Missouri State University
Project ACCESS
Your Statewide Resource for Autism Spectrum Disorder

#PAFollowTheReader ~ our weekly book recommendation: What’s That Look on Your Face? All About Faces and Feelings

What’s That Look on Your Face? All About Faces and Feelings by Catherine S. Snodgrass

From the description: This strikingly illustrated book helps young readers link faces to feelings by presenting situations they can relate to. Each page spread is devoted to a feeling depicted through an exaggerated facial expression accompanied by a short poem that further elaborates on the expression to reinforce its meaning. Book jacket unfolds into a poster showcasing each facial expression mentioned in the book.

Visit the following link for more information about this book:  What’s That Look on Your Face?

Other #AutismResources, #AutismTraining and #AutismSupportServices information may be found on our website:  projectaccess.missouristate.edu

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New Project ACCESS Information Sheet – Functional Behavior Assessment

A Functional Behavior Assessment or FBA is listed as an effective intervention in the Missouri Autism Guidelines Initiative (MAGI) publication, Autism Spectrum Disorders: Guide to Evidence-based Interventions.

This is an assessment procedure involving data collected over time to determine the function or purpose of a behavior.  Effective behavioral support plans based on the findings of an FBA are an important piece of the overall programming for a learner with challenging behaviors. 

An FBA is required when long or multiple suspensions are given, but best practice is proactive assessment, so learners do not get to the point suspensions are considered. 

What happens during an FBA?  Typically the challenging behavior is identified and many questions are considered.  What does the behavior look like?  When does it occur? When does it not occur?  What happens before and after the behavior?  With whom does the behavior occur?  The list could go on and on.  File reviews are completed and interviews with parents, teachers, para-educators, and others who have pertinent information take place.  Most important is structured observation of the learner and his or her behavior. 

Typically, observation is divided into an ABC format.  The A stands for antecedent, and the events preceding the behavior are documented.  These events may be divided into two sections called setting events and stimulus events.  Setting events might be something like the child has been sick, the bus was late, or medications have been changed.  Stimulus events might include an unexpected change in the schedule, a demand to do a non-preferred task, or a loud noise.  The point of identifying antecedents is we can do something about them!  If a challenging behavior is the result of a loud noise, we can do what we can to eliminate loud noises, or we can encourage the child to wear a headset.  If schedule changes are difficult, we can provide a visual schedule to help our learner deal with last minute changes.  According to information from the Institute of Applied Behavior Analysis (IABA), 75% of what we provide in terms of behavior support should happen before the behavior.  Prevention is always the best!

The B stands for behavior, and here we want a good clear description of the behavior, so multiple people can take data on the same thing.  Our information won’t mean much if the description of the behavior is inaccurate or too broad.

Finally, the C stands for consequences.  What happens after the occurrence of a behavior?  Consequences maintain behavior.  If a child is acting silly in class, and his friends laugh, the child is more likely to continue acting silly.  The consequence is reinforcing.  If a behavior is consistently ignored (no reinforcement), it is likely to extinguish or go away.  (This is hard to accomplish, by the way.  We usually add other procedures, such as reinforcing an alternate behavior when working on extinction.)  Sometimes, the consequence becomes the antecedent for challenging behavior, and this must be considered.

Once we identify the circumstances before and after a challenging behavior, we can do something about them!  This is the key to a successful behavior support plan.  If we can change what is happening in the environment before the occurrence of a challenging behavior and prevent the behavior, why wouldn’t we?  If we can add reinforcement or take away inadvertent reinforcement, or change a consequence in some other way to reduce the likelihood of a challenging behavior from occurring, why wouldn’t we?

FBAs may become more complicated than what has been described above.  Some behaviors may have multiple functions or purposes.  Some antecedents may not be under our control.  Multiple challenging behaviors may have to be prioritized and dealt with one by one.  Consistent data must be collected to determine whether our support is working or needs to be changed.  The function of a challenging behavior may change over time.  So, this is a dynamic process and requires ongoing attention.  Further, well-done FBAs may require much more than what has been offered here.  This article represents the basics. 

Nevertheless, the behavior plans that have the best chance of success are based on FBAs.  Project ACCESS offers a one day workshop on Functional Behavior Assessment.  Check our website for schedules and other #AutismResources, #AutismTraining and #AutismSupportServices: projectaccess@missouristate.edu.

