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Top 50 Online ABA Master’s Programs and Certificates in 2018

There is a recent and growing need for qualified professionals in the field of Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA). ABA therapy, the leading treatment for Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), helps children on the Spectrum improve in many areas of development, including communication, social skills, and day-to-day living skills.

The ABA field is led by Board Certified Behavior Analysts (BCBAs) who are responsible for creating all of the individualized treatment plans and supervising one-on-one therapy sessions with Registered Behavior Technicians (RBTs).

For students seeking a career as a Board-Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA), below are the top 50 colleges (in no particular order) that offer fully web-based ABA or autism-related programs in the United States.

Auburn University

Auburn University’s distinguished degrees and teacher certification programs, such as the Graduate Certificate in Intervention for Students with Autism and Developmental Disabilities, have earned Auburn University a spot in the top 25 percent of all Schools of Education in the United States, according to U.S. News and World Report.

Arizona State University

Arizona State University provides their students with a variety of education programs, including those in the special education field. ASU offers programs like the BACB-approved graduate certificate in ABA, as well as a M.Ed program with an emphasis in ABA. These programs equip graduates to feel comfortable with a diverse range of client populations.

Northern Arizona University

Northern Arizona University solidified a spot on our list by offering its Positive Behavior Support, Graduate Certificate program to aspiring BCBAs.  This 100% electronic program allows students to engage in group work that involves communicating via video chat with classmates during real-time situations.

The University Of Arizona

The University of Arizona has a fast-track web-based BCBA course sequence for Behavior Analysts who are looking to make a quicker transition into the field. The program can be finished in a short time of 16 months, allowing students to work through the program while actively holding a job.

The University of Arkansas

The University of Arkansas offers a flexible learning environment for the Master’s in Special Education with Graduate Certificates in both Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA). The ABA program’s recognized faculty is one of the most noteworthy factors of their online program.

Brandman University

Brandman University offers a remote based Master’s in Special Education program with an emphasis in ABA. The university provides students with the tools they need complete the course in accelerated eight week sessions. BU also facilitates bi-weekly webinars for students to participate in trainings and communicate with other students and instructors.

California State University

California State University offers a BACB-accredited program for BCBA candidates through their ABA Certificate of Advanced Study. CSU also helps students by staying flexible with through their quick-paced program and lower financial costs.  

National University

National University’s Master of Science in Applied Behavior Analysis is recognized for equipping students with the ability to offer behavior management techniques and strategies in a variety of settings, including schools, hospitals, mental health agencies, businesses, and group homes.

University of Colorado

The University of Colorado has a known history of accommodating the needs of students who are already in the workforce. The University of Colorado’s 100% electronic Applied Behavior Analysis course sequences help best prepare students to sit for the national Board Certified Behavioral Analyst exam.

University of Northern Colorado

The University of Northern Colorado’s BACB-verified online courses are available for those seeking a career in ABA. UNC’s flexible program permits students to complete their BCBA course sequence simultaneously with a master’s degree. The expert faculty and impressive UNC resources exemplify the university’s dedication to its web-based program.  

Western Connecticut State University

Western Connecticut State University is an institution dedicated to higher standards of education and research. WCSU provides high-quality behavior analytic instruction to practitioners, earning its online ABA program a spot on this list.

Florida Institute of Technology

Florida Institute of Technology offers students much more flexibility than the average ABA program with the opportunity to enroll in FIT’s online program multiple times throughout the year – the new course sequences for the program start every three months. This allows students interested in a BCBA certification, particularly those who are already in the workforce, to plan enrollment around their busy lives.

Nova Southeastern University

Nova Southeastern University operates through the Southern Regional Education Board’s Electronic Campus, which facilitates an advanced coursework program to help students qualify for BCBA certification while they work. The flexible learning program  makes it easy for students to access all resources and materials needed to complete all courses 100% electronically.

University of West Florida

The University of West Florida stands out for their remote flexibility, offering five different start dates per year. This allows students to kick off the program at their utmost convenience. UWF offers a BACB-Accredited program for BCBA candidates, with an optional Master of Arts in Exceptional Student Education.  

Chicago School of Professional Psychology

Chicago School of Professional Psychology makes it extremely simple for students to access their computer-based work through a program called Global Student Dashboard. Global Student Dashboard allows students to access their assignments and interact with fellow peers in the class, as well as the professor.

