Special Educational Needs Catalogue 2016

Browse our latest collection of books and resources in Special Educational Needs.
For more information on any of these titles go to www.jkp.com

Teaser Tuesday-Using an ABA Curriculum for Young Learners with Autism Spectrum Disorders

A Step-by-Step ABA Curriculum for Young Learners with Autism Spectrum Disorders (Age 3-10) by Lindsay Hilsen MEd, BCBA uses proven principles of applied behavior analysis (ABA) to monitor the progress of children on the autism spectrum and make sure they reach their full potential.

The book’s three sections, Assessment, Curriculum and Mastered, each include built-in data collection instruction and examples, reproduced on the accompanying CD to be easily downloaded and printed. Each section covers ten pivotal areas of progress for this age group, including reading, writing, math, conversation and social skills. The book gives teachers, counselors, and parents a clear outline on what to teach and how to teach it, in order to ensure children are reaching developmental goals at this crucial stage.

The first downloadable worksheet explains how to use Applied Behavior Analysis Components to encourage ‘Prompting.’ Prompting helps to teach children a particular skill by helping them feel encouraged and giving them guidance to make a goal easier to achieve.

Download the Prompting worksheet here.

The second downloadable worksheet ‘Asks a Peer to Join/Play,’ outlines an activity teachers and parents can do with children using the ABA principles and components explained in the instructional worksheet.

Download the Asks a Peer to Join/Play worksheet here.

Lindsay Hilsen is a Board Certified Behavior Analyst who has dedicated her career to working with children on the Autism Spectrum. She is a qualified elementary level and special education teacher with master’s degrees in both special education and education. She has worked as an ABA teacher and is currently the Autism Clinical Educator for Sunny Days Early Childhood Developmental Services, New Jersey. Lindsay is a frequent presenter and lecturer on Autism and ABA topics. She lives in Robbinsville, New Jersey with her husband and daughters.

JKP Author Elle Olivia Johnson Shares Tips for Parents on Understanding Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA)

Specialized Academic Instruction Teacher (SAI) Elle Olivia Johnson shares some tips for parents from her NEW book, The Parent’s Guide to In-Home ABA Programs: Frequently Asked Questions about Applied Behavior Analysis for your Child with Autism, on navigating the confusing language of Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA).

ABA.  DTT.  Maintenance.  Reinforcers.  Data.  Prompting.  A-B-C Data. 

Whoa.  Let’s slow down.  You CAN do this!

Learning that your child has, or is considered at-risk for an autism spectrum disorder, can be an emotionally draining, confusing, and stressful experience. Along with these challenges faced by parents and families, there are languages to master: the languages of Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA), in-home therapy, and behavior. You never thought you’d need these skills, right? Well, life is full of surprises, and the surprise that you and your family received is that you will be learning some unique and important information. Rather than getting caught up in the amount of new stuff you’re being asked to learn, keep it simple by focusing on learning a little about each part.

1.  Learning about applied behavior analysis and what an in-home ABA therapy session looks like, includes, and what is expected of you.
In-home ABA program supervisors and therapists will work closely with you to teach you about ABA and how the techniques in the ABA “toolbox” can help your child and your family. You will learn how ABA is used to teach your child, how you can use the same teaching techniques in your day-to-day lives, and how progress is assessed and documented. You will also receive information about the purpose of each task your child is being asked to do, why these specific tasks have been chosen, and how each task leads to new skills. View this portion of your ABA education a little like looking at a map. You can choose to look at a map from space, seeing just a blur of each area. Click a little closer, and you can see states and lakes. Move in closer still, and you will see individual street names and landmarks. Your ABA learning will feel a little like this. A big blur in the beginning, but clarity as you become more familiar.

2.  Learning the lingo!  What do all those acronyms mean?
Like I said….whoa. ABA lingo is the shorthand educators and ABA professionals use to keep notes and instructions simple. I know that if I jumped into the role of a nurse, I would have absolutely no idea what the medical notes and codes meant. It’s the same feeling you have as you are learning about ABA. Don’t worry, there will not be a test on this, but you should be familiar with the specific abbreviations your ABA provider uses, especially if you want to learn to take data yourself. It’s ok to use a cheat sheet….but soon, you won’t need it. You will become as familiar with ABA terminology as you are with the acronyms you use in your work life.

