Things To Do In Kent With An Autism Friendly Theme

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autism friendly Kent

The holiday season is here, the children are home so a perfect opportunity to venture out.

Well, it should be, but if you are raising a child with autism, it can actually be stressful and exhausting at times. The thought of going out for the day can seem like more trouble than it’s worth.

However, I don’t personally think it’s healthy to be house bound and it is important to buck the trend, challenge the status quo and break from the unhealthy social habits that can come with raising a child with autism. Also, in our case, it’s good for the siblings to enjoy such experiences.

Enough with the rant! I just thought it would be good to give some of our local recommendations in the Kent area for venturing out that can be considered autism friendly.


Food & Dining

  • The Bull, Wrotham –
    • The great thing about this place, it has good food and a private dining room for small parties. You can always eat in the main dining area, but if not, the private dining allows you to enjoy eating out, but with less anxiety because of the privacy offered.
    • Your waiter regularly checks in for drinks and food orders. They have also been very considerate to our needs, when we have explained Mr. Moo’s vocal stimming.
    • Easy escape route if things don’t go to plan or you need a little break, as you have your own exit!
    • Book in advance for private dining area.
  • The Bucks Head, Sevenoaks –
    • Similar to the Bull. It has a secluded part of the pub reserved for small groups that is away from other guests. It also has a lovely garden to escape into if needed.
    • You could combine this with Knole Park for a full day out!
    • Book in advance. I always explain our situation, as I think it’s polite to give advance warning of what to expect.
  • Rose and Crown, Orpington –
    • This has excellent private outdoor dining, as it has HEATED private yurts in the garden and so it is an option all year round. Perfect if you want to get out, but don’t want to stress about other guests.
    • Two options for booking, phone or online.

Walking & Outdoors

  • Knole Park, Sevenoaks –
    • This park is amazing and lots of history associated with it. (A little fact: Beatles filmed Strawberry Fields Forever and Penny Lane there – look out for the old tree struck by lighting and then watch the music videos J).
    • Lots of deer roaming free, which is great. We never try to get too near though.
    • Very large open spaced park with plenty of different trails to get lost on. Be warned, you can get lost and watch out for balls if walking near the golf course. Side note, dogs have to be on a lead, which in our case, is good for Mr. Moo, as he is a little frightened of dogs.
    • It has a coffee shop in the huge English Knole Country House if you are brave enough. Both indoor and outdoor seating area.
    • The only real cost is the car parking (£8 fee for a family).
  • Leeds Castle, Maidstone –
    • This place is great for strolling around and plenty of walking routes to avoid large crowds. Keep an eye out for the black swans (I had never seen one before visiting here). Bits we enjoy with the kids:
      • The Maze in the middle (only do it if you feel comfortable, as you can get lost in there.
      • The Grotto in the middle of the maze.
      • The completely sealed in play zone for the kids. Two zones for young and older children (with trialing adults J).
      • The flower garden in summer.
      • Obligatory ice cream pit stop.
      • Mini-train available for visitors. We tend to use on the return journey when the kids are all a bit tired.
      • Walking along the river, in the direction of the castle (we avoid the castle as it’s pretty quiet inside and maybe pushing things too far for our family – but it is an amazing building).
  • Christmas Tree Farm, Orpington –
    • A lovely little farm with lots of little animals roaming around to feed or just observe. Keep your hands away from the hungry pigs!
    • There is a little eating area at the entrance. We usually find a quiet corner and have never had a real problem.
    • I have seen special needs schools bring children on numerous occasions and so the owners are experienced and understanding. Visit early, if you want to avoid the crowds (don’t forget to wash your hands at the end J)


