Category: Autism

INDEX Summer Camp Resources 2023

We have updated Summer Camp resources for children with disabilities. Camp listings are for day and residential camps. Camps are located in Massachusetts, New England, and beyond. Check our listings for specific camp information and openings. Cost varies by type of camp and programs offered.

Camps offer a big range of programs and activities. Camps may have available openings and wait lists. Each camp has its own eligibility requirements. If you have questions, please contact each camp for details.

INDEX Summer Camp Resources 2023

Supporting Siblings of Autistic Children with Aggressive Behaviors

Emily Rubin, Director of the UMass Chan Medical School Shriver Center’s Sibling Support Program, shared information about siblings experiencing aggression from autistic brothers and sisters.   In a Q&A session with Autism Speaks, Emily discussed aggression and other severe behaviors.

The Sibling Support Program: A Family-Centered Mental Health Initiative is a community-based program offered by UMass Chan Medical School. 

Families interested in the Sibling Support Program: A Family-Centered Mental Health Initiative can contact Emily directly at They will receive information about the program, a permission form and Zoom link to log in. 

Read Emily Rubin’s Autism Speaks Q&A Session

Center for Autism and Neurodevelopmental Disorders Eunice Kennedy Shriver Center (CANDO) COVID-19 ASD Resources and Information (pdf)

At CANDO, we are acutely aware that unexpected changes require thoughtful support for persons with ASD or NDD. We have put together a list of resources to help with explaining COVID-19, ideas for creating supportive schedules for the day, and various activities to support positive interactions and successful engagement, including indoor movement activities! Please note that it is important to consider the youth’s developmental level when applying these strategies.

ASD Resources

Use of an AAC, the good and the bad

AAC Board

As a BCBA, I teach people how to use Augmentative & Alternative Communication (AAC) devices. AAC devices help people communicate who have trouble asking for things they want.

The good results:

An AAC device enables people to do more in their home and community. When an AAC device is successful:

  • The whole team works together.
  • The team uses the AAC device to communicate.
  • The AAC device is setup for the person.
  • The AAC device enables the person to get their favorite things.

When everyone works together, an AAC device can enable people to get their favorite things.

The Bad results:

When the wrong program used, or the AAC Device is setup wrong. It often ends up going unused. This happens because:

  • The AAC is too complicated.
  • People don’t use the AAC device.
  • The person’s favorite things are not added to the AAC device.

AAC Devices can help people. Work with an expert when you start working with an AAC device.

Some online resources for selecting AAC programs:

Jane Farrell AAC App List – a list of AAC Apps.

PrAACtical AAC Blog – more AAC resources.






Working with Autistic Adults in Medical Settings

Monitoring blood pressure

Autistic people should be treated fairly at the doctor’s office. As an autistic adult myself, I’ve been treated well by some doctors and badly by others. Here are some tips for doctors, nurses, and other medical workers who work with autistic adults.

  • I’m an adult and should be treated like one. That means taking me seriously when I tell you how I’m feeling or what I need.
  • Sometimes the world around us can be really overwhelming. Things can be too noisy, too bright, or too rough.
  • Autistic people don’t all look or sound the same. We can be of any race, gender, age, or background.
  • Many autistic people like to be called autistic people, including me. That’s because we see it as an important part of ourselves. Don’t call me a “person with autism.” If you’d like to learn more, you can read this article about autism and language by Kate Ryan.
  • Some people can’t speak, but they can still talk to you in other ways. These ways include computers, tablets, letter boards, and other kinds of assistive technology. I do speak myself, but I know people who don’t.
  • You may need to break things down to make them more understandable. I don’t have a hard time with medical language, but some people do.
  • Autistic people still care about others, even though it may be hard for them to show it. There’s a difference between feeling something and being able to express it.

ABA Therapy

child pointing at a chartHello, my name is Felisha Thomas and I work as a behavior therapist in a public school.

Therapists and teachers use ABA to help work with children.  ABA stands for Applied Behavioral Analyst.  This means the science of behavior.  ABA is not just for children with autism.  ABA is used to help all children with their behaviors.

Therapists and teachers learn ABA in school.  They learn about the 3 ABCs of behavior.

  • Antecedent: what are they doing before the behavior?
  • Behavior: what are they doing?
  • Consequence: what are they doing after the behavior?

Therapists and teachers use ABA for lots of things.

