Newsletter Archive – “Thrive” from A is For Apple

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  • Thrive – October 2016 Issue (Part 1)

    by A is for Apple, Inc. | Oct 04, 2016

    Getting Your Child Ready for Halloween


    Last October we published an “Ask A is for Apple” piece about preparing for Halloween if your child has sensory issues.

    This year we’d like to revisit the topic again, in greater detail.  We want all our kids (and parents!) to have a great time this Halloween.

    Getting Your Child Used to the Halloween Season

    October is full of spooky decoration, colorful costuming, and fun.  But it can still be scary for children with special needs, if they’re not familiar with it.  Use these ideas to help your child get comfortable with Halloween.

    1. Create a visual story of what your child can expect on Halloween.  Use pictures or drawings to show trick-or-treating, costumes, etc.  This will help your child prepare for the activities.
    2. Pumpkin Carving:  This can be a messy activity.  If your child does not like getting their hands dirty, try decorating a pumpkin without carving it.  Pumpkin Masters sells kits that don’t require carving.
    3. Try on costumes before Halloween.  The costume should fit well (otherwise it may distress the child and ruin their fun), and not cause any sensory problems.
    4. Don’t force your child to “pick their own costume.”  Some children may not understand Halloween, or they might have trouble making decisions.  If so, choose a costume for them and include it in the visual story.
    5. Consider a Halloween costume that fits over your child’s regular clothes, such as butterfly wings or capes.  It’s easier to wear and less to get used to.
    6. If your child doesn’t like their costume, don’t make them wear it.  Talk about it with your child.  Look for the reason they don’t like it.   Talking with your child may help them get used to the costume.
    7. Have your child wear their costume for short periods of time.  Increase the interval over time.
    8. Practice trick-or-treating beforehand**.  Go to a neighbor’s door, have the child ring the bell or knock, and have them thank the neighbor when receiving candy.

    **Remember:  The normal procedure when knocking on someone’s door is to enter after it’s opened.  It’s different on Halloween—then, we knock on doors but stay outside.

    This is outside of your child’s normal routine.  Practice will help them understand the difference, and avoid any awkward moments.

    In fact, that leads into talking about safety on Halloween.

    Halloween Safety:  How to Keep Everyone Safe While Having Fun

    It’s important to remember that the rules we set as parents – don’t talk to strangers, don’t run in the street – do not apply on Halloween.  Kids may get confused, especially if they’re the type who prefer rules never change.

    To help make the day both safer and more enjoyable, we recommend the following steps.  These will both help you prepare for Halloween beforehand, and guide your child while out celebrating.

    Choose a Halloween activity your child will enjoy.  If they like going trick-or-treating, partner up with other families in the neighborhood your child already knows.

    Is your child is afraid of going out at night?  Plan an indoor or daytime Halloween activity.  We have some of these under “Local Events” below!

    Staying in to give out candy?  Have your child practice giving out candy, piece by piece.  Ask a neighbor to bring their child over early for practicing.  (Their child will love getting extra candy just for helping!)

    The following tips come from Shelly Allred, Director of Safety Programs at Pathfinders for Autism. She has some great ideas on keeping children with autism safe on Halloween.

    Stick to homes you know.  The familiarity will make your child more comfortable with walking up and asking for treats.

    Give cars every opportunity to see your child.  Try light-up sneakers, glow-in-the-dark bracelets, and flashlights.

    Use the buddy system.  Pair your child with a neurotypical child they know.  That way your child can see the trick-or-treating process by watching them.  And it’s another set of eyes on your child.

    Take photos of your child in their costume.  This is great for showing the child next October, but it also has a practical use.  If the child does elope, show the photo to neighbors so they can help you find them.

    Go for soft rubber weapons.  If your child’s costume uses a weapon, make sure it’s made of flexible rubber.  Some children will “take on” a character when wearing a costume, and start swinging a weapon around.  Even fake weapons can hurt if there’s enough force!

    Parent Tips: Halloween Safety – Pathfinders for Autism

    A Little Time & Practice, and Your Child is Ready for Halloween Fun!

    Since it’s early October, you have plenty of time to get your child used to wearing a costume, and to practice trick-or-treating. How often you practice depends on your child’s comfort level.

    If your child really doesn’t like costumes (or is scared of the dark), the Local Events mentioned below are a great alternative. From everyone here at A is for Apple, have a safe and happy Halloween!

    Look for Part 2 of “Thrive” later this month. We’ll have more content and more local events to enjoy.

    See you next month!


    Local Events

    Places to Go for Halloween

    October is full of fun events for kids and families.  Here’s one such event, coming up every weekend this month.

    Spina Farms Pumpkin Patch (Every October Weekend)

    • Where:  Spina Farms Pumpkin Patch, Santa Teresa Boulevard at Bailey Avenue, San Jose
    • When:  Every weekend in October
    • How to Contact:  (408) 763-1093 or the Spina Farms Pumpkin Patch Website

    Spina Farms is located between San Jose and Morgan Hill.  The Pumpkin Patch is open during October.  Hours are Sunday to Thursday 9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m., and Friday to Saturday 9:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m.

    Spina Farms has a hay ride, train rides, a petting zoo, and of course a big pumpkin patch!  Parking and admission are free.  It’s open weekdays, but the Petting Zoo and Pony Rides are only available on the weekends.

    Look for Part 2 of “Thrive” on October 20 with more Halloween events!

  • Thrive – September 2016 Issue

    by A is for Apple, Inc. | Aug 31, 2016

    Advocating for Your Child in the IEP Process


    Last February in our “Ask A is for Apple” section, we talked about advocating for your child in setting up an IEP.

    But what about after that?

    You can (and should) continue to advocate for your child while the IEP is underway, and when it’s reviewed. That’s the topic of this month’s “Thrive.”

    How to Keep Track of IEP Progress

    IEPs are re-evaluated once per year. In a re-evaluation, the IEP’s current goals are discussed, and reviewed for progress. If your child needs new goals, they’re proposed here.

    IEPs are also reviewed once every 3 years. During these reviews, your child’s service providers (speech/OT therapists, teachers, ABA therapists, psychologists) give your child a full reassessment. These reviews may set a whole new group of goals.

    This is an important point: An IEP has goals built into it. We always say, “Goals drive services.”

    The goals in your child’s IEP determine which services your child gets. They also determine how your child’s progress is measured.

    In an IEP report, goals are matched to skills deficits. Skills deficits are areas where your child is developmentally delayed or disabled. (For example, speech impairment.)

    Each goal should have a Time Period assigned to it, as well as Benchmarks to mark progress. For example, let’s say your child has the following goal: In 1 year, their skill level in Skill X is at 80%.

    We’d set the benchmarks at 10% every 3 months—first 50%, then 60% in 3 months, then 70% in 3 months, and finally 80% at 1 year. This way you can track your child’s progress over time, from the feedback school officials write into the IEP report.

    In an IEP review or re-evaluation, you must check these benchmarks. Make sure they are written in, and addressed during the meeting. Make sure numbers are included in the feedback. You’ll need these numbers to measure how well your child is (or is not) doing.

