in the nicely landscaped courtyards and the cafeteria. I was introduced to many adults in the program that day, but the one who stood out was Mark Rimland. Sister Kraemer described Mark as one of their star artists. As we spoke, a big smile came across his face. When we ended the tour, Sister Kraemer gave me a hug. On the drive home I laughed to myself, “I have never gotten a hug at an interview before.” I felt it was a positive sign. When I got home, a phone message was waiting for me. It was Sister Kraemer saying, “You have the teaching job.” I thought about that day’s visit to the school, and my mind kept coming back to Mark’s smile that lit up the room, and since that day, almost 20 years ago, that great smile has been the subject of many of my photos. I worked at St. Madeleine Sophie’s Center for five years. It put me on a fascinating career path. Besides teaching traditional art, I started the center’s computer art program and wrote an art book that was partly based on my teaching at the center. Following that, I wrote a computer art book. These projects provided a way to showcase the students’ artwork, abilities and talents. • FIRST EDITION 2010

Whenever I am instructing, I also try to encourage my students’ development in social interaction.

had been working in the San Diego Unified School District

The very next day, I had an interview for an art teacher position at St. Madeleine Sophie’s Center

62 Autism Advocate

Kristina focuses on her drawing.

have taken us beyond basic friendships. During personal crises we have supported one another, but much of our time is joyful. We have become an extended family.

In most cases, I encourage group classes because I feel the social interaction is important for personal and artistic development.

Mark Rimland, who I first met at my interview at St. Madeleine’s, has been one of my long-time, private students. He is a talented autistic savant. Mark’s father was the famous autism researcher and Autism Society founder, Dr. Bernard Rimland, and his mother Gloria has been a constant supporter of his artistic career. I have also taught Kristina Woodruff, a friend of Mark’s and a well-known art and music savant, for nearly 20 years. My studio classes usually enroll two to nine people at a time. In most cases, I encourage group classes because I feel the social interaction is important for personal and artistic development. Fellow students tend to inspire each other’s art. That is why Mark and Kristina have classes together. I also feel the creative process of making art should be a fulfilling experience. During class we listen to music. We also take breaks to do activities such as walking through the garden, stretching, playing with the cats, and looking through books and magazines. Sometimes we describe the sunsets to each other (I live near the beach) to inspire creativity, or we draw on the Etch a Sketch, dance and sing, and have playful conversation. Kristina ties many of her interests—like language, music and sounds, people she likes and other subjects—into both her conversations and art. She asks me things like, “What would Roy Orbison think of this painting?” Food also seems to be a favorite subject for my students. Kristina writes about certain foods and how they relate to music and colors. One time, my husband and I took Kristina to a buffet. When I


Autism Advocate 63

Perspectives Kristina playing guitar

looked at her plate and then noticed the food smears on her face, I realized that every food she had chosen was red: Jell-O, strawberries, spaghetti, cherry pie and punch. Kristina and I discussed this and together we decided that “red foods are good foods.”

Incorporating her ideas about relationships and social situations into her art seems to help Kristina understand them better.

Kathleen(center) with Mark Rimland (left) and his father Bernie Rimland

The theme also allowed her to tie her social experience together in a creative way. In a sketchbook done in comic book storyline style, Kristina once drew an image herself and me, changing our real-life proportions. Standing side by side I was a head taller than her and she was

Mark also loves food. It frequently pops up as subject matter in his art.

smaller, the size of a child. Incorporating her ideas about relationships and social situations into

Recently, he did a painting of werewolves eating hamburgers, french fries

her art seems to help Kristina understand them better. The alien space theme Kristina enjoys so

and milkshakes hanging from pine trees in a forest. Mark loves dogs and

much as subject matter helped lead her to cultivate a friendship with Ken Brewer, an artist who

cats too. His pets have been a major topic of conversation over the years.

has Asperger’s Syndrome.

So, it was no surprise when he did a painting of “raining cats and dogs” with his own additional twist. He threw in puppy rainbows, raining watermelons and puppy pasta.

