National Autism Resources

What to do When Worries Are a Big Deal for Your Child

By Kari Dunn Buron

When children experience high levels of stress and anxiety, it can lead to a number of unwanted outcomes, including explosive behavior.   High levels of stress and big emotions related to poor social negotiation skills, difficult educational demands, upsetting sensory issues, and general frustration are more common than you might think.  According to the 2013 report by the Center for Disease Control, anxiety is the most frequent of all mental disorders in children.


In my work with children who experience anxiety, I have found that often parents, teachers, and therapists respond to the unwanted behavior without recognizing the need to address the underlying anxiety.  For example, a teacher might respond to a screaming child by saying,  “make a good choice” or “that behavior is not OK” or “use your words”.  These responses assume the child has the skills needed to make that choice or to verbally communicate the overwhelming feeling she is experiencing.

More than any other issue, a loss of emotional control can impact how peers and adults think about a child.  A well meaning adult might view the child as “difficult” and an otherwise caring peer might become fearful of being around him.  These responses can greatly hinder the child’s social and academic success in school.  Lack of understanding and rejection can actually lead to increased stress and result in chronic worry, where the child experiences ongoing low levels of anxiety in environments that require flexible social thinking or problem solving.

It is therefore critical that we help children to learn about and control their emotions, in a safe, direct and yet non-judgmental way.

When My Worries Get Too Big! is a book written to help parents, teachers and therapists support a highly anxious child, using a systematic and cognitive  approach.  The idea is to teach the child what anxiety is; how anxiety feels; what situations typically cause him to feel that way; and what to do about the feeling before it gets too big.

It uses a story format to introduce young children to the idea of worries, and how sometimes worries get so big that it is too hard to control them.  The book then gives the child an opportunity to label and define her own levels of worry.  Finally, the story introduces a systematic relaxation sequence for the child to practice prior to events that might typically cause big emotions.

Kari Dunn Buron has taught students on the autism spectrum for 30+ years and is a founding member of the MN Autism Project. She developed an Autism Spectrum Disorders Certificate program for educators at Hamline University in St. Paul, MN and was inducted into the Illinois State University Education Department Hall of Fame in 2012.  She is the author of numerous books including When My Worries Get too Big.

10 Sensory Toys Kids & Teens with Autism Will Love

Are you looking for a great gift for a child or teen with autism?  The following ten gifts are sure to delight your senses!  We talked to our product specialist and they put together a list of the top 10 highest rated and most requested sensory toys. Happy Shopping!

Tranquil Turtle or Starfish

We can’t say enough good things about the Tranquil Turtle and Starfish. This is one of our top selling gift items and everyone at National Autism Resources loves it. One of our customers sent in the picture of her son engaged with the turtle. Turn it on in a darkened room and it instantly makes the whole room look like water is rippling across the walls and ceiling. You can turn on soothing wave sounds or gentle music to add to the tranquility. The pictures don’t do this product justice!

Laser Stars

Watch shooting stars and a floating crab nebula from your living room couch! The laser stars turns any room into an amazing night sky. The short video clip below gives you a glimpse of what this constellation projector can do. This a great gift for kids and teens!

Living Sands

We love living sand because unlike play dough it never dries out! This unique tactile activity is great for sensory seekers. You can use tools similar to the kind you would use with play dough. The large size set comes with it’s own play container and five pounds of sand.  This provides more than enough sand for two kids to play with at a time.  A smaller version is also available and includes one and a half pounds of sand.



The Strobotop has been a top seller two years in a row! This highly visual top features a variety of discs that turn into animations when you spin them and shine a strobe light on them. Color your own discs are included so you can make your own animations. Watch the video below to learn more.

Mini Volcano Lamp

This economical visual lamp is perfect for your calming area or room. It’s gently lit with LED lights and the rhythmic motion of the lava beads is mesmerizing.


Rain Tube

You will love listening to the sound of rain while watching silver beads cascade down a clear tube. This item is a best seller for teachers and therapists.


Tangle Relax

The Tangle Relax is our favorite fidget. This quiet fidget toy is covered with textured rubber. It keeps fingers active, is quiet, and is very interesting to touch.  This item can break apart and be reconnected.  You can turn it into two mini fidgets or reassemble it into different color combinations.


Animal Massager

Gentle vibrations are calming and provide nice tactile input. We love that these massagers are animal themed and kid friendly!

Liquid Timer

Turn this timer over and watch colored drops of liquid gently float to the bottom. This simple item makes a great travel toy or a calm down companion to gaze at during stressful moments.