  • Sevenoaks Leisure Centre –
    • It has three swimming pools (small, medium and large). If you get there early, it can be pretty quiet. Mr. Moo can be quite vocal, but it hasn’t been too much of a problem.
    • For special occasions you can even hire the medium pool. It’s not overly expensive, we hired it for Mr. Moo’s birthday once and I have to say it was brilliant. We could all relax and Mr. Moo had such a lovely time, as being in water is his favorite thing. We had a private room afterwards for some food and a birthday cake.
  • Saint Leonards, East Sussex –
    • It’s a little further away, and just outside Kent (I know), but has a lovely beach and plenty of opportunities for a walk, or a dip in the sea during the summer months. Be wary of the big waves though. We like to enjoy the beach with fish and chips afterwards, stress free, in the car!
  • Night-time drive, Anywhere!
    • Christmas time is a perfect opportunity to get in the car and go searching for the best Christmas tree lights. We just did it two nights ago and everyone enjoyed it. It’s cheap and cheerful, with no need to worry about others. It was great and I have come to the conclusion, some people are bonkers and go to great excess making their house look like Santa’s Grotto. Great! Long may it continue!

Worthy of a mention:

These are just some general ideas that have been tried and tested. Please do add further suggestions if you have any to recommend.

Many thanks,


Co-founder of Treezy


Family On The Hill

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family on the hill

The announcer makes a small acknowledgement to the hundreds of people in attendance at the fireworks display to highlight our presence “hello to the cheapskates on the hill”

Fair comment?

We have a great local fireworks display. I think it sells out every year, the mulled wine is brewing, with beer on tap for the adults, sweet shops for the kids and lots of fantastic bright flashing toys you come to expect at these events. The fireworks are amazing and the bonfire is enormous, what is there not to enjoy?

Looking at it another way, it is a sensory bonanza! Unfortunately, sensory overload for Bojangles. That’s right, due to Bojangles having quite profound autism (for some reason I am trying to avoid the word severe, as it is often in the eyes of the beholder and labels don’t always help, but he does face severe challenges coping with everyday life and requires 24hr care), such an event is almost impossible for our family to attend and certainly to enjoy.

We don’t wish his siblings to avoid such occasions, as they are enjoyable and we want them to be able to participate and enjoy, so one of us takes them to a similar event the week before.

Now, in slight contradiction, it has to be said Bojangles loves fireworks. It appears, almost in the way, Vicki (mum) might enjoy a horror film. Whereby, it’s difficult to watch and scary, but strangely fascinating and enjoyable at the same time. There is pleasure and a mild horror at the same time. Bojangles bounces and flaps his arms in rapid motion and shouts unintelligible noises, with volume set at MAX. We know there is pleasurable excitement there and so we try our very best to find a solution.

However, all the other ingredients mentioned above are simply too much for him to process. So yes, we are the family on the hill and we would love to join you, but unfortunately can’t.

We all have our story and we shouldn’t be so quick to judge at times. Taking time to consider someone else’s view takes time and effort, but ultimately, might lead to a greater reward, understanding!

Also, it has to be said, if people can’t afford it, should we really be passing judgment so casually? The parents have found a solution within their means to please their children. If you don’t like it look the other way.

There isn’t an area designated for people in our situation (we wish there were), so, announcer, see you next year. Sadly, for you, we are not easily deterred! We fight these mini battles everyday. Parents. Autism. Life!

Thanks for reading.


Co-Founder at Treezy

You can keep up to date with all our blog posts here:

NEXT UP: Local Recommendations For Places To Visit In Kent

Pumpkin Humble Pie

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pumpkin humble pie

So what could be better than a bit of pumpkin picking with the family. Well, it turns out, quite a lot!

Venturing out to public places with our son with autism (I will affectionately call him Bojangles from the song Mr. Bojangles, as he loves all things musical) and his siblings can always be a challenge. Sometimes you win and sometimes you just want to run and hide.

Our recent visit to a cold, damp field turned out to be a run and hide day (almost). Bojangles was already a little anxious before we left and so we didn’t know what to expect. There were quite a few people there, which probably created a bit of tension in Bojangles and both parents.

Bojangles vocal stimming tends to match the volume of his siblings, in the sense that if the baby or toddler start crying or falling out, he will find a way to match it and then raise it tenfold.

