DSM-V and Changes to the Autism Diagnosis

By W. David Lohr, MD


Many people have questions and concerns how the new DSM-5 diagnostic criteria will effect individuals with autism. To help families understand the changes here are some important points to remember:


  1. The prevalence of autism has increased dramatically in the last 10 years in part due to increased awareness but also related to diagnostic practices.
  2. DSM-5 was developed with the goal of a clearer, simpler, more reliable diagnosis which recognized the “essential shared feature of the autism spectrum”
  3. The diagnoses of autism, Asperger’s Disorder, and Pervasive Developmental Disorder have been replaced by one diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder
    1. Experts don’t agree on which patients would be diagnosed with Asperger’s disorder and which patients would be diagnosed with autism using DSM-IV.
    2. Research has not shown that the outcome for Asperger’s Disorder is different from high functioning autism.
    3. DSM-5 combines criteria for social and language symptoms into one domain of social communicative and interactive problems and now all three criteria must be met.
    4. DSM-5 continues with the same set of criteria for repetitive, restricted behaviors but also includes symptoms for sensory problems.
    5. Studies which compare DSM-IV and DSM-5 criteria for autism show that DSM-5 will diagnose Autism Spectrum Disorder less often.
      1. A well-publicized study by McPartland showed that 61% of cases with autism disorders would not meet DSM-5 diagnoses
      2. A more recent study with a larger patient group showed that DSM-5 would diagnose 91% of those children with a DSM-IV diagnosis of an autism disorder.
      3. DSM-5 is more specific than DSM-IV; that means that if a clinician using DSM-5 diagnoses a person with autism, it is more likely the person actually has the disorder.
      4. Various studies encouraged modifications to DSM-5 to require fewer symptoms to be present to meet the diagnosis. However, the committee which created the new criteria did not accept these suggestions. Instead DSM-5 allows symptoms to be present either by history or currently and features more descriptions examples to meet the diagnosis.
      5. DSM-5 is an evolutionary step for the diagnosis of autism based on consensus opinion of leading experts in the field.


For more information visit the KY Autism Training Center website or YouTube channel to view Dr. Lohr’s archived presentation about the DSM-IV and Changes to the Autism Diagnosis. More information is also available on the following article PDF | TXT and e-newsletter.


W. David Lohr, M.D. is an Assistant Professor of Child Psychiatry, Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, University of Louisville School of Medicine, Louisville, KY


KY Autism Training Center Summer 2013 Newsletter August 2013

Our Work in Schools

By Laura Ferguson, MEd., BCBA, LBA


During the 2008-2009 school year, the training site project began in Jefferson County Schools under the guidance and partnership with the National Professional Development Center on Autism Spectrum. The following year the KATC began to expand the project into other areas of the state. This year the KATC will be working in all of the special education cooperatives throughout the state. Our work in the classroom involves monthly visits to support the local educational team in planning, implementing, and evaluating instruction. We work with the school team to select objectives and instructional plans for specified students as well as classrooms. Through the project our goal is to increase the school’s capacity for serving children with autism spectrum disorders by supporting their implementation of research-based strategies.


North Middle School

North Middle SchoolThis year I have had the privilege of working in North Middle School in Hardin County. Our training site involves working with several individuals on the autism spectrum. We work in several different classroom settings. The staff involved in the training site initiative were already displaying the use of evidence- based practices, but were very willing to learn about new and emerging practices in the field. The school had a strong display of visual supports, behavior plans, reinforcement systems, and communication instruction. Throughout this year the staff has demonstrated the ability to adapt to behavior changes directed by the district consultant and KATC staff. The staff has been excited to work with the project and to learn new practices for students on the autism spectrum.



Pride Elementary School

Pride ElementaryIt has been a pleasure to work in Ms. Deidra Hightower’s classroom at Pride ElementarySchool in Hopkins County. The classroom is a self- contained unit that has individuals with a range of developmental disabilities. The environment and setup of the classroom is warm and encouraging. Entering the classroom within the first month of school beginning; the students and staff knew the routine and expectations. The staff involved in the training site initiative were already displaying the use of evidence- based practices, but were very willing to learn about new and emerging practices in the field. The school had a strong display of visual supports, and reinforcement systems. Students did not need verbal prompts to understand what was expected of them. The use of adapted materials made instruction obtainable for all students to master. Throughout this year the staff has demonstrated the ability to adapt to behavior changes directed by the district consultant and KATC staff. The staff has been excited to work with the project and to learn new practices for students on the autism spectrum.



Rockfield Elementary School

Rockfield ElementaryLast but not least, I have had the opportunity of working with a great team of teachers at Rockfield Elementary in Warren County. The school allowed us the opportunity to work in several classrooms throughout the building. From the beginning of the training site process, the staff was willing to work as a strong team to focus on evidence based practices for all students on the autism spectrum. Throughout the year each teacher has embraced suggestions and modeled new practices to fidelity. The students at Rockfield have made tremendous progress, because of their commitment to implementing new procedures.

I look forward to continuing to work with the staff and students at Rockfield Elementary, Pride Elementary and North Middle for the rest of the school year.



Laura Ferguson is a certified behavior analyst and a Field Training Coordinator for the KY Autism Training Center. She provides direct training and technical assistance to education staff, social and community personnel, counselors, job coaches and families.


KY Autism Training Center Spring 2014 Newsletter April 2014

Choosing a Behavior Analyst: Not All Clinicians are Created Equal

Christopher D. George, M.Ed., BCBA, LBA


The diagnosis of a child with autism is a life-changing event. In addition to dealing with the emotions of the diagnosis, your family needs to seek quick answers to questions and determine the most effective treatment for your child. With 1 in 88 children currently being diagnosed with autism (CDC statistics) and there being no known cause, you have a plethora of possible treatments or combinations of treatments to research and decide what you think will work best for your child. Within the field of applied behavior analysis, there are different procedures, techniques, and styles instead of a ‘one size fits all’ treatment package. I wish that I could give you a matrix that would easily match you up to the best BCBA for your family, but unfortunately this is a decision making process. Hopefully the points below will help to focus your thoughts and streamline the process.


1) Know your family. Every family has their own lifestyle and this will impact the type of ABA service delivery and BCBA that you choose. Many families see the success of a 40 hour a week ABA therapy treatment plan and want that for their child, but in reality, their priorities and the demands on their time do not make this a viable option. It is very important to know how your family functions best and be able to clearly explain this to potential clinicians. Just because your work schedule only allows you a few hours a night two days a week to work 1:1 with your child and the BCBA is not something to be ashamed of. Do not try to rate yourself against the other families in your support group, and make statements about what you can or are willing to do that just sound good. Be honest and know that as BCBAs we will not judge you, but we need that information to know if our style will be a good fit for you or if we need to shape our strategies and techniques to provide you with the best possible service. Failure to address these characteristics up front can lead to frustration, disappointment, and lost treatment time. Some questions to answer about yourself and to share with potential clinicians,

  • What does your schedule and/or your spouse’s schedule look like?
  • When can you schedule time to meet with the BCBA and to work with your child? How many days a week for what length of time?
  • Would you prefer to work in your home or to work in a ‘clinic’ location?
  • Would you like a BCBA who provides direct matter of fact instructions (i.e. ‘Just tell me what to do and I’ll do it’) or would you prefer someone to take more time explaining why they want you to do something (i.e. ‘I need to understand it before I will do what you are asking me to do.’)?
  • What is your current discipline style? Are you a permissive parent that takes the path of least resistance or are you an authoritative parent who expects your children will do what you say when you say it?
  • How often are you willing/able to collect data of target behaviors and skill building strategies?
  • Other critical family dynamics that the BCBA should be aware of? (i.e. blended family, joint custody, involvement of grandparents, siblings with or without diagnosed disabilities, strong support network or no support network, limited financial resources, etc).


2) Know your child. While 1 in 88 children are currently being diagnosed with autism, my experience has taught me that everyone is unique. The combination of their strengths, weakness, challenging behaviors, and health issue will impact the type of treatment necessary and the necessary skills/experience of the BCBA. Knowing these factors and attempting to match them with the BCBAs skills/experience will be important. It is equally important to have a basic understanding of goals and outcomes that you have for your child, and what you want the BCBA to focus and work on. When searching for a BCBA to work with your child, you will need to quickly give a brief overview of who your child is, what skills they currently have, what you are concerned about, and what you hope to achieve. This will allow the BCBA to talk about their experience with the challenges you have listed as well as briefly explain how they hope to help you accomplish your goals. This dialogue should help you to know if the clinician will be a good fit for your child.

  • What are your child’s diagnoses?
  • What are some things that your child does well? Favorite activities?
  • What missing skills are you concerned about?
  • Does your child engage in challenging behaviors? What are they?
  • What do you hope your child learns in the next 6 months? A year? 5 years?
  • If you could name just one thing that is most important for you to see your child accomplish, what is it?


3) Know your funding source. There are many different funding streams that can help to pay for behavior analytic services including: private insurance, Medicaid waiver, private pay, etc. Each of these different funding streams has different regulations/requirements, limits on units of service, and qualifications to provide the service. It will be necessary for you to know exactly what these are so that you understand the limitations of how the BCBA will realistically be able to provide the service. (i.e. if you want a BCBA to work with your child 20 hours a week but your funding source will only pay 3 hours of service, you need to talk to the clinician about what they can do with the 3 hours a week and not why they won’t provide 20 hours a week of service). Collect the following information about your funding source:

  • What are the minimum qualifications for the clinicians to provide behavioral services within this funding stream? (In KY, private insurance companies must use a Licensed Behavior Analyst, however Medicaid waivers allow other disciplines to also provide behavior support.)
  • How many hours a week will your funding source pay for?
  • What does the funding source require for documentation?
  • What type of service delivery model will the funding stream pay for? Will they allow direct 1:1 work with your child or only consultation?
  • Are there any limitations on where the funding stream will pay for the service? At home? in school? In a clinic?
  • Are there annual caps on how many hours of service or total dollar amount of service your funding stream will pay for?
  • Are you able to use more than one funding stream to pay for similar services?


4) Research potential agencies/BCBAs. Once you have determined how your family operates, what your child needs, and what your funding source will provide, it is time to start looking at specific agencies and clinicians. While much of this article has discussed getting matched up with a specific BCBA for your skill strength, many agencies have the ability to offer several choices of clinician and will work with you to find the best match within their agency for your family. Sometimes, the additional supports provided by the agency administration can be an added benefit for your child and family. This section will include a combination of questions both for agencies and clinicians

  • Ask around. Often word of mouth reputation is the best indicator of good quality services. Talk to your case manager, support group, etc about who provides good quality services. But know that this is just someone’s opinion and not always factual. When asking others about agencies and clinicians be specific:
    • What exactly did you like about their services?
    • What exactly did you not like about their services?
    • What type of success did your child have when working with them?
  • Research online. Many agencies and clinicians have a webpage that talks about their mission, values, services, etc. Get online and see what they say about themselves and see if this sounds like a good fit for your child and family.
  • Call the agency. Once you have narrowed down your search, call and talk to them about the services they provide.
    • How many years have they been in business?
    • How many clinicians currently work for the agency?
    • How does the agency match up clients and clinicians?
    • Can the agency provide them with families they are currently serving that they can talk to about the services they have received? Do they have documented testimonials or satisfaction data on the services they provide?
    • How does the agency work with the family if the clinician is not a good fit for their family?
    • What types of supervision and supports are provided by the family to the clinician?
    • Ask to speak to potential clinicians within the agency as necessary.
  • Talk to the clinician(s). These questions could be asked of a clinician prior to selecting them and/or during the first visit if you have chosen a particular agency to get services through.
    • What is their educational background? Are they Board Certified? Are they Licensed? Are they working on certification or licensure?
    • How many years have they been providing behavior analytic services?
    • What types of clients have they worked with in the past?
    • How many total clients are they currently serving?
    • How much time will they be able to work with your child each week?
    • Do they still have a supervisor or mentor that they can go to with clinical questions, etc? If so, how often to they seek their input? (note: I feel it is very important for clinicians to constantly be seeking supervision, regardless of how long they have been a BCBA).
    • What special skills or focus do they have in their clinical practice?
    • Ask about their style, approach, and what you as a parent can expect from them in teaching you to follow the recommended strategies.
    • What can you expect from them in regard to data collection, written strategies, other documentation.


5) Know you are the consumer. Just because you have chosen an agency and clinician, know that you continue to have rights to know about your child’s treatment, question strategies or services, and choose another provider as necessary. Ultimately you are responsible for decisions and permission regarding your child’s treatment, so be a strong (but fair) advocate!

  • Always ask why a certain strategy should be implemented? Keep asking questions and for explanations until you understand. (If they can’t, this should be a red flag)
  • Ask the clinician to ‘show you’ what you want them to do. (If they can’t, this should be a red flag)
  • Ask the clinician to show you the graphs of your child’s behavior and to explain why there is or is not progress. (If they can’t, this should be a red flag)
  • Ask for copies of all documentation. Functional Assessment, Behavior Support Plan, and Progress Notes (as necessary). These are the formal clinical documentation of your child’s treatment.
  • After doing the above, if questions continue about the treatment you are receiving, ask the clinician to speak to their supervisor for a second opinion or call the agency administration (I know that often parents do not want to cause conflict, but it is critical to express any concerns as soon as possible.)
  • If you are unhappy with the clinician providing you supports, you have the right to request a new clinician or agency. Talk to the administration of the agency as well as your case manager or service coordinator to determine the best avenue for switching services.


Ultimately, the right BCBA will be a blessing to your child and family! Often these relationships continue for many years and everyone shares in the ups, downs, frustrations, successes, fears, hopes, dreams, tears of sadness, and tears of joy that come from raising a child diagnosed with autism. Your preparation in selecting the right BCBA can set the foundation for success and help to minimize the stresses associated with being a parent! For more resources in your search for the right match, please follow the links below:


Consumer Guidelines for Identifying, Selecting, and Evaluating Behavior Analysts working with Individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorders:

Kentucky Association for Behavior Analysis:

Association for Behavior Analysis International:

Behavior Analyst Certification Board:

Kentucky Applied Behavior Analysis Licensing Board:


Christopher George graduated from the University of Florida in 1997 with a Master’s in Special Education. He taught high school special education for 4 years. During the same time he helped establish a non-profit Americorps program that taught GED courses and auto repair to high school drop-outs. The cars that were repaired were given away to individuals coming off of public assistance (350 in 4 years). Chris completed his ABA course work under Dr. Martinez-Diaz and became a Board Certified Behavior Analyst in 2001. He served as a behavior analyst for the Alachua County School District for 1 1/2 years before moving to Kentucky to work at an ICF/MR under Department of Justice Review. Since leaving the facility in January 2006, he has provided community based services throughout the state of Kentucky as well as serving as a behavior analyst/consultant for the Columbus Organization.

He started, Applied Behavioral Advancements, LLC in March 2007. In addition to providing services through the SCL Medicaid waiver, he has contracts for behavioral services and consultation with the state-run psychiatric hospital, an ICF/MR, Seven Counties Services (crisis and pre-crisis intervention), and Laurel County Public Schools. Chris’ experience includes working with individuals diagnosed with mental retardation, autism, and/or psychiatric disorders. He prefers to work with individuals who engage in high magnitude/frequency physical aggression or self-injury.



KY Autism Training Center Spring 2014 Newsletter April 2014

Autism and Safety Webinar Series

By Heidi Cooley-Cook

The National Autism Association reports that roughly 48% of individuals with ASD will attempt to elope from a safe environment. They go a step further and note that this is 4 times higher than their siblings who did not have autism. Along with eloping, wandering, drowning, fire safety, inability to communicate needs to First Responder and teaching fire safety are very common concern for parents, care givers and others who care for individuals with autism.

The Kentucky Autism Training Center has developed a series of webinars to address these concerns. The first webinar was conducted on March 19, 2014 and focused on Autism and Safety in the Home. Various rooms of a home were featured and products and tips were shared that may aid in making that environment a safer environment. A review of evidence based practices that may be used for teaching fire safety was also reviewed. This webinar can be found on the KATC’s YouTube channel.

In the second webinar (April 16, 2014), participants will learn tips to help prevent Wandering. The importance of engaging neighbors, first responders, and other members of the community will also be discussed.

KATC will partner with a fire fighter to gain insight for the third and final webinar Autism and First Responders (May 21, 2014). This webinar will provide an overview of autism and how the characteristics of the disorder may impact emergency situations. In addition, participants will learn simple strategies to engage an individual they encounter that may have autism. Building on the second webinar, the importance of building community relationships will be discussed.

When parents, caregivers, first responders, and others in the community collaborate individuals with autism can best be supported and kept safe. IF you are unable to join for the live webinar, these will be available on the KATC’s YouTube channel. Subscribe to the YouTube channel and you will be notified with new webinars are added.



Heidi Cooley-Cook is a Family Field Training Coordinator for the KY Autism Training Center where she provides direct training and technical assistance to families.

KY Autism Training Center Spring 2014 Newsletter April 2014

Follow-Up to the Safety Webinar Series

By Heidi Cooley-Cook


Fire Prevention Month is October and I encourage each of you to reach out to your local fire departments to acquaint yourselves with them and provide an opportunity for your loved one affected by autism to meet a firefighter and review the Safety Webinar Series. Below is some additional information that you may find helpful with regards to safety!


Major Gosper, Lexington Fire Department, shared a great video for First Responders - created for Montgomery County Pennsylvania. Take a moment to view it and share with First Responders in your community.


Please remember to contact your local police, fire, and EMS departments and provide them with information about your loved one affected by autism. Be sure to update this information annually or sooner if you move, change phone numbers, new or different medical condition(s), or a significant change in loved one’s physical appearance.


Many communities participate in Smart 911 - go to their website and input your zip code to see if Smart 911 is in your town. Smart 911 allows you to provide details on your family and home. When a call is made from a phone tied to your Safety Profile, the information you have provided is shared with emergency responders.


The KATC has awareness brochures available for First Responders - Law Enforcement, Firefighters, and EMS Personnel. Print from the KATC website: or contact us and we will send you a set of brochures to share in your community.


In the webinar series, many safety devices were discussed. I have since learned of Buddy Tag - The BuddyTag is a child safety device that alerts you when your child is out of your proximity using Bluetooth technology. Buddy Tag does not utilize GPS, so may not be right for all situations/environments. The water safety feature alerts you when the Buddy Tag is submerged in water for more than 5 seconds.


