Social Success – FirstPath Autism is proud to announce our new Steps to Social Success® video series on YouTube!

This new how-to video series can be utilized as helpful tutorials for helping to teach important specialized situations.

A Modern Learning Aid For Modern Learners


Designed as a supplimentary teaching tool for our Steps to Social Success® stories, our free-to-view Youtube series will help engage children and set examples beyond description or pictures.

New videos are scheduled to release every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday to ensure that every topic where help is needed can be covered.

Need the Steps Story to help as well?


The premade Steps stories that correspond to each video can be found in the video’s description!  Print these to make a visual task analysis, read along with the video, or keep handy for when a video is not available.


Of course, these videos and printouts can only go so far in your autism journey.  To learn how to apply behavior therapy, create lesson plans, or even create your own Steps to Social Success stories there is more to be learned.

Want to gain access to dozens of professional ABA therapy video lessons? Do you want to learn how to  Sign up to FirstPath Autism today!

Some families may take peaceful, stress-free meals together for granted, but we’re guessing that yours isn’t one of them. If your child has autism, then it’s likely you’ve dealt with drama surrounding food and mealtimes.

We understand how challenging it can be to accommodate your child’s food preferences while still providing a balanced, nutritious diet. To help your favorite picky eater expand his or her horizons, we suggest the following steps:

First, investigate possible medical issues.

As an autism parent, you may have noticed a disproportionate number of your child’s peers on the spectrum struggling with food-related issues. Studies prove that it’s not just your imagination: children with autism really are more likely to have food allergies and intolerances.

In her Psychology Today article Food, Inflammation, and Autism: Is There A Link?, Krysteena Stephens, M.A., IMFT cited a 2006 study based on the 2003 to 2004 National Survey of Children’s Health. The study demonstrated that “ … Allergies, particularly food allergies, [are] more prevalent in children with ASD than those without.”

Since a significant percentage of individuals with autism have food intolerances and allergies, they can feel physically ill when they eat certain foods. Yet since autism also involves communication difficulties, these individuals may not give voice to their felt experiences.

As such, completing medical check-ups and relevant tests is important. If your child is a very picky eater, make an appointment to get him or her tested for gastrointestinal issues or common allergies.

Recognize the sensory components of eating and work to minimize discomfort.

Individuals with autism often experience the sensory aspects of eating more strongly than others. They might feel uncomfortable with the flavor or texture of a given food, but they might also struggle with sensory inputs surrounding the dining ritual itself.

For example, some people with autism report that they can’t stand the sound of metal utensils clicking against dishware or people’s teeth. In such cases, substituting different silverware could make a big difference.

Know that it’s also possible that your child might be a supertaster. Supertasters are people who are extremely sensitive to specific tastes, and they represent as much as 25% of the overall population.

Supertasters typically shun cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, Brussels sprouts, and kale, as well as mushrooms and soy products. These foods taste more bitter to supertasters than they do to the rest of us.

Encourage initial tasting, not eating.

In The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh, our favorite stuffed bear is about to accept a delicious pot of honey, but his friend Rabbit snatches it away. Pooh pleads, “But Rabbit, I wasn’t going to eat it. I was just gonna taste it.”

When coping with a picky eater, scenes such as this remind us to separate tasting from eating. Why? Because it’s a reminder that eating and tasting are different. When you’re first working on introducing a more varied diet, don’t try for eating. Try for tasting instead.

Who knows? Maybe you’ll find that, like Pooh, your child can transition from tasting to eating in the blink of an eye!

If tasting isn’t happening, have your child try sniffing a new food, touching it, or helping you to stir or serve it. This way, you’ll familiarize your child with the new food and make it more of a known entity.

You wouldn’t expect your child to tie his shoes on the first try, so let go of the expectation that he’ll try new foods the first time he sees them, too.

Embrace the idea of going slow and making small wins.

This is where your Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) experience comes into play. By now, you understand that teaching your child a new skill involves breaking down the steps involved and practicing each component over and over again.

It takes patience and tenacity to persist in daily reinforcement of new skills. As autism mom Shirley Nutt wisely emphasizes, “Learning ABA is not the tricky part … ABA reinforcement on a consistent basis is the tricky part.”

Why is it so hard? Because a strategy of small wins can feel counter intuitive. When you realize that your child’s eating habits need to shift, you probably want to make major changes now! After all, what if your child is missing out on crucial nutrients? What if his unbalanced eating habits are stunting his growth?

