Summary: This article refutes the conventional wisdom that Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) therapy is the only evidence-based intervention for children with autism. Alfie Kohn presents a clear case, based on a newly published meta-analysis, that ABA may not be evidence-based at all. ABA is an intensive training regimen designed to change autistic children’s behavior so it more closely resembles “normal” behavior, and it forms the basis for most school autism programs, despite being widely loathed by autistic individuals who have experienced it first-hand. This article lays out the reasons why autistic self-advocates are opposed to ABA, and it is very compelling. This is a must-read for parents considering ABA for their child, and any administrator of a school autism program.
Why we recommend this article: Written for teachers, school administrators, therapist, and parents of autistic children, this article states more clearly than anything else we've found -- the arguments against using ABA therapy. It clarifies why this intervention -- which forms the basis for the autism program in MCPS -- should not be regarded as the only game in town. It is in fact a very controversial approach, and there are more humane alternatives.
Summary:"Sometimes, when the environment is structured in such a way that the persons [on the autism spectrum] can't have their needs met or don't understand behavioral, social, or academic expectations, an unfortunate event will occur - a rage attack, behavioral outburst or tantrum." This book explains the meltdown cycle and provides intervention techniques for each specific stage, as well as information on how to teach skills that will help to prevent future meltdowns.
Why we recommend this book: Written for both teachers and parents, this books helps to promote a coordinated home / school approach that is necessary when attempting to extinguish negative behaviors. By understand how and why the child acts out, simple techniques can be implemented to help the child regain control.
Summary: Professionals often recommend behavioral approaches such as the use of behavior charts and reward systems to parents with children who have behavioral challenges. Likewise schools may use a behavior system with their students who need more support to follow expectations. Central to any behavioral approach, whether it’s a simple sticker chart or full ABA-therapy program, is the planned use of positive reinforcement, often in the form of rewards and praise, in response to demonstrating expected behavior or a skill. Countless books on behavior management have been written for parents. Alan Kazdin, a child psychologist and expert on children with behavior challenges, explains why a behavioral approach is effective, how parents’ reactions can unintentionally reward or perpetuate challenging behavior, and when and why rewards and punishments work or don’t work. Most importantly, Kazdin explains how to set up a behavior system correctly, including how to create an effective point chart, how to choose behavioral targets that can bring about change, and how to choose and when to change motivators and rewards.
Why we recommend this book: The audience of this book is for parents of kids with behavior challenges—the author does not discuss autism specifically. Many kids with ASD can benefit from a behavioral approach to helping them be successful with their behavior. However, if a behavior system is not set up correctly, it can be ineffective, leading parents and teachers to give up on the approach altogether, when simply adjusting the goals or rewards could provide the needed support for the child’s success. The book explains why a behavioral approach can be beneficial and provides clear guidance on how to implement a behavioral system. Most reward systems need some initial adjustments after implementation, and a strength of The Kazdin Method is the detailed information on trouble-shooting and adjusting the system over time. The book provides a helpful bank of ideas for motivators/rewards appropriate for different age levels. The Kazdin Method can empower parents to advocate for the proper use of behavior systems at school so that staff don’t turn to punishment to manage behavior.Read our detailed review here
Summary: Ross Greene presents an evidence-based approach that addresses challenging behaviors in the classroom. The approach is also effective for challenging behaviors at home. Collaborative Problem Solving (CPS) is based on the premise that all children do well if they can, but many are unable to meet behavioral expectations because they are lacking the skills necessary to be successful. The book provides a useful checklist, the Assessment of Lagging Skills and Unsolved Problems (ALSUP) that adults can use to identify areas to build skills. For problem behavior, Greene recommends a three-part collaborative problem-solving process in which the adult uses empathic listening to hear the child’s perspective, describes the problem from both parties’ perspectives in a neutral way, and then invites the child to brainstorm solutions before collaborating with the child on a mutually beneficial solution. The agreed-upon solution can then be implemented and revisions can be made if needed. Greene asserts that the CPS process itself helps kids develop perspective-taking skills.
Why we recommend this book: This practical, cutting-edge approach offers renewed hope to parents, teachers and students by focusing on solving problems and building weak skills rather than simply administering consequences. This book teaches educators and parents alike how to deal with challenges that can yield the most emotionally intense reactions and how to diffuse problems before they get out of control. CPS has been proven effective for students on the autism spectrum—the author explains how the method can be adapted across the age span and for children who are non-verbal. Captivating dramatizations set in a school illustrate the method. The author’s empathy for children with challenging behaviors and true understanding of their difficulties shines through and gives hope and inspiration to adults who care for and teach them.Read our detailed review here
Summary: Co-written by an individual with high-functioning autism and a clinical psychologist, the book distinguishes between a meltdown and a temper tantrum and provides valuable insight into how an autistic individual perceives danger. It teaches those in authority how to react to de-escalate a situation.
