Restricted and repetitive behaviors are a core feature of autism. But what exactly are they? Do all repetitive behaviors require management? Spectrum recently shared a brief video that explores the different types of repetitive behaviors and starts to unearth their significance. Keep up with the latest here.
The Autism Science Foundation (ASF) offers tailored resources for families and service providers with the goal of reducing the unique stressors and novel challenges caused by the COVID pandemic. For families, teaching tools, behavior management approaches, and health tips are available. For service providers, training modules and telehealth topics are covered. Free webinars on topics such as mindfulness, self-care, and resiliency during these challenging times are also available, regardless of your role. Access these resources here.
Get to know one of our hardworking Research Study Assistants, John! John has played a pivotal role in our Screen-Refer-Treat study, among others. Learn a bit about him and his motivation to advance the study of autism below.
Tell me what projects you work on in the lab.
We all do a little bit of everything here at the lab, but my primary focus is managing databases for our studies. That includes programming surveys, validating and correcting data, and running statistical analysis. I also prepare a lot of training materials and research new technologies we can use to make our studies run more smoothly.
What made you want to work in the READi lab?
I have always been interested in how our brains develop from childhood. I come from a big family with a lot of siblings, so I had a lot of firsthand examples of developing brains when I was a child. I also had the opportunity to lead a local trading card gaming community for several years when I worked at Pokémon. I got to know many children, youth, and adults with ASD in that community. When I returned to school to study developmental psychology, I was particularly interested in ASD, so READi Lab seemed a perfect fit!
What is the state of your current relationship with spreadsheets?
Spreadsheets are my friends, usually…
So, you’re from New York City, huh? What was it like growing up in the Big Apple?
New York lives up to a lot of its stereotypes: it’s loud, busy, direct, and wonderfully diverse. I found that being raised around people coming from many cultures and perspectives helped me to develop my own observational and critical thinking skills while also teaching me to be open-minded. Also, you can get amazing pizza pretty much anywhere!
What would your Pokémon team name be and what Pokémon would you be most proud to have as your champions?
Ooh, that’s a tough one! There are so many to choose from! How about I make a psychology research-themed team? I will call it the “Psychic Storm,” and it will consist of:
- Mesprit, a Legendary Pokémon said to have helped create emotions.
- Gothita, a Pokémon that is skilled at observing human behavior.
- Abra, an intelligent Pokémon that is said to be able to read minds.
- Ralts, a timid Pokémon that can sense emotions.
- Espeon, a strong Psychic-type Pokémon that is said to predict the future.
- Snorlax, because it is my favorite!
Please share two truths and a lie about yourself. (Scroll down to discover John’s fib!)
I have performed onstage with wrestling legend Hulk Hogan.
I have six toes on my left foot.
I can speak Greek.
I do not have six toes on my left foot.
This Saturday is the spookiest day of the year, and some children with autism may need additional support to connect with and to celebrate Halloween. Autism Speaks previously partnered with our READi lab team to create an “All About Halloween” personalized story template. While this template does not address new challenges associated with COVID, it does focus on traditional Halloween celebrations — like carving pumpkins and wearing costumes – as well as alternative celebrations. Knowing that creepy costumes and strange situations are just pretend is half the fun! Access this template and tips on how to use it here. Happy Halloween and be sure to keep an eye out for the full moon, boys and ghouls.
The COVID pandemic has affected just about every aspect of life, and our traditional Halloween celebrations will be no exception. Seattle Children’s published an article to help families with and without autism participate in the spookiest time of year safely. Tips for passing out candy, incorporating a mask into children’s costumes, socially distancing, and developing a safety back-up plan are discussed at length. Unsure if trick-or-treating or visiting a pumpkin patch is best for your family? Alternative celebrations are also discussed. Access the article here, and happy haunting.
Join Julia, Abbey Cadabby, and the rest of your friends on Sesame Street! Their “See Amazing in All Children” program not only aims to promote autism awareness and acceptance, but also to hear the voices of siblings of autistic children. Learn about the significance of spending time together as a family and time that is one-on-one with each child. Tips for talking to your children about their siblings with autism are also available. Watch “A Sibling Story” together as a family and download the free “Sibling Experience” packet for family games and activities. Follow this link to join in the fun!
How clinicians and early interventionists have talked about autism has changed quite dramatically over time. But how exactly? What does this mean for individuals on the spectrum? Our friends at Spectrum News created a brief video to explore autism’s diagnostic evolution and its implications for affected people and their families. Watch this and other informative videos here!
Elmo, Julia, and all our other friends on Sesame Street are excited to share ideas for at-home fun! The “Especially for Families with Autism” section of the Sesame Street in Communities website houses videos, storybooks, and printable activities for children at different ages. Articles for parents on a wide variety of topics are also available – two of which are authored by the READi lab’s very own Dr. Wendy Stone! Read why Dr. Stone recommends using a visual schedule and her suggestions to tackle the challenges of working from home.
The Autism Society of Autism shared a toolkit to support autistic people and their families through the unique challenges caused by the COVID pandemic. Topics include education, mental health & respite, healthcare resources, and lifestyle supports. All resources are available in both English and Spanish. The entire toolkit is available for download here!
