Thursday, June 30, 2011

Positively Autism June 2011 Newsletter

We're wrapping up the two-part series on Self-Management of Behavior. Here is the first part of the series: . If you haven't read the first part, you may want to do so before reading this month's newsletter.

Steps to Self-Management based on Pivotal Response Training -

Outsmarting Explosive Behavior: Interview with Judy Endow -

Review of "Outsmarting Explosive Behavior" -

New Free Download: Swimming Pool Safety Story -

Learn more about Self-Management (Links) -

June 2011 Positive Autism News -

Friday, June 24, 2011

June 2011 Positive Autism News

Autistic son finds peace on the waves

Autism can't slow down Fremont High rodeo star

Kent Melville, Autistic 9-Year-Old, Starts Soda Business To Help Other Autistic Children
Huffington Post

Hopes high as six autistic students clear SSC
Times of India

Autism never got in the way of Naples grad, on or off the court
Brighton-Pittsford Post

7 Year-old Boy with Autism Creates and Curates Paleozoic Creatures Blog, Gets over 9,000 Hits in One Day
Autism Science Foundation

Rave hosting movies for children on autism spectrum or with disability
For more info,

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Learn more about Self-Management (Links)

I'm about to wrap-up our series on self-management, so here are some links if you're interested in learning more.

Association for Science in Autism Treatment: Self-Management -

Autism Research Institute: Self-Management -

Case Study: Self-Management of Stereotypic Behaviors -

Best Practice Autism Blog: Self Management, A Proactive Strategy (scroll down for article) -

Best Practice Autism Blog: Steps to Developing a Self-Management Plan (scroll down for article) -

Teaching Self-Management Skills to Children with Autism -

Monday, June 13, 2011

Review of "Outsmarting Explosive Behavior"

Outsmarting Explosive Behavior: A Visual System of Support and Intervention for Individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorders


Outsmarting Explosive Behavior: A Visual System of Support and Intervention for Individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorders is a "program is designed to help decrease - and in some cases eliminate - explosive behavior in children with autism spectrum disorders. Tantrums and meltdowns are among the greatest challenges presented by ASD, often leaving parents and educators searching for answers. Outsmarting Explosive Behavior is a visual program, laid out as a fold-out poster, that can be individualized for each user. Four train cars represent the four stages of explosive behavior: Starting Out, Picking up Steam, Point of No Return, and Explosion. By using visuals to appeal to children with ASD, this program makes it easy to help them identify their current state and take steps to decrease the chances of a meltdown."
- Description from the Autism Asperger Publishing website

  • Customizable to reflect your child or student’s particular behaviors and needs.
  • Uses a train theme, which is often a special interest area of students with autism.
  • Includes both a student workbook and an instructor’s manual.
  • The system includes visual supports, a plus since students with autism are generally visual learners.
  • Focus on students learning to manage their own behavior, a skill necessary for increased independence.
  • The manual includes case study examples, which may be helpful to instructors in implementing the system with their students or children.
  • Positive focus that allows the student to maintain a positive self-concept while working on improving his or her behavior. For example, on page 17 of the student work book it states, “Please remind yourself often: I am a good person working on ways to outsmart my explosive behavior.”

  • The positive behavior intervention strategies are written on red stop signs and the negative (not effective) strategies are written on green signs. This may just be my opinion, but this seems like it might be a little bit confusing, as “red” seems to have a negative or “stop” connotation. I would have expected the positive strategies to be on green signs and the others on red.
  • The product was slightly difficult to assemble.


Highly recommended for both parents and teachers. You can read more information about this product in our interview with Judy Endow or by visiting the product’s page on the publisher’s website here:

Sunday, June 12, 2011

New Free Download - Swimming Pool Safety Story

I wrote this story for my son after I was unable to find any printable pool safety stories online that I really liked (except for the one that I'll post to the Daily Autism Freebie on Monday). If you know of any others, please feel free to leave a comment on this post or our Facebook page.

Here is the story in two formats:
Microsoft Word:

Please see the notes for parents on the last page of this story before using it.

View Positively Autism's other Social Stories (TM) here:

View all of our free resources here:

Monday, June 6, 2011

Outsmarting Explosive Behavior: Interview with Judy Endow

Outsmarting Explosive Behavior: A Visual System of Support and Intervention for Individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorders

Note: If you're joining us from the Autism Asperger Publishing Company's website, thanks for visiting! You can follow us on Facebook at or Twitter at . Thanks!

Positively Autism: Let’s start with your background. What lead you to the field of Autism and how did that inspire you to write Outsmarting Explosive Behavior, A Visual System of Support and Intervention for Individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorders?