3.  Looking forward
Life sometimes brings you to places you never, ever dreamed you would travel.  You are there for a reason, and when things seem overwhelming, confusing, or impossible, remember that you are the absolute best person, in the entire world, to help your child. They cannot do it without you, the ABA provider cannot do it without you, and the in-home ABA team NEEDS you. Learn as much as you can, ask millions of questions, and if you feel you want to go further in your learning about ABA, ABA therapy, or behavior, look into expanding your education. Keep in mind that as an advocate for your child, it is also your job to carefully evaluate claims about therapies and cures for autism. Stick to peer-reviewed, research-based, reputable research claims. Anecdotal evidence is not equivalent to well-conducted research.

Finally, take a deep breath, smile, and enjoy your child. Things are going to be fine. This whole confusing ABA journey is about to get a lot simpler.

Podcast: Dr. Petra Kern on how music therapy in early childhood can help children with ASD’s

Earlier this year, the Music Therapy Research Blog interviewed Petra Kern on her work concerning early childhood music therapy with children on the autism spectrum. They published their interview as a podcast, which you can listen to here:

Music Therapy Research Blog interviews Dr. Petra Kern

Petra Kern is co-author with Marcia Humpal of the forthcoming JKP title, Early Childhood Music Therapy and Autism Spectrum Disorders. Petra is owner of Music Therapy Consulting, and  is recipient of the AMTA 2008 Research/Publications Award, editor of imagine, and author of numerous publications. She serves as the immediate Past President of the World Federation of Music Therapy (WFMT), on various editorial boards, and is a frequent international speaker and guest University lecturer.

Top Ten Tips for the First Year of Placement

By Deborah Gray, MSW, MPA, clinical social worker specializing in attachment, grief and trauma, and author of Attaching in Adoption and Nurturing Adoptions.


Parents passionately want to succeed in raising emotionally healthy children. They also want to enjoy their little ones. When their children arrive later in infancy or childhood, most parents are well-aware that they are doing more careful parenting. They are nurturing not only to build a relationship, but to help mitigate any impact of losses or maltreatment.

What are reasonable things for parents to concentrate on during the first year home? How can parents do the best to enjoy their children? They do not want the pleasures of parenting their children dimmed by a chorus of cautions. On the other hand, they do want to make that first year a great start. Here are my TOP TEN hits for a great start to your relationship with your baby or child.

1. Spend ample time in nurturing activities.

The most significant process of the first year home is creating a trust relationship. Intentional and ample nurturing promotes this goal. Restrict your hours away from the little one. Do not leave your child for overnight trips for this first year.

Meet your little one’s needs in an especially sensitive manner. Feed on demand. Respond quickly to fussing. Allow the toddler or child to regress, bottle-feeding, rocking to sleep, lapsitting, and being carried. Let your child experience you as the safe person who is sensitively meeting her needs. Play little games that promote eye contact, like peekaboo, ponyride, and hide-and-seek. Make positive associations between yourself and food.

Rather than children becoming more dependent through this extra nurturing, they instead become trusting. Anxious people do not know who they can trust to help them. More secure individuals understand that they do not have to be perfect and that they can rely on significant others. Children who do not learn to depend on others tend to be anxious or emotionally constricted. Their “independence” is a false one, meaning that they do not trust others and can only rely on themselves. The child who has learned a healthy dependence is more secure in trying new things and venturing out. She always has a safe, home base to come back to—you!

2. Teach children to play with you.

Many little ones have missed the joys of play. Act as an amplifier, teaching toddlers and children the pleasure of play. Most children have missed the experience of having parents express joy as they played. Because of this, their reward centers were not stimulated. This restricted the association of exploration and play with pleasure. Set aside at least thirty minutes a day for play with your children. Younger children may want this in segments. Do not hesitate to use voice tones and expressions that are ones usually meant for infants and younger children.

If your child can already play, then continue to build your relationship through play. Shared enjoyment cements relationships. Make your family one that develops a pattern of having fun. Throughout life having fun as a family builds self-esteem.

While some children take off in play, others cannot stay engaged for long. Continue to stretch the more tentative child, engaging her in mutually enjoyable activities. Look for different sensory modalities that might feel safer or more interesting. For example, a boy who was afraid to play outdoors began to use sidewalk chalk with his mother, even though the grass seemed overwhelming. Gradually a ball was used on the sidewalk, and then onto the grass. Take things in steps if children are wary.

