The ARI Conference was held this weekend in Newark, NJ. If you have never made it to an ARI Conference, you should put it on your list of things to do if you are a parent or caregiver of someone with autism.
The Conference Overview
The conference offers practitioner seminars on Thursday and Friday. A nutrition session is available on Saturday. Then, there is a General Session available on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. This year, an adult track was offered on Sunday. If that is not enough, the conference also offers free workshops on Thursday and Friday evening plus Demo Room sessions are available throughout the day on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. Plus (yes, there is more) there are many wonderful exhibitors including TACA, Autism Speaks, and Nourish Life, the makers of the Speak supplement (just to name a few).
Learning in Action
As a practicing behavior analyst with many years of education and experience “under my belt”, I (Missy) continue to learn something new at each conference. This year:
- I picked up a complimentary copy of Dr. Herbert’s new book, The Autism Revolution.
- I also learned about the importance of seeds. Who knew that ground flax seed was such an excellent source of prebiotic in addition to fiber and Omega 3s?
- I learned that acid reflux may not always be caused by overproduction of acid. In fact, it could be caused by under production of acid!
- I also learned that nutritional deficiencies (e.g., zinc) can alter the way food tastes and smells. This may lead to picky eating which may exacerbate nutritional deficiencies.
- I ran in to several families who have successfully graduated from one of our feeding clinics. I love hearing about client progress and maintenance!
- Finally, I learned that rice may have arsenic in it!
Picky Eating Free Workshop
I co-presented on Thursday evening with Vicki Kobliner of Holcare Nutrition. We covered the topic of dealing with picky eaters, a problem we see in as many as 50% of the children with autism. Vicki talked about the importance of evaluating any underlying medical issues before starting feeding therapy. This includes things like reflux or constipation. Vicki also talked about the importance of assessing for nutritional deficiencies and food allergies prior to starting therapy. I presented on the behavioral procedures for getting children to eat. This included changing antecedents to make sure the child is hungry, teaching new behaviors such as sitting at the table to eat, and changing consequences such as reinforcing children for trying new foods.
I presented on how to address challenging behavior on Friday evening. In this workshop I helped participants understand that behavior is supposed to be addressed through the IEP process. I helped them learn what to look for in an FBA. I taught them how the FBA is used to develop an IEP. The participants learned how to develop a BIP together with school staff and behavior analysts. This included learning to modify the antecedents to prevent the behavior from happening, teaching a replacement behavior such as communication, and changing the consequences so that we stop reinforcing challenging behavior.
Pill Swallowing in the Demo Room
I taught several parents how to teach their children to swallow pills. I taught them to use a stimulus fading approach so that their child learns to swallow small things without chewing. Over time, the objects get bigger until they are swallowing placebo capsules. I enjoyed my time in the demo room where other practitioners taught parents how to shop safely for gluten free and dairy free products, how to inject B12 shots, and how to prepare for your doctor’s appointment.
On Sunday, I taught parents how to make the most of their educational programs. Children under the age of 3 have different rights and policies than children over the age of 3. It is important for parents to know their rights so that they may advocate effectively for their children. Parents learned about a few resources to help them in this process. Some of the resources included COPAA, PACER, NICHCY, and Wright’s Law.
If any of my readers attended and want to chime in, please comment about what you learned or what your favorite part was. Mark your calendars for the fall conference to be held in Orange County October 11-14, 2012.