It transpired Bojangles found the whole experience overwhelming and the decibels went through the roof.

Vicki (Mum) decided to go for a walk with Bojangles to calm him down and leave me with the remaining children. The only problem was the route taken, past two big groups. Bojangles proceeded to momentarily screech upon passing the first group and then repeat the noise past the second. This unfortunately, made the whole group jump in shock and left a child near to tears. Mum apologised and swiftly moved on!

It was at this point we decided the best course of action would be to leave, tails between our legs…promptly! So we rustled up the gang and headed off to pay. The intermittent shrieks continued at the makeshift checkout (money box and counter style).

It felt like one big disaster. We shot each other a glance that said ‘maybe we should have stayed at home’. Instead, it turned out fine! The day was rescued by the two absolutely wonderful people at the counter. They immediately got a grasp of the situation, told us not to worry and that there was no need to apologise! Those few nice words made the world ok again, it really made the difference and I saw a little tear in the corner of Mum’s eye. A big ‘thank you’ to the lovely people at Broomfields Farm, Meopham. ( It really made the difference to our day.

Mum took Bojangles to the car for a few minutes to calm down and to shed a tear in private. I was left with money and children, so we enjoyed pumpkin soup, sausage rolls and chocolate cake. They were all delicious. After a while, Mum and Bojangles came into the seating area in the field to share some food and we all went home happy and relieved. We didn’t stay long, as we weren’t brave enough. But hey, we left happy.

The message of the day…

Expect the unexpected.

Know your escape routes.

Consider calling ahead to check it is suitable.

Never underestimate people and the power of kindness.

Never take four kids pumpkin picking, as you end up with six pumpkins (go figure).

Maybe just send dad next time!

At the end of the day, no one was hurt in the making of this story and the siblings were happy and completely oblivious, as only siblings to a brother with autism can be.

Thanks for reading.


Co-Founder of Treezy.

When Treatment Plans Don’t Work, Now What?

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Bobby Newman BCBA Conference

Monday 25th September 2017, 9am to 5pm

Edinburgh training and conference venue

16 St Mary’s Street, EH1 1SU

Content of conference:

  1. Proper behavior management must be done in keeping with a good functional behavior assessment (FBA)/analysis.
  2. Anyone who says they can provide a treatment plan without first doing an FBA is selling something.
  3. It is possible for treatment plans to backfire if one does not first conduct a good FBA. Treatment plans that are carried out incorrectly, even if the plan is appropriate, may lead to behavioural problems being exacerbated.

The current talk will look at some of the most common ways that behaviour treatment plans are inadvertently undermined and misapplied, with suggestions regarding how to fix these.

This conference is open to both parents and professionals.

Registration starts at 8:30am and refreshments (teas, coffees and lunch) are included in the price of your ticket.

Early bird tickets available from now until the end of July

Early bird ticket for parents/grandparents: £95

Early bird ticket for professionals: £120


Standard price after 31st July:

parents/grandparents: £110

professionals: £135


Contact details for more information:

Gemma Gilmour

Keys for Learning

Keys for Learning

Call: 07706 892 957


About the Speakers

Bobby Newman is a Board Certified Behavior Analyst and Licensed Psychologist. Affectionately known as the Dark Overlord of ABA, Bobby is the first author on eleven books regarding behavior therapy, the philosophy of behaviorism, the autism spectrum disorders, and utopian literature. He has published over two dozen articles in professional journals, as well as numerous popular magazine articles and has hosted two series of radio call-in shows. Bobby is the Past-President of the Association for Science in Autism Treatment and the New York State Association for Behavior Analysis.


Daniel is an expert in autism spectrum disorder, developmental disabilities, and learning disabilities with 20+ years of goal-oriented, professional consultation as a licensed psychologist and behavior analyst. He is a well published treatment researcher and psychological test developer, university level instructor, and popular public speaker on intervention and support for persons with developmental disabilities.