Help children make better choices throughout the day.

  • Help children who are sad.
  • Help children who are mad.
  • Play with children at the playground.
  • Keep children safe.
  • Help children follow directions in class.
  • Help teach children the rules.
  • Help children learn the class lessons.

Therapists and teachers go other places outside of school to help children too.

  • We go to museums.
  • We go to zoos.
  • We go to parks.
  • We go to the pool.
  • We try to help children anytime there is a need.

Therapists and teachers are friendly.  We let children know that we are their friends who like to help.

For more information on ABA therapy, see ABA in Classroom Settings.

Autism Spectrum Disorder in a Toddler – How Might They Look Different?

About Me

young child

I am a developmental-behavioral pediatrician in training.  I am often asked to see children for concern about autism spectrum disorder (ASD). During my visit, I watch how children behave.  I then decide if ASD is the diagnosis that best fits their behavior.  I see children of all ages. This is about children less than age 3.

 Why Toddlers are Different

Children with ASD tend to respond better to treatment when they are diagnosed early. (National Research Counsel, 2001). Many children can be diagnosed as young as 18 months of age. But most children are diagnosed between 3-4 years of age (Filipek, 1999).

One reason is because the early symptoms are hard to see.  Some of the best-known symptoms may not show up until a child is older. These include flapping their hands and repeating parts of TV shows.

Toddlers with ASD often don’t learn the skills they need to interact with others. Children who are behind in just their ability to use language still try to interact. They will often use eye contact and gestures to work around their struggles. Children with ASD have trouble with this.

Here are some free websites and videos to help anyone who cares for young children. This information shows what we call the “red flag signs” for ASD.

Symptoms of Autism Spectrum Disorder

The website Autism Navigator talks about the early signs of autism. There is a free course with videos about toddlers with ASD. You have to register to use the site. They also have a list of red flag signs for toddlers. These include:

  • not looking at someone when their name is called;
  • not showing others objects they like;
  • not sharing their interests with the ones they love;
  • not making eye contact; and/or
  • not using gestures to let people know what they want.

There are other resources on this website. However, not all of them are free.

How a Toddler with ASD Might Look

Here are some videos from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) showing how a toddler with autism spectrum might look. There are also toddlers that do not have the warning signs of autism. This enables you to see how they differ. All the videos are on the CDC video library.  Some of the videos are linked below.

Looking at someone when their name is called

Here is a video of a 12-month-old who responds to his name by looking at his mother and smiling. He also points at her. This is what we expect a toddler to do when their name is called.

12-month-old looking when called

Here is a video of an 18-month-old not looking at his mother when his name is called. A toddler who can hear should look when his name is called.

18-month-old child not looking when called


This video shows a 13-month-old stacking cups. He involves his father and gives him the cups. Many toddlers seek out their loved ones when playing.

13-month-old toddler playing with father

Here is a 17-month-old toddler who is not showing pretend play with a phone. He also does not copy the adult when she tries to show him how to use it. These are both warning signs of ASD.

17-month-old toddler not showing pretend play

Twins and a train

The last video shows a set of twins, who are 19 months old.

  • The first one does not have signs of ASD. He likes to push the train back and forth with his mother.
  • The second twin does have signs of ASD. He needs to be asked to push the train. He also does not seem to enjoy playing with his mother.

19-month-old twins pushing train

The Importance of Those Who Care for Children

Parents and early-childhood workers interact with young children the most. They often are the first to know something is wrong. They can be important to get a child with ASD the help they need. These links and videos can help anyone who is interested better know the warning signs for ASD.

Works Cited

Filipek, P. e. (1999). The screening and diagnosis of autism spectrum disorders. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 439-484.

National Research Counsel. (2001). Educating children with autism. Washington, DC: National Academy Press.


“Girls with Autism Are Good at Hiding it”

As of 2012, autism can be found in 1 in 68 children. 1 It was noticed that boys are more diagnosed than girls (1 girl to every 4-5 boys). 1 Is autism really more common in boys than colorful drawingof a girls headgirls? Or are we missing autism in girls?

Autism in girls can be hard to see. Girls with problems dealing with people can be seen as shy. They may live for years without knowing they have autism. This delays diagnosis and treatment.  Boys are noted earlier than girls by 2 years.