Southern Illinois University

Southern Illinois University’s BACB-approved course sequence is comprised of a total of 18 credit-hours, which can be completed entirely online. SIU’s program effectively prepares students who already hold a master’s degree or higher, in an approved field of study, to earn their BCBA credentials.

Ball State University

Ball State University offers a BACB-Accredited program for BCBA candidates with its Master of Arts with an emphasis in Autism. BSU was the first university in the state of Indiana to offer online ABA Master’s programs. This program is perfect for people seeking employment with children or adults with Autism.

Purdue University Global

Purdue University Global gives students the option of zero on-campus requirements and many different start dates, allowing them to begin an ABA program when it’s most convenient. Each student is offered personalized support by career services, an online library, and many social networking communities to keep in touch with classmates and stay up-to-date on new trends in the ABA field as a whole.

University of Kansas

Impressively, the University of Kansas is the second most research-productive university in the field of Applied Behavior Analysis. KU offers a Master of Arts or a Doctorate of Philosophy in behavioral psychology, which are BACB-accredited programs for aspiring BCBAs.

Nicholls State University

Nicholls State requires students to complete a field-based research seminar, which demonstrates firsthand how to work with and evaluate student learning environments. NSU offers computer-based programs for its M.Ed of Curriculum and Instruction, High Incidence Disabilities with an ABA option.

University of Southern Maine

University of Southern Maine offers a BACB-accredited ABA program through their Master of Science in Educational Psychology. USM’s program is known for its flexibility, with the program being 100% electronic so students are able to attend classes and complete coursework remotely.

Endicott College

Endicott College offers a diverse array of options for students seeking a career in ABA. All of Endicott’s programs are 100% electronic and do not have a residency requirement. The 36-credit online program makes it easier for those who are already working professionals to earn their degree. They also offer a 14:1 student-to-faculty ratio, enabling faculty members to really focus on their students.

Northeastern University

The BCBA exam pass rate for Northern University is at an extremely high rate of 83 percent, recieving world-wide recognition and attention. Northeastern University offers a flexible learning environment that is BACB-Accredited for BCBA candidates.

University of Wisconsin Whitewater

The University of Wisconsin Whitewater offers an online ABA graduate certificate that can be taken as a post graduate program, or may be applied toward a Master’s in Special Education. The university’s dedication to online learning is evident through their thorough and challenging modules that concentrate on evidence-based interventions.

West Virginia University

West Virginia University, one of the top 100 public universities in the U.S. according to U.S. News and World Report, offers a BCBA Course Sequence for post-graduate students or for students earning a graduate degree. WVU allows students in these programs to engage in live sessions through the university’s web-based learning platform.

University of Texas at Austin

With the growing need for ABA therapy in Texas, UT Austin is helping to foster new generations of BCBA supervisors with its online program that emphasizes ABA and Special Education. UT Austin also made it easy to enroll in their certificate program by not requiring any entrance exams.

Texas A&M University

A&M’s Department of Educational Psychology, also known as EPSY, has one of the nation’s largest outputs of special and bilingual education teachers in the state of Texas. The university offers up to 21 practicums each semester for students participating in online ABA courses.

Simmons College

With Simmons College’s online courses, students are able to earn their degrees in as short as 19 months with class sizes as small as 15 students. Simmons’ flexible learning environment has also proved to earn a BCBA exam pass rate of 83%, which is impressively the same rate of on-campus students

Drexel University

Drexel University’s ABA courses include traditional coursework, research, and some hands-on experience. Students also have the opportunity to accumulate their practicum hours required in order to sit for the national exam.

Cairn University

For those looking for a biblically-centered learning environment, Cairn University provides just that. Cairn University’s Online MS in Special Education (ABA) was the first Christian university program worldwide that was verified to meet the eligibility requirements to take the BCBA exam. Cairn also offers a 50% tuition discount for educators working in Christian schools.

St. Cloud State University

St. Cloud State University is one of the most affordable web-based ABA programs, with tuition as low as $12,000 for out-of-state applicants. The university offers students the opportunity to learn from PhD-level instructors. Not only is St. Cloud affordable, it is also ranked by the U.S. News and World Report as 35th in top public schools. Admission into the ABA program requires a bachelor’s degree and a minimum GPA of 2.75.