A cautionary note on Fidget Spinners

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fidget spinners

A cautionary note on Fidget Spinners.

We love toys (especially where they can be used as an aid to encourage learning). We also understand that sensory toys and a hand fidgets can be a useful distraction, motivator or just good fun.

We liked the look of the Fidget Spinner this summer. They became a craze real quick, with many a child asking for one or owning several. They are a great fidget toy, which can aid anxiety relief, concentration or just simply fun.

The Treezy team did test a number of them at work and at home, with our children.

Our findings led Treezy to put offering these on hold. This is our own personal preference and certainly not a critique of those selling them. We do however feel it might be useful to present our findings.

The problems we found generally centered on their safety.

A summary of our concerns were as follows:

• Fidget Spinners are assumed to be of a sufficient size and so there can be a tendency to give a false sense of safety, especially in terms of choking hazards. This may lead parents or carer to be less attentive than they would be with smaller play items, where it is obvious there is a risk of choking. However, we had a small number of the spinners come apart during play. These much smaller parts (especially the ball bearing sections) do present a choking risk.

A number of recent newspaper articles highlight the choking risks. Several links to these articles have been included below.

• The packing sometimes had little safety guides. Safety guidelines and choking hazard notices are there to guide the user of the risks. They should be clearly labeled on the packaging and taken seriously.

• Fidget spinners come in all shapes, sizes and weights. A number of spinners on the market even have sharp points, which present an obvious danger. Furthermore, they can be rather heavy objects and the way these items are used; it is likely they will fall out of small hands on numerous occasions. This presents injury risks to those little feet.

• Fidget Spinners are a craze and present ‘quick cash’ for unscrupulous opportunists. This means the manufacturing source or quality cannot always be guaranteed. There are so many sellers offering Fidget Spinners.

With this in mind, if you do wish to buy one, we have considered a basic guide to consider before buying a Fidget Spinner.

Buyers Guide:

• Make sure it is age rated.
• Buy from a reputable trader and ensure the safety warnings can be clearly seen on the packaging. Take note of the safety warnings, they are included for a reason.
• Make sure it is CE marked.
• Supervise children or anyone at risk of choking.
• Test spinners regularly to ensure the parts are not coming loose.
• Put them away after use and don’t allow use at bedtimes, when mouthing behaviours can increase.
• Get rid of broken Fidget Spinners.
• Don’t let children under 3 years use Fidget Spinners.
• Use common sense, in terms of cost, cheap ones can often be cheap imitations.
• Be careful of sharp edges and LED lights containing Lithium-ion batteries

Useful links:

If we do find suitable stockists to offer these products, we will be sure to let you know.

Happy and safe shopping Folks!

ABLLS-R Overview

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ablls-r guide and protocol

ABLLS-R Overview

The Assessment of Basic Language and Learning Skills – Revised (ABLLS-R)

Developed by Dr. Partington, the ABLLS-R system is an assessment tool, curriculum guide, and skills-tracking system used to help guide the instruction of language and critical learner skills for children with autism or other developmental disabilities. This practical and parent-friendly tool can be used to facilitate the identification of skills needed by your child to effectively communicate and learn from everyday experiences.

The ABLLS-R provides a comprehensive review of 544 skills from 25 skill areas including language, social interaction, self-help, academic and motor skills that most typically developing children acquire prior to entering kindergarten. The task items within each skill area are arranged from simpler to more complex tasks. Expressive language skills are assessed based upon the behavioral analysis of language as presented by Dr. B.F. Skinner in his book, Verbal Behavior(1957).

The assessment results allow parents and professionals to pinpoint obstacles that have been preventing a child from acquiring new skills and to develop a comprehensive, highly personalized, language-based curriculum.

The 2006 version of the ABLLS incorporates many new task items and provides a more specific sequence in the developmental order of items within the various skill areas. Significant changes were made in the revised version of the vocal imitation section with input from Denise Senick-Pirri, SLP-CCC. Additional improvements were made to incorporate items associated with social interaction skills, motor imitation and other joint attention skills, and to ensure the fluent use of established skills.