©Project ACCESS – Terri Carrington, M.A., CCC-SLP – 2017

#Behavior #EvidenceBasedIntervention #MAGI



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More information regarding “Why the Autism Community Needs to Ditch the Terms “High-Functioning” and “Low-Functioning”

Our May 4, 2017 blog post podcast, authored by Shannon Locke, M.A., CCC-SLP, Autism Resource Specialist at Project ACCESS, addressed the topic of “No Such Thing as ‘Autistic Behaviors’ and the ‘High Functioning’ Label Is Not Helpful”.  In her podcast and handout, Shannon discusses the 7 IT factors from Dr. Barry Prizant’s book “Uniquely Human: A Different Way of Seeing Autism” and the 5 parameters for effective intervention in adaptive behavior from Dr Peter Gerhardt, Organization for Autism Research (OAR). 

Supportive information for this discussion is now available from TheAutismSite.com blog in this entry titled “Why the Autism Community Needs to Ditch the Terms ‘High-Functioning’ and ‘Low-Functioning'”  Read about What Exactly Do Functioning Labels Mean, The Problem with Functioning Labels, and What’s The Solution

As always, contact Project ACCESS with any questions and let us know how we may assist you with #AutismResources, #AutismTraining and #AutismSupportServices. Visit our website at projectaccess.missouristate.edu, email us at projectaccess@missouristate.edu or call us at 866-481-3841.


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Project ACCESS Introduces New “User Friendly” Information Sheets

The world of autism support is full of confusing acronyms, procedures, names and therapeutic strategies. To help families interpret all the options, Project ACCESS has developed, and continues to develop, a set of Information Sheets which are meant to be very “user friendly” for families.

These Information Sheets break down a specific evidence-based strategy into an easy-to- read explanation, usually with an example or scenario. These can be used to illustrate a given strategy, while reinforcing knowledge or skills the user may already possess.

Additionally, the Information Sheets are useful to give supplemental illustration to be used with The Missouri Autism Guidelines Initiative (MAGI), Autism Spectrum Disorders: Guide to Evidence-based Interventions.

Here’s an example of one of our new Information Sheets:

Social Narratives

Social Narrative is the umbrella or generic term for strategies that include Social Stories™, which are the trademarked work of Carol Gray, who first created this strategy. She has a tried and true“prescription” for writing the stories. Project ACCESS recommends using her instructions, when developing stories for individual children. (See resources below.)

We would like to advise caution as you look for Social Narratives on the internet and elsewhere. As with most things, there are good Social Narratives and really bad ones! While the Social Narrative is an evidence-based intervention, care must be taken with its use. Social Narratives are not a list of rules, they are not negative and they are not a reading lesson for the individual learner. As defined in the MAGI publication, “Story-based interventions identify a target behavior and involve a written description of the situations under which specific behaviors are expected to occur.” We think the key word here is expectations. Social Narratives give the individual learner information about expected behavior in whatever context is relevant. We are giving information the learner doesn’t already have, not correcting mistakes or bad behavior. The distinction is important. Look at the difference between a really awful Social Narrative and a good one.

Field Trip to McDonald’s (really awful Social Narrative)
Our class is going to McDonald’s. We will expect you to behave. Don’t run around, don’t play with your food and be nice to your friends. Keep your hands and feet to yourself when you board the bus.

Field Trip to McDonald’s (much better Social Narrative)
Our class is going to McDonald’s. I will ride on the bus with my classmates. I ride the bus back and forth to school, so I already know the bus rules.
McDonald’s will probably be full of other people. It might be noisy. Our teacher will take us to the counter to ask for our food. I will probably be able to smell all the food at McDonald’s. If I look above the counter, I will see a list of many foods. This is called a menu. I can choose something for the menu…and the story goes on…

So, what are the differences between a good Social Narrative and an awful one? A good Social Narrative is written in a positive tone. It is written in first person – from the learner’s perspective. It has lots of description. The learner needs to know when it looks like this, sounds like this, smells like this; this is the expected behavior. A good Social Narrative explains ambiguous terms. What does “be nice” mean? What does “behave” mean? We thought the learner in the better Social Narrative might not know what menu meant, so we explained it.

Social Narratives have been studied with learners from ages 6 to 14 years, but our experience is that the stories are successful with all ages. The content and vocabulary need to be adjusted, but the concept is the same.


