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the history of autism

The History of Autism

Over the last 10 years the word autism has become a very well-known term. With the rates of autism steadily on the rise, most people are now at least somewhat familiar with it. But many people probably don’t know when autism officially become a recognized disorder, and how it evolved into what we know today? Below is a time-line of the history of autism.

  • Early 1900’s – The term “autism” was first used by Swiss psychiatric Eugen Bleuler to describe athe history of autism certain a sub-set of patients with schizophrenia who were severely withdrawn.
  • 1940’s – Researchers in the United States began using the term autism to describe children with emotional and/or social issues.
    • Leo Kanner – A psychiatrist from Johns Hopkin’s University studied 11 children with normal to above average IQ’s who had challenges with social skills, adapting to changes in routine, sound sensitivities, echolalia, and had difficulties engaging in spontaneous activity.
    • Hans Asperger – Also studied a group of children who were similar to the children Kanner studied except the children did not present with any language problems.
  • 1950’s – Bruno Bettelheim, a child psychologist coined the term “refrigerator mothers.” These mothers were described as mothers who were cold and unloving to their children. He claimed children of cold and unloving mothers were more likely to develop autism. This has since been disproven as a cause of autism due the total lack of evidence supporting such a claim.
  • 1960’s1970’s – Researchers began to separate autism from schizophrenia and began focusing their attention more on understanding autism in children. Autism also started to be considered a biological disorder of brain development. During this time, treatments for autism included various medications, electric shock, and behavioral modifications, most of which focused on punishment procedures to reduce unwanted behaviors.
  • 1980’s 1990’s – Early in the 80’s the DSM-III distinguishes autism as a disorder separating it from schizophrenia. During this time, behavioral modification became more popular as a treatment for autism. The way behavior modification was delivered began to rely more on reinforcement instead of punishment to increase desired behaviors. In 1994 the DSM-IV expands the definition of autism to include Asperger Syndrome.
  • 2000’s – present day – Rates of autism begin to rise and various campaigns have been launched to increase the awareness of autism. The prevalence of autism has increased from 1 in 150 in the year 2000, to 1 in 68 in 2014. Children are now able to be reliably diagnosed as young as 2 years of age. Due to years of research, the effectiveness of different intervention used to treat autism is better understood. Applied behavior analysis (ABA) is currently considered to be the “gold standard” treatment for individuals with autism.


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NSPT offers services in BucktownEvanstonHighland ParkLincolnwoodGlenview and Des Plaines. If you have questions or concerns about your child, we would love to help! Give us a call at (877) 486-4140 and speak to one of our Family Child Advocates today!

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The Importance of Choosing Evidence-Based Treatments for Children with Autism

Your child just received an autism diagnosis and you want to get them started in some type of therapy, but how do you chose from the vast number treatments that claim to help children with autism?  In addition to the seemingly endless list of treatments you can find on the internet, there is also many fad intervention that occasionally pop up, which claim to “cure” autism.  These fads do not have evidence supporting their claims, and can be potentially dangerous. So how exactly do you sort out the good treatments from the bad? The answer is to remember these three words: Evidence-Based Practice.

Evidence-Based Treatments for Autismevidence based treatments for autism

What is evidence-based practice? Evidenced-based practice means that the intervention is based on scientifically valid and reliable research. The best example of an evidence-based intervention for individuals with autism is applied behavior analysis (ABA). ABA has over 40 years of research supporting the use behavior analytic interventions to improve the lives of individuals with autism.

 Non-Research-Based Treatments for Autism

There are currently many popular treatments for autism which have little to no scientific evidence supporting their effectiveness, but are still widely used. These treatments include the following:

  • Special diets (Gluten-free and casein-free)
  • Biomedical interventions
  • Vitamin supplements
  • Therapeutic horseback riding
  • Music therapy
  • Facilitated communication

Dangers of Using Non-Evidence-Based Interventions for the Treatment of Autism

  • Wasting valuable time – I have heard many families say they are just going to “try” out a specific intervention to see if it works. While this may seem harmless, it can in fact waste very valuable time for the child. Any time spent on an ineffective treatment is taking away time where the child could be developing functional skills.
  • Wasting money: Most autism treatments are expensive, even those which are evidenced-based. Insurance companies are now beginning to cover more evidenced-based interventions such as applied behavior analysis. They do not however, cover those interventions which are not scientifically valid. Families have been known to shell out thousands of dollars for treatments which will have no lasting effect on their child.
  • Causing harm to the individual with autism: There many are current treatments that claim to “cure” autism by doing a number of potentially dangerous acts. A few of these interventions include: Chelation therapy, Bleach enemas, Chemical castration, and Miracle mineral solution (MMS). These treatments can all cause serious, life-long health issues, or worse yet death.