What is your community doing to proactively keep its residents with autism safe? Does your community have a Fire Prevention or Safety Day planned? Let us know how we can help!


Heidi Cooley-Cook

Family Field Training Coordinator

Kentucky Autism Training Center




Heidi Cooley-Cook is a Family Field Training Coordinator for the KY Autism Training Center where she provides direct training and technical assistance to families.

KY Autism Training Center Summer 2014 Newsletter August 2014

The Reason I Jump Book Review

By Ally Brooks


“But still, we don’t want you to give up on us. Please, keep battling alongside us. We are the ones suffering the most in these scenes, and badly, badly want to free ourselves from our own chains.”



The Reason I Jump should be a quick read. It is 135 pages, written in question and answer form. The individual answering the questions and expressing himself with such beautiful depth and insight that I found myself crying at almost every turn of the page is a 13-year-old boy living with autism, communicating mainly through the use of an alphabet grid. Naoki Higashida answers fifty-eight questions about autism, from the very basic, “Why do you jump?” to the very complex, “What’s the very worst thing about having autism?”


Naoki describes autism in a way that few of us will ever have the opportunity to understand. He explains the daily challenges of living in a body that he feels very little connection to or control over, and at the same time conveys a deep connection to nature and love for his parents. Although each question is somewhat unique and he does offer insight to the specific question asked, his message, again and again, is that more than anything he hates disappointing others and that he feels a deep desire to please. What the reader can hear him begging, in almost every answer, to anyone who will listen, is NOT to give up on him, or any other individual with autism.


The reason I believe this book should be a quick read is due to its short length and easy to follow format. What I found though, about halfway through the book, was that I, as a parent of two children of autism, had to set the book down for a bit. His message and thoughts affected me so profoundly that it took me a few days to process and pick it back up. I thought through my own behavior, my own frustrations with my children and my reactions on hard days, and I was deeply disappointed in myself. How easy it is to forget that the struggle of autism is, of course, hardest for the individual with the disorder.


I decided before my children were ever born that I would tell them each day how beautiful and smart they were, and how proud they made me, every single day. During the week that I read this book, I think I must have said it quite a bit more than once a day. By the third day, as I was tucking Jasper into bed for the night, he started looking at me and telling me: “Mommy, I love you. I’m so proud of you.”


This is a book that should be read more than once. It should be read again and again and again. Every person who loves, lives with or works with an individual with autism should read this book over and over to remind themselves who this struggle is hardest on, and how desperately all humans want to do well and please others.


My personal story of how this book came into my life:

My husband. My loving husband who is dealing with his own struggles of learning this new life with two children on the spectrum, but is at the same time also learning to live with the loss of his wife to AUTISM. He knows me so well that on a bad day, he cranks up the hip hop to see me smile and bounce. He strives to remind me of who I was before I was an autism mom by continuing to rent and record the Indie and foreign films that I used to love but can’t ever find the time or attention span to watch anymore. He also records and saves my favorite show, Jon Stewart’s Daily Show. I rarely have time to watch it, but I happened to turn it on one night and Jon Stewart had David Mitchell on as a guest. David and his wife have a child with autism and as they were looking for answers and information, his wife, who is Japanese, discovered this book. They were so moved by Naoki’s insights that they translated his work and in so doing, brought his voice and beautiful perspective on autism to a larger audience, an audience that would have otherwise missed out on Naoki’s powerful and moving message. It is not a book to be missed by anyone, as its message is universal—Don’t give up on us. Any of us.



Ally Brooks and family



Ally Brooks lives in Oak Grove, KY with her husband Jerry and two children, Jasper (4) and Ella (2) and their most recent addition, Tucker, their golden retriever. Before being stationed at Fort Campbell and making their home in Kentucky, the Brooks lived in Olympia, WA, and Birmingham, AL. Jerry is a Sergeant First Class in the US Army, and Ally holds an MBA and BA in Sociology. It was an easy decision for Ally to put her career aside to care for Jasper and Ella. Jasper was diagnosed with autism at twenty-five months of age, and Ella was diagnosed at sixteen months. There is never a dull moment in the Brooks’ household, which is typically full of a rotating cast of therapists, tutors, and care givers, referred to lovingly by Jasper and Ella as “all of our friends”. In their free time (as if!), the family loves reading Pete the cat, enjoying the lake and beach, and cheering on the Auburn tigers.

KY Autism Training Center Fall 2013 Newsletter November 2013

UofL opens new pediatric and dental offices at Sam Swope Kosair Charities Centre

By Julie Heflin


The University of Louisville and Kosair Charities have entered a new partnership, opening general pediatrics and pediatric dentistry practices at the Sam Swope Kosair Charities Centre, 982 Eastern Parkway, where children with disabilities and chronic health conditions and children from the community can get expert care from UofL pediatricians and pediatric dentists.


Kosair Charities has donated the rent amount over a five-year period, providing a combined 12,500 square feet of renovated space in the Kosair Charities headquarters building for the two clinics: University of Louisville Department of Pediatrics at Kosair Charities and University of Louisville School of Dentistry at Kosair Charities. The university may opt to renew the lease for two additional five-year terms, bringing the estimated value of this agreement to $3.7 million over 15 years.


The patient mix for both practices include children receiving services elsewhere on the Kosair Charities campus, children from surrounding neighborhoods, children whose families participate in the Family Scholar House program and children who are uninsured or under-insured.


The UofL Department of Pediatrics at Kosair Charities office has nine exam rooms, a laboratory and separate sick-and well-child reception areas. Pediatrician Erica Labar, MD, began seeing patients in the Eastern Parkway office on July 1. A second physician will join Labar in 2014. Medical students and pediatric residents will also rotate through the clinic.


“What could be more fitting than to provide a medical/dental home on the grounds of the former Kosair Crippled Children Hospital, where thousands of children were once treated for disabling diseases such as polio and smallpox,” said Gerard Rabalais, MD, MHA, chairman, UofL Department of Pediatrics. “I’m confident that Dr. Labar and her team will continue the tradition of compassion and excellence long associated with this historic location.”


The UofL School of Dentistry at Kosair Charities pediatric office recently opened under the leadership of Ann Greenwell, DMD, MSD. The clinical space is outfitted with six dental chairs and equipped to meet the special needs of autistic and physically-challenged children.


“We know good oral health is integral to overall health and wellness. Coordination of care is the future of health care in this country, and we are removing many of the logistical barriers for the children of the community,” said John Sauk, DDS, MS, dean of the UofL School of Dentistry.


The dental clinic provides comprehensive dental care– including routine exams, fillings, treatment for trauma, mouth guards for athletes and orthodontic care.


New patients are being accepted at both clinics. For an appointment with a pediatrician call 502-852-7170

For an appointment with a pediatric dentist call 502-852-5642.

Social Skills & Employment Group for Young Adults with Autism Now Available

By Lori Wilson


The Center for Accessible Living (CAL) and the University of Louisville Autism Center at Kosair Charities are seeking young adults ages 21 to 30 years old to participate in a social skills group focusing on employment.  Our program will be tailored to enhance specific social communication areas that are often lacking in those with ASD to allow for successful employment within their sphere of interest.  The group will:

  • Be run by a Licensed Psychologist and an Occupational therapist for 12 weekly sessions beginning Monday, January 27, 2014 from 10-11:30 a.m.
  • Use a combination of evidenced based practices.
  • All instruction will include modeling, rehearsal, and feedback and generally consist of four steps:
  1. introducing the topic with a social script
  2. explaining skills through nonverbal activities and modeling the correct behavior
  3. conducting role-plays through simulated situations
  4. disseminating homework for skill practice
  • Employ a web based program (JobTIPS) to improve effectiveness in practicing these skills
  • Measure effectiveness of the program by utilizing pre and post assessments completed by client and employer/supervisor
  • Include job searching assistance through CAL with Barbara Davis who has extensive experience helping people on the autism spectrum obtain employment in their area of interest.

All group participants must be current Vocational Rehabilitation clients.  Your Voc Rehab counselor can submit CRP and Life Skills Coaching (32H) referrals to Amy Jones at Phone: (502)589-6620, Fax: (502) 589-3980 or  All referrals must be made before December 20, 2013.  Also required is a psychological evaluation within the last year or an assessment can be scheduled with the UofL Autism Center.

This group is limited to first 6 participants.  Additional groups will be forming in the future.


KY Autism Training Center Fall 2013 Newsletter November 2013

LEAD Parent Graduation Ceremony

By Heidi Cooley-Cook


October 25th was a day of learning, information sharing, networking, and empowerment for over twenty individuals from across the Commonwealth.  In the morning, Support Group Leaders came from all corners of the state to review statewide resources and collaborate with each other.  Amy Cooper-Puckett, Policy Liaison for the Department of Behavioral Health Developmental Intellectual Disabilities, provided an overview of the state’s various waivers and discussed the Community Autism Forums and the Kentucky Interagency Council for Autism Spectrum Disorders.   The Leaders then discussed their group’s strengths and highlighted successful activities.  This proved to be time of inspiration for several Family Support Group Leaders - walking away with new ideas to take back to their communities.  Together, challenges were reviewed and prioritized.  Initial brainstorming was done that morning and the group will continue to meet remotely and take steps to overcome and/or combat the challenges identified.


Following the morning’s workgroup, participants transitioned to the graduation and pinning ceremony for the first cohort of Family Leaders.  The Family Leaders are part of a new initiative for the KATC.  These individuals applied in early 2013 to join the KATC’s Family Network (link to the Family Network page).  Sixteen individuals from ten counties came together in May for two days of intensive training through collaboration with the Council on Developmental Disabilities.  The group then engaged in enrichment sessions monthly via webinar with the final two enrichment topics presented in-person on October 25th.  Pamela McDaniel, Council on Developmental Disabilities, and Heidi Cooley-Cook, KATC, kicked of the afternoon and Larry Taylor, KATC Executive Director, followed with a presentation on Special Education Law for Families.  Donovan Fornwalt, CEO of Council on Developmental Disabilities, joined Senator Julie Denton for an empowering session on Legislative Advocacy.  The nine Family Leaders in attendance were then pinned.  Please join me in congratulating the 2013 KATC Family Network: Family Leaders - Pat Benningfield (Bowling Green), Ashley Bradford (Lexington), Whitney Durham (Corbin), Debbie Gilbert (various – Commission for Children with Special Health Care Needs), Trish Hicks (Webbville), Donna Littrell, Bronston), Alicia Owens (Bowling Green), Shelley Shepherd (Bowling Green), and Terri Srinivasan (Maysville).  Ally Brooks (Oak Grove) was not able to join us for the graduation, but was also pinned a Family Leader!


The second cohort of Family Leaders will begin in Spring 2014 - space is limited so please apply now!


Heidi Cooley-Cook is a Family Field Training Coordinator for the KY Autism Training Center where she provides direct training and technical assistance to families.

KY Autism Training Center Fall 2013 Newsletter November 2013

KATC Training Site Project at Millard Elementary School

By Laura Ferguson


This year I have had the privilege of working with Melissa Sanders, a teacher at Millard Elementary in Pike County, and many other hard working paraprofessionals in the classroom. From the beginning of the year it has been a great opportunity to work with all the professionals in the room. The classroom environment displayed the use of evidence- based practices. The classroom implemented the use of visual supports, which included picture and written cues for each student, reinforcement and communication systems, and behavior management procedures. The environmental arrangement was organized to meet the specific needs of each of the students in the classroom. Throughout this year the staff has demonstrated the ability to adapt to behavior changes as well as take direction from consultants and demonstrate the new strategies to fidelity. The staff has been excited to work with the project and target specified tasks for each student. Classroom goals have already been met because of the follow through and consistency of all the professionals who work in the classroom.


The training site project began in Jefferson County Schools during the 2008-2009 school year under the guidance and partnership with the National Professional Development Center on Autism Spectrum.  The following year KATC began to expand the project into other areas of the state.  This year the KATC will be working in all of the special education cooperatives throughout the state. Our work in the classroom involves monthly visits to support the local educational team in planning, implementing and evaluating instruction. We work with the school team to select objectives and instructional plans for specified students as well as classrooms. Through the project our goal is to increase the school’s capacity for serving children with autism spectrum disorders by supporting their implementation of research-based strategies.


Congratulations to Millard Elementary School’s commitment to all kids! I look forward to working with Melissa, the paraprofessionals and their wonderful students for the remainder of the school year.


Laura Ferguson is a certified behavior analyst and a Field Training Coordinator for the KY Autism Training Center. She provides direct training and technical assistance to education staff, social and community personnel, counselors, job coaches and families.


KY Autism Training Center Fall 2013 Newsletter November 2013

"The House of Pooh" Sensory Friendly Performance with Stage One Theatre

By Heidi Cooley-Cook



Joining the ranks of 'big' cities like New York, Chicago, Boston, Nashville, and others, Louisville now offers Sensory Friendly Live Theatre Performances! Stage One partnered with the Kentucky Center and the KATC to bring live theatre to families impacted by autism or other sensory sensitivities. Stage One prepared videos, photos, and artist renderings of the environment, actors, and set to assist families in preparing their loved one for October 12. Nearly 150 individuals converged at the Kentucky Center for The House at Pooh Corner for the 11:00 am performance. After a warm welcome by Peter Holloway, Executive Director of Stage One, and short overview of the accommodations, the play began. In addition to the prep materials available on-line, there were several accommodations available for the performance including:


  • Theatre was not filled to capacity
  • Patrons able to select their own seats
  • Patrons allowed to move freely through the aisles
  • Individuals free to vocalize during the performance
  • House lights remained on at low level during entire performance
  • Light sticks were used by ushers to give warning to the audience just prior to loud sounds or startling moments
  • Entering and exiting the theatre was permitted throughout the performance
  • “Quiet Room” at the back of the theatre provided continued viewing away from the audience - patrons were able to control sound and lighting in this space
  • Additional space was available just past the lobby area for individuals needing a bit more room to move around away from the theatre - Live video and audio feeds were available in this room
  • Trained Kentucky Center volunteers to assist with patron needs and requests


Accolades and smiles exuded from the patrons as they left the theatre. Some stayed to meet the cast, while others dashed out. What a success the first Sensory Friendly Performance was! Stage One and KATC are each taking steps to continue the momentum gained from TheHouse at Pooh Corner. Discussions have already begun at Stage One - looking forward to the next Sensory Friendly Performance - Diary of a Worm, a Spider, and a Fly! Date for the Sensory Friendly Performance not available at time of the time of publishing this newsletter.


Here at the KATC we are developing a new brochure to assist families in preparing their loved one for attending a play.


Heidi Cooley-Cook is a Family Field Training Coordinator for the KY Autism Training Center where she provides direct training and technical assistance to families.

KY Autism Training Center Fall 2013 Newsletter November 2013

Learn the Signs. Act Early. Ambassador Project

By Rebecca Grau


The Act Early Ambassador project is designed to develop a network of state-level experts to improve early identification practices. It is a collaborative effort on behalf of CDC's National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities (NCBDDD), the Health Resources and Services Administration's (HRSA) Maternal and Child Health Bureau (MCHB), the Association of University Centers on Disabilities (AUCD), and the Association of Maternal and Child Health Programs (AMCHP). Act Early Ambassadors serve as state liaisons to the “Learn the Signs. Act Early.” Initiative.  State liaisons work as community champions with programs that serve young children and their parents; such as, Head Start, Early Head Start, WIC, home visiting, health and child care professionals, and others. Liaisons work to improve early identification of developmental delay and collaborate with state agencies and campaign partners to improve policy and programs for early identification. The current cohort of Ambassadors represents 25 states.  Kentucky is represented by Scott D. Tomchek, PhD, OTR/L, FAOTA, Associate Professor of Pediatrics, Assistant Director/Chief Occupational Therapist, University of Louisville, Autism Center, and Department of Pediatrics.


Dr. Tomchek has provided three training opportunities to healthcare and childcare professionals to promote the CDC’s “Learn the Signs. Act Early.” campaign message to encourage health care providers to be proactive in conducting developmental screenings and referring children with potential delays for more tests or treatment.  Along with Dr. Gail Williams, a behavioral pediatrician at the University of Louisville, Dr. Tomchek addressed attendees at the Infant/Toddler Institute on the importance of screening, early referral and diagnose of young children.  In addition, Dr. Tomchek collaborated with Dr. Myra Beth Bundy, psychologist from Eastern Kentucky University, and University of Louisville psychiatrist , Dr. David Lohr to provide the "Autism Case Training (ACT): A Developmental-Behavioral Pediatrics Curriculum".  The training was designed to educate future healthcare providers on fundamental components of identifying, diagnosing and managing autism spectrum disorders through real life scenarios.

Learn more about "Learn the Signs. Act Early." resources and Kentucky specific information.

Support For Families of Children with ASD in Kentucky

by Heidi Cooley-Cook


The Commonwealth has a great variety of supports for parents and other caregivers of individuals with autism.  Did you know that there are over 40 support groups throughout the state of Kentucky?  Use the link to find one in your area!  Groups are listed by Special Education Cooperative Region - not sure which region you are in check out this map, find your county and the corresponding co-op!

Support Group Leaders are a great source of information and to learn more about the resources and services available in your community.


Aware that an even greater network of support was needed for families and individuals with autism, the KATC developed the Family Network: Families Supporting Families.  The first step of this initiative was to bolster the skills of individuals who were interested in serving as a leader in their community and working with families and policy makers as an advocate for individuals with autism.  To do that, the KATC partnered with the Council on Developmental Disabilities (CDD) to present a series of trainings based on the curriculum the CDD uses with their L.E.A.D. Parents Program.


The first cohort completed the intensive two day training in May 2013.   These 16 individuals traveled near and far from 10 counties to embark on the journey to become a Family Leader!  They are now participating in a series of enrichment sessions and will graduate in the fall and will be pinned Family Leaders!!!!  Upon completion of the trainings, the Family Leaders will have a broad knowledge base from Special Education Law and How to be an Effective Advocate to Funding Sources and Listening and Asking Clarifying Questions. They will be an additional source of support and advocacy for families throughout the state!


For more information on KATC’s Family Network: Families Supporting Families and the Family Leader trainings, please contact Heidi Cooley-Cook 502-852-6401.


Several agencies provide support and resources to individuals and families of individuals with autism and other disabilities.  Please take a moment to visit their websites and check out all that they have to offer!  Feel free to contact them if you have any questions.  Together we can improve the quality of life for those affected by ASD!