We understand how challenging it can be to take a gentle, incremental approach to a pressing problem … but we’ve also seen how effective the strategy of “small wins” can be.

Take the long view

One of the most helpful decisions you can make when it comes to shifting your child’s eating habits is to take the long view. Decide that his habits don’t have to change all at once. Instead, begin laying the groundwork for them to change in the future.

In her bestselling book The Four Day Win, Harvard-trained sociologist Dr. Martha Beck advocates taking “turtle steps”. When it comes to big changes, she says, smaller is better:

I’m always trying to level Everest with a hand trowel. A turtle step is a single trowelful of earth, an action that takes me toward my goal but is so easy I know for sure I can do it …. Tiny steps work. The tortoise usually does beat the hare.”

So if your child subsists entirely on French fries, don’t expect him to eat a full portion of vegetables tonight at dinner. Going from no vegetables to a serving of vegetables may be too big of a leap. Instead, choose a step you feel confident is well within your child’s current capability. You might go from zero interaction with vegetables to tasting or smelling a vegetable, or simply sitting at a table where vegetables are being served. Once you’ve done that for a few days, you can progress to a new turtle step. Before you know it, you’ll be seeing progress.

Since food aversions affect approximately two-thirds of children on the spectrum, we’ve started a new series to help parents of children with autism. We hope you found this post helpful in coping with and picky eating behaviors. If so, look for our future posts and be sure to share this one with friends and family in your social network. And if you have suggestions for future topics, let us know in the comments.

Common Misconception about Autism – “Do you think sensory issues are at the root of what makes autistic people different?”  

That’s the powerful question that Maia Szalavitz of TIME Magazine asked world-renowned professor, author, and self-advocate Temple Grandin in a 2013 interview.

Grandin’s reply? “I think the core criterion is the social awkwardness, but the sensory issues are a serious problem …. they make it impossible to operate in the environment where you’re supposed to be social.”

With that statement, Grandin linked sensory issues and socialization, and hinted at the relationship between sensory processing disorder (SPD) and autism as well.

SPD is a condition that affects the way that the brain communicates with the rest of the body. When the brain of an individual with SPD receives sensory information through the nervous system, it has trouble converting those signals into typical reactions.

As a result, the individual’s physical, emotional, and social responses appear unusual. Plus, SPD can manifest differently from one day to the next, further complicating the issue.

A Glimpse of Sensory Processing Disorder

What does this phenomenon look like in everyday life? Well, it may look very familiar to you as a parent. The symptoms of SPD overlap with stereotypically autistic behaviors.

Though SPD isn’t part of the formal diagnostic criteria for autism, sensory issues are prevalent among the ASD population.

Do you recognize your child in these descriptions?  

  • One morning, your son is comfortable with brushing his teeth. However, the next morning he protests that the toothpaste is “too spicy” or that the bristles are “too sharp”.
  • One afternoon, your daughter enjoys the sound of classical music playing on the car speakers at a preset volume. But the next day, she exclaims that the very same volume level is “too loud” and that it hurts her ears.

If these examples hit home, know that your child with autism isn’t trying to manipulate or gaslight you. Children with SPD really do experience sensory input differently from day to day. At times they struggle to process accustomed sights, sounds, tastes, scents, or touches.

As is the case with autism, SPD impacts every area of functioning. It affects everything from socialization to academics.

(Speaking of school, be sure to check out our blog post, A back-to-school checklist for kids with sensory processing disorder and receive your free downloadable checklist.)

SPD and ASD: Significant Overlap

But what’s the connection between SPD and ASDs? Are they one and the same?

As we wrote in our blog post, What we know about autism and sensory processing disorder,

“Think of the two conditions as circles in a Venn diagram; each circle is self-contained, but the overlap between them is significant.

Sensory processing disorder occurs much more frequently in children with autism than in the general population. According to this SPD Foundation website articleover 75% of children with autism also have symptoms of SPD …. However, the majority of individuals with SPD do not have autism.”

ASD and SPD are not the same, but the overlap between them is significant. Both are brain-based differences, neurological conditions that impact a child’s development.