If you find yourself feeling overwhelmed or are having trouble sorting out non-evidenced-based treatments, contact an autism professional to help you with this important decision. Always be weary of treatments which claim to “cure” autism, and remember if a treatment seems too good to be true, it probably is.

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NSPT offers ABA Therapy services in BucktownEvanstonHighland ParkLincolnwoodGlenview and Des Plaines. If you have questions or concerns about your child, we would love to help! Give us a call at (877) 486-4140 and speak to one of our Family Child Advocates today!

More information about autism treatment can be found at:

http://www.asatonline.org/for-parents/learn-more-about-specific-treatments/

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8 Great Apps for Kids with Autism

Parents often ask me if I have suggestions for applications to download on their iPads, iPhones or other devices for their children.  I do!  I have TONS of apps that I use in my work with children with Autism daily.

My 8 favorite apps to use with kids diagnosed with Autism for iPhone/iPad users are the following:

  1. 123 Token Me– This app is a visual token board that can be used for one child (free version) or unlimited children and unlimited behaviors ($9.99).  This app gives you the versatility to choose background color, various token choices, and graphs and visually displays data for you. This is the most motivating token board I have used with my kids because it is interactive.  Also, one of the token options shows a picture of the child, which they all love!
  2. First Then Visual Schedule HD– This app is 2 applications put into one; it is both a visual schedule and a choice board.  It allows you to show the child “first ___, then ____.” with the ability to make choices from a visual field.  It also allows you to make more complex, multiple-step, visual schedules.  It is a bit on the pricey side at $14.99 but totally worth it if your child struggles to make choices verbally or would benefit from a visual schedule.  It is much easier to carry around than a paper schedule or choice board, because you can update it on the fly using the camera function or Google images.
  3. Duck Duck Moose, Inc.- (includes Wheels on the Bus, The Itsy Bitsy Spider, Old MacDonald and many more).  All of the Duck Duck Moose apps are a big hit with all the kiddos I work with as they are interactive, the characters move, jump and dance, and they all play familiar kid’s songs.  The apps range in price from free versions up to $3.99 each. Read more

What to Do When Your Child has a Potty Accident

Potty training can be difficult.  Throughout the process there can be slip-ups and accidents.  If you have a child who is already potty training, or if you have a child who exhibits signs that he or she is ready to start potty training, then keep these helpful strategies in mind for when an unavoidable accident occurs.

Strategies for dealing with a potty accident:

Potty

  1. Environment:  Create a friendly and inviting bathroom environment.  Provide different books that your child can read while she sits on the toilet.  You can even offer to play different songs while your child sits on the toilet and tries to go potty.
  2. Schedule:  Make sure that you, along with everyone who is with your child throughout the day, is on the same potty schedule.  Using this potty schedule, select a certain amount of time that you want your child to practice going on the potty.  You can start with having your child go to the potty every 30 minutes.  Set a timer. When it goes off, have your child stop what she is doing and try to go to the potty.  After she tries, reset the timer and wait for the next 30 minute potty try.  If your child is still having accidents on a 30-minute schedule, switch to 15 minutes intervals to catch the accident before it happens. Read more

7 Ways to End Bedtime Battles

Bedtime battles are a common issue among many parents with young children. However, putting your child to bed atend bedtime battles night can become an enjoyable time where you can wind down and spend some quality time with your child. By following a few simple guidelines, the bedtime routine can turn into a more enjoyable experience for the whole family.