KY-SPIN (Kentucky Special Parent Involvement Network), Inc. is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization with a statewide mission to empower and support individuals with disabilities and their families to effectively advocate for and access needed information, resources and support networks in order to enhance the quality of their lives.

SPIN is the statewide Parent Training and Information (PTI) center that provides training, information and support to people with all types of disabilities, their parents and families, and professionals birth thru 26 years old. SPIN-PTI is funded by the U.S. Dept. of Education.

In partnership with KDE (Kentucky Department of Education), SPIN assist schools and communities in providing educational information and training opportunities to parents of children with disabilities consistent with the IDEA (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act).

Through a “Families Training Families” model of training, consultants throughout the state conduct community workshops, provide information and support to families of children with all types of disabilities on the issues of laws, rights, listening and communication skills, and understanding their child’s disabilities. There is no fee for SPIN services. Resource materials and referral services are also available. Through our 800 number we assist families through one on one consultation stepping through the process of accessing services for their child.

KY-SPIN, Inc. 
10301-B Deering Rd.
Louisville, KY 40272
Toll Free: 1-800-525-7746 Phone: (502)937-6894 
Fax: (502) 937-6464 E-mail:



Kentucky Partnership for Families and Children, Inc. (KPFC) is a statewide, non-profit organization developed to assist and to provide a voice for families that have children with behavioral health challenges. Examples of behavioral health disorders include Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, Anxiety Disorder, Autism Spectrum Disorder, Bipolar Disorder, Depression, Reactive Attachment Disorder, and many more. KPFC’s vision is that all families raising youth and children affected by behavioral health challenges will achieve their fullest potential. KPFC’s mission is to empower families affected by behavioral health challenges to initiate personal and systems change. KPFC believes all families affected by these challenges deserve responsive systems providing services that are:

  • Family-driven and youth guided
  • Culturally and linguistically sensitive
  • Readily available and understandable
  • Valued, embraced, and modeled by collaboration and
  • Utilize the wraparound model

Family-driven means families have a primary decision making role in the care of their own children as well as the policies and procedures governing care for all children in their community, state and nation. Youth-guided parallels this principle by asserting that youth should also be involved at all levels of the system. A family-driven and youth-guided system provides an environment that supports family involvement and opportunities to connect with other families and youth as well as opportunities to develop leadership skills. Families and youth are involved in treatment, planning, and evaluation for their family. They are also utilized as policy makers and advocates.

In creating a “family-driven and youth-guided” system of care, KPFC along with many partners are working to create an infrastructure that invites youth and parents across the state to “Join the Movement.” The Kentucky Family and Youth Movement Steering Committee is working to increasingly empower youth with behavioral health challenges and their families through leadership development and advocacy skills. Furthermore, the principle of this movement focuses on the benefits of family peer-to-peer and youth peer-to-peer involvement. Peer-to-peer involvement gives hope, fosters support and allows for increased opportunities for our youth and families.  As the movement grows and strengthens, Kentucky’s youth and parent voice will be a tipping-point for positive, long-term change.

KPFC works to strengthen the family and youth movement by providing support, education, and advocacy to parents, youth, and professionals through activities such as trainings, a quarterly newsletter, website, parent resource line, and providing a parent and youth voice at state-level policy making committees. KPFC holds the Kentucky Family Leadership Academy two to three times a year. This free training focuses on helping parents and youth learn how to use their voices for making change occur for themselves and their communities. The Leadership Academy strengthens leadership skills and helps parents and youth to become more comfortable sharing their story. KPFC also holds a training once a year for parents and caregivers who desire to become Kentucky Family Peer Support Specialist. In addition to this, KPFC offers trainings throughout the year on a variety of topics such as Educational Advocacy, Launching Your Transition-Age Youth/Young Adult, Parenting or Teaching a Child with Bipolar, Suicide Prevention, Partnering with Parents, Youth Mental Health First Aid, and many more. Additionally, KPFC hosts conferences each year for families and youth including the annual Youth/Parent Conference and the Early Childhood Family Conference. If you would like to learn more about how KPFC provides a united voice dedicated to improving services for children in Kentucky with behavioral health challenges or if you would like to become involved in the parent and youth movement, please visit KPFC’s website at or call (800)369-0533.



Heidi Cooley-Cook is a Family Field Training Coordinator for the KY Autism Training Center where she provides direct training and technical assistance to families.


KY Autism Training Center Summer 2013 Newsletter August 2013

Heidi Cooley-Cook is a Family Field Training Coordinator for the KY Autism Training Center where she provides direct training and technical assistance to families.

Stage One Sensory Friendly Stage Performance

Join StageOne Family Theatre this October for their first ever Sensory Friendly Performance. StageOne will partner with The Kentucky Center to offer the state’s first ever Sensory Friendly Performance of The House at Pooh Corner, October 12 at 11 am in the state of the art Bomhard Theater inside The Kentucky Center for the Performing Arts.

Sensory-friendly performances are designed to create a safe and nurturing environment for individuals with autism spectrum disorder and other individuals with sensory sensitivities. Accommodations for this performance include keeping the theatre lights dimmed, providing extra space between patrons, freedom to vocalize and move/switch seats, and allowing patrons to exit and enter during the performance. While this performance has a fluid atmosphere, it is open to the general public and can be a learning opportunity regarding the typical theatre experience. For more information, please click HERE.

Complete List of Accommodations for Sensory Friendly Performance

  • Materials to prepare you  for visiting the theater will be available prior to the show at the StageOne website ( ) and Kentucky Center website ( by September 1st
  • Theater will not be filled to capacity, therefore audience members  can sit where they like; StageOne is always general admission.
  • Patrons will be allowed to move freely through the aisles
  • Individuals are free to vocalize during the performance
  • House Lights will remain on at low level during performance
  • To give warning to the audience, sudden loud sounds or startling moments will be signaled in advance
  • Entering and exiting the theatre will be allowed throughout the performance
  • A "quiet room" at the back of the theater provides continued viewing away from the audience
  • Additional space with remote video viewing will be available
  • Trained Kentucky Center volunteers on hand to assist with patron needs and requests


KY Autism Training Center Summer 2013 Newsletter August 2013

School Training Site Initiative Begins this Fall with 25 Schools Across the State

By Laura Ferguson, M.Ed., BCBA

The KY Autism Training Center (KATC) works in collaboration with the Kentucky Department of Education (KDE) eleven Special Educational Cooperatives at all levels of operation; cooperatives have the capacity to create and sustain change at the local level, such collaboration is essential to develop and sustain a network of professional development, training, and coaching to educators.

Building upon this relationship, KATC initiated a collaborative workgroup in 2008 to develop a proposal and was subsequently awarded a partnership with the National Professional Development Center on Autism Spectrum Disorders. The National Professional Development Center on Autism Spectrum Disorders (NPDCA), funded by the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Special Education Programs is a multi-university program that began on July 1, 2007. The center is located at three universities: The University of North Carolina, the University of Wisconsin, and the University of California.

This partnership formed the training site initiative. The training site initiative involved schools and districts applying to get training, and technical assistance on the 24 evidence based practices. A KATC field trainer and a consultant at the cooperative visit the classroom monthly. During these visits the consultants work with the staff on how to provide best practices for students on the autism spectrum. The training site process involves working with teachers for the entire school year. The initiative takes place in all areas of the state during different school years.

We are entering our fifth year of developing training sites for individuals with autism. The KATC is excited that when we opened up applications for the entire state we received applications from all cooperative areas. This year we are working with all age ranges and we are in 25 schools across the state. The schools are located in the following counties: Henry, Knott, Pike, Scott, Trigg, Hopkins, Christian, Warren, Ohio, Pulaski, Carter, Bracken, Kenton, Meade, and Hardin.  We are excited to continue the process and work with teachers to implement the 24 evidence based practices.


Laura Ferguson is a certified behavior analyst and a Field Training Coordinator for the KY Autism Training Center. She provides direct training and technical assistance to education staff, social and community personnel, counselors, job coaches and families.

Back to School -- Get Off to a Great Start

By Laura Ferguson, M.Ed., BCBA


School time is upon us once again and it is time to get our children back on schedule. No more late nights and unstructured days. As we get closer to August and the start of school we think about the changes we will have to make and how difficult this will be for a child on the autism spectrum.

When we think about the differences between the summer days and the start of school, we realize just how unstructured our summer days have been. No scheduled times to eat, no limited time on computers or games, and we definitely were not made to sit and concentrate for long periods of time. This transition scared all of us as children and it certainly scared our parents. For parents of children on the autism spectrum we think of how just little changes to schedules and routines throw them off and increase inappropriate behaviors.  What can parents do to better prepare their students on the spectrum?

One way we can help individuals on the spectrum adjust to upcoming changes is to prepare them for these changes in advance. A great way to do this is by using visual supports.

Visual supports are often used in classrooms to support individuals on the autism spectrum. We see these supports in the form of schedules, signs, labels, written directions and pictures. Since these supports are effective in the classroom, it may be beneficial to begin to use these in the home as well. A schedule can help plan parts of the day, the full day, or individual activities during the day. A schedule can be put together using pictures or words outlining activities and events throughout the day. This can help the child generalize following routines across environments, as well as helping them remain on task and complete tasks. When using the schedule parents can change out activities and projects to help the child increase time on task. This will help the student when transitioning back into the classroom.

Since individuals on the spectrum often have limited opportunities to practice behaviors, video modeling is another tool that parents can put in place. Video modeling involves videotaping the target child engaging in identified behaviors and then having them watch the video and model what they have seen. This can be used to help students exhibit appropriate behaviors when at school, or transitioning to school. For example, you can video the child getting on the backpack, taking out their folder, etc. or video the child walking in line. These behaviors will need to be taught, so teaching these skills in advance will be beneficial for the transition to school.

The beginning of the school year is stressful for everyone, so we need to start teaching target behaviors throughout the summer in order to prepare the children for the upcoming year.

Have a great school year everyone!!


Laura Ferguson is a certified behavior analyst and a Field Training Coordinator for the KY Autism Training Center. She provides direct training and technical assistance to education staff, social and community personnel, counselors, job coaches and families.



KY Autism Training Center Summer 2013 Newsletter August 2013

Ideas for Autism Awareness Year Round

By Julie Stewart, M.Ed.


As an agency directly focused on supporting the autism community, we are overfilled with joy for dedication of individuals hosting so many activities that occur for Autism Awareness month every April.  Information being spread across the Commonwealth will help to change the lives of individuals with autism and their families; however,  we know these individuals and families deserve more than an awareness month.


“Autism is more than April” kept running through my mind throughout the month and inspired me to research awareness activities to suggest.  These activities and probably any autism awareness activities can be implemented across the year, because truly autism awareness is more than a month.


1) Using fundraising ideas for awareness activities:

The Autism Awareness Club at Milburn High School in Milburn, NJ has sponsored different activities to both raise awareness and also to raise money for Autism Speaks.  They have held a dance-a-thon collaboratively with the high school dance club, sold blue candy canes during December, and raffled for a basket of Milburn business gift certificates during their school’s annual MHS Battle of the Classes.  During the month of April they raffled off the principal’ parking space for a week, held a Wear Blue to School Day” and read facts about autism each morning during the high school’s daily announcements.


How could you translate some of their activities and ideas into your promotion of autism awareness?  Just holding the dance-a-thon outside of April would increase awareness across the year.  Consider donating funds raised to a local school or community program.


2) Community Activities:

A popular activity for increasing awareness is to provide a promotion at local restaurants or businesses.  For example, providing a certain percentage off at a restaurant for patrons on a specific day and then providing information for folks visiting the restaurant on that day.  Or simply partnering with a restaurant and having an awareness night without it being advertised would spread the word to random individuals potentially outside of the autism community.


Some other ideas include:

  • Hosting a sensory friendly movie, bowling, or roller skating night.
  • Reaching out to your local video store and encouraging them to create a movie display of a movie that features a character who has autism
  • Partnering with a bowling alley, bounce house, etc. to set-up a booth with information
  • Hosting a book discussion for various age group (i.e., young children, young adult literature, adults)
  • “Autismusical” was an event held in Quezon City, Philippines that showcased the talents of individuals’ with autism on stage at a local, popular mall
  • Lancaster Public Library in Lancaster, PA had a program that pairs teen volunteers with children with autism ages five to ten in their program called “Artism”.  These pairs meet twice a month and practice social skills while working on art projects.  Although not appropriate ages for peer interaction, this program provides a nice platform for teaching lots of great skills.
  • The firefighters in Springfield, NJ now wear a modified “On-Duty” t-shirt that includes the Autism Speaks logo.  They are hoping that this change will increase the public to ask questions and therefore learn more about autism.  Also the firefighters have completed the Autism Awareness and Interaction Training Program offered by to increase their understanding and sensitivity to better support individuals with autism during emergency situations.


In your community what can you do throughout the year to help promote awareness and acceptance of individuals with autism? It may be helpful to plot out across the year what activities you are going to do.

3) General Suggestions:

  • Contact your local representatives and have them issue a proclamation supporting autism awareness efforts by the town/city
  • Create some visual supports for a student, teacher, or family who needs them, wrap them up as a present, and give them to the deserving person/persons saying “Happy Autism Awareness”
  • Send an “Autism Awareness e-card from or by searching “autism”
  • Have a presence as part of a local or regional festival whenever they occur (i.e., information booth, walk in parade, hand out information, wear awareness paraphernalia)
  • Contact your state, and federal representatives asking them to “Vote 4 Autism” (national advocacy campaign orchestrated by the AutismSociety)
  • Partner with public radio to have a radio series of interviews with individuals with ASD, professionals who work with individuals, and families of individuals with ASD
  • Encourage your public library to expand their resources concerning ASD by providing them with a list of potential books or journals which to subscribe
  • Provide awareness trainings at public locations such as libraries, churches, non-profits, political clubs, etc.  KATC's website has free resources available to help with awareness trainings including awareness brochures, family guide and webinar training videos.


“Autism is more than April” should be the theme for you in your professional or personal relationship with individuals with autism spectrum disorders.  These ideas are just that, ideas.  Your creativity makes it “sky is the limit” for what you do and how you promote autism awareness and more importantly acceptance in your community throughout the year.  As you begin to expand your awareness activities beyond April please be sure to contact us at the KATC so we can highlight the work you are doing to promote and support the autism community of Kentucky.


Julie Stewart is a Field Training Coordinator for the KY Autism Training Center. She provides direct training and technical assistance to education staff, social and community personnel, counselors, job coaches and families.

KY Autism Training Center Spring 2013 Newsletter May 2013

2015-16 KATC Training Site Initiative Update

The KATC Training Site initiative for the 2015-16 school year is up and running in eastern, western and central Kentucky.  The initiative is a collaborative effort with special education cooperatives and the sites are visited by three KATC Field Trainers.

In eastern Kentucky, KATC Field Trainer Kim Howard, is currently working in 6 counties in the KEDC cooperative area with a total of 9 classrooms involved. In the KVEC cooperative area Howard is working with 2 counties, but has a total of 8 classrooms involved this school year. “I am so pleased with the progress that I have already seen in the classrooms we are working with. The teachers involved in the training sites are working hard to implement evidence based practices for their students. Throughout the school year these teachers are using action plans to ensure student success.  I look forward supporting these schools throughout the year and seeing the success of students!” Kim Howard.

In the central part of the state, KATC Field Trainer Laura Ferguson, is working at training sites in Bullitt, Carroll, Owen, Oldham, Henry, Pendleton, Jessamine, Bardstown, Laurel, Casey, Harlan, and Hardin counties and school districts. The Low Incidence consultants involved in this area include Carla Jordan (OVEC), Kim Weber (NKCES), Sally Miracle (CKEC) and Renee Leach (SESC). Along with the cooperatives KATC works in collaboration with several district consultants including Debbie Williams (Bullitt), Denise Emberton (Hardin), Jennifer Bryant (Oldham), and Sarah Whitfield (Jessamine).

“With the start of the school year under our belt our classrooms are focused on creating behavior plans, structured teaching systems, systematic instructional procedures, and classroom setups that work best for individuals on the autism spectrum. Through data from our classroom observation tool our goals and action plans were developed to set up areas to increase or areas of focus for each classroom or individual student. Our goals are that each teacher progresses in their knowledge of the 27 evidence-based practices. I look forward to working with each of these dedicated teachers and staff.” Laura Ferguson.

KATC Field Trainer Michelle Antle is working with schools in the western Kentucky region this school year where there are currently six training sites. Caldwell County Middle School and Central Elementary in Graves County were both selected as first year sites, while Calloway County Middle School, Lone Oak Middle School in McCracken County, and South Christian Elementary and Christian County High Schools continued their work under this initiative.  The GRREC region also has training sites at Stevenson Elementary in Russellville Independent School district, South Hancock and North Hancock Elementary in Hancock County School district.  In addition, Antle and the GRREC consultant are supporting Hardinsburg Elementary in Breckinridge County and Jamestown Elementary in Russell County, both of which are in their second year of implementation as a training site.

How to Choose a Summer Camp?

By Heidi Cooley-Cook


Summer break is quickly approaching.  Some children are waiting anxiously for the time when they can play outside all day, wake up late, or take a summer vacation. Others are anxious just thinking about leaving school, changing teachers, not having the same routine, and wondering what the summer will hold.

Many parents are savoring these last few days of school and scrambling to find appropriate activities and settings for their child during the break.   Finding a suitable summer camp for a child with special needs including autism can be a daunting task.  Below you will find a few questions to keep in mind when researching summer camps for your child.  You’ll also find the list of summer camps compiled by Diane Cowne, a KATC Board Member.


Here are a few questions to ask yourself, your child, and the camp staff:



What are my expectations for the summer camp my child attends - academic, social, activities, etc. or a combination?

What does my child want to get out of the camp?  Are there specific activities that he/she really wants to do?  Are there certain activities that would be ‘deal breakers’?

Will there be same age peers present to encourage socialization?

Will my child know someone (adult or child) present at the camp?



Where is the camp located? Is it a day or overnight camp?

How will my child get to and from camp each day?

If the camp is half day do they offer aftercare so that it better fits with my work schedule?

Are there other families you know who will be sending their child to the same camp?  If so, is carpooling an option?

How much is the camp - are there scholarships available to offset the cost?



Does the camp have the resources to meet the needs of my child?

