Saturday, November 30, 2013

Book Review: Chaos to Calm: Discovering Solutions to the Everyday Problems of Living with Autism

The demands placed on parents caring for a child with autism can contribute to a high level of parental distress and adversely affect family functioning. Unfortunately, families are often exposed to unsubstantiated, pseudoscientific theories, and related clinical practices that are ineffective and compete with validated treatments. The time, effort, and financial resources spent on ineffective treatments can create an additional burden on families. As a result, parents and caregivers everywhere are eager for credible, research-based information on the most effective treatments for autism. Chaos to Calm: Discovering Solutions to the Everyday Problems of Living with Autism by Martha Gabler describes an evidence-based method that can be used by parents and caregivers to address the everyday challenges associated with autism and improve the quality of life for their children and families.
The book is a personal account of Martha Gabler’s journey from chaos to calm and how she discovered and implemented an effective teaching method for decreasing the challenging behaviors of her non-verbal son Doug, who was diagnosed with severe autism. Gabler shows parents how to use a method called TAGteach to address many of the common and difficult problems of autism. Briefly, the acronym TAG stands for “Teaching with Acoustical Guidance.” The method utilizes an acoustical signal such as a click or a hand clap to “mark” the behavior that will earn positive reinforcement. TAGteach is based on the principles of applied behavior analysis (ABA) and relies on the use of positive reinforcement, prompting, fading, and shaping to increase desired behaviors. It is a completely positive approach that is relatively easy to learn and implement by parents and other “non-experts.”
Chaos to calm consists of 15 chapters. The first chapter introduces the reader to TAGteach and describes how the method works. At the outset, Gabler takes a reasoned and reasonable approach by commenting that TAGteach is not a substitute or replacement for other behavioral methods, but one that can serve as a powerful adjunct to these and other teaching strategies. She also notes that TAGteach is not a cure for autism, but a method that was uniquely successful at teaching her son functional behaviors that allowed her family to experience a better quality of home life. The subsequent chapters are arranged to describe what Gabler feels are a logical progression of skills to learn. She begins by describing step-by-step how the TAGteach process can be applied to a single, less challenging task (“Quiet Mouth” behavior) and then to more complex and difficult problems such as tantrums and transitions; self stimulatory behaviors; aggression, self-injurious, and destructive behavior; and arguably one of the most challenging and stressful behaviors of children with autism, chronic sleep problems. There are also chapters focusing on “going into the community” and social, life, and play skills. The final chapters provide a summary of the TAGteach approach, answers to some common questions regarding application of the method, and future directions for the use of TAGteach.
Chaos to calm is more than a “how to” book or guide to behavior management. Gabler puts a human face on applied behavioral methods and describes her challenges and experiences with thoughtfulness, compassion, and humor. She also emphasizes the importance of responsibility; following rules and understanding limits; and “learning the rules of society.” As Gabler notes, it’s important to teach the concept of a rule for the child. She also reminds adults to follow a very important rule: only ask your children to do what they are capable of doing.
Chaos to Calm: Discovering Solutions to the Everyday Problems of Living with Autism is highly recommended to parents and caregivers of children across the autism spectrum who will find the book a source of inspiration and encouragement as they begin their own personal journey from chaos to calm. Professionals will also find the book a valuable resource for use with families and teachers who have a pressing need for practical, evidence-based interventions to deal with the daily struggles and challenging behaviors of children with autism.
Gabler, M. (2013). Chaos to calm: Discovering solutions to the everyday problems of living with autism. Waltham, MA: TAGteach International.
Reviewed by Lee A. Wilkinson, PhD
© Lee A. Wilkinson

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Court Upholds ABA Therapy Order in Florida

A federal appeals court has upheld a ruling that lower income children with autism in Florida cannot be denied a costly but effective treatment that can help them lead more functional, productive, and happy lives. The 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeal in Atlanta has ruled that U.S. District Judge Joan Lenard of Miami was justified when she ordered the Florida Agency for Health Care Administration (AHCA) to pay for the treatment. Lenard’s ruling could affect thousands of Florida children with autism, allowing them to receive ABA (applied behavior analysis) therapy, an intensive treatment that helps develop and build functional skills.
Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) is a scientifically validated and established treatment that focuses on the principles and techniques of learning theory to help improve social behavior. ABA therapy helps to (1) develop new skills, (2) shape and refine previously learned skills, and (3) decrease socially significant problem behaviors. ABA techniques have been associated with favorable outcomes for individuals diagnosed with autism and are effective with a wide range of target skills and behaviors (e.g., communication skills, interpersonal (social) and play skills, learning readiness, self-regulation, and problem behaviors).
The lawsuit was filed by Legal Services of Greater Miami on behalf of three children diagnosed with autism who were denied access to ABA therapy by Medicaid, Florida’s insurance program for low-income and disabled people. Medicaid called ABA treatment, “experimental,” and therefore not medically necessary for a child’s treatment. But following a lengthy trial, Lenard found that “there exists in the scientific and medical peer-reviewed literature a plethora of meta-analyses, studies and articles that clearly establish ABA as an effective and significant treatment to prevent disability and to restore children to their best possible functional level and restore their developmental skills” and that the state was discriminating against lower income children by denying access to the therapy. The appeals court, however, did remand the case to Lenard to clarify that AHCA retains the authority to determine the medical necessity for ABA coverage on a case-by-case basis. The appeals court noted that AHCA in its appeal had dropped its claims that ABA was experimental, but was concerned Lenard's order could be misinterpreted to require blanket coverage of ABA. In Florida, like many states, private insurers are required to cover ABA treatment.
“This case will have national impact, because, while most states mandate that private insurance companies must cover ABA, most Medicaid programs do not provide coverage,” said Miriam Harmatz, lead counsel on the case.
Lee A. Wilkinson, PhD, CCBT, NCSP is author of the award-winning book, A Best Practice Guide to Assessment and Intervention for Autism and Asperger Syndrome in Schools, published by Jessica Kingsley Publishers.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Top 10 Parenting Books on Autism

