Monday, December 28, 2009

Transition Lecture: Preparing for the Job of Life

The Kennedy Krieger Institute presents the next lecture in its adolescent transition lecture series, "Preparing for the Job of Life."

This free presentation, intended for adolescents and young adults with disabilities, as well as parents, educators, clinicians, and community and health care providers, will take place on January 20 from 7-8:30 p.m.

Light refreshments will be served at the lecture, which takes place at KKI's Greenspring Campus in the 4th Floor board room of the Bowles Building. (Located at 3825 Greenspring Avenue, Baltimore, MD 21211.) RSVP to Jenny Jones at

Advocate at the Autism Society's Day on the Hill 2010

There are many political issues that affect people on the autism spectrum. These issues range from educational policies to federal funding for disability programs to insurance reform and more. The Autism Society wants to ensure that families affected by autism are heard in Washington, and invites chapter leaders and advocates to its Day on the Hill 2010 to increase awareness and understanding of autism issues.

The first day includes training sessions on becoming a more effective advocate and information about pending legislation important to the autism community. The second day attendees will meet with their legislators to educate them on the issues.

You can register online for Day on the Hill. Early registration (before January 15) is $50. Regular registration (before February 2) is $75.

Day on the Hill will take place at the Marriott Key Bridge Hotel (1401 Lee Highway) in Arlington. For more information on the conference, email Hannah Cary at

Families Together January Webinars

Families Together has published its January calendar of webinars, including several relevant to autism.

Each seminar costs $10.

January 7 at 2 p.m. (Eastern): Sensory Integration. Register online.

January 14 at 4 p.m. (Eastern): Potty Training. Register online.

January 21 at 5 p.m. (Eastern): Challenging Behvaior. Register online.

January 28 at 5 p.m. (Eastern) Transition for Children. Register online.

Workshop on Preparing the Letter of Intent

M&L Special Needs Planning is offering a workshop on January 12th to help parents prepare a Letter of Intent. While not legally binding, this "morally binding" document communicates your wants and concerns for the care of your special needs child.

This seminar, which takes place from 7-8:30 p.m. at the Katherine Thomas School (9975 Medical Center Drive) in Rockville, costs $65.

Attendees should bring their laptops to begin writing their letter, which details what works well for your child, his or her financial overview, vital statistics, and suggestions about what changes might be needed in the future, as well as a list of locations of all pertinent documents and records and contact information.

Private meetings can be scheduled if your letter is not completed during the 90-minute seminar.

Sensory Friendly Film: Alvin and the Chipmunks

Enjoy a screening of Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel in a sensory friendly environment on January 9 at 10 a.m.

AMC Entertainment and the Autism Society have teamed up to provide a mellower setting for families affected by autism and other disabilities. The movie auditorium will have its lights brought up and the sound turned down, families can bring in their own GFCF snacks, and no previews or ads will be shown before the movies. Audience members are also welcome to get up and move or vocalize. (Unless the safety of the audience is questioned.)

Tickets cost between $4 and $6 depending on the theater. The AMC Rio Cinemas 18 in Gaithersburg (9811 Washingtonian Blvd.) is one of the theaters that participates.

Imagination Stage Offers Drama Classes for ASD Kids

The Imagination Stage in Bethesda has an Arts Access program offering drama classes for children with disabilities.

They are offering five Access classes this winter, including one specifically for 2nd-5th graders on the spectrum—"Drama and Music Across the Spectrum."

Courses are 8 to 10 weeks long and range in price from $250-$350 per session.

To find the classes, go to Imagination Stage's Search for Classes page. Then, in the third pull-down menu ("All Subjects"), search under "Arts Access."

COPAA's Special Education Law Webinar Series

The Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates (COPAA) has just announced a four-part webinar series in which COPAA members will share information about current issues in special education advocacy.

Registration fees vary depending on whether you are a member or not and whether you are an attorney, advocate, or parent. Parent fees are $35 per webinar, with a $25 discount off the fourth session if you register for all four. Scroll down to the bottom of COPAA's webinar page to find registration information.

