18 Autism-Friendly Things to Do in Houston

Having difficulty with big crowds, loud sounds, and transitioning to new places goes hand-in-hand with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). As such, planning sensory-friendly family outings is a must for those in the special needs community.

In Houston, families with children on the Autism Spectrum have a generous selection of autism-friendly events and activities to do with their little ones. Below are some of the most autism-friendly businesses in the Greater Houston area.

  1. Space Center Houston

Space Center Houston is a prominent science learning center and the official visitor center of NASA Johnson Space Center. In 2017, Space Center Houston debuted its Sensory Friendly Evening to better accommodate families in the special needs community. The center invites those with special needs to explore the facility in a reduced sensory environment, with special Pop-Up Science Labs manned by instructors trained to accommodate guests with sensory sensitivities.

  1. The Hobby Center

The Hobby Center, a performing arts theater in downtown Houston, presents autism-friendly performances to accommodate guests with sensory issues. With shows like the Lion King and the Radio City Christmas Spectacular with the Rockettes, families can enjoy the broadway classics with special adjustments to lights and sounds, a supportive audience environment, and designated quiet areas.

  1. Children’s Museum of Houston

The Children’s Museum of Houston hosts Sensory Friendly Days throughout the year. Before guests arrive, museum staff members make sure to turn down lights and limit extra sounds and distracting motions. Guests can check out weighted lap pads, sunglasses for overstimulating lights, and ear defenders for overstimulating sounds. The museum also adds extra safety visuals and designated quiet rooms.

  1. Houston Museum of Natural Science

The Houston Museum of Natural Science has special Sensory Friendly Days, but also accommodates special needs guests on the daily with its sensory backpacks. The sensory backpacks can be checked out at Museum Services and include sunglasses, ear defenders, stuffed animals, and other tools to ease overstimulation.

  1. We Rock the Spectrum

We Rock the Spectrum Gym has several locations in downtown Houston, Katy, The Woodlands, Sugar Land and more. Tailored for children with special needs, We Rock the Spectrum gym includes suspended equipment with swings, a zip line, trampoline, climbing structures, fine motor arts and crafts areas, and sensory-based toys. We Rock the Spectrum’s mission is to create a place where kids of all development levels can grow and play together.

  1. AMC Theatres

With three locations in Houston, AMC Theatres hosts multiple sensory friendly film showings per month. AMC teamed up with the Autism Society to put on these events. During sensory friendly films, the lights are turned up, the sound is turned down, and guests are welcome to get up, walk around, dance, or sing.

  1. Main Street Theater

Main Street Theater in Houston hosts Sensory-Friendly performances, sign language interpretations, and special audio-assisted shows to make sure no child is left out. During the Sensory-Friendly performances, lighting and sound levels are set at more comfortable levels, tablets and smart phones may be used with headphones, fidget toys are welcome, and disability-trained staff provide any assistance as needed. Some of the Sensory-Friendly shows include A Charlie Brown Christmas, Holes, and Hello, Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle.

  1. Sky High Sports

Back in August of 2016, Sky High Sports Trampoline Park in Houston debuted its “Special Needs Jump Time” for every Tuesday of the week. Founder of Sky High, Jerry Raymond, is father to a son on the Spectrum. He saw firsthand how jump sessions helped his son develop motor skills, balance, and social skills. Each Tuesday, Sky High Sports dims the lights and reduces distractions to give special needs guests a sensory-friendly experience.

  1. Chuck E. Cheese

Chuck E. Cheese has seven locations in Houston. To accommodate guests with autism and special sensory needs, Chuck E. Cheese designates the first Sunday of each month to families in the special needs community. During Sensory Sensitive Sundays, the venues are ensured to be less crowded with less noise, turned down music, and some visits from Chuck E. himself.

  1. Spectrum Fusion

Spectrum Fusion is a non-profit organization in Houston that offers unique opportunities for individuals on the autism spectrum to “contribute to society in a way that suits their personal and particular styles.” Spectrum Fusion is comprised of business experts, entrepreneurs, therapists and health care professionals who generate innovative solutions and possibilities for adults with autism to use their skills, interests, and strengths in career opportunities.

  1. iFly

iFly, with two locations in Houston, has All Abilities Night, which is custom designed for those with developmental and physical challenges. Each flyer is assisted by specially trained Flight Instructors. Everyone in the special needs community is welcome to attend and partake in the sensational experience.

  1. George Ranch Historical Park

This April (which also happens to be Autism Awareness month!), George Ranch Historical Park will kick off its first-ever annual Sensory-Friendly Day. The all-day event will include quiet corners throughout the park, noise-cancelling headphones, colored glasses, and sensory kits. The sensory kits are equipped with weighted lap pads, stress balls, fidget spinners, lavender lotion, crayons, coloring books, and picture books.

  1. Houston Ballet

The Houston Ballet offers Autism-Friendly performances which are modified for audience members with neurological differences. The events are staffed by trained volunteers who help ensure a smooth, positive experience for all.

  1. Houston Special Olympics

The Special Olympics team of Greater Houston has tons of recreational activities for children on the spectrum to get involved in. From local track meets and flag football competitions to volleyball and bowling tournaments, there’s something for everyone. The full calendar of events can be seen here.

  1. The Health Museum of Houston

The John P. McGovern Museum of Health and Medical Science (the Health Museum for short) has a number of fascinating health and body exhibits for museum-goers to enjoy. On April 12th, the Health Museum will be hosting a lecture by Veronica Butler of the Music Therapy Center of Houston to demonstrate the positive uses of music therapy for those on the autism spectrum. Anyone can register for the event here.

  1. Little League Challenger Division

The Little League Challenger Division invites all individuals ages 4 to 18 with physical and/or intellectual challenges to come play a game of baseball. Games typically run for about 1 or 2 innings (about an hour long) and are assisted by “Buddies.” Buddies are often peer athletes participating in Little League Baseball or Softball, and they help out with batting, base running, and defense only as needed.

  1. All-Star Martial Arts

Located in Cypress, Texas, All-Star Martial Arts teaches traditional TaeKwonDo and self-defense in a safe, family-friendly environment. The center prides itself in providing kids with important life lessons in addition to martial arts: self-confidence, discipline, concentration, and respect. All-Star Martial Arts offers a Samurai Program for individuals with a range of physical and developmental delays, including autism.

  1. Sailing Angels

Sailing Angels is a non-profit organization based in the Greater Houston area that enables children with developmental and physical delays to experience the joys of sailing. Children learn knot-tying, navigation, and piloting throughout the excursion. The adventure concludes with the child steering the boat while wearing the Captain’s hat, and then earning a large medallion. The service is free and has a 100% safety record!

To check out some autism-friendly businesses in Austin, Texas, visit this page.

Catalyst: How We Track Your Child’s Success in ABA Therapy

Catalyst ABA therapy data collection graphs

Parents love hearing snippets of daily successes from their child’s Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) therapist at the end of the day. As important as these more casual reports are, it’s also essential to have concrete data being collected throughout the therapy day.

ABA therapy’s main mission is to help children with Autism Spectrum Disorder overcome developmental delays. At Action Behavior Centers, our therapy teams work with Catalyst – the most advanced data collection system used by ABA professionals.