Most of the time, a child with autism has problems dealing with people, and has repetitive behavior. Girls are aware of these problems but they are good at hiding them. Girls with autism want to deal with people, but don’t know how. They may start copying what others do. ‘They pretend to be normal’. 2 Girls with autism get tired from copying. “It is like math all the time”.2

Unlike boys, girls don’t flap their hands or jump all the time. They may not play with wheels of cars or trucks.  These are other reasons for the delay in diagnosis.

Some teen girls love numbers and focus on their weight. They start counting every food they eat. This may end up having an eating problem. An eating problem may be a ‘face’ of autism in girls. Girls with an eating problem and girls with autism have similarities. They are both rigid, love details, and hate changes.  Some children with autism are picky eaters with a strict diet.

Autistics can’t read between lines. Girls miss that someone is creepy. They are more at risk for abuse and taken advantage of.

Girls with autism want to make friends. They play with regular toys (dolls or Barbie). They have fewer behavioral problems. They have fewer repetitive moves. They are more at risk for feeling down or worried. They are more at risk for abuse  

Girl with autism will need special help. Girls benefit from social groups that teach them how to:

  • take care of themselves;
  • be appropriate when dealing with people;
  • make friends; and
  • protect themselves from abuse. 3

If you would like to read more about this topic:

  2. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders October 2016, Volume 46, Issue 10, pp 3281–3294, The Experiences of Late-diagnosed Women with Autism Spectrum Conditions: An Investigation of the Female Autism Phenotype Authors: Sarah Bargiela, Robyn Steward, William Mandy ,
  3. Autism—It’s Different in Girls. New research suggests the disorder often looks different in females, many of whom are being misdiagnosed and missing out on the support they need by Maia Szalavitz on March 2016,
  4. Attention Finally Being Paid to Girls at Risk of AutismSomer L. Bishop, PhDaJeremy Veenstra-Vander Weele, MDb, , Stephan J. Sanders, MD, PhDa,
  5. Autism Behaviors May Differ in Boys and Girls. Study also found gender differences in brain of children with the disorder. By Tara Haelle,


An Autistic Goes to Grad School – First Time Blog

Hey, my name is Sara.  I’m Autistic.  I have other Disabilities too.  I like to say a laundry list four differently-colored interlocking puzzle piecesof them.  I’m going to talk about Autism and grad school here.  And why I’m going.  And how long it took me to get a regular college degree, and why.

I’m scared.  I feel like graduate school will be a next level to regular college.  I have trouble with organization.  I have trouble with time management.  Depression makes me tired and low energy.

I have already been talked to about going off topic in class in the first week.  It wasn’t really off topic.  The rest of the class and the teacher can’t see the patterns I see and how all of it was connected.  I think another Autistic would have.  The teacher was nice about it.

A classmate talked to me too.  I thought she was being nice, then I wasn’t sure.  I took it as I heard it, and then I started to wonder.  Was it about my ‘lack of social cues’ or about their lack of comfort?  The thing about Autism is I can’t know which it is.  If I asked, would people tell me the truth or not?  Thinking about this kind of tiny little social lie makes me crazy.  It feels like betrayal to tell them.  But people do it all the time.  I can’t tell them or know when to tell them or when not to.  Wouldn’t it be better if we all just didn’t?  How is it polite?  Makes me feel even more apart.

When I get in to school early, I take time to separate off and play simple games on the iPad or iPod to relax my mind and be less affected by lights and sound.  So I can have enough energy reserved for getting through classes.

The next week, I got things said to me I’ve heard before, but are never easy to hear and are never cool.  I hate hearing them.  They make me feel not.

  • Not Autistic enough.
  • Not Disabled enough.
  • I don’t need help.
  • I don’t need support.
  • I don’t
  • Not as much as others, so it doesn’t

Life isn’t a competition.  It hurts even more because my mother always compared my and my brother’s levels and types of Disabilities.  If you don’t ‘look Disabled’ or ‘act Disabled’ then you always seem to get doubted, and people get mad at you.  Like there’s a pot of Disability to reach into and smear across your face.

  • I wish my child was able to do all you can.
  • You need to understand not everyone is like you.
  • My child is so much more
  • My child is much lower
  • If my children could just sit there, their lives would be amazing.

Way to suck the worth from my life.  I am not here to be compared to.  I am a person all on my own.  This needs to be.  I need to be.  I am made less human if not.  I wrote a poem about all this.