    What You Need to Do

    1. BEFORE THE REVIEW/RE-EVALUATION MEETING: Request an up-to-date copy of the IEP report from the school. Look for the goals’ benchmarks. Do skill deficits have a goal attached? How much time is allocated to each goal? Is it enough?

      If this is a Reassessment Year, ask for a copy of each service provider’s assessment at least 1 week before the meeting date. That way you’ll have plenty of time to read through them carefully.

      (You may get “kickback” here; some service providers don’t want to complete assessment reports early. But it is within your rights to ask for them, to better prepare yourself for the Reassessment meeting.)

      Note any questions, concerns, or confusion you have. You can (and should) quote the IEP when asking for clarification on these points.

    2. ATTEND: Attend the reassessments and re-evaluation meetings. You are there as your child’s voice, and to receive feedback from school officials.
    3. ASK QUESTIONS: Bring questions with you. You want to ask about your child’s progress, how good a job the IEP is doing for him/her, and if changes are needed.

    Here’s a checklist of topics to check, and questions you can ask based on them. We’ll use Speech Therapy as an example service here, but you can substitute whatever services your child needs.

    • “Can you explain why the time period for Speech Therapy (ex. 4 hours/week) is sufficient to help my child’s speech impairment/intellectual disability?”
    • “Do all my child’s skill deficits have a goal attached?”
      • Does the goal include a time period?
        • If not, why not?
    • [If there’s a number in a goal] “Is there a number assigned to the progress my child has made on this goal?”
      • Is it accurate?
        • Can you explain why?
    • Can I see my child’s work?
    • When a service provider discusses the child’s ability level (usually referring to a benchmark), you can say, “Show me the data.”
      • This means you want to see the scores or data generated from your child’s progress.
        • This may follow your request to see your child’s work.
    • You can also ask to see the data when someone recommends that a current service be reduced or denied.
      • You should receive a concrete reason why, with evidence.
        • If you don’t see a reason in the report, or evidence, insist on seeing the data.
    • “Can you explain why you feel Goal X is met?”

    What to Do If the IEP Goals Are Not Met

    If you find out before or during the meeting that one or more of the IEP’s goals are not met, you have options to choose from.

    Re-Evaluation. Request a Re-Evaluation (in writing). Like we discussed in February, you can request a re-evaluation of your child if you disagree with the IEP’s placements.

    Bring an Advocate. Have an independent advocate come in with you and push for more focus on the child. They can be a specialist, a friend, an AIFA supervisor, even a pro bono attorney.

    Don’t Sign IEP. If you don’t agree with the IEP…don’t sign it! An IEP cannot go into effect if you, the parent, do not agree to it.

    (You or the school district may initiate a mediated meeting – called a “due process proceeding” –to resolve the issue.)

    Sign with Exceptions. If you choose to sign, but you don’t agree with everything in the IEP report? You can sign with exceptions. Essentially you sign the parts of the IEP you agree with, which are implemented. The parts you don’t sign are not implemented.

    For signing with exceptions, this document from will help you. It contains details on how to sign with exceptions, as well as elements within IEP reports and what you can do concerning each one.
    Special Education Rights and Responsibilities: Information on IEP Process (PDF)

    Advocating for Your Child Helps Them Continue to Grow & Thrive

    An IEP review or reassessment is not meant as a difficult process. Sometimes it can be though, and it’s best to be prepared. Just in case. We hope this information helps you continue to advocate for your child’s needs.

    If you need help with the IEP process, please talk with your A is for Apple supervisor.

    See you next month!

    Local Events

    IEP Workshop on Sept. 10, and a Safety Fair on Sept. 17


    As if Back to School isn’t busy enough, September is a big month for events too!

    FIRST:  Do you want to become a strong advocate for your child in the IEP process?  Support for Families is hosting a workshop in San Francisco on Saturday, Sept. 10. 

    Titled, “IEP Development & Dynamics: Make Sure Your Voice is Heard,” the workshop will help you learn more about your IEP rights and procedures.

    There is no cost to attend.  If you register before Sept. 3, free childcare and interpretation services are provided.  

    NEXT:  Autism Speaks is holding a Safety Fair!  Come out and meet the people and services available to keep you & your child safe.

    The Safety Fair will have local First Responders and Service Providers.  You can get a Safety Tool Kit for your home, meet other parents’ groups, and even talk with the San Andreas Regional Center.

    Autism Tips

    How To Get Your Child To Sleep


    For many parents, sleep can sometimes feel like a luxury!  But sleep is critical to everyone’s health and quality of life.  In fact, it’s the primary activity of the brain during early development.  

    For kids in particular, sleep factors heavily into their ability to develop and function mentally, psychologically, socially, and physically.  A long-term lack of sleep can cause difficulties in learning, shorten attention spans, and even lead to increased aggression or depression. Basically, everyone is at their best after a good night’s sleep.

    At A is for Apple, we recommend behavior-based training to parents wanting to get their child to sleep regularly and soundly.  These include Behavior Extinction and Increased Behavior Extinction.

    • Behavior Extinction – This means placing a child in bed at a specific time, and ignoring any and all crying throughout the night.
      • Effectiveness – Positive results in 3-5 nights, with long-term treatment gains
    • Increased Behavior Extinction – This means placing a child in bed at a specific time and ‘checking-in’ on a schedule that systematically increases over time. For example:
      • Step 1: the child is ‘checked-in’ in every 10 minutes for the first 3 nights
      • Step 2: then every 20 minutes for the next 3 nights
      • Step 3: then every 30 minutes for the next 2 nights, etc.

    Helpful Tips

    • Avoid giving your child anything with caffeine within 6 hours of bed (e.g., chocolate, soda).
    • Avoid feeding your child a big meal right before bed.
      • If your child has a snack before bed, be sure it contains tryptophan. Sources of tryptophan include cottage cheese, yogurt, bananas, eggs, turkey, seeds, and nuts.


    • Make the child’s bedroom conducive to sleep.
      • Set the temperature at a comfortable level (not too hot, not too cold).
      • Draw blinds or curtains to create a darker room.  A small night light can be used, also.
    • In the mornings, expose the child to natural sunlight soon after awakening.  This helps set their circadian rhythm.


    • Limit overstimulation like television, video-games, or reading an especially exciting book before bed.
    • Avoid naps during the day, unless it is developmentally appropriate.


    • If the child exits their bedroom, redirect them back to their bed without making any comment or eye contact with the child.  Parents should simply guide the child back to bed with the reminder, “It’s bedtime.”

    The A is for Apple team wants you and your child to have a good night’s sleep.  Check in with your program supervisor and/or Clinical Director for additional support and recommendations. 

    Ask A is for Apple

    Digital Tools for Learning: Too Noisy


    “Dear A is for Apple,

    Do you know of any apps that could help my child learn when to keep their voice down?”

    One app many educators use is Too Noisy Pro from Walsall Academy. The app uses your phone’s/tablet’s microphone to monitor noise levels in classrooms, at home, and most settings. By visually tracking a specific time frame you set, the app rewards children with stars for keeping the noise level down.