Ooey Gooey Octopus

This fun octopus features super tactile tentacles and a big round squishy body. Great for squeezing and squishing!

We hope these ideas have given you some gift inspiration.  If you need more help feel free to call and ask to speak to one of our product specialist.  We are committed to helping you find the perfect holiday gift!

Our 10 Favorite Gifts for Kids and Teens with Autism

Most of the people working at National Autism Resources live with special needs or have a close family member with special challenges. We feel everyone should get a gift they can enjoy at the holidays. As a matter of fact, we are a little fanatical about this. This month we’ve put together a list of our staff’s favorites, to give you some gift inspiration to help make your shopping easy.

Tranquil Turtle

The visual effects of the Tranquil Turtle are stunning. This amazing turtle projects an absolutely mesmerizing underwater light effect onto any ceiling. You have the option to set the lighting effect to move or stay still. Want a darker room? No problem easily adjust the brightness with a slide control.  You also have the option of listening to a tranquil melody or the sound of ocean waves.


Aim your LightPhaser at the spinning Strobotop, adjust the dial, and watch the images come to life! Watch animals, playing children, kaleidoscopic patterns and much more. Swap out Strobodisks or even draw your own! Great for highly visual teens and adults!  To see how it works check out the video here.

Vision Motion Lamp

The Vision Motion Lamp is a unique twist on the original Lava Lamp! This visually calming lamp features floating balls of wax against a reflective mirror creating the illusion of several tubes of floating balls.

Flowing Sand Panel

This is one of our top rated gift items, by both family members and teachers. It is so calm and relaxing for highly visual people. People of all ages enjoy looking at it, so it is a socially appropriate gift for teens and adults.

Mini Volcano Lamp

The soothing mini volcano lamp is a calming visual item great for a gift, desk top toy, night light or quiet area. Fill it with water and watch red balls shoot out of the volcano and fall gently down the sides. A true visual delight!

Hoberman Sphere

Kids love to pull the Hoberman Sphere and watch it expand from 9.5 inches to 30 inches in diameter. Push any hub and watch it contract! This fun toy comes assembled with game ideas and instructions.

Find It on the Farm

The Find It on the Farm is a unique twist on the Find It games that will have you twisting, turning and shaking the sturdy 10.5″ tube to find each hidden piece. Great for keeping kids occupied while traveling, in the class or during down time.

FantaColor Junior

Young children will have fun developing fine motor skills as they create colorful mosaics with the FantaColor Junior set. Use this item to teach colors, shapes, patterns, and more. 48 kid friendly sized snap pegs in bright colors are the perfect size for preschool hands. This set features 8 full color double-sided cards, printed on heavy cardstock, for a total of 16 designs. These cards feature kid friendly graphics and will instantly attract and engage the children you work with.

Super Spaghetti Ball

The Super Spaghetti Ball gives a sensation of “noodles” dripping through your fingers is probably one of the most tactile toys we’ve tried. These balls stretch forever and are so soft and wiggly they are hard to put down!

Goblet Liquid Timer

Flip this goblet timer over and watch blue liquid slowly drip down. A liquid version of a sand timer, it’s engaging and soothing to watch. It’s great for the desk, calming area or purse with an approximate size of seven inches.

Product Spotlight: Interactive Communication Cards

By Joan Green

The Interactive Communication Card sets allow individuals with communication delays, articulation difficulties, and foreign language speakers to communicate.  This popular resource has been used by teachers and therapists for years and can be used at home, school, in the community, rehabilitation centers, and hospital settings.  Each set features 120 2″ x 2″ laminated pictures that are labeled. Words are printed on the front and back of each of communication card. Velcro coins are included for each card in the set for easy picture communication.  Each set also includes four Velcro sentence strips to help you encourage communicators to use sentences.

Teachers, Therapists and Communicators can use the cards to:

  • make requests
  • ask/answer questions
  • clarify information
  • create schedules
  • create task analysis
  • identify what goes together
  • increase receptive and expressive vocabulary
  • answer “wh” questions (Who do I see when . . . What is she doing? Where would you find that? When would you get there? Why would you do that?)
  • communicate in sentences
  • transitions
  • demonstrate first, next, and last
  • make choices
  • demonstrate knowledge non verbally
  • demonstrate understanding of the function of objects (where do you go when you are tired? “bed”)
  • low tech, no broken computer to be shipped out for repair
  • activity sheet that shows alternative activities is provided
  • how to “make a notebook” sheet is also provided
  • reduce frustration over not being able to communicate
  • improve behavior with improved communication
  • beautiful 4-color drawings visually interesting

Sample Activities for Use with Interactive Communication Cards


Click here to view the Home Health set.