Part One takes place January 14 from 2-3:30 p.m. (Eastern), and is an overview of the current political and legal climate affecting special education advocacy under IDEA. Matthew Cohen, Esq. will lead this webinar, titled "Reduced Special Education Law: A Little of Everything You Need to Know in 90 Minutes or Less."

Part Two takes place January 26 from 2-3:30 p.m. (Eastern), and reviews the basics of IDEA as it pertains to discipline, including an explanation of changes made in IDEA 2004. Matthew Engel, Esq. and Ron Hager, Esq. will be presenting this webinar, titled "Keeping Students in School: a Training on IDEA Discipline Law and Combating Zero Tolerance Policies."

Part Three takes place February 3 from 2-3:30 p.m. (Eastern) and covers least restrictive environment (LRE) and inclusive educational practices for students with disabilities. Selene A. Almazan, Esq. will lead this webinar, titled "Least Restrictive Environment: The Intersection of Research and Law."

Part Four takes place February 9 from 2-3:30 p.m. (Eastern) and is about the use of the right of consent in evaluations, reevaluations, IEP development, placement, and access. Jon Zimring, Esq. will be presenting this webinar, titled "Informed Consent and Meaningful Participation under IDEA."

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Event Summary for the Week of December 28, 2009

There is only one event on the AutMont Calendar for this week—a JSSA support group meeting on Tuesday, December 29.

There are all kinds of great events coming up in January, so don't forget to check back. Until then, I hope everyone has a wonderful new year!!

Thanks for being an AutMont reader!


Do you know of another event? Leave details in the comments!

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Wheaton Area Moms Offers Support for Special Needs Parents

Wheaton Area Moms is a local, independent support group for parents who stay home with their kids either part or full time. I'm a member of this group, which creates opportunities for moms (and/or dads) and their kids to get together for fun and support.

While most of the kids in the group are typically developing, there are several members of this group who have special needs children, and they are very welcoming and encourage other parents with special needs kids to join.

Members of the group host activities each month (including park days, playdates, morning coffee meet-ups, nature center playdates, and more) and also help members organize into smaller weekly playgroups with similarly aged children. They also have a babysitting co-op and a book club.

Membership is $10 a year. To join, you have to meet at least one WAM member in person, usually at one of their open activities: coffee on the first Monday of the month or a nature center playdate that takes place the third Thursday of the month. Find details on how to join WAM on their website or email for more information.

Event Summary for the Week of December 21, 2009

What's on the AutMont Calendar this week? Not a darn thing.

Enjoy the snow, enjoy the holiday, and have a wonderful week!

Do you know of something that's going on? Leave details in the comments!

Monday, December 14, 2009

Family Therapy for Autism: A Tool for Creating “Positive Cycles”

by Jonah Green

As the incidence of Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASDs) has exploded in the last 15 years, much progress has been made in understanding this complex developmental syndrome. People with ASDs are now recognized as a diverse group with a variety of diagnoses who vary widely in abilities and functioning levels. The defining features of those on “the spectrum” include difficulty with social skills and problems with reciprocal communication. People with ASDs may also engage in excessive rituals, have difficulty regulating their impulses, or display intense and focused interests. Many people with ASDs are either oversensitive or under-sensitive to stimuli such as touch or sound. Some have particular talents, or “splinter skills”, and most are good visual learners.

Many treatments have developed in recent years that address the developmental challenges of those with autism, including speech and language therapy, occupational therapy, and social skills training. Certain recreational activities, and perhaps specialized dietary regimes, may also facilitate the development of children with ASDs. Certain psychotropic medications can result in improved behavior and concentration.