    The star rewards appear along the top of the screen.  At the bottom, a timer with an active needle monitors the noise level.  The teacher or parent can set the noise level and the duration of time between each star reward (anywhere from 1 to 15 minutes). This will allow the user to increase time frames as children get better.

    The app allows you to pick from nine vibrant and fun backgrounds, and even control sensitivity levels based on four settings (Silent, Quiet, Group, and Class).

    Want more personalization?  You can also:

    • Select different dial themes
    • Change time settings between each star award, from 1 minute to 15 minutes; allowing you to increase duration of lower noise levels
    • Choose from preloaded alarm sounds or record your very own
    • Add sounds when stars are rewarded and trigger an alarm when stars are removed
      • One star is removed when noise level goes above the set criteria.
    • Enable a screen cracking effect with alarm noise when noise levels are too high

    Too Noisy Pro costs $3.99, is available in the iTunes App Store and Google Play for Android.  Try it out!

  • Thrive – August 2016 Issue

    by A is for Apple, Inc. | Aug 05, 2016

    The Importance of Early Intervention, and the Risks of Waiting on Treatment


    Early Intervention is a program meant to help very young children who show a developmental delay, or may be at risk for autism.  It’s extremely valuable.  But it’s also not talked about much.

    Why Early Intervention Doesn’t Come Up Often

    Some of our parents are just nervous when the subject of Early Intervention comes up.  It’s a scary prospect to think your infant or toddler might have a developmental disability!

    There’s also a common perception of, “Oh, this behavior is normal, he/she will grow out of it.”  Unfortunately, that’s not the case.  And the longer parents wait before getting a diagnosis, the fewer chances their child has to improve their behavior.

    This issue of “Thrive” will talk about Early Intervention’s value to children, when begun early & followed through.

    Overall Benefits of Early Intervention

    Early Intervention is, like its name suggests, an “intervention” therapy – its goal is to focus on building skills the child will use throughout their lives.

    When started early and practiced often, a good early intervention program has at least 4 benefits:

    • Gives your child direction for learning new skills, improving their maladaptive behaviors, and remediating areas of weakness.
    • Provides you (the parent) with information to help you better understand your child’s behavior and needs.
    • Offers resources, support, and training that enable you to work and play with your child more effectively.
    • Improves your child’s outcomes in life.

    In 2011, the National Early Intervention Longitudinal Study (NEILS) found that infants & toddlers who participated in Part C (a U.S. early intervention program) had:

    • Better motor skills
    • Higher cognitive growth
    • Lower negative impacts of their disabilities
    • Better social relationships
    • Stronger thinking abilities
    • A more active approach to meeting their needs

    Than children who did not participate.

    How Early Intervention Benefits Your Child’s Education

    It’s easy to see how improving a child’s social and cognitive skills helps them do better in school.
    By working with your child as early as possible, Early Intervention gives them the best possible chance with their education.

    While Early Intervention takes place before they go to school, the behaviors learned carry over into the school environment.

    • They already know something about learning. Great preparation for the lessons.
    • Early Intervention sets the child on a path to inclusion in a regular classroom (or as natural a learning environment as possible).
    • Early Intervention reduces the need for more special education resources in the school environment. Making the experience more positive for everyone.

    NEILS also found that 46% of Early Intervention kids who were at risk of needing special education at kindergarten age…didn’t need special education afterward!

    Potential Risks if Early Intervention is Not Used

    Early attention to improving the core behavioral symptoms of autism will give your child – and the rest of the family – several important benefits you won’t gain if you take a wait-and-see approach.

    When talking about early intervention’s benefits, the Autism Society of America said:

    “Comments such as, ‘He/she is too young for such intense therapy’ or ‘Let’s give him/her time to develop on his/her own’ should never be accepted, and intervention should never be postponed.”

    Why is waiting a risk? Because you lose out on two things: Practice Time, and Cognitive Development.

    Your child’s brain grows more during the first 3 years than at any other time in their lives. If they have ASD or another development delay, this is the period in which the overall condition can improve the most.

    It’s also the period where the most basic behaviors are practiced. Eating, sleeping, motor skills, etc. Early Intervention adds basic mental & physical activities to the child’s practicing. Without it, your child doesn’t get the biggest opportunity to shape their future that they have.

    Lack of Early Treatment vs. Early Intervention’s Advantages

    So we have a whole list of early intervention benefits, as well as notable risks to children with no treatment. Let’s make a list.

    No practice of basic behavioral skills  Practiced basic behavioral skills
    Cognitive development occurs with autism/developmental delay not addressed Cognitive development guided to maximize improvement of autism-affected behaviors
    May need special education into adulthood May not need special education at all!
    Limited or no social skills Developed social skills
    Lower thinking potential; child may not learn how to take care of themselves Stronger thinking skills; child is better suited to taking care of themselves
    Child grows with areas of weakness in their physical skills or behaviors Child “builds up” areas of weakness until they are as capable as can be

    Any Child Younger than 3 with a Developmental Disability Can Benefit from Early Intervention

    It’s very hard to look at an infant and think of them as anything other than perfect. Instead, think about making a perfect future for them. With Early Intervention programs, we’re all trying to give that to them.

    If you have questions about the Early Intervention process, please visit our Early Intervention Services page, or talk with your A is for Apple supervisor.

    See you next month!

    Local Events

    Santa Cruz Harbor Walk for a Fun Day in the Sun, August 14


    On Sunday, August 14 at 10:30 a.m., join Autism Fun Bay Area for a summertime walk in Santa Cruz!

    The event starts at 1506 Broadway in Santa Cruz.  Everyone walks down the Arana Gulch Trail, heading to Seabright Beach.  From there, you can take a Water Taxi back, or enjoy the beach a while. 

    It’s an open-schedule event where families can gather, have fun, and relax in the sun.

    Everyone is free and welcome to attend!  Please bring sunscreen, water, and comfy shoes.  Dogs on leash are fine. 

    Learn more about the area, including directions, at

    Autism Awareness

    Neurodivers Workforce

    Have you heard of the Neurodiverse Workforce movement?

    It’s a loose collection of individuals who each work toward workplaces which include people with developmental delays like ASD.

    We talked about this a little bit in our April 2016 review of “The Autism Job Club.”  Since then, the idea continues to grow.  Several books have come out to argue for a neurodiverse workforce.  “The Autism Job Club” is one such book; “NeuroTribes” is another.

    Professional efforts have come about as well.  In May, PBS reported on a former banker named Lynne Wines, who’s putting together a program to encourage hiring of more neurodiverse employees in the workforce.  His program helps train & encourage businesses to see the value in hiring them.

    “Almost 50 percent of people on the Asperger’s and autistic spectrum, which is considered autism today, have average to above average IQs. And many of them have graduate degrees, and it’s a matter of being able to train the employers to understand that they may not interview the same as you and I would interview, they may not take a written test the same, and they may not behave in certain social circumstances, the way that we would. 
    But that doesn’t make them not valuable employees. And so our focus is really to educate employers.” published a similar piece in June, titled, “Neurodiversity in the High-Tech Workforce.”  From the article:

    “Our goal is to raise public awareness of neurodiversity and what it means to employees and employers in the workforce,” said Stu (Shader from Microsoft), who discovered he had dyslexia when he was in his mid-forties.”