The ABLLS-R is comprised of two documents:

1. The ABLLS-R Protocol is used to score a child’s performance on the task items and provides 15 appendices that allow for the tracking of a variety of specific skills that are included in the assessment. The Protocol includes a set of grids that comprise a skills-tracking system that makes it possible to observe and document a child’s progress in the acquisition of critical skills.

2. The ABLLS-R Guide provides information about the features of the ABLLS-R, how to correctly score items, and how to develop Individualized Education Program (IEP) goals and objectives that clearly define and target the learning needs of a student.

Clinical Significance of the ABLLS-R

Leading researchers in the field of behavior analysis (Aman et al., 2004; Schwartz, Boulware, McBride, & Sandall, 2001; Thompson, 2007; Thompson, 2011) and professional organizations (American Medical Association, 2014) identified the ABLLS-R as a useful tool that can guide parents and professionals seeking to teach language and critical learner skills to individuals with autism.  Further, several researchers administered the ABLLS-R to measure the performance of individuals across different skill areas (e.g., Daar, Negrelli, Dixon, 2015; Foran, Hoerger, Philpott, Jones, Hughes, & Morgan, 2015; McLay, Carnett, van der Meer, & Lang, 2015; Stock, Mirenda, & Smith, 2013; Valentino, Shillingsburg, Conine, & Powell, 2012). The widespread use and popularity of the ABLLS-R across leading researchers and professional organizations demonstrates the strong clinical significance of the assessment.

 The Validity and Reliability of the ABLLS-R

Many of the popular assessments do not contain adequate empirical support for the psychometric properties (i.e., validity of the assessment and the reliability of the scores produced) of the assessment.  Recent research on the ABLLS-R provides empirical support showing that the ABLLS-R contains strong evidence of validity and that it yields reliable scores.  In a recent study, Usry (2015) documented evidence of content validity when she found that expert raters from the field of behavior analysis rated the majority of the ABLLS-R items as “essential.”  Another group of researchers obtained evidence of convergent validity as scores obtained from the ABLLS-R correlated strongly with those from the PEAK-DT and the Vineland II(Malkin, Dixon, Speelman, & Luke, 2016).

The assessment literature currently contains evidence of three forms of reliability including interrater reliability, internal consistency reliability, and test-retest reliability.  In her study, Usry (2015) examined and obtained strong evidence of interrater reliability across the ABLLS-Rscores obtained from her participant sample (ICC = .95, p < .001).  In addition, a recent study by Partington, Bailey, and Partington (2016) assessed and found strong evidence of internal consistency and test-retest reliability.

The ABLLS-R is sold as a set that includes the ABLLS-R Guide and a Protocol to ensure that parents and professionals have the instructions as to how to use the ABLLS-R. Additional protocols can be purchased separately by individuals who have already purchased a copy of the ABLLS-R Guide.

We hope you found this ABLLS-R overview article useful. Please get in touch if you have any questions.

Dr. James W. Partington Bio

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James W Partington

Dr. James W. Partington

Image result for james partington

Dr. Partington has dedicated his life to helping children with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) or other developmental delays. His expertise is in language-based intervention, helping children develop the basic language and learning skills they need for everyday interactions with others. He is the developer of the ABLLS-R, pioneering the inclusion of verbal behavior into applied behavioral analysis.

Dr. Partington is a licensed psychologist and Doctoral-level Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA-D). He has more than 45 years experience working with children with developmental disabilities, and operates the Strategic Teaching and Reinforcement System (STARS) Clinic.