In the spring of 1997 Ken was the featured artist in a digital savant art show in Ventura, California, along with Mark and Kristina. Kristina was especially excited about space subjects at the time because the Hale Bopp asteroid

I try to introduce my students to a variety of social situations and people,

was passing earth and could be seen easily. She had filled a whole sketchpad

tying it all together through art. Sometimes, we just hang out at coffee houses and sketch. We have

with Hale Bopp drawings. When we arrived at the gallery, Ken gave us a tour

even used coffee or tea rubbed on with our fingers to tint our drawings. Customers come over to

of his wonderful series of 3D computer art-rendered space scenes.

watch and then they begin to talk with us. Mark usually has his big smile on.

The conversation between Ken and Kristina as they looked at the art was

During my years of teaching, I have seen the importance of cultivating community that fosters social interaction through art training.

Forging Lasting Friendships

fairly simple and to the point: “aliens,” “space,” “UFOs.” From that moment they had bonded. Not

For years, Mark has been a regular at a coffee house in his neighborhood. He socializes there and

long after the show, Ken came to a house-warming party I had hosted in San Diego. At the end of

has achieved a bit of celebrity status, having had his artwork exhibited there and in other venues

the night, he said, “I was the most comfortable I’ve ever felt in a large crowd.” I think the community

in the community. A few years ago, Mark met Gregory Page at the coffee house. Gregory is a very

of easy-going friends and artists had put him at ease.

popular musician. They struck up a conversation that has led to an enduring friendship. Since that

During my years of teaching, I have seen the importance of cultivating community that fosters social

chance meeting, Gregory has used Mark’s art on his CD covers. He also wrote a song about Mark

interaction through art training. Witnessing people like Mark, Kristina and Ken grow socially while

titled “Dreamer.” And during his art classes with me, Mark did a painting of Gregory from a photo

the depth of their art improves has been gratifying.

I had taken. As Mark painted he listened to Gregory’s music, incorporating images from Gregory’s songs into the background behind the colorful portrait of Gregory. With their joint talents, they have been featured together at autism and art events. Their wonderful friendship and their work together has been an inspiration to many people in the San Diego community. Amazing to think it all started by socializing at a coffee house!

About the Author

Coffee houses have also become social places Kristina enjoys visiting. One of my favorite drawings

Kathleen Blavatt lives

by Kristina includes a coffee house. Every Halloween, she likes to draw a haunted house. Sometimes

in the community of

her images are houses and sometimes castles. But one year, it was a haunted coffee house! In the

Ocean Beach in San

picture the front of the shop had coffee cups hanging on the outside beams. Two silhouettes of

Diego, California. She

aliens and an adult holding a child’s hand stood in the warm yellow glow of the front door. Before

64 Autism Advocate


is a teacher and runs

the coffee house, drinking a cup of coffee, was “The Phantom of the Opera.” The haunted coffee

a home-based graphics communications

house concept was a brilliant idea, showing Kristina’s ability to translate her visual thinking into art.

business. She is also a writer and fine artist.


Autism Advocate 65

What‘s new at the autism Society Autism Society News

Autism Society News [




Proposed Changes Affecting Autism Spectrum Disorders in DSM-V

April is National Autism Awareness Month

Recently, the American Psychiatric

since the 1970s. The U.S. recognizes April as a special opportunity for everyone to educate the

Association released some preliminary draft

public about autism and issues within the autism community.

changes to the Diagnostic and Statistical

Here are eight ways you can celebrate National Autism Awareness Month this year:

In order to highlight the growing need for concern and awareness about autism, the Autism Society has been celebrating National Autism Awareness Month

Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-V) that may affect those diagnosed on the autism spectrum. There are several significant changes proposed that are now posted for public view: Asperger’s Syndrome and Pervasive Developmental Disorder-Not Otherwise Specified (PDD-NOS) would both be subsumed into the Autistic Disorder category, meaning that they would no longer be considered a separate diagnosis from autism; and the inclusion of potential comorbidities with ADHD and other medical conditions. The Autism Society is currently investigating the implications this change could have for the service and support systems currently in place for those with autism spectrum disorders. We will also be holding a town

« put on the puzzle! Show your support for people with autism by wearing the Autism Awareness Puzzle Ribbon this month – as a pin on your shirt, a magnet on your car, a badge on your blog, or even your Facebook profile picture (www.autism-society. org/reus_badge) — and educate folks on the potential of people with autism! As always, wristbands, pins, magnets and more are available at