ASD SPD Venn Diagram

Furthermore, SPD is similar to ASD in that it doesn’t indicate a low level of cognitive ability. It simply means that the brain is misinterpreting some sensory signals. Even individuals with high levels of functioning deal with sensory difficulties.

As Chantal Sicile-Kira wrote in her Psychology Today column, What is Sensory Processing Disorder and How Is It Related to Autism?,

“I have yet to meet a person on the autism spectrum who does not have a challenge in [sensory processing]. In interviewing adults and teenagers of different ability levels …. most of them stated sensory processing challenges as the number one difficulty for them, regardless of where they were on the spectrum.”

Helping a child with SPD

Children with autism and sensory processing disorder can grow and excel, and ABA therapy is an effective way to teach appropriate responses. That said, it’s also helpful to pursue occupational therapy for SPD specifically.

It’s also worth noting that, since SPD isn’t listed in the DSM-V, your best bet for getting related therapy covered by insurance could be seeking out autism-based service providers with a focus on sensory integration issues.

If you’re concerned about the possibility of SPD, know that a program of ABA therapy can support your child’s neurological development. You can access FirstPath’s full video library for a free trial period, starting today.  

Meltdowns are hard on everyone: the child, the parent, and the bystanders. But what if consistent ABA reinforcement could help reduce their frequency and severity? In this post, we’ll share several key reasons why ABA therapy aids in averting meltdowns.

ABA promotes emotional regulation

Working with an ABA therapist can help your child build vital emotional self-management skills, which in turn, can help to minimize the chances of a meltdown. At the end of the day, these self-control skills are key to preventing meltdowns and promoting independence.

For instance, teaching your child how to appropriately communicate what he or she wants and does not want can lessen your child’s need to use meltdowns to get wants and needs met. Additionally, building functional communication skills and consistency in the application of behavioral strategies between you and your child are key when meltdown behavior occurs.

Yes, it’s true that as a parent you can plan ahead and help your child to avoid sensory overload and other “triggering” experiences. That said, you cannot anticipate every possible situation.

As we wrote in our post, What to do when your child has a meltdown in public:

“The truth is, meltdowns happen to even the best of kids with even the best of parents. So don’t beat yourself up or think that you’ve failed. Ultimately, you can’t control another person’s responses. However, you can prepare for the possibility of meltdowns and equip yourself to respond appropriately when they do happen.”

While ABA reinforcement can’t prevent every meltdown, it can teach your child successful self-governance–an invaluable, lifelong skill.

ABA empowers your child to learn social protocols step-by-step

Recall the discouragement and frustration that arise within you when you’re asked to do something new without adequate instruction or coaching. Then, multiply that feeling by a thousand.

As you know firsthand, your child moves through a world wherein others expect him/her to make sustained eye contact, carry on complex conversations, pay attention to both spoken and unspoken communications. This can be unnerving and difficult.ABA empowers your child to learn social protocols step-by-step

Many children with autism have the potential to socialize successfully, but they need step-by-step, measured instruction in order to do so. While they may not initially grasp social conventions intuitively, they can learn them with practice, and reduce the frustration often associated with meltdown behavior.

ABA reinforcement empowers your child to identify and communicate emotional states

One of the fundamental tenets of ABA therapy is that all behavior is a form of communication. Every time your child bangs her head against a wall or throws herself on the ground, she’s trying to communicate something. Of course, you’d prefer that she express herself in a non-harmful way, and that’s where ABA comes in.

ABA clinicians help children with autism by teaching them to identify, label, and express various emotional states. (Check out our free Labeling and Identifying Emotions video lesson to see this process in action!)

The best ABA therapists provide children with opportunities to practice skills such as recognizing facial expressions, verbally naming emotions, and describing how others feel using context clues. These lessons offer a new vocabulary for expressing emotion, one that’s healthier and less dysfunctional than melting down.

ABA reinforcement provides immediate, consistent behavioral feedback

ABA reinforcement provides immediate, consistent behavioral feedback

If you’ve watched an ABA clinician work with your child, then you know that the therapist provides ongoing feedback in response to the child’s behaviors. For example, if your child flails in her seat, the clinician says, “Sit nice.” When your child looks away for an extended period, the therapist says, “Eyes on me.”

The result of these brief, consistent prompts is that the child learns what type of personal behavior is acceptable. This sense of structure and order is very grounding for children, as it enables them to understand the results of their choices. The child learns, “If I do A, then B happens. If I scream and tantrum, I don’t get what I want. But if I complete my lesson well, I always get my reward.”