Prior to founding Behavior Analysts, Dr. Partington taught undergraduate, graduate, and doctoral level courses in psychology and behavioral disciplines at educational facilities across America and Canada, including:

  • Valdosta State College, Valdosta, Georgia
  • West Virginia University, Morgantown, West Virginia
  • Mount Saint Vincent University, Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada
  • Chabot College, Hayward, California
  • College of Alameda, Alameda, California
  • St. Mary’s College, Moraga, California
  • The University of San Francisco, San Francisco, California


  • American Association on Mental Retardation
  • American Psychological Association
  • Association for Behavior Analysis
  • Association for Science in Autism Treatment – Past Board Member
  • Behavior Analyst Certification Board – Past Board Member
  • California Speech Language Hearing Association
  • Former President, Northern California Association for Behavior Analysis
  • Public Service Award for the Advancement of Behavior Analysis in Florida, from the Florida Association for Behavior Analysis


Editorial Activities

  • Analysis of Verbal Behavior, Editorial Review Board, 1984 – 2000
  • Behavior Analysis in Practice, Editorial Review Board, 2007
  • Behavioral Interventions, Editorial Review Board, 1999 – 2004
  • Education and Treatment of Children, 1984- 1989 and 1993 – 1995
  • Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis – Guest Reviewer
  • Verbal Behavior News, Assistant Editor, 1982 – 1983


  • Ph.D. Psychology, School and Community Program, Florida State University
  • M.A. Psychology, Western Michigan University, with Honors
  • B.A. Psychology, Western Michigan University, Magna Cum Laude

UCLA PEERS for Adolescents Certified Training

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UCLA PEERS for Adolescents Certified Training


Blue Sky Autism Project is delighted to be hosting Dr Elizabeth Laugeson, founder of the evidence based UCLA PEERS for Adolescents certified 3 day training programme.

Course Description
The PEERS® for Adolescents Certified Training Seminar is designed exclusively for mental health professionals, educators, medical professionals, speech and language pathologists, occupational and recreational therapists, researchers, and other professionals who work with youth with social challenges. PEERS® is the ONLY available evidence-based social skills program for adolescents and adults with autism spectrum disorder, and is used clinically for adolescents with ADHD, anxiety, depression and other social challenges. Attendees will obtain 24 hours of training in the implementation of Social Skills for Teenagers with Developmental and Autism Spectrum Disorders, The PEERS® Treatment Manual (Laugeson & Frankel, 2010) and the research behind the program. This training will enable providers to implement PEERS® in clinical or educational settings as PEERS® Certified Providers.


  • Anyone is welcome to attend the training and receive instruction on this type of intervention. However, all attendees seeking certification MUST be a professional or graduate student in the mental health professional, medical, or education field with the following minimum level of training: A degree in the field of psychology or a related mental health field, including, but not limited to: B.C.B.A., M.S.W., L.C.S.W., M.A., M.S., M.F.T., M.D., R.N., L.V.N., Ph.D., Psy.D., Ed.D., M.P.H
  • Teachers
  • Speech, Occupational or Physical Therapists
  • Graduate students in a mental health or education related field pursuing a master’s degree or higher

Attendee qualifications must be submitted to and approved by Blue Sky Autism Project at most 14 days prior to the training in order to ensure certification.

Attendees who DO NOT meet these qualifications may purchase a ‘non-certification’ place and receive of certificate of training, but will not be PEERS® Certified Providers.


0207 697 4014


Wed, Jul 26, 2017, 9:00 AM –

Fri, Jul 28, 2017, 5:00 PM BST

Add to Calendar


Resource For London

356 Holloway Road


N7 6PA

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Our Autism Journey by Debora Thivierge

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Debora Thivierge Our Journey

By Debora Thivierge

When my son Jason was diagnosed with autism at twenty months old, I was lucky enough to discover the book “Let Me Hear Your Voice” by Catherine Maurice. Her story became a beacon of hope for me; a light through the early darkness of Jason’s diagnosis. She inspired me and set me on a path to help my son, myself, my family and others on this autism journey.


Hope was a critical component of my family’s survival. The word hope is defined as “the emotional state which promotes the belief in a positive outcome related to events and circumstances in one’s life.” The opposite of hope is despair. I was determined that despair would not define my emotional state, as it would most certainly lead to detrimental outcomes for Jason.