« Host your own event. The Autism Society’s 1Power4Autism is the first grassroots fundraising Web site for the autism community. It gives you an opportunity to “turn on your power” by starting an event online and the tools you need to mobilize your friends and family. Learn more at Or for more events in your area, please visit our event calendar (

« Get bouncing! After two successful years, the Autism Society and inflatable playground franchise Pump It Up are bouncing again with “Bounce for Autism”—a nationwide, community-based fundraising event that combines family fun with raising awareness and support for autism in locations that welcome children on the autism spectrum. To find an event near you, visit

« Spread awareness. The Autism Society has free download materials to help your family, your school, your church or other community organization learn more about people with autism. Our “Growing Up Together” pamphlets (for children and teens) teach typical kids how much fun they can have with their friends on the autism spectrum. Visit for this and other great materials provided free of charge.

hall meeting at our National Conference

« Take action. Getting involved in advocacy efforts at the local, state and national levels

on Autism Spectrum Disorders in Dallas

is a crucial way to support legislation benefiting those with autism and their loved ones. Check out current national initiatives at

July 7-10, 2010 (learn more about the conference or register at You can also give your feedback on the changes at the Web site ( Look for the diagnoses on the autism spectrum under “Disorders Usually First Diagnosed in Infancy, Childhood, or Adolescence.” These changes are not yet official—they are proposed for the update to the manual, which is expected to be published in May 2013. Whatever changes do go into effect surrounding autism spectrum disorders, the Autism Society will continue to work as we have always done to improve the lives of

« Become a member. A gift of only $25 gives you all the benefits of membership, including access to a community that provides comfort, support and essential information to families living with autism; the Autism Advocate magazine, a leading source of information on the latest issues in autism; and valuable resource information and advocacy for autism-related issues. With your help, we can achieve our mission of improving the lives of all affected by autism. Learn more about becoming a member at

P h oto co u r t e s y o f 7S u m m itc h a l l e n g e .o rg


Autism Society Announces New Leaders in Chapter Relations and Business Development The Autism Society is pleased to welcome Mark C. Germano as our new Vice President of Business


Mark C. Germano

Steven Oswald

Development. Mark was most recently National Campaign Director for the Autism Society. Bob Cassidy & Bob Dickie at Mt. Kilimanjaro summit

He has spent a 31-year career working for nonprofit organizations at the local, state and national levels. Mark has an MBA from Roosevelt University in Chicago, a master’s in

7 Summit Climbers Reach Top of Mount Kilimanjaro

educational psychology from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and a bachelor’s in

On January 26th, long-time Autism

We are also pleased to welcome Steven Oswald as the Autism Society’s Vice President of

Society supporters Robert Dickie III and

Chapter Relations. Steve has nearly 30 years’ experience in the nonprofit sector and has

Robert Cassidy reached the summit of

worked with organizations such as the Alzheimer’s Association, Huntington’s Disease

Mount Kilimanjaro. This is the first stop

Society of America, Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation and Muscular Dystrophy

on their “7 Summit Challenge,” a quest

Association. You can reach Steve at

psychology from Kent State University. He can be reached at

to climb the highest peaks on all seven continents to raise awareness and funds for three organizations that overcome


obstacles and challenges everyday for their communities: the Autism Society, the Alzheimer’s Association and the Lance Armstrong Foundation. To learn more, check out their blog or donate to the cause at, or send them your well-wishes via Facebook:

You can start your own challenge... walk, run, or bike for autism!

Join with others to volunteer or support autism events being held in your area or across the nation. Together, through 1Power4Autism, everyone can make a difference!

« Learn the signs. Research indicates that early identification is associated with dramatically improved outcomes for individuals with autism. The earlier a child is diagnosed, the earlier the child can begin benefiting from one of the many specialized intervention approaches to treatment and education. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Center for Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities “Learn the Signs. Act Early.” campaign provides a number of informational materials on developmental milestones for parents, health-care providers, early childhood educators and others on their Web site:

Visit site/1Power_LandingPage to turn on your power.

