Interview with Desiree Campos as CEO of Abel’s Dream Foundation

Did you know there are organizations out there in the world to help families with neurodiverse children and adults?

Meet Desiree Campos:

Desiree Campos (mom) and Abel Campos (neurodiverse child)

Desiree Campos is a CEO of Abel’s Dream Foundation. Her non-profit organization became a resource and service for families with neurodiverse children and adults based on her own experiences as a parent for a neurodiverse child. She has two children: Anthony and Abel. Abel is her neurodiverse child with Autism, ADHD, and intellectual disability. She wants families to know that they are not alone in their journey raising a neurodiverse child/adult, so the foundation provides resources and services to help neurodiverse children and adults thrive in life. To learn more about Desiree and the Abel’s Dream Foundation, check out the guest interview here:

Check out Abel Dream Foundation’s website here:

Do you have questions for Desiree Campos? Share your questions in the comments section!


Involve ALL stakeholders for success

Did you know people who are in direct contact with neurodiverse people have the right to be a part of their services?

If you have a neurodiverse child/adult who receives services within an individualized education plan (IEP) at school or has a behavior intervention plan (BIP) within their ABA therapy services in and out of school, people part of the individual’s direct contact have the right to be part of their services. Who are the exact stakeholders that can be directly involved in their neurodiverse child/adults services?

Stakeholders identified here have the right to be involved in all kinds of plans from special education services including all kinds of therapy:

1. Neurodiverse child/adult (if applicable)

2. Parents of neurodiverse child/adult

3. Special education teacher

4. General education teacher

5. School psychologist

6. Case manager

7. School counselor

8. Administer (ex: principal or vice principal of school neurodiverse child/adult attends)

9. Related service providers (ex: behavior specialists, speech pathologist, physical therapist, and occupational therapists.)

10. Advocates including outside providers (ex- ABA therapy providers, occupational therapists, speech pathologists, and physical therapists).

*NOTE: If wanting a special education lawyer present as an advocate, schools must go through a process prior to team meetings about a nuerodiverse child/adult.

How do you involve all of these stakeholders to impact an neurodiverse individual’s life?

A IEP meeting in school or a meeting about a behavior intervention plan (BIP) must be set up on a yearly basis to learn about a neurodiverse child/adult progress being made. When creating an IEP or BIP for the first time ever for a nuerodiverse child/adult, informed consent from neurodiverse child/adult themselves or their parent/guardian is required. Nothing can move forward without their consent! How does informed consent work?

Informed consent is about explaining any services or goals for a neurodiverse child/adult that will help improve their overall quality of life, from academics to behavior. People review all components of an IEP and/or BIP: a neurodiverse child/adult’s personal history, strengths, areas needed for improvement, goals and objectives, data collection, services, etc. Once everything is clarified and comprehended, informed consent is obtained.

After obtaining informed consent, services begin for a neurodiverse child/adult. Its different for everyone depending on individual needs. IEPs and/or BIPs are reviewed on a yearly basis in a meeting, but can be updated at any time depending on progress.

It is important to host meetings to find out how much progress has been made. Services, including interventions, change depending on amount of progress made. Data collection is proof of a neurodiverse individual’s progress from services and interventions provided. When there is a visual representation of progress, such as line graphs, it is easier to see improvements occurring for a neurodiverse individual. The facts of progress occurring are right infront of you. How cool is that?

Overall, an entire team of stakeholders are needed to improve a neurodiverse child/adult’s quality of life and help them succeed in life. Do you believe everyone who is in direct contact with a neurodiverse individual should be involved on their services and journey in life? Share your thoughts in the comments section!

Interview with Christine Dodaj as CEO and founder of SpEd Connect

Did you know there are resources and services to help parents navigate special education in school districts throughout the United States?

Meet Christine Dodaj:

Christine Dodaj

Christine Dodaj is the CEO and founder of SpEd Connect. Her missionwith SpEd Connect is to help families of neurodiverse children and adults navigate special education in school districts throughout the United States. To learn more about Christine and her work, check out the guest interview here:

Check out SpEd Connect website here:

Do you have any questions for Christine? Share your questions in the comments section!

IEPs V.S 504 plans

Did you know students with disabilities can either receive an individualized education plan (IEP) or a 504 plan?

There is a big difference between these two education plans, so they must be really be considered based on the student’s individual needs in the education system. I will dive deeper into the differences between these two plans:

Differences between IEPs and 504s

IEP: students need to meet disability criteria in which it impacts their everyday functioning and learning. Also, students receive special education and related services.