Success means something different to each person, especially when it comes to treatments for autism spectrum disorders. A clinician or researcher may take one approach to measure individual outcomes, whereas a person with autism and his or her loved ones may place value on other areas. All stakeholders within the autism community hold valid viewpoints and concerns, so this spectrum of opinions must be explored to determine how to best support autistic individuals. Spectrum News interviewed two adults with autism and three experts to begin to bridge these gaps and to establish where commonalities and differences may exist. Read their responses here and contribute your own definition of “successful” autism treatments to the reader forum!
In July of this year, Netflix released a five-part docuseries titled, “Love on the Spectrum.” Follow seven individuals and two couples, all of whom fall somewhere on the autism spectrum, as they explore romance, dating, and relationships. A reality show without the melodrama, each person voices their own dating experiences, for better and for worse.
“Love on the Spectrum” is a binge-worthy show that has quickly become a READi lab favorite. If you haven’t seen it just yet, you may consider adding it to your watch list as we all enter another month of COVID-era social distancing and self-quarantining.
PBS Kids offers myriad resources to help parents talk about COVID-19 with their children. Learn how germs work with the Man with the Yellow Hat, how to wash hands with Elmo, or become a germ-fighting Superhero with Daniel Tiger! Videos, games, and other activities with your kiddo’s favorite PBS characters are available here. Articles for parents on topics such as navigating scary news stories and tragedies, supporting children when they miss their friends and school, and de-stressing for the entire family amid COVID are available, too!
Drs. Wendy Stone and Paul Yoder recently completed a 5-year NIH grant to study the use of an intervention called Project ImPACT (Improving Parents as Communication Teachers). Project ImPACT is a parent-implemented intervention that provides 24 in-home teaching sessions over 12 weeks. Our research was conducted with families who have a child with ASD and a younger sibling 12-18 months old, as later-born siblings of children with ASD are at elevated risk for social-communication delays or ASD. For this study, 97 ‘high risk’ siblings were recruited across Vanderbilt University and UW, and were randomized to either the ImPACT intervention or a control group condition.
Two papers resulting from the study are now published online in the journal ‘Autism.’ Collectively, these results suggest that: (1) ImPACT can be an effective parent-mediated intervention for improving communication in 12-18-month old younger siblings of children with ASD; and (2) some improvements occurred only in a subgroup who were identified as having lowest additional risk (i.e., females who screened at low-risk on a parent-report ASD screen and had only one older sibling with ASD.)
We want to express our most sincere gratitude to the families who participated in this study. We enjoyed getting to know all of them during their four visits to the lab. We would also like to acknowledge the efforts of numerous READi Lab members whose contributions to this project have been immeasurable.
The Behavior Response Support Team (BRST) with the University of Utah released short informative videos for caregivers and their children. Most videos are adapted to the age of the child and are available in a wide variety of languages and across multiple social media platforms, such as Instagram and YouTube. Regardless of whether kiddos will be continuing virtual learning or will be returning to in-person instruction this fall, tips and tricks are available to ease the transition for caregivers and their students! Topics range from normalizing mask-wearing and social distancing, establishing routines and schedules, ensuring students’ safety online, tackling boredom, and beyond! Access the entire library of videos here.
AFIRM, an autism intervention and resource initiative at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, has published a toolkit that includes 7 strategies designed to support children with autism during COVID-19. These strategies are:
# 1 Social Understanding
#2 Offer Opportunities for Expression
#3 Prioritizing Coping and Calming Skills
#4 Maintain Routines
#5 Build New Routines
#6 Foster Connections (from a Distance)
#7 Be Aware of Changing Behaviors
Detailed explanations of each strategy and ready-made resources are adapted to meet differing ages, needs, and skills. These materials are available for download here.
Navigating and implementing an IEP for a child with autism is challenging regardless of the COVID-19 pandemic. As many parents are struggling to decide whether their child should return to school this fall, parents and other IEP team members must come together to best support the needs of students on the spectrum. The Autism Science Foundation is hosting a free webinar titled, “Strategies for Implementing or Modifying an IEP for use at Home or the Community” on Thursday, July 30th, 2020 at 12:00 pm PDT to discuss IEP management strategies for home-schooling and for returning to “traditional” schooling this fall. Register for the event here!
The idea of returning to school amid COVID-19 has elicited strong, complex emotions for many of us. Folks may be overwhelmed and unsure of how to best prepare their students with ASD (and themselves!) for the new standards and safety precautions implemented by schools. ECHO Autism will be hosting a no-cost webinar titled, “Back to School During a Pandemic” on Tuesday, July 28, 2020 from 1:00–2:00 PM PDT to address concerns and to help set up students for success during these challenging circumstances.
Dr. Rena Sorensen, a psychologist with Cincinnati Children’s Hospital, will discuss strategies for returning to school and re-establishing routines, masking, social distancing, and more. Tools and resources to master each task will also be available. This event is open to parents, caregivers, teachers, and other professionals.
Register for this event here!
Life as we know it has changed rapidly with the COVID pandemic, and it continues to do so. We need quality sleep now more than ever to ensure the health and well-being of ourselves and our loved ones. Children with autism are often affected by irregular sleep, which may be worsened by the disruption of daily routines. This #FlashbackFriday highlights the Autism Treatment Network’s Sleep Tool Kit. The goal of this free informational booklet is to promote a stable routine to help children with autism fall asleep and to obtain restful sleep. Interested in learning more? Follow to this link to download!