3. Talk to your child.

Parents of infants use exaggerated voice tones to emphasize important concepts. Their “amplifier system” helps children with attention to most important parts of the whole environment. After children move into the preschool age, some of this “cheerleader” amplification diminishes. Continue to use this brighter emotional tone with your child as she understands your shared world—even if she is not an infant.

Explain things to him, even though you might think that the meaning of what you are doing is obvious. Not only are you conveying information to him, you are revealing your view of the world to him. Your voice tones guide him to better understand the context. Be sure to use your fingers and gestures to point out important things to him. This helps him to both attend to and understand the meaning of the context around him. Early language not only teaches us words, but a way of understanding our world through the subjects selected for attention and their associated intonations, expressions, and gestures.

Most of us have an internal dialogue going on during the day. (Yes, we are actually talking to ourselves.) Simply make some of this internal language external. This is a typical activity for parents of infants. However, it tends to diminish as children get older. Since children have missed this early activity, parents should feel free to describe things as they would to an infant.

4. When toddlers or older children have behavior problems, use your body to stop them.

Be gentle, but be consistently and predictably competent in stopping negative behaviors. Do not use over the shoulder commands or across the room reminders. Stay within arm’s reach of the child, moving their hands, bodies, feet, to where you want them to go. Never tolerate hitting, kicking, or hurting. Some parents allow a child painful “exploration” of the parents’ faces. This is teaching that will have to be undone later. Gently move their bodies to where you want them to be. For example, if your little one is reaching for an item, move the child or the item. Use the voice for a back up. Do not remind or repeat several times. Instead, describe in a pleasant manner how precious or pretty the item appears to you—as you move your child. Teach boundaries of respect from the beginning.

Obviously, most parents will not be getting much done except parenting when their child is awake. Remind yourself that your primary job is parenting when your child is awake.

5. Get enough sleep, good food, and exercise to stay in a good mood.

Little ones who have been moved and/or neglected tend to be irritable, fussy, and hard to soothe. Parents use their own positive, well-regulated moods to help calm and engage these little ones. Your own emotional stability will help to steady your child’s moods. A depressed parent struggles to form a positive, secure attachment with her baby or child. Depression makes the parent emotionally less available. The parent who is tired, eating junk food, and inert by day’s end does not give a child a competent source of emotional regulation. Parents who find that their moods are slipping, even with good self-care, should see about counseling and/or an antidepressant. It is simply too hard to do this essential, nurturing parenting while being depressed.

Model respect for yourself by taking time for showers, good meals, and sleep.

6. Be part of an adoption support group.

The relationships between families are invaluable. The relationships can be emotional lifelines on hard days. If possible, find a mentor who is positive, and who likes you and your child. Ask her to be part of your circle of support. We all need to feel understood and authentically accepted. A mentor who can provide that sense of nurture for the parent helps the parent to be a good nurturer. The mentor relationship provides a sense of being heard and accepted, and tips and information. Parents are working harder emotionally when parenting a baby or child who has lived through uneven parenting. Parents need someone who cares for them. Sometimes this can be mutual support, and sometimes one-to-one.

7. Keep a calm, but interesting home.

Match the amount of stimulation in the home to the amount that is within the child’s ability to tolerate. Many children have been massively understimulated before they came to parents. Neglect massively understimulates children. They do not build neurology to process as much sensory stimulation. After adoption, their worlds can suddenly be overwhelming. Things are too bright, too loud, move too much, and tilt too much. Slow things down, buffering your baby or child to the extent that they can process the information coming their way. Often children who are overwhelmed by noise will begin shouting, or those overstimulated by too much movement will begin running with arms like windmills. Lay out predictable, consistent events for the day. Some children find the movement of the car to be disorienting. If your child is having difficulties, try a couple of days limiting the car, determining whether or not this makes a difference.

8. Explain to children basics of your relationships as they gain language.

For example, “A mother’s job is to love you. I will always come back home to you when I leave in the car to go shopping. You will live with me until you are as big as I am. I will not let anybody hurt you. I will never hurt you. We will always have enough food.” One mother told me of her son’s relief and better behavior when she told him that she would never allow others to hurt him. “Why didn’t I think to tell him the first year?” She questioned. “He was afraid every time we went to the mall. He has been thinking for two years that just anyone could haul off and hit him.” Another parent told me of the melting smile that her daughter gave her when she said that a mother’s job was to love her child. “I just assumed that she knew that. But she didn’t. She looked at my face much more after that.”