If I feel that my child needs additional support (beyond what is available from the camp) - would the camp allow someone to attend the camp with my child (parent, caregiver, interventionist)?

Is the camp comfortable in using my child’s communication system on a consistent basis?

Will my child be paired with the same staff each day he/she attends camp?

If you are using a behavior plan at home, school, and/or community - will the camp also implement it?

What type of experience does the staff have with individuals with special needs or autism?


Hopefully you will find the perfect fit for your child where they will learn new skills, make new friends, try new things, and have an all around great time!



Heidi Cooley-Cook is a Family Field Training Coordinator for the KY Autism Training Center where she provides direct training and technical assistance to families.

KY Autism Training Center Spring 2013 Newsletter May 2013

Developing Inclusive Classrooms

By Laura Ferguson, M.Ed., BCBA


If you are a teacher in any school or classroom you will have individuals in your classroom that will have unique learning needs. It is important that if we are going to fully include everyone we have to make sure that all students in the class are accepting of each other. Here are some tips to encourage all students to be accepting of each other.


Lead by example. Teachers have the opportunity to lead by example throughout the school day. If you treat students with special needs differently then the students will follow your lead. Your actions and words will tell your child how to respond to his classmates, so treat them how you would like your students to treat them.


  • Point out strengths, not weaknesses. Teach every student that they have unique strengths and weaknesses. Encourage all students to seek strengths in his classmates and to respect each person for who he is.
  • Encourage all students to find items they have in common. Regardless of differences, it's important to encourage children to look for things that they can relate to in others. When they find preferences and activities that they have in common it will strengthen interactions among all students.
  • Teach them that it is fine to ask questions. When students do not fully understand situations or activities adults encourage them to ask questions, the same should be taught with understanding the disabilities of their peers. If students are unaware of certain behaviors their classmate demonstrates we should encourage them to ask questions in a respectful manner. If they better understand their classmate the more they will be respectful of behaviors or differences.


Learn about the disability

Reading or learning about a disability is a great way to further understand a student’s experiences. It may also help with any questions other students in the classroom may have. Here are some ways to learn about specific disabilities.


  • Read picture books with younger children and discuss them afterward. For older children you can use chapter books with characters that have special needs.
  • Watch programs or videos that show positive portrayals of children with disabilities.
  • Visit Websites that have explanations and activities can help students understand different disabilities.


Check out these helpful sites:



Laura Ferguson is a certified behavior analyst and a Field Training Coordinator for the KY Autism Training Center. She provides direct training and technical assistance to education staff, social and community personnel, counselors, job coaches and families.

KY Autism Training Center Spring 2013 Newsletter May 2013

School Spotlight: Northern Elementary

By Laura Ferguson, M.Ed., BCBA


Northern Elementary EBP2During the 2008-2009 school year, the training site project began in Jefferson County Schools under the guidance and partnership with the National Professional Development Center on Autism Spectrum.  The following year the KATC began to expand the project into other areas of the state.  This year the KATC began working in three special education cooperative regions; this includes the Southeast/South central Educational Cooperative (SE/SC). Our work in the classroom involves monthly visits to support the local educational team in planning, implementing, and evaluating instruction. We work with the school team to select objectives and instructional plans for specified students as well as classrooms. Through the project our goal is to increase the school’s capacity for serving children with autism spectrum disorders by supporting their implementation of research-based strategies.


Northern Elementary EBP2This year I have had the privilege of working in Northern Elementary in Somerset. The classroom teacher is Elizabeth Wolsey and her paraprofessional is Heather Wells. From the beginning of the year it has been a great opportunity to work with both professionals in the room. The classroom environment displayed the use of evidence- based practices. The classroom implemented the use of visual supports, which included individual schedules for each student, reinforcement and communication systems. The staffs eagerness to work with the project and target specified tasks for each student, was evident from day one of the project. Both individual students and overall classroom goals, because of the enthusiasm of both Elizabeth and Heather, have been achieved.


 Northern ElementaryThe teacher Elizabeth Wolsey is involved in many programs to increase her knowledge base in the area of autism and instruction. One of the programs she is involved in is SPLASH. SPLASH is part of an overall Low Incidence Initiative that focuses on supporting new teachers of students with moderate to severe disabilities.  The mission of SPLASH is to provide professional development that promotes high quality instruction and supports for students with moderate and severe cognitive disabilities.  SPLASH supports building the capacity of Kentucky’s teachers to increase academic achievement for students with low incidence disabilities and to increase and retain the number of special education teachers with MSD certification across the Commonwealth. She also attends the autism cadre in Pulaski County. The autism cadre was developed to increase teacher knowledge of evidence- based practices for individuals with autism.


I look forward to working with both Elizabeth and Heather and their wonderful students for the remainder of the school year. I am sure with their knowledge and drive their students will reach many accomplishments.


Laura Ferguson is a certified behavior analyst and a Field Training Coordinator for the KY Autism Training Center. She provides direct training and technical assistance to education staff, social and community personnel, counselors, job coaches and families.

KY Autism Training Center Winter 2013 Newsletter February 2013

The Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS)

By Julie Stewart, M.Ed.


The Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS) was created by Lori Frost and Andy Bondy in 1985 and is a unique alternative/augmentative communication intervention and is currently in its second edition.  PECS is divided into six distinct phases and starts by teaching an individual to exchange a picture of a desired item to a “communicative partner” to immediately receive access to the item.  When a child reaches mastery of Phase I, as designated by the PECS protocol, after teaching the child to understand the exchange, the child moves into Phase II.  Below are the descriptions provided on the PECS website for phase:


Phase II (Distance and Persistence):

Still using single pictures, students learn to generalize this new skill by using it in different places, with different people and across distances.  They are also taught to be more persistent communicators.

Phase III (Picture Discrimination):

Students learn to select form two or more pictures to ask for their favorite things.  These are places in a communication book—a ring binder with Velcro® strips where pictures are stored and easily removed for communication.

Phase IV (Sentence Structure):

Students learn to construct simple sentences on a detachable sentence strip using an “I want” picture followed by a picture of the item being requested.

Attributes and Language Expansion:

Students learn to expand their sentences by adding adjectives, verbs and prepositions.

Phase V (Answering Questions):

Students learn to use PECS to answer the question “What do you want?”

Phase VI (Commenting):

Now students are taught to comment in response to questions such as, “What do you see?”, “What do you hear?” and “What is it?”.  They learn to make up sentences starting with “I see”, “I feel”, “It is a”, etc.”


To successfully implement this evidence-based practice it is essential for individuals to attend an official training provided by the Pyramid Educational Consultants.  This training experience will help you discover the nuances that reading the manual simply cannot provide.  However, it is important to approach using PECS with a student with flexibility and an eagerness to troubleshoot.  Each student’s experience with PECS will be different and the pace of mastery for each phase will vary.  Be ready to plan ahead to be able to provide instruction and communicative opportunities across the entire schoolday and not during isolated events, such as lunch or snacktime.  For some students, PECS is just what they need to understand the power of communication and sometimes motivates them to begin using verbal language to communicate wants and needs.  BUT of course PECS is not an intervention that will produce results for all students and all options for teaching communication should be evaluated!!


Julie Stewart is a Field Training Coordinator for the KY Autism Training Center. She provides direct training and technical assistance to education staff, social and community personnel, counselors, job coaches and families.

KY Autism Training Center Winter 2013 Newsletter February 2013

Facing the Toilet Training Challenge

By Julie Stewart, M.Ed.


One of the greatest challenges families face is the dreaded toilet training process.  Here at the KATC, during almost any professional or family training we provide, we get questions about toilet training across ages and development levels.  It is the family’s decision on when and how to support a child’s involvement in learning the process of using the toilet, however some children may never demonstrate the interest or self-initiation that provides the signs to start “training” that their neurotypical peers may show.  There are some general helpful hints for supporting your child’s toilet training and then more intense program that has been determined to be effective.

Here are some general tips for supporting toilet training:

  • Only attempt toilet training when the child is wearing underwear
  • Begin training on a schedule, having the child go to the bathroom on set time interval (ex. every 30minutes) and stay for a set about of time
    Provide intense levels of liquids to increase the child’s opportunity to practice
  • Always verbalize “time for potty” or “go to bathroom” at the beginning of the intervals; pair with a sign if your child does not vocally communicate
  • Immediately when the child voids (urinates or defecates) in the toilet, provide them with behavior specific praise (“Great job going pee-pee”) and tangible/edible preferred item

IMPORTANT: If toileting is a difficult task to master for your child, the toy or edible given after voiding MUST NOT BE AVAILABLE at ANY OTHER TIME.  Controlling their access to this preferred item will increase it’s motivating potential and increase the likelihood that it will be a strong reinforcer for toileting.

Be sure to fade the use of reinforcement; some use sticker charts but be aware that stickers may not be very interesting and therefore not reinforcing for your child

For boys, putting cheerios or fruit loops in the bowl to make urinating a bit more interesting, creating a game
Putting food coloring in the toilet bowl that will interact with the yellowish urine, such as blue or red
Play card games on a lap-table or tray, read books, sing songs, etc. to extend the amount of time the child attempts

This is not an exhaustive list and should not be all the strategies you try, however hopefully it gives you an idea or two that you haven’t tried.  The most important step of all toilet training is to set your plan, stick with it for a period of time, and take on-going data to make a determination if it is working or not.  If your child starts to not have accidents but you haven’t taken data you may be responding to a placebo affect instead of factual information about how the training process is going.

For children who seemingly do not respond or who have not been successful when the more typical measures are taken in toilet training, there are other


Julie Stewart is a Field Training Coordinator for the KY Autism Training Center. She provides direct training and technical assistance to education staff, social and community personnel, counselors, job coaches and families.

KY Autism Training Center Winter 2013 Newsletter February 2013

Blake's Journey One Bite at a Time

By Jocelyn Warren, OTR/L


Feeding disorders are a common problem in children.  Review of studies has shown that between 46% and 89% of children with autism spectrum disorders have a feeding disorder.  Food selectivity or refusal, disruptive mealtime behaviors, and rigidity with mealtimes (only eat from certain bowl, have to sit in certain chair, etc) are among the commonly reported concerns.  The University of Louisville Autism Center at Kosair Charities provides feeding therapy to address these issues.

Blake’s Journey with feeding therapy began in 2011.  Initially he was seen at the Weisskopf Child Evaluation Center for an Interdisciplinary Team Feeding Evaluation.  His parents were concerned about Blake’s feeding as he had frequent spitting up and had an extremely limited diet.  His diet consisted of Lay’s original potato chips, licks of peanut butter, smoothies (mixture of his medications, baby food, and juice), and only a few varieties of Stage 2 baby foods.  Blake was also limited in his acceptance of drinks as he would only drink water, soy milk, and 7-Up.  During the evaluation, Blake was evaluated by a Dietician, Occupational Therapist, Psychologist, and a Speech Language Pathologist.  Blake had many issues with feeding that are commonly found in children diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder including limited food variety and rigidity with feeding behaviors as he would only eat one brand of potato chips (what is it with those Lay’s potato chips???) and would only drink his smoothie from one particular cup.

Mom’s Story of Blake’s Journey


Speaking for myself, I can honestly say that Blake’s feeding issues have been more painful for me than Blake’s diagnosis of Autism and being nonverbal combined.  Not only was I dealing with the feelings of being a failure as a mother because of the guilt I was experiencing at what my child was eating, I was also criticized by family, friends, strangers and even the autism community.  In addition to his sensory issues and his rigidity, Blake would also vomit at the site or smell of food to get away from the table.  Blake’s behavior therapist once gave me the superhero name of “The Excrementorator,” and I have to agree that I had earned that title!  I feel certain that I had cleaned vomit up in every inch of my house and car, but also restaurants, Memaw’s house, department stores, etcetera.

When I sought Jocelyn Warren (Occupational therapist) for feeding therapy, I felt defeated and had up hope. The process of introducing food and having Blake interact with food seemed impossible.  I had tried feeding therapy once before, but it made things so much worse and his behavior was off of the charts.  I had never won a feeding battle with Blake, as it was one of the few things he had complete control over.
After a lot of vomiting and finally finding a positive reinforcer, Jocelyn started to have successful sessions with Blake.  Unlike therapy before, Jocelyn allowed me in the therapy room and she let me “take the spoon.” I was finally finding the confidence that I so desperately needed to be successful with implementing his therapy at home.

I started to realize after a short time working with Jocelyn I had enabled Blake’s avoidance of food by allowing him to escape when he would vomit. Not only did I enable his behavior, I feel certain that he was also picking up on may anxiety due to terrible past experiences with food.  Once I practiced allowing Blake to vomit while continuing on with the task at hand, he stopped vomiting to avoid the task.  I felt my anxiety decreasing and I feel certain that it did for Blake as well.  Blake does, however, continue to vomit due to sensory issues with new textures, but that was nothing compared to what it was like before.

In closing, there was nothing easy about feeding therapy and there’s no way to candy coat vomit!  I cannot begin to tell you how wonderful it feels to make progress.  I hope others affected by these issues will hear me when I say, if MY son can do this, ANYBODY can do this and to never give up.  Once I came out and started discussing my son’s issues with others, I have found that so many people tend to hide these issues.  I completely understand and I hope that you will seek help for your children and let go of the guilt and shame.  There are a lot of us out here.

Therapists Story of Blake’s Journey


After Blake’s evaluation, his mother and father and I worked together to determine our main goals for Blake.  We decided that decreasing his vomiting and getting Blake to no longer relying on baby food for a large majority of his diet would be our first goals.  Several behavioral strategies have been utilized to help Blake meet these goals.  Positive reinforcement and sensory desensitization are the main techniques that have been used for Blake.  Initially our goal was to help Blake be more flexible so that he could accept food that was very similar to foods that he already ate but slightly different.  We focused on introducing new flavors of Lay’s potato chips (who knew that Lay’s has 20 flavors of just their regular potato chips?).  Blake was soon eating Lay’s Barbeque, Sour Cream and Onion, and Cheddar and Sour Cream flavored chips.  The importance of his progress was not that he can eat different flavors of chips (nutritionally this did not add anything to his diet) however Blake was becoming more flexible with his eating.  During this time we also worked on Blake being able to eat the chips not just from the original bag, but also on a plate and from a plastic bag as well as him being able to drink his smoothie from a regular cup.

We used positive reinforcement and sensory desensitization to achieve these goals.  Every time Blake took a bite of a newly flavored potato chip or a drink  from a regular cup he was rewarded (positively reinforced) with a favored food/drink (Lay’s  classic potato chip, drink of 7-Up) or a brief time playing with a preferred toy/activity (tickling, singing song, swinging on the therapy swing, looking at his favorite book).  As it became easier for him to take bites of the newly flavored chips, he had to take more bites to earn the reward until finally he no longer required rewards to eat these new foods.  Utilizing sensory desensitization was also used simultaneously with positive reinforcement.  Initially Blake would become upset when he saw me bring the newly flavored chips into the therapy room.  Our first goal was to touch the chip (pick up the chip and put in the garbage can), then we transitioned to touching the chip to his lips, then teeth, then tongue, then back molars, and finally taking a bite.  Depending on the child, this might take only one session to move through these steps or it can take several weeks.  Blake required several weeks to move through this process and there were frequent upsets, gagging, and vomiting (just a quick note about vomiting, in Blake’s case he was being followed by a Gastroenterologist so we knew that the vomiting was not related to a medical issue but was more behavioral so the vomiting was ignored.  It is only recommended to ignore vomiting if it is clear that there is no medical reason).  Blake’s family worked on these skills at home, so soon Blake was eating new flavors of chips in many different environments including home and school.

Our next goal was to get rid of the baby food.  We focused on adding applesauce, yogurt, mashed sweet potatoes, mashed potatoes and gravy, pureed fresh fruits, oatmeal, and other types of smooth textured foods.  We also wanted to add a vegetable/fruit juice (Capri Sun Super V, Fruitables, V8 Splash) to his diet.  We continued to use positive reinforcement and sensory desensitization techniques to increase his acceptance to these foods.  Blake was very sensitive to the smells of new foods as well as looking at new foods.  I learned this the hard way when I brought in a very small bowl (about 1 tablespoon) of refried beans into the therapy room.  Blake was busy playing on the therapy swing and immediately began to gag and throw up before he even saw the food item.  His mother and I decided that we would just put the new food on the table during the therapy session and Mom would put the food item on the kitchen counter at home for one week before he was asked to even touch the food.  It was a huge celebration when Blake came to therapy and his mother shared with me that she had donated boxes and boxes of baby food to a local charity as Blake was eating so much of the smooth textured foods that he no longer needed the baby food…and best of all he wanted the regular food.

Our current goal is to add more textured foods to Blake’s diet.  He is eating fork mashed fruits, fork mashed vegetables, fork mashed stews (he loves his Mom’s beef stew), cereal crumbs, bacon crumbs, mashed rice, mashed noodles, mashed hot dogs, and many other items that are of mashed or crumb textures.  Blake still continues to struggle with taking a bite of harder textured foods such as a piece of fruit, meat, or vegetable but his progress has been steady.  It was also a huge celebration when Blake was able to eat his first Christmas dinner (turkey, mashed potatoes and gravy, and sweet potatoes) with his family.

Blake has made so much progress as his family is able to follow through with these techniques in the home environment and do so at every meal and snack.  It is so important for families and therapists to work closely so that the techniques used in the clinics can be used in the home environment.  Blake continues to attend feeding therapy one time a week.  With his hard work and his family’s effort, we expect Blake’s journey to continue to move forward at a steady pace.


If you are interested in learning more about understanding the common issues of feeding problems for children with ASD, strategies/techniques to utilize at home to expand food variety and when to seek professional help watch the Techniques to Expand Food Variety for Children with ASD webinar by Jocelyn Warren.


Jocelyn Warren, OTR/L is a Senior Occupational Therapist at the University of Louisville Weisskopf Center for the Evaluation (WCEC). She graduated from The Ohio State University in 1989 and received a Masters in Special Education from the University of Louisville in 2011.  She has been a Senior Occupational Therapist at the Weisskopf Child Evaluation Center (WCEC) for the past 12 years.  Jocelyn initiated the development of the Feeding Disorders Clinic at WCEC in 2003. At WCEC she serves as a team member on interdisciplinary team diagnostic evaluations, completes individual occupational therapy evaluations, participates in feeding disorder outreach programs, and provides intervention services.  She has presented at state and national conferences.