Click picture to see the Home Health set.

  1. Use cards to sequence activities. (ex. Wash clothes/dry clothes/fold clothes)
  2. Use cards to match an activity to items needed to perform that activity. (ex. Wash clothes/laundry detergent)
  3. Use cards to make chore charts. (ex. Make bed/hang up clothes)
  4. Use cards to have students identify and label body parts. (ex. Say, “Show me the picture of a neck,” or touch a picture and ask, “What is it?”)
  5. Use cards for vocabulary words by turning the cards over to the word side only and ask the student to find the named word.
  6. Use as spelling words. Ask the student to spell the words either verbally, with magnetic letters or by writing the words.
  7. Use for fine motor exercise. Ask the student to write, trace, or copy words written on the cards.


  1. Use the picture cards to request desired foods or drinks.

    Click image to see Food set.

    Click picture to see Food set.

  2. Make a chore chart. (ex. Put your plate in the sink/then wipe the table top)
  3. Make a visual grocery list by taking pictures of needed items to the grocery store.
  4. Play restaurant! Have students choose pictures of several items they would like to order. A student “waiter” takes the pictures or writes down the order on paper and then reads the order back to the “customer.” Take turns being the waiter and the customers.
  5. Use pictures to categorize into food groups of drinks, meats, fruits, and vegetables.
  6. Use in art. Ask students to either draw or color a picture of named food.
  7. Use cards for vocabulary words. Use word-only side of the cards to work on reading, writing, and/or spelling.


Click here to view Recreation/Leisure set.

Click picture to see Recreation/Leisure set.

  1. Students use the picture cards to request places they want to go or things they want to do by giving an appropriate card to another person.
  2. Use the picture cards for sequencing activities. (ex. Go swimming/grocery store/home)
  3. Use the cards to teach behavior in different environments. (ex.. While in the library we should have a quiet voice, no running, ask for help from the librarian if help is needed. In a bank we wait in line and go to a window when called.)
  4. Use cards to demonstrate the concept of first, next, and last. (ex. First you can work on a puzzle, next you can work on the computer, lastly it will be time to take a rest)
  5. Use the community cards to answer “where?” questions. (ex. Where do we see an elephant? Where do we mail a letter?)
  6. Also use the community helper picture cards to answer “who?” questions. (ex. Who do we go see when we are sick? Who puts out fires?)


  1. Students can use the picture cards to request activities they would like to do.

    Click here to view set.

    Click picture to see Sensory & Social Emotional Set.

  2. Teachers, therapists, or parents can use the cards to create a visual schedule of activities to be performed (ex. Scooter board, ring toss, bean bags)
  3. Role play by turning the picture cards over and having a student pick one and then act out the emotion portrayed on the card they’ve chosen. (ex. The student picks the “excited” card and displays his idea of what it’s like to be excited.)
  4. Empathy: Say a sentence. Ask the student to pick out a picture of how they think the person might be feeling (ex. “Sally cried when her mother drove away”)
  5. Sensory vocabulary: Have students write sensory/emotional vocabulary words with their fingers on trays smeared with pudding or whipped cream.
  6. Have students pick an emotion card and say, sign, or write a sentence with the emotion in it.

Joan Green currently runs Greenhouse Tutoring Center for Young Children with Special Needs.  She was a special education teacher in the Los Angeles school system for 16 years and was awarded Special Education Teacher of the Year. She served as a member of their Autism Task Force and co-authored a certification of competency for teaching children with autism. As an educational consultant she is frequently called upon as a guest speaker for national organizations. Joan developed many teaching aids over the course of her classroom experience and is a member of the National Autism Resources advisory board.

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Using Visual Strategies to Enhance Communication and Promote Literacy

By Joan Green

What are visual strategies?

1001 Great Ideas Revised Edition_3DVisual strategies are simply ways to provide information visually. Common examples in everyday life are: calendars, shopping lists, maps, assembly instructions, traffic signal, GPS devices, isle markers in stores, taking notes in meetings, street signs etc.  Once said, words are like smoke; they disappear.  Once signed and hands are quiet the information is gone.  However, written and/or picture information, used with or without speech or signs, provides an opportunity to visually process information and to revisit the information if needed.  Furthermore, anyone with vision, especially visual learners, can benefit from visual strategies.