A variety of approaches to addressing autism feature family involvement. “Floor play”, which may improve social and emotion-regulation skills, involves intensive parent-child play. Collaborative Problem Solving, which aims to increase the ability of children to manage their impulses and think more flexibly, as well as Functional Behavioral Analysis, which focuses on improving behaviors, both involve parent-child interaction. Beyond specific approaches, research and experience have shown that parents can take a number of steps to enhance their children’s development, including focusing on strengths, maintaining consistent routines, encouraging play dates, and utilizing “social stories” to enhance social functioning.

Many of the aforementioned treatments are effective, and the approaches that involve parents can help families feel supported and empowered. Even so, none of these treatment approaches address the needs of families as a whole; and the needs can be numerous. While the presence of a child with autism in a family can be rewarding, many families face significant time and resource demands. In addition, stress and conflict frequently accompany the challenges of raising a child with developmental delay.

Stress on families can occur at each stage of a child’s life: family members often feel shock and confusion during the toddler years as they first notice delays and scramble to find accurate diagnoses and effective treatments; anxiety and confusion often accompany the struggle to access appropriate services during the school age years; feelings of anguish and disappointment may accompany the teen years, when parents may witness the rejection of their child by peers as well as continued delay; renewed time and resource demands may accompany the scramble to find services during the transition to adulthood; and family members may experience burn-out as they face the ongoing demands of caring for autistic adults.

Each family member and family relationship faces particular challenges throughout these time periods. Struggles to reconcile differences about parenting and treatment approaches can stress the parental relationship. Siblings may struggle with feelings of embarrassment, and are often jealous at the attention and care that parents give to their siblings; as adults, many face the stress of caretaking. Differences often ensue between extended family members and parents over both the causes and the remedies for the challenges of autistic children.

Family stress and strife can exacerbate the challenges of people with autism. Autistic individuals thrive in consistent, calm environments, and need families to serve as effective advocates and caretakers. When family members are anxious or depressed, they may be less able to access effective treatments. Furthermore, strained family environments may lead autistic children to act out more, and limit their ability to make developmental progress. As a result, stress on the family may increase further, creating a negative cycle.

Family therapy can break this negative cycle. Viewing families in their entirety, family therapists can address unmet needs in individuals and strengthen particular relationships. They can help family members to support one another and communicate more effectively, and assist them in accessing treatments and resources. They frequently work with parents to strengthen their relationship and develop a unified approach to parenting. They may also work to strengthen sibling relationships, and fortify relationships between individual parents and children.

Successful family therapy can generate “positive cycles” that can benefit all family members. Families can develop more cohesive, orderly, and supportive environments, and become better able to access effective treatment. Autistic children become better equipped to develop themselves socially, emotionally, and academically. As the strengths of autistic children begin to shine through, the positive impact on the whole family creates an even more nurturing and positive environment for growth and development.

Jonah Green, LCSW-C is a Licensed Certified Social Worker—Clinical who has worked with families who include autistic individuals for over 15 years. Jonah conducts training for mental health and medical professionals on the topic of autism, and writes for several publications on topics including family therapy and autism. Jonah was chosen as a “Top Therapist” in the category of Autism by his peers in a vote conducted by Washingtonian Magazine in 2009.

You can find more information about Jonah’s practice at

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Event Summary for the Week of December 14, 2009

There are lots of webinars on the AutMont Calendar this week. Learn from the comfort of your own home!

Tuesday, December 15:

Sensory Friendly Theater: The Little Engine That Could

Adventure Theatre in Glen Echo Park is currently putting on a production of The Little Engine That Could and will be holding a sensory-friendly peformance on December 20 at 1:30 p.m.

The lights will be on and the sound will be down at this performance specifically for families of children with autism and other sensory needs.

Each ticket costs $10. Buy your tickets online and be sure to enter the pre-sale code: SPFAM.

For more information, contact Laure Schwarz at Adventure Theatre is located at 7300 MacArthur Boulevard in Glen Echo.

Guy Talk Support Group

It takes place in Baltimore, but if you are the father of a child with a developmental disability and are looking to connect with other fathers, check out The Arc of Baltimore's monthly "Guy Talk" potluck dinner.