University Of Southern Maine

Another very affordable online program, the University of Southern Maine offers a rigorous ABA track to prepare students for the BCBA exam. Their programs include a Master of Science in Educational Psychology with a concentration in Applied Behavioral Analysis, as well as a Certificate in Applied Behavioral Analysis.

University of Massachusetts Lowell

The University of Massachusetts Lowell offers courses taught by world-wide expert behavior analysts who work at some of the most renowned autism treatment and research facilities. Such experienced faculty ensures a highly credible learning experience for students.

Michigan State University

Michigan State University’s Graduate Certificate Program in Applied Behavior Analysis equips students with the skills and knowledge needed to design, implement, and supervise ABA therapy sessions. MSU has provided post-secondary education for 60+ years and is one of the leading universities in the United States.

Capella University

Capella University provides students with several remote learning opportunities. This includes the university’s Masters of Science in Psychology with ABA specialization, which meets all of the requirements in order to sit for the BCBA exam. Some benefits of participating in Capella’s program include access to their career center for post-graduate job opportunities, as well as employer, association, and military discounts.

Southeast Missouri State University

Southeast Missouri State is a recognized leader for their online education programs. SMSU’s Masters of Arts in ABA is a 100% web-based program that allows students to complete their supervision through the required fieldwork.

Webster University

Webster University is known for its distinguished faculty and globally-minded curriculum. The university does an outstanding job at preparing students for practicing behavior analysis in different scenarios such as schools, residential centers, and community agencies.

Montana State University

Montana State University offers a Master of Science in Special Education Advanced Studies with an ABA emphasis. Graduates of this remote learning program have a high rate of employment and job offers. MSU also serves students with faculty who have a wide range of experience in the Special Education field, including those with their BCBA certification.

Arcadia University

With a 10:1 student-to-faculty ratio, Arcadia faculty members are able to give students a highly individualized educational experience. This 36-credit online program gives students the option to choose elective coursework that focuses on ASD, as well as emotional and behavioral disorders.

Kaplan University

Kaplan University, which was acquired by Purdue University to create Purdue University Global, now offers more than 180 remote-based programs. With Kaplan’s program, students will develop the skills they need to cultivate effective intervention strategies for their future clientele. Kaplan also offers multiple start dates that allow flexibility for those seeking higher education while still working.

Pennsylvania State University

Students are able to choose from three different focus areas when earning their online degree at Penn State. The focus areas include Academic and Behavioral Supports, Applied Behavioral Analysis, or Autism. Full time students are able to finish the program in about one year, while part time students are able to complete it in two years.

Central Methodist University

CMU’s online ABA program provides students with the opportunity to gain knowledge in behavior assessment, behavior change procedures, research and data analysis methods, and verbal behavioral analysis. Through CMU’s computer-based program, students will be prepared to sit for the national Board Certified Behavioral Analyst exam.

Ashford University

Ashford University Makes it easy for those balancing work, school, and life by offering one course at a time that lasts 5 weeks. Ashford also makes it easy for transferring students, allowing up to 90 transfer credits. Some courses include Applied Behavioral Sciences, as well as statistics for the behavioral and social sciences.

University of North Texas

With enrollment offered every term, UNT’s BACB-approved program provides students with top notch courses like Techniques in Applied Behavioral Analysis and Ethical Issues in the Science and Practice of Behavior Analysis. UNT also offers 24/7 access to their online courses.

Oregon Institute of Technology

Oregon Tech’s Applied Psychology Program highlights core curriculum such as Developmental, Abnormal, Social, Cognitive, and Behavior Modification. Through Oregon Tech’s web-based program, students will meet the American Psychological Association Standards.

Troy University

Troy University’s courses provide students with the ability to earn a bachelor’s in psychology with no on-campus requirements, while also minoring in Applied Behavior Analysis. Those participating in Troy’s courses have the option to participate in the classroom, online, or a combination of the two.

St. Joseph’s College

St. Joseph’s College’s online courses are made up of 29 credit hours that include courses like advanced research methods in autism and assessment of Autism Spectrum Disorder. St. Joseph also offers an optional 6 credit supervised practicum for students who are eager to gain additional experience.

Pepperdine University

Pepperdine’s School of Education and Psychology offers an online Master of Science program for students interested in becoming a BCBA. The online courses allows students to prepare for the Board Certified Behavior Analyst exam and become Behavior Analysts. Although these courses are online, students will receive the same curriculum and experience as students taking courses on campus. The online program offers students easy access online course work, face-to-face classes via webchat, and local clinical experiences.