9. Do watch for signs of an exclusive attachment by the end of the first year.

Children should be seeking out their parents for affection and play. They should be showing off for positive attention. They should prefer being with the parent. They should show some excitement about time together. When hurt or distressed, the child should seek out the parent. In a secure attachment, the child will calm with the parent and accept soothing.

Trauma and traumatic grief are the common culprits when children are remaining wary, fearful, and controlling of their parents. Signs of trauma with younger children include regular night terrors, dissociation (child shuts off emotionally and stares away), scratching, biting, extreme moods, freezing in place, and destructiveness. Parents who see these symptoms should be finding a mental health counselor to help their child. If the child is under the age of three, the parent is given special parenting advice. Usually therapy with an experienced child therapist can begin not long after the age of three.

Do not have an artificial timeline of “fixed in a year,” for the preschooler or older child. Consider the year marker as the time it takes to really get to know your child—not to iron out any behavioral irregularities.

10. Enter your little one’s space—positively.

This often means getting low and looking up for eye contact. It means trying hard and trying patiently for a longer time. You are the one who has the responsibility of engaging your child positively. Do not use punitive techniques to try to build relationships. After all, no one wants to attach to a mean person. Instead, be strong, dependable, available, and kind. Veer away from advice that is strong, controlling, and mean in tone. Sensitive and kind parents gradually build empathy and security in their relationships with their children. That process takes time and the type of parenting that caused you to want to be a parent in the first place!

Maintain a sane schedule as you move into year two. Many parents decide that the first year is the marker until they can re-enter a “normal” schedule. Among family therapists there is national concern about the taxing schedule that Americans are considering “normal.” Resist this widespread but unhealthy pace. Continue to parent with margins of time that allow for sensitivity, with margins of emotional energy that allow for appreciation of those around you. Model a healthy, emotionally fulfilling lifestyle to your child.

Copyright © Jessica Kingsley Publishers 2012.

Choosing the right teaching interventions for your child with autism

Joyce Show is a Harvard/MIT trained physician and mother of seven children, including a son with severe autism. Here, she explains some of the different teaching strategies discussed in her new book, Teaching Your Child with Love and Skill, and why it is so important to tailor an intervention to the individual child.


How has your scientific and medical background helped you find solutions to help your son?

When your child is diagnosed with autism, your first impulse is of course to find out everything you can about it. I’m really grateful for every bit of scientific training I received at Harvard and MIT, as it helped me navigate my way through the autism literature and adopt a systematic approach to evaluating, selecting, and experimenting with combinations of various interventional methods. I would have never guessed that all those rigorous years of scientific and medical training would be used not only to help others, but my son as well.

In your book you adapt and modify popular educational interventions such as Applied Behavior Analysis and Floortime. Why is it important for parents to tailor the inventions that they use to their child’s specific needs?

Your educational interventions are treating a child, not a disorder. Just as in medicine, it’s no use to cure the disease if you’ve lost the patient in the process; it would not make sense to apply an educational intervention purely and dogmatically if it wasn’t helping that individual child to make meaningful developmental progress. I love something I once heard Dr. Stanley Greenspan say when asked what to do to get a child to interact. “Whatever it takes” was the gist of his answer. It would make it simpler if one method was enough to get through to a child. However, each one of our children faces his/her own unique profile of challenges of varying degrees in various parts of the brain, and that requires not just depth but breadth of skill from the teacher. The key is good observation and attunement. Try to understand your child. Then you’ll know which tool or combination of tools, meaning teaching methods and accommodations, would work best on the particular goal you’re working on in your child’s present situation at any particular moment. Effective teaching is flexible and dynamic.

I would like to emphasize that this book is not only for the parents who are able to spend a lot of time directly teaching their children. It’s equally critical for busy parents who must delegate more of that teaching time to others to understand their children’s needs so that they can better evaluate, select between, and balance educational options.

Can you tell us a bit structured teaching vs. incidental teaching?