Why we recommend this book: The strategies recommended here can be used in school environments to eliminate the practice of restraint and seclusion of students on the autism spectrum. Deborah Lipsky’s insight into the perceptions and reactions of people with autism challenges the reader’s assumptions about how to respond to them.
Summary: No More Meltdowns, by Jed Baker, child psychologist, provides a four-step model to reduce challenging behavior. Step 1: Accept and appreciate the child (establish a positive relationship); Step 2: De-escalate a meltdown (use distraction and teach self-calming strategies); Step 3: Understand why a meltdown keeps occurring (discern the function of the child’s behavior); and Step 4: Create plans to prevent meltdowns. The book provides intervention strategies for the four major triggers that cause meltdowns: demands, waiting, threats to self-image, and unmet wishes for attention.
Why we recommend this book: The book is concise and extremely accessible, providing plenty of examples and engaging real-life stories that parents and educators can easily identify with. Dr. Baker conveys great compassion for the children who struggle to cope with a world that is out of their control.
Summary: Simple Strategies that Work explains how the characteristics of autism affect the behavior and classroom experience of autistic students and provides simple and clearly articulated strategies for helping them cope with the challenges.
Why we recommend this book: These ten simple strategies suggested in this book can be applied to students of all ages and in all settings and are essential to foster success and independence in school.
Summary: A persistent problem for many families of autistic children is managing meltdowns. Often when a child begins to have a meltdown or becomes aggressive, parents appeal to reason in the hopes of stopping the behavior. Adding verbal input or commands adds to the cognitive load the child is experiencing and can amplify the crisis instead of de-escalate it. The strategy detailed in The Way to A offers a simple, logical, and systematic method that parents and teachers can use in times of crisis. The primary audience is ages 3 to 9, however the author offers modifications for older children. The Way to A teaches children that in difficult moments there are only two choices, A or B. When a child chooses A, she takes a positive, appropriate, and non-aggressive approach to resolving a situation. When a child loses control and engages in a meltdown, she is choosing B. This book helps kids learn how to evaluate the consequences of choosing A or B and teaches problem-solving strategies to give kids the skills to choose A.
Why we recommend this Book: The beauty of The Way to A is that it is simple and explicit. This approach helps kids develop an awareness of their feeling states and teaches them to consider the consequences of their choices. The system is highly visual, reducing cognitive demands of processing spoken language. The authors explain how to support the child’s use of self-regulation skills involved in choosing “A” with positive reinforcement.Read our detailed review here
Summary: A Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT) approach—often recommended for individuals with ASD—offers the opportunity to bring awareness to thought patterns and behaviors that can be obstacles to functioning and to practice goal-directed strategies to alter them. The What to Do When…. Series is a collection of individual workbooks that use a practical CBT approach to address a myriad of challenges that face kids with ASD and can be used at home or in professional settings. The series covers common challenges for kids on the spectrum, such as what to do when they experience anxiety and worry, OCD-related thoughts and behaviors, chronic negativity, challenges surrounding bedtime routines, anger management problems, and perfectionism, among others.
Why we recommend this series: The workbooks in the series cover many common challenges and can be purchased individually to target specific areas of difficulty. The author uses kid-friendly language, humorous explanations, fun games, simple strategies, and engaging exercises for practice to empower kids to overcome obstacles and recognize their own efficacy and independence.Read our detailed review here
Summary: The Zones of Regulation is a curriculum for parents, educators, and professionals to teach children to use internal states—correlating to specific “zones”—to develop self-awareness and build skills in self-regulation. Four colors represent four zones of emotion and alertness (e.g., sad, tired; focused, happy; confused, annoyed, anxious; enraged, terrified). The curriculum uses calming strategies, cognitive techniques, and sensory supports to help the child move to the optimal “green zone.” The curriculum offers practice opportunities for using these strategies to self-regulate.
Why we recommend this resource: This user-friendly curriculum teaches skills useful for anyone who struggles to regulate their emotion, attention, and behavior. Many children struggle to identify their emotional states but can learn what the zones feel like and which feel better than others. The techniques for helping get to a more comfortable zone are lifelong skills.Read our detailed review here