University of Cincinnati

The University of Cincinnati makes it easy for students to earn their Behavior Analysis Graduate Certificate with their 100% web-based program. Students can earn their certificate in as little as 1-2 years, while the masters program can be completed in 20 months.

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Action Behavior Centers

Autism Spectrum Disorder: Sensory Resource Guide

What is Autism Spectrum Disorder?

Autism Spectrum Disorder, or ASD, is a developmental disorder that affects communication and behavior in both boys and girls. The signs of ASD often include delays in social interactions, repetitive or self-injurious behaviors, and sensory sensitivities.  Many individuals with ASD also struggle with verbal or non-verbal communication.

What is Sensory Processing Disorder?

Sensory Processing Disorder, or SPD, describes a brain condition characterized by individuals having trouble organizing and responding to information delivered through the senses. For instance, certain noises, sights, textures, tastes, and smells might cause a “sensory overload.”

Signs of Sensory Processing Disorder

  • Stimulation from loud noises or overactive scenery
  • Intolerance to textures or favoring certain textures over others
  • Food aversions
  • Extreme responses to colors
  • Difficulty with fine motor skills
  • Easily distracted or has trouble focusing on a single task
  • Withdrawal from light
  • Dislike for teeth-brushing, nail cutting, hair washing
  • Fearful of crowds
  • Child is is unaware of of being touched or bumped unless done with extreme force
  • Difficulties calming oneself

Articles and Scientific Research on SPD and Autism

  1. In Chantal Sicile-Kira’s article, What is Sensory Processing Disorder and How is is Related to Autism?, Chantal defines SPD and the relationship between SPD and ASD. She also discusses the day-to-day struggles that many people with Sensory Processing Disorder deal with on a regular basis.

  2. A recent study conducted at the University of California San Francisco explains some of the notable differences between SPD and Autism Spectrum Disorder. While there are some overlaps between the two, the study outlines how the brain wiring is different in those with ASD than those with Sensory Processing Disorder.

  3. A research study done in 2009 delves into the social and emotional aspects associated with Sensory Processing Disorder. Researchers found those with SPD experience higher levels of anxiety, depression, and social withdrawal than those without SPD.

  4. A study conducted over the last decade explains the psychological and behavioral differences between those on the autism spectrum and those with Sensory Processing Disorder. The researchers compare and contrast the striking similarities between the two disorders, as well as the features which make them two separate disorders.

Types of SPD

There are three kinds of Sensory Processing Disorders: over-responsive, under-responsive, and seeking/craving.

  1. Over-Responsive SPD:

It’s common for individuals with over-responsive SPD to feel a constant overload of information, which leads to experiencing some senses too intensely. Children with over-responsive SPD tend to become overstimulated and hypersensitive to sensory input, while a typical sensory system would not be affected in such a way. With a sensitive sensory system, a child can often be fearful of, bothered by, or completely avoidant of certain types of sensory experiences such as texture, noise, lighting, taste, and smell. This kind of sensory sensitivity is seen in many children with Autism Spectrum Disorder.

2. Under Responsive SPD:

In contrast to those with over responsive SPD, under-responsive SPD is when the sensory system doesn’t detect and respond to certain stimuli in the way a sensory system would typically react. Children with under-responsive SPD may often appear withdrawn or uninterested in engaging with others. They tend to not respond to pain or extreme temperatures in the way one might typically respond.

3. Seeking/Craving SPD:

The third kind of SPD is seeking/craving, which occurs when the sensory system drives an individual to constantly seek out sensory stimulation in many different forms. This can look like touching, bouncing, moving, jumping – however they can gain the sensory input they are seeking.

8 Sensory Toys and Activities Recommended by Autism Experts

Each child with Autism Spectrum Disorder and SPD may have unique preferences on toys and activities that accommodate sensory issues. Below are some toys that Action Behavior Centersexperienced team of Board Certified Behavioral Analysts (BCBAs) recommend for children with autism and sensory issues.

For tactile activities:

1. Kinetic sand

2. DIY Slime

3. Water bead

4. Play-Doh

5. Shaving cream

For visual activities:

6. Blowing bubbles

7. Surfloor

8. DIY glitter jar


The Main Neurological Differences Between SPD and ASD

Although there are many features of Sensory Processing Disorder and Autism Spectrum Disorder that go hand-in-hand, it’s important to note the fundamental differences between the two.