7 Tips for a Smooth Bedtime:

  1. Keep the Time for Bed Consistent, and Create a Nightly Routine to Follow – Children respond really well to routines, and it will help them learn what is expected each night.  It will also make the whole bedtime process easier for everyone.
  2. Avoid the Use of Electronics the Last Hour Leading Up to Bedtime – Instead of your child playing video games or watching a movie, have her engage in more calming activities such as reading, coloring or taking a bath before bed.
  3. Gradually Transition Into Bedtime – Do not suddenly tell your child that it is time for bed. Instead, give warnings that bedtime is approaching starting about 45 minutes before she needs to be asleep, and then remind your child again 15 minutes before she needs to be asleep.  Continue to give warnings right until it’s time for bed.  If your child does not yet fully understand the concept of time, you can use a timer to help.
  4. Always Remain Firm but Calm – Never negotiate when you child does not want to go to bed, or if your child gets out of bed repeatedly. Calmly tell your child that it is time for sleep, and lead her back to her bed. In this situation, the less talking, the better.
  5. Adjust Nap Schedules if Necessary – If you notice that your child does not appear tired during her regular bedtime, consider adjusting her nap schedule or eliminating naps altogether.
  6. Give Your Child Choices During the Bedtime Routine – When children have choices, it gives them some degree of control.  This sense of control is likely to make them more compliant. Examples of choices that can be given at bedtime include what books to read, which pajamas to wear, or how many stuffed animals to keep in bed.
  7. Teach Your Child to Fall Asleep Alone in Her Own Bed -These are good skills to teach at an early age.  If your child begins to fall asleep only when a parent is in the room, or only when she is in her parent’s bed, this can become a habit that is difficult to break. Teaching independent sleep early will help alleviate many future bedtime struggles.

Click here for advice on how to deal with night terrors.  For more information on healthy sleep habits, contact our behavior therapy team.

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What is Pairing? Advice for Pediatric Therapists

Pairing is a very important part of starting a therapy program with a child.  It helps you, as a therapist, build rapport with the child and establish a pairingrelationship.  When working with a child, one of the main things you want to do is pair yourself with fun and reinforcing items.  You want the child to find you, and the environment, exciting and pleasing.  If the child is having fun and likes being with you, then he will be more motivated to come to therapy to work and play.

6 tips to help with pairing:

  1. Play!  When you first meet a child show him the different toys, games, and activities that are available.  Allow him to play with the different items to familiarize himself. Read more

7 Signs Your Child Is Ready to Potty Train

Potty training is not always an easy or quick process.  There are several skills that need to be taught and practiced.  Parents need to 

Potty Training

keep in mind that every child is different and there is no magic age that a child is ready to start learning to use the potty.  Even though there is not a magic age, there are definitely signs that you child is ready. 

 

7 Signs Your Child Is Ready For The Potty:

 

  1. A Desire to Use the Potty-Your child will start to show an interest in being potty trained.  He or she will start to stay clean and dry for longer periods of time and will be excited and happy about it.  Your child will also want to wear big kid underpants instead of diapers or pull-ups.  Interested potty learners are often curious about what you are doing when you are going to the bathroom.  He or she may start to ask questions about bathroom time.
  2. The Ability to Follow Simple InstructionsYour potty learner should be able to follow and complete simple instructions.  This is because there are several steps that need to be completed when going to the bathroom (i.e. turn on the light, close the door, pull down your pants and underwear, sit on the potty, wipe your bottom, flush the toilet, wash your hands…) 
  3. The Ability to Engage in an Activity-It is important that your child can sit and engage in an activity for more than a few minutes.  If your child becomes distracted easily or is quick to get frustrated or agitated, it will Read more

What is Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) Therapy?

Applied behavior analysis (ABA) uses the scientific principles of learning and motivation in order to teach effectively. It focuses on theaba therapy idea that the consequences of what we do affect what we learn and what we will do in the future. ABA seeks to improve specific behaviors while demonstrating a reliable relationship between the procedures used as well as the change in that specific behavior. ABA uses positive reinforcement to increase more positive behaviors and social interactions and decrease inappropriate behaviors. Below are a list of some possible ABA teaching methods that may be used when receiving ABA therapy:

ABA Teaching Methods

  • Discrete Trial Training (DTT)
    • DTT teaches a skill by breaking it up into simplified, isolated tasks/steps. By breaking down tasks into short trials and using prompts, DTT uses the overall success rate of learning. DTT utilizes clear beginnings and ends to each trial with specific instructions and
      prompts. The trials are short, permitting several teaching trials and a number of learning opportunities to occur. In addition, using one-to-one teaching allows for individualized programming.
  • Verbal Behavior (VB)
    • VB training uses a structured and one-on-one type of teaching format. This training works to teach language to children by creating and developing connections between a word and its meaning. The following are a list of VB terms that are typically implemented:
      • Echoics occur when a speaker says something aloud and the listener repeats exactly what was said. For example, the therapist says, “Ball pit” and the child will repeat the same phrase, “Ball pit”.
      • Mands can be thought of as commands or demands, in which a person is commanding or demanding something. A mand typically results in the speaker obtaining the item that was spoken. For example, a child asking for a drink of water when he/she is thirsty and then receiving the drink.
      • Tacts can be thought of as labeling an object. When a child sees a dog and then verbally says the word “Dog”, he/she is emitting a tact.
      • Intraverbals are similar to a conversation:  A question is first asked and then an answer is provided.  For example, a therapist asks, “How are you?” and the child responds, “Good!”. Intraverbals can also involve filling in the blank. For example, the therapist says, “Twinkle twinkle little _____” and the child responds with “Star”.
  • Natural Environment Training (NET)
    • NET focuses on practicing and teaching skills within the situations that they would naturally happen. In these situations, the therapist uses naturally occurring opportunities to help children learn.  The therapist might provide a coloring page but withhold the crayons until the child requests them, giving the child an empty cup and waiting for him/her to request juice, or playing a board game but withholding the dice or spinner until the child requests it are all examples of using NET.
  • Pivotal Response Training (PRT)
    • PRT uses the natural environment for teaching opportunities and consequences. PRT focuses on increasing motivation by adding items like having the child make choices/selections, taking turns and providing reinforcement for attempts made.
  • Self-Management Training
    • Self-management training is used to help individuals increase their independence and generalization of skills without always requiring the help from a teacher or parent. This technique results in an individual being able to monitor their own behavior. The individual is taught to self-evaluate their behaviors, keep track and monitor their behaviors, and provide their own type of reinforcement.
  • Video Modeling
    • Video modeling uses repeated presentations of target behaviors so that there is not a lot of change between modeling the target behavior. Video modeling can assist individuals with working social skills, learning self-help/hygiene tasks, and understanding emotions, etc..

ABA therapy is implemented to ensure that each individual’s programs are tailored to that individual’s unique needs. Therapists will often use different assessments (i.e. functional assessment interviews, direct observations, ABLLS, VB-MAPP, etc.) to develop an ABA program that is the ideal match and addresses the individual’s specific needs.

What Are Functional Assessments and the Four Main Functions of Behavior?

What are functional assessments?

Functional assessments are used to develop interventions for helping people change their behavior. A functional assessment is a procedure that is used to help identify what is reinforcing or

maintaining the behavior of concern. In order to generate a hypothesis about why an individual does something, a behavior analyst gathers information about the problem behavior (anything an individual does that is harmful or undesirable in some way). By observing the antecedents (what happened immediately before the behavior) and the consequences (what happened immediately after the behavior) of the problem behavior, behavior analysts can develop a probable cause for the behavior.

What is the function of behavior?

The function of behavior is the reason people behave in a certain way. People engage in millions of different behaviors each day, but the reasons for doing these different behaviors fall into four main categories.

The four main functions that maintain behaviors are:

  • Escape/Avoidance: The individual behaves in order to get out of doing something he/she does not want to do.
  • Attention Seeking: The individual behaves to get focused attention from parents, teachers, siblings, peers, or other people that are around them.
  • Seeking Access to Materials: The individual behaves in order to get a preferred item or participate in an enjoyable activity.
  • Sensory Stimulation: The individual behaves in a specific way because it feels good to them.

Once you have identified what function or functions are maintaining the behavior, you can start to implement an intervention that will help decrease the problem behavior and increase more appropriate behaviors.

NSPT offers services in BucktownEvanstonDeerfieldLincolnwoodGlenviewLake BluffDes PlainesHinsdale and Mequon! If you have any questions or concerns about your child, we would love to help! Give us a call at (877) 486-4140!

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Rewarding Your Child: How to Encourage Children To Behave!

Loving our kids is easy, right?  Well, we love it when we can spend quality time with them. However, there are those times when it seems that all we do with our kids is fight and scream, leaving us with nothing but a migraine headache and an upset child!

This is an ongoing negative cycle – you react to your child’s bad behavior, then they react to your reaction. As if that isn’t bad enough, you have to then go home and explain to your spouse why you can’t cook dinner, play with the other children or clean up the house. Having the knowledge, tools, and appropriate strategies for you and your child make better decisions will help break this negative cycle and encourage positive behavior.

The first thing I always asks my clients is, what are you currently doing to discipline your child? Most parents will respond by saying that they often get mad, yell, or send their child to time-out. While all of these suggestions are good, there isn’t a “cookie-cutter” method for disciplining children. We must remember that every behavior is a form of communication in itself and occurs for a specific reason.

Most parents want a happier, more peaceful relationship with their children, which is why they often give in to their negative behaviors. Alternatively, you can use the following positive reinforcement strategies to foster a peaceful relationship without enabling bad behavior.

The three most common forms of positive reinforcement strategies that I use are: Read more

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