Types of visual communication:

  • Pointing—drawing attention to something seen
  • Sign language—ASL or signed English
  • Written—for readers
  • Pictures—photographs or drawings
  • Pictures with words—understandable to the largest group of people, literate, non-literate, English-as-a-second-language all can benefit!

Ways visual strategies can be used with students:

  • Visual schedule for the day—class schedule or individual
  • Demonstrate changes in expected activity (no speech today)
  • Clarify information—fire drill—show picture of what is going to happen
  • Weekly schedule—when or why no school (Monday no school, Martin Luther King Holiday etc.)
  • Transition—when leaving classroom, show or give picture of where you are going
  • Students indicate wants, needs, feelings, ask/answer questions
  • Students initiate communication—place wanted materials out of reach with pictures/sentence strips underneath within reach
  • Reminders to stay on task—visual clock timer, water/oil timer, sand timer
  • Reminder to stay in assigned area—colored tape on floor
  • Communication books—class and individual
  • Snack books—individual with preferred items
  • Speech book—confer with SLP on lessons planned—make cards to ask, “What did you just do?” “What might happen next?”
  • Picture/name cards—Whose turn is it? Who is here today? What is this person’s name? Line up by name.

Using visual strategies to promote literacy:

  • Write words on old language cards—Peabody cards, verb and noun picture cards
  • Worksheets—make two copies of each handout, color, cut, and laminate and Velcro
  • Make biographies for each child—if you can read a picture sentence, you can read a book of picture sentences! Biographies are based upon individualized interests and can be very motivating.
  • Make copies of all activities to be sent home for practice and to maximize benefits
  • Put labels on items in room, give them a copy of the word if you want them to match it, and have the children either point the item out to you or go to the item and touch it or bring it to you—table, TV, closet, books, mirror, chair etc.

Ways to incorporate educational goals in a hospital setting:

  • Schedule: Use whiteboard on wall to write visual schedule of the day to show child what they can expect to happen that day—8:00 AM breakfast and medication, 10:00 therapy dog visit, 12:00 lunch, 2:00 Dr. visit, 3:00 physical therapy, 5:00 dinner etc.
  • Fine motor: Have child draw pictures of the people they see each day. Label the pictures and put on wall.
  • Safety signs: Go on “field trip” in wheelchair and find safety signs” (in/out, open, do not enter, men/women bathrooms, danger etc. as well as specific signs that are seen in hospitals), bring cards of signs and have them match, make a list of the signs they see, write a sentence about what each sign means, draw a picture of each sign etc.
  • Reading: label items in the room, give child cards and have them read the cards (closet, bathroom, mirror, bed, window, door, tray etc.)
  • Writing: Write a biography or journal of each day. Have the child draw a picture on the top of a piece of paper and write a sentence or two underneath. (“Today I met Chowder, the Chow therapy dog. He was brown, big, and soft.” “He kissed me!”)
  • Math: Count and make a checklist of the number of people that come into the room each day. Create a graph to see what days are the busiest. Multiply the number by 7 to see how many people came into the room during the week. Etc.
  • Language Arts: Attach Velcro to the back of language cards to identify, label, categorize, create sentences, answer who/what/where questions, sequence activities etc.
  • Attach felt to the back of a small whiteboard and a clipboard. Use the whiteboard and clipboard to write, color, do homework on and the back for activities that use Velcro

Some helpful resources:

Joan Green currently runs Greenhouse Tutoring Center for Young Children with Special Needs.  She was a special education teacher in the Los Angeles school system for 16 years and was awarded Special Education Teacher of the Year. She served as a member of their Autism Task Force and co-authored a certification of competency for teaching children with autism. As an educational consultant she is frequently called upon as a guest speaker for national organizations. Joan developed many teaching aids over the course of her classroom experience and is a member of the National Autism Resources advisory board.

Social Skills Training and Frustriation Management

By: Jed Baker Ph.D.