Not only did Dr. Maurice’s personal story give me the hope I needed, but it also gave me scaffolding upon which to build my son’s treatment plan. After reading the book, I realized that there could and would be significant progress if I utilized applied behavior analysis (ABA) as my main course of treatment.


In 2002, my goal as a parent was to educate myself about autism. The more I learned, the more I recognized the need to educate other parents facing the challenges of autism. I decided to start a foundation that would provide information and resources to families and professionals on Long Island focusing on ABA and its efficacy for children with autism.


I decided to name the foundation ELIJA, an acronym for “Empowering Long Island’s Journey through Autism.” ELIJA’s mission is to bring top experts in the field of autism/applied behavior analysis here to Long Island, to give workshops and presentations where they can share their knowledge of current research and treatments, and to help families and professionals advance their skills in implementing ABA programs.


Having these presenters come from all over the country gives parents, professionals and caregivers direct access to information that they might not otherwise have access to. It also gives them the ability to become fluent in the many different tools and techniques of ABA and how to work with their children on a day-to-day basis. Over the past eleven years, the workshops have educated, inspired and instilled hope in thousands of people, including myself. It was and still is so important to me to help parents understand that their role as educator is one of the most crucial components in research outcome data.


I quickly discovered that parents were desperate for information and this kind of support. Having the ELIJA Foundation as a resource gave them an opportunity they wouldn’t have had otherwise – to obtain information directly from autism professionals actively involved in research and education.


The workshops gave parents and professionals the opportunity to network with each other informally. The setting was comfortable and inviting. We would provide lunch, so that participants could focus on meeting, talking, sharing information and experiences and, most importantly, creating lasting connections.


Parents of children with autism often feel extremely isolated, from family and friends who may not understand autism and the challenges they are facing, and from the community at large. ELIJA’s workshops gave opportunities for families to feel connected, to feel not so alone and to find shared interests with other families. When professionals, families and educators feel connected, they tend to be more effective in their implementation of plans and advocacy for the children they work with. These connections bring some measure of relief to parents, who are often exhausted due to lack of feedback and support in the community and in educational settings.


In retrospect, I look back and wonder where Jason would be today, had I not done all this intensive instructional training, and kept on top of his curriculum, especially the goals and the skills that we were teaching him. I knew his long-term outcome would be affected by our choices of what to teach him, and what not to teach him. These choices were sometimes challenging, but I was able to look at the data tables to determine that his biggest deficit was language.


I learned to change my expectations, and give and take in terms of Jason’s progress. I accepted the fact that he may never write neatly or clearly, or be able to complete a 500 piece puzzle or climb a jungle gym or run a marathon. That’s ok. Twelve years after Jason’s diagnosis, he still has autism, but I can’t even imagine where he would be today without our hope, determination and the intensive interventions we have painstakingly implemented. Our family’s journey through autism continues.


About the Author: Debora Thivierge, BCaBA, received her BA in Sociology from Hofstra University and is a Board Certified Assistant Behavior Analyst. She serves as the Executive Director and Founder of The ELIJA School and Founder of The ELIJA Foundation. Debora has volunteered her time to numerous Autism groups such as Nassau County’s Department of Health Early Intervention Coordinating Council, New York State Association of Behavior Analysis, Nassau County Autism Coalition run by the County Executive and currently serves as a board member of The Behavior Analyst Certification Board® (BACB®). For the past 13 years, she has been providing advocacy to families and conducted training workshops to promote evidence based instruction for families and educators who have been touched by Autism. She has a 15 year old son with Autism.


11 Laurel Lane

Levittown NY 11756

Tel. 516-216-5270



The Importance of Assessment in Treatment Planning by Mark Sundberg

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The Importance of Assessment in Treatment Planning.

By Mark Sundberg, Ph.D.

Author of Verbal Behavior Milestones Assessment and Placement Program (VB-MAPP).