    These are just two of the people working to include people with ASD and other developmental disabilities in the workplace of the future.  We salute their efforts and want to spread the word!

    Autism Tips

    Making a Sensory Object

    Color Wheel

    A Sensory Object comes in handy when your child is agitated or confused.  Sensory Objects are a great way to keep children calm.  They can even help your child learn.

    Do you have a Sensory Object?  If not, it’s easy to make one!

    Here are some links with instructions.

    Pinterest has many more Sensory Object ideas too!

    All you need are some common household items (like bottles, paper, paint, etc.) and a little time.  For example, the Color Wheel only needs a foam board, paint, and clothespins.  You paint the foam board in a rainbow of colors, paint the clothespins in matching colors, and write the names of those colors on the clothespin and foam board.

    Now your child has a great practice tool for learning their colors!

    Have you made a sensory object for your child?  Please join us on our Facebook Page and share photos!

    Ask A is for Apple

    Digital Tools for Learning:  Letter School

    Digital Tools for Learning

    “Dear A is for Apple,
    What are some apps we could use to teach our child the alphabet?”

    There are quite a few apps available for learning letters and numbers.  One we’ve used is called Letter School.

    Letter School is a game-based app that helps kids learn counting, writing, and phonics.  It follows a four-part teaching structure, with lots of fun bells and whistles.

    These are the 4 learning levels:

    1. Intro–discover the shape, name and sound of the alphabet and basic numbers
    2. Tap–learn where to start to write the letters and numbers and finish by tapping the dots
    3. Trace—learn the letter trajectory by tracing it
    4. Write—test your knowledge by writing the ABCs and numbers from memory

    Letter School costs $4.99, and is available on iPad/iPhone and Android.  Try it out!

    Letter School App Website:

  • Thrive – July 2016 Issue

    by A is for Apple, Inc. | Jul 13, 2016

    Maximizing Your Autism Treatment Team


    In today’s issue of “Thrive,” we’ll continue the discussion on dealing with an Autism Spectrum Diagnosis.

    Last month we talked about ways to deal with the stigmas surrounding ASD. This month we’ll wrap up by talking about your family’s Autism Treatment Team.

    Working with A is for Apple means having a team of therapists and supervisors on your side.  By analyzing your child’s test results and your goals, we assemble a Treatment Team best-suited to help your child thrive.

    The team’s goals are not only to provide therapy, but assist you in finding the most effective techniques for your child’s growth.

    Every team member has an important role to play (including you!), so let’s explain what each person does.

    1. Behavior Technicians. Front Line.  Behavior Technicians work directly with your child, running programs, managing moment-by-moment interactions.  It’s their job to monitor and work on the child’s behaviors and developing skills.
    2. Senior Technicians.  Support System.  The Senior Technician helps the Behavior Technicians by answering technique questions, suggesting additional methods, and providing support.  They’re also responsible to ensuring the treatment proceeds according to plan.
    3. Program Supervisor.  Leader of the Pack.  A Program Supervisor keeps the “big picture” in mind while developing the treatment programming and monitoring data.  Supervisors make sure everyone knows and follows procedure.
    4. Clinical Director. Behind the Scenes.  A Clinical Director builds the “blueprint” for your child’s long-term goals.  They manage treatment plans and Supervisors.  They also teach parents how to “think like a therapist.”
    5. Parents/Caregivers. Central Provider.  The Parent(s) recognizes and shares information about the child.  You know what life is like “outside of therapy” times.  As such, your feedback provides invaluable background and insight into how well the treatment progresses.

    Maximizing Each Team Member’s Effectiveness

    The data we gather is regularly assessed by the Program Supervisor.  If a certain procedure isn’t working well for the child, we change our approach.

    You can help increase the team’s effectiveness too.  How?  Here are a few ideas.

    Training:  Each Treatment Team member receives training (including you!).  We train on treatment methods, how to read data, even modifying our own mannerisms while interacting with your child.

    Observing:  Watch what’s happening during your child’s session.  Take notes on how the team members interact and structure their time with your child.  Pay special attention to particular phrases or ways of speaking to the child that appear most effective.

    Asking Questions:  Don’t be afraid to ask questions about how things are done, and about what you’re seeing. Program Supervisors and Clinical Directors will happily explain treatment details.  Technicians can share how they shape the environment, and your child’s motivation, to optimize learning.

    Participating:  Based on what you’ve seen, find out how and when you can jump in and try something out!  For example, play the game he/she is learning by using the same strategies you saw the technician use.  Give your child some simple instructions, and follow through in the same way you observed.

    Your Role on the Team

    As a parent, your role is imperative and unique to all other positions.  The sheer amount of information you provide regarding your child is critical knowledge for all other team members. This acts as the building blocks for your child’s treatment.

    Additionally, you’re presented with countless learning opportunities every day.  Think about how often your child wants something from you.  These are great opportunities to practice communication.  Or how about learning to recognize things they can do for themselves?  This helps their autonomy, and builds self-esteem.

    Taking Full Advantage of the Therapy

    Treatment doesn’t stop when the technician leaves.  So how do you give your child the best possible chance to learn?

    Repeat the lesson.  The most effective teaching repeats itself—not only across people, but across environments too.  If you and the Treatment Team members continue reinforcing the lessons, your child will learn faster and better.

    Get local support.  Ask neighbors, friends, even local businesses for help in practicing your child’s skills.  Something as simple as a neighbor asking your child what they did today can do wonders.

    Stay aware of your child’s progress.  Day-to-day interaction will show you where your child improves the most, and the least.  Sharing this with your Program Supervisor will help them to refine future sessions. 

    You Have a Responsibility to Work with Your Child – And a Huge Value

    Remember that you’re not just the parent.  You are a teacher, a therapist, an advocate for your child…and a team member.  It’s your responsibility to seek training & help from your fellow team members, so you and your child continue to thrive.

    If you have questions about the Treatment Team, please talk with your A is for Apple supervisor.  

    See you next month!

    Local Events

    Free Class on Teaching Functional Language to Children, and the SARC Summer Festival

    july2016sanadreasTwo local events to enjoy this month!

    First, the San Andreas Regional Center is having its Summer Festival on July 30.  Everyone in the SARC Community is encouraged to attend.  They’ll have games, entertainment, food trucks, service provider booths, and prizes to win!

    • When:  July 30, 11:00am to 3:00pm
    • Where:  Harvey West Park in Santa Cruz 326 Evergreen Street, Santa Cruz CA 95060 (Google Map)

    Register to attend here: Summer Festival Hosted by San Andreas Regional Center, July 30

    Tickets are free!


    After that, join us for an important autism class on August 18!

    july2016teachinglanguageTeaching Language to Children with Autism – the Verbal Behavior Approach

    This class will focus on functional language, and how it helps children with autism grow.  Deborah Van Tuyl, a Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA) with more than fifteen years of experience, will speak.

