Autism Awareness Month 2015

In honor of Autism Awareness Month, we will be sharing the newest information and expert advice from our highly-trained professionals throughout the month. Check back often for updates!

April 3

"Being a small piece of the puzzle here at Springbrook has truly been a rewarding experience. As a Teaching Assistant for the Golisano program, I have witnessed the day-to-day obstacles that our students with autism face. However, encouraging positive relationships with our students has proven to be crucial in completing their independence puzzle. Personally, I feel an unrivaled sense of joy when our students overcome and conquer their daily challenges!" --Timothy Lighthall, Overnight Teaching Assistant at LeChase House at the Tom Golisano Center for Autism

April 5

"We should never put limits on what our students can accomplish. In my time working in the Golisano program, I have seen such an amazing improvement in all of the students I have worked with. I have seen them overcome obstacles and learn new skills that at first were extremely challenging for them, but they succeeded. All of our students are smart and unique individuals and we need to set our expectations high for all of them." --Katie Rubin, Assistant Manager for LeChase House at the Tom Golisano Center for Autism


April 7

"I remember when one of our [Golisano] students came to us last year, he did not have a lot of communication skills. With the use of Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA), he has become quite independent and his life skills have improved greatly. Now he can use sign language to convey his wants and needs. My proudest moment was when he signed an entire sentence: 'I want more juice, please.' It must be hard to get someone to understand what it is like to be non-verbal. This student has come a long way with combined efforts of the staff at Wright House." --Colleen M. Clune, Teaching Assistant for Wright House at the Tom Golisano Center for Autism


 April 12

"One of the challenges I have found in working with individuals with autism is that, at times, progress can be a very slow process. I think that most people in this field want to help individuals with autism progress and develop new skills, reduce challenging behaviors, and improve their quality of life. In my experience, the progress tends to be more gradual and takes longer than what is typically expected. This can be very frustrating for everyone involved because we care and want to see improvement. I think it is extremely important to be patient and to celebrate even the smallest accomplishments!" --Brandon Nichols, Clinical Coordinator at the Tom Golisano Center for Autism

April 14

"Caring for a child who has autism is stressful and ongoing. Many of the families I work with experience feelings of worry or anxiety with concern to their child's programming and their own parenting skills. Here are a few tips that can help parents take care of themselves and their child:

  • Stay up-to-date with current research and ensure that the information is coming from a reputable source. Fad treatments and quick fixes can be tempting and offer hope for parents but are unlikely to lead to significant improvements.
  • Understand that the grieving process is a normal reaction that can be triggered by events in life, such as Mother's/Father's Day, holidays, birthday parties, graduation, or even a typical day at the park.
  • Build a support network. This can be family, other families with similar situations, online groups, or local support groups.
  • Make time for yourself and your relationships. It's important to continue with activities you enjoy. Doing that can alleviate stress and help you feel refreshed so you are at your best when it counts.
  • Always remember: you are doing the best you can!"

--Isabelle Brundege-Wood, School Counselor at the Tom Golisano Center for Autism


April 16

"I think one of the most challenging components of working with individuals with autism is finding the right alternative behavior to replace a problem behavior. I once worked with an individual who would yell and throw things at others when he needed help or attention. Our solution was to teach him to say "Excuse me" by touching a card. Eventually he would say "Excuse me" every time he entered a room, even when he didn't want anything. While this new behavior was not harmful to himself or anyone else, the outcome was not what we had intended. So, we had to be very specific for him and help him to understand that saying "Excuse me" was not something he had to say all the time, but only when he really needed something from someone. The good news is, in this instance, we were able to slightly alter the alternative behavior we had taught him so that he now understands that he only needs to say it when he needs us." --Michelle Myers, Assistant Clinical Coordinator for the Tom Golisano Center for Autism

April 20 

"Working at the Tom Golisano Center for Autism, I have learned how effective ABA (Applied Behavior Analysis) techniques can be when there is consistency, good communication, and clear directives. For example, one student was having difficulty going to the doctor and completing the appointment. Working with his behavior specialist, several staff members created a task analysis for going to the doctor. We then ran practice sessions in the school nursing wing, following a detailed, step-by-step process, such as: sit in the waiting room, stand up when your name is called, walk to the exam room, sit in the medical chair, and so on. Through Task Analysis, the student was able to master all that is required when going to the doctor and has successfully made it through four doctor appointments since!" --Jennifer Bowen, Teaching Assistant for Wright House at the Tom Golisano Center for Autism

April 26

"One of our students experienced great success through a shaping procedure that was centered around the goal of shopping at Wal-Mart. In the past, the very mention of Wal-Mart was enough to cause the student to have reservations, often resulting in his engaging in target behaviors. Over time and having several behavioral interventions put into place, this student was able to maintain his composure and demonstrated a willingness to accept alternatives without engaging in target behaviors. He was doing such a great job at keeping calm that we agreed it was time to teach him how to shop at a store. We wrote a procedure that listed the guidelines to follow while shopping and set clear limits on what we were able to purchase. We began at the Dollar Tree and had great success. From there, we moved on to Dollar General and Family Dollar. He gradually became more comfortable in those settings and followed the guidelines appropriately. Each time we took him on a shopping trip, he was more and more successful. Eventually, we decided it was time to go to Wal-Mart—a place that is filled with thousands of tempting items that would challenge him to stay within the guidelines—but he ended up doing incredibly well! His teacher is now in the process of writing a shopping goal for him because he has done so well during his shopping trips out in the community.” —Enrique Carrasco, Behavior Specialist at the Tom Golisano Center for Autism


April 28

Here is an example of what a “Replacement Behaviors/ Functional Communication Training” plan might look like for a person with autism:

“Interventions for the individual require an emphasis on the replacement behavior or functional communication and engagement in leisure activities. The individual receives functional communication training through various goals in the classroom and residential setting. She is currently able to ask for several preferred items using picture symbols or signs, which are intended to reduce her acting out in an attempt to get her needs met. The individual also exhibits fewer target behaviors during unstructured periods, so by increasing leisure activity options, the amount of unstructured time should decrease, which will result in a decreased likelihood of target behaviors. Some of the leisure activities should be sensory-based (such as stickers, play-doh, painting, etc.)…”


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