There is a plethora of methods used to teach children with autism (ABA, DIR, PRT, etc… sounds like quite an alphabet soup!), but they generally fall into one of two types. In structured teaching, the child follows what is usually a planned lesson. In incidental teaching, the parent looks for natural opportunities to teach around the child’s present interests. It’s helpful to learn both kinds, as structured teaching can provide the necessary repetition and step-by-step presentation that learning often requires, whereas incidental teaching capitalizes on the child’s high motivation to learn during natural teachable moments. Different methods tend to work better on different areas of the brain, but they all rely upon principles common to all good teaching such as attuning to the child’s needs, interests, and abilities, eliciting frequent feedback from the child to make the learning process an active conversation, both working on and accommodating the child’s relative weaknesses while building upon his/her strengths, and providing the positive enthusiasm that makes interaction and relationships fun. I embrace a holistic educational strategy, using a full range of teaching tools and methods in a complementary way to enable each individual child to access learning, and working on the whole child, to remediate or accommodate each and every area of need. Children at all levels of ability from severe to high functioning (including ‘neurotypical’) learn best from such an approach.

What do you hope parents and other caregivers will take away from your book?

This is one of the few books available that comprehensively attempts to address the educational needs of children with moderate to severe autism. If you are a parent of one of these children, I want to encourage you not to give up. It may take a lot more repetition and patience, but if you support each area of challenge while carefully building up one area of the brain at a time as described in the book, you will eventually get all the parts to work together, and enable your child to express his personality and develop to his full potential. I hope parents of high functioning children will also read this book. The temptation when you have such a child is to lean too heavily upon the child’s strengths and fail to develop and remediate critical areas of weakness. Systematically working through all the parts of the brain through each developmental level as described will help your child lay a stronger and more complete foundation for further development. My hope is that both parents of high and low functioning children will find this to be their book of the missing steps.

What does it offer for teachers and therapists?

Resources are scarce all around. Not only for direct intervention for our children, but also for training the interventionists. Training is often given in only one teaching method, or in one area. Teachers and therapists who read this book will feel more secure in their ability to serve the whole child, and have an understanding of how to address his/her needs more comprehensively. I have a number of friends who are teachers who have enthusiastically endorsed the individualized, multimodal approach described in the book.

Each chapter in the book can be read as a stand alone as it is extensively cross referenced. Therefore, the teacher who has the child for just one class, but might be looking for ideas on how to handle stimming or wandering, can turn right to the chapter on challenging behaviors. The babysitter who has to get the child through his bedtime routine can turn directly to the chapter on self-help skills. If a grandparent, aunt, or uncle just wants to know how to get the child to play with him or her, the chapter on getting your child to engage would be helpful. This book is for everyone –  parents, teachers, therapists, and friends – who wants to interact effectively and make a difference in the life of child – particulary for a child with autism, but parents can apply the same developmental concepts and principles of good teaching to their neurotypical children.

Copyright © Jessica Kingsley Publishers 2012.

Holiday Help for Your Anxious Child – by Deborah Gray

Here are some helpful tips for adoptive parents and foster carers to ensure that holidays are fun for everyone—especially for the anxious child.

By Deborah Gray, MSW, MPA, clinical social worker specialising in attachment, grief and trauma, and author of Attaching in Adoption and Nurturing Adoptions.


Anxious children like to know what their part is in any new event. Beforehand, make word pictures that describe the day’s events. For example, at Christmas you might create the following word picture:

“At the star lighting, your place will be on Poppi’s shoulders so that you can see! You will stay close as we walk down to ride in the horse-drawn carriage. You will hold your hot chocolate and I will hold my latte. We will walk together and smile. Then, we will take our turn on the carriage. You will ride between me and Poppi. After the ride, we will go home on the bus. You will sit between Poppi and me.”

Children need consistency. A regular schedule helps them to handle stimulation. Keep the daily schedule as similar as possible to the normal schedule.

Children also need to be participatory. Always alternate watching activities with interactive ones.

Children can be alarmed by crowds, noisy surroundings, and contact with strangers. During chaotic holiday events that involve lots of noise and crowds, check in with your child frequently, asking them if they want to continue to participate or if they are ready to go home. Taking a few moments out to calm them in the middle of the event also benefits anxious children.

Look at the calendar as a whole, blocking out times and days at home for re-regulating the family. Behaviors indicative of overstimulation are arguing, yelling, fighting, and irritability. Holiday memories of playing games at home under the Christmas tree lights are lovely ones. Not everything has to be done “on the go”.

