Speech-language Newsletter: April

Informative families help improve the skills of children

April is Autism Awareness Month

On March 27, 2014, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released new data on the prevalence of autism in the United States. This surveillance study identified 1 in 68 children (1 in 42 boys and 1 in 189 girls) as having autism spectrum disorder (ASD). The seventh annual World Autism Awareness Day is April 2, 2014. Every year, autism organizations around the world celebrate the day with unique fundraising and awareness-raising events.
My Name Is David

Upcoming events: Support organizations that support our children

5th Annual “Autism Awareness Night” at Please Touch Museum

Saturday, April 5th, 6pm

4231 Avenue of the Republic

Philadelphia, PA

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Autism Awareness Day at the Philadelphia Zoo

Sunday, April 13, 2014

11:00 am – 4 pm

Rain or Shine in Peacock Pavilion

Tickets $12.00 each

Autism Awareness at Philadelphia Phillies

Monday, April 14th, 7pm

1 Citizens Bank Way

Philadelphia, PA

Net proceeds from tickets sold through this offer will benefit the Autism Cares Foundation

Autism Awareness at Adventure Aquarium

Friday, April 18th, 6pm

1 Riverside Dr

Camden, NJ

Philadelphia Soul Autism Awareness

Saturday, April 19th, 6pm

3601 S Broad St

Philadelphia, PA

Sensory Friendly Films

Saturday, April 19th, 10am

Franklin Mills and Neshaminy AMC Theatres

Saturday, April 19, 2014 - RIO 2

Saturday, May 31, 2014 - MALEFICENT

Saturday, June 21, 2014 - HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON 2

Saturday, July 26, 2014 - PLANES: FIRE & RESCUE

Saturday, September 27, 2014 - DOLPHIN TALE 2

Saturday, October 25, 2014 - BOOK OF LIFE

Saturday, November 29, 2014 - HOME

Saturday, December 13, 2014 -PADDINGTON

All shows are at 10:00 am local time. Dates and films are subject to change.

Autism Awareness Day at Sesame Place

Sunday, April 27th, 10am

100 Sesame Rd

Langhorne, PA

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Ascend Group- The Asperger & Autism Alliance Group for Philadelphia

ASCEND events provide members and non-members with the chance to meet and
network with other family members, professionals, educators and individuals “on the
spectrum” whose experience and expertise can be of immeasurable value. There is no substitute for in-person conversation, and dialogue when it comes to living, learning and growing.
4/27 6:00-8:00pm
475 Lawrence Rd, Broomall, Pa 19008
An informal gathering for family members of individuals with Asperger Syndrome or HFA in a support group type of forum.

A list of Magazines and Newsletters from Autism Speaks

The Autism File
A long-established and leading international journal covering all aspects of autism. The Autism File provides practical information covering medical, nutritional and educational matters.

Autism Spectrum News
Autism Spectrum News is a nonprofit quarterly publication that provides readers with a trusted source of news, information and resources on scientific research, evidence based clinical treatment, and family issues that are of vital interest to the autism community. Directed towards a broad audience of families, treatment professionals and service providers, Autism Spectrum News provides free and full readable copies of current and back issues on its website.

Autism Spectrum Quarterly
ASQ combines the readability and interest of a high-level magazine with the substance and depth of a professional journal. Each issue features a line of research and commentary aimed at helping parents, teachers, and clinicians to translate this research into practice.

Autism World Magazine
AWM is a unique publication written for and by parents, carers, professionals and those on the autism spectrum, both adults and children. We believe that in sharing the collective wisdom across the autism community, our journeys can guide, educate and uplift others on a similar path. Published on the Apple Newsstand for iPad and iPhone and as a Digital Download for PCs and other portable devices.

Exceptional Parent
The family and professional site for the special needs community. If you subscribe to this magazine, you will receive a special rate, and the magazine will donate $10 to Autism Speaks!

Focus on Autism and Other Developmental Disabilities: Sage Publications, Inc.
FOCUS offers original research reports, position papers reflecting diverse philosophical and theoretical positions, effective intervention procedures, descriptions of successful programs, and media reviews.

Parenting Special Needs
We at Parenting Special Needs, LLC, are making it our mission to provide parents of special needs children, of all ages and stages of life, both information and inspiration.

Positively Autism
A free eMagazine celebrating the sunny side of the spectrum!

The Social Times
A fun supplement to any social skills program! Your students will love it! Each issue offers critical information all the while making each lesson entertaining and applicable to the lives and concerns of today's students.

Special Ed Connection
Stay connected to everything happening in special education.