« donate. One in 110 children born in America today will have autism. Please support

Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee Releases Update to Strategic Plan for Autism Research The first update to the Interagency

autism research. The new objectives cover

Autism Coordinating Committee (IACC)

topics such as health disparities in early

strategic plan for autism research has

diagnosis, characterization of children

received unanimous approval from the

with reported regression, and the biology

19-member advisory group that drafted the

and treatment of co-occurring conditions.

recommendations. The IACC, created under

The additional chapter on infrastructure

the Combating Autism Act (CAA) of 2006,

development includes objectives aimed at

finalized the 2010 plan at their January 19th

enhancing the ASD research workforce, data

meeting. The document gives guidance on

sharing, surveillance programs, biological

what areas of research should be pursued to

specimen repositories, and communication

advance the understanding of autism. The

and implementation of research findings.

plan, which is updated annually, is an advisory

In addition, the updated plan more fully

tool for the Department of Health and Human

addresses the needs of people with ASD

Services and serves as a basis for partnerships

across the spectrum, from young children

with other agencies and organizations

to adults, and places new emphasis on both

involved in autism research and services.

non-verbal and cognitively impaired people

The 2010 plan adds 32 new research

the Autism Society’s mission of improving the lives of all affected by autism by texting AUTISM to 50555 to make a $10 donation.

people across the entire spectrum of autism. 66 Autism Advocate


with ASD.

objectives and contains an entirely new

The process that yielded these updates

chapter on infrastructure needed to support

encompassed a two-day scientific workshop FIRST EDITION 2010 •

Autism Advocate 67

News & Advocacy

Advocacy [

continued from page 67



where researchers, clinicians and personal

Health-Care Reform Bill Passes Both Houses

Advocating for Autism Inside and Outside the Beltway

to discuss gaps in the 2009 strategic plan, new research opportunities and

On Sunday, March 21st, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the Senate version

priorities. Participants considered public

of health-care reform. After more than a

comments and a portfolio analysis of the

year of debate, the bill passed 219 to 212 and

ASD research recently funded by federal

was signed into law. This bill, which passed

agencies and private organizations. The

the Senate in late December, includes the

workshop members then produced a set

following provisions for people with autism:

of recommendations for the update, which were translated by members of the IACC


excluding coverage based on pre-existing

into edits to the plan and voted on by the full

The IACC is currently in the process of



launching plans for the 2011 update. For more information, visit ]]

Donate! 1 in 110 children born in America today will have autism. Please help support the Autism Society’s mission of improving the lives of all affected by autism by texting AUTISM to 50555 to make a $10 donation.

Insurers would be prevented from

“The Autism Society is pleased that

selectively refusing to renew coverage;

Congress took a step in the right direction

Insurers would no longer be able to charge

late last night,” said Lee Grossman,

people different premiums based on their

President and CEO of the Autism Society,

health status, gender or occupation;

“but we have much more work to do to

A standardized annual out-of-pocket

ensure that families affected by autism

spending limit would be established so that

have access to appropriate services and

no family would face bankruptcy due to


medical expenses; ]]


Coverage of “behavioral health treatments,” such as ABA therapy, would be required.


committee, which includes Autism Society President and CEO Lee Grossman.


Annual and lifetime benefit caps would be

The full text of the bill and debate is available on GPO’S Federal Digital System


(FDsys) at

Mental health would be covered;


important issues.

the first day, advocates received training on speaking with legislators and engaging with Congress and the media back at home, as well as a wealth of information about the Autism Treatment Acceleration Act,

For those who were unable to travel to Washington, D.C., for the Summit, they can still support advocacy efforts for autism. Please click on the links below to write to your legislators and ask them to support the following bills: ]]

Keeping All Students Safe Act and Toxic


to the Hill the following day to meet with

Achieving a Better Life Experience Act (ABLE):

Substances Control Act reform. Armed with this information, the advocates took

Autism Treatment and Acceleration Act (ATAA):

Achieving a Better Life Experience Act,


Keeping All Students Safe Act:


Neurotoxic Chemicals Found in Biomonitoring Study on Developmental Disabilities Community The Learning and Developmental Disabilities Initiative (LDDI), a coalition of health and


hosted the 2010 Re-ACT Summit, with

affecting the entire autism community. On

“Habilitative” and “maintenance services” would be covered; and

Insurers would be prohibited from

legislators and urge them to support these

Capitol Hill to support important legislation

President Barack Obama delivers remarks on the health insurance reform bill. ]]

On February 24-25, the Autism Society advocates from across the country storming

P h oto co u r t e s y o f kco n n o r s

stakeholders selected by the IACC convened

P h oto by P e t e S o uz a


developmental disabilities organizations

“Given the increasing rates of learning and developmental disabilities—particularly autism—we need to recognize that costs associated with special education, health care and long- term support services will also continue to grow.”