  • In a study that evaluated 16 boys with SPD, 15 boys with ASD, and 23 typically developing boys, researchers found that children with SPD, but not autism, displayed impairments in the parts of the brain that link visual, auditory, and tactile sensory processing systems.

  • Both Sensory Processing Disorder and Autism Spectrum Disorder involve deficiencies regarding basic sensory information, but only children with ASD have been shown to lack connections in the brain related to processing facial emotion and memory.

  • Autism Spectrum Disorder is a developmental disorder, while Sensory Processing Disorder affects the nervous system.

  • A recent study at the University of California San Francisco has found that “children with sensory processing disorders have decreased structural brain connections in specific sensory regions different than those in autism, further establishing SPD as a clinically important neurodevelopmental disorder.”

Statistics and National Resources

  • A research study done in 2009 by members of the Sensory Processing Disorder Scientific Work Group indicates that 1 in 6 children experience sensory symptoms.

  • As high as 95% of children on the autism spectrum reportedly experience sensory difficulties according, to a study published in the Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders in 2007.

  • Autism is about 4.5 more common in males – data shows that 1 in 42 boys have autism compared to 1 in 189 girls.

  • According to Sensory Processing in Autism: A Review of Neurophysiologic Findings, it is highly common for children on the autism spectrum to display “atypical behavioral responses to sensory information. Over 96% of children with ASD report hyper and hypo-sensitivities in multiple domains.”
  1. STAR Institute for Sensory Processing Disorder

  2. University of California San Francisco – UCSF Autism and SPD Study

  3. National Autism Resources – Sensory Toys

  4. CDC – Autism

  5. CDC – Autism Treatment

  6. WebMD – Sensory Processing Disorder

  7. Sensory Processing in Children With and Without Autism

  8. Sensory Processing and Behavioral Responsiveness

  9. National Institutes of Mental Health: Autism Spectrum Disorder

  10. NIMH: Autism Fact Sheet
  11. SPD Checklist
  12. PubMed: Autism Spectrum Disorder

2018 Autism Travel Guide

Traveling can be a challenge in some way or another for all families – particularly so for families with a child with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). Unfamiliar places, frequent transitions, large crowds and loud noises are just a few things parents try to avoid when planning a vacation for a child with special needs.  

To help families best prepare for vacations, we created an Autism Travel Guide, packed with travel preparation tips, road trip tips, flying tips, and the most autism-friendly vacation destinations in the United States.

6 Travel Preparation Tips

When traveling with children who have ASD, it is important to consider how each child might react in new situations. It is important to include and prepare everyone in the family so that everyone can enjoy the vacation.

  1. Role Playing.
    An effective way to help children on the spectrum feel more comfortable on a trip is to role play what the trip might look like. Role-playing in advance allows kids to understand what to expect while on the upcoming vacation rather than being entirely overwhelmed by the new experiences.
  2. Pack the right gear.
    Make sure your child has access to preferred comfort items. Some useful items to consider bringing are:
  • Noise cancelling headphones
  • Sunglasses
  • Weighted blanket
  • Sensory toys
  • Forms of identification
  • Favorite toy/blanket
  1. Create an itinerary.
    By creating an itinerary and discussing it in advance, you minimize the surprises that might occur while on vacation.
  2. Create a visual calendar.
    These vacation-prep calendars should display how long the trip will last, along with main events and activities. This is an efficient tool to help children on the spectrum truly visualize and understand what the trip will entail.
  3. Collect photos of the places you will go.
    Another helpful way to make sure children are comfortable in new surroundings is to collect photos of all vacation destinations. Grabbing photos off the Internet of hotels or accommodations, as well as any planned events and day trips, is a huge help in reducing the anxiety that children on the spectrum might feel in an unfamiliar environment.
  4. Involvement.
    Make sure to involve your child in the planning of your trip, whether it is researching your destination together or picking out a new swimsuit. The more involvement before the trip, the better!

7 Road Trip Tips

Road trips are a fun way to bond with your family and give children an opportunity to experience different places; however, they can also come with another set of challenges. With the help of the autism experts on our clinical team, we have compiled a variety of tips to help reduce some of that overwhelming road trip stress.

1. Start with small trips. Before leaving for an extended amount of time, try working your way up to a longer trip by taking a few day trips.