Go to bed ½ hour earlier for a six-week period during the darkest days—parents too. It improves everyone’s mood.

If there are overnight guests and casual visitors to the home, do make sure that your child still has access to you without having to compete for your time. Let your child be part of the preparation for the guests: making place cards, washing the sinks, plumping pillows, etc.

Children often miss their birth relatives during holidays, especially if they have holiday-related memories with these relatives. Children with local birth siblings will want to visit. These visits happen best a few weeks before or after the holiday.

Family events may bring out adoption-related questions. Often children are observing that their cousins are being described as “just like so-and-so.” Talking about these issues ahead of time is a good idea. Be sure to bring this back to practicalities: What are the pros and cons of looking “just like so-and-so?” Are there other ways that families “claim” its members?

If the holiday is one for which children are given gifts, consider giving one gift per day. Let children have time to experience the gift instead of getting frantically overstimulated. Take time to play with your child.

Get physical. Children will be more relaxed if they get an hour of physical play a day. Go to the park or hit the swimming pool.

Take time to talk about, reflect on, and store positive holiday memories. Anxious children tend to “tag” anxious memories. Help them to process and hold onto holiday memories that are filled with family resonance and fun.

Advice for Parents and Carers: 

Understand your own feelings about each holiday. What really is important to you in the holiday? Is the holiday a religious one, spiritual one, traditional one, or materialistic one? Is your time being spent according to your priorities? What are you planning to do that does not fit into your priorities? Why?

Write down three things that you would most like to do with your child over the holidays. How will you get quiet, reflective time for yourself, which is necessary to keep your child regulated? Do you need to become ill to do this? Can you make another plan?

Write down three things that you will not over the holidays, or that you will do in alternating years. For example, I will bake this year, but not next. I will send cards or emails next year, but not this year. 

Think about what you need to do so that you do not over-extend yourself financially. What is “enough”? Consider this in advance so that you know when to stop giving, buying, doing, going, etc.

Copyright © Jessica Kingsley Publishers 2012.

Using Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA) to help young learners with autism reach their full potential – An Interview with Lindsay Hilsen

Lindsay Hilsen is a Board Certified Behavior Analyst who has dedicated her career to working with children on the Autism Spectrum. She is a qualified elementary level and special education teacher with master’s degrees in both special education and education. She has worked as an Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA) teacher and is currently the Autism Clinical Educator for Sunny Days Early Childhood Developmental Services, New Jersey, USA. Lindsay is a frequent presenter and lecturer on Autism and ABA topics.

She is the author of the new book, A Step-by-Step Curriculum for Early Learners with Autism Spectrum Disorders. Here, she talks about how she applies ABA principles to help young learners achieve their developmental goals and reach their full potential as they grow.


What lead you to the field of special education, and then to specialise in working with children with autism?

Ever since I was old enough to start to volunteer, I’ve always worked with children on the Autism Spectrum. I started out working for the Eden Institute in Princeton, New Jersey, which aims to improve the lives of children and adults with autism and their families by providing a range of community-based services to meet specific needs throughout the lifespan. It just felt right; it was fun but very challenging and the work just really made sense to me.

What do you think are the main benefits of using Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA) with children on the spectrum?

ABA is an evidence-based methodology that allows us to break down tasks, and to use reinforcement, shaping, and prompting techniques to modify behaviors. It is an approach that is backed up by years of proven research which shows the benefits of utilizing such principles with people who are diagnosed with an Autism Spectrum Disorder.

Originally ABA had a negative reputation. People envisioned a teacher and child sitting at a table all day, robotically doing the same task over and over again. This is a misconception. ABA actually focuses on teaching the child away from the table. My curriculum emphasizes the need to teach the child in a general or natural setting. So in order for the program/task to be mastered, the child will need to be able to demonstrate the skill in three different settings, with three different people, and with three different materials. My curriculum also breaks down each program into achievable steps. By doing this, we are allowing the child to feel successful and proud of himself/herself while working towards the larger picture. If we said to a child “go wash your hands”, that could be very overwhelming. However, if we break down that task into achievable steps and give positive reinforcement to the chid after he or she masters each step, the overall task becomes less daunting and achievable.