Every child with autism or other developmental disabilities presents unique needs and challenges. An important step in developing a treatment plan and curriculum for a child is a thorough assessment of his or her abilities, as well as the barriers that might be affecting learning. To establish a starting point in a language intervention program information should be obtained as to what the child can do consistently and reliably, and how his or her skills compare to those of typically developing children. Can the child repeat words on command (e.g., say “Ball”) and imitate motor actions when asked to do so (e.g., claps when an adult claps)? Does the child use specific words to ask for items and actions when he or she wants them (e.g., “Drink”)? Does the child use words to name items he or she sees when asked to do so (e.g., When asked “What is that?” the child says, “Car”). Finally, can the child select a specific item from an array of items when asked to do so (e.g., “Find the dog”). These five early language skills, along with play skills, social skills, and matching-to-sample serve as the basis for most ABA (Applied Behavior Analysis) early intervention programs.


While it is critical to assess the child’s skill strengths and weaknesses, it is also important to identify problem behaviors or other obstacles that may be in the way of progress. Thus, another step in assessment is to identify the barriers that the child may present (e.g., self-stimulation, rote responding, delayed echolalia, sensory defensiveness). For example, if a child tantrums in order to obtain desired items, actions, or attention, a program to reduce tantrums and teach more acceptable forms of communication (i.e., mands) is necessary. In addition, some children may become stuck or fail to use the skills they have learned. If the child initially made progress, but then seems to have plateaued it is important to look beyond a basic assessment of skills and be the “CSI” for the child. While behavior problems such as tantrums may be obvious, other less obvious behaviors may be in the way of effective teaching. A few questions that should be asked include: Does the child continue to need excessive prompting to complete an activity or skill? Does the child wait for reinforcement until moving on to the next step? Does the child use the skills they have learned in a natural and functional way?


Once the child’s skills and barriers are identified, intervention priorities can be established. In cases where the child exhibits problem behaviors such as tantrums, a functional assessment and curriculum to teach replacement behaviors should be a priority. If the child does not use words to request things he wants, then a priority will be to teach the child that particular language skill. In addition, some children with articulation disorders may benefit from the use of augmentative communication such as sign language or PECS. Thus, a well-planned intervention program will contain a combination of procedures designed to increase desired skills and behaviors, as well as procedures to reduce barriers that impede learning, language, and social skills.


Children and adults with more advanced language and social skills can also benefit from a comprehensive assessment. These skills become increasingly complicated as they learn how to master skills such as initiating verbal interactions and engaging in conversations in less structured settings. An assessment can help to establish priorities and designing a long-term intervention program. Behavior analysis (ABA) in general, and a behavioral analysis of language provide valuable tools for establishing and guiding intervention programs for children with autism.

The article The Importance of Assessment in Treatment Planning was written by Mark Sundberg.

Mark L. Sundberg, Ph.D., BCBA-D received his doctorate degree in Applied Behavior Analysis from Western Michigan University (1980), under the direction of Dr. Jack Michael. He is the author of the Verbal Behavior Milestones Assessment and Placement Program (VB-MAPP), and co-author of the original ABLLS and the book Teaching Language to Children with Autism or Other Developmental Disabilities. He has published over 50 professional papers and 4 book chapters. He is the founder and past editor of the journal The Analysis of Verbal Behavior, a twice past-president of The Northern California Association for Behavior Analysis, a past-chair of the Publication Board of ABAI, and has served on the Board of Directors of the B. F. Skinner Foundation. Dr. Sundberg has given hundreds of conference presentations and workshops nationally and internationally, and taught 80 college and university courses on behavior analysis, verbal behavior, sign language, and child development. He is a licensed psychologist with over 40 years of clinical experience who consults for public and private schools that serve children with autism. His awards include the 2001 “Distinguished Psychology Department Alumnus Award” from Western Michigan University, and the 2013 “Jack Michael Outstanding Contributions in Verbal Behavior Award” from ABAI’s Verbal Behavior Special Interest Group.