The New Social Story Book, published by Future Horizons, includes many sample Social Stories™ and a detailed tutorial on development of Social Stories™ for your learner.  Following is a link to Carol Gray’s Social Story™ website: http://carolgraysocialstories.com/

MAGI Autism Spectrum Disorders: Guide to Evidence-based Interventions, may be downloaded from the following link: www.autismguidelines.dmh.mo.gov

This Information Sheet and other #AutismResources, #AutismTraining and #AutismSupportServices information are available on our website at: projectaccess.missouristate.edu.  Information Sheet titles now available: Computer Aided Instruction; Functional Communication Training; Picture Exchange Communication System; Social Narratives; Speech Generating Devices; Time Delay; Discrete Trial Teaching; and Pivotal Response Treatment. Our many Fact Sheets for educators, are available on the same page.

©Project ACCESS – Terri Carringon, M.A., CCC-SLP
#Social Skills
Note: This was published as an article in the July/August 2017 issue of Missouri Autism Report.


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#PAFollowTheReader ~ our weekly book recommendation: Think Social! A Social Thinking Curriculum for School-Age Students

Think Social: A Social Thinking Curriculum for School-Age Students by Michelle Garcia-Winner, M.A., CCC-SLP

From the description:  Think Social! is a core Social Thinking curriculum book and complements Thinking About YOU Thinking About ME. The book provides step-by-step methods for teaching social-cognitive and -communicative skills to students who have these challenges that affect their school and home life. Students and adults with high-functioning autism and Asperger’s Syndrome, nonverbal learning disability, ADHD and similar difficulties, diagnosed and undiagnosed, have benefited from these methods. As a complementary book to the  Thinking About YOU Thinking About ME curriculum,  Think Social! sequences through eight chapters and 69 lessons that teach students the basics of working and thinking in a group. Each chapter addresses how to use and interpret language (verbal and nonverbal) to understand the contexts where real communication happens. The lessons span from kindergarten through adulthood. Teachers, parents, therapists and other caregivers are encouraged to modify activities to better fit the age of the students.

Visit the following link for more information about this book: Think Social!

#SocialSkills   #Curriculum


Other #AutismResources, #AutismTraining and #AutismSupportServices information may be found on our website:  projectaccess.missouristate.edu

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Alternatives to Repeated Suspensions of Students with Autism Spectrum Disorder

First:  Think about the reasons to keep your student in school!

  • Sending the student home is not productive!
  • Some students may manage to get suspended on purpose to avoid work or some other aspect of school.
  • Suspensions are not effective for those students who do not see it as a significant consequence.
  • Providing alternatives to suspensions can be more effective in producing behavior change
  • There are many alternatives that motivate students better than suspension

Second:  Think about your IEP!

  • Is there a workable behavior plan?
  • Are all staff following it with fidelity?
  • Is it based on perceived function(s) of challenging behavior?
  • Does the IEP include goals to teach alternate appropriate behaviors to replace the challenging behavior?

Third:  Think about your classroom structure and expectations!

  • Is the physical environment in your classroom designed to prevent a sensory overload for students?
  • Does the classroom environment offer structure and predictability to reduce anxiety and stress levels?
  • Do you provide sufficient instructional flexibility to accommodate for the social, communication and academic needs of your students including modification of tasks, offering preferred choices for some of the activities, provision of breaks?
  • Do you provide appropriate supports to increase students’ active participation, including visual supports, work systems, and social stories?
  • Do you provide students with ASD an Activity Schedule to bring predictability and structure to their day and to assist with transitions?
  • Do you prepare your students in advance for transitions between activities and settings?
  • Do you assist your student in coping with any unanticipated changes?
  • Do you try to stay ahead of the meltdown by watching for precursor behaviors?
  • Do you provide a way for the student to take a break and to calm down if he appears to be approaching a meltdown?
  • Do you have a place in your classroom where a student can take a break?
  • Have you thought of using calming techniques to assist your student? Music?  Physical exercise? Yoga?
  • Do you have de-escalation procedures in mind, so you can avoid having to restrain, seclude, or suspend?
  • Do you keep safety in mind and strictly adhere to safety guideline when dealing with your student?

Fourth?  Have you thought about alternatives to suspension? 

  • In-school suspension
  • Community or school service
  • Provision of a mini course on appropriate behavior
  • Behavior monitoring, especially if the student monitors his own behavior
  • Restitution
  • Behavior contract
  • Teaching of problem solving skills
  • Loss of privileges
  • Time out
  • Before or after school detention
  • Mentoring with a staff member before or after school

Some suggestions were modified from an article:  Alternatives to Suspension from PBISWorld.com Tier 2 Behavior Intervention and Support of Alternatives to Suspension

Other suggestions were gleaned from: Positive Behavioral Intervention for Students with Autism: A Practical Guide to Avoiding the Legal Risks of Seclusion and Restraint by Padmaja Sarathy and published by LRP Publications, 2009

This fact sheet and other #AutismResources, #AutismTraining and #AutismSupportServices information may be found on our website:  projectaccess.missouristate.edu

© Project ACCESS – April 2016     *Project ACCESS is a collaboration among the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, Missouri State University, and Missouri’s public schools.