Before starting ABA therapy, each child is thoroughly assessed by our Board Certified Behavior Analysts (BCBAs), mastered-level behavioral health practitioners. The BCBAs then create treatment plans with a variety of therapy goals based on the specific strengths and deficits seen during the child’s initial assessment.

The goal of each ABA therapy day is to work through therapy goals and master new skills. These skills might be in areas like speech, nonverbal communication, social skills, or day-to-day living tasks. ABA therapy also helps reduce problematic behaviors, like temper tantrums, aggressive behaviors, and self-injurious behaviors.

This is where Catalyst comes in.

Catalyst offers a platform for BCBAs and the therapists on their team – Registered Behavior Technicians (RBTs) – to track a child’s success with each therapy goal throughout the day. Catalyst is equipped to track skill acquisition data, behavior reduction data, and specific progress notes for each child.

What’s more, Catalyst generates customized graphs with each child’s therapy data. Clinical staff can tailor their graphs in real-time, adding child-specific annotations across 20 different dimensions of recorded data.

The utility of the Catalyst program is evident in the fact that it was created by BCBAs themselves. Doctors Coby and Janet Lund dreamt up the data collection program back in 2010 after not being able to find a similar resource for themselves. They then teamed up with software engineer Chris Cooken to make Catalyst a reality.

Catalyst was designed to make the processes of summarizing, graphing, and reporting much easier and quicker. The program cuts down on the time needed for data collection, allowing clinical personnel to spend more time and efforts making ABA therapy sessions the best they can be.

More time for quality therapy means better results for the kids, which, at the end of the day, is the most important part of all.

2018 Autism Sleep Guide

Kid Sleeping

Sleep can be difficult at times for anyone and everyone, but individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) are particularly vulnerable to having sleep issues. Both falling and staying asleep can prove troublesome for those on the spectrum.

In the recent years, researchers have been delving deeper into autism, gaining more insights about sleep’s role in ASD. The latest research findings and insights of autism experts led to the creation of our 2018 Autism Sleep Guide.

How common are sleep problems in individuals with autism?

According to a study published in the Journal of Pediatric Neurosciences, children with ASD suffer from sleep problems significantly more than typically developing children. The study found that up to 80 percent of kids with ASD experience issues with sleep, compared to just 10 to 16 percent of kids in the general population.

What kind of sleep problems?

Parent reports recorded in a review by a doctorate-level practitioner indicated that insomnia was the most common sleep issue experienced by children with ASD – 56 percent of the study sample was affected by longer-than-average time trying to fall asleep and frequently waking up throughout the night.

Sleep apnea, a condition in which breathing repeatedly starts and stops, was also commonly seen in those with autism. Sleep apnea is characterized by a lack of oxygen to the brain. This can be particularly problematic for young children during such a critical period of brain development.

REM sleep is essential for the executive brain functions associated with learning and retaining memories. Scientists have found that, on average, individuals with ASD only spend about 15 percent of their sleep-time in REM sleep. To compare, typically developing children spend about 23 percent of sleep-time in REM sleep.

What are the implications of poor sleep?

Poor sleep can take its toll on anyone. For those with autism, poor sleep can aggravate certain characteristics associated with ASD, like repetitive behaviors. This increase in repetitive behaviors can then make it more difficult to fall asleep, perpetuating the poor sleep cycle.

Children on the spectrum often struggle with meltdowns and temper tantrums as well. Tossing and turning all night can negatively impact mood and ability to regulate emotions.

Are there any treatments for autism-related sleep issues?

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved certain insomnia medications for adults on the spectrum, but strong pharmaceuticals aren’t the best option for young children. Instead, research has shown that melatonin supplements can offer a safer alternative, though it’s always best to consult with a pediatrician first.

In some cases, it can be as simple as establishing a routine: implement a specific order of activities leading up to bedtime. Other factors like temperature and lighting in the bedroom can also play a role.

In conclusion, better sleep won’t cure ASD, but it can help ease the symptoms and behaviors that go hand-in-hand with autism.

 

Expert Tips for Helping a Child with Autism Get a Good Night’s Sleep:

According to research and the decades-worth of experience of our Board Certified Behavior Analysts (BCBAs), there are a number of bedtime tips worth trying out with a child on the autism spectrum.

  1. Avoid giving a child anything with caffeine or sugar before bedtime.
  2. Avoid excessive liquids in the evenings.
  3. Establish a bedtime routine with the activities that best help your child relax. Maybe it’s bath time followed by reading a book in bed and lights off at 8 p.m. Different bedtime activities may work better for different children, but it’s important to establish a routine and stick with it.
  4. Encourage relaxation with soft music, reading a book, or a back rub.
  5. At least an hour before bedtime, unplug from all stimulating activities like video games or television.
  6. Stay consistent with nap time during the day and wake time in the morning.
  7. Make sure exercise is incorporated into the child’s daily routine. The more energy is spent during the day, the easier it will be to fall asleep.
  8. Make sure room temperature and lighting are at comfortable levels.
  9. Reduce the chance of sensory distractions: get thick curtains to block out light, take care of creaky doors, and install carpeting in areas the child can hear people walking around.
  10. Talk to a pediatrician about melatonin supplements if natural nighttime remedies don’t seem to be making a difference.

 

National Resources:

 

If you found our Autism Sleep Guide useful, check out our Autism Anti-Bullying Guide.