2. Map your route and mark off where you will stop ahead of time to avoid any surprises.

3. Assign Seating. If you have a car full of kids that tend to disagree on where to sit, try assigning seats to avoid any uncertainty, while still keeping in mind the needs of each child.

4. Snacks. Snacks are key in making sure everyone stays happy on the road. Make sure to pack plenty of snacks that you know your child likes. Also, bring along water or any other favorite drinks to keep everyone hydrated.

5. Entertainment. Most road trips tend to take up a good chunk of time, so it’s critical to have a variety of entertainment options for the ride. It’s always easy to pop in a few DVD’s, but if you are looking for something other than a movie, below is a list of items to consider packing for your road trip:

  • Coloring books
  • Playlist of songs you know your child likes to sing along to
  • Your child’s favorite books
  • iPad with some favorite games
  • Fidget spinner
  • Sensory bracelets/squeezable items
  • Card games
  • Silly puddy
  • Chewy sensory necklace
  • Stuffed animals and pillows

5. Take Frequent Breaks.  It is important to take frequent breaks for everyone involved in a road trip. Try planning your break around areas where your child can learn something new or run around to release some of that energy from sitting in the car, but more importantly, make sure there is a restroom!

6. Leave in the evening. If possible, try planning your road trip around an evening departure time – that way, most of the trip is spent with the children sleeping and limited traffic jams.

5 Flying Tips

Flying with a child on the Autism Spectrum may initially seem like a tall order, but planning ahead with these flying tips will help ensure the smoothest ride possible.

  1. Plan ahead

Call the airport prior to booking the trip to see if they provide assistance for kids with special needs. Some airports provide possible walkthroughs or special boarding accommodations.

2. Book a direct flight

Limit layovers to reduce the amount of transitions in getting on and off an airplane. This also helps dial back the amount of time spent around large crowds with loud sounds.

3. Seat selection

If possible, choose a seat closest to the front of the plane to reduce the time spent getting on and off the place. Also, consider which seating arrangement will be most comforting for your child – aisle seats offer easy bathroom breaks, middle seats can offer a seat in between two familiar faces when traveling in groups, and window seats offer spectacular views that children might enjoy.

4. Bulk row seating can offer extra space to make sure no other passengers are affected by any stimming activities. It’s also best to avoid the seats closest to the restrooms with the most passenger traffic.

5. TSA Pre-Check

Kids ages 12 and under who have a parent or guardian with TSA Pre-Check are able to accompany them through the TSA Pre-Check line. This limits the amount of undressing and helps families get through those large security lines quicker.

14 Top Autism-Friendly Vacation Destinations in the United States

It’s always challenging to pick a vacation destination that pleases all family members – especially when trying to select a place with limited crowds and an understanding staff. Below is a list of some different autism-friendly places to vacation with your family.

California

  • Shared Adventures–  Located in Santa Cruz, California, Shared Adventures offers an array of summer programs for special needs children and adults. Some of their programs include assisted kayaking, canoe rides, and scuba diving.

Colorado

  • Crested Butte Mountain Resort in the Rocky Mountains- The resort has trained staff who work with the Adaptive Sports Center. These experts have decades of experience working with children on the Autism Spectrum, allowing families to enjoy activities like skiing, snowboarding, hiking, water sports, and more.

Florida

  • Tradewinds Island Resorts in St. Petersburg Beach- Staff has been trained specifically to work with kids with special needs, and each visit is customized to the specific needs of each family.
  • Crowne Plaza in Tampa- Staff members undergo a special training to work with children with special needs, including ASD. There are many sensory friendly activities to do as a family.
  • Disney World– For some families, Disney World could be a challenging vacation destination if their child has difficulties with large crowds and noises. However, Disney World does offer a special pass for kids who have special needs – the Disney Disability Access (DAS) program. This pass allows families  to skip those long wait times via fast access lanes.

Massachusetts

  • Edaville Family Theme Park– Located in Carver, Massachusetts (about an hour outside of Boston), Edaville Family Theme Park offers an extremely inviting atmosphere for kiddos in the autism community. The railroad-themed park is equipped with a quiet room, fidget spinners, weighted blankets, and sensory toys to accommodate the needs of all guests.

New York

  • American Museum of Natural HistoryThe museum offers ‘Discovery Quad Tours’ for families with children on the autism spectrum. Tours are available on select Saturday mornings before the museum is open to the public. Registration is required, so be sure to call ahead of time.