Actually, the basic components of reinforcement, prompting, shaping, etc. are techniques that make up any good teaching program. I feel ABA is essential for people with ASD but should also be incorporated into everyone’s life.

Tell us about the book – how did it come about, who is it for, and what is the single most important thing that you hope people learn from it?

This book was a collection of programs that I have written over the course of the past several years. I was an ABA therapist and then a behavior analyst and was required to put together programs to help meet the needs of my students. I figured that if I was taking the time to create these programs, and knew the programs worked because my students were making progress, then why should others have to reinvent the wheel. I think the most important thing that I hope people learn from my book is that skills must be broken down into achievable steps and that generalization is essential to ensuring that the child is able to perform the skill naturally.

At what age do you think parents can start implementing ABA strategies with their kids? And why is it important to start early?

ABA is a methodology that should be implemented from day one and should not stop just because a person reaches a certain age. The research is clear: the earlier the intervention, the more everyone is on the same side, the more consistency there is, the better chance the child has to function in society.

Can you share some examples where you have used ABA effectively with a child on the spectrum?

All children need to be taught how to write, read, add, etc. We do not just say to them “do algebra”; we break the big picture down into achievable and manageable steps. The same applies to students on the spectrum. I can remember one of the first students that I worked with. He was just diagnosed with autism and he had very limited skills. Just to get him to sit in a chair for a minute was a big struggle, so to start I used reinforcement strategies and shaping procedures to help him learn to sit. Once he mastered this basic skill, I was able to teach him how to ask for things, count, read, get dressed, and so forth.

ABA allows us to break tasks down into achievable steps, which in turn helps to motivate the child and improves their self-esteem. ABA also allows us to shape a child’s behavior and reinforces appropriate behavior so that the child understands what they should be doing. For the students that I have worked with, it was never a question as to whether they needed an ABA program – it just naturally became a part of their everyday lives.

Copyright © Jessica Kingsley Publishers 2011.

JKP attends the NAS ‘Understanding and Managing Challenging Behaviour’ Conference in London

JKP attended The National Autistic Society’s conference on Understanding and Managing Challenging Behaviour held at Kensington Town Hall in London on the 6th July.

The JKP stand was extremely popular and received many visitors particularly at lunchtime when John Clements signed copies of his JKP books, including People with Autism Behaving Badly: Helping People with ASD Move On from Behavioral and Emotional Challenges

In his keynote speech to the conference, John discussed ways that ‘neurotypicals’ can try to understand the root causes of behaviours of those on the spectrum in order to be able to facilitate real change. Afterwards delegates queued up to chat with him, share their experiences of challenging behaviour and buy copies of his four JKP books (see below). 

Deborah Lipsky’s new title, From Anxiety to Meltdown: How Individuals on the Autism Spectrum Deal with Anxiety, Experience Meltdowns, Manifest Tantrums, and How You Can Intervene Effectively, was also a big hit with the delegates.

In the afternoon there were talks by occupational and speech therapists working at the Helen Allison School for children with autism, who handed out practical tools for reducing anxiety for children with autism, such as weighted clothes, special cushions, pliable bracelets and stress balls! They also recommended JKP author Olga Bogdashina’s books as great explanatory guides about the sensory overload, desensitisation and the communication difficulties experienced by individuals with autism.

The day was a great success and ended with a thought-provoking talk by Professor Jim Mansell who discussed how services for people with autism could be run more effectively in the future. He is currently writing a book for JKP about actively supporting people with intellectual disabilities and helping them to live as full a life as possible, due to be published in April 2012.

Many thanks to the organisers, to our authors and of course to everyone who stopped by the stand!

Copyright © Jessica Kingsley Publishers 2011.

From Anxiety to Meltdown – An Interview with Deborah Lipsky

Deborah Lipsky is a high-functioning autistic individual with substantial experience in emergency and trauma management, having formerly worked as a firefighter, emergency medical technician, and reserve police officer. She is now a public speaker and consultant for schools, agencies, and private parties, specialising in meltdown management plans.

Here, Deborah answers some questions about her new book, From Anxiety to Meltdown: How Individuals on the Autism Spectrum Deal with Anxiety, Experience Meltdowns, Manifest Tantrums, and How You Can Intervene Effectively.


How and when were you diagnosed with high functioning autism?