100 Things to Know About Autism Spectrum Disorder in 2018

  1. Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) represents a group of developmental disorders: autistic disorder, Asperger’s syndrome, pervasive developmental disorder not otherwise specified (PDD-NOS), and childhood disintegrative disorder.
  2. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 1 in 68 individuals are affected by ASD.
  3. Autism Spectrum Disorders can be diagnosed as early as 18 months to 2 years of age.
  4. Although reliable diagnoses can be given at 18 months to 2 years, the average child isn’t diagnosed with autism until 4 years of age.
  5. Scientists are discovering more innovative ways to diagnose autism. In 2017, a team of researchers were able to use brain scans and artificial intelligence to predict which 6-month old infants would go on to be diagnosed with ASD. Impressively, they performed at a 96 percent accuracy rate.
  6. No case of autism is exactly the same as another. Each person on the Spectrum is a unique individual.
  7. People of all races, ethnicities, and socioeconomic groups are affected by Autism Spectrum Disorder.
  8. Individuals on the Autism Spectrum range from having very mild symptoms to very severe developmental delays.
  9. Autism is about 4.5 more common in males – data shows that 1 in 42 boys have autism compared to 1 in 189 girls.
  10. New Jersey has the highest rate of autism in the U.S., with 1 in 28 boys being affected.
  11. In autism terminology, milder cases of the disorder are said to be in “high functioning” individuals while more severe cases are said to be in “low functioning” individuals.
  12. Autistic disorder typically describes those who are on the “low functioning” end of the Spectrum.
  13. Individuals with autistic disorder often struggle with severe deficits in speech, communication, social skills, motor functioning, and adaptive skills.
  14. Adaptive skills are the practical, day-to-day skills needed to live independently: bathing, getting dressed, brushing teeth, feeding oneself, and more.
  15. Asperger’s syndrome typically describes those who are on the “high functioning” end of the Spectrum.
  16. Children and adults with Asperger’s syndrome commonly struggle with social interactions or restricted interests, but don’t usually have difficulties with language or cognitive development.
  17. Sometimes referred to as ‘atypical autism,’ PDD-NOS is often thought of as being in between Asperger’s syndrome and autistic disorder. It’s common for those with PDD-NOS to struggle with communication, social behavior, and repetitive movements.
  18. Childhood disintegrative disorder, also known as disintegrative psychosis, is the rarest of the Spectrum disorders. It’s characterized by severe development deficits, often in children who were developing normally but then quickly regressed between ages two and four.
  19. These disorders were all placed under the umbrella term of Autism Spectrum Disorder in the DSM-5 (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders).
  20. Restrictive and repetitive behaviors are a common sign of ASD. These might include hand flapping, rocking back and forth, and fixations on certain objects.
  21. It’s common for individuals on the Spectrum to have difficulties with language or be completely nonverbal.
  22. Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder might show typical language development and then quickly lose their ability to speak in words or phrases. This is called regression.
  23. Many children who are nonverbal at the age of four go on to overcome their severe language delays, according to a large study of 535 nonverbal children with autism.
  24. Children with autism often struggle with transitions. A slight change in routine can lead to meltdowns or temper tantrums.
  25. Echolalia describes a behavior involving repetition of words or phrases. It’s a common sign of Autism Spectrum Disorder.
  26. Children on the Autism Spectrum often avoid eye contact.
  27. Some children with autism may engage in aggressive or self-injurious behaviors, like head banging against walls or floors when upset.
  28. Sensory sensitivities to lights, sounds, and textures are commonly seen among those with autism.
  29. Many people with autism are extremely gifted in certain areas, like mathematics, music, or art.
  30. Micah Miner, a young gymnast with autism, is a prime example of this. By the time he was nine years old, Micah competed in the gymnastics National Championship for the third time.
  31. Epilepsy is common among individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder, seen in up to a third of the autism population.
  32. April is Autism Awareness Month.
  33. Back in 2007, the United Nations named April 2nd as international Autism Awareness Day.
  34. To help raise autism awareness, Autism Speaks launched the Light It Up Blue campaign.
  35. To show support for autism, landmarks like the White House, the Empire State Building, the Great Pyramid of Giza and more will light up blue on April 2nd.
  36. There’s no single cause of autism.
  37. Some of the high-risk factors for autism include genes and genetic mutations, chromosomal conditions, family factors, environmental influences, prenatal influences, and birth complications.
  38. There are treatments that can help ease the symptoms of ASD, but there is no cure for autism.
  39. Applied Behavior Analysis therapy is the leading treatment option for young children on the Spectrum.
  40. Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) involves figuring out the motivation behind certain behaviors, and then applying this to reduce undesirable behaviors and increase positive ones.
  41. Decades worth of scientific research shows that ABA therapy is effective at helping children with autism make significant strides to overcome their developmental delays.
  42. One of the main techniques used in ABA is DTT (discrete trial training). Basically, DTT breaks down tasks into small components. Children build up skills by tackling each smaller component one-by-one.
  43. Another main technique used in ABA is NET (natural environment training). Children might work on many of the same goals as in DTT, but in a more natural play environment.
  44. Generalization is a common term used in ABA to describe a child’s ability to naturally implement behaviors and skillsets in a variety of settings.
  45. ABA therapy is endorsed by the U.S. Surgeon General, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the National Institute of Mental Health, and the Autism Society of America.
  46. The earlier ABA therapy is started, the better the outcome. Children who start receiving ABA therapy at 2 years old make more significant changes than those who start ABA at later ages, according to research.
  47. Ole Ivar Lovaas is known as the pioneer of Applied Behavior Analysis.
  48. ABA therapy used to be seen as controversial due to aversive therapy techniques. However, nowadays, there are no aversive procedures used in ABA.
  49. ABA therapy focuses largely on positive reinforcements. ABA therapists will reinforce desirable behaviors with a child’s favorite toys, snacks, and social praise.
  50. ABA therapy is an all-encompassing approach to overcoming the deficits associated with autism. Target areas of ABA therapy include speech, nonverbal communication, social skills, play skills, adaptive skills, toilet training, food therapy, and much more.
  51. Board Certified Behavior Analysts (BCBAs) are Master’s level health practitioners. They create the child-specific treatment plans implemented in ABA therapy centers.
  52. ABA therapists provide one-on-one therapy for children in ABA autism facilities.
  53. Registered Behavior Technicians (RBTs) are ABA therapists who have gone on to complete 40 hours of training and pass the RBT exam.
  54. Other autism therapies include speech therapy, occupational therapy, physical therapy, art therapy, and music therapy.
  55. There is currently no scientifically proven link between autism and vaccines.
  56. Individuals with autism are particularly vulnerable to being bullied. Studies have found that over 60 percent of children on the Spectrum have experienced bullying.
  57. Data shows that the most severe bullying tends to occur among children in 5th to 8th
  58. There are a number of tips recommended by autism experts to help a child on the Spectrum who is being bullied, including identifying emotions and creating bully-proofing plans. See them here.
  59. Unemployment rates are a big issue in the autism community. A report out of the A.J. Drexel Autism Institute found that a third of young adults with autism didn’t have a job or educational plans.
  60. Integrate Autism Employment Advisors is a program that helps adults on the Spectrum lock down jobs through job coaching boot camps and networking opportunities. The organization also reaches out to employers to encourage more hiring of autistic individuals.
  61. Rett’s Syndrome is often confused with Autism Spectrum Disorder. Rett’s Syndrome, a rare neurological disorder that mainly affects girls, is characterized by a rapid loss of speech, coordination, and use of the hands.
  62. Research has shown that parental interactions with babies can ease the signs of autism as the baby progresses to toddler age.
  63. Temple Grandin, one of the most prominent voices in the autism community, didn’t speak until she was three and a half years old.
  64. Temple Grandin went on to become an author and speaker on autism and animal behavior, as well as a professor of Animal Science at Colorado State University. Many people view her as showing the world the true potential of those on the Spectrum.
  65. Temple Grandin has inspired many with her well-known quote, “Different, Not Less.”
  66. Some other well-known people considered to be on the Spectrum include Susan Boyle, John Elder Robinson, Daryl Hannah, and Andy Warhol.
  67. Technology can be a huge help for individuals with autism who struggle with communication. There are a number of iPad apps designed to help nonverbal children communicate their wants and needs.
  68. There are also daily scheduling apps for iPads to help ease the anxiety associated with transitions.
  69. Some common autism assessments for an autism diagnosis include M-CHAT (Modified Checklist for Autism in Toddlers), CARS (Childhood Autism Rating Scale), ASQ (Ages and Stages Questionnaire), and ADOS-2 (Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule – 2nd edition).
  70. The ADOS-2 is largely seen as the gold standard of diagnostic assessments for autism.
  71. Autism Spectrum Disorder can be diagnosed by developmental pediatricians, pediatricians, neurologists, and psychologists.
  72. Autism is becoming more included in pop culture, with shows like Atypical and The Good Doctor making their ways to Netflix and ABC.
  73. In April of 2017, Sesame Street debuted Julia: a new four-year-old character with autism. The goal was to familiarize children with the differences they might notice in their classmates who have autism – and to know that different is okay.
  74. Some people believe that autism is the result of bad parenting or child neglect. This is not the case.
  75. It’s common for children with ASD to only like eating two or three foods. Therapists can work through a slow process of introducing new textures and foods to build up to a more nutritious diet.
  76. The autism community has a strong online presence. Many parents, therapists, and individuals on the Spectrum run blogs to educate and connect with others. Check out some of the most outstanding autism blogs here.
  77. Weighted blankets can be an anxiety-reducer for some kiddos on the Spectrum. Weighted blankets provide a gentle pressure that eases the sensory issues associated with ASD.
  78. Sensory swings provide a number of benefits. They can encourage motor planning, balance, and core stability.
  79. The largest-ever study on twins and autism found that if one identical twin has autism, there is a 76 percent chance that the other identical twin will also have autism
  80. The same twins study found that same-sex fraternal twins have a 34 percent chance of both having an autism diagnosis, while opposite-sex fraternal twins share an 18 percent chance of Autism Spectrum Disorder.
  81. Autism was first described by Dr. Leo Kanner in 1943.
  82. Reporting on 11 children, Dr. Kanner’s initial observations on autism described the children as having “a powerful desire for aloneness” and “an obsessive insistence on persistent sameness.”
  83. Before Dr. Kanner’s work, autism was often confused with schizophrenia.
  84. Autism is the fastest-growing developmental disorder. The prevalence of ASD in children increased by 119.4 percent from 2000 to 2010.
  85. In 2014, researchers identified a whopping 60 genes with more than a 90 percent chance of increasing the risk for autism in a child. Previously, just 11 genes had been linked with Autism Spectrum Disorder.
  86. Just last year (2017), an analysis published in Nature Neuroscience identified 18 new genes linked with autism.
  87. In September 2018, the National Institutes of Health awarded nine research grants to the Autism Centers of Excellence (ACE) program. The grants totaled nearly $100 million.
  88. The nine research grants will delve into improving autism treatments, identifying the early signs of autism by studying social interaction, how autism differs between girls and boys, and more.
  89. The Autism Science Foundation (ASF) is a nonprofit organization with a mission to further scientific research on Autism Spectrum Disorder.
  90. ASF provides funding and other resources/assistance to organizations and scientists conducting autism research.
  91. Many top colleges and universities offer degree programs in Applied Behavior Analysis. Some of the best ABA programs can be seen in this list.
  92. There are a number of books on autism that have made the New York Times Best-Seller List, including Look Me in the Eyes by John Elder Robison and The Reason I Jump by Naoki Higashida.
  93. Jordan Keller, a 12-year-old on the Spectrum, published a book called Jumbled Pieces: Autism. His mission is to help others understand what it’s like to grow up with autism.
  94. Insurance oftentimes covers the majority of the cost for ABA therapy, speech therapy, and occupational therapy.
  95. Unfortunately, in some states, Medicaid provides no coverage for ABA therapy. This leaves many families in need of autism services with little to no options.
  96. Congress passed the ABLE (Achieving a Better Life Experience) act in 2014.
  97. Under the ABLE act, individuals with disabilities are given the opportunity to open tax-free savings accounts without risking eligibility for Social Security and other government programs.
  98. Many children sit on waitlists to see a developmental pediatrician for 9 months or more. This delays the start of therapy and can significantly hurt a child’s ability to overcome developmental deficits.
  99. Waitlists are also an issue at many ABA centers.
  100. People on the autism spectrum are extraordinary, gifted, and loving human beings!