KY Autism Training Center Winter 2013 Newsletter February 2013

Sleep Problems in Children with Autism

By P. Gail Williams, M.D.


Prevalence: Sleep problems are very common in children with autism. Studies indicate that 50 to 80% of children with autism experience sleep difficulties at some time.  This is much higher than the 9 to 50% rate of sleep problems for typically developing children.

Neurobiology: The increased prevalence of sleep disorders among children with ASD is likely due to neurobiologic alterations in the sleep-wake cycle.  Neurotransmitters which have been implicated in ASD sleep problems include Gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), serotonin and melatonin.

Impact: Disordered sleep is frequently associated with behavior problems and inattention in typically developing and developmentally disabled children.  Sleep problems in ASD are correlated with increased maternal stress and parental sleep disruption.  Repetitive behaviors and insistence on sameness may also be increased with poor sleep patterns.

Types of sleep disorders: Insomnia is the most commonly reported sleep problem in children with ASD.  Problems falling asleep, increased wakenings, and decreased efficiency of sleep have been reported by parents in numerous studies.  In addition to the neurobiologic  alterations mentioned earlier, children with ASD may have medical conditions such as epilepsy and reflux which interrupt sleep.  Certain medications may predispose to insomnia. Conditions that can be associated with ASD, such as ADHD, anxiety, and depression may also contribute to sleep problems.  Core behavioral concerns such as limited communication and self regulation and strong preoccupations  can lead to difficulty in setting effective bedtime routines.

Other sleep disorders seen with some frequency in autism include sleep disordered breathing, most commonly obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), which may require tonsillectomy and adenoidectomy or other medical treatment.  Children with ASD may also have more parasomnias, including night terrors, sleep walking and confusional arousals.  Children with autism sometimes have rhythmical movements of the head, trunks, or limbs, especially during the transition from wakefulness to sleep.  Restless legs syndrome may also occur. Sleep diaries and sleep questionnaires such as the Children’s Sleep Habits Questionnaire are often useful additions to a complete sleep history.  Specific assessment using actigraphy (wrist device to measure activity levels) or polysomnography (overnight sleep study measuring brain wave activity, heart rate, oxygenation, movement, etc.) may be necessary for diagnosis in some cases but these strategies are often not well tolerated by children with autism.




Medical treatment of sleep disrupting conditions: It is critical that underlying medical conditions that interfere with sleep be addressed with appropriate medical management.  These may include gastroesophageal reflux disease, eczema, constipation, seizures, reactive airway disease and dental problems. In addition, restless legs syndrome and periodic limb movement disorder can be associated with iron deficiency which often responds to iron supplements.  Conditions such as anxiety, depression and ADHD may need to be treated with medication in order to assure appropriate sleep patterns.

Sleep practices: Once medical and psychiatric conditions have been adequately treated, healthy sleep practices should be implemented.  These practices should include getting adequate exercise during the day, limiting naps and caffeine and getting adequate exposure to light. In the evening, stimulation should be decreased with an established bedtime routine and minimal exposure to technology.  The sleep environment should be cool, dark and quiet, although a background noise machine may be helpful for some children.

Behavioral treatment: Visual schedules for bedtime routines can be very helpful for children with ASD. For children who fall asleep very late, gradually moving the bedtime to an earlier time may be helpful. Helping the child learn to fall asleep on their own is very important.  This may involve the parent sitting next to the bed but not engaging in eye contact or physical touch and then moving further away from the child’s bed on successive nights until the parent is no longer in the room.  The Bedtime Pass can be helpful for nighttime wakenings.  The child gets one curtain call but then has to turn in the pass; if the pass is not used, it can be turned in the next morning and a reward given.

Melatonin/pharmacology: Several research studies have indicated that melatonin may be helpful in addressing poor sleep onset in children with autism. Melatonin is usually given 30 minutes before bedtime, generally in a dose range of 1 to 6 mg.  Melatonin seems safe and effective in the short term; long term studies are not currently available.  An extended release form of melatonin may be helpful to sustain sleep. In some instances, other medications for sleep may be required.

Helpful resources: Strategies to Improve Sleep in Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders (Autism Treatment Network toolkit available for free download at Autism Speaks website)

Sleep and Autism: Helping Your Child (available at


Gail Williams, M.D. is an Associate Professor for the University of Louisville Department of Pediatrics and Clinical Co-Director of the University of Louisville Autism Center.  She is a board certified developmental/behavioral pediatrician and works in a multidisciplinary setting seeing children of all ages with such concerns as autism, learning disabilities, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, Tourette syndrome, and mental retardation.  Dr. Williams is also the director of the STAR (Systematic Treatment of Autism and Related Disorders) biomedical clinic.  While her primary responsibilities are clinical, she also engages in clinical research and has authored several articles on autism and other developmental topics.

Teach Social Skills in School Using Lunch Bunch


by Julie Stewart, M.Ed.

Individuals with autism spectrum disorders are impacted by a qualitative impairment in social interaction.  Although this area of challenge will impact individuals across the lifespan, it is an area that does not receive as much intervention attention as other areas.  To embed intervention across the day teachers must be creative and systematically plan for teaching social skills.  Finding times during the day to work on social skills is difficult with all of the demands for academic production and using times of the day that are naturally social, such as lunch, help teachers to begin to target social goals/objectives.  One particular way for teachers to facilitate social skills training is to create opportunities through a structured “Lunch Bunch”.

When setting up a Lunch Bunch program at your school, make sure to recognize the importance of the following steps and components:

  1. Select target peers to participate
  2. Select skills to target for the student with ASD participating
  3. Select location (separate table in the lunchroom, classroom, library, etc.)
  4. Facilitate instruction on the targeted goals through purposeful inclusion of student(s) with ASD in conversation during lunchtime
  5. Make sure to take data and provide reinforcement for target behaviors
  6. If time permits include facilitation of a game with students
  7. Students return to their respective classes at the conclusion of lunch

Systematically targeting social skills across the day is essential, however social groupings such as Lunch Bunch help students with ASD and their typically developing peers to get to know one another better, both positively impacted.  Lunch Bunch should be offered at least a few times a week and should continue across the school year with a variety of peer partners. Good luck teaching essential social skills that will impact the lives of your students now and in their futures!

You can learn more about how to set up a Lunch Bunch program at your school by watching the the webinar "Targeting Social Skills Across the School Day:  Lunch Bunch and Beyond".

Julie Stewart is a Field Training Coordinator for the KY Autism Training Center. She provides direct training and technical assistance to education staff, social and community personnel, counselors, job coaches and families.

KY Autism Training Center Summer 2012 Newsletter August 2012

Three Benefits of Online Social Networks for ASD Support Groups

By Diandre Glover Thomas


Parents of children with autism are often isolated from their peers while managing issues with their children that range from coping with a diagnosis to transitioning into adulthood.  Although support groups provide parents with a network of individuals who are understanding of issues related to autism finding time to talk with parents outside of those meetings may be a challenge.  Online communities and social networks can provide parents with a way to reach out to other parents at a time that is convenient for them.  There are three primary benefits of starting or joining an existing online community or social network.

Online social networks:

  1. Give parents of children with autism an opportunity to meet and connect with other parents and communicate with them twenty four hours a day instead of waiting until the next support group meeting.  Through sharing pictures, videos and stories about their families’ highs and lows support group members are able to get to know each other better and form a deeper connection with one another.
  2. Help support groups organize meetings, activities and events.  The online community can help keep everyone informed on the support group’s activities and which may increase participation.  Support groups can post information about social activities and fundraisers such as awareness walks, bake sales, pot luck dinners and monthly meeting updates.
  3. Provide an excellent opportunity for parents to share information about helpful resources and/or provide supportive words of encouragement for online community members.  Parents can share if they had a tough day with their child or if their child did something they were really proud of.  Resources such as free training events, summer camp information or even recommending a doctor or barber for a child can be shared among parents in online communities.


If you would like to learn more about using social networks to help enhance your support groups communication and participation sign up to attend the FREE webinar  Social Media and Online Communities for Family Support Groups
that will air on Wednesday November 21, 2012 at 12:00 noon (EST).

Diandre Glover Thomas is the Program Coordinator for the KY Autism Training Center and manages the web content, newsletter, marketing and many of the social media and web based training activities for the center.


Kentucky Autism Training Center Fall 2012 Newsletter (November 2012)

Using Video Modeling to Enhance the Learning Process

by Laura Ferguson, M.Ed., BCBA


Modeling is an important part of the learning process. Modeling allows individuals to see what is expected of them and then practice the behavior. Individuals who are visual learners may acquire new skills more rapidly when the desired behaviors are demonstrated for them.  With so many different types of technology resources out there, modeling has become an even more accessible way to demonstrate targeted skills. One type of modeling that has been effective is video modeling.




What is video modeling?

Video modeling is a type of teaching that involves video recording a behavior that then provides a visual model of that targeted skill. This practice has been used to teach skills such as; play skills, functional skills, and social initiation. It has been used in instances to decrease disruptive behaviors and aid in transitions. 
Let’s look at the most popular form of video modeling and how it can be used to aid in successful transitions from preferred to non-preferred activities. The most popular form of video modeling is other-as-model. This involves recording a peer that has the same attributes or someone that the individual demonstrates interest in, appropriately engaging in the targeted skill.





Let’s look step by step how we would record a successful transition:

1. First select the target individual
2. Explain what behavior you would like them to engage in
3. Record the behavior in the most natural setting (how it would look when the   individual would engage in the behavior). Since the target behavior is transitioning, record the individual being given a warning of how much longer they have with the preferred item. Then have the adult place the demand to transition. Record the individual walking from the reinforcer to the non-preferred.
4. Once the individual has engaged in the behavior, record them contacting a reinforce, such as praise or a preferred item/activity
5. Now that the recording is complete, allow the target individual to watch the recording, and then practice the skill.






Video modeling is a great way to teach new skills. Hopefully you will find it useful in your home or classroom.


Laura Ferguson is a certified behavior analyst and a Field Training Coordinator for the KY Autism Training Center. She provides direct training and technical assistance to education staff, social and community personnel, counselors, job coaches and families.


KY Autism Training Center Fall 2012 Newsletter November 2012

Exploring Augmentative and Alternative Communication

by Dr. Karen Coulter

What is Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC)?  Simply put, it is a tool.  According to the Oxford online dictionary, a tool is ‘device or implement used to carry out a particular function.’  As a tool, the purpose or function of AAC is to augment a message or provide an alternative means for communicating when natural speech is not a functional option.  If a child or adult is unable to communicate using natural speech alone some form of AAC should be provided to support the most effective, interactive communication possible.   With this said, there are several of guidelines to bear in mind:

  • AAC is a process not a product
  • Everyone communicates and has a right to do so

In the process of sorting through the AAC toolbox you will need the help of a craftsman to pick the best tool and to learn how to use it.  That craftsman is a Speech Language Pathologist (SLP) with knowledge of AAC.

Tool selection by your SLP is one part matching needs and one part clinical skill.  When matching a tool within the diverse ASD population, each individual’s strengths and weaknesses must be taken into account.  Matching a tool to an individual takes clinical knowledge of how each strength and weakness lines up with any particular instrument.  The instrument isn’t as important as the individual’s needs.

Tool selection is a process not a product.  Within the selection process careful consideration must be given to what tools did or did not work before a final choice is made.  Perseverance can be as important to success as identifying barriers to AAC use. While this optimal system is being developed, an individual should never be without some a means of communication.  When an appropriate AAC system match is found for an individual, it will still need adjustments. Multimodal AAC systems are dynamic and must change as the needs of the individual change.

Other clinical skills a SLP provides include how to improve or shape an individual’s current communication into a more functional form.  Remember, learning to use AAC is learning how to use a new tool.  Changing the dynamic of communication expectations between individuals is the hardest step. In this process of change we are not only changing the AAC user’s behavior, we are changing our own.  Speech therapy offers accountability and coaching for this process.

Everyone communicates.  Everyone has a right to communicate.  These rights are summarized from the Communication Bill of Rightsput forth in 1992 by the National Joint Committee for the Communication Needs of Persons with Severe Disabilities. It states, ‘All people with a disability of any extent or severity have a basic right to affect, through communication, the conditions of their existence.’ How we communicate is the only difference.  Understanding how an individual with ASD currently communicates and identifying communication potential is part of the SLP’s clinical skill set.

Even though communication is a right for everyone, many times we turn on the mute button or take away a voice without knowing it.  For an individual with an AAC system self-expression can be obstructed or even stopped by a lack of access to appropriate vocabulary.  This issue can be addressed in part by the use of core and fringe vocabularies.  The AAC institute and Gail VanTatenhove elaborate on this topic.

AAC is an important to many individuals with an ASD diagnosis.  From 30 - 50% of these individuals are nonverbal and will remain so throughout their lifetime. Due to this need, the University of Louisville’s Autism Center will be continuing to provide further information about AAC in the upcoming months.  We have a previous webinar by Dr. Coulter, AAC 101 already available.  Future webinars will include the following titles: AAC Options –Different Technology Levels, AAC – the APPle of My iDevice and AAC Application – Developing Opportunities. She will also be hosting video podcasts covering the use of various AAC devices/ strategies.

Looking Further:

This list is not exhaustive and inclusion does not imply endorsement of the organization or the context of the Web site by Dr. Coulter.

Karen Coulter, Ph.D., C.C.C./S.L.P., A.T.P. is a Speech Language Pathologist and Assistive Technology Professional in the Department of Pediatrics at the University of Louisville’s Weisskopf Child Evaluation Center.  Dr. Coulter’s web site.


5 Things To Do Before You Choose an AAC App: Take A GULP. Zangari, C. January 11, 2012.  PrAACtical Thinking. March 12, 2012

Augmentative and Alternative Communication.1997. American Speech-Language-Hearing Association. October 17, 2012 Augmentative and Alternative Communication Decisions Adapted from a paper by Katya Hill, M.A., CCC-SLP, Assistant Professor, Speech-Language Pathology, Edinboro University of


AAC Institute. October 17, 2012 .

Baxter, S, Enderby, P, Judge, S,  & Evans, P. (2012). Barriers and facilitators to use of high technology augmentative and alternative communication devices: a systematic review and qualitative synthesis International Journal of Language Communication Disorders.  47(2), 115-129.

Guidelines for meeting the communication needs of persons with severe disabilities. (1992). ASHA, 34(Suppl. 7), 2–3.

Multimodal communication.  YAACK. 1999. October 17, 2012 .

Oxford Online Dictionary.  2012. October 17, 2012 .

KY Autism Training Center Fall 2012 Newsletter November 2012

Self Advocacy and College Students with ASD

by Diandre Glover Thomas


Student smiling with book

Students with disabilities are expected to advocate for themselves in college

Students with autism have parents, teachers, counselors and other administrators who advocate for them during the high school years. However, when these students graduate from high school and attend college they are expected to advocate for themselves. Because of this shift in the expectation of a student with autism to become a self-advocate, it is essential for them to learn about their disability and most importantly be capable of communicating their needs to college disability resource centers when planning accommodations.

After a student with a disability enrolls in college it is the student’s responsibility to self identify as having a disability. The first step in this process is to contact the college's disability resource center.  Every college has their own application process; however, in general the student is asked to submit written documentation of their disability and meet with the disability service coordinator to assess the student's individual needs and arrange accommodations. Accommodations help college students with autism overcome obstacles that may create barriers that could prevent them from accessing the same educational opportunities as their peers. The prospective college student with autism needs to learn how to explain the need for accommodations to prevent specific barriers. For example, if a student needs extended time to take tests or a distraction free environment they need to be able to explain why they need those accommodations.

Although, the high school Individualized Education Plan (I.E.P.) cannot be used to document a disability in college. It can be helpful for a student to become familiar with interventions that were used in high school to be able to explain the need for similar accommodations in college. High school students can learn about their disability from dialogue with teachers and parents. In addition, students can learn self advocacy skills through participating in IEP team meetings to discuss the student’s post-secondary goals. Learning to become a self advocate is an important skill for all students transitioning into adulthood; however, it is an essential skill needed to contribute to the overall success of college students with autism.


Written by: Diandre Glover Thomas the Program Coordinator Senior for the KY Autism Training Center (2006-2015).

Starting a Social Skills Group for Individuals on the Autism Spectrum

by Laura Ferguson, M.Ed., BCBA


Individuals on the autism spectrum often find it difficult to form social relationships. Friendships that often form early in life for other individuals do not occur for individuals with autism. Parents, teachers and other professionals need to explicitly teach skills that are critical for social development.

Social development skills can be effectively taught through participation in social skills groups. These groups pair individuals on the autism spectrum with peers. Lesson plans and activities are set up to focus on specific skills that individuals need to acquire in order to form and maintain social relationships.

Let’s take a look at how social skills groups can be developed.  The first steps when attempting to start a social skills group are:

  1. Identify and assess areas of need for all participants. Decide what are the main areas of need and the outcome goals for each participant.
  2. Select appropriate intervention strategies. For example, if you choose video modeling for teaching initiation make sure the intervention is understood by all individuals facilitating the group.


Needs Assessment

A profile may be a good tool to use to get information from parents and professionals when identifying and assessing needs.  The Autism Social Skills Profile developed by Scott Bellini (2006) is a great tool used to provide a comprehensive measure of the social functioning for students with ASD.

When selecting the appropriate intervention strategy you need to make sure to:

Examine various curriculum
Make sure that you have a consistent plan, curriculum, and teaching procedure. When all participants and teachers involved understand prompt and fading procedures, precision teaching, and outcome goal the skill taught is more likely to generalize to the natural environment.

Consider the age and grade level of the participants of those involved.
Make sure the activities and lesson plans are appropriate for their age group. Appropriate age group activities will lead to more generalization of skills taught at group.

Make sure all activities and lessons have goals for social language development.

When looking at group dynamics make sure you are pairing individuals based upon needs. This way all participants benefit from the social skills group.


A sample lesson plan for social skills groups should include:

  • The layout and goal of that lesson
  • How to introduce the new skill. This should include prompt and fading procedures
  • Include ways to practice the new skill. This should include role- play
  • The skill should then be generalized through a game or activity
  • Lots of positive reinforcement
  • Some way to monitor progress for each participant involved.


Social skills are critical for individuals on the autism spectrum. This will be critical for employment and participating daily with peers. It is imperative that we teach these skills at a young age and continue to work on them throughout their life.  To learn more about how to start a social skills group view the webinar "Starting an Effective Social Skills Group".