Special Needs Guide
The Special Needs Guide is an annual print and e-magazine, published by Family Time Magazine, which is completely devoted to special needs & autism. Inside, readers will find articles full of current, beneficial information and more than 300 listings of helpful special needs resources.

Social Skill Strategies Constructing Conversations—One Skill at a Time By Katie Brady, LCSW Autism Asperger’s Digest | March/April 2012

Carrying on a reciprocal, engaging, enjoyable conversation is challenging for many individuals, and this is especially true for persons with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). The skills needed to engage in conversation are directly related to the challenges that individuals with ASD have—communication, social, and restricted interests. When you think about it, there are many different skills needed to engage in a conversation, and it’s remarkable that most neurotypicals (NTs) learn these skills through osmosis! However, teaching conversational skills explicitly, concretely, and visually is exactly what is needed to help individuals with ASD learn to engage in conversation appropriately and successfully.

Turn Taking

Turn taking is an important foundational skill that is necessary to learn before a person works on more abstract conversational skills. This can be taught in a number of concrete ways. When working on a puzzle, put all the pieces in a bag and help two children pass the bag back and forth, removing one piece at a time and putting the piece in the puzzle. When playing a game such asCandyLandCastle, slide the game (the castle) back and forth between the kids. When the castle is in front of a child, it is visually clear whose turn it is. Finally, use a talking object to denote whose turn it is to talk. If a child does not have the talking object, he should be listening. Some spectrum kids may need visuals to show that skill as well.


A child with ASD may have the desire to engage socially with peers, but not the skills to pull off the interaction naturally. For instance, the child may walk up to a group of new kids and say, “My favorite Pokémon is Bulbasaur. I like him because….” and continue on a monologue while the other children lose interest. It is important to give children concrete, visual scripts that they can say to begin a conversation, such as “Hi, I’m Katie. What’s your name?” or “I like playing on the slides. Do you want to play with me?” These visuals can be pictures or written scripts (whatever the child understands best), and the parent or teacher can help the child by role-playing with him first, then having the child practice with an understanding peer. It’s helpful to create multiple opportunities so the child can practice the skill often. As the child learns and generalizes the skill, make the visuals less obvious as needed.

Offering Information

Many individuals with ASD who are verbal are great at offering information about their interests. Sometimes, though, this offering of information comes out in a monologue, leaving the other partner in the conversational exchange disinterested, bored, or even annoyed. Children with ASD should be taught guidelines for how much information to give, and should practice offering information about a variety of topics, not just their favorites. While all conversations vary, coming up with a specific guideline can sometimes be helpful when first teaching conversation skills. You may decide to teach a child the concept of “saying three sentences and then asking one question.” Remember to make this strategy visual, perhaps by writing a reminder or vertically writing three periods and one question mark on a card to symbolize the concept. For talking about a variety of topics, many parents and professionals use either pictures or topic cards to generate a variety of conversational topics. It is helpful to mix in the child’s favorite topics (e.g., Star Wars) with neutral topics such as school, pets, hobbies, and travel.

First Listening, Then Asking Relevant Questions

A conversation should not be all talking and no listening. It is important for a conversation to be reciprocal, which involves each person taking time to speak, listen to the other person, and ask relevant questions. Many adults with Asperger’s Syndrome have mentioned to me that the listening piece is extremely challenging as they may use the time when the conversational partner is talking to mentally plan their response, regardless of what the other person is saying. Again it may be useful to create a list of common questions or comments that one can ask or say after another person has offered information. For instance, “Wow, that’s really interesting!” or “I’ve never heard of that before. Tell me more.” When role-playing, or practicing in real life, take time to write some options the person with ASD can say or ask if he gets stuck. Having a visual bank of questions will be more meaningful and helpful in the long run than verbal prompting alone.

Recognizing Nonverbal Cues

People often give off nonverbal cues that display a secondary meaning. For instance, if someone pulls out their keys or looks at their watch, they are probably indicating that they are in a hurry and need to leave. We likely know NTs who struggle with recognizing these cues, and it is even more challenging for people with ASD to pick up on these “secret” signals! It is crucial that individuals with ASD practice recognizing these cues both in teaching situations and in real life. Many adults with ASD can label these nonverbal cues when shown a video, or when watching people act out an exchange, but may completely miss these signals when actually engaged in a conversation. Recognizing others’ nonverbal cues of “the conversation is over” or “I am not interested in talking to you” will help individuals with ASD end conversations appropriately and positively.

When one thinks about it, there are myriad skills needed to effectively engage in conversation. Effective strategies include practicing turn taking, using visuals, role-playing, and rehearsing real-life situations with feedback. Individuals with ASD can improve their social skills if the deficits are targeted in an isolated way—focusing on one skill at a time and using visual and routine-based strategies that build on the individual’s strengths.


Katie Brady works with individuals with ASD and their families, and was a therapist at the Chapel HillTEACCHCenterfor six years. Read more about Katie’s ASD services atwww.katiebradylcsw.com.

Social Thinking vs. Social Skills: Thinking with Your Eyes

Check out Barbara Doyle's handouts especially Behavioral Prioritization Grid, Ten Essential Skills for a Safe and Independent Life and Working with Restrictive and Repetitive Interests

Thoughts on Encouraging Students to Ask for Help

Published on Thursday, 27 March 2014 10:34

By Michelle Garcia Winner

Learning to ask for help is an important life skill. Within the Social Thinking® teaching framework, this social ability is part of the larger skill set Initiation, the "I" that kicks off the ILAUGH Model of Social Thinking. It's important for all individuals to learn to initiate requests for help in various environments, such as at home, in their classes, and when around others, and this is especially relevant to individuals with social learning challenges, for whom this skill set doesn't unfold through typical social development.

Learning to ask for help prepares our children or students for seeking assistance when they are in the community or, as they get older, in their work place where they are expected to self-advocate and not rely on others to anticipate their needs.

Asking for help in a more structured situation is the first step toward learning to advocate for oneself; it is also an important part of building workable and meaningful relationships with others. The person who never asks others for help, but who shows others what he knows or offers to help others, can be perceived as a "know it all" or arrogant.

Teaching different types of advocacy (stating one's opinion, negotiating, letting people know when you need something that you have not received, etc.) are all steps to add to the student's treatment plan as he ages and the lessons related to this social concept take on more nuance.

The following concepts are some examples of the many different things we can explore when helping our students learn to ask for help:

  • Discuss why people ask for help and give examples of the types of people who ask for help. Many of our students choose not to request assistance because they think that asking for help means they're not smart and they don't want to be viewed that way. What they often don't realize is that the most successful students are the ones who regularly ask for help. The student will benefit from observing other students asking for help and watching the teacher's response. Help students to also observe that teachers are usually responsive to students who ask for assistance!
  • Help the student develop the ability to recognize when he needs help. Some of our students are so used to feeling confused during classroom learning or homework time that they become desensitized to this feeling, and might not actually know if they need help or not. Work with the student to develop a system so he can differentiate between when he understands the task or the situation versus when he feels confused or lost and may need help.
  • Establish a system for how the student can ask for help. Most students in a classroom raise their hand while looking in the direction of the teacher. After a number of months or even years of this behavior being modeled or explained to a student and the student still does not use this strategy then the team should try a different approach. For example, they could start with having the student give a visual cue card to the teacher to indicate that he is in need of assistance. This strategy supports less verbose or more anxious students in asking for help as it is a concrete, although temporary, solution to an abstract problem. Some selectively mute students with whom I work have been willing to go stand by the teacher's desk as a sign they need help, as they are not willing to indicate their needs while sitting as part of the larger classroom group. Continue to brainstorm different choices for different students.
  • Outline what it means to ask for help versus asking for clarification. Some students need to simply check in with someone to make sure they are doing the right thing ( we call this a "clarification"), which is different from when they need to acquire information they do not know ( which we refer to as "asking for help"). We distinguish between these two concepts as many students we work with may just need clarification but to them it looks like they need help and they don't want people to think they need help. These students usually feel they actually know what to do on the project (or so they think) and just need to make sure they are doing the right project! However, the fact they needed anything at all from another person stopped them in their tracks from initiating a request! Making this distinction often helps reduce their discomfort.
  • Help the student understand that when he asks for help, the person to whom he is talking doesn't think he doesn't know anything at all. Show the student that he can communicate he only needs assistance with part of an assignment. Teach him to explain which part of the assignment he understands versus which part he needs help on or clarification. This ability is linked to narrative language; it requires that the student describe his current situation.
  • Establish an expectation for how many times he should ask for help during class and at home. If the student is sitting in class and not doing the work like the other students (for example, last year he was not writing a report when the other students were doing so), help him identify that this is a time he would be expected to ask for help. For our older students, we encourage them to ask for help at least once or twice a day in school, and once at home. Reward with praise when they are working to ask for help at times they normally wouldn't. We also have the case of students who ask for help too often; this type of student needs to learn to do a bit more of their own problem solving. For these students we can encourage them to only ask for help a set number of times during any particular class or for a set period of time. Reward them for figuring out what to do on their own!
  • Provide more praise when the student asks for help than when he completes his work! Always give the student positive feedback when he is showing improvement in one of the areas mentioned above. This is far more important than giving praising to him for doing something that you know he can easily do well. The research is strong in showing that our best praise is constructive praise- where we tell students exactly what they did well (e.g., "I like that you figured out your own problem and solved it" or "I like that you figured out you needed help and you asked me! Perfect!") rather than giving them global praise (e.g., "Nice job in math.").
  • Know your students' strategies! Teachers and parents should be assessing what strategies a student uses to ask for help and what avoidance strategies are used! Also explore how often the individual uses these positive or negative strategies when doing homework, when working in class, etc. Sometimes very loud students don't ask for help and instead appear to have behavior problems as they become highly distracting to themselves and others. Notice that this same student does not use these behaviors when highly engaged in a school subject.
  • Social Thinking groups can also explore these concepts but the work can't all be done in this more specialized group. Students need to take ownership for applying this information beyond one specific room. As your students acquire a better understanding of how to ask for help and why, teachers/clinicians need to help the student figure out how to apply these strategies in other settings and situations. Work with the student to develop strategies that encourage him or her to remember to use what they are learning in their classroom, at home, in the community, etc.

Visit our website for more information on Social Thinking and the books and products we offer, to access free articles, view a listing of conferences we host, or sign up for our free newsletter. www.socialthinking.com

I am 1 in 34

Posted by kosanford ⋅ 03/31/2014

1 in 5 Americans has a tattoo
1 in 6 has light eyes
1 in 13 has food allergies
1 in 30 has red hair and freckles
1 in 50 has an artificial limb
1 in 68 has Autism

My daughter is 1 in 68. The CDC recently released numbers saying that 1 in 68 children are Autistic. Each one of those children has two parents who also carry that diagnosis with them, always. Does that make me 1 in 34? I think it does.

In every house, in every child, in every family, Autism looks different. But if you are a parent of a child on the spectrum, no matter where they fall, there is some common ground. I know you when I see you; we walk the same path lined with eggshells, and potholes, but it’s ours.

Below is a list that anyone in the 1 in 34 club will recognize. You are probably a member of the club if at least a few of the below ring true:

  • If you have ever wondered whether your child will have a friend.

  • If your child has never told you about their day.

  • If you know what “stimming” means.

  • If you know what two or more of these stand for: IEP, PPT, SPD, OT, SLP, ABA, BCBA, EEG, GF, CF.

  • If you know what “scripting” means.

  • If you wake up at least once a week and wonder who will take care of your child after you die.

  • If you have ever spent an entire meeting talking about eye contact.

  • If you look at a package of diapers and wonder what happens after your kid gets to 50 lbs.

  • If you know what “fecal smearing” is.

  • If your first thought when invited to a family gathering or neighborhood barbeque is how you can graciously decline.

  • If an advertisement for a parade or fair, makes you think, “that sounds loud.”

  • If going to a restaurant or a movie as a family isn’t something you do for fun, ever.

  • If when you enter a room, your first thought is, “what will my child climb on in here?”

  • If the question “how old is she?” makes you uncomfortable.

  • If you count your money in hours of therapy instead of years of retirement.

  • If the sight of a 16 year old flapping his hands and bouncing on line at the grocery store makes you smile and cry at the same time.

  • If you know that milestones have nothing to do with age.

  • If you know that there is nothing better than an ordinary day.

  • If anyone has ever said to you “I don’t know how you do it…”

  • If you never wonder what you are made of.

If you know how any of the above feel than you are a member of the 1 in 34 club. It seems to get less exclusive every year. There is no secret handshake, or tennis whites. No one wants to join this club, and once in, you are a member for life.

I look at my daughter and she has taught me so much — a whole new language, even though she doesn’t speak. She is fierce, and bright, and beautiful. She is unconcerned about social pressure and will never wonder if her outfit makes her look fat. She is completely clear about what she likes, and is uncompromising in her pursuit of it.

On her behalf, I have become someone I never thought I would be. I am difficult. I ask too many questions. I disagree with people even when they are doctors. I have cried in public. And most importantly, I have learned that you don’t love someone for who you thought they would be, or for what their future may hold. You love them because they are yours, because even if they are 1 in 68, to you they are 1 of 1 and you cannot imagine your life without them.

Carol Gray: What are Social Stories(TM)?
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