Top 35 Autism Blogs in 2018

News, scientific research, and education on Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) are constantly evolving. Online autism blogs are a perfect venue for staying up-to-date on all things autism.

The online autism community continues to flourish as more parents, teachers, and autism therapists create blogs to share their experiences. Many individuals who are on the autism spectrum themselves have also taken to the Internet to share their journeys with others.

Action Behavior Centers, a chain of Texas-based therapy providers for young children on the Spectrum, actively tries to raise autism awareness and educate both local and online communities on ASD.

After spending some time over the last year connecting with people from all over the world in the autism community, the ABC team has put together a list of some of the top influencers in the online autism world (in no particular order).

Top 35 Autism Blogs in 2018: 

The Autism Dad

People often think of parent blogs being dominated by the moms out there, but Rob Gorski, father of three boys with autism and other special needs, runs one of the most honest and heartening autism blogs on our list. Rob shares his experiences – the good, the bad, and the ugly – with raising his three boys as he figures out how “to do a job that sometimes requires superhuman abilities.” With over three million website visits from readers all over the world, The Autism Dad is well-respected in the autism community.

Autism Mom

Elizabeth Barnes, mom to the Navigator (the online alias for her son who is on the autism spectrum), left her full-time travel job to make sure she could provide her son with the support he needs. Her Autism Mom blog features articles with a variety of tips, resources, and personal experiences to help others along on their own journeys with ASD.

Autism Tank

Autism Tank is a blog run by Hailey, a teacher and Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA) with years of experience working with kids with special needs. She posts lessons, resources, and tools to help educate others on autism and how to help kids with autism succeed.

30 Days of Autism

Leah Kelley is affected by autism in both her family life and career. As a K-12 Inclusion Resource Teacher and a mother with a son on the Autism Spectrum, she is a major advocate of autism acceptance and actively speaks at educational seminars and conferences. 30 Days of Autism offers many valuable resources, poems, and personal experiences with ASD.

Finding Cooper’s Voice

Finding Cooper’s Voice, run by Cooper’s mom, Kate Swenson, details the journey of parenting a young child with severe, nonverbal autism. Kate has a knack for creating content that truly speaks to people, with multiple viral videos and posts – one even crowning her the winner of a Jimmy Kimmel video challenge. Check out Finding Cooper’s Voice for an honest picture of what it’s like to raise a child with autism, joys and heartbreaks included.

Autism with a Side of Fries

Eileen Shaklee’s Autism with a Side of Fries blog has garnered nearly 800 followers and over two million page views. “Autism is a trip I didn’t plan on, but I sure do love my tour guide,” she writes of her son. Eileen writes with a laid-back, relatable voice (expect jokes and curse words from time to time). She keeps it real.

Just a Lil Blog

Jim Walter, one of the rarer dad bloggers out there, shares “the true life adventures of an autistic little girl, and her big sister.” Jim makes his Just a Lil Blog fun and humorous with the unique addition of creating his own Memes! Our personal favorite is The Pizza Spectrum Meme. Check them all out here.

Embracing the Spectrum

Run by husband-wife team Teresa and “The Manager,” Embracing the Spectrum covers the day-to-day achievements and struggles of those affected by Autism Spectrum Disorder. “From my perspective, a child’s diagnosis of autism does not necessitate devastating thoughts, nor does it negate a child’s potential,” Teresa writes. The blog welcomes contributions from guest bloggers to compile tips and experiences from all over.

I Love ABA

I Love ABA is a blog full of anything and everything related to Applied Behavior Analysis: tips, lesson plans, free resources, an ABA glossary, and autism red flags. Tameika Meadows, the BCBA who started the blog back in 2011, strives to share the ins and outs of ABA in a way that is “non-intimidating and simple to grasp” for anyone willing to learn.

Spectrum Mum

All the way across the pond, English blogger Catie gives readers “A Glimpse Into Our Autism” with a series of blog posts and weekly photos. Catie’s blog covers many important areas in the special needs community, from tips on plane travel and holiday trips to explaining autism to siblings. She encourages her readers to tell their own stories “because your voice is important and your story is unique.”