~ Jeff Sell, Autism Society Vice President of Public Policy

Keeping All Students Safe Act Passes in the House

classroom. It would apply to public schools,

incidents when restraint or seclusion

including the Autism Society, recently

private schools and preschools receiving

was used;

released the first-ever biomonitoring report

care and long- term support services will

80,000 chemicals available for use in the

On Wednesday, March 3, the Keeping All

federal education support. Specifically the

Call on states, within two years of

identifying toxic chemical pollution in

also continue to grow,” explained Jeff Sell,

U.S., the Environmental Protection Agency

Students Safe Act, formerly known as the

legislation would:

enactment, to establish their own policies,

people from the learning and developmental

Autism Society Vice President of Public

has been able to require safety testing of

Establish important minimum federal safety

procedures, and monitoring and enforcement

disability community. Mind, Disrupted:

Policy and father of teen sons with autism.

only 200. Since its passage, evidence has

in Schools Act, passed in the House of

standards in schools, similar to the protections

systems to meet these minimum standards;

How Toxic Chemicals May Affect How We

A total of 61 chemicals (out of 89 tested)

been accumulating that chemicals such

Representatives with strong bipartisan

already in place in hospitals and other non-

Encourage states to provide support and

Think and Who We Are examines 61 toxic

were found in the 12 participants, of which

as lead, mercury, bisphenol A (BPA) and

support. The bill, H.R. 4247, was introduced

medical community-based facilities;

training to better protect students, and

chemicals present in study participants

Mr. Sell was one. Each participant was found

PBDEs may harm the developing brain at

prevent the need for emergency behavioral

in the context of rising rates of autism,

to harbor at least 26 and as many as 38

levels much lower than those previously

interventions; and

attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder,

of the tested chemicals in his or her body.

considered safe. New legislation to bring

Increase transparency, oversight and

and other learning and developmental

There were 16 chemicals detected in every

the toxics law into the 21st century will be

enforcement tools to prevent future abuse.



introduced by Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ)

Preventing Harmful Restraint and Seclusion

by Chairman George Miller (D-CA) and





Limit physical restraint and locked seclusion,

Representative Cathy McMorris Rodgers

allowing these interventions only when there

(R-WA) on December 19, 2009.

is imminent danger of injury, and only when

Should the companion bill, S. 2860, pass

imposed by trained staff;


and Rep. Bobby Rush (D-IL) this year.

Outlaw mechanical restraints, such as

Please encourage your Senators to co-

“Given the increasing rates of learning and

The Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) is

federal standards to protect students from

strapping kids to chairs, and prohibit

sponsor this important legislation. For

developmental disabilities—particularly

the primary federal law governing chemical

To read the full report, visit www.

the misuse of restraint and seclusion,

restraints that restrict breathing;

a sample email, go to

autism—we need to recognize that costs

safety, and has never been significantly


associated with special education, health

amended since its adoption in 1976. Of the

in the Senate, it would establish the first

and ensure the safety of everyone in the 68 Autism Advocate




Require schools to notify parents after


Autism Advocate 69


Chapter News [


YAI Network’s Upcoming Annual Conference to Focus on Autism P h oto co u r t e s y o f H yat t R eg e n c y Da l l a s

YAI Network’s 31st Annual International Conference, “Decade of Decisions: Moving Forward in Developmental and Learning Disabilities,” will be held April 26-29, 2010, at The Hilton-New York in New York City. This year’s conference will focus on autism

Registration for the 41st National Conference and Exposition


41 ional ST

Natnference Co

n & Expositio

is open. This year all registrations will include full access to the recordings of all conference sessions as part of the registration fee. Register at Early bird registration ends on April 31. Almost half of the available booth space for the Society’s Expo, which will be held July 8-10, has sold, but excellent space locations remain available. If interested, please contact Meg at, view the full prospectus at or call 302.260.9487 to learn more. Take action today to exhibit, sponsor or advertise during the most important and largest event in the ASD community. We expect close to 2,000 attendees at this conference, representing service providers, professionals, parents, individuals on the spectrum, state and federal government representatives, nonprofits supporting autism and others. The exhibit hall has over 140 booths representing the products, services and organizations of the autism community.  For questions,  please email