    It’s free to attend, but sign up early!  The seats will fill up fast, so register for a seat here:

    Teaching Language to Children with Autism Class –

    • When:  August 18, 10:30am-12:00pm
    • Where:  Sobrato Center for Nonprofits, Shoreway Conference Room 350 Twin Dolphin Drive, Redwood City CA 94065 (Google Map)


    Autism Tips: Potty Training III – Potty Training Guidelines


    This is Part 3 of our Potty Training series.  (Post 1 is here; Post 2 is here.)

    Now that you’ve prepared your home and your child is ready…it’s time to begin the training!

    For this article, we’re citing a training method developed in 1971 by Azrin and Foxx.  The program is evidence-based, like our ABA techniques, and geared toward toilet training individuals with ASD or similar developmental disabilities.  It remains the standard today.

    We’ll focus on two activities: reinforcement and scheduling toilet times.  You’ll have two goals to aim for with these:

    1. Your child eliminates when sitting on the toilet.
    2. Your child remains dry when they are not sitting on the toilet.  Simple.

    How will you encourage your child to use the toilet and not a diaper?  With these 4 actions:

    1. Giving them increased fluids
    2. Scheduling times to sit on the toilet
    3. Positive and negative reinforcement for the desired “target” behaviors

    Redirection when accidents happen

    Action 1: Increased Fluids

    Increase the amount of fluids your child drinks about 1 hour before starting training.  Choose a drink they will finish, or water.  Don’t force them to drink too much, though.  The goal is to maximize the chances they will need to use the bathroom soon.

    Action 2: Scheduling Sitting Times

    Set a time interval for checking your child for dryness.  During this time, give him/her the chance to sit on the toilet.  Repeat the process every 10 to 30 minutes.  Increase the time between each dryness check as your child improves, and encourage them as they progress.  For example:

    1. Starting Out: Check your child for dryness every 5 minutes over a 15-minute interval.  Ask the child, “Let’s see, are you dry?”
    2. On each check, if the child didn’t wet himself/herself, give them some positive reinforcement (e.g., a hug, tickle, or high-five).
    3. If your child remains dry for 15 minutes one day, go longer between dryness checks (e.g., bring them to the bathroom every 20 minutes the next day).
    4. Keep increasing the time until your child can remain dry for one hour.

    If you like, use the Toilet Training Data Sheet below to track your child’s successes.  It can tell you when to adjust the time intervals.


    Reinforcement for Success

    After the time interval passes, instruct the child that it’s time to use the bathroom. Something as simple as “Let’s go potty!” often works.  Hold their hand and take them to the toilet.

    Place your child on the toilet, with pants down, and have them stay seated for 2-4 minutes.  Just long enough for them to calm down, and go.

    1. If the child successfully eliminates while sitting, give them reinforcement right away.  A toy, a small snack, or going to an activity they enjoy all work.
    2. If the child urinated, he/she can get up from the toilet without waiting the whole time.

    If the child didn’t urinate in the toilet, training continues.  Before you leave the bathroom, tell the child, “Let’s stay dry,” and start the time interval again. 

    Redirection for Accidents

    If an accident occurs, give your child a neutral redirection (i.e., “We go pee-pee on the toilet”).  Then take them to the bathroom.  If the child is playing with a toy when the accident happens, take the toy away and say, “You are not dry.”

    Have your child sit on the toilet for one minute, before cleaning them up.   If they finish eliminating in the toilet, praise them!  This counts as a training success.  Afterwards, return to your normal time interval.

    Summary: Patience + Consistence = Success!

    It’s important to keep a positive attitude about potty training.  Believing your child can do it (and they can!) will help them succeed.

    Most parents find that potty training builds on itself over time.  Once your child consistently uses the toilet, you’ll have an easier time teaching related behaviors like wiping, washing hands, etc.

    A child has learned bladder control if he/she:

    1. Has no accidents,
    2. Eliminates immediately upon sitting on the toilet, and
    3. Tries to eliminate while sitting on the toilet (usually shows as straining in the body or face).

    Remember, potty training is a long-term process.  It may take a while before you see any improvement, so you’ll need consistency and dedication to stick with it.  We hope this information will help you succeed!

    Check in with your program supervisor and/or Clinical Director for further guidance and recommendations.

    Please join us on our Facebook Page with your potty training questions or stories:

    Ask the A is for Apple Community

    Summer Travel Tips from A is for Apple Parents & Caregivers


    “Dear A is for Apple, We have a pool, but my child wasn’t old enough to go in it until now. What should we do?”

    With summer here, most of us are thinking of ways to cool off. But, before everyone jumps in the pool, we want to make an important point.

    The second leading cause of death among individuals with autism, after wandering, is drowning.

    It’s critical to learn water safety before your child dives in. To help, here’s some advice on teaching water safety.

    1. Start early. Introduce your child to water early in life, so they grow familiar with it. Use a visual, like a picture card, reinforce water rules (like, “Don’t go in the water without Mom or Dad!”).
    2. Take swim lessons. If your child knows how to swim, it makes them much safer in water! The YMCA has several locations which offer Special Needs swimming instruction. The list indicates YMCAs in Berkeley, Redwood City, San Mateo, and San Jose.
    3. Watch out for wandering. Some individuals with autism are drawn to water. If yours is, take precautions against their falling into a pool or creek.
      1. Put up a safety gate if you have a pool.
      2. If you live in a complex with a communal pool, notify the property manager so others can keep an eye out.
      3. Never leave your child unsupervised when you’re in an area with water.

    Water safety is about more than learning to swim. Take the time to educate your child on how dangerous water can be. Knowing how to stay safe will make summer more relaxed & fun for everyone!

  • Thrive – June 2016 Issue

    by A is for Apple, Inc. | Jun 08, 2016

    Dealing with the Stigmas Associated with an Autism Spectrum Diagnosis


    Last month we touched on the feelings that can come up following an Autism Spectrum diagnosis, and how different cultures deal with them.

    This month, we talk about ways to deal with the stigma surrounding ASD.  As you may have experienced, people can become nervous, impatient, or even rude when meeting someone with autism.

    Below are some ways you can address the stigma with your family, friends, your child’s school, and generally in public.

    Explaining Your Child’s Behavior to Your Family

    We spoke last month about how some families avoid friends & family because of their child’s behavior.

    Should you tell family & friends?  Yes, definitely!

    Will they understand what an autism spectrum diagnosis means?  Maybe not.  But that doesn’t mean they will judge you for it.

    In fact, they’re more likely to ask you questions. One way is to prepare for this is to print out articles from Autism Speaks, your Regional Center or our Learning Center.

    Don’t worry too much about what family & friends will think of you.  Once they understand it better, they’re more likely to offer support than judgement.

    Below is an excerpt from the book Overcoming Autism, by Lynn Kern Koegel, PhD. and Claire LaZebnik, showing how one couple told family & friends, and the wonderful reaction that followed.

    You don’t have to walk up to strangers on the street or anything, but confide in the people who love you. That was one thing we did right:  we told our families and our friends right away.  First we called them, and then we copied a good comprehensive article someone wrote about autism and annotated it with specifics about Andrew, and we mailed it out to everyone we knew.