Judy Endow: My son who was diagnosed with Asperger’s.  His story is in Outsmarting Explosive Behavior near the front of the teacher manual.  I myself  grew up having difficulties and was in fact institutionalized for some years as a youngster, diagnosed with a smorgasboard of psychiatric labels.  My brand of autism wasn’t understood back then. When my son was diagnosed with Asperger’s the doctor then turned to me and said we should talk about my autism.   Autism describes me better than and accounts for all the other diagnosis over the course of my lifetime.  To read my story please see Paper Words: Discovering an Living With My Autism (2009, AAPC) In addition, my professional background in the field. I have a masters degree in Social Work and used to work in a homeless shelter.  Today I have a private practice devoted exclusively to autism. I continue to write and speak on a wide variety of autism related topics.

PA: Give us a brief overview of Outsmarting Explosive Behavior and how it works.

JE: Explosive behavior is defined as having four distinct stages, followed by a clearly defined recovery period. In addition, the physiological fight/flight mechanism is triggered immediately prior to the explosion.
In this model, the four stages of explosive behavior are the same for all experiencing explosive behavior and are depicted by four train cars called Starting Out, Picking Up Steam, Point of No Return, and Explosion. The idea is to try to prevent the train cars from hooking up because when they do we have a runaway train that ends in explosion.

Working backwards, the Explosion is the stage where the meltdown behavior is evident. Immediately prior to this is the Point of No Return, which is exactly what it implies -- there is no going back from the meltdown because this stage is where the fight/flight response is triggered. The pupils dilate, and breathing and heart rates increase. Physiologically, our bodies respond as if our very lives are at stake, and we automatically behave accordingly: We fight for our lives. It is entirely impossible to reason with anyone in this survival mode. As soon as you see the child’s identified Point of No Return behavior you can know the Explosion is coming and need to do your best to quickly create and maintain a safe environment.

The place to impact explosive behavior is ahead of when it occurs. In the Starting Out phase, whispers of behaviors are evident. The Picking Up Steam phase is just that—the whispers become louder. Though you can learn to successfully intervene at these stages, the most effective way to manage explosive behavior is proactively, before the whispers even start.

Strategies to Prevent Meltdowns Before They Start

An individual mix of three major supports and interventions is usually most effective in preventing the first stage of meltdown behavior from starting. These three major supports include proactive use of a sensory diet to maintain optimal sensory regulation, visual supports, and managing emotions that are too big (Endow, 2010).

People with AS usually do not have sensory systems that automatically regulate; instead, they must discover how to keep themselves regulated. This is most often accomplished by employing a sensory diet. A sensory diet for a person with autism is like insulin for a person with diabetes. It is easy to understand that a person with diabetes has a pancreas that is unable to regulate insulin effectively. We can measure blood sugar and know the exact state of affairs, and from there figure out how much insulin the person needs.

Sensory Diet: Unfortunately, medical science does not allow us to take a blood sample to measure sensory dysregulation. However, we can figure out and employ a sensory diet to prevent dysregulation, and just like insulin prevents serious consequences for a diabetic, a sensory diet prevents serious troubles for an individual with ASD. As an adult with autism, I spend time every day on sensory integration activities in order to be able to function well in my everyday life. A sensory diet employed proactively goes a long way in preventing the Starting Out stage of explosive behavior from ever occurring (Brack, 2004).

Visual Supports: Another crucial area of support to put in place proactively is that of visual supports. As an autistic, I can tell you the saying “A picture is worth a thousand words” is the monumental truth. Although each person with ASD has a unique experience, processing written and spoken words is not considered by most of us to be our “first language.” For me, the meaning I get from spoken words can drop out entirely when I am under stress, my sensory system is dysregulated or my felt emotions are too big. Visual supports can be anything that shows rather than tells. Visual schedules are very commonly used successfully with many individuals with ASD. Having a clear way to show beginnings and endings to the activities depicted on the visual schedule can support smooth transitions, thus keeping a meltdown at bay. For maximum effectiveness, visual supports need to be in place proactively rather than waiting until behavior unravels to pull them out.

Managing Felt Emotions: A third area in which many with ASD need proactive support is in managing felt emotions. Most often, felt feelings are way too big for the situation. An example in my life is when I discover the grocery store is out of a specific item; I get a visceral reaction very similar to the horror I felt when first hearing about the 9/11 tragedy. I know cognitively the two events have no comparison and, yet, my visceral reaction is present and I need to consciously bring my too big feelings down to something more workable in the immediate situation. Managing felt emotions does not come automatically, but can be learned over time with systematic instruction and visual supports such as The Incredible 5-Point Scale (Buron & Curtis, 2004).