Pennsylvania

  • Elmwood Park Zoo– In early May 2018, Elmwood Park Zoo became the first zoo in the world to become a Certified Autism Center. With trained staff, Elmwood Park Zoo has become an autism friendly destination year round as opposed to offering autism-friendly options here and there.

South Carolina

  • Surfside Beach– In 2016, Surfside Beach in South Carolina signed a proclamation to make the area the first autism-friendly travel destination. The beach offers events ranging from sensory-friendly movies to fishing lessons, as well as group events at restaurants.

Tennessee

  • Dollywood– Dollywood is dedicated to providing all guests with an enjoyable and inclusive environment. The theme park offers ride accessibility and park accessibility guides to help families plan their trips. The theme park also created a social story of what to expect when visiting, as well as a calming room to help guests get an escape from any sensory overload.

Texas

  • Morgan’s Wonderland in San Antonio, Texas- Morgan’s Wonderland is a safe waterpark that was built specifically for kids with all different kinds of special needs, including autism. The water park holds special events throughout the year starting after Memorial Day.
  • Lost Pines Spa and Resort– This resort, located in Austin, Texas, is the perfect quiet getaway for a family vacation. The resort has special accommodations for guests with special needs, and offers a variety of fun activities, including a lazy river, evening campfires, daily games, and more.

Utah

  • Splore– Located in the greater Salt Lake City area, as well as the Moab and Canyonlands area, Splore offers a wide variety of adaptive adventure programs, like canoeing, climbing, and snowshoeing. Splore also offers adaptive outdoor sports and education programs.

Virginia

  • Great Wolf Lodge– Located in Williamsburg, the Great Wolf Lodge is an inexpensive way to please everyone on the family vacation. There are tons of free sensory-friendly activities, along with plenty of food options that are sure to make everyone in the family happy. There are Great Wolf Lodge locations all over the United States in case a different location is more convenient for your family.

At the end of the day, you know your child better than anyone, so you may find that some of these tips might need to be modified. Try them out in your own way to see what works for you and your family. Most importantly, have fun!

National Resources on Autism

CDC: New Autism Data

CDC: Autism Facts

CDC: Research

CDC: Autism Spectrum Disorder

Tips for Holiday Travel

National Institutes of Mental Health: ASD

The Autism Society

Autism Society: Travel Tips

 

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18 Autism-Friendly Things to Do in Houston

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.”

 

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Action Behavior Centers

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Parents’ Interactions with Babies May Ease Signs of Autism as Toddlers, Study Finds

Over the decades, ABA (Applied Behavior Analysis) therapy has proven itself as an effective treatment option for the severe developmental delays seen in children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD).

Moreover, the scientific research suggests that the earlier a child begins early intensive therapy with ABA, the more gains are made in critical areas like communication, social skills, and day-to-day living skills. In a study of over 1,400 children and adolescents with ASD, researchers from the University of Missouri found that children who received more intensive therapy at younger ages saw greater advancements in communication and social skills.

It’s important for children to receive the earliest possible therapy because these early experiences play a critical role in brain development. According to a report by the National Early Childhood Technical Assistance Center (NECTAC), Harvard University’s Center on the Developing Child says “high quality early intervention services can change a child’s developmental trajectory” and “intervention is likely to be more effective and less costly when it is provided earlier in life rather than later.”

Parents also play a key role in a child’s success rate. In fact, a recent 2017 study found that parents’ interactions with babies at high risk of autism may help to ease the severity of autism symptoms at age three.

In the preliminary part of the study, conducted back in 2015, parents received individualized training sessions on how to respond to their baby’s facial expressions and gestures. Then, the parents worked these teachings into their interactions with their 9-month old babies over the next five months.

At the end of the five months, researchers measured early autism signs using the Autism Observation Scale for Infants, as well as the quality of parent-child interactions. The data showed that babies in the treatment group showed fewer early signs of autism and better interactions with their parents.

The 2017 follow-up study assessed these same children, now at ages 2 and 3, with the Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule (ADOS). Even years later, the quality of parent-child interactions was better among those who had received early parent training, and the toddlers showed less severe autism features.

 The researchers stress that larger studies are needed to confirm these results. However, they argue that “preemptive” therapy among infant populations can help parents address the early signs of autism and potentially ease the features of ASD during later development. This research solidifies just how important of a role parents play in the very early development of their child.