Friendship Circle

Friendship Circle is a non-profit organization that provides support to over 3,000 individuals with special needs. The Friendship Circle editorial team maintains its blog with the added support of guest bloggers. From therapy tips and parenting tips to expert-recommended products, books, and lessons, Friendship Circle’s blog is an all-encompassing resource for families in the special needs community.

This Outnumbered Mama

Kaylene G., homeschooling mama to three kiddos (two with special needs) and another on the way, was completely overwhelmed when her children were first diagnosed with special needs. “I held onto the words of my favorite bloggers to get me through the major transitions and to feel like I wasn’t so alone,” she writes. “That’s why I started blogging.” On This Outnumbered Mama, she blogs about parenting, special needs, and homeschooling.

Atypical Familia

Lisa Quinones-Fontanez became a prominent blogger in the autism community with her award-winning blog, AutismWonderland. In 2014, she decided to start her current blog, Atypical Familia, since she no longer felt like “Alice” lost in Autism Wonderland. Autism is still a big part of her life, and she is working on a memoir to document her experience as an autism mom in the Bronx, New York.

Faith Hope Love Autism

Lisa Reyes created the Faith Hope Love Autism blog to offer the world writing from the perspective of someone actually on the autism spectrum – her son Philip. Philip writes about his life experiences, poetry, and answers questions submitted by readers. The blog offers a wonderful firsthand perspective of an individual on the spectrum.

Embracing Imperfect

Embracing Imperfect, owned by Gina Badalaty, takes readers through the ins and outs of raising girls with autism – a disorder that is much more prominent in males. In addition to parenting tips, autism resources, and advice on coping with an autism diagnosis, Embracing Imperfect offers content on healthy eating, family travel, and tech & play.

Autism Adventures

Melissa has taught moderate to severe special education classes for years. Her blog, Autism Adventures, outlines academics, behavior basics, communication, and all of the techniques she uses to be successful in her special needs classroom. One of our favorite posts is her Calm Down Kit, which helps kiddos work through their emotions on the more frustrating days.

Autism and Oughtisms

Way over in New Zealand, Linda, mother of two sons on the autism spectrum, runs the Autism and Oughtisms blog. Her message is simple – autism parents must let go of what they “ought” to do as parents and, instead, find what works for their child. Each child on the spectrum is unique, and there’s no “one size fits all” approach to parenting.

Stories About Autism

Meet James: autism blogger, business owner, and dad to Jude and Thomas. Part of why he started his blog was to become the best parent he could be, as well as wanting to help out others in the same boat and spread autism awareness. Stories About Autism is full of honesty and cute photos – what more could you want?

Awesomism Mom

Lynne, mom to Peyton, an 18-year-old on the spectrum, loves using her blog as an outlet to connect with other autism parents. Since Peyton is 18 years old, Lynne has worked through many of the struggles that parents to newly diagnosed children have millions of questions about. Amazingly, Lynne is also launching the Awesomism Quilt Tour to help spread the world about the high unemployment rate for autistic teens and adults.

Raising Autistic Kids

Writing under the pseudonym of Kate M., San Diego-based mom started the Raising Autistic Kids blog after leaving her corporate lifestyle to have more time to raise her son. On parenting, she writes “I’ve had twelve years of practice, I’m still a rookie mom because with ASD children, the milestones don’t apply.” Raising Autistic Kids is also sustained by plenty of volunteer guest bloggers.

The Autism Vault

The Autism Vault is a wonderful resource for teachers working with students with autism. Liz, a Special Education teacher and BCBA from New York City, helps readers understand ABA and how to run a successful special education classroom. Liz believes “any special education teacher can make a difference with a little ingenuity and behavioral science.”

The Art of Autism

The Art of Autism is a space for all individuals in the autism community to connect with others through art, poetry, writing, video content, and music. The organization’s vision is to “foster independence, self-esteem and artistic expression.” The Art of Autism certainly brings a bit of color and beauty to the online autism world.

The Mom Kind

Alicia Trautwein feels her life’s purpose is to bring awareness to autism and teach neurodiversity. She enlightens her readers about ASD and neurodiversity, with the added benefit of a free autism parenting resource library. Plus, if anyone’s looking for posts on recipes, homemaking, and saving money, Alicia’s got it covered.

The Journey Through Autism

The Journey Through Autism is one of the most special autism blogs on our list since it’s actually written from the perspective of someone on the autism spectrum. Teenager Ethan Hirschberg was diagnosed with high functioning Autism at the age of two, and says his diagnosis has not kept him from reaching his goals. Ethan aspires to go to an Ivy league college and dedicate his career to being a special education attorney or BCBA.

The Sensory Spectrum

The Sensory Spectrum is the go-to place for all things related to the senses: sensory toys, books, fine and gross motor tools, auditory tools, and feeding tools. The mom behind the Sensory Spectrum, Jennifer, has two kiddos with Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD). Exhausted from scouring the Internet for sensory resources, she decided to create an all-encompassing resource herself.

Running Through Water

Jaycee Kemp, social worker and mom of two sons with varying levels of developmental disability, maintains the Running Through Water blog. Jaycee takes her readers through the A-Zs of Autism – Coping and Haircuts to Pediatricians and Therapists. She also provides a list of personally recommended resources in the special needs community.

Full Spectrum Mama

Full Spectrum Mama is a colorful blog representing a “Colorful Family.” Full Spectrum Mama writes in a refreshingly honest style with beautiful rainbow illustrations that accompany her posts. It’s one of the most unique autism blogs on our list.

The Never-Empty Nest

Marguerite Elisofon doubles as an author and mom to Samantha, a young adult on the autism spectrum. Samantha’s diagnosis has not kept her from achieving great things – in fact, she earned a nomination for best actress at the 2017 Tribeca Film Festival. Marguerite publishes weekly blog posts, many of which zero in on the unique issues of adult women with autism.

Teach Love Autism

On Teach Love Autism, Jenn shares tips on creating schedules, work tasks, and anything that she’s had success with in her own classroom. She makes autism teaching products available for readers, including task cards, worksheets, and visual charts.

Bacon and Juiceboxes

Meet the “Bacon” family: Mr. Bacon (Jerry), Mrs. Bacon (Jo-Ann), Sister Bacon (Anna), and “the star of the show” – Eric. Mr. Bacon is a Police Captain and actively works to bridge the gap between police and individuals on the autism spectrum. In fact, Bacon and Juiceboxes hosts a free webinar on the 7 things first responders want people with ASD to know.

Autistic Not Weird

Chris Bonnello, also known as Captain Quirk, is a former primary school teacher turned to professional writer and speaker on autism issues. He’s on the spectrum himself, but wasn’t diagnosed with Asperger’s until the age of 25. He encourages everyone else on the spectrum to see themselves for their strengths rather than their weaknesses.

All About Boog

Amanda shares her experience of parenting “Boog,” her son who is on the autism spectrum. To those wondering what autism really means, she clarifies “It simply means he is a bright, loving, energetic little boy who happens to be on his own path when it comes to development.” She helps spread knowledge on ASD, language delays, therapies, and more.