Laura Ferguson is a certified behavior analyst and a Field Training Coordinator for the KY Autism Training Center. She provides direct training and technical assistance to education staff, social and community personnel, counselors, job coaches and families.

KY Autism Training Center Summer 2012 Newsletter August 2012

Teaching Social Skills to Your Child with Autism

by Jennifer Bobo, MSSW, LCSW


Social skills are a very important set of skills that impact social, communicative, cognitive and emotional development.  Social skills do not come naturally to individuals with autism and we know that these skills must be taught explicitly if they are going to be mastered.  “How do I teach social skills?” you might ask.  Below, I will briefly review some interventions to teach social skills and provide links to more information, examples and step-by-step instructions to create and implement these interventions.  The interventions I will discuss are social narratives (which include social stories, comic strips and power card strategies), video modeling, visual supports and social skills groups. For a more in depth training on these interventions, watch our archived webinar Social Skills.




Social Stories

Created by Carol Gray, social stories are short stories read before the problem situation that is encouraging in nature and always teaches the child appropriate responses to the specific situation. You can find many, many examples of social stories on the internet and can also create your own social stories.  There is a specific formula for writing social stories.  If you decide to create and write your own, please check out this short overview and step by step instructions on How to Write a Social Story.



Comic Strip Conversations or Cartooning

Comic Strip Conversations or Cartooningis another form of social narratives that many individuals enjoy, which is built upon pictures rather than text.  This form uses simple drawings of social situations to elicit discussion about social contexts and to review and discuss alternative behaviors to a social situation.  The goal of comic strip conversations or cartooning is to plan for a different outcome for future interactions.  View some examples and helpful tips on creating comic strip conversations.



Power Card Strategies

Power Card Strategiesuse individual’s special interests to motivate certain behaviors.  These cards consist of two parts: a brief scenario or character sketch describing how the hero solves a problem and secondly the actual Power Card itself which is a small card that recaps how the child can use the same strategy to solve a similar problem.   View an example or learn more about information on power cards.


Video Modeling

Video Modelingis a teaching technique that involves having an individual watch a video in which a “model” performs a target skill on a video and then practices the skill that he/she observed.   Skills can be modeled by the individual themselves, by a peer or by an adult.  It is best to have someone model the skill that is similar to the individual learning the skill (i.e. close in age, race, sex, etc.)  In this day and age of smart phones, it is very easy for you to make your own Videos!  Just make sure to follow these steps:



  1. Determine the target behavior
  2. Decide who should demonstrate the behavior on the video – self, adult, or peer
  3. Set up the scenario to be videotaped
  4. Videotape the scene
  5. Show the video to the child and discuss the behavior portrayed.
  6. Encourage the child to practice the behavior she saw on the videotape





Here are a couple of examples of video modeling (I went to YouTube and searched Autism + Video Modeling—you can find thousands of video modeling examples, just make sure to preview for appropriateness before showing to your child!)




Visual Supports

Any tool presented visually (picture, written words, objects within environment) that can help increase communication, explain social interactions and understand what appropriate behavior is by posting rules and images that illustrate positive behavior.


For more information on Visual Supports check out Autism Speaks Visual Supports and Autism Spectrum Disorder tool kit .  Also, more information is available on Visual Supports at the National Professional Development Center on Autism Spectrum Disorder.


Social Skills Groups

Social Skills Groups are another great way to teach social skills.  These groups focus on a variety of skills including perspective-taking, conversation skills, friendship skills, problem-solving, emotional recognition, etc.   There are many social skills groups around the state.  To find one close to you visit the service directory for the list of groups. When you are at this page, under “Type of Service” please scroll down to select Social Skills Groups and then press “Find Providers”.  If you don’t see one on this list in your area be sure to check out Laura Ferguson’s article on starting your own social skills group.



Jennifer Bobo is a licensed clinical social worker and a Family Field Training Coordinator for the KY Autism Training Center where she provides direct training and technical assistance to families.


KY Autism Training Center Summer 2012 Newsletter August 2012

Peer-Mediated Instruction and Intervention

By Heidi Cooley-Cook


With socialization the topic of this quarter’s newsletter, the evidence-based practice highlighted will be Peer-Mediated Instruction and Intervention (PMII).  The National Professional Development Center on ASD affirms that PMII has been shown to be an effective practice for a wide age range, 3 to 18 --- utilizing peer-initiation training with young children 3-8 and social networking with older children 9-18.  NPDC noted that only 1 study met their criteria for middle/high school age groups, while there was more research supporting PMII for use with early childhood and elementary age children.  It is important to note that generally speaking, NPDC research reviews are concentrated to ages under 21 – so if you are thinking of using PMII or other evidence-based practices with an adult, you may want to simply try it out, as there has not been extensive research completed on this or other EBPs with that age group.

PMII is useful in increasing engagement with peers and children with ASD.    Peer-Mediated Instruction and Intervention is designed to increase the social engagement with peers for children and youth with ASD.  PMII can be used by a variety of professionals and in an array of environments.

With younger learners (3-8) research suggests that Peer Initiation Training is the best approach.  With this approach, peers are taught how to start a social interaction and appropriately respond to a student with ASD.  The Autism Internet Modules on Peer-Mediated Instruction and Intervention has done a nice job of specifically addressing each step needed for facilitating a successful Peer Initiation Training – from Selecting, Training and Supporting Peers to discussing Structured Play Settings and Classroom Settings.  They emphasize the need for initiations to occur throughout the day not just one or two times but consistently throughout the entire day/week/month.  Please see the Q&A section for more information on the modules.

For the older child, Peer Social Networks are more appropriate.  Peer Social Networks were developed to not only assist students with ASD to gain access to the general curriculum, but also develop relationships with peers.  In doing so, students with ASD develop a group of students that support them and further promote independence.  Again, the Autism Internet Modules have done a great job discussing the various steps needed to develop and maintain the networks.  Again, it is important that the initiations are occurring through the student’s day!

With the addition of this and other social skills programming, it is hoped that the child with ASD will learn the vital skills necessary for peer relationships and social exchanges.  It is also a goal of PMII to increase the frequency of interaction between peers and student(s) with ASD across a variety of environments and activities.  This should further minimize the child’s reliance on parents, teachers, and other adults for prompts and reinforcement, as they will now get this from their peers in a natural way.

Please view the webinar "Peer-Mediated Instruction and Intervention" to learn more.


Heidi Cooley-Cook is a Field Training Coordinator for the KY Autism Training Center and a graduate student at the University of Louisville. She provides direct training and technical assistance to education staff, social and community personnel, counselors, job coaches and families.


Article sources:

Neitzel, Jennifer. “Peer-Mediated Instruction and Intervention (PMII)”.  Autism Internet Modules, 2012. Web. 7 Aug. 2012.

Evidence-Based Practice: Peer-Mediated Instruction and Intervention. The National Professional Development Center on Autism Spectrum Disorders. 2010. Web. 20 July 2012.

The Training Site Initiative continues

By Laura Ferguson, M.Ed., BCBA, LBA


During the 2008-2009 school year, the training site project began in Jefferson County Schools under the guidance and partnership with the National Professional Development Center on Autism Spectrum. The following year the KATC began to expand the project into other areas of the state. Last year the KATC worked in all of the special education cooperatives throughout the state. Again, this year the work will continue throughout the entire state. Our work in the classroom involves monthly visits to support the local educational team in planning, implementing, and evaluating instruction. We work with the school team to select objectives and instructional plans for specified students as well as classrooms. Through the project our goal is to increase the school’s capacity for serving children with autism spectrum disorders by supporting their implementation of research-based strategies.


This year, KATC added two new field trainers to work in schools. Michelle Antle will be working in the western part of the state. She will work with the schools in the Greater River Region Educational Cooperative, as well as schools in the Western KY Educational Cooperative. Kim Howard will be working in the eastern part of the state. She will work with schools in the Big East Educational Cooperative, along with schools in the Kentucky Valley Educational Cooperative. I will be covering the Central part of the state working in schools in Ohio Valley Educational Cooperative, Central Kentucky Educational Cooperative, Southeast/Southcentral Educational Cooperative, and Northern Kentucky Educational Cooperative.


This year we are excited to work in the following counties: Bardstown, Barren, Beechwood, Breathitt, Breckinridge, Calloway, Campbell, Carter, Casey, Christian, Fleming, Floyd, Hardin, Hart, Letcher, Lincoln, Mason, McCracken, Oldham, Pendleton, Pike, Pulaski, Russell, Scott, Somerset, and Warren. Each of the sites took part in a one day training this summer. The training informed them of their responsibilities in the training site initiative, data collection procedures, and a refresher on autism spectrum disorders. We are looking forward to working with new school teams and students, as well as new areas of the state. Our hope is that the initiative continues to build capacity in districts throughout Kentucky.



Laura Ferguson is a certified behavior analyst and a Field Training Coordinator for the KY Autism Training Center. She provides direct training and technical assistance to education staff, social and community personnel, counselors, job coaches and families.

KY Autism Training Center Summer 2014 Newsletter August 2014

ASD Support Groups Making Strides in Kentucky

Owensboro Autism Network, Family Safety Awareness Day

By Sandra Hammers and Whitney Logsdon


Family Safety Awareness DayOwensboro Autism Network, Inc. is a newly founded support group based in Owensboro, Ky. Monthly support meetings and family events are held throughout the year. More recently, OAN hosted a Family Safety Awareness Day on July 12. At this event, all local emergency responders, Smart 911, CPR, bike helmet safety, car seat checks, Child Safety Kit, Owensboro Balloon Twisters and Owensboro Inflatable all came to support and share information with the families. This event was a huge success as our first public event, raising $143.00 to go towards the application fee for filing for our non-profit status. Please visit the new website at and like us on Facebook,!






Autism & Asperger Support Group of Bowling Green, AASBG

By Shelley Shepherd


AASBG Support GroupBowling Green is like a lot of small cities with a good amount of services for families living with autism, but no central avenue for families to navigate those resources. Bowling Green has a population of about 65,000 people. Our educational co-op (GRECC) is located here, and we also have Lifeskills which facilitates many services including Michelle P. waiver and First Steps for a 10 county area. We are also a college town with Western Kentucky University up on the hill. We have additional programs available through WKU as well.

While we have a number of amazing resources, most agencies have functioned in isolation over the years. While schools and providers work with many of the same children, there has been little collaboration to help kids reach their goals.

Last fall, under the leadership of Amy Cooper-Puckett, the state asked for an Autism Task Force to be formed, and Bowling Green was chosen as a site for one of the groups to meet and assess local resources.

I help to provide leadership to our local parent support group (the Autism & Asperger Support Group of Bowling Green, AASBG) along with Dr. Elizabeth Sternberg, a pediatrician who is also an ADOS Evaluator connected to Graves Gilbert Clinic. We were both asked to join the task force, and we were delighted to see folks from Lifeskills, GRECC, CLiK, First Steps and WKU’s Clinical Education Complex willing to collaborate and eager to help problem solve for the growing number of children with autism in our community.

As we researched, like others across the state, we found gaps in services. A glaring problem we found was a lack of screening services. Most pediatricians are not doing autism specific screenings at well-child visits. Despite many other issues that came up, we felt that as a task force, we could plan a screener event where kids could come and get screened by professionals. This event was our attempt to bridge one of the many gaps we saw in local resources.

At that point, we brought in Lisa Murphy, Vicki Beach and Ericka Orndorff from WKU’s Renshaw Early Childhood Center, who had more experience doing this type of event. Our local Chick-fil-A was willing to let us take over one of their family nights in April during Autism Awareness Month. Several WKU students planned crafts and activities for kids who came, similar to those done on other family nights, and we had some local businesses donate door prizes for a drawing that parents who completed a screener could enter. Between WKU’s ECC and Sandy Hackbarth from Lifeskills, the screeners were made available. We used the PDDST-I and had a few MCHAT’s available for older children who came. We advertised we would screen children age 12 mths to five years old. Representatives from First Steps were on hand to answer questions for children in the birth to three age range.

We called the event “Autism Family Night” and we were delighted with the turn-out. Our professionals completed 27 screeners, and 23 of those children were referred for further testing. As families came in the door, they were looking for us. Many of them said they knew something was going on with their child, and hoped completing a screener would help them know if an autism spectrum disorder could be a factor. Our five professional screeners were busy screening and talking with families throughout the duration of the event.

While it is sad to see families go through the process of discovering their child has an ASD, it is also a relief to know that many of these kids would go on to get much needed help and support that they otherwise would not have gotten. Getting the kids and families connected allows them to navigate the still confusing and sometimes disconnected resources available. We can honestly say that in Bowling Green, we are a bit more connected now than we were a year ago, and we are so thankful.


KY Autism Training Center Summer 2014 Newsletter August 2014

Life goes on, even after the school bus stops coming!

By Heidi Cooley-Cook


As individuals with autism get older, focus shifts and parents/caregivers begin a new journey with their loved one as they transition out of school and into adulthood.


This path may go in a variety of directions, but the ultimate goal is for independence. Independence will look different for each individual, but with the proper supports, adults with autism can be active and engaged members of their communities!


This Fall/Winter, the KATC will host a webinar series devoted to this transition. We will discuss housing options, services and supports available through the Office of Vocational Rehabilitation and will explore what Supported Employment should look like. I also invite you to view the archived webinar by KATC’s Program Coordinator, Diandre Glover -Thomas, entitled “Supporting Students with ASD at Postsecondary Institutions” as a large group of students exiting high school will head off to college!


I hope that this series is helpful to you as you begin this journey and that with the provided information, you encounter fewer roadblocks and detours along the way!


Heidi Cooley-Cook

Family Field Training Coordinator

Kentucky Autism Training Center



Heidi Cooley-Cook is a Family Field Training Coordinator for the KY Autism Training Center where she provides direct training and technical assistance to families.


KY Autism Training Center Summer 2014 Newsletter August 2014

Structured Work Systems in the Classroom and at Home

By Kim Howard, M.Ed.

As we swing into a new school year let’s take a look at one way we can provide children with autism the visual supports they need to learn new information. A research based strategy that is proven effective is Structured Work System. Structured Work Systems stem out of the TEACCH program in Chapel Hill, NC. Structured work systems provide learners with autism a much needed way to understand what is being asked of them. I find structured work systems to be useful because they are effective from preschool age through adulthood and can be used in a variety of settings from home to school to work environments.

What is a Structured Work System?

A structured works system is a visually organized space that answers the following questions for learners:

1. What am I supposed to do?

2. How much am I supposed to do?

3. How will I know I am finished?

4. What do I next?

Join me on Sept 16 for a webinar that will look more in depth at what is a work system and how you can create a work system appropriate to specific learner needs.

Kim Howard is a Field Training Coordinator for the KY Autism Training Center. She provides direct training and technical assistance to education staff, social and community personnel, counselors, job coaches and families.

KY Autism Training Center Summer 2014 Newsletter August 2014

Kentucky Peer Support Network Project

Building friendships and expanding inclusive activities for students with significant disabilities in Kentucky

By Patti Parsons

Research tell us that making friends can be especially hard for students with significant disabilities. Peer supports and peer networkscan help foster relationships by bringing students together! The University of Kentucky Human Development Institute, through funding from the Commonwealth Council on Developmental Disabilities, is training schools throughout the state to set up Peer Support and Peer Network Programs.

Peer Support and Peer Network programs involve identifying and equipping a group of peers to provide ongoing support to individual students with significant disabilities in or outside of the classroom. Within inclusive classrooms, Peer Supportprograms train peers (usually 2-3) to provide academic and social support during ongoing learning activities.

Beyond the classroom, a group of peers (usually 3-6) form a Peer Network around a student with a significant disability to help foster social connections and friendships between classes, at lunch, in extracurricular activities, or beyond the school day. School staff facilitate these groups to ensure their success. Note that these programs are a step beyond traditional peer tutoring/peer buddy models that many schools use, in that they include multiple peers to support students and, most importantly, they facilitate learning and friendship outside the special education classroom.

There are clear benefits for students with Peer Support and Peer Network programs. The structured face-to-face time allows students to get to know each other well, a necessary component for friendship. Participation in enjoyable social events, like sport events and afterschool activities, allow students to have fun and to grow as they are getting to know each other. Peer Supports and Peer Networks can help students become more efficient communicators and increase participation in the classroom. Academic engagement is enhanced, and students’ self-confidence and self-determination are increased by the support they receive from their peers.

Typical peers gain benefits through Peer Support and Peer Network programs as well. Students without significant disabilities learn about individuals with disabilities and, in turn, learn a great deal about themselves. They are given an opportunity to build friendships they otherwise may have never had. They may become involved in extracurricular activities they had never considered. Academics are also enhanced—previous research shows that students who themselves were just getting by or even struggling in a class raised their grades by over a full letter grade in classes where they supported a peer with a significant disability!

The Kentucky Peer Support Network Project staff from the Human Development Institute include Dr. Harold Kleinert, Principal Investigator, Patti Parsons, Project Coordinator, and Katie Hastings, Research Assistant. Our regional and school trainings are led by Dr. Erik Carter of Vanderbilt University. His work focuses on evidence-based strategies for supporting access to the general curriculum and promoting valued roles in school, work, and community settings for youth and adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

Regional Trainings are being conducted at nine locations throughout the state in 2014. Encourage your school to attend the Regional Training in your area to learn more about this exciting project. School teams (including a regular education teacher, special educator, administrator and parent) are being recruited. While one school in each Special Education Cooperative will be selected as a Pilot Site, all teams who attend a Regional Training will receive follow-up through the project.

Regional Trainings have been scheduled for the following Special Education Cooperatives:

Northern Kentucky Cooperative for Education Services– held Wednesday, March 26

Central Kentucky Special Education Cooperative– held Monday, May 5

Ohio Valley Educational Cooperativeheld Tuesday, May 6

Jefferson County Exceptional Child Education Services (Louisville) –Friday, August 8

Green River Regional Education Cooperative (Bowling Green) – Wednesday, August 20

West Kentucky Educational Cooperative – (Eddyville) Thursday, August 21

Southeast/Southcentral Education Cooperative (London) Wednesday, September 3

Kentucky Valley Educational Cooperative(Hazard) Thursday, September 4

Kentucky Educational Development Corporation (Big East) (Ashland)– Friday, September 5

For more information, check our website at, and like us on Facebook (! If you have questions, please contact Patti Parsons (, 859 218-1338) or Katie Hastings (, 859 257-4460). We look forward to meeting you!