The good news is that explosive behavior can be positively impacted. With proactive supports, explosive behavior can be outsmarted so individuals with ASD can move on to living purposeful and self-fulfilling lives. 


Brack, J.C. (2004). Learn to Move, Move to Learn! Sensorimotor Early Childhood Activity Themes. Shawnee Mission, KS: Autism Asperger Publishing Company.

Buron, K.D., & Curtis, M. (2004). The Incredible 5-Point Scale. Shawnee Mission, KS: Autism Asperger Publishing Company.

Endow, J. (2009). Outsmarting Explosive Behavior: A Visual System of Support and Intervention for Individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorders. Shawnee Mission, KS: Autism Asperger Publishing Company.

Endow, J. (2011). Practical Strategies for Stabilizing Students With Classic Autism: Getting to Go. Shawnee Mission, KS: Autism Asperger Publishing Company

PA: What ages of students have used this system successfully? Does this system work best for students with any particular characteristics or needs? 

JE: Among those I have worked with the youngest child was 3 and the oldest adult in his 50’s. This train model to outsmart explosive behavior has also been used by non-readers by constructing it totally in pictures rather than using words, as in the written book example, and it has been found to be effective in both the picture and the words versions.  In addition, as the train model began appearing in classrooms, teachers noticed that students for whom the train was not originally intended began using it to show their teachers the difficult they were encountering. So, although Outsmarting Explosive Behavior Visual System was intended to be used when working with individuals with autism, it has been successfully used with individuals with other diagnosis who struggle with explosive behavior.

PA: One aspect of this program that I think is wonderful is that it may fit into a student’s special interest area. Many students on the autism spectrum (and kids in general) often enjoy trains. How would having a familiar or preferred item, such as a train, featured in a behavior support program help students learn to manage their behavior?

JE: We all attend more readily to those things we like.  We gravitate towards those things that make us happy. This is how human beings are; people with autism are no different in this regard.

PA: What other tips do you have for parents or teachers of students who may have difficulties with “explosive” behavior?

JE: If the youngster has classic autism he will likely need to be stabilized before employing the explosive behavior train model.  Please refer to Practical Solutions for Stabilizing Students With Classic Autism to Be Ready to Learn: Getting to Go (2011, AAPC) for more information on this.

PA: Do you have a website where readers can learn more about your publications?


PA: Thank you for sharing your time and expertise with Positively Autism!

JE: You are welcome!

Note from Positively Autism: This book is published by Autism Asperger Publishing.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Steps to Self-Management based on Pivotal Response Training

Steps to Self-Management based on Pivotal Response Training
(Based on Koegel, Koegel, & Suratt, 1992)

1. Select a desired behavior. This can be either a behavior that needs to be taught (such as responding to peer’s greetings or attending to the teacher during class time) or one that needs to be reduced (such as speaking in class without raising your hand). It must be objective and measureable. In other words, it should be very clearly defined so that both teacher and student know exactly what behavior is expected of the student and can record its occurrence or non-occurrence objectively.

2. Identify potential reinforcers. Teacher and student choose rewards, such as computer time, for the student to work toward. It is also recommended that, in addition to these external rewards, students should be encouraged to be internally reinforced (rewarded) by their behavior (because it is the right thing to do, it helps them to do better in school, it helps the teacher do his/her job and helps the class learn, etc.).

3. Choose a self-monitoring system. The teacher selects a method of data collection and behavior tracking that is appropriate to the child's needs and abilities.

4. Teach the student to self-monitor. Teach the child to recognize the occurrence or absence of the target behavior and to record the behavior using the self-monitoring system.

5.Generalize. The teacher takes data to determine whether the student can generalize the self-management system to real-life situations (such as the school or community).

For more information about PRT for students with Autism, please the folloiwng book. We will also be reviewing this book in an upcoming series of blog posts on PRT.

Pivotal Response Treatment for Autism: Communication, Social, & Academic Development


Koegel, R. L., Koegel, L. K., & Surratt,A. (1992). Language intervention and disruptive behavior in children with autism. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 22, 141-152.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Coming Up in June...

Continuing our series on self-management strategies, here's what's coming up this  month:

Outsmarting Explosive Behavior: A Visual System of Support and Intervention for Individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorders

A review of "Outsmarting Explosive Behavior: A Visual System of Support and Intervention for Individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorders."

An interview with Judy Endow, author of "Outsmarting Explosive Behavior: A Visual System of Support and Intervention for Individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorders."

Steps to self-management based on Pivotal Response Training.

Links to learn more about self-management.

More positive news that celebrates the accomplishments of individuals with autism!

Be sure to follow us on Twitter and/or Facebook to be updated when these great resources are added!