What is PANDAS? How Is It Different from Autism?

PANDAS may be quite rare. But some evidence suggests it could account for as many as 1 in 10 new cases of OCD in children each year. We simply don’t know for certain, as the majority of cases may go undiagnosed.

Typically, children affected by PANDAS have a dramatic – even overnight – onset of symptoms. This can include one or more new movement or vocal tics, as well as obsessions or compulsions or both. Some affected children become noticeably moody and irritable, have more difficulty separating from loved ones, experience a change in eating patterns or begin having trouble sleeping or controlling the bladder.

Read more here.

Autism Speaks Announces New Tools for Successful Vision Exams

Autism Speaks Autism Treatment Network (AS-ATN) is pleased to announce the release of its latest resource for families from the ATN/AIR-P: a video and accompanying social narrative to help prepare individuals with autism for visits to the eye doctor, which can often be very difficult and uncomfortable experiences.

The video Vision Exams for Individuals with Autism and accompanying social narrative lead families and caregivers through a visit to the optometrist’s office and a full, step-by-step vision exam. These tools can also provide insight into preparing ahead of time to make the visit as smooth, anxiety-free and productive as possible. This video is also appropriate for optometrists who are not familiar with autism.

Read more here.

Could dads' obesity raise autism risk for kids?

Children born to obese fathers, but not obese mothers, may have a slightly higher risk of autism than kids with thinner dads, a large new study suggests.

Researchers found that of nearly 93,000 Norwegian children they followed, those born to obese dads had double the risk of developing autism. But the odds were still small: just under 0.3 percent were diagnosed with autism, versus 0.14 percent of kids with normal-weight fathers.

Read more here.

Autism Awareness: Diagnostic Criteria

On March 27, 2014, the centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported that 1 in 68 children in the US has an autism spectrum disorder. Chances are you or someone you know has been touched by autism in a very personal way. April is Autism Awareness Month. As part of our continuing effort to promote global awareness for autism, we are making our Training Video "An Introduction to Autism" available for family members, friends, educators and anyone who is interested in learning more about autism and the things they can do to screen young children for autism. In the first of this 3 part installment, we look at the Diagnostic Criteria for Autism Spectrum Disorders.

See the video here.

Assistive Technology Webinars

April 17, 2014
3:30 PM Pacific, 6:30 PM Eastern

MITS presents a process for looking at data gathered over the course of the past school year and what steps need to be taken for AT to be in place for individual students in the fall. 30 min.

Tuesday, April 22 2014
11 AM Pacific, 2 PM Eastern

AbleNet presents what you need to provide in FAPE, LRE, according to IDEA.

Tuesday, April 22 2014
12 PM Pacific, 3 PM Eastern

Georgia's Tools for Life presents a range of apps.

Thursday, May 1, 2014
11 AM Pacific, 2 PM Eastern

AbleNet presents the basics of an Assistive Technology Implementation plan.

Thursday, May 8th, 2014
12 PM Pacific, 3 PM Eastern

Georgia's Tools for Life presents ways of adapting lessons to allow students access to the core standards.

Webinar - Autism Spectrum Disorder: From Numbers to Know-How

Tuesday, April 22, at 1 p.m. - 2 p.m. (Eastern Time?)

Please join us to discuss the challenges of understanding and diagnosing this complex disorder and the opportunities for early identification and screening. This session of Grand Rounds will also explore some of the evidence-based interventions that can help individuals with autism make gains in their development.

Watch the live broadcast at either of the following links:

Billings - Applied Behavior Analysis & Functional Behavior Assessment

April 30

This interactive training will focus on the following topics:

“Applied Behavior Analysis in the Classroom and Real Life”, and “Functional Behavior Assessment”.

Download file "2014%20Billings%20RiteCare%20Flyer.pdf"

1 in 68 Children Now Has a Diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder. Why?

The staggering increase in cases of ASD should raise more suspicion in the medical community about its misdiagnosis and overdiagnosis than it does. Promoting early screening for autism is imperative. But, is it possible that the younger in age a child is when professionals screen for ASD—especially its milder cases—the greater the risk that a slow-to-mature child will be misperceived as autistic, thus driving the numbers up?

May 8th - Free Webinar: Beyond the Basics: Taking Visual Schedules to the Next Level

Join us on Thursday, May 8th - 3PM Eastern Time for "Beyond the Basics: Taking Visual Schedules to the Next Level" with Mandi Rickelman, MA (Supervisor, Monarch Center for Autism Preschool) and Anna Hutt Fredman, MS, CCC-SLP (Speech/Language Pathologist, Monarch Preschool).