504: students have a disability that impacts their everyday functioning and learning, and does not receive special education services. Modifications and accommodations are provided instead.

Which plan do you think works best for your child or student? Share your thoughts and experiences in the comments section!

Let’s play!

Did you know play incorporates various skills and helps autistic people learn their natural environment?

In fact, there are different types of play:

Credits: Honuintervention

By engaging in play, it helps autistic people out with their friendships. Not only that, play helps autistic people develop social interactions with others cooperatively and competitively; communicate needs and wants; strategize for social situations; interpret intentions of others; taking turns with people; bond with caregivers; increase self-advocacy; develop creativity; and learn to respect and have empathy for others. In addition, play helps alleviate anxiety for autistic people. Now do you want to know ways to help autistic people develop skills through play?

There are a couple of approaches: direct and indirect play

  1. Direct play involves an RBT, behavior analyst, teacher, parent, etc., selecting specific toys and activities ahead of time. Throughout the play session, they will prompt or initiate situations to purposefully attempt to steer your autistic child/student/client to the pre-planned lesson, discussing problems and solutions together.
  2. Indirect play involves a more unstructured type of play and encourages your autistic child/student/client to lead. An RBT, behavior analyst, teacher, parent, etc., remains flexible, leaving your autistic child/student/client to guide themself during playtime. This allows people an in-depth approach at how an autistic handles situations in a natural environment, what challenges they struggles with, and how they works to solve challenges on their own.

Did you know Floortime play has been used in ABA therapy sessions?

This type of play involves the child, parent, and RBT and/or behavior analyst all working and playing together. Since autistic children/students/clients often have difficulty expressing themselves in the world, floor time provides an opportunity for people to join the world on their autistic child/student/client’s level. Floortime consists of both direct and indirect play approaches, allowing your autistic child/student/client to experience the perfect blend of independence and structure during the session. Autistic people are working on various skills, such as functional communication training (FCT), problem-solving by overcoming challenges, self-regulation techniques, social interactions, etc. All in all, play can help autistic grow in various areas of life.

How do you teach an autistic individual to play? Share your thoughts and experiences in the comments section!

Build and develop rapport

Remember the blog story I wrote earlier this month about the power of friendships?

It all starts from building and developing rapport. No matter if you are an autistic self advocate, a teacher, a parent, a therapist, etc, building a trusting and positive relationship is key for success in life. Trust and empathy can be developed in just minutes within social interactions and situations. So, how do you build and develop rapport with others?

Here are the steps:

1. Check your appearance cause first impressions matter. Dress up as if you are meeting someone for the first time ever.

2. Know the basics of good communication: be culturally appropriate, smile, relax, remember people’s names, hold your head up high and maintain good posture, and listen to people carefully and attentively.

3. Find common ground in regards of special interests. Talk about special interests you have in common. For example, my boyfriend and I talk a lot about music, since we both listen to a ton of common musicians and bands; Our friendship developed from having a common interest. Make sure to talk about common interests because that’s how connection is made.

4. Create shared experiences in order to grow rapport. For example, families who have autistic children want to connect with others who have autistic children. They could attend special education workshops together. That is a way of developing rapport!

5. Be empathic! Empathy is about understanding others from seeing things from their perspective. This is a great emotion for RBTs and behavior analysts to teach autistic clients in their sessions cause it can help with social interactions and help them grow their relationships in life. By being empathic, rapport is developed in a shorter amount of time.

Do you think developing rapport is key for autistic people’s success? Share your thoughts in the comments section!

Interview with Alyssa Latham as a behavior analyst and parent coach

Did you know behavior analysts who provide parent training in the ABA field?

Meet Alyssa Latham:

Alyssa Latham

Alyssa Latham has over 10 years of experience working with neurodiverse people of all ages as a behavior analyst. After working with big ABA companies for so long, she made the change and created her own ABA consulting business known as “Ally ABA Consulting”. Want to know more about the services Alyssa provides, such as ABA therapy and parent coaching? Find out in this guest interview with Alyssa here:

Check out her ABA consulting website here:

What questions do you have for Alyssa? Share your questions in the comments section!

Friendships rock!

Personally, it was not easy for me to make friends at first. I didn’t even know how to approach people if I wanted to become friends with them. I thank my middle school speech language pathologist to this day for her social skills program. Her program helped me learn about friendships that I even made my own first group of friends in middle school which is still strong today:

I can’t forget about my camp friends most of all because even after more than ten years of lost contact, we reconnected right in time for my 21st birthday:

My camp friends: Dani (left) and Gabby (right). This was way before I moved to FL.

Back in my camp days, I was put into a group with girls with disabilities. I met Dani and Gabby way back in 2005, when I was 7 years old. I shared in a blog story a while ago about my camp days, but a great friendship just grew on its own beyond camp years. Nowadays, I still spend time with Dani and Gabby over video chat. Gabby visited me in FL once already last year, so I can’t wait for her and Dani to visit me together someday. As you can tell, I’ve learned to create good friendships in my life. All of my friends are supportive and accepting of me, which is why I love them as my best friends.

Based on this, I’ve learned friendships develop from the following skills: realistic and flexibility thinking, play skills, developing special interests, understanding emotions and empathy, creating personal boundaries, conversation skills, sharing, and turn taking skills. Without these pre-requisites, friendships would not occur. I will dive more into these skills and approaches in the next few blog stories.

Parents, teachers, and therapists, how would you teach autistic people to make friends? Autistic self-advocates, how have you learned to navigate friendships? Share your thoughts and experiences in the comments section!

Battle of tantrums vs meltdowns

I cannot tell you how many times that tantrums and meltdowns get mixed up by parents, professionals, teachers, etc. From my experiences as an autistic, I want to break down the similarities and differences between tantrums and meltdowns:

Tantrums: goal-oriented (function or reason) and can be reduced by teaching communication or replacement behaviors.

Meltdowns: caused by sensory overstimulation or unpredictability and requires support to reduce stimuli in environment and teach coping methods.

Here are some main points to identify tantrums and meltdowns before they occur:

  1. Pay attention to the situation and what occurred before the tantrum or meltdown.
  2. Pay attention to signs of distress before meltdowns occur.
  3. Was there an audience when an autistic person’s behavior occurred?
    • Meltdowns occur from sensory overload and in any situation. They occur when an autistic individual is alone or in new social situations.
    • You can notice an autistic individual stimming nervously or even covering their ears/eyes to reduce distress before a meltdown occurs.

By teaching skills an autistic does not have their repertoire, less tantrums and meltdowns would occur. It is important to focus on teaching communication, social, daily living skills, etc., as replacement behaviors will more likely occur. How would you approach when an autistic person has a tantrum or meltdown? Share your thoughts in the comments section!

Reinforcement vs Punishment

Did you know we use reinforcement and punishment all of the time, not just in ABA therapy?

Reinforcement and punishment are used everywhere to shape our own behaviors. In ABA therapy sessions with autistic clients, reinforcement is used more so than punishment because behavior analysts and RBTs (Registered Behavior Technicians) are focused on strengthening behaviors that are beneficial in an autistic individual’s life, such as social, communication, and daily living skills. Punishment teaches what kind of behaviors not to use daily. In the education system, teachers rely on punishment the most because students must follow classroom expectations. Of course, educators provide reinforcement when a student raises their hand to answer a question, but punishment is still relied on for students demonstrating behaviors of property destruction, touching others, etc. As an autistic RBT who graduated last year with a Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology with concentration in ABA, I will break down the difference between reinforcement and punishment deeper.

There are two types of reinforcement: positive and negative. Positive reinforcement means providing something in order to increase the likelihood of a behavior to occur more often. For example, my parents used to give an allowance after I would complete my chores for the day at home during my middle school years. Negative reinforcement means taking away something to increase likelihood of a behavior occurring more often. For instance, a teacher eliminates homework for the night after students accomplished a lot of work in class today. If this happens from the teacher, then students would be more productive in the classroom. All in all, reinforcement means a behavior increases due to an intervention.

Not only there are two types of reinforcement, but there are also two types of punishment: positive and negative. Positive punishment is adding something to decrease a behavior from occurring. For instance, a parent yelling at their child for bad behavior. Negative punishment is removing something pleasant or desirable from an individual to decrease a behavior from occurring. For example, a child named Kevin got a bad grade on their recent test. As a result, his parents took away his electronics. After this occurrence, Kevin will no longer get bad grades on tests in school. In sum, punishment means a behavior decreases due to an intervention.

Based on these contingencies, they are all followed after a behavior occurs. Now which kind of approach should be used? It depends on the context of the situation and things in the environment that trigger the behavior. Now how does reinforcement and punishment occur in your life everyday? Share your thoughts and experiences in the comments section!

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