The AWEnesty of Autism

PDD-NOS (Pervasive Developmental Disorder Not Otherwise Specified) is one of the diagnoses under the Autism Spectrum umbrella. Kate’s son Ryan was diagnosed with PDD-NOS at age 6, and Kate writes, “Most days I’m in awe of autism and the hold it has over the inner workings of my son’s mind.” Her blog shares the experiences of her family’s journey through the world of autism.

Dr. Mary Barbera’s Blog

Dr. Mary Barbera, a BCBA and mother to a son with autism, is a huge advocate of Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) therapy to help children on the spectrum reach their fullest potentials. Her blog is full of valuable information about ABA therapy, with the added personal touch of video blog lessons she creates herself.

Support for Special Needs

Julia Roberts and Dawn Friedman co-founded Support for Special Needs, which produces a wide variety of content on special needs, health, relationships, food, crafts, and DIY projects. Support for Special Needs acts as a medium for exchanging “wisdom and ideas among one of the most powerful group of people we know.”

 

Blog winners – feel free to share the distinction on your blogs with the code below!

Action Behavior Centers

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Autism Anti-Bullying Guide

Facts and Statistics

Bullying can affect children, teens, and adults of all walks of life. Individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), however, can be particularly vulnerable to bullying.

In fact, the Interactive Autism Network (IAN) conducted a large survey of nearly 1,200 children with ASD (ages 6 to 15), finding that an overwhelming 63 percent of the sample had experienced bullying.

Bullying occurs among children in all grade levels, but the data showed the most severe bullying tends to affect those in 5th to 8th grade.

The researchers also talked with parents about common behaviors associated with ASD to see whether certain behaviors correlated more strongly with bullying. According to the results, the behaviors most closely linked with bullying were:

  • Poor hygiene
  • Frequent meltdowns
  • Rigidly sticking to rules – i.e. enforcing adult-made rules that most other children wouldn’t
  • Inflexibility or rigidity
  • Continuing to talk about favorite topics when others are visibly bored or annoyed
  • Clumsiness

Effects of Bullying on Children with Autism

The Network of Autism Training and Technical Assistance Programs (NATTAP) published an article on bullying and students on the autism spectrum. Some of the effects of bullying detailed in the report include:

  • Lowered self-esteem
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Hesitancy or refusal to attend school
  • Fear
  • Emotionally sensitive behavior
  • Changes in diet or sleeping patterns
  • Decline in academic performance
  • Isolation
  • Inability to concentrate

Expert Tips

If a parent suspects their child might be dealing with bullying at school, it can be challenging to figure out what first steps to take. The Board-Certified Behavior Analysts (BCBAs) – Master’s level clinicians with decades of experience with children with autism –  at Action Behavior Centers have some anti-bullying tips to share.

  1. Identifying emotions

First and foremost, it’s important for children on the spectrum to identify how the actions of their peers have made them feel. Sad? Frustrated? Angry? Confused? Embarrassed?

Many children with autism struggle with emotional regulation, so a critical first step in handling bullying is to talk through whatever may have happened at school or on the playground and help children pinpoint their emotional responses.

  1. Discussing facial expressions, body language and bullying tactics

Alongside difficulty with identifying and understanding emotions, children with autism may struggle with understanding bullying or that it’s even happening to them.

First, talk about what bullying is and some of its common forms: name calling, making fun of how someone looks or talks, stealing lunch money, pushing, hitting, spitting, spreading lies and rumors about someone, and cyber bulling through text messages or the Internet.

Discuss the facial expressions and body language that commonly hint that bullying might be taking place – scornful or condescending facial expressions, pointing and laughing with other friends, or physical aggression, to name a few.

Since many children on the spectrum have social deficits, it’s valuable to help them understand the social cues that could point to bullying.

  1. Self-reporting

The next step is to encourage self-reporting. Bullying can’t be addressed if a child internalizes everything instead of telling a parent, teacher, or caregiver that something hurtful occurred.

  1. Ask for a copy of your child’s school’s bullying policy

Since bullying laws vary from state to state, schools will have different anti-bullying policies in place. Ask for a copy of the anti-bullying policies at your child’s school. An important part of this process is being aware of how your child’s school deals with bullies and the rights of children who have been victimized.

  1. Figure out where to report bullying

Bullying can’t be stopped if it goes unreported. Find out who handles bullying cases at your child’s school in case you ever need to report an incident. Getting disciplinary action from a school or a bully’s parent can deter future incidents from occurring.

  1. Create a bully-proofing plan

Talk to your child about handling bullies in a cool and collected way. Perhaps a firm “Stop doing that!” and walking towards an adult could do the trick. For a bit more discretion, coordinate with your child’s teachers and set up a private code word or gesture to signal that bullying or an uncomfortable situation is going on.

Consider designating a ‘safe adult’ or ‘safe space’ that your child can always go to at school to escape bullying.

  1. Autism awareness and acceptance

Urge parents of typically developing children to talk to their children about autism. Having a better understanding of the quirks and behaviors that come along with autism might help children better understand and accept their peers for their differences rather than poke fun or bully.

National Resources

What Does a Typical Day of ABA Therapy Look Like?

Once a child receives a diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), ABA therapy is the go-to treatment option recommended by doctors to help children overcome their developmental delays. Decades of evidence-based research support the effectiveness of ABA (applied behavior analysis), but for many families, ABA therapy is something they’ve never heard of before.

So, what goes on in a typical day of ABA therapy?

The first few days of ABA therapy are all about fun and play. Before therapists will dig into working on a child’s specific therapy goals, they want to make sure the child is comfortable in the new environment. The first handful of ABA therapy sessions are all about “pairing” – establishing a rapport, figuring out a child’s favorite toys and games, laughs, tickles, snacks and treats.

Once a relationship between the child and therapist is established, that’s when the work can begin. ABA is split into two main methods: Discrete Trial Training (DTT) and Natural Environment Training (NET).

DTT is more of what typical school lessons might look like. Kids will work on a specific task one-on-one with a therapist, sometimes across a table with books, iPads, and games. Therapists use the DTT teaching method to build skills like matching pictures, pointing to objects, imitation, sustaining eye contact, and learning how to make sounds and say words, to name a few.

NET is more of a naturalistic, play-based approach in which children may play more independently while being prompted by their therapist or socialize with others to master the skills needed to thrive in real-world settings. Many of the skills taught in DTT will also be woven into NET sessions to ensure those skills transfer over in an organic way.

At Action Behavior Centers, each team is structured with one BCBA supervisor and five certified therapists who implement lesson plans and oversee the progress of four children. We believe it’s important to always have an extra set of hands on deck and keep the caseloads at a manageable level to ensure the highest level of care and attention for our kids – quality over quantity!

Throughout the day, each child works through therapy sessions in a block rotation schedule with four different therapists – each session lasting 2 to 3 hours – to keep things fresh and help children generalize across therapy styles. Progress is tracked in an online software program called Skills® For Autism. Parents and physicians can stay updated with graphs and progress reports that outline daily success rates with therapy goals. Once a goal is mastered within Skills, children move on to tackle new challenges.

ABA therapy also covers a variety of day-to-day living skills like potty training, brushing teeth, holding eating utensils, getting dressed, self-regulating emotions, and more. The best way to think of ABA is as an all-encompassing approach to build skills in the areas needed to live out a valuable and fulfilling life – cognition, language, social skills, play skills, motor skills, executive functioning, and self-care.