KY Autism Training Center Summer 2014 Newsletter August 2014

Lakewood Elementary School

Lakewood Elementary School
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Straub Elementary

Straub Elementary
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Spotlight on Model Site Schools

During the 2008-2009 school year, the training site project began in Jefferson County Schools under the guidance and partnership with the National Professional Development Center on Autism Spectrum.  The following year the KATC began to expand the project into other areas of the state.  Last year the KATC worked in all of the special education cooperatives throughout the state. Again, this year we have continued to work in counties throughout the entire state. Our work in the classroom involves monthly visits to support the local educational team in planning, implementing, and evaluating instruction. We work with the school team to select objectives and instructional plans for specified students as well as classrooms. Through the project our goal is to increase the school’s capacity for serving children with autism spectrum disorders by supporting their implementation of research-based strategies.


Laura Ferguson, M.Ed., BCBA

One classroom that has demonstrated exemplary practices is Ms. Joyanna Phelps class at Lakewood Elementary School in Hardin County. I started working with Ms. Phelps classroom in August 2014. During the initial observation you felt the devotion and passion for teaching among the entire staff. During our observation the use of evidence-based practices was evident. The staff consistently implemented evidence-based practices in the areas of visual supports, systematic instruction, and behavior analytic practices. With great support from the district staff; Denise Emberton and Jessica Purchis, we were able to work collaboratively with the classroom staff to improve on already evident practices. Ms. Phelps and the staff were always willing to listen and implement suggestions and practices that were discussed and modeled. During the monthly visits the staff consistently implemented practices and materials that were discussed and continued to make improvements based on analysis of data. I look forward to continuing to work with the staff at Lakewood for the remainder of the school year and to continue further collaboration with Hardin County Schools.


Michelle Antle, Ed.S.

Lone Oak Middle School in McCracken County has been one of the participants in the KATC’s Training Site project this school year.  Mrs. Elaine Farris is the collaborating teacher with an awesome autism cadre and support team working closely with her students and behind the scenes.  Mrs. Farris is an exemplary teacher who puts her students first in every aspect.  This school year one of the areas she has focused on is improving her students’ social skills as well as their independent functioning skills both in and out of her classroom.  One amazing intervention strategy she has implemented is creating a "Super Skills” curriculum of her own. She polled the teachers she collaborates with and they decided upon a core group of skills that they felt the students needed assistance with. They decided to address personal space and appropriate peer physical interaction as well as transitions within the school day and following routines.   Many of her students had difficulty understanding these concepts so they used story boarding activities to think out and problem solve possible solutions.  Mrs. Farris is reinforcing these skills by using video modeling, social narratives, role playing, and the use of a punch system for reinforcement when they are “caught” using their positive, new skills.

The team recognizes that the generalization of these skills to other environments are crucial which is why the team has made such as effort to include regular education staff, administration, and peers.  Mrs. Farris is also fortunate to have a flourishing peer tutoring program.  She has spent lots of time and effort teaching these peer tutors how to provide academic and social support to her students while strengthening their independent functioning across all school settings.  The friendships that have developed between the peer tutors and her students will no doubt be remembered for the rest of their lives!   Hats off to a great team at Lone Oak Middle School!


Kim Howard, M.Ed.

Great things are happening for students with disabilities at Straub Elementary School in Mason County! This school year I have had the pleasure of working with Amanda Truesdell, teacher of the classroom for students with significant disabilities.  Amanda has taught the FMD unit at Straub since 1999! When we started out the school year Amanda’s Classroom already had many evidence based practices in place.

She and her staff work hard to maximize student’s outcomes to help them reach their full potential.   This school year I have been in many classrooms throughout Eastern Kentucky and have seen numerous classrooms actively engaged in teaching but Amanda’s classroom stands out among the crowd. Amanda’s lunchtime calendar lesson is what I think of when I reflect on her dedication to making every minute count for her students. Lunch time is a hard time of the day for most FMD classrooms with different staff members trying to take their lunches as well as going with students out to the lunch room to assist them. This is a time of day that many FMD units turn to watching movies or various non-instructional activities. But not Amanda Truesdell’s classroom!  During this time of day in her classroom she does not take the easy way out. Instead she uses this time to teach a small group calendar by herself with several students whom all have different needs and abilities. She has worked hard to modify calendar activities for all of her students taking their specific needs into consideration when she develops her lessons.   This is why she wins a Gold Star in my opinion!


Laura Ferguson, Michelle Antle and Kim Howard are School Field Training Coordinators for KATC.  They provide direct training and technical assistance to education staff, social and community personnel, counselors, job coaches and families.

KY Autism Training Center Spring 2015 Newsletter (April 2015)

Eight New Members to Join KATC's Advisory Board

Eight New Members to Join KATC's Advisory Board

By Larry Taylor


I am happy to announce that 8 new Board members will be nominated and have agreed to serve on the KATC Advisory Board.  A committee comprised of long serving KATC Advisory Board members, Nat McKay and Diane Zero, was appointed at the December 12, 2015 KATC Advisory Board meeting to identify individuals that would, meet the membership requirements as identified in KATC Legislation (see requirements below), provide regional representation to support KATC’s statewide mission, and be willing to serve on the KATC Advisory Board.  This committee lead by KATC Consultant, Mike Miller worked diligently to develop a list of outstanding nominees that will advise KATC in making a positive impact for individuals and their families challenged by autism.


The list of nominees was to be voted on by the KATC Advisory Board at the March 6, 2015 however; the meeting was canceled due to inclement weather.  This meeting will be rescheduled soon.  At the next Advisory Board meeting, the committee recommendations will be presented and Board will vote on the committee’s nomination.


The names that will be presented are:

  • Maureen Schell-Jefferson County (Parent)
  • Meagan Brannon-Bracken County (Parent)
  • Mindy Pfau-Carter County (Parent)
  • Jennifer Ouderkirk-Fleming County (Parent)
  • Melissa Young (Council for Postsecondary Education/Professional)
  • Ally Brooks-Christian County (Parent)
  • Dr. Nancy Lovett-Murray (Director of Calloway County Regional Training Center)
  • Dr. Elizabeth Sternberg, Bowling Green (Pediatrician, EPS Pediatric Services, LLC.)


I want to welcome the new members and thank them in advance for their commitment to serve.


Advisory Board Requirements:

Pursuant to KRS 164.9817, KATC shall have an Advisory Board that consist of 50% parents or guardians of individuals with autism; 40% persons from professional fields related to autism; and 10% knowledgeable lay persons.  As the director of KATC, I am an exofficio nonvoting member of the advisory board.


R. Larry Taylor, M.Ed. is the KY Autism Training Center Executive Director

KY Autism Training Center Spring 2015 Newsletter (April 2015)

KATC Partners with the Commission for Children with Special Health Care Needs

By Michelle Antle, Ed.S


The Kentucky Autism Training Center is proud to announce a blossoming partnership with the Commission for Children with Special Health Care Needs.  The Commission for Children’s vision is to enhance the quality of life for Kentucky's children with special health care needs through quality service, leadership, advocacy, education and collaboration. They want to be a visible leader in supporting Kentucky’s children and their families through collaboration and creation of a more accessible community based system of support. The Commission offers a wide array of services to children and young adults (through age 21) as well as to their families.  Some of those services include Care Coordination, Lab Tests, X-rays, Medication, transition planning, occupational therapy, speech therapy, and hearing tests.


Many children who have been diagnosed with an Autism Spectrum Disorder see physicians and professionals within the Commission, but under the primary diagnosis of something else.  For example, they may see a neurologist for concerns with seizures or sleep apnea, but may also see speech and language pathologists for their receptive and expressive language delays.  The Commission recognized the similarities of these individuals and their need for multi-disciplinary treatment teams.  Therefore, an autism “pilot” program is being modeled at several location sites throughout the state.  The Commission decided to pilot this clinic by pulling individuals with a secondary diagnosis of Autism from the neurology clinic patient list to participate in a separate clinic in which a wide variety of professionals could see and assess them on the same day. The idea behind these pilot clinics is to provide more comprehensive treatment to patients closer to their homes.


The KATC became involved with this project during the planning stages of this pilot clinic to ensure that all Commission for Children staff are knowledgeable about the use of evidence based practices.  In addition, the staff could also model these strategies and thus, become a resource for parents of children with Autism.  The KATC has provided Commission staff with several trainings as well as additional resources and support services.  The KATC looks forward to future endeavors with this amazing community partner!


Michelle Antle, Ed.S. ia a School Field Training Coordinator for KATC.  She provides direct training and technical assistance to education staff, social and community personnel, counselors, job coaches and families.


KY Autism Training Center Spring 2015 Newsletter (April 2015)

KATC Welcomes Mike Miller

KATC Welcomes Mike Miller

Mike Miller received a BS Degree from Murray State University in the areas of elementary and special education.   He received a Master’s Degree in Special Education and holds a Rank 1 Degree and certifications in gifted education, supervisor of instruction, exceptional child consultant, and director of special education.   Mike attend Eastern Kentucky University and Murray State University for his post graduate studies.   Mike worked in local school districts in the role of teacher of exceptional children and director of special education.

Mike was employed at the Kentucky Department of Education and served in numerous roles of programs for students with disabilities. November 2014, Mike joined Kentucky Autism Training Center, University of Louisville, College of Education and Human Development. Mike’s work at the center includes working with professionals, parents, and local school districts.



KY Autism Training Center Spring 2015 Newsletter (April 2015)

Grandparents raising Granchildren newsletter picture

Rhonda L and Colton
Grandparents raising Granchildren newsletter picture
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Raising Grandchildren with Autism

By Michelle Antle, Ed.S

According to the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP), “almost 7.8 million children are living in homes wheregrandparents or other relatives are the householders, with more than 5.8 million children living in grandparents' homes."  Many of these grandparents are also raising grandchildren with special needs. These numbers are staggering. AARP states that “these grandparents (and the children they are raising) are often isolated, lack information about the range of support services, resources, programs, benefits, laws and policies that may be available to help them successfully fulfill their care giving role.”

Rhonda Lawrence is one such grandparent.  She is currently raising her nine year-old grandson, Colton. Colton has lived with her most of his life.  In early elementary, Colton was diagnosed with an Autism Spectrum Disorder.  Even though his diagnosis was a lot to swallow, Ms. Lawrence did not hesitate to immediately begin searching for resources to help.  She is a single grandparent and has made many sacrifices in order to ensure Colton has all that he needs. She works long hours and has recently had to switch back to third shift in order to be able to care for Colton during his waking hours.  Colton is a brilliant young man and has progressed greatly thanks to the interventions his grandmother fought so hard for him to have! She is fortunate to have support from other family members that live close, and credits them for Colton’s successes too.  Ms. Lawrence emphasizes the importance of networking with other caregivers and professionals to stay up to date and in close communication with those that can help ensure successful outcomes for kids!

Autism Speaks has created “A Grandparent's Guide to Autism”. This family support tool kit is designed to help guide and encourage grandparents to establish positive and successful relationships with their grandchildren and the rest of their families.

Click here to read Autism Speaks “Grandparent's Guide to Autism.”

KATC Model Training Site Project Gearing Up for Next School Year

Laura Ferguson, M.Ed., BCBA


This year we completed our 7th year of the training site project and as we enter our 8th year of the project we are excited that we will again be working in 29 counties throughout the state. The project continues to have a generous number of applicants. Within these schools we have seen a tremendous amount of growth in the knowledge of those evidence-based practices for individuals on the autism spectrum as well as a better understanding of autism. As we completed this year we have heard from teachers, staff, and administrators, about the impact the monthly visits have had on not just the students but also the staff. Myself and the two other school field training coordinators; Michelle Antle and Kim Howard are excited to work with staff throughout the state and to hopefully continue to increase knowledge and understanding of practices that will greatly impact students with autism for years to come.


Below are some comments we have received about the training site process from this past school year:

Timely expertise with insightful feedback and coaching are the most valuable assets for our district and staff in the classroom.”

“They gave numerous suggestions and strategies that I could use in my immediate situation as well as generalize to the future. Very helpful in troubleshooting.”

It is beneficial to have someone else to come on site to give their perspective and suggest ways to improve the student's areas of need.”

“She provided us with plans and modeled how to interact with students. Also, the 1 on 1 meetings with the parents were very beneficial. I also feel that it has improved our parent’s awareness of ways to help the students.”


The model training site project began in Jefferson County Schools in 2009 under the guidance and partnership with the National Professional Development Center on Autism Spectrum.  The following year the KATC began to expand the project into other areas of the state.  Last year the KATC worked in all of the special education cooperatives throughout the state. Our work in the classroom involves monthly visits to support the local educational team in planning, implementing, and evaluating instruction. We work with the school team to select objectives and instructional plans for specified students as well as classrooms. Through the project our goal is to increase the school’s capacity for serving children with autism spectrum disorders by supporting their implementation of research-based strategies.

If you have any questions about the training site initiative feel free to email Laura Ferguson:

Art Program Engages Students with Autism

By Mike Miller, M.Ed.

The Kentucky Autism Training Center (KATC), University of Louisville Autism Clinic (ULAC), VSA-Kentucky, and Norton Foundation collaborated to provide another art program for students with autism.   Students attending the art program are patients at the University of Louisville Autism Center whose ages range from 4 to 21.   Twelve students attended classes that were held in February at the University of Louisville Autism Center two nights per week for four weeks.

The art project was coordinated by teaching artist Pat Sturzel.  Students in the program completed art projects individually as well as a final group art project.  The quilted wall hanging pictured to the right was the final project for the group of young artists.  The wall hanging will hang in the lobby of the University of Louisville Autism Center lobby.


About Norton Foundation and VSA Kentucky:

The Norton Foundation is a family foundation that supports organizations that foster education, promoting hands-on, active learning.  The mission of the Norton Foundation is to promote the advancement of Waldorf education, and foster hands-on learning experiences and creative community in Louisville, Kentucky.

VSA Kentucky is a nonprofit organization dedicated to providing inclusive arts and education programs for children, youth, and adults with disabilities, in addition to, professional development for artist and teachers in schools and communities statewide.

Art Program Quilt

Quilt held by art instructor
Art Program Quilt
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Grandparents meaningful Relationships

Jack Krueger and grandchildren
Grandparents meaningful Relationships
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Grandparents: The Meaningful Difference in the Lives of Individuals with Autism:

By R. Larry Taylor, KATC Executive Director

Recently, I received an email from Katie Allen regarding the passing of her father, John Krueger (Jack).   She informed me that her son, Jake, an individual with autism, had shared a very special relationship with her father, and to celebrate that relationship, she would be making a gift in her father’s honor to theKentucky Autism Training Center (KATC).  While I was sorry to hear about her loss, I was reminded that frequently grandparents have that special relationship with their grandchild with special needs.

Oftentimes, grandparents find themselves torn, trying to make sure the time and support they give to each of their grandchildren is equal. Jack had four other grandchildren, and while I am sure he loved each and every one of them, he understood that what Jake needed from him was unique, and he provided the right amount of support that Jake needed. The principle that "equal is not always equitable" is particularly applicable in cases of grandchildren with autism, and grandparents seem to intuitively know and practice this principle.

Thank you, Jack Krueger, for the relationship you had with Jake and for helping us understand that, frequently, the support individuals with autism need comes from the natural support that exists within the family. Jake’s grandmother Becky has been equally important in shaping Jake into the fine young man he is becoming and she will continue to show the love and support that makes the positive difference.

This Summer 2016 KATC Newsletter is dedicated to you and the difference your love and support made for Jacob’s life.

Visual Supports for the Home

By Kim Howard, M.Ed.

Summer Break is finally here! Everyone in the family is ready for a pause from school routines and looking forward to funsummer. But for children with autism spectrum disorder shifting gears into summer may be difficult due to the loss of routines that take place during the school year. One way to support children with autism during summer break is build up the use of the evidenced based practice of visual supports into your own home. You might be asking yourself why visual supports?  There are 26 other evidenced based practices to choose from. Children with autism are visual learners. Spoken words disappear but a visual support is available to be looked at as often as needed. Visual supports can reduce anxiety and help children with autism be more independent in their daily lives. If you are thinking to yourself WOW how do I get started? One logical place to start is to partner with is your child’s school!  Find out what visuals supports are already in place in your child’s classroom and look to see where you might be able to use them in your home routines. So now you are asking yourself: Where can I find some free visual supports? Here is an easy answer. My favorite websites for free printable visual supports are: and . Both of these websites have a ton of free materials that can be printed out & used at home

Visual Supports

Visual Supports
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Kentucky Office of Autism Signed into Law by Governor Bevin on April 1st

Housed at both the University of Kentucky Human Development Institute and the University of Louisville Autism Center, the Kentucky Office of Autism coordinates statewide efforts to enhance the quality of life and independence to individuals with an Autism Spectrum Disorder and provides support to their families and caregivers. Signed into law by Governor Bevin on April 1, 2016, the Office is the center of a communication network sharing autism-related information among state agencies and provides administrative support to the Advisory Council on Autism Spectrum Disorders to unify and promote initiatives aimed at improving Kentucky’s system of care. In addition, the Office works to increase the capacity of qualified providers of services through training opportunities in evidenced based practices and technical assistance to providers, professionals and employers.

  • Create a centralized location to coordinate statewide and regional efforts to enhance the quality of life and independence to individuals with an autism spectrum disorder and to support their families and caregivers
  • Improve coordination of autism resources within the system of care supporting children and adults with autism and help make those resources available to families and self-advocates
  • Provide administrative support to the Advisory Council on Autism Spectrum Disorders to unify and promote initiatives aimed at improving Kentucky’s system of care.

The meeting for the Kentucky Advisory Council on Autism (KYACA) is open to the public and you are welcome to attend.  The remaining 2016 dates are August 25th and November 10th 1:00-3:00 pm EST.  These meetings will be held at the Cabinet for Health and Family Services (CHFS) Conference Suites B and C - 275 East Main, Frankfort KY.  If you haven’t been to CHFS before, please allow 15-30 minutes to park, sign-in, and find your way to the meeting.

Please enter the building through the doors facing the parking lot, titled “Visitors”. Sign in at the front desk and request written directions to the Advisory Council on Autism meeting in conference suites B & C.

Can’t attend the meeting in Frankfort in person? Video conferencing is available in the following locations to encourage public participation.

