Monday, September 15, 2014

Local DIR/Floortime Conference in Lafayette, CA

I'm a big fan of DIR/Floortime, and the work of Dr. Greenspan. It's exciting that the conference is so close for those of us in the Bay area. It's open to professionals and parents, on Friday, October 10, 2014.

Here is the flyer:

Monday, March 31, 2014

Temple Grandin speaking at Las Positas

For those of you who are long time readers of this blog, I'm sure you've seen plenty of posts about Dr. Temple Grandin. Temple Grandin is probably the more well know autistic individual in the country.

And now, you can see her in person. Dr Temple Grandin will be speaking at Las Positas College on Thursday, April 24, 2014, at 7 pm. You can get more information and purchase tickets by going to the post on the Las Positas site.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Can I call myself a blogger if I never write my blog?

In the grand scheme, that’s not an important question. But, in its own trivial sense, it does touch on the ideas of semantics, language, identity. And those are issues of importance. 

I just read a whole series of articles on “people-first language.” An example of people-first language is “person with autism” rather than “autistic person” There are good arguments to be made for both preferences. Person-first language emphasizes the individual, rather than the diagnosis. People-first language is often advocated by disability rights organizations as a more respectful form of language. But, other groups advocate away from this style, stating that people-first language can separate the diagnosis from the individual, or even make the diagnosis seem like a less desirable condition. They argue that autism is an innate part of the individual.

In all I’ve read, I see opinions from autistic individuals, from individuals with autism, from parents of autistic individuals and from parents of individuals with autism. Which leaves me confused because I’m an outsider. I don’t want to offend, but it seems like I have no choice. Whether I use person first language, or not, I’ll be offending some individuals. 

So I’ll leave it at this. My intent in my writing is to be respectful. I’m sorry if I chose the wrong form, and I’ll keep looking for consensus. Until then, I guess I’ll just go with the clearest grammar.

Image: By Tom Murphy VII (Own work) [GFDL (, CC-BY-SA-3.0 ( or CC-BY-SA-2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Monday, February 17, 2014

Time to Think about Summer Camps!

It's well known that kids on the autism spectrum struggle with generalizing learning from one setting to another. Simon Baron-Cohen explains this by way of the extreme systemizing theory of autism, where autistic individuals set up rules to understand the world, and those rules don't easily generalize from one situation to another. I think this difficulty is clearly apparent in social situations. So often, I've worked with children who could teach the content of a social skills class, yet they struggle to apply those same skills in any meaningful way in their own lives.

That's why I like to see experiential social skills training, rather than more didactic, instructional training. When an individual has the experience of doing activities with others, ideally with some support on the social skills involved, and he/she gets to apply the intellectual theories of social skills in a real, social setting, that person has the chance to practice, understand and learn those skills, rather than merely recite them. Experiential learning takes place in many settings, from a group project in the classroom, to sports teams, to hobby groups and camps. When I work individually with children and teens, I combine instruction on social skills to application, through here and now games and activities. Whenever I get the chance, I bring up what's going on socially, right in the session. I think the most useful part of many social skills groups isn't the skills discussion around the table, but rather the shared pizza time afterward.

So what's the point of all this instructional theorizing? The experiential call to action! It's February, and not too soon to think about summer camps. There are so many good ones, with camping, Legos, robotics and computers, arts, sports, nature, and horses. Check out my resource page for my favorite Bay Area social skills camp choices or search online for activities your child will enjoy.

photo credit: Thomas Hawk via photopin cc

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Bay Area Parent Support Group

There is a new support group forming in Walnut Creek, CA for parents of Middle and High School age kids with Asperger's or Autism Spectrum Disorders. The first meeting is October 9, 2013, at 7 pm, at John Muir Hospital. See the flyer below for more information.  

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

ADHD Parent Support Group in Walnut Creek

I just got this notice, and I'm really excited that this is available to local families:

We are pleased to announce a new CHADD Parent Support Group in Walnut Creek, beginning this month. Let's start off the new school year with tips and tools to help your child be successful. 

Parent Support Group (drop-in). The purpose of our group is to develop and foster positive skills for parents of children with ADHD.

2nd Wednesday of every month from 6:30 - 8:00pm; next meeting is Sept. 11th
Kaiser Mental Health Bldg., 710 S. Broadway, Walnut Creek  (the bldg. next to Safeway on the corner of Mt. Diablo Blvd.) 
 Sherry Chase, Ph.D., Coordinator - 510-433-9448 - 

CHADD meetings are open to the public and free to CHADD members. A $5 donation is suggested of non-members, but no one is turned away for lack of funds. Become a CHADD member here and enjoy all the benefits of CHADD membership. Visit for more information about ADHD. Enjoy a $10 discount if you
join or renew by 9/30/13 (promo code: chadd10off).


Friday, July 12, 2013

ADHD and Executive Function

Thinking of ADHD as a deficit of Executive Function (EF) offers a wealth of treatment possibilities. For clinicians, adults with ADHD, and parents of children with ADHD, this executive function conceptualization opens up a new way to organize thinking around deficits and strengths, and points the way to generating effective treatment plans. 

I recently read an excellent article from Dr. Thomas E. Brown of the Yale Clinic for Attention and Related Disorders, titled ADD/ADHD and Impaired Executive Function in Clinical Practice. In it, Brown defines ADHD as “a cognitive disorder, a developmental impairment of executive functions (EFs), the self-management system of the brain.” By stepping away from the behavioral aspects of ADHD and moving toward this cognitive understanding, treatment planning can be readily tailored to compensate for specific missing skills and abilities. I frequently direct my clients to create structure and systems which will shore up the weaker areas, allowing them to improve their performance.

                                       13 Portrait of Robert Hooke

In Brown’s article, he defines six areas of Executive Function Deficit. The first, called activation, includes activities required in beginning to work. Clearly, this deficit is familiar to anyone struggling with procrastination. Second, Brown defines focus, the difficulty in actually paying attention to the work at hand. Third would be effort, especially as needed to complete longer tasks. Fourth is emotional regulation. (Emotional regulation is not mentioned specifically in the symptom list in the DSM-IV or 5, but the inclusion of it in the DSM-5 was articulately argued for by Russ Barkley in his keynote to the CHADD conference.) Brown mentions memory as the fifth executive function, especially memory for more recent events, and problems in holding information. The sixth and final executive function is action, including impulsivity, pacing and taking in feedback from others. 


Russ Barkley offers both the Barkley Deficits in Executive Functioning Scale (BDEFS for Adults) and the Barkley Deficits in Executive Functioning Scale--Children and Adolescents (BDEFS-CA), which allow clinicians to evaluate client’s executive functioning in their daily life. The executive functions in the BDEFS are similar to Brown's, broken down to time management, organization and problem solving, self-restraint, self-motivation, and self-regulation of emotions. Because the BDEFS is a validated measure, results of the test can indicate exactly where individuals are struggling and what can be done to improve performance. 

For some clients, medication alone can have a huge impact, for others, therapy such as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) can address problem areas. Many clients can benefit from a combination of medication and therapy. I've found this EF conceptualization to be especially effective in treatment planning for my clients.