Top 35 Education Programs for Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA)

There’s a growing need for qualified professionals in the field of Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA). ABA therapy is a leading treatment option for children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), which affects 1 in 68 children.

For those interested in pursuing a career as a Registered Behavior Technician (RBT) or a Board-Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA), below are some of the best undergraduate and graduate ABA or autism-related programs in the United States (in no particular order).

Trinity Christian College

Trinity Christian College’s Behavior Intervention Specialist Master’s program includes a BACB pre-approved Verified Course Sequence that prepares students for the BCBA exam. In fact, it’s the only master’s program in Illinois that offers this BACB-approved course sequence as well as the Behavior Intervention Specialist endorsement.

Wayne State University

Wayne State University solidified a place on the list with its BCBA and BCaBA (Board Certified Assistant Behavior Analyst) training programs. The school offers course sequences with seminar and practicum experience to train students in ABA with a focus on treating autism.

Mercyhurst University

The graduate certificate in Applied Behavior Analysis, offered by Mercyhurst’s Special Education and Applied Disability Studies graduate program, helps students develop the skills needed to be successful in the world of ABA. The program provides students with opportunities for graduate assistantships through service contracts with organizations like the Erie School District Autism Program.

Fresno State University

Fresno State University’s M.A. in Psychology gives students the opportunity for an emphasis in Applied Behavior Analysis. The program trains students to provide high-quality therapeutic intervention with ABA for both kid and adults on the autism spectrum. Further, students learn about behavioral management consultancy in business.

University of North Alabama

The University of North Alabama offers a BACB-approved 12-credit Certificate in Applied Behavior Analysis. The university also offers support to help students in the program find potential locations to earn the required supervision hours to be eligible to sit for the BCaBA exam.

Central Michigan University

Central Michigan University’s College of Humanities and Social and Behavior Sciences offers an 18-credit BACB-approved course sequence for students pursuing a career as either a BCaBA or a BCBA. The school also requires 2 of the following 3 categories for practical experience: 1500 hours of Supervised Independent Fieldwork, 1000 hours of Practicum, or 750 hours of Intensive Practicum.

Rowan University

The Psychology Department at Rowan University has its very own Center for Behavior Analysis, Research & Services. Students are able to choose from a variety of coursework options: the Concentration Program in ABA for Psychology Majors, the Post-Baccalaureate Certificate Program in Applied Behavior Analysis, Master of Art in ABA, or the Certificate of Advanced Graduate Studies in ABA.

McNeese State University

McNeese State University offers a graduate training program – approved by the BACB and accredited by the ABAI – in Applied Behavior Analysis. The Department of Psychology also has the McNeese Autism Program, which provides early intervention services for children with autism. The Autism Program’s team of BCBAs also conduct social skills groups, language training, feeding interventions, and family training.

Williams College

Williams College’s undergraduate psychology program comprehensively covers Developmental Psychology, which is a major part of ABA. The college specifies that its psychology degree will prepare students with the skills need for many mental health professions, including a behavior analyst.

Bay Path University

Bay Path University has 3 program options for students interested in practicing ABA: a 39-credit MS in Applied Behavior Analysis, a 45-credit MS in ABA/Autism Spectrum Disorders, or a 39-credit EdS in ABA/Applied Research Focus. Bay Path faculty members oversee 1,500 hours of supervised fieldwork for students, and the course sequence is verified by the BACB.

Texas State University

Texas State University offers a top-notch Master’s of Special Education with a Concentration in Autism and Applied Behavior Analysis. The Behavior Analyst Certification Board (BACB) approved the concentration as meeting the eligibility requirements for taking the BCBA exam. The university landed a high BCBA exam pass rate in 2016 at 83 percent.

University of West Florida

The University of West Florida offers quality online ABA course sequences for undergraduate, graduate, and post-graduate students. The program allows for a more flexible schedule, with start dates in January, March, May, August and October. The course keeps students engaged with weekly virtual class meetings with instructors and peers.

Baylor University

Baylor University’s ABA program offers hands-on learning experience in its own Clinic for Assessment, Research, and Education (CARE) – part of the Baylor Center for Developmental Disabilities. With excellent funding opportunities that award students with free tuition, Baylor is an ideal choice for a 15-month ABA Master’s program.

Kaplan University

Accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC), Kaplan University offers a postgraduate certificate in ABA that meets the BACB requirements to sit for the BCBA exam. Both on-campus and online students are eligible for the program.

University of Nevada, Reno

The University of Nevada-Reno provides options for undergraduate, graduate, and doctoral students to receive specializations in ABA. Their programs are accredited by the Association for Behavior Analysis International (ABAI), and in 2016, 100 percent of University of Nevada-Reno students passed the BCBA exam on their first attempt.

Saint Cloud State University

Accredited by the ABAI, Saint Cloud State University’s MS program in ABA is the only accredited online ABA program in the world. The university also offers an on-campus cohort. The university boasts a 96 percent first-time BCBA exam pass rate.

Florida State University

The Florida State University (FSU) Applied Behavior Analysis program is accredited by the Association for Behavior Analysis International, making it one of just 24 universities with this distinction. FSU boasts a high BCBA examination pass rate of 88 percent.

Nova Southeastern University

There are a number of ABA program options for both undergraduate and graduate students at Nova Southeastern University. Undergrads pursuing a Bachelor’s degree in education or psychology can complete ABA minor programs. Graduate students pursuing a Master’s degree in Counseling have the option to specialize in ABA or Advanced ABA.

Winthrop University

Winthrop University’s College of Education has a well-rounded program with special education classes specializing in ABA and how to effectively deliver one-on-one instruction to children on the autism spectrum. In fact, Winthrop University’s Education professors have published books on how to bring ABA into inclusive classrooms and working with students with behavior problems and learning disabilities.

University of Texas Austin

With an 82 percent first-time BCBA exam pass rate, the University of Texas Austin offers M.Ed and M.A. programs with concentrations in Autism and Developmental Disabilities. The program is approved by the BACB and many students who complete the program go on to become BCBAs or BCBA-Ds.

University of Texas San Antonio

Not too far from UT Austin, the University of San Antonio also has educational opportunities for those hoping to become RBTs or BCBAs. In addition to strong undergraduate and graduate programs for students interested in working with special needs children, the University of Texas San Antonio also has the option of a Graduate Certificate in Applied Behavior Analysis.

University of Nebraska

Remarkably, the University of Nebraska has locked down a 100 percent BCBA exam pass rate for two years in a row. The Department of Psychology’s MA program typically takes about two years to complete and equips students with the necessary skills to become a BCBA.

California State University Northridge

California State University Northridge surpasses the national average with a 94 percent first-time pass rate for the BCBA exam. The rigorous program teaches students how to conduct behavioral assessments and how to implement outcome-based behavioral interventions.

University of the Pacific

The University of the Pacific was the only other university on this list to secure a 100 percent BCBA exam pass rate two years in a row. The Department of Psychology places ABA track students in internship sites to learn how to design treatment plans and implement behavioral interventions.  The majority of ABA track students work 20 hours per week in one of the community settings.

Stephen F. Austin State University

Stephen F. Austin University has a number of programs – both campus-based and online – to help undergraduate and graduate students build a solid foundation for working with children with autism, including programs that focus on special education, speech-language pathology, school psychology, and visual and hearing impairments.