There are several steps you need to take to manage and prevent challenging behaviors.  Key components of effective social skills training, and frustration management include:

  • Assessment: Prioritize relevant skill goals based on input from key stakeholders (e.g., the student, parents and teachers).  Trying to teach a universal set of skills in a short amount of time has no1001 Great Ideas Revised Edition_3Dt been effective. Recent research suggests that we focus on specific, relevant skill deficits of a student and work on them for a longer period of time. I typically ask that students, caring professionals and family help prioritize three to four skills to work on for months at a time across settings. To identify these skill goals, I ask key stakeholders the following questions:
  • What does the student do too much of the time that might interfere with social functioning in a desired setting? Examples might include violating others’ space, interrupting others, talking at others about their interests, imposing their wishes on others, avoiding frustrating work, insulting others, or handling disagreements in aggressive ways. This is often what we call “disruptive behaviors.”
  • What does the student not do enough of the time that might interfere with social functioning in a desired setting? Examples might include not responding to peers or teachers, not asking for help when needed, not managing their hygiene or dress appropriately, and not initiating interaction with others.
  • Motivation: Establish motivation to learn and use skills across settings.  Just because we identify skill goals does not mean a student is motivated to learn those skills. We need to consider strategies that emphasize extrinsic motivation (i.e., rewards after skill use) and those that emphasize intrinsic motivation (i.e., making skill use itself rewarding). Extrinsic motivation would entail finding rewards (like food, access to toys, videos or other favorite activities) following brief periods of play with peers. Intrinsic motivation would entail exploring what play activities the youngster enjoys. We might try games requiring little language like hide and seek, follow the leader, or non-verbal board games. We would model and prompt the child through the activities. Whatever brings a smile to the child over time suggests some interest. Then we would teach typical peers to play those games with him. Thus rather than giving a reward after playtime, the play itself becomes rewarding because the child chooses the games.
  • Initial skill acquisition: Teach skills using strategies that match the student’s language, cognitive and attention abilities.  There are two considerations in deciding how to teach skills to students.
    • First is the type of strategy used. This depends on the symbolic language and cognitive skills of the students. Those with good symbolic language can benefit from strategies in which skill steps are explained in addition to being modeled and prompted. For students who have great deficits in symbolic language, one cannot “talk about” how to perform a skill; instead, the instructor must model and prompt the skill in the actual situation and perhaps supplement this process with the use of pictures or video of skill steps.
    • The second issue to consider is where to teach the skills: in a group, classroom, or individually. There is evidence that teaching in a classroom can increase generalization, however, if students have significant behavioral challenges and difficulties attending in group settings, it may be best to begin with individual treatment prior to considering a group.
  • Generalization: Coach students to use the skills in natural settings and capitalize on interests and preferences.  Students need reminders and coaching to perform skills in natural settings. I have found it crucial to communicate with parents and teachers, helping them to create written reminders (cue cards, behavior charts or skill lesson sheets) to prompt their students. When skill use has his own rewards, like getting to do desired activities, generalization comes more naturally.
  • Peer sensitivity training: Target typical peers as necessary to increase generalization, reduce isolation, increase opportunities for friendship and decrease bullying.  When targeted students have little opportunity to interact with peers, or worse yet are being teased, it is crucial that training of “typical” peers become part of the social skills intervention. Peers can be taught to be “helpers” or coaches to students with autism during play or work. They can also be taught to be good “bystanders” by taking a protective role when their disabled peers are teased or bullied. In addition, they can participate in social skills groups with their autistic peers to provide opportunities to interact in conversation and play. The DVD demonstrates ways to sensitize peers and create peer buddy programs.
  • Measure Progress: Establish way to track progress.  I usually rely on direct observation of a behavior when possible (e.g., frequency, duration, intensity or percentage a behavior occurs). When gathering such data is difficult, it is usually possible to get ratings from parents and teachers about how well a youngster is performing a skill. Although these are subjective measures, they are valid measures of social competence, that is, the extent to which the rater feels the child is competently demonstrating a skill.

bbsgFor an in-depth training on this subject check out Dr. Baker’s DVD: Social Skills Training and Frustration Management.  This dynamic presentation is extremely valuable to family members and professionals working with individuals with autism spectrum disorders and other issues that impact social-emotional functioning.  In this DVD, Dr. Baker explains how to manage and prevent challenging behaviors as detailed in the No More Meltdowns book. In addition, Dr. Baker, lays out the key components of effective social skills training.

Jed Baker, Ph.D. is the director of the Social Skills Training Project, a private organization serving individuals with autism and social communication problems. He is on the professional advisory board of Autism Today, ASPEN, ANSWER, YAI, the Kelberman Center and several other autism organizations. He is an award winning author of five books including No More Meltdowns: Positive Strategies for Managing and Preventing Out-of-Control Behavior.