Taking place on the third Thursday of every month, this dads-only support group gives men an opportunity to discuss the challenges and joys of having a child with a developmental disability.

Upcoming dates include December 17, January 21 and February 18 from 6:30-8p.m. The groups are held at The Arc of Baltimore (7215 York Road, Baltimore, 21212). To register, call Dorothea Nikas at 410-296-2272 ext. 5349 or email

Three More Families Together Webinars Scheduled

Families Together has added three more webinars to their December series. Each webinar costs $10. The link to register follows the description of each session.

December 15 at 10 p.m. EST: Stop, Look & Listen A webinar focused on challenging behavior. Register online.

December 16 at 3 p.m. EST: Potty Training Get some help with this tough subject. Register online.

December 16 at 5 p.m. EST: Teaching Children to Transition This webinar will focus on helping your child change activities without getting upset. Register online.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Bill Introduced to Restrict Use of Aversive Interventions, Restraint, and Seclusion in Schools

I've written some this week about the use of restraint and seclusion in schools and published a guest post by L. Mae Wilkinson about steps you can take to help ensure that your child isn't a victim of abusive restraint and seclusion in your own school.

The Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates (COPAA) this week also announced that US Representatives George Miller (D-CA) and Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA) introduced a bill, H.R. 4247, Preventing Harmful Restraint and Seclusion in Schools Act, to address the issues of restraint and seclusion in schools.

In its press release on the bill, COPAA stated that they were pleased that the bill includes many of the recommendations from its policy statements including:

• prohibiting the use of aversive interventions that compromise health and safety,

• prohibiting interventions that restrict airflow,

• prohibiting restraint or seclusion unless a student's behavior poses imminent danger of physical injury to self and others and less restrictive interventions would be ineffective in stopping such imminent danger

• requiring face-to-face monitoring if restraint or seclusion are employed,

• prohibiting school personnel to avoid restrictions on aversive interventions by putting them in a child's IEP, behavioral plan, or student safety plan,

• requiring that restraint or seclusion be implemented only by trained personnel and cease when there is no longer a threat of harm,

• requiring notice to parents within 24 hours,

• requiring the collection and public reporting of data, and

• protecting parents' and children's existing rights under Federal and State law.

We (I) here at AutMont think this is wonderful news!

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Steps to take to protect your child from abusive restraint or seclusion in schools

by L. Mae Wilkinson

Earlier in 2009, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) and the Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates (COPAA) issued reports exposing restraint and seclusion practices in schools. These reports indicated that thousands of students are secluded or restrained in public and private schools each year, including hundreds of cases where the techniques are allegedly abusive or cause death. The reports also noted that children with disabilities are at a special risk of being subject to restraint and seclusion, because their disabilities may manifest in what appears to be misbehavior. Children with autism are particularly susceptible to being misunderstood in this way, because they often do not display physical signs of their disabilities.

Since the release of the studies, advocacy groups, parents, educators and state legislators have created or are currently in the process of creating new policies and laws to eliminate the abuse of restraints and seclusion rooms in schools. In the meantime, parents can take the following steps as outlined by The Alliance to Prevent Restraint, Aversive Intervention and Seclusion (APRAIS) to protect their children.

1. Sign a No Consent Form. Make it clear to your child’s teachers or other program staff that you expect an environment free of aversives, non-emergency restraint, and seclusion. To put this message on record, sign and date a No Consent Letter and have it placed prominently in your child’s IEP or treatment plan. If you have seen warning signs which you believe may result from the way your child is treated at school or in any situation where you are not present, it is important to ask questions immediately.
2. Monitor Your Child's Program. Review your child’s records (especially the contents of the education and/or treatment plan, and any “incident reports” in your child’s files), and make visits during which you carefully observe all aspects of your child’s day.
3. Keep careful records. Document and date anything your child says or does that concerns you; take and date photographs of any suspicious injuries.
4. Share your concerns with your child's physician, psychologist, or other health care provider.
5. Report Abusive Practices to State and Local Agencies (including the police, just as you would to help stop abuse for a child without disabilities). Your State Education Agency (SEA) will have a help line, hot line, or other assistance program to which you should report at once. Disputes involving your child’s rights under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), state special education regulations, or state school disciplinary laws and regulations can be addressed through the State Education Agency’s impartial due process hearings. You have the right to request a hearing concerning your child’s placement or program at any time, and your request must be granted promptly. All 50 states, The District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the federal territories have a protection and advocacy system (P&As). P&As are mandated under various federal statutes to provide protection and advocacy on behalf of individuals with disabilities. To find your state P&A contact information to obtain assistance, please visit the National Disability Rights Network or call (202) 408-9514.
Other helpful links:

Monday, December 7, 2009

On Seclusion and Restraint

There has been a flurry of reports recently about the use of seclusion rooms in some Frederick County, Maryland, public schools. The issue has gotten local press recently because plans for an addition to Oakdale Elementary School show classrooms, restrooms, a faculty room, and a seclusion room, according to a Frederick News-Post article.

Seclusion rooms are used to isolate children whom teachers believe to be a physical threat to themselves or others or who are disrupting the educational process. Most often these students are special education students. And sometimes the results of the use of these rooms can be disastrous.

While there is much evidence of nationwide misuse of seclusion rooms, some support them, as evidenced in this News-Post editorial.

Tomorrow AutMont will feature a guest post on steps to take to protect your child from abusive restraint or seclusion in schools. I would be interested to hear from AutMont readers about what their opinions or experiences with public school restraint and seclusion are.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

"Diverse Learners" at the MCCPTA Special Ed Committee Meeting

The MCCPTA Special Education Committee will hold its next meeting this Monday, December 7, at 7:30 p.m.

In addition to the meeting, Dr. Susan Hammond of Stixrud & Associates will present a talk on "Diverse Learners."

The meeting will take place in the auditorium of the Carver Educational Services Center at 850 Hungerford Drive in Rockville.

Anyone is welcome at this free meeting. No registration is necessary.

Between a Rock and a Hard Place at the McTrans Meeting

MCTransitions is holding their next meeting this Thursday, December 10 from 7:30-9 p.m.

Along with a discussion by director Reda Sheinberg about McTrans' new website, Harry Mass will present another lecture called "Between a Rock and a Hard Place."

Mass' lecture is a continuation from the October meeting and is back by popular demand. If you missed that first meeting and want to get up to speed before attending this meeting, contact McTrans and they will send you the handouts from that first lecture.

The meeting will take place at The Arc of Montgomery County (11600 Nebel Street) in Rockville.

Webinar on Challenging Behaviors in Special Needs Kids

The Ivymount School is hosting a free 30-minute web seminar on understanding challenging behaviors in children with special needs on December 17 at 12:15 p.m. (EST).

The web seminar will offer practical insights into how both educators and parents can apply the principles of behavior in order to understand why challenging behaviors occur. It will also discuss how to identify challenging behaviors that are interfering with learning as well as understanding the process involved in assessing challenging behavior in a school or home setting.

Tamara Marder, director of the Ivymount Autism Outreach and Consultation Services, will be the speaker. She is a licensed psychologist in both Maryland and DC and a board certified behavior analyst (BCBA-D).

Event Summary for the Week of December 7, 2009

Check out all of the amazing events on the AutMont Calendar for this week!

Monday, December 7:

Tuesday, December 8:

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Interactive Christmas Play Offers Special Needs Performance

The Lutheran Church of the Good Shepherd will present an interactive play, "Bethlehem Marketplace," this coming weekend.

There will be performances both December 5th and 6th from 5-7 p.m., but they will also be presenting a special needs showing from 4-5 p.m. on Sunday, December 6.

Bethlehem Marketplace will take viewers on a journey through Bethlehem on the night when Christ was born.

The church is located at 4200 Olney-Laytonsville Road in Olney. There is no charge for the performance, but voluntary donations will be accepted.