University of Maryland Baltimore County

In 2016, 100 percent of the students from the University of Maryland Baltimore County who took the BCBA exam passed on their first attempt. The UMBC Department of Psychology has an ABAI-accredited M.A. in Applied Behavior Analysis program which thoroughly prepares students for success as professionals in the industry.

University of California Santa Barbara

UC Santa Barbara has a great Developmental and Evolutionary Psychology program for undergraduates interested in the ABA field, as well as a Professional Certificate in ABA for those already enrolled in master’s or doctorate programs.

University of North Texas

The University of North Texas’ Department of Behavior Analysis was the first to earn the highly-esteemed ABAI accreditation, and has since attracted talented ABA professionals from around the world. UNT students are given a wealth of research opportunities, including the Behavior Analysis Resource Center, the Easter Seals North Texas Autism Treatment Program Research Group, the Behavior Analysis Online Research Group, and more.

Whittier College

For undergraduate students with an interest in later pursuing an MS in ABA or a career as an RBT, Whitter College’s Department of Psychological Sciences offers a solid foundation on the social, developmental, emotional, and biological bases of behavior.

Texas Tech University

Texas Tech University offers a variety of undergraduate majors in its Psychological Sciences department for those interested in becoming an ABA professional. Texas Tech graduates then have the option to pursue a Master of Education in Special Education with an emphasis in Applied Behavior Analysis or an online Applied Behavior Analysis Certificate.

James Madison University

With an impressive 100% BCBA exam pass rate, James Madison University easily solidified its spot on this list. The program involves a mix of coursework, research, and practicum experience for those students interested in becoming a BCBA or doctorate level behavior analyst.

St. Edward’s University

For undergraduate students looking for a college experience at a smaller school, St. Edward’s University has a comprehensive psychology degree with a capstone project that completes a two-semester research/experiential course sequence. This gives students the opportunity to work with current professionals and develop the skills to become professionals themselves.

Abilene Christian University

Abilene Christian University, conveniently located by the West Texas Autism Center, is a prime location for undergraduates interested in getting involved with the autism community while earning their degree. ACU’s Psychology Clinic acts as a training facility for Master’s-seeking students and professionals administer tests to test for autism.

Arizona State University

Arizona State University offers an online Master’s of Education in Curriculum and Instruction (Applied Behavior Analysis) through its Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College. The graduate education program was ranked 11th in the nation in U.S. News & World Report’s 2018 rankings.

Texas A&M

Texas A&M’s Department of Educational Psychology offers both the coursework and the fieldwork supervision needed to be eligible to take the BCBA exam. The course allows students to hit the required 1500 hours of field experience in 4-6 semesters, which is 50-67% faster than hiring an independent supervisor, A&M reports.

 

For students pursuing a degree in ABA or autism-related studies, Action Behavior Centers awards a bi-annual scholarship. Details can be seen here.

Understanding Autism: What are the Autism ‘High-Risk’ Factors?

Autism research has come a long way over the past several years, but researchers still haven’t determined an exact cause for Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). There’s a consensus among scientists that a number of influences are more likely at play, including biological, genetic and environmental risk factors.

What are some of the most common risk factors for autism?

Genes and Genetic Mutations

There’s no such thing as an “autism gene” – scientists haven’t linked one specific gene to all cases of ASD. That being said, there’s no shortage of research studies that link genes and genetic mutations with a higher risk of autism, but dozens of genes are known to play a role.

To date, researchers have tallied at least 65 genes that have a strong tie to autism, and over 200 more that have weaker ties to ASD. The list continues to grow. Just this year, a study revealed 18 more genes associated with autism. The more “high-impact” mutations appear to disable genes that are critical to early brain development.

Each case of ASD is unique, with its own combination of behaviors and developmental delays. With each new gene discovery, researchers are able to better explain the different cases of autism.

Chromosomal Conditions

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) data has shown that individuals with certain chromosomal conditions, like fragile X syndrome or tuberous sclerosis, are more likely to have ASD.

Family/Biological Factors  

In addition to genes, there are some other biological factors known to play a role in the likelihood that a child will have ASD. One is paternal age – older fathers have been linked with higher autism risk. Siblings also play a role. Research from the University of California, Davis (UCD) found that children with at least one older sibling with ASD have an 18 percent chance of also having the disorder.

Environmental Influences

A number of environmental factors are also known to have an effect on autism risk. When it comes to the nutritional risk factors associated with ASD, the research on folic acid and omega 3 deficiency has been less conclusive. However, many individuals with autism have been shown to be vitamin-D deficient. Exposure to some pesticides and heavy metals, particularly mercury and lead, have also been linked with autism.

Prenatal Influences

A meta-analysis study on the link between autism risk and prenatal influences revealed a number of pregnancy complications linked with ASD risk: advanced parental age at birth, maternal medication use during pregnancy, bleeding, gestational diabetes, and being born first rather than third or later.

Birth Complications

A 2017 review found strong links between autism and certain traumatic birth complications, including hypoxia and ischemia. Babies with neonatal anemia, or being low on oxygen-carrying red blood cells, were found to be eight times more likely to develop autism later in life. Fetal stress caused by meconium aspiration, a condition in which oxygen deprivation leads a fetus to inhale waste products in the womb, was also linked to a sevenfold increase of later ASD development.

Autism Risk Could Be Flagged as Early as 1-2 Months, Study Finds

As diagnostic assessments and resources continue to improve, more cases of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) are being diagnosed each year. It’s well-known that intervening as early as possible gives children on the spectrum the best chance at overcoming the developmental deficits associated with ASD. As such, scientists have been working to discover more ways to detect ASD as early as possible.

Generally, autism can be diagnosed as early as 18 months of age. However, researchers from the Sackler Institute for Developmental Psychobiology at Columbia University found a biomarker that may be able to predict a high risk of autism in 1- to 2-month old infants.

The research team, using data from the National Database for Autism Research (NDAR), analyzed brain scans of 71 high and low risk infants at either a 1-2 month period or a 9-10 month period. One set of scans was taken during a resting period of sleep and the other while the infants were presented with their native language.

According to the study findings, the infants with a high risk of ASD showed some particular patterns during sleep: higher levels of “noise” and an increased randomness in spontaneous head movements. The high-risk 1- to 2-month old infants also showed similar head movement signatures to each other while the low risk infants showed distinct head movement signatures during both the sleep and language conditions.

The researchers also found that specific head movement features during sleep predicted that the 1- to 2-month-old infants in the high-risk group would exhibit delayed early learning developmental trajectories. Even those high-risk infants without ASD diagnoses showed significantly lower functioning in childhood compared to the low risk infants, so the current research offers the potential to forecast which infants will show atypical developmental behaviors as toddlers.

Since the study is the first of its kind, additional research is needed to replicate and confirm the current findings. Nonetheless, the Colombia University team has brought an exciting possibility to the forefront of autism research.

Previous research has shown other innovative ways in which earlier autism detection might be possible. One team of researchers used brain scans and artificial intelligence to predict which 6-month-old infants would be diagnosed with ASD as toddlers with a 96 percent accuracy rate.

Just a couple weeks ago, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) announced research grants totaling nearly $100 million to support large studies on autism over the next five years. Our fingers are crossed that scientists will continue unearthing new methods for earlier ASD detection. Watch this space for updates.