Hope for every child, every family.™

LAC Blog

Category Archives: Solutions

How LAC employs ABA therapy to help children conquer a problem or acquire a new skill.

My Job Chart: A Great Tool for Families!

My Job Chart is visually stimulating, engaging and most importantly, FUN! Hard work and money management are two critical skills for individuals with autism of all ages and My Job Chart provides an interactive way to learn both!

Here is what one mom had to say:

“One of the tools we found to help my son was My Job Chart. It was so awesome to watch Ian begin to make the connection, to begin to understand, on a limited basis the concept of cause and effect.  With this tool, we were able to give Ian what he viewed as most comfortable and safe, routine and order, while at the same time teaching him concepts that would help him be able to achieve the independence he so desired.”

 

This great system provides opportunities for both kids and adults to work, manage time and money, while practicing accountability, responsibility and problem solving. My Job Chart also provides parents a perfect environment to have meaningful conversations about how to make smart money decisions and setting priorities.

With My Job Chart, individuals with autism can record their completed chores and jobs and accumulate coins that are then converted to dollars. Then, the child or adult can manage their own money by deciding whether or not to save, share or spend! Sharing allows them to donate to featured charities like Autism Speaks. The money raised for Autism Speaks will go towards funding iPads for financially disadvantaged individuals with autism who have trouble communicating. MyJobChart.com can also be used through its Apple and Android mobile apps, allowing parents and kids the opportunity to save, share and spend from anywhere!

 

For the original article, visit Autism Speaks website.

Adults With Autism Find New Source for Job Interview Advice

Knowing what an employer wants to hear can make all the difference during a job interview.

For adults with an autism-spectrum disorder, those answers can be harder to come by. And without work, they face the prospect of a much less independent life.

But early evidence suggests some job-training programs geared for these individuals appear to improve interview skills and self-confidence.

Much of the focus on autism, a developmental disorder characterized by social deficits and repetitive behavior, has centered on the diagnosis and treatment of young children. But for parents and experts, the question of what happens when these patients grow older and age out of social services looms large. More than half of adults with autism in the U.S. are unemployed, according to studies.

Kat Wyand, seen performing on a New London, Conn., radio show in 2013, says job training at Northwestern University tailored for those with autism helped her. John Lamar

Parts of the job-seeking process can be missed or misinterpreted by people with autism. They may not engage in small talk to ingratiate themselves to colleagues or employers. Networking can make them anxious. Many need to hear that they should write a cover letter even if a job description only asks for a résumé, says Lydia Brown, a former project assistant at the Autistic Self-Advocacy Network and an Arabic and Islamic Studies student at Georgetown University.

Scientists from Northwestern, Vanderbilt and Yale universities are studying whether interview skills can be improved through a computer-based program that uses a virtual-reality interviewer dubbed Molly.

On screen, Molly is a young but professional-looking brunette whose voice comes from an actress who recorded 2,000 questions and answers related to job interviews.

Technologically, she is based on sophisticated person-simulation software originally designed to train FBI agents to interrogate witnesses, says Dale Olsen, who developed the initial technology in 1995 when he was a scientist at Johns Hopkins University’s Applied Physics Laboratory. He is now the chief executive of a Columbia, Md.-based company called Simmersion, which sells training systems using the technology.

Molly, a computer-based tutorial on job interviewing for people on the autistic scale. Simmersion LLC

The trainees start by filling out an application processed by the program to determine the most appropriate questions for applicants. For instance, if people have gaps in their work history, Molly may ask applicants to explain them.

In addition, Molly can be programmed to three levels, from nice to brusque. Trainees learn to navigate these situations by choosing from a set of responses to each question. After each selection, they hear feedback about how well they answered.

The feedback is intended to help trainees build rapport with an interviewer. For instance, when asked if they have experience, some trainees initially may respond “no,” without realizing that such a response may hurt them. Gradually, they may learn a more effective response, like, “No, but I’m a fast learner.”

In the study, 26 adults ages 18 to 31 were assigned either to work with Molly on up to 20 trials over a 10-hour period, or to their usual treatment. They all were also interviewed by researchers at the beginning and end of the study.

The Computerized Guru

Virtual job interviewer Molly tailors her feedback to different answers:

MOLLY: How are your computer skills?

ANSWER: I’ve done a lot with computers, and I’m very comfortable using them.

FEEDBACK: This is a good response if you have past experience working with computers.

ANSWER: I’m not very good with computers.

FEEDBACK: This is not a good way to present yourself in a positive light. There are better ways to share your lack of skills. Asking about training or stating that you think you could learn if you had a chance would be a better option.

ANSWER: I haven’t had a lot of opportunities to work with computers, but I’m interested in learning more. Do you provide training?

FEEDBACK: This is a good way to reveal your lack of experience. Molly will not expect you to be perfect, and there is likely a training program in place.

ANSWER: I can do anything with computers. If you need to fix them or upgrade them or hack into something, then you should hire me.

FEEDBACK: You sound like you are not honest. Molly is not going to want to hire someone who offered to hack into a computer for fear you will do something similar while at work.

The data showed that those who worked with Molly reported better self-confidence and better performance scores in the mock interviews over time. A preliminary data analysis, still unpublished, suggests that those who received training with Molly were more likely to get competitive positions than those who didn’t, says Matthew Smith, research assistant professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Northwestern. He is also first author on the study, which was published in the Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders.

Kat Wyand, 25, was diagnosed with Asperger syndrome, a mild form of autism, when she was 16, and told by teachers and therapists that her deficits with social skills would prevent her from getting a job. Ms. Wyand was devastated. She went on to get a bachelor’s degree in audio arts and acoustics at Columbia College in Chicago, but had trouble finding work. She says she sent out a number of applications but received few interviews and doesn’t know why.

When she heard about the study at Northwestern, she immediately got in touch. She says she learned what to say to start an interview, and to condense her answers, since she had a tendency to ramble. However, with the computer program, she says she wasn’t able to get feedback on her body position or tone of voice, which is something she has trouble with.

Since then, she has found a part-time job as a bookkeeper at an art gallery where she had been volunteering. Now she is considering teaching guitar, something she previously wouldn’t have considered.

“I’ve lifted myself from the depression, but it’s taken years,” Ms. Wyand says. “Now I’m feeling hopeful that I actually have talents that I can use and get employed.”

Other programs with research evidence behind them include JobTIPS, a Web-based service that includes videos, printable guides and assessments. In a randomized study, 22 teens between 16 and 19 years old completed the training, while another group didn’t. Those who went through JobTIPS exhibited more effective interview skills after the training, according to the paper published in the Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders in 2013.

Other programs take a more traditional, internship-based approach to job training. At Virginia Commonwealth University, Paul Wehman has been running a trial since 2009. It assigns six to eight high-school students with autism each year to a nine-month internship program at area hospitals, with others getting treatment as usual in school.

Trying to take advantage of some of the skills of people with autism, such as attention to detail, internships have included ambulatory surgery rotations where students sterilize surgical equipment. Students have also worked in the pharmacy, where they fill bottles of medication.

Two years after the internships, of the 20 who were employed after graduation, 17 are still at the job, two were terminated and one moved away, Dr. Wehman says.

Marsha Mailick, director of the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Waisman Center, which helps teens with autism move into adulthood, says that she supports any program that increases the likelihood of employment. But interview training hasn’t been demonstrated as the most effective strategy, she says.

She suggests that parents network and think creatively to help their children obtain, as soon as possible, jobs that give gratification and occupy many hours a week. A job is “therapeutic,” she says.

 

The original article was published by the Wall Street Journal at the link below

http://online.wsj.com/news/articles/SB10001424052702304198504579571881629181764?mg=reno64-wsj&url=http%3A%2F%2Fonline.wsj.com%2Farticle%2FSB10001424052702304198504579571881629181764.html

Telehealth for Autism

This month, Behavior Imaging Solutions announced the successful results of a small pilot study funded by one of Autism Speaks’ first Innovative Small Business Grants. The grant allowed the company to develop and test its new web-based “telehealth” system to improve medication management via the Internet for individuals with autism. Instead of an in-person appointment, the doctor asks caregivers to send relevant video clips using the company’s “Behavior Connect” software. The system may prove of particular value to families in locations remote from major medical centers with autism specialists.

In particular, the pilot study focused on the development and evaluation of a new mobile device app called Med SmartCapture. Through this system, a family can securely share home videos and other health information from their home. The system also includes tools that allow integrated access to personal health records.

Three caregivers and two doctors participated in the pilot study. The doctors reported that the video monitoring provided the behavioral information they needed to monitor and adjust medications appropriately. The participating families reported that they could maintain a consistent and informative relationship with their prescribing doctors.

“I am very excited about what Med SmartCapture will be able to do for patient care and communication between parents, educators and providers so that we are all putting our integrated energies in the same direction to help the kids we are working with,” said psychiatrist Robert Hendren. Dr. Hendren is the vice chair and director of the Autism and Neurodevelopment Program at the University of California, San Francisco Children’s Hospital.

Founded in 2005, Behavior Imaging recently received a $2.2 million grant by the National Institute of Mental Health to pursue Behavior Connect technology for earlier diagnosis of autism and related disabilities.

 

You can find the original article posted on Autism Speaks website here  http://www.autismspeaks.org/blog/2014/03/20/your-dollarswork-telehealth-autism

Eating Out with a Child that Has Autism: Overstimulation and Not Wanting to Sit

In our next effort to help make eating out with your child that has autism as stress-free as possible we are going to talk about how to handle over stimulating environments.

 

Being a parent of a child with autism you know firsthand what smells, sights, sounds and movements do to your child. If you don’t want to avoid eating out altogether (and you don’t have to) there are steps you can take to help minimize the worst of any sensory issues your child may have.

  1. Go at a quiet time of the day and ask to be seated away from other tables, particularly those with large parties or groups.
  2. Ask to not be seated next to the kitchen, bathrooms or main entrance to help minimize the number of people that are walking by your table.
  3. Sit in the corner; this will make it so that there are only two walls that are open to sound.
  4. At the table, have your child sit where he/she will  be least disturbed, this can be with his back to other people in the restaurant or the other side of the table where there will be less contact with the people walking around.
  5. If possible, ask for a booth instead of a table, this will help provide a more contained environment for your child.
  6. Ask your server to give you a heads up if there will be any singing for a birthday at a table close by so that you can take your child outside for a few moments while they sing.
  7. Should your child get overstimulated take your child outside and let him/her walk around for a few moments or go sit in the car so that they can calm down.
  8. Try to keep your child occupied/distracted while at dinner. Bring pen and paper, iPad, smartphone with games on it.

Your Child Doesn’t Want to Stay Seated

Sometimes it is hard to say what causes the most stress when eating out with a child that has autism. Is it the reactions to the stimulus around them… or trying to keep them seated during the meal.

Two quick tips:

  1. Ask to be seated in a booth if at all possible. This will help with containment because your child can be seated next to you or their other parent and the wall. Keep in mind that some places use the back of their booths as display areas or planters, and this could be hazardous.
  2. If you have to be seated at a table with chairs have your child sit in the chair furthest from other patrons or make sure they are sitting between two people in your party.