I was diagnosed in 2005 as an adult. It came about because, after working with a state agency called Vocational Rehab that helps people who have difficulty become employed, they became frustrated with me because there were too many communication issues to work through, even with my counselor, that I decided independently to be tested for any mental illnesses to see what was wrong with me and why I had such difficulty with communication and social skills. I never expected the diagnosis but was relieved that it wasn’t mental illness.

How has this diagnosis affected your life, especially with regard to anxiety?

At first it was a relief as it explained why I had such difficulty relating to people and that I wasn’t “crazy” or mentally unbalanced as some people thought. After the initial euphoria I ended up going through the 5 stages of grief because I then looked back at my childhood and all the wrongs that were done to me because no one knew I was autistic. There was the usual denial, bargaining, and all the emotions right down to acceptance where I am at now. I am anxious now and have been all my life so a diagnosis really doesn’t change or affect the level of anxiety I felt and feel. It is part of who I am and I knew that before I was diagnosed.

Can you talk about the work you do?

My primary job is that I work for a seminar company doing seminars on understanding autism. Then on the side I do many consultations for individuals and agencies regarding clients with behavioral issues. I also do numerous keynote presentations, and private speaking and or training workshops for various agencies that contact me all through out the United States.

Both of your JKP books are about meltdowns – how did you become interested in this particular topic?

Meltdowns became my specialty because I would have so many and all the books I read on the subject at the time attributed the cause to willful behavior when I knew they occured not as a choice but as a reaction to overwhelming stressors I couldn’t control. I initially created a training program for hospital emergency rooms for the autism society of Maine to help professionals recognize the warning signs of impending meltdowns and how to avoid them in the first place if possible. Word quickly spread of this program and I began to expand that to doing private trainings for various agencies and then it became the focal point of the seminar I do for this company I work for now. I was also horrified at the fact that tantrum and meltdowns were considered one in the same when they were not and so I had to clarify the difference and give strategies to handle them both.

How did this book come about?

This book came about because my first book left a lot of unanswered questions about meltdowns and the confusion over tantrums and meltdowns. My first book was designed to be used in real-time to de-escalate a meltdown but obviously was ineffective in controlling a tantrum. I received many emails from people asking me to elaborate on the topic of meltdowns and tantrums because as an autistic person who experiences them both, my insights would be very helpful.

What makes this book stand out is the fact that it explains in simple, easy-to-understand terms how, why and what we are thinking; how being anxious is core to being autistic; and it looks at autism from our vantage point. It offers so many valuable “ah ha” moments throughout that it will help those on all ends of the spectrum and those inbetween.

What is the difference between a tantrum and a meltdown?

A meltdown is an involuntary reaction to overwhelming stressor(s) either from cognitive or sensory overload. A tantrum is a choice of willful behavior with the intent of manipulating someone else’s response to meet their demand.

What are some causes of meltdowns that ‘neurotypical’ people often don’t pick up on?

Meltdown triggers vary from individual to individual. Some big ones include sudden changes, vague questions or commands, not getting understandable answers to questions the autistic person asks, and being stopped from stimming when they are trying to stay calm.

What is the worst thing for a family member or other caregiver to do or say when an autistic person has a meltdown?

By far the worst thing a person can do when someone is escalating into a meltdown is to ask questions like, “What have you been taught to do in these circumstances?”, or to offer vague, non-concrete choices to diffuse a meltdown like, “Do you want to go out and play?”

What should they do or say instead?

Always use the person’s name repeatedly. Use short phrases that convey that you are there and will help them: “Deborah, it’s OK. I’m here to help.” Nothing wordy or complex as the cognitive functioning is decreasing by the second and they can barely process what is being said. Repeating these phrases acts like an echolalia that also helps in calming them down if used in a calming tone. Again what to do is covered in my first book in detail so I recommend anyone who is involved with autism to read that book.

How can understanding why meltdowns happen improve the lives of people with autism?

Mainly once people understand meltdown triggers and why they occur the enviroment can be modified to help reduce the number of meltdowns. And more compassion instead of critism can be offered to us because we feel awful afterwards; feelings of remorse and regret are common because we didn’t want it to occur. It isn’t like we have a “quota” of so many meltdowns we need to have in a day. It just happens due to overwhelming factors beyond our (the autistic person’s) control.

Copyright © Jessica Kingsley Publishers 2011.