Many authors of parenting books on autism often comment that they wrote their book because of difficulty in finding a practical, informative book on the topic of raising a child with autism spectrum disorder (ASD).  However, over the past few years many autism parenting books have been published and parents of a newly diagnosed child with autism can find some very good offerings. The Special Needs Book Review has listed their TOP TEN Books for parents raising a child with autism. Please note that Special Needs Book Review is not paid for reviewing books. The reviews and TOP TEN Books on autism are entirely their opinions. The ten books are in random order. Readers can follow the link in each paragraph to the complete review of each book. Many of the authors have participated in the Special Needs Book Review Author Interview Series and you will find a link to the interviews with the review of their book. 
TOP TEN Parenting Books on Autism 
1. Different . . . Not Less: Inspiring Stories of Achievement and Successful Employment from Adults with Autism, Asperger’s, and ADHD -by Temple Grandin, PhD. ~  Dr Temple Grandin found the perfect words, Different…Not Less, to describe herself and the fourteen contributors of her new book who all have autism or Asperger’s. In the foreword, Dr Tony Attwood writes, “This is an inspiring book.” Each contributor has a chapter and their story is told in their own words. Dr. Grandin chose individuals from a wide variety of skill sets, from different countries, ranging in age from their 30’s to 60’s but the topics addressed are similar: early years, school years, parental support, bullying, college, family relationships, employment, diagnosis, mentors, etc.  Review
2. 1001 Great Ideas for Teaching & Raising Children with Autism or Asperger’s: Expanded 2nd Edition -by Ellen Notbohm and Veronica Zysk  ~  Looking for advice, support and encouragement in your overwhelming journey raising a child with autism or Asperger’s? This is the book you need. Teachers, friends, and family of autistic children read this empowering book crammed with information, solutions, and explanations to make the lives of these children better.  Review 
3. What I Wish I’d Known About Raising a Child with Autism: A Mom and a Psychologist Offer Heartfelt Guidance for the First Five Years  ~  Bravo to authors Bobbi Sheahan and Kathy DeOrnellas, Ph.D. in achieving what they set out to do. Write a book to assure those who love and care for an individual on the autism spectrum that life goes on; it doesn’t have to be all depressing, hard work.  If you are an educator, or know a family with an autistic child, this book is also for you because you will understand the challenges these families face. Reading their book will bring understanding and compassion to others… hopefully those standing in line with you at the checkout counters. Review
4. Look at my Eyes: Autism Spectrum Disorders: Autism and PDD-NOS  -by Melanie and Seth Fowler~  I love this gem of a book from cover to cover! I recommend it to the general public so they can know what it is like to raise a child with autism, in this case a boy diagnosed with PDD-NOS (pervasive developmental disorder-not otherwise specified). I recommend this book to new parents who are questioning if their toddler is on track with his developmental milestones. Most of all Look at my Eyes in a must-read if you have a child newly diagnosed as being on the autism spectrum. Review 
5. Thinking Person’s Guide to Autism: What you really need to know about autism from autistics, parents, and professionals  ~ Edited by Shannon Des Roches Rosa, Jennifer Byde Myers, Liz Ditz, Emily Willingham and Carol Greenburg.  This awesome book has fifty-five essays written by contributors from the autism community in all walks of life. The autism spectrum disorder community, especially parents of newly diagnosed children, needs this book. It is filled with positive, evidence-based autism information and advice.  There are nine broad themes/chapters and the essays are grouped together accordingly. To quickly retrieve an essay on a particular topic, Thinking Person’s Guide to Autism has a comprehensive index… something so many books lack. Review   
6. Crazy Love: A Traumedy about Life with Autism  -by  Sharie Walter ~ This book  tickles your funny bone from cover to cover. In her memoir, Sharie keeps you entertained with her amusing stories of life with autism raising her 5 year old daughter. Ms. Walter is surely a talented wordsmith that keeps you chuckling with her brilliantly written snippets of life with autism. Laugh a lot and learn a lot from Sharie Walter’s beautifully written book. Review
7. The Way I See It: A Personal Look at Autism and Asperger’s -by Temple Grandin, Ph.D.  ~What an amazing accomplishment on the part of her parents, the professionals, caregivers and friends who helped her and on Temple herself to have overcome or learned to cope with many of her challenges caused by autism. Readers will rejoice and be filled with hope for their own loved ones with autism or Asperger’s as they read Temple’s story on how she was motivated to forge ahead and adapt. Review
8. The Child with Autism at Home & in the Community: Over 600 Must-Have Tips  -by Kathy Labosh and LaNita Miller  ~  600 bullet points providing practical tips and tried-out strategies for families and educators to use to meet the needs of autistic children. You will find TIPS to make your home life happier and easier on picky eating, shampoos, and locking doors to prevent elopements, etc. Then you find the hundreds of suggestions on how to go out and enjoy your community. Learn what to do to enjoy the community playground, restaurant, mall, grocery store, movie theater, church, library, and sporting events, etc. Review
9. Challenging the Myths of Autism: Unlock New Possibilities and Hope -by Jonathan Alderson, Ed.M ~  In this book, Jonathan examines seven stereotypical characterizations or “myths of autism”. He has a chapter on each of these perennially inaccurate descriptions. Each chapter explains the origins of  the seven myths and discusses the evidence refuting them. The author invites the reader to put aside their preconceived notions of autism which can mislead parents, therapists, and the general public to underestimate the potential of children with autism. Alderson’s book is crammed with heartwarming stories and useful information. Review
10. Developing Leisure Time Skills for Persons with Autism: Structured Playtime Activities with Valuable Support Strategies for Adults -by Phyllis Coyne, Colleen Nyberg, and Mary Lou Vandenburg  ~ This book is a detailed guide with comprehensive, structured strategies to help adults introduce meaningful, leisure activities to children with ASD.  The method used is to narrow down the personal preferences and strengths of these individuals and use this knowledge to assist them to be more independent and self-directing in participating in more enjoyable and meaningful leisure activities. Review
Lee A. Wilkinson, PhD, CCBT, NCSP is author of the award-winning book, A Best Practice Guide to Assessment and Intervention for Autism and Asperger Syndrome in Schools, published by Jessica Kingsley Publishers.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Psychologist's Book Selected for Autism Course