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#PAFollowTheReader ~ our weekly book recommendation: Tasks Galore ~ For the Real World

Tasks Galore ~ For the Real World by Laurie Eckenrode, Pat Fennell, and Kathy Hearsey

From the description:  A valuable tool for preparing your older elementary students, adolescents, and adults for independence in the home, school, community, or workplace.  The Introduction Section describes a process for developing and teaching functional goals.  Forty-three colorful photo pages present task ideas in these categories:

  • Domestic Skills
  • Vocational Skills
  • Independent Living Skills
  • Job Sites & School Transition Ideas

Visit the following link for more information about this book:  Tasks Galore
Other #AutismResources, #AutismTraining and #AutismSupportServices information may be found on our website:  projectaccess.missouristate.edu


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#PAFollowTheReader ~ our weekly book recommendation: Just Take a Bite: Easy Effective Answers to Food Aversions and Eating Challenges

Just Take a Bite: Easy Effective Answers to Food Aversions and Eating Challenges by Lori Ernsperger, Ph.D. and Tania Stegen-Hanson, OTR/L

From the description: 

Is your child a “picky” eater or a full-fledged resistant eater? Does he or she eat only 3-20 foods, refusing all others? Eat from only one food group? Gag, tantrum, or become anxious if you introduce new foods? If so, you have a resistant eater. Learn the possible causes, when you need professional help, and how to deal with the behavior at home. Learn why “Don’t play with your food!” and “Clean your plate!”—along with many other old saws—are just plain wrong. And who said you have to eat dessert last? Get ready to have some stereotypes shattered!

Visit the following link for more information about this book: Just Take a Bite

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Speech Generating Devices

Many interventions exist for autism spectrum disorder (ASD). The interventions that researchers have shown to be effective are called evidence-based practices (EBPs). The number and exact names of the EBPs vary slightly according the team that assembles its respective list.  Their are six such lists prominent in the nationwide community of practitioners. These six lists are detailed on our EBP overview webpage.

The Missouri Department of Mental Health, the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, the Thompson Center, and Project ACCESS collaborated on the creation of a Missouri-based list that synthesized these six prominent lists into a Missouri guide to the EBPs, and documented this work in the Missouri Autism Guidelines Initiative (MAGI) project. For more information about free materials you can download from the MAGI website, please visit our page devoted to sharing this MAGI information

Project ACCESS believes that high quality teaching involves the use of these scientifically validated EBPs as a foundation of programming for students.

How one goes about selecting an appropriate EBP as an intervention for someone on the autism spectrum is detailed on this page: Selecting an EBP. We will feature a different EBP video and related resources each month on this blog. All of the videos are available on the following page of our website:  EBPs

This month, having recently hosted the Transitioning from PECS to SGDs (Speech Generating Devices) training, the topic is Speech Generating Devices:


A Project ACCESS family-friendly Information Sheet is available at the following link: SGDs Information Sheet and a short video that explains this EBP in more detail and in simple language is available at the following link:  Communication Device


Other #AutismResources, #AutismTraining and #AutismSupportServices information may be found on our website:  projectaccess.missouristate.edu
#EvidenceBasedInterventions  #MAGI 


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#PAFollowTheReader ~ our weekly book recommendation: Quality Literacy Instruction for Students with Autism Spectrum Disorders

Quality Literacy Instruction for Students with Autism Spectrum Disorders ~ edited by Christina Carnahan, Ed.D., and Pamela Williamson, Ph.D.

From the description: This textbook brings together experts from both the autism and reading fields to provide a detailed discussion of literacy instruction, thus supporting professionals and families alike in building lifelong literacy instruction geared to the needs of students on the autism spectrum. Using case examples, the textbook brings theory and research to practice, thus meeting the mandate for evidence-based practice and illustrating that having effective literacy skills enhances the quality of life of all individuals, including those with autism spectrum disorders.

Visit the following link for more information about this book: Quality Literacy Instruction

Other #AutismResources, #AutismTraining and #AutismSupportServices information may be found on our website:  projectaccess.missouristate.edu

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