Children are smart and efficient; once they understand what behaviors effectively get them what they want, they will choose those behaviors more often, and in doing so, develop a solid foundation of safe, responsible behavior.

Begin ABA therapy to prevent another meltdown

If your child is struggling with ongoing meltdowns, help is available. You can start a proven behavioral therapy program today and take the first step toward promoting healthy communication.

After all, while it’s important to know what to do when your child has a meltdown in public, it’s also essential to work on stopping meltdowns before they start. So don’t wait; sign up for FirstPath today!

Did you ever bury a time capsule when you were young? Many of us feel a pull to preserve the present, especially as we feel time racing by. We want to leave our mementos for someone else to find. Invariably, the exercise leads us to ponder our futures, to ask, “What will the world look like 100 years from now?”

Just ten years ago in 2006, the incidence of autism in the United States was 1 in 110. Today, about 1 in 68 children has an autism spectrum disorder. The autism rate is rising, and the increase triggers changes in government policy, insurance funding, research, and societal norms.

While we can’t see into a crystal ball and predict the future, we can look at current trends and patterns to help us identify what we hope to see happening with autism support in 2016.

ABA therapy becomes available and accessible for everyone

Limited local availability and high cost are the two most significant roadblocks to families seeking Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) services today. There aren’t enough trained clinicians to meet the demand, particularly in more remote areas. Plus, paying for therapy sessions out-of-pocket is out of the question for some families, and it severely strains the resources of others.

Within the next 100 years, we anticipate an increase in the number of ABA therapists and a complete reformation of insurance coverage for autism services, too.

As it so happens, this shift has already begun. Some states and companies continue to refuse ABA coverage, but many more are making positive changes. (Check out Autism Speaks’ State Initiatives page to learn more about insurance reform initiatives in your particular state.)

FirstPath Autism exists to help bridge the gap between families and professional, affordable ABA services. Though in-person therapy isn’t an option for everyone right now, our video library of lessons allows autism families to practice ABA from home.

Mistreatment and abuse can be halted by giving individuals a voice

Autism awareness has come a long way in the last few decades, but there are still disturbingly frequent incidents of prejudice, injustice, and mistreatment of individuals on the spectrum. By 2116, we hope that individuals with autism will be welcomed and fully included in our schools, homes, and communities.

Terri Baker’s son Kyle was treated by our FirstPath Autism Founder, Romey Kiryakous and her team at the Genesis Behavior Center. As Baker wrote in her Student Story guest post, How ABA Therapy unlocked Kyle’s world:

“ABA gave Kyle his voice and saved him …. Kyle had been physically, mentally, and verbally abused by teachers, principals, and administrators for years. This had been the reason his behavior had been so out of control; he had had no voice to get help.”

We grieve the prejudice and poor treatment that Kyle endured, and we’re honored to provide the ABA therapy tools that help individuals to speak up in abusive situations.

The strengths of individuals with autism are harnessed and their contributions honored

In the last decade, we’ve seen major companies step up to the autism employment plate, notably Freddie Mac, Microsoft, Walgreens, and SAP.

On a local level, myriad nonprofits and small businesses now employ adults on the spectrum to farm and harvest organic food, provide service at restaurants, welcome guests at hotels, and create new technology, media, and art.

In the future, we anticipate more innovative businesses and services springing up, allowing adults with autism to contribute to society and earn their livings too.

The gifts of neurodiversity are embraced

When it comes to autism support, we don’t need to aim for uniformity or conformity. Instead, we need to figure out ways to welcome our differences and suspend judgment about what qualifies as a “normal” brain.

As Steve Silberman writes in his bestselling book, NeuroTribes: The Legacy of Autism and the Future of Neurodiversity:

“By autistic standards, the ‘normal’ brain is easily distractible, is obsessively social, and suffers from a deficit of attention to detail and routine. Thus people on the spectrum experience the neurotypical world as relentlessly unpredictable and chaotic, perpetually turned up too loud, and full of people who have little respect for personal space.” 

As we move forward into the future, we at FirstPath Autism focus on supporting individuals with autism in their social and emotional learning. In this way, we equip people on the spectrum to succeed even as we adjust our own expectations and behavior.

Did this post inspire you? Then be sure to share it with your social networks!