Here.  This video will help.  It’s called “Shit Ignorant People Say to Autistics.”  Maybe you can relate. I love this video.  It always makes me laugh and nod along.

Earlier Diagnosis of Autism Matters for African American

man with child
Cultural beliefs may play a part in diagnostic disparities.

The Diagnosis…

I try to remember when my son began to lose words.  It seemed like I always knew how to reach him.  I mean, yes, he had tantrums.  He was a baby; you know? Besides, he was a boy, aren’t boys a little slower to develop?  And his older brothers are quiet…we all are.

When my sister-in-law approached me about his development, I was stunned.  Of course he talks.  He talks all the time.   At least that is what I heard myself say.  Didn’t he?  The more attention I began to pay, the fewer “I love yous” I heard.   I know he used to call me Mommy.   When did he begin to just stare out into… nothing?   Joshua was moving backward, regressing.   A well-check visit with his doctor sent my world into a tailspin.  Just one word: Autism.   That was almost seventeen years ago.

Today’s Reality…

I have worked as a behavior therapist for nearly three years now.   In that time, I can count the number of African American children I have serviced on one hand.   That is not to say that autism does not affect African American children.  It is just to say that I serve a larger population of non-African American clients.   As a mother of an African American young man diagnosed with autism, this is concerning.  Why are we not seeing more African American families seeking therapy? Is it because of barriers to quality medical care?  Is it because of lack of financial resources?  Or could it be cultural beliefs?  Statistics bear out one fact…African American children are being diagnosed later than their counterparts.

National statistics state that Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) affects 1 in 68 children today.  This diagnosis affects boys nearly five times as often as girls.  It is not determined by race.  It is not determined by where you live.  It is not determined by how much money you make.   It is an equal opportunity disorder being diagnosed across these factors.   However, when you get diagnosed is a factor that can have a profound impact on a child’s development.   Early diagnosis and therapies to support language, communication, and social-skill development are important.  These have been shown to strengthen speech, relationship building, and interaction with others in a meaningful way.

Diagnostic Disparities…

African American children statistically are diagnosed later than their counterparts.  Because of this, they often miss opportunities for early intervention.   The failure to access services during early childhood can require more intensive and extended therapies later in life.

Statistics show African American families often have fewer resources.   These could be financial, access to care, or social supports.   Education about this diagnosis can be a powerful tool in closing the diagnostic gap.  Recognizing early signs of autism can help parents identify possible red flags.   The Centers for Disease Control “Know the Signs Act Early” campaign provides important information.   Their brochures highlight developmental milestones as well as developmental delays to watch from birth to age five.

Below are some red flags from the CDC that parents should know.  For more information, visit “Facts About ASD” on the Centers for Disease Control web site.

Red Flags…

Some signs about children with ASD include the following.

  • They may not point at objects they are interested in. (for example, not point at an airplane flying over).
  • They may not look when you point at objects.
  • They may show no interest in others.
  • They may not look at you when you speak.
  • They may like to be alone instead of with others.
  • They may have a hard time understanding emotions. (for example; sad, happy, scared, angry, etc.)
  • They may have a hard time saying what they feel. (for example; they are sad, happy, scared, angry, etc.)
  • They may not like being hugged.
  • They may look as if they are not paying attention when people talk to them.
  • They may have a hard time talking to others.
  • They may have a hard time playing with others.
  • They may say the same thing over and over.
  • They may have a hard time letting others know what they need.
  • They may not play “pretend” games. (for example, not pretend to “feed” a doll)
  • They may do the same thing over, and over again
  • They may need to have things done the same way every time.
  • They may have a hard time when things change.
  • They may act unusual to the way things smell, taste, look, feel, or sound.
  • They may stop doing things they once did. (for example, stop talking, playing with others, etc.)

Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2016 – See footnote.

The information above does not address potential factors for diagnostic disparities suffered by African Americans.  It can, however, bring awareness of potential signs of autism.  This awareness can help families bring concerns to their pediatrician’s attention. Knowledge is power.  Early detection and intervention can make a significant difference.

Today, my son is preparing for adulthood.  We are working on vocational training with hopes of transitioning to college with educational supports.  Is his story typical? Who knows?  But shouldn’t it be?

For more information, see the resources below.



Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2016, March 28). Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD)/Facts about ASD. Retrieved from Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: