Wednesday, July 24, 2013


We thought this week we would share with you some of the creativity from our students and adults - ATC Art Expressions.  The art class has a great time painting, crafting, and making ceramic art. Keep scrolling and you can even listen to Robert sharing his musical talent. The "Art Expressions" kids and adults submit several pieces to the Roundup for Autism silent auction each year. Come place a bid and you could take home a one of kind work of art. Visit for more info on the silent auction. Enjoy!


Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Everyone Needs a Friend

There are several myths about autism.  Not everyone with autism is like Rain Man, nor do they all flap their hands and exhibit "odd" behaviors.  A particularly difficult myth is that people with autism do not have emotions.  A person with autism may have a hard time expressing their feelings and showing their emotions as the "typical" person might, but that in no way means they do not have feelings and emotions.

Since being able to express yourself is a big part of building friendships, children and adults with autism are often seen as not being able to make or have friends.  This is just not the case.  It may take more work than for the "typical" person, but the friendships are there.

A friend is "one attached to another by affection or esteem" (merriam-webster).  We asked a few of the students and adults with autism at ATC who their best friends are and why.  These statements may not be expressed often by these students and adults, but they show that there is someone in their lives they have affection for and consider to be their best friend. And, honestly, a lot of these answers seem like the same reasons you and I might give for why our best friend is our BFF.

Daniel - Best Friends: Jereme & Bobby
     "They always perk me up when I'm down.  They understand my comments."

Lisa - Best Friend: Sara
     "Because you say you did a good job and I appreciate it"

Ronal - Best Friend: Travis
     "plays nice"

Bailey - Best Friend: Chris
     "We talk a lot, and he listens."

John - Best Friend: Marie
     "Because I can count on you."

William - Best Friend: Shadow
     "He tells me cool stories."

Chris - Best Friend: Sue
     "Because he loves her"

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Saving the Summer

Summer is a great time! It's the season for family vacations, summertime activities, and a break from school. Most students look forward to this break all year, but for children with autism summer may be a set back in their educational and therapeutic progress. Don't let summer melt away all your student has learned this year. Here are a few tips from ATC's Rachel Adams, BCBA, to help save the summer. Learn about strategies, techniques, and programs to maintain all the skills your child worked so hard all year to learn.

Identify possible challenges for your student - sensory aversions (sand, lights, loud noises, or sounds) - and plan now!—
  • Teach alternative behaviors/plan for alternative activities.
  • Shape tolerance - Shaping is a tool used in Behavior Analysis that involves reinforcing your child for engaging in behaviors closer and closer to the final behavior you want to see. For example, if your child has a hard time with sand but you would like to take a family trip to the beach, begin by having your him or her play in a bucket of rice- run their fingers through the rice, make colored rice, etc. Next mix a small amount of sand into the rice and add toys your child can find by moving the rice/sand mixture around. Slowly reduce the amount of rice until your child is digging in just the sand. 
  • Make visuals - You can make a visual of new places you are going to go to let your student see the location before he/she gets there. For example, if you are planning a trip to the zoo, print out or look up pictures of the particular zoo you will be visiting. Make a visual schedule of what will happen the day you go to the zoo.
  • Keep it simple - Remember to keep it simple, your vacation does not have to be packed full every moment in order for you and your child to have fun.
  • —Bring reinforcers - Always, always, always bring items, food, and activities your child enjoys. You may feel like the beach is a huge reinforcer and preferred item in itself, however, this doesn’t mean your child feels the same way. Therefore, you need to reinforce appropriate behavior your child is exhibiting when they are in a new situation.
  • Maintain a routine - can be a loose routine. It may be summer but that doesn’t mean you need to change everything. Keep some things the same to help your child have predictability in their day.

Continue their education. 
Look at school books and the topics they have learned this year and incorporate that into events/activities. Take pictures your student can look at later as a connecting point for when they have experienced something before. Make learning fun! Play games like a memory matching game. Know what your child's strengths and weaknesses are (ex: social skills, turn taking, reading), and continue working on those areas throughout the summer.

Set realistic goals and be specific.
For example: Johnny will learn color blue and yellow. He will be able to ask for his blue or yellow duck and car.
  • Set guidelines for the goals, such as: I will work with my child on math for 10 minutes twice a day after lunch and before dinner. 
  • Plan out actions to achieve goals- set alarm on your phone, write note on fridge, etc. Share goals with others so they can cheer you on, keep you motivated, and accountable. —
  • Examples of goals to set: Academic goals, —Self-help goals, —Language goals, —Behavior goals, —Social goals, —Peer goals, —Siblings goals.