To participate in the live session, log in at http://www.instantpresenter.com/edweb7 at the scheduled time.

Date: Thursday, May 8, 2014
Location: http://www.instantpresenter.com/edweb7
Starts: 3:00 pm (GMT-5) Eastern Time (US)
Ends: 4:00 pm (GMT-5) Eastern Time (US)

Federal Autism Panel Raises Concerns Over DSM Changes

A federal advisory panel is urging clinicians to be careful when applying new diagnostic criteria for autism in order to ensure that no one is denied needed services.

Dramatic changes to the definition of autism took effect last year with publication of the fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. Under the new definition, autistic disorder, Asperger’s syndrome, childhood disintegrative disorder and pervasive developmental disorder, not otherwise specified were folded under an umbrella classification of “autism spectrum disorder” with clinicians specifying a level of severity.

Now the Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee — a federal advisory panel comprised of government officials and members of the autism community — is highlighting a number of implications that may result from the shift.

In practical terms, the IACC is cautioning clinicians, noting that the new diagnostic criteria have not yet been rigorously tested in young kids, adults and individuals from various ethnic populations.

The group is also citing concerns about the reliability of severity ratings used to denote where an individual falls on the autism spectrum and the applicability of the new criteria for children under age 3 who may not yet fully display symptoms despite a need for early intervention.

“Services should be based on need rather than diagnosis; it would not be appropriate for a child to be denied ASD-specific services because he or she does not meet full DSM-5 criteria if a qualified clinician or educator determines that the child could benefit from those services,” the panel said in its report, adding that the updated DSM requires that all those who previously had an autism diagnosis under the old diagnostic criteria retain that label going forward.

The IACC said further research is needed to determine how reliable and valid the DSM-5 definition is and to weigh the impact of the changes on diagnosis, prevalence and access to services.

Read more here.

IACC Statement Regarding Scientific, Practice and Policy Implications of Changes in the Diagnostic Criteria for Autism Spectrum Disorder

The DSM-5 criteria were published in May 2013.1, 2 Although the DSM-5 diagnostic criteria are intended primarily for use by clinicians and researchers in their diagnostic assessments, the IACC is aware that it is important to also remember that these the criteria also have a direct impact on people who have the disorders and their families, and their ability to assess symptoms and obtain services that can help them optimize their health, well-being and quality of life. Any revision of the diagnostic criteria must be made with great care so as to not have the unintended consequence of reducing critical services aimed at improving the ability of persons with autism. In this statement, the IACC describes a range of research, practice, and policy implications that arise as a result of the changes in theDSM criteria which deserve consideration as the DSM-5 is implemented in research, clinical, and educational settings.

Changes in the DSM Criteria

Starting with the DSM-III in 1980, autism was categorized as a Pervasive Developmental Disorders (PDD). In an effort to reflect what has been learned through research and practice since that time, the DSM-5 released in 2013 removed the PDD category and the accompanying subtypes (Autistic Disorder, Asperger Disorder, Childhood Disintegrative Disorder and Pervasive Developmental Disorder – Not Otherwise Specified) with a single disorder, Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). The DSM-5 criteria place greater emphasis on the two core symptom domains of ASD (social communication and restrictive, repetitive behaviors), and no longer consider verbal abilities as a diagnostic feature. Other changes included adding ratings of the severity of the two symptom domains and several clinical specifiers. These specifiers provide information about etiology, co-morbidities (e.g., intellectual disability, language delay, and medical conditions such as seizures), and pattern of onset.

Since ASD continues to be defined by a pattern of developmental and behavioral symptoms, changes to the diagnostic criteria come with potential trade-offs. One goal of the recent revisions was to improve specificity of the ASD diagnosis, reducing the number of false positive cases. However, concerns exist that this increased specificity may have gone too far in reducing the sensitivity of the ASD diagnosis, increasing the number of false negative cases. For example, removing a specific age cut-off for diagnosis was intended to improve the sensitivity of theDSM-IV criteria (which had required symptom onset by 3 years of age). By DSM-5's more inclusive criterion, "Symptoms must be present in the early developmental period but may not become fully manifest until social demands exceed limited capacities, or may be masked by learned strategies in later life" may reduce diagnostic specificity by expanding the list of differential diagnoses that must be considered. The inclusion of historical information also may have unintended consequences on sensitivity and specificity.

Another major change in DSM-5 was the addition of a new diagnosis category, Social Communication Disorder (SCD) which applies to individuals who exhibit persistent difficulty with the social use of verbal and nonverbal communication that cannot be explained by low cognitive ability. The symptoms of SCD have significant overlap with those of the ASD social communication domain, but the two disorders are considered to be unique and separate from each other. The distinction is clarified in the DSM-5 criteria, which note that ASD must be ruled out before a diagnosis of SCD can be considered. However, there is limited published information on SCD with a research basis primarily in the condition previously studied as Pragmatic Language Disorder (PLD). While SCD includes PLD, there is much to learn about the definition, measurement, scope, reliability, and validity of SCD as a diagnosed condition.

Read more here.

Why I Got Electroconvulsive Therapy for My Autistic Son

When I tell people about the electroconvulsive therapy my autistic 15-year-old son Jonah has been getting for the past four years, the response has been ... surprise, certainly. Curiosity. Interest. No horror, no judgment. But that’s to be expected from those close to my family: They know we spent the better part of a decade struggling to manage Jonah’s aggressive and self-injurious behaviors. Countless therapies, behavior plans, medication trials, and even an almost yearlong hospitalization at one of the nation’s premier facilities failed to stop his frequent, intense, and unpredictable rages.

Read more here.

Missoula - Twelve Habits of Effective Practitioners Who Work with Clients on the Autism Spectrum

8:30 am 3:00 pm May 3rd 2014

4825 N. Reserve St. – Ruby’s Inn

Learner Outcomes: Join us to learn from Dr. Ann Garfinkle about how to be an effective interventionist

  1. Participants will understand the way the diagnostic features of ASD manifest in individuals and how they learn.

  2. Participants will understand evidence-based comprehensive and individual treatment for clients with ASD.

  3. Participants will understand ways to interact with clients with ASD when not targeting specific treatment outcomes

    See the attached flyer for more details.

    The Montana Autism Education Project will offer a limited number of registration scholarships for educators and university students. To request a scholarship email ddoty@mt.gov with the Subject line, "SCHWA Scholarship" and include the following information:


    District or Major


    Age Level of the Students Whom You Educate*

    Download file "Spring%20conference%20flier%202014%20%281%29.pdf"

    * This information is not needed for university students

ChildWise Institute - Helena

On May 3, 2014, ChildWise Institute will bring together experts in Helena to present on issues pertaining to Autism Spectrum Disorders in Children.
This conference is designed to expand understanding and awareness of Autism Spectrum Disorders in children and develop competencies for parents, mental health professionals, teachers and healthcare providers. Participants will be able to better understand and treat children diagnosed with symptoms on the Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). Social, emotional, behavioral and medical factors affecting children with ASD will be discussed. In addition, this learning seminar will identify ways to collaborate and integrate services from multiple agencies.
crawling-hallway-baby.jpgPresentations will include "Positive Behavioral Support for Children with Autism," "Nutrition for Cognition," an overview of the P.L.A.Y. (Play and Language for Autistic Youngsters) Project, and more.
View Full Conference Flyer
Speakers, Seminar Descriptions, etc.

Who Should Attend?
Parents, Educators, Psychologists, Therapists, Mental Health Professionals, Healthcare Providers, and Medical Professionals.
Up to 6 CEU credits and OPI renewal units are available for social workers, therapists, psychologists, educators, and healthcare providers.

Billings Autism Conference August 5 & 6, 2014 with Michelle Garcia Winner

August 5-6, 2014

8:30 AM - 4:00 PM

MSU Billings Campus Library Building Room148

Conference Fee: Free!

Online registration www.msubillings.edu/autism

Social Thinking

Social thinking is what we do when we interact with people: we think about them. And how we think about people affects how we behave, which in turn affects how others respond to us, which in turn affects our own emotions. Whether we are with friends, sending an email, in a classroom or at the grocery store, we take in the thoughts, emotions and intentions of the people we are interacting with. Most of us have developed our communications sense from birth onwards, steadily observing and acquiring social information and learning how to respond to people. Because social thinking is an intuitive process, we usually take it for granted. But for many individuals, this process is anything but natural. And this often has nothing to do with conventional measures of intelligence. In fact, many people score high on IQ and standardized tests, yet do not intuitively learn the nuances of social communication and interaction. While these challenges are commonly experienced by individuals with autism spectrum disorders (high-functioning), social communication disorder, Asperger's, ADHD, nonverbal learning disability (NLD) and similar diagnoses, children and adults experiencing social learning difficulties often have received no diagnosis. A treatment framework and curriculum developed by Michelle Garcia Winner targets improving individual social thinking abilities, regardless of diagnostic label. Professionals and parents alike are using these methods to build social thinking and related skills in students and adults. Social Thinking books, workshops and trainings, created by Winner or based on Winner's work, now offer a range of strategies that address individual strengths and weaknesses in processing social information.

About the Presenter

Michelle Garcia Winner is the founder of Social Thinking® which specializes in developing treatment models and specific strategies for helping persons with social cognitive learning challenges. She runs and works in her small clinic, has authored numerous books, and speaks internationally. Michelle’s goal is to help educators, mental health providers, and parents appreciate how social thinking and social skills is an integral part of students’ academic, vocational and community success. She was honored with a "Congressional Special Recognition Award" in 2008.

Download file "2014 Autism Conference Brochure.pdf"

An Unexpected Discovery in the Brains of Autistic Children

Nobody knows what causes autism, a condition that varies so widely in severity that some people on the spectrum achieve enviable fame and success while others require lifelong assistance due to severe problems with communication, cognition, and behavior. Scientists have found countless clues, but so far they don’t quite add up. The genetics is complicated. The neuroscience is conflicted.

Now, a new study adds an intriguing, unexpected, and sure-to-be controversial finding to the mix: It suggests the brains of children with autism contain small patches where the normally ordered arrangement of neurons in the cerebral cortex is disrupted. “We’ve found locations where there appears to be a failure of normal development,” said Eric Courchesne, a neuroscientist at the University of California, San Diego and an author of the study, which appears today in the New England Journal of Medicine.

Read more here.

2013 County Map with Percentage and Number of Students with Autism

Webinar - 5 Steps to Successful Implementation of AAC Apps in Classrooms

Join us for the next Teaching Students with Autism webinar!

Tuesday, April 1st - 3PM Eastern Time

In This Session

Implementation doesn’t come with a download. Whether your student is using a free AAC app, a simple app, a complex app, or an app that costs hundreds of dollars, student and partner strategies probably aren’t as easy as the click was to install the app. Well there is no need to get discouraged and think that you have to download another app to get to AAC utopia! Let Kelly share with you the five steps to success that have been used in real classrooms with real people, working really hard, with real kids.

To Participate in the Live Session
- This webinar will be recorded and archived in this community for viewing at anytime.
- As a member of the Teaching Students with Autism community, pre-registration is not required.
- Login at www.instantpresenter.com/edweb7 at the scheduled time.
- Test your system for best quality: www.instantpresenter.com/systemtest

About the Presenter
Kelly Fonner, MS is a self-employed consultant and trainer in assistive and educational technology. She has a BS in Special Education from Millersville University and an MS in Educational Technology with emphasis in Rehabilitation/Special Education Technology from The Johns Hopkins University. Her continuing education and research has been in the area of Adult Education and Special Education Technology at the University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee. She holds an Assistive Technology Applications Certificate of Learning from California State University - Northridge. Kelly has been a teacher, para-educator, instructional media specialist, assistive technology specialist. She has worked for a statewide AT project and has been an instructor in university courses on AT. She speaks on a wide range of topics including augmentative communication, computer access, electronic literacy, study skills, assistive technology assessment and implementation strategies.

Supporting Functional Communication in High School

This Autism at-a-Glance was designed to support high school staff and family members in understanding and improving the communication skills of adolescents on the autism spectrum. The content was developed to specifically target the needs of students who have more significant communication needs.

If you serve students who are able to communicate conversationally, please see our Autism at-a-Glance titled Supporting Communication in High School.

Autism at-a-Glance is designed for high school staff members supporting students on the autism spectrum, as well as family members of adolescents on the autism spectrum. Autism at-a-Glance provides a current summary of topics relevant to high school students on the autism spectrum as well as practical tips and resources for school and community personnel and family members.

Read more here.

Transition Resources

Casey Life Skills is a free practice tool and framework that assesses independent living skills and provides results instantly.

Independent Living Skills Assessment

Communication Assessment for Parents & Professionals

An easy to use assessment instrument designed for individuals of all ages who function at the earliest stages of communication and who use any form of communication.