Creating Positive School Partnerships

By Ellen Notbohm and Veronica Zysk

Click to View Book

Click to View Book

Here’s a statement that demonstrates our remarkable grasp of the obvious: autism is very, very complex. So we continue to be amazed by the frequency with which we get questions (often from reporters) asking us to synthesize autism or some aspect of it down to “the single most important thing.” As if there could ever be such a thing. Nevertheless, when recently asked, what is the single most important thing parents need to know about special education?, we had an answer ready.

The most important thing parents and teachers can do for their student with autism is to create and sustain a productive working relationship based on honesty, respect, empathy, commonly shared goals and ideals. Parent-school partnerships do have an emotional layer, and it can sometimes waylay even the best-intentioned participants. Creating and maintaining positive partnerships requires that both parents/caregivers and educators/service providers hold to these actions and attitudes:

  • Commit to a team mentality, with a common goal of creating the best possible educational program for the student. Resolving issues in a win-win format is essential to fostering a long-term positive relationship. Leave egos and personality differences at the door, bearing in mind at all times that you are involved in a partnership whose goal is that all parties feel positive about the outcome.
  • Familiarize yourself with both the rights of parents/guardians and the responsibilities of the school system with regard to the provision of services. Don’t leave it up to someone else. Be personally educated and responsible.
  • Arrive for meetings on time, organized and prepared. Have questions ready.
  • Be assertive, not aggressive. If you are not sure of the distinction between the two, check a few dictionary definitions. Assertive is generally defined as being resolute and confident, whereas aggression is defined as hostile or destructive behavior caused by frustration. Assertive means being informed, focused, tenacious and firm, but respectful. It’s much more likely you’ll be heard when communicating in this manner than when you are in the attack mode, where the listener’s natural tendency will be to tune out/avoid/defend and/or engage in similar reciprocal behavior – none of which will be productive. Avoid putting team members on the spot or consciously embarrassing them.
  • Know what you want to accomplish and come prepared. Explain concerns clearly, without unnecessary jargon. Be clear about the child’s strengths and challenges, learning style, and what strategies may be more effective to help him learn and grow. Present specific examples; be able to back up your statements with facts, such as professional assessments and recommendations. Check for comprehension often.
  • Schedule meetings allowing enough time for adequate discussion of the issues, or schedule several shorter meetings. Rushing through too many items in too little time increases opportunities for misunderstanding and dissatisfaction, and almost guarantees that future meetings will be necessary. One professional negotiator put it this way: “You may have the watch, but I have the time. I can drink as much tea or coffee as the next person.”
  • Keep a check on your emotions: learn how to discuss, disagree and reason with others to accomplish your goals.
  • Base decisions on the child’s need, not in response to the personalities or interpersonal skills of team members.
  • Accept that a team member may have a differing point of view, but still hold the child’s best interests in mind. No one is always right or always wrong.
  • Establish a rapport and maintain communication throughout the year. Share information freely. Return calls promptly, write notes often.
  • Maintain good written records, keeping documents in a chronological binder, notes from phone conversations in a folder. Record date, time, to whom you spoke, what was requested, actions promised, conclusions reached. If you are not a good note-taker, record conversations and meetings (informing the other party that you are doing so). Don’t rely on memory, no matter how sharp you think you are. Phone calls and emails and details pile up, and you may need to refer to specific details of these conversations at some point.
  • Follow through and follow up. Always supply what is asked of you in an efficient and accurate manner. When following up on action promised by others, be persistent but reasonable.
  • Express appreciation for all efforts large and small.
  • Parents/caregivers must respect that teachers and administrators are responsible for the educational programs of many other children besides your own. They may not always be able to respond to requests immediately. Educators/service providers must set and adhere to reasonable response timeframes.
  • Educators/service providers must recognize the parent as the expert in understanding the child and how he functions.
  • Be realistic about what constitutes a crisis. Only call an emergency IEP meeting when dangerous consequences are imminent. Parents/guardians have the right to call an IEP meeting at any time during the year but whenever possible, should keep scheduling demands reasonable.
  • Parents/guardians who decide that due process is warranted must say so honestly, without using it as a threat, so that educators may respond in a manner that avoids such a step if possible.
  • All team members must recognize that district policy or state law does not override federal law. Identify and discuss discrepancies.
  • All team members should be pro-active in seeking advice from other professionals or requesting further evaluations in areas of need or uncertainty. Always remember that there are no stupid questions if you don’t know the answer, and that most people like to help others. Ask colleagues, caseworkers, doctors, teachers, family members, neighbors and friends for information, support, suggestions, help with tasks. There is rarely any harm in asking for help (the worst anyone can say is no, and even then, you’ve lost nothing), and even more rarely any advantage in trying to handle thorny problems alone.

Respecting and valuing all individuals as individuals must be the cornerstone of all learning, throughout formal education and beyond. Understand the gravity of the decisions being made about this one child. They will affect his success or failure not just the current year, but for all the years ahead.

Excerpted from 1001 Great Ideas for Teaching and Raising Children with Autism or Asperger’s, 2nd edition, by Ellen Notbohm and Veronica Zysk. (2010, Future Horizons). Silver Medal winner, 2010 Independent Publishers Book Awards, Learning magazine Teacher’s Choice Award.

Four-time ForeWord Book of the Year medalist/finalist Ellen Notbohm is author of one of several award-winning books on autism.

Veronica Zysk is Product Development Manager at Think Social Publishing, and former managing editor of Autism Asperger’s Digest, winner of multiple awards for excellence. She has co-authored or edited more than a dozen books on autism and Asperger’s, working with many noted authors including Temple Grandin and Michelle Garcia Winner.

Positive Strategies for Managing and Preventing Out of Control Behavior

By: Jed Baker Ph.D.

A “meltdown” is an intense emotional reaction when individuals are overwhelmed or threatened. It can look like a loud tantrum or a quiet shut down as individuals become non-responsive. In these moments, it is as if the emotions have “hijacked the brain” such that individuals do not have access to logic and reasoning.

Meltdowns can occur anywhere, anytime, at home or in public. Common triggers include (1) internal issues like tiredness, hunger, (2) sensory issues like too much noise or stimulation, (3) lack of structure, where rules, routines and schedules are not clear, (4) frustrating tasks, like school work, (5) Being denied access to a desired object or activity, (6) being ignored or not getting the attention one wants, (7) and threats to self-esteem, such as making mistakes or losing a game. Knowing the trigger to repeat meltdowns can help us anticipate and prevent them from happening.


Things to keep in mind as you respond and prevent challenging behaviors including meltdowns.

  1. Understand the limits of the typical approach. When occasional challenging behaviors arise, it’s okay to use a typical discipline approach of having rules and consequences to address the misbehavior. However, when repeat problems continue, we must stop reacting with more discipline and think about how to prevent the problem in the first place. For some children with special needs, increased discipline only serves to escalate the problem.
  2. Manage ourselves before we can manage our children. Controlling our own emotions comes from a positive understanding of our children’s behavior. Parents or teachers must see a child’s poor behavior as temporary rather than permanent.  They must neither blame themselves nor their child but rather see the behavior as a reflection of the child’s lack of skills.  This understanding positions them to maintain their cool and teach the child better ways to cope. Research shows that when parents and teachers maintain optimism, they get much better outcomes
  3. Calming a meltdown in the moment/Crisis management. In the midst of an unexpected meltdown, try to teach the child a better way to get what he wants, like asking for a break rather than tantrumming. When all logic is gone, use strategies to calm the child rather than trying to reason with him or force compliance. Redirect your youngsters attention to something they enjoy, validate their feelings or use humor to get their mind off the problem at hand. These are forms of distractions and can be some of the best crisis management tools.
  4. Understanding repeat problems. When meltdowns continue, it is important to move out of crisis mode and begin to gather information about what triggers those repeat meltdowns in order to prevent them in the future. In the No More Meltdowns book and No More Meltdowns APP  you can learn more in-depth strategies on how to identify triggers and track challenging behavior over time.
  5. Creating prevention plans. Most of the No More Meltdowns book is designed to provide parents and teachers with guidelines to prevent problem behavior associated with common triggers. Here are some common triggers so that you can create prevention plans.bbsg
    • Demands
      • Do your schoolwork
      • Try it, it’s delicious
      • Hurry up, the bus is coming
      • Clean up
      • I don’t want to go
    • Waiting/accepting no
      • Just wait
      • You can’t always get what you want
      • Okay, time to stop playing
    • Threats to self-image
      • Winning isn’t everything
      • It’s okay to make mistakes
      • But names will never hurt me
    • Unmet wishes for attention
      • Play with me
      • How come he got more than me?
      • Time to go to bed

For more in-depth answers on how to deal with meltdowns and create proactive prevention plans pick up your copy of NO MORE MELTDOWNS: POSITIVE STRATEGIES FOR MANAGING AND PREVENTING OUT-OF-CONTROL BEHAVIOR.