Determine a schedule, and stick to it.
When working with your student make a schedule. For example, we will work for 15 minutes every day after breakfast. It is also helpful to make a schedule of the activities you will be working on. A visual work schedule can help your child know what is coming next and provide predictability for them.

Be sure to track progress.
Develop a schedule for making notes and measuring achievements. Keeping a record of work throughout the summer will allow you to view the progress your student has made, and see the areas that may need more focus. Share these with your child's teacher at the beginning of the next school year.

Teaching tips.
  • Give instructions that you can follow through on. —Giving an instruction and NOT following through is worse than not giving the instruction at all.
  • —Maintain behavioral expectations that have been in place all year. Summertime is often a time to loosen up and relax., but maintaining consistency is the key with behavior.
  • —Any instructional time that helps maintain your child's ability to follow directions and continue the routine will help.

Prepare your child for outings.

You may have to make multiple trips and reinforce small steps to activities that are more difficult for your student. For example, going to a movie - going first to door then leaving, going to candy counter and getting snack, sitting in theater for 5 minutes and taking breaks. —
  • Set your child up for success, practice activities at home.
  • Create visuals and prepare your child for changes. 
  • Use reinforcers. 
  • Use first/then language (First walk in, then sit).
  • —Praise accomplishments.
  • Take small steps.
  • Activities to try: —IMAX, bowling, movies (call to see if they offer sensory friendly shows), —Children Museum, 
  • —YMCA camps, call local universities to see if they will be having camps/festivals/activities, Swim Lessons 

  • —Have Fun With Your Son/Daughter 
  • BE PATIENT - You are both learning 
  • —Perfection is not necessary. 
  • Celebrate the Successes-Throw A Party!

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Happy Birthday, ATC!

July 2013 marks ATC's 37th birthday! On July 19th, ATC will be three years shy of having served the Dallas community for four decades.  In honor of this occasion, here's a brief history lesson on the organization.

Autism Treatment Center was established in Dallas in 1976.  Jimmy Carter would soon be elected President,  Elton John's "Don't Go Breaking My Heart" was at the top of the charts, and autism was still a largely mysterious developmental disorder.  The current prevalence of autism (1 in 50) is a 10 fold increase over the past 40 years.  There was little known about autism and next to no treatment or therapies being offered.  As with many innovations, the Center was born out of necessity.

A small group of six parents, all with children with autism, spent several years carpooling 70 miles everyday to and from the North Texas Behavior Program. When their children "aged-out" of that program and were no longer eligible to receive their services, this group of parents came together to find a solution.  Their children were older now, but were no less autistic.  The Center, originally named the Lynne Developmental Center, began in a space donated by the First Presbyterian Church of Richardson.   The program had humble beginnings, offering residential services and a day program to just a few individuals.  Most of the parents involved at the beginning served on the Board of Directors for many years, and five of the six children are still at ATC today.  They are among the oldest men and women in our programs.

A few years later, a group of parents in San Antonio heard about what was going on at the Autism Treatment Center in Dallas.  After a visit to the Center, they convinced the Board that ATC should expand.  In 1978, a second Center was opened in San Antonio.

The needs were great, and it was soon apparent that additional programs and services were necessary.  ATC soon opened a group home in Dallas where men and women with autism would have a safe and comfortable environment to live and development life-skills.  In the 80s, the TEA (Texas Education Agency) certified educational program began; the Adult Services program was developed; 6 more group homes were opened in Dallas; and land was purchased as the site of the future Autism Treatment Center Dallas main building.  Each program that was developed in Dallas was replicated at the Center in San Antonio.

This is a brief history of the core programs that make up the Autism Treatment Center.  A view of our ATC Timeline on our website marks the remaining milestones of how we got to where we are now.  Including the opening of the ATC Therapy Clinic, the establishment of a Diagnostics program, and the third expansion opening in Fort Worth, and the opening of our 21st group home (16 of them already mortgage free).

ATC has a long history of parents advocating for their children and helping to shape its growth.  Each program developed addresses a specific need for the children and adults needing our services.  When asked about the history of the Autism Treatment Center, Executive Director, Anna Hundley said, "Parents are the backbone and were the driving force behind ATC."