More About Autism

The Biology of Awakening Potential

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My name is Shauna and I am an Educator, Autism Advocate and Emotional Agility Tutor!

I invite you to listen to my introductory message. Make sure your sound is on!

Shauna Dawn Paynter

Welcome Message by Shauna Dawn Paynter


What is Autism and Who defines it ?

Autism Spectrum Disorder as defined by the American Psychiatric Association and the definition is written in a big book called the DSM-5:

Autism is a neurodevelopmental disorder characterized by ;

1.) impaired social interaction

2.) verbal and non-verbal communication

3.) restricted and repetitive behaviour

The DSM is a medical manual created by teams of psychiatrists in the USA. Canada has adopted it's usage in diagnosing conditions such as autism.

DSM stands for Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.

This MEDICAL REFERENCE book is a system used to identify and diagnose mental and behavioural conditions. It provides a classification of mental disorders and set of criteria to guide the process of differential diagnosis.

It also contains numerical codes for each disorder to facilitate medical record keeping. Doctors use these codes for billing purposes. Therefore, billing codes are universal for those countries using the new DSM-5.

The new DSM-5 was released June 2013.


Autism has a Diagnostic code of ICD-10-CM and F84.0.

Temple Grandin, a Professor at Colorado State University of Animal Sciences is diagnosed with Autism.

Here is a very short video where she talks about the DSM and autism.

Temple Grandin: DSM5 & History of Autism Diagnosis

WHAT is the Purpose of the DSM ?

The DSM has a threefold propose:

1.) to provide a helpful guide to clinical practice.

2.) to facilitate research and improve communication among clinicians and researchers.

3.) to serve as an educational tool for teaching psychopathology.

Is the Changing Definition of Autism Narrowing What We Think of As ‘Normal’?

By: Jennifer Sarrett,

I first learned about autism in 1997 in my high school psychology course. It was relegated to a small paragraph in a chapter on childhood disorders. The film Rainman had come out a decade earlier, publicizing the condition to a degree. But autism still wasn’t well-known – or well-understood, at the time. READ MORE

Or watch this 2 minute video clip by Darrel A. Regier, MD, MPH, American Psychiatric Association, DSM-5 Task Force Vice Chair, explains changes to autism spectrum disorder in DSM-5.

Autism Spectrum Disorder and DSM-5: Darrel Regier, MD, MPH Discusses Changes

Detailed Overview of New Criteria for Diagnosing ASD

Susan L. Hyman - Copyright © 2013, The American Academy of Pediatrics

The American Psychiatric Association has just published the fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5). The diagnostic criteria for autism spectrum disorder has been modified based on the research literature and clinical experience in the 19 years since the DSM-IV was published in 1994. READ MORE>>

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Up Coming Events - For Parents

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For more information about this event CLICK HERE


My student is showing signs of Autism. Now what?

This subject is covered in our next issue. In the meantime, feel invited to post questions, experiences and suggestions. Click the banner above to visit our Facebook Page.

Dealing With Repetitive Behaviours @ Home or in the Classroom

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Attention: Kindergarten - Grade 5 Teachers

It is important for Kindergarten to Grade 5 educators familiarize themselves with the signs and symptoms of autism. This awareness can be of great help in identifying students experiencing these issues. Parents may not be fully aware of their child's behaviours, especially if it is their first born. High functioning autistic children can often slip through the cracks of education or be deemed "behaviourally difficult" when in fact it is autism or some other pervasive developmental disorder.

Diagnosis is an important aspect of receiving help in the classroom. An educator that is aware of these key behavioural issues can be of great assistance both to parents and the other students in the classroom. The earlier the detection the better in terms of working with the child in order to make shifts and accommodate sensory issues.

Email me if you would like a printable PDF of the DSM-5 Guidelines & Criteria Exemplars for Autism Spectrum Disorder.

This comprehensive document is a handy tool for Classroom Educators, School-Based Psychologists, Behavioural Interventionalists, School-Based Resource Teachers, Educational Assistants and Parents.

Created by :

Laura Carpenter, PhD, BCBA

Associate Professor of Pediatrics

Division of Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics

Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC)

Suggestions for Shifting Repetitive Behaviour

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Behaviour For A Reason

12 Tips for Teachers + Classroom Set Up

By Principal Kendrick

Standing before your students’ expectant faces, you’re determined to create a successful classroom. You will! These twelve tips are here to guide you. To be truly effective, never lose sight of the secret ingredient. Your students must know you accept them for who they are. They must feel your belief in them. By believing they can do it, you will expect a lot from them and you will get it. In the process and quite unexpectedly, you will receive a surprise bonus. Your students will adore you and look forward to learning in your class every day. Continue Reading . . .

A Touch of Neuroscience & Behaviour

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Autistic children have increased amygdala volume

This video below was recorded in 2012. At the time of recording, biologists and neuroscientists did not know the state of the autistic brain as they do now. It is interesting to listen to this conversation knowing what scientists have recently discovered

Autistics possess an enlarged Amygdala !

Since then it has been discovered that the enlarged volume of the brain structure called the Amygdala in autistics may be a biological factor driving behaviours; fear responses, anxiety, inability to make certain types of decisions. I offer this old video in order to stimulate your thoughts and understanding in how the neurosciences will be offering much more in the way of understanding autism as we progress through studies.

Anxiety and Autism is an organic issue having to do with the brain. Today in 2015, we have biological and physiological evidence linking anxiety and autism.
Autism Unusual Fears

Learn about the Amygdala

Amygdala Functions

Polyvagal Theory : A Neurophysiological Perspective

Soften Your Gaze

While working with autistic individuals refrain from demanding:


To look into the eyes of another person only stimulates the amygdala and exacerbates sensory overload.

Through direct experience in working as a Resource Educator with autistic adolescents and living with an autistic child I have found an effective method, as suggested by Porges (2011).

Inviting the student to "soften their gaze (soften their eyes) and look to a comfortable place" while listening to your voice is much more effective.

Ensure your voice is soft and gentle, knowing that the amygdala responds positively this. Offer confident, yet caring vocal direction.

This is all supported by Stephen Porges in his book entitled:

The Polyvagal Theory: Neurophysiological Foundations of Emotions, Attachment, Communication, and Self-regulation.

Young Author

Red Apple Publishing has just launched Devin Barzal's first book. Devin's dream of becoming an author and publishing his work is coming true today!

Buy it Here

What do I do if I suspect my child has Autism?

Shauna Dawn Paynter

Steps to take if you suspect your child has autism by Shauna Dawn Paynter

Interior Health Children’s Assessment Network Form

Preparing For Your Autism Assessment With IHCAN

School District Regional Resources

Here, specific community resources will be posted for your School District's Region.

The list below is taken from BC Government Website.



This is where we would put links to your local resources throughout the province and the rest of Canada.


Community Resources within the Okanagan Valley

Okanagan Abilities Centre - Private Clinic

This is a private facility that offers a wide range of psychological assessment and diagnostic services for children, youth and adults.

Phone: 250-762-7790

Fax Number: 250-762-7903

#102 – 2040 Springfield Rd. Kelowna BC

V1Y 9N7

Monday - Friday 8:30am - 4:30pm

Okanagan Centre for Autism Intervention

Services Include:

  • Initial assessment for programming
  • Development of individualized EIBI program
  • Monitor and evaluate child’s progress
  • Develop and implement Positive Behaviour Support (PBS) plans
  • Liaise with Speech-Language Pathologists, Occupational Therapists, Schools, Supported Child Development and other Professionals
  • Train Behaviour Interventionists
  • Facilitating Parent workshops
  • Community workshops

Phone: 250-801-0820




#207-1767 Harvey Avenue
Kelowna BC
V1Y 6G4

Serving these areas:

Thompson Okanagan
Kelowna, West Kelowna, Winfield, Vernon, Lake Country, Salmon Arm and Kamloops.

Kootenay, Boundary & Columbia
Nelson, Castlegar, Trail, Rossland, Fruitvale, the Slocan Valley and all areas in between.

Autism Community Training

A Resource for Upcoming Training Sessions for BC Parents of children with Autism.

Provincial Outreach Program for Autism and Related Disorders

A Resource for Upcoming Training Sessions for BC Educators of children with Autism for 2015-2016.

Vancouver Resource for Autism Assessements

More About Autism on Pinterest

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I highly recommend McGonigal's newest book, SuperBetter (2015). It is empirically based and full of easy practical ideas for building personal resilience and activating a gameful mindset to life.

Jan McGonigal has her PhD. from the University of California at Berkeley. She suggests we can boost our personal resilience on many levels with very small exercises called POWER-UPS!

Power-ups are designed to activate and offer a quick boost of physical, emotional, social or mental resilience.

Here is the Future Boost Power-Up:

"Name 2 specific things you are looking forward to in the next, big or small. This dopamine-boosting power up is inspired by the ancient wisdom, "Always have two things to look forward to."

If you can't think of two things in the next 7 days that you are genuinely looking forward to, now is the time to schedule them." (pg. 162, 2015, McGonigal)

Jane McGonigal TED Talk - SuperBetter

Jane McGonigal: The game that can give you 10 extra years of life
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BC's New Curriculum will be featured in an issue of MORE ABOUT AUTISM newsletter.

I will explore the question:

What are the possible affects of implementing this new curriculum for students diagnosed with pervasive developmental learning conditions?

If you are interested in receiving a newsletter solely dedicated to embodying BC's New Curriculum please email me here.

I am curious how teachers plan to implement and move forward with this change. Yes, BC government has allotted 10 hours of paid time for teachers to re-create and apply new concepts but what about ongoing support and training?

As an educator and a parent of school aged children, I desire us all to feel confident in applying new and innovative approachs in our classrooms. Feel free to email me with thoughts, suggestions and comments about the new curriculum.