To participate in local live video conferencing locations of the KYACA meeting, please contact one of the following Commission for Children with Special Health Care Needs offices:

  • Louisville Sarah New  310 Whittington Parkway Suite 200 Louisville  Phone: 502-429-4430
  • Paducah Debbie Davidson  400 Park Ave Bldg. D Paducah  Phone: 270-443-3651
  • Lexington Judy Blackwell   333 Waller Ave. Lexington   Phone: 859-252-3170
  • Somerset Devenna Bales 401 Bogle Street STE 104 Somerset   Phone: 606-677-4120
  • Owensboro Peggy Tichenor  600 Breckenridge Street Suite 1200 Owensboro  Phone: 270-687-7038
  • Hazard Dinah Sturgill 103 Town & Country Ln Suite M Hazard  Phone: 606-435-6167
  • Bowling Green Janet Harper 2040 Louisville Rd  Phone: 270- 746-7816

KATC Parent Summit Partnership in Hazard and London, KY

By Heidi Cooley-Cook


The Kentucky Autism Training Center partnered with the Kentucky Valley Educational Cooperative, Kentucky Educational Development Corporation, and the Office of Autism to host a 2-day Parent Summit in Hazard April 15 & 16.  Parents, Caregivers, and Professionals came from all over the eastern portion of the Commonwealth to participate in the event – Strategies & Resources for Today, Tomorrow, & Beyond. Participants noted that it was a ‘Great Summit Overall’ and that they loved learning about Supported Employment, Meeting Sensory Needs and Increasing Communication and Appropriate Behaviors in the Home.

Following the success of the event in Hazard, the KATC was asked to assist with the planning and organization of an event in London.  Together the KATC, the Southeast South Central Educational Cooperative, the Office of Autism, Action for Autism, and Kentucky SPIN hosted Partnering for Exceptional Outcomes – 2 half days of trainings/resource gathering.  The dates and times for this event coincided with a local summer camp so that parents and caregivers could attend while their child/children were off having fun!  Again, participants were able to learn from Roundtable Hosts and breakout sessions.  Attendees noted that they loved the networking with other participants and learning from the Roundtable Hosts and the presenters of the breakout sessions.

Did you miss out on these training opportunities?  The Kentucky Autism Training Center is part of the Kentucky Statewide Family Support Coalition – led by The Arc of Kentucky and the Coalition is organizing 5 Regional Resource Fairs.  These will be FREE and offered in Elizabethtown (June 27), Lexington (June 30), Paducah (July 18), Owensboro (July 19), and Grayson/Ashland (July 26).  The format will be very similar to the events the previously mentioned events.  We welcome you to join us for an afternoon of resource gathering, networking, and learning.

12:00 – 1:15 pm          Exhibits & Lunch

1:15 – 2:45 pm            Breakout Sessions

Futures Planning or Behavior in the Home/Community

2:45 – 3:00 pm            Break

3:00 – 4:30 pm            Resource Roundtables

4:30 – 5:00 pm            Networking


Please do not forget to register for the Regional Resource Fair as lunch will be provided.  You may register by calling The Arc of Kentucky 1-800-281-1272 or 502-875-5225

2018 Winter/Spring Sensory Friendly Performance Shows in Kentucky

     Sensory-friendly theater performances are designed to create an environment that welcomes the unique needs of individuals with autism and other sensory processing related issues. In this relaxed atmosphere, theater goers are free to move, speak and react to the play. Accommodations for this performance are provided to create this inclusive environment such as: dimmed theater lights, extra space between patrons, and allowing entry and exit from the theater during the performance to name a few.  The following Kentucky theaters are offering sensory friendly performances this winter and spring:



Please visit the websites above or call the theaters directly to learn more about accommodations offered and how to attend the performances. 

Free Guardianship Workshop

This training on guardianship is sponsored by the Louisville Bar Association and Louisville Jefferson County Metro Government.  The workshop provides an overview of what it means to be a guardian or conservator, the legal process for seeking appointment and the responsibilities of guardianship.

Presented by: S. Coy Travis, CEO of Travis Law Office, PLLC

Date: Tuesday, January 30, 2017

Time: 1:30PM - 3:30 PM


The Council on DD

1151 S. Fourth Street

Louisville, KY 40203



The Council lot (off alley)


4th Avenue United Methodist church parking lot


The Council on Developmental Disabilities trains families who have loved ones with disabilities to know and exercise their rights. To reserve a spot at this workshop email Shawna Dellecave or call 502.584.1239.

Free Seminar on Self-Advocacy and Self-Help offered by HDI

This seminar offered by UK's Human Development Institute focuses on lessons in self-advocacy and self-help based on the life and work of Ed Roberts, a pioneering disability rights activist. Roberts is widely recognized as the founder of the independent living movement and was instrumental in developing the first Center for Independent Living, an organization advocating for the inclusion of persons with disabilities in community life. The presenters will highlight a variety of ways for people to join the independent living movement.


Learning Objectives:

1. Participants will learn the story of Ed Roberts and his role in the disability rights movement.

2. Participants will become familiar with the independent living paradigm.

3. Participants will be able to identify ways they can become self-advocates and join in the independent living movement.


  • Willis Deitz, Executive Director of Independence Place, Inc., a Center for Independent Living, has worked in the disability field for nearly a decade.
  • Megan Coleman, Operations Manager of Independence Place, Inc., oversees the Employment and Transition programs at Independence Place. 

DATE: Friday, February 2, 2018   

TIME: 1:00 – 3:00pm EST


UK Coldstream Research Campus

Human Development Institute Training Room

1525 Bull Lea Road, Lexington KY  40511

Join in person or online via videoconference. A link to the live video stream of the seminar will be sent to registrants 

Registration: There is no charge to register. Space is limited. Electronic registration will open December 15, 2017. Visit HDI Seminar Registration to register for the seminar. For help registering, contact


CRCC Continuing Education Units for Rehabilitation Counselors are pending 

CDC Launches "Milestone Tracker" a Free App to Track Childhood Development

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is pleased to announce the launch of CDC's Milestone Trackera free app for tracking every child's development in a fun and easy way. This app adds to the popular suite of free, family-friendly materials available through CDC's Learn the Signs. Act Early.  program.

“Skills like taking a first step, saying those first words, and waving ‘bye-bye’ are developmental milestones all parents anticipate and celebrate,” said CDC Director Brenda Fitzgerald, M.D. “This CDC Milestone Tracker app gives parents tips to help their child learn and grow, a way to track developmental milestones, recognize delays, and the ability to share this information with their healthcare provider.”

The new app offers:

  • Interactive milestone checklists for children ages 2 months through 5 years, illustrated with photos and videos
  • Tips and activities to help children learn and grow
  • Information on when to act early and talk with a doctor about developmental delays
  • A personalized milestone summary that can be easily shared with the doctor and other care providers
  • Reminders of appointments and developmental screening

Learn more and get information on downloading the app at CDC’s Milestone Tracker website. The app is available in the  App Store and on Google Play.

Although it is packed with parent-friendly features, this app isn’t just for parents! Healthcare providers can use it to help with developmental surveillance as recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics, and early care and education providers, home visitors, and others can use it to better understand children's skills and abilities and to engage families in monitoring developmental progress.

Email for the complete marketing toolkit with additional newsletter samples, images, web buttons, flyers, and more—tailored for parents, healthcare or early care and education providers. 

New Professional Development Learning Opportunity in Effective Transition Practices for Students with Significant Disabilities

The Kentucky Autism Training Center (KATC), in collaboration with the University of Kentucky’s Kentucky Works ( is offering a free professional development opportunity for teachers, related service personnel and administrators.

As you may well know, employment outcomes for youth and young adults with the most significant disabilities (i.e., students with moderate and severe intellectual disabilities, autism, and/or multiple disabilities) are the poorest of any disability categories served under IDEA.  Our federally-mandated transition requirements under both the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and the Workforce Innovation and Opportunities Act (WIOA) require that we do all we can to change this dismal outlook for our students – these modules are designed to give you the tools to make that happen!

 Each module takes about one hour to complete, includes interactive questions throughout, and a post-test to earn a printable certificate, documenting your successful completion of the course. Simply go to: and click on the module that you wish to review, and click the link for that module to “Take Course for Credit.”


Transition 101: What We All Need to Know About Transition for Students with Significant Disabilities is an overview of the current status of employment outcomes for youths with the most significant disabilities in KY, the key steps in the transition process itself, the legal requirements and the roles of each agency, types of employment (competitive, supported, and customized), and the development of measurable post-secondary goals for transition-age youth. (approved for two hours EILA credit)

View Module:

Register for course:


Transition 102: Important Predictors for Post-School Success describes the key, evidence-based predictors of post-school competitive employment for youth with intellectual and developmental disabilities.  The second part of the module discusses four additional variables related to successful transitions for students with significant disabilities, and highlights resources available to educators and other professionals in KY in putting these variables into practice. (approved for two hours EILA credit)

View Module:

Register for course:

Benefits 101: A Guided Study of Your Own Situation provides a one-hour overview of how earned income may affect eligibility for an entitlement to social security disability benefits and supplemental security income.  This module allows the user to calculate the impact of wages upon his or her own unique situation, or that of his or her students or clients.

Register for course:

Education Commissioner Supports Autism Awareness

Education Commissioner Supports Autism Awareness

     (FRANKFORT, Ky.) – Commissioner of Education Stephen Pruitt is leading educators across Kentucky in recognizing World Autism Awareness Day in support of children and families who experience autism on a daily basis.

     The United Nations adopted World Autism Awareness Day in 2007 to raise awareness of the disorder. Autism is characterized, in varying degrees, by difficulties in social interaction, verbal and nonverbal communication and repetitive behaviors. Autism may be associated with intellectual disability, difficulties in motor coordination and attention and physical health issues such as sleep and gastrointestinal disturbances. However, some people with autism excel in visual skills, music, mathematics and art, among other areas. Autism affects one in 68 children, and autism prevalence figures are growing.

      World Autism Awareness Day, which is April 2 each year, kicks off Autism Awareness Month in April. Every year, autism organizations around the world celebrate the day with unique awareness-raising and fundraising events. In the annual Light It Up Blue movement, thousands of iconic landmarks and buildings join hundreds of thousands of homes and communities around the world to “light blue” in support of people living with autism.

     “I encourage you to stand with me in support of students with autism, who just like all students in Kentucky, should receive the best education possible,” Pruitt said. “Let’s light it up blue in support of our students with autism!”

     In 1996, the Kentucky General Assembly established the Kentucky Autism Training Center (KATC) at the University of Louisville to serve as a statewide resource for families and educators. Its mission is to strengthen Kentucky’s systems of support for people affected by autism by bridging research to practice and by providing training and resources to families and professionals.

     For more than ten years the KATC has supported individuals with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) by providing hands-on training for educators in the classroom, hosting workshops for families, and conducting professional development sessions.

     KATC works in each of Kentucky’s eight special education cooperatives through a project in which it aims to increase schools’ capacity for serving children with autism spectrum disorders by supporting their implementation of research-based strategies. Under the guidance of the National Professional Development Center on Autism Spectrum, KATC’s work in the classroom involves monthly visits to support local educational teams in planning, implementing and evaluating instruction. It also works with school teams to select objectives and instructional plans for specified students and for classrooms.

For more information on autism or ideas on promoting autism awareness, visit KATC’s website at


Connecting the DOTS--Training for Families with a New ASD Diagnosis in Bowling Green

A pilot program of parent trainings for families with a recent diagnosis of autism (within the last year) is launching in Bowling Green at the end of April.  Childcare is provided for six awesome sessions that will leave parents feeling empowered and connected. Here are the details:

• Parents must have a child with an autism diagnosis made within the last 12 months
• Child with autism must be between 2-8 years old
• Must be free on Tuesday evenings from 6-8 p.m. between 4/24 and 6/5. CHILDCARE IS PROVIDED. One or both parents invited to participate.
• Stipends are available for families willing to allow videotaping of interactions of parent(s) with child before and after trainings

If you have a desire to be better equipped to raise a child with autism, take care of yourself and be more connected to your community this training is for you!

These trainings include a make and take aspect as well, where parents can make visuals (schedules/IF--THEN boards etc.) tailored to fit your current needs. They are designed to make interactions with your child positive so they can make progress and to keep peace in the home.

To register: email Sandy Hackbarth at including your child's age, date of diagnosis, how many kids need childcare and how many parents will be attending.

Spaces and time are both limited, so your quick response is appreciated!

CDC estimate of autism prevalence increases to 15%. Now 1 in 59 children

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released its biennial update of autism's estimated prevalence among the nation's children, based on an analysis of 2014 medical and/or school records of 8-year-olds from 11 monitoring sites across the United States. The report demonstrates that while progress has been made on some fronts, there is still critical work to do.

"The findings urgently warrant a significant increase in life-enhancing research and access to high-quality services for people with autism across the spectrum and throughout their life span," says Autism Speaks President and Chief Executive Officer Angela Geiger.

Autism Speaks calls on legislators, public health agencies and the National Institutes of Health to advance research to help better understand the increased prevalence and the complex medical needs that often accompany autism. In doing so, the organization urges policy makers to follow the U.S. Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee's recommendation to double the autism research budget. Autism Speaks also urges government leaders to advance policies that better provide individualized support and services in areas such as education, transition to adulthood, residential options and employment.


Key findings include:

• More children have been diagnosed with autism. 1 in 59 children had been diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) by age 8 in 2014, a 15% increase over 2012.

• The gender gap has narrowed slightly. While boys were 4 times more likely to be diagnosed than girls (1 in 37 versus 1 in 151) in 2014, this gender gap narrowed compared to 2012, when boys were 4.5 times more frequently diagnosed than girls. This appears to reflect improved identification of autism in girls many of whom do not fit the stereotypical picture of autism seen in boys.

• The ethnic gap for early diagnosis has narrowed but not nearly enough. While autism was still more likely to be diagnosed in white children than minority children, the ethnic gap is narrowing, particularly between black and white children. This appears to reflect increased awareness and screening in minority communities. However, the diagnosis of autism among Hispanic children still lagged significantly behind that of non-Hispanic children.

• Disappointingly, the report found no decrease in the age when autism is typically diagnosed. In 2014, most children were still being diagnosed after age 4, though autism can be reliably diagnosed as early as age 2. Earlier diagnosis is crucial because early intervention affords the best opportunity to support healthy development and deliver benefits across the life span.

• Significant differences remain in the frequency of autism diagnosis between the CDC's monitoring sites. These ranged from a low of 1 in 77 children in Arkansas to a high of 1 in 34 in New Jersey. This likely reflects state and regional differences in children's access to autism screening as well as differences in the CDC's access to the school and medical records that its researchers use to estimate prevalence. As such, the new national numbers almost certainly reflect a persistent undercount of autism's true prevalence among the nation's children.



UofL’s Autism Center Helps Young Kids Lead Normal Lives

Behavior analyst Erick Dubuque Autism Center client


Erick and Molly Dubuque spent several hours each week with little Lanikai and her family, eating dinner, shopping and everything in between. It was part of a treatment program for kids with autism run by the University of Louisville Autism Center, where the Dubuques are behavior analysts.

Lanikai’s mother says the time the Dubuques spent with her daughter has resulted in a little girl able to socialize and lead a relatively normal life. Check out her story featured here on U of L News.


Story by Mark Hebert on

Upcoming Free Workshops Available Through K-SPIN

KY-SPIN, Inc. provides workshops for parents and professionals throughout Kentucky. Below is a list of workshops they are currently offering through the federal funding of SPIN-PTI (Special Parent Involvement Network – Parent Training and Information) and KDE funding K-SPIN provides workshops at no cost.   Contact K-SPIN directly for more information about attending these training opportunities.  For more information about registration to attend visit the website: .


Mapping Dreams— Transition to Adulthood

Date: Tue, August 14 2018

Time: 2:30-5:30pm
Location: Madison County Public Library, 507 West Main Street, Richmond, KY 40475

IEP: A Closer Look

Date: Wed, August 15 2018
Time: 10am
Location: Clay County Central Public Library 211 Bridge St Manchester, KY 40962

IEP: A Closer Look

Date: Sat, August 25 2018
Time: 10am-12pm
Location: Central City Library 108 E Broad St Central City, KY 42330 

IEP: A Closer Look

Date: Fri, August 31 2018
Time: 3pm
Location: Perry County Public Library 289 Black Gold Blvd Hazard, KY 41701

"Guardianship in KY” Alternatives to Guardianship

Date: Tue, September 4 2018
Time: 6-8pm
Location: Southwest Public Library, 9725 Dixie Hwy, Louisville, KY 40272

Special Education Process

Date: Thu, September 6 2018
Time: 2pm
Location: Menifee County Public Library 1585 Main St, Frenchburg, KY 40322

HDI Seminar: “Supported Decision-Making and Guardianship”

Join the Human Development Institute for a free seminar titled, “Supported Decision-Making and Guardianship”  

Date & Time: September 28, 2018 from 1:00 to 3:00pm EST

Place: UK Coldstream Research Campus in the Human Development Institute Training Room.

UK Coldstream Research Campus
Human Development Institute Training Room
1525 Bull Lea Road, Lexington KY 40511

Please join HDI in person or online via video conference. A link to the live video stream of the seminar will be sent to registrants.



Laura Butler, Human Development Institute, University of Kentucky

Camille Collins, Kentucky Division of Protection & Advocacy

Bill Dolan, Kentucky Division of Protection & Advocacy   


This seminar provides an introduction to supported decision-making (SDM) and guardianship. The presentation will explain SDM, as well as discuss guardianship laws and practices. Practical implications of SDM and guardianship in employment, health care, education, and community integration will be emphasized.  


Learning Objectives:

1. Be able to define supported decision-making as a means of increasing independence and overall well-being for people and as an alternative to guardianship.

2. Identify practical uses for supported decision-making and guardianship across the lifespan.

3. Understand the guardianship process in the courts, including the process of modifying or terminating guardianship.

4. Develop an understanding of the role, as defined by regulation and statues, of guardianship.

5. Become familiar with the pros and cons of both supported decision-making and guardianship and understand how to evaluate the potential benefits of each option for an individual situation.


Registration: There is no charge to register. Space is limited. Electronic registration will open August 17, 2018. Visit HDI Seminar Registration  to register for the seminar. For help registering, contact 

This program is presented in conjunction with the Kentucky Office of Vocational Rehabilitation. CRC credit hours are pending for Rehabilitation Counseling.

Human Development Insitute

Human Development Insitute
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