The New Social Story Book, on social skill

The Autism Society of Colorado’s (ASC’s)

development; Dr. Vincent Carbone, director

live theater fundraiser, Autism Chronicles:

of the Carbone Clinic, on “Methods to

The Gifts and Struggles of People with Autism

Increase Vocal Production in Children

and Their Families, drew 520 attendees

with Autism”; Tom Caffrey, on the verbal

on Sunday, Jan. 31st. Held in the Newman

Following the show, ASC held two

please contact Michael Zeitlin, ASC Board

behavior approach to teaching children with

Center for Performing Arts at the University

receptions— a VIP backstage event with

President, at

autism; Autism Society board member Dr.

of Denver, the performance weaves stories

champagne, wine and desserts with the

or Betty Lehman, ASC Executive Director, at

Advertising Opportunities

Contact Reem Nourallah at to double your exposure with a free insertion in our online edition.

70 Autism Advocate


a phone survey with attendees about the

ASC owns Autism Chronicles and would like

production, from which they received

to encourage other Autism Society chapters

overwhelmingly positive comments about

to produce the show themselves. To assist

the show. Although many people found

other chapters, ASC is creating a training

it difficult to watch, the play asserted its

manual so that other chapters can produce

value to educating the general public about

it in their cities as a fundraiser.


For information on producing the show,

Stephen Shore, an author of Understanding

from literature written about one family’s

actors and Dr. Temple Grandin, and a milk

Autism For Dummies; and Dr. Sima Gerber,

journey through a lifetime of autism.

and cookies reception that included a book

associate professor of speech-language

Following the show, the chapter conducted

signing with Dr. Grandin.

pathology at Queens College. The YAI Network’s International Conference attracts an annual attendance

Index of Advertisers

of more than 3,000 people, and serves as

The Autism Society thanks all of our advertisers for advertising in this issue of the Autism Advocate. When contacting any of our advertisers, please tell them you saw their ad in the Autism Advocate.

a major forum for the exchange of ideas and the introduction of new models and strategies that have a positive impact in the field of developmental and learning



on treatment and practices, new models

Nearly 30 million people in the world have autism.

Bob’s Red Mill


and strategies that enhance the lives of

Come join us on a bouncing, laughing,

Care Trak Inc. International


jumping marathon in support of autism!

The Chicago School


Pump It Up and the Autism Society

College Internship Program


invite you to start your team today

The Glenholme School


and register to have a blast and raise

The Hanen Centre




disabilities. The focus of the conference is

people with developmental and learning The Autism Advocate is the largest, most read, comprehensive national magazine devoted to autism available today.

Attendees gather in the lobby before the show.

Speakers include Carol Gray, author of

members and individuals with disabilities.

Registration Now Open for Autism Society National Conference

Actors on stage at the beginning of the performance

Autism Society of Colorado Hosts Unique Live Theater Fundraiser

and is geared toward professionals, family


chapter news

disabilities and their families. For information and registration, visit www., e-mail or call 212-273-6472.

Image used for illustration purposes only. Model may not have autism.


P h otos co u r t e s y o f ASC


awareness of this worthy cause. For more information, visit!

To start your team, visit Register today!

Autism Asperger Publishing


The Help Group

23, 45

The Hope Chest


Kennedy Krieger Institute


The Lovaas Center



Autism Advocate 71

4340 East-West Highway, Suite 350 Bethesda, Maryland 20814 Address Service Requested


The next show is

Shrek 4 on Saturday, May 22nd.

For more information and to find a theater near you, visit sensoryfilms.

The Autism Society thanks AMC Entertainment Inc. for helping to improve the lives of all affected by autism!

AMC Entertainment, Inc. and the Autism Society have teamed up to bring families affected by autism and other disabilities a special opportunity to enjoy their favorite films in a safe and accepting environment on a monthly basis with the “Sensory Friendly Films� program.

2010 1st edition of the Autism Advocate  

magazine for the autism community

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