Dr. Jed Baker is the director of the Social Skills Training Project, a private organization serving individuals with autism and social communication problems. He is on the professional advisory board of Autism Today, ASPEN, ANSWER, YAI, the Kelberman Center and several other autism organizations. In addition, he writes, lectures, and provides training internationally on the topic of social skills training and managing challenging behaviors.  You can contact Dr. Baker for a workshop or consultation services at or

Supporting IEP Goals across Environments for Young Children with Special Needs

By Joan Green

When young children with special needs go to school, the family and school representatives get together to create an Individualized Educational Plan (IEP) that includes the student’s educational goals for the coming year. Since learning happens all the time, in all environments, families can help their child at home and in the community by being aware of the goals and creating opportunities for practice.

Yong children with special needs often have similar goals, for example: matching, identifying, labeling, sorting, counting, categorizing, colors, numbers, letters, shapes, sounds, and fine/gross motor and social skills. There are many activities that incorporate a variety of educational goals within them. When playing with their child, parents are often reinforcing their child’s IEP goals and may not even realize the value and importance of what they are doing.

My goal is to acknowledge parents for what they already do, to provide them with a few ideas, and to stimulate their imaginations and participation in their child’s 4

Listed below are just a few simple ideas, sample goals, and possible activities that families can do at home and in the community to help their child reach their goals.

Music: Practice skills by singing songs about what you are learning. Body parts: song “Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes.” Make up songs, “Old McDonald Had a Zoo” etc.

Goal Card: In order to actually be aware of what a child’s goals are, it is helpful for goals to be visible. Make a 5”x7” card with the child’s goals on it and put it on the fridge. Glance at it regularly.

Plan of Action: Look at the child’s goals. How do their needs fit logically into normal daily activities? Make a list of the goals and corresponding activities. Now there is a plan.

Favorite Things and Themes: Favorites can be incorporated into activities. (Ex. If he likes cars, then he can count them, sort them, paint them, build garages, write/read or draw stories about them, learn safety signs, add and subtract them etc.)

Sample Goals and Activities:


  • Sorting—socks and shoes (match, identify, label, categorize, color, size)
  • Increasing time on task (use timers, water, sand, kitchen, alarm clock)
  • Following Routine (provide visual schedules, word and/or objects)
  • Increasing expressive language (make box of items that begin or end in sounds identified in IEP) (Ex. Beginning sound “B”—book, bear, button, baby bottle; ending sound “T”—coat, hat, bat, mit)
  • Rote counting—count out silverware while putting it away
  • Number concepts—cooking (give me one cup of water, two eggs)
  • Self-help—dressing skills (pull up own pants, zip up own jacket, play dress up)
  • Categorize—clean up (shoes go in bottom of closet, socks in drawer)
  • Sensory—outside (if too excited, push slowly in swing; if low-energy, put on up-tempo music, play chase)


  • Parking lot
    • more/less (people or cars)
    • counting (number of trucks)
    • transitioning (transition items to take with, items to show where they are going, visual schedule)
    • safety (looking for crosswalks, watching out for cars, identifying safety signs)
  • Grocery store
    • colors (find green vegetables in grocery store)
    • categorizing (banana/fruit, green beans/vegetables)
    • counting (put four tomatoes in the bag)
    • identify (“get the peanut butter for me”)
    • label (“what did you pick out?”)
    • big/little (pick out a big apple and a little apple)
  • Bank
    • counting (number of people in line)
    • social skills with teller (answering question, “What’s your name?” “How old are you?”)
    • waiting—praise waiting, find items in environment to identify
  • Mall
    • self-help—teach how to communicate need to go to the bathroom when in public
    • label—items in stores
    • sensory—touching textures, tolerating crowds, noise

All children benefit when everyone works together to create opportunities for learning. On behalf of the children, thank you for your efforts.  To help children address IEP goals at home or in your classroom you can also utilize Interactive Reading Books, all based on IEP Goals, by Joan Green.

Joan Green currently runs Greenhouse Tutoring Center for Young Children with Special Needs.  She was a special education teacher in the Los Angeles school system for 16 years and was awarded Special Education Teacher of the Year. She served as a member of their Autism Task Force and co-authored a certification of competency for teaching children with autism. As an educational consultant she is frequently called upon as a guest speaker for national organizations. Joan developed many teaching aids over the course of her classroom experience and is a member of the National Autism Resources advisory board.

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