Dr. Lee A. Wilkinson's award-winning book, Autism and Asperger Syndrome in Schools: A Best Practice Guide to Assessment and Intervention, was recently selected for a continuing education course by Professional Development Resources (PDR), a leading national provider of accredited online continuing education. The course, Autism & Asperger Syndrome in Schools, is offered for 6 hours of continuing education credit (CE). Dr. Wilkinson’s authoritative, yet accessible text provides step-by-step guidance for screening, assessing, and educating children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD). Grounded in the latest research, special features include illustrative case examples, FAQs, quick reference boxes, glossary, and an index to 50 evidence-based best practice recommendations. According to the course abstract, the book fills a critical void in the autism literature and is an essential resource for practitioners in psychology, general and special education, speech-language pathology, occupational therapy, counseling, social work, and for graduate and pre-service students. Parents, advocates, administrators, and attorneys will also find the content informative and helpful. Highly readable and comprehensive, this text sets the standard for those who want to further their understanding of the identification and treatment of school-age children with ASD.
Autism Spectrum Quarterly calls the book “a landmark contribution destined to become a classic in the field of autism spectrum disorders” and comments, “Dr. Wilkinson has made an enormous contribution to the field by comprehensively and systematically illuminating not only what needs to be done, but also how to go about doing it. The book is exquisitely and meticulously organized, making it an easy-to-access reference guide as well as a comprehensive text book and training manual."
Ally4autism comments, “Dr. Wilkinson has created an outstanding blend of academic research and practical application in a text that is so clearly written it is a pleasure to read for professionals and parents alike. His book concisely illustrates best practices in screening, assessment, treatment and special education services. Through case examples of two children, he demonstrates how these best practices can be put into action. This book fills an important need that has existed for years. Dr. Wilkinson has created an indispensable resource that should definitely be in each school’s professional library.” states, “…this guide should be required reading for all direct service providers who work with children in the school setting. As the prevalence of Autism Spectrum Disorders continues to expand, this book is a crucial addition to any school library. Lee Wilkinson’s book is the perfect guide for schools to follow in order to set the ball in motion to access the earliest intervention services possible. The author does a wonderful job presenting all of the data, facts, figures and statistics in a very structured layout that is straightforward, practical and convenient to access.”
A Best Practice Guide... was named the Winner in the Education/Academic category of the 2011 Next Generation Indie Book Awards and honored as an Award-Winning Finalist in the Education/Academic category of the "Best Books 2010 Awards” sponsored by USA Book News.
A Best Practice Guide to Assessment and Intervention for Autism and Asperger Syndrome in Schools is available from Jessica Kingsley Publishers, ISBN: 978-1-84905-811-7 and can be ordered directly from the publisher and all major booksellers, including The book is available in both print and eBook formats.

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