    None of our good friends pulled away from us because our kid had autism.  Just the opposite – our friends and families rallied around us in amazing ways and have continued to cheer Andrew’s progress on year after year.  In all honesty, telling people what we were going through only made our lives easier.

    Before then, we worried that Andrew’s occasionally aberrant behavior was off-putting.  But once he had a formal diagnosis, everyone cut us a lot of slack, and instead of wondering what was wrong with us as parents, most people we knew admitted to a newfound respect for us for dealing with so much.

    You will likely need help as your child grows.  Tell your family & friends what you’re going through early on. That way, they’ll understand when you do ask for help.

    Explaining Your Child’s ASD to Their Siblings

    Children without ASD may not understand why their brother or sister receives different treatment.  Or appears to “get away with” their bad behavior.  To help them, try the following:

    1. Explain ASD to all of your children. Do so patiently; they may not understand, and may need it explained more than once.Encourage them to ask you questions about the disorder (they will have questions!).
    2. Have your children focus on how they can help their sibling. Give them a helpful role (e.g., helping their brother with homework). When they behave well, give them plenty of attention.
    3. When managing behaviors in children with ASD, stay consistent. Make sure everyone involved in your child’s life knows & uses those same strategies.

    Explaining ASD to Grandparents

    Some grandparents of children with ASD have trouble seeing their grandchild, and their own children (the parents), deal with ASD-related behaviors.  They were parents once too…and they often see things different.

    1. Like your children, explain ASD to the grandparents and encourage them to ask questions.

      Reactions may vary, especially considering the different cultural beliefs we discussed last month.  But it’s important to educate grandparents about the nature of autism.

      If you can, use a specific behavior your parents know about as an example.  “Remember when Kim wouldn’t come out from behind the chair?  The autism diagnosis explains why she did that.”

    2. Acknowledge your appreciation of their own parenting skills when raising you.  But ask them to respect your right to parent your child, and to understand the differences in parenting typically and non-typically developing children.
    3. Remind them of the need for consistency in their approach to your child. Children often come to grandparents for learning and reinforcement.  If they use the same approaches you do, it helps shape your child’s positive behaviors even more.

    NOTE:  After the initial conversation about the autism diagnosis, keep your family and friends informed when you learn something important.

    Explaining Your Child’s Behavior When in Public

    For some children with ASD, even a quick trip to the store can overwhelm them.  While some parents can deal with the anxious behavior, many avoid public situations altogether.

    If you do go out, you can make your child – and yourself – more comfortable by minimizing the potential for outbursts.

    1. Give your child headphones so they can shut out the confusing sounds around them. 
    2. Prepare a timetable or map for the trip.For example, “At 4pm we will go shopping, and we are buying cereal and fruit.” A map of shopping aisles will help your child know what to expect.  Don’t forget to add going to the checkout, and going home!
    3. Give your child a task to complete during the trip, using visual symbols to guide them. For example, they could select the bananas and oranges.

    Next, prepare a brief explanation for others.

    A simple example: “My child has autism.  Autism explains why he’s acting this way.  He/she’s just trying to make sense of the world around them, like everyone else.  Thank you for bearing with us.”

    Remember: If someone walks by on the street and gives you a funny look, they’re not judging you by your child’s actions.  They’re judging through their own stigmatized view of autism.

    An explanation to others in public only takes a moment, and educates everyone around you.  Which helps to break the stigma.

    You may find that people express sympathy, offer kindness, or are even curious to learn more.  If they are curious, send them to – we’re happy to help them learn about autism!

    Working with Your Child’s School

    Most teachers will do everything they can to work with your child.  In schools, the stigma comes from their classmates.

    1. Work with the teacher to discuss ASD with all the students.As always, encourage questions about the disorder.If their classmates understand the reasons behind their sometimes odd behavior, it will increase acceptance and limit bullying or taunting.
    1. Create a buddy system. Ask teachers to find other (perhaps older) children who can each play a game or talk to your child for one lunch a week. 
    2. If your child has trouble during ‘unstructured’ parts of the school day (e.g., lunch or play time), ask teachers to make up a timetable for your child.  Maybe they can help out in the lunch room, or stack books.
    3. Explain the concept or provide a purpose of play time for your child, for example, “At 2pm we will play with a train set for half an hour.”

    It is important to explain ASD to children in a way they’ll understand.  For example, talk about the fact that many of us have challenges. While one classmate has trouble seeing and needs glasses, another child has trouble in social situations and needs support.

    Feedback from Fellow Parents on Their Experiences

    We’ve spoken with several A is for Apple parents about the stigmas they felt.  Not surprisingly, some have experienced embarrassment and fear.  They’re afraid to take their child out in public, because they know it can lead to screaming, crying, or aggression.

    When it comes to stigma from family, we did have a recent case where both parents understood their child’s diagnosis.  But the child’s Vietnamese grandmother did not.  It wasn’t a cultural stigma; she just didn’t think (or didn’t want to think) her grandchild had any problems.

    We can all sympathize with confusion and uncertainty, especially for a loved one.  It does also illustrate that while the stigma surrounding autism is going away, its presence is still felt.


    Many groups & service providers, including A is for Apple, work to lessen the stigma by educating people about autism.  We’re succeeding …and every time you deal with the stigma directly, you help all of us.

    If you’re having trouble explaining your child’s diagnosis to family, friends, or their school, please talk with your A is for Apple supervisor

    Next issue we’ll talk about building your “Treatment Team” following diagnosis.

    See you next month!

    Local Events

    Baseball and Bluegrass – Two Events this June!


    Tuesday, June 14 is Autism Awareness Night with the SF Giants (via the Autism Society calendar)

    The San Francisco Giants are partnering with national and local organizations to raise awareness and funds for ASD non-profits.

    • Where:  AT&T Park, San Francisco
    • When:  Tuesday, June 14, 7:15pm

    Ticket packages include a long-sleeved shirt featuring Giants legend and autism awareness proponent Will Clark. Visit Autism Awareness Night for more info and tickets!

    june2016costanoaOn Saturday, June 25, your family is invited to Bluegrass on the Farm at Costanoa Commons in Santa Cruz for an afternoon of live music and outdoors fun.

    • When: Saturday, June 25, 1:00-4:00pm

    This disability-friendly farm promotes organic farming, community, and a meaningful future. At Costanoa Commons, everyone has a role in life!

    Autism Tips: Potty Training II – How to Potty Train


    Did you answer “Yes” to most of the questions in last month’s Potty Training article?  Then it’s time to begin!

    First, a quick assessment of your (the parent’s) readiness.  Potty training takes time and commitment. Let’s review what you’ll need to ready yourself.

    Parent/Caregiver Readiness

    • Awareness of the Process – Although some children learn skills quickly, the process can take several weeks, months, or even years to master. It will get frustrating.  Stay persistent and encouraging.
    • Time and Cost – Prepare to commit time, patience and money. You’ll need time to review and understand the information needed.  Patience, of course, to give your child time to learn.  Money for the needed materials, some of which are required, some recommended (like a training seat, training pants, etc.)
    • Daily Routines – Prepare to make training a priority for daily routines.  You may have to postpone certain activities for a while in order for the child to have regular access to a bathroom.  All caregivers, including babysitters and extended family, must be aware of the training routine. Consistency is important for the child.
    • Routine/Schedule – If you have a big change coming up (e.g., vacation, moving, new school), wait until the family’s schedule returns to normal to start potty training your child.  It helps you and the child focus on the training instead of other things.

    Your A is for Apple Supervisor/Clinical Director will help you prepare yourself, and arrange your home in the way you’ll need it for training.

    Ecological and Environmental Arrangements

    • Wardrobe – Plan to dress your child with clothing that’s easy to remove, or pull up & down. Avoid clothing that your child can’t remove on their own, or clothes that takes several steps to remove.
    • Diapers or Underwear? – Children are accustomed to wearing diapers.  They may display some maladaptive behaviors when not wearing them. Diapers are there to protect from leaks and discomfort when soiled or wet. However, at this point, your child will need to feel the wetness. 

      Some parents use washable underwear for training.  They’re reusable, and still allow the child to feel the sensation of wetness without dirtying clothes or furniture. Place protective coatings on car seats and strollers to prevent soiling. You’ll find them in many stores and online.

    • Preparing the Bathroom – Make sure your bathroom is arranged for success! Have all training materials at your fingertips. Remove anything that may cause distractions, like books, magazines, and toys which aren’t part of the training.
    • Potty Chairs or Seat Training – There are two types of training urinals. Choosing the right one depends on your child’s age and skills. For small children, a single “potty chair” lets the child sit independently without needing to use a stool.  Schools have small bathrooms for children to help make using the potty easy.

      Once your child gets older and has better balance skills, they can start using a regular size bathroom with seat training.

    Materials Needed for Potty Training

    To get started with potty training, you’ll need the following:

     Water or preferred liquids (tea, juice, etc.)

    • Reinforcers identified in the Preference Assessment
    • Snacks (such as crackers, pretzels, or nuts to increase thirst) that aren’t their favorite, but that the child will eat when presented
    • Extra pairs of loose training shorts or pants, 1-2 sizes bigger than they usually wear
    • Gloves, paper towels, and wipes for cleanup
    • A small foot stool or a thick book (for your child to rest their feet on)
    • Blank copy of the Toileting Data Sheet, timer, and a pencil/pen

    Next month we’ll discuss the toilet training “intervention,” and the Azrin and Foxx method of potty training.  Please join us on our Facebook Page with your questions or stories:

    Ask the A is for Apple Community

    Summer Travel Tips from A is for Apple Parents & Caregivers


    Last month we sent an email around to all of you, asking the question:

    “What are your tricks and tips for making travel less stressful and more fun for your family?”

    Here are the results, direct from our parents & caregivers!  If you plan to travel as a family this summer, keep these helpful travel tips in mind.

    1. If you’re flying, call the airline ahead of time & tell them your child has special needs.  They’ll work with you.  (We mentioned this in our November 2015 article on holiday travel, but it applies year-round.)
    2. Don’t go places with lots of people.  It could make your child upset or scared.  Disneyland may not work, but forests or big parks would.
    3. Look for destinations with sensory activities you know your child enjoys.  Do they love water?  Like playing in the sand?  Take them to a beach!  What if they don’t like the texture of sand?  You can book a hotel with a pool!
    4. Bring your own food.  That way you don’t need to go to restaurants too often when traveling.  (See our Daily Routines article on eating out for more help.)
    5. Bring items to help your child stay calm.  Headphones, hats, sunglasses, those sorts of things.

    For those of you who responded, thank you!

    If you’re looking for travel ideas, the Family Resource Center at San Mateo County Gatepath has published a 2016 Summer Camps and Activity Guide (PDF).

  • Thrive – May 2016 Issue

    by A is for Apple, Inc. | May 04, 2016

    Dealing with an Autism Spectrum Diagnosis


    A diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder means a major change in your child’s life, and your own.  You may feel overwhelmed, left with no support, angry, that it’s unfair, or that it’s even your fault somehow (it’s not).

    In the next few issues of “Thrive,” we want to help you deal with those feelings.  We’ll talk about a grieving process many parents undergo when receiving the diagnosis, ASD statistics, different cultural beliefs concerning autism, working with schools, public behavior, organizing a treatment plan, and more.

    Let’s start with some statistics.

    Statistics about Autism Spectrum Disorder

    The CDC’s “Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring Network” has identified about 1 in 68 children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD).  1 in 68 translates to millions of children across the globe.  Millions of parents dealing with this too.

    Thanks to the research, we also know:

    • ASD occurs in all racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic groups.
    • ASD is about 4.5 times more common among boys (1 in 42) than among girls (1 in 189).
    • Studies in Asia, Europe, and North America have identified individuals with ASD with an average prevalence of between 1% and 2%.
    • About 1 in 6 children in the United States had a developmental disability in 2006-2008, ranging from mild disabilities (speech and language impairments) to serious developmental disabilities (intellectual disabilities, cerebral palsy, and autism).

    Looking at statistics like these, we can say one thing: You are not alone.

    Why Parents Feel Afraid of an Autism Diagnosis

    You are never prepared for a diagnosis of ASD. It’s a shock, and it will trigger intense feelings. Many questions will run through your mind.

    What happens now?
    Why did this happen to my child?
    Why did this happen to me?
    What will my family/friends/community think?
    What will our life be like now?

    It’s akin to a grieving process. The “old life” you knew must change. No going back. It’s unfortunate, but also inevitable.

    Give yourself time – time to work through your feelings, time to seek help, and time to adjust to the reality of what’s before you.

    Please be careful about denial. We’ve had families admit that despite their child’s behavior issues, they kept putting off getting a diagnosis because they just couldn’t face it. They even cut themselves off from friends & family. By the time they did get a diagnosis, the child was 4 years old, not speaking at all, and having severe behavior problems.

    The Autism Speaks website has a wonderful page on the grieving process, with recommendations on how to work through it, and taking care of yourself as well as your child. We encourage you to read everything there: Autism & Your Family – Autism Speaks

    Cultural Beliefs and Autism

    Our families come from many different cultures. When it comes to autism, we’ve seen that different cultures have different perceptions of ASD. Some place a higher stigma on a child with autism (and their family) than others.

    Industry research has backed up our experiences. Here are some examples:

    1. Many parents of Caribbean descent expect their children to toilet train much earlier than Caucasian parents. But Caucasian parents expect their children to name their colors much earlier than Caribbean-descent parents.
    2. South Asian parents are more likely to identify delays in socialization than delays in speech. Caucasian families are more likely to detect general developmental delays, or regression in language skills, rather than social deficits. This suggests that clinicians should ask about both socialization and communication, if parents bring up concerns in one of these areas.
    3. In an article titled, “The Stigma of Autism,” a Palestinian mother of a boy with autism described how some family members reacted. “They were telling us to get rid of him!”
    4. A quote from the same article: “[Some] Koreans consider autism to be a stigmatizing hereditary disorder; autism (chap’ae) impugns the child’s lineage on both sides and threatens the marriage prospects of unaffected relatives. As a result, autism is often untreated, misdiagnosed as attachment disorder, or unreported in records.”
    5. A New York Times article, “Working to Combat the Stigma of Autism,” talked about Korean-Americans who cut themselves off from their community. In one case, this meant a boy with autism would not receive a diagnosis until 7 years old.

    What this tells us is, one’s cultural beliefs about autism can exert a strong influence on how you deal with it.

    Cultural Beliefs Affect Treatment Plans. Please Be Open about Them.

    It’s not our business to tell you what or how to believe. We’re only here to help your child, and help you with them in turn.

    We do know that cultural factors like traditional values, attitudes toward individuals with disabilities, religion, and language play a major role in the development and implementation of a treatment plan.

    All A is for Apple clinicians encourage parents to consider their cultural beliefs, and to understand how they may affect their involvement in their child’s treatment. We must have a good understanding of the child’s home environment before deciding on treatments.

    Success depends on a good relationship with you, the parent. Be prepared to fully disclose your beliefs and your concerns. Knowing everything we can about your child, and about where you’re coming from, is critical.

    It makes a big difference in your child’s diagnosis. Their treatment. And ultimately, your family’s happiness.

    If you or someone you know is afraid of an autism diagnosis, we encourage you—talk with an A is for Apple supervisor. We will do everything we can to answer your questions, and to help you work through those feelings. Remember – you are not alone.

    Next issue we’ll discuss the stigmas in more details, and how to deal with them.

    See you next month!

    Autism Tips: Potty Training I – Recognizing Readiness Signs


    Tired of changing diapers?  Wondering if your child is ready for potty training yet?

    Many parents start training when their children are between 2.5 and 3 years old.  Some children aren’t interested until 3 or 4. “Toilet abilities are a central part of a child’s development and are necessary for acceptance in social environments and independence (McManus, Derby, & McLaughin, 2003).”

    To prepare for toilet training, you must first assess the child’s readiness.  Consider these 3 areas when evaluating whether it’s time to start: Cognitive Signs, Physiological Development, and Motor Skills. 

    You don’t have to wait to check off every single item.  But do take some time to think about your child’s readiness.  We’ve provided a list of questions and considerations for each category below:

    1. Cognitive Signs

    • Does the child follow simple, one-step directions?  (e.g., stand up, sit down, pick up the toy, etc.)
    • Does the child communicate needs verbally or by other means?  (e.g., signing, communication devices, or pictures)
    • Sitting and attending to an activity for 2-5 minutes at a time?  (e.g., sitting down for coloring activity, playing with Play-Doh, etc.)
    • Learning to label objects? At around 2, a child will learn to label bodily functions. Poo and pee are exciting new words.
    • Developing body awareness? Child begins fidgeting, jumping up and down, or pointing dramatically to diaper or attempts to remove a soiled diaper.

    2.  Physiological Signs

    • Does the child have the ability to voluntarily control the sphincter muscles, enabling them to “hold it” for a short period of time or until they get to a toilet? 
    • Does the child have long periods of dryness (for at least one hour)?
    • Does the child exhibit signs of urinating or having a bowel movement (straining, squatting, pulling at pants, hiding in the corner, etc.) that allows you to know when they are eliminating?

    3.  Motor Skills

    • Can the child pull his/her pants up and down without assistance?
    • Can the child wash and dry his/her hands? 

    • Can your child sit on the toilet and stay on the toilet for at least a few seconds?
    • Can the child imitate the motor movements of others?

    If you answered “Yes” to most of these questions, then your child is probably ready to begin potty training!  If you answered “No,” that is all right too.  Ask your Program Supervisor and/or Clinical Director for their input.

    According to Dr. Joshua D. Sparrow (2004), the most important step is to let your child’s behavior guide you, and let the challenges become his/her own. You cannot speed up the learning process.  Allowing your child to learn at his/her own pace is far more effective.  If children are pushed to use the potty before they’re ready, it may take them longer to learn, and they could have more trouble along the way (bed-wetting, withholding bowel movement, constipation). 

    You’ll want to make potty training a positive experience by reinforcing the child’s current abilities.  Not uncomfortable, in which case your child may engage in escape/avoidance behaviors.

    Next month we will discuss preparations to take for potty training.  Please join us on our Facebook Page with your questions or stories:

    Ask A is for Apple: Children with ASD Using Digital Tools to Communicate


    “Dear A is for Apple,
    My child doesn’t respond well to flash cards, but loves playing with my phone.  Is the phone a better tool for communication?”

    The past 10 years have ushered in a whole new way for humans to communicate—using digital tools, like the iPad.  Nowhere is this more impactful than for children (and adults) with ASD.

    The explosion of smartphones, tablets & e-readers created an incredible new way for those with ASD & speech disorders to learn and communicate.

    Apple gave us a wonderful example with this video: “Dillan’s Voice”
    Through a single iPad, Dillan’s world has broadened.  He can speak, and others listen.

    That’s not the only benefit digital tools can give, either.  They can also:

    • Support the overall learning of children on the autism spectrum
    • Help teach social skills
    • Support an individual’s emotion regulation
    • Help develop cognitive skills, improving memory, easing transitions
    • Boost literacy and language skills
    • Increase independence, creating self-management programs offering reinforcement
    • Provide imitation, modeling, and corrective feedback
    • Support a young adult’s transition into the workplace
    • Make data collection and program evaluation more effective and efficient (between parent/clinician/teacher)
    • Strengthen teachers’ training programs
    • Enhance the use of evidence-based practices

    As an industry, we’re still getting a handle on incorporating these tools into treatment plans.  The good news is, we do have plenty of tools to work with!

    These are examples of the types of tools now available:

    • E-readers and tablets (iPad) with integrated multimedia (cameras, microphones, etc.)
    • Apps for education, communication, behavior regulation, etc.
    • Video modeling
    • Language processing software
    • Customized digital stories and book creator apps
    • Element cue supports
    • Emotional regulation and sensing technology
    • Interactive learning software, to improve feedback and metacognition
    • Visualization and mind mapping apps
    • Text-to-speech and speech-to-text software
    • And of course, the iPhone.

    Some of our industry’s earlier, pre-digital tools (like visual schedules, flash cards, etc.) are now available in digital format.  More arrive every day.

    If your child is drawn to using technology, that’s great!  We encourage you to try out several digital tools with your child, and find which ones they’re most likely to use.

    If your child is socially anxious, here’s an idea to help calm them.  Think about the self-checkouts at the grocery store.  Or the Redbox kiosk.  These have touchscreens, audio prompting, and simple visual interfaces…the same type of interaction you’d find in an iPad.  Show these to your child if they’re anxious.  It may help focus their attention.

    Here are some additional resources, to help you learn more about digital tools available to your child:

    Whether it’s for learning, to communicate with you, or simply to comfort them in unfamiliar situations, the right digital tool can make their lives so much better.

    If you want to try out a digital tool or app in therapy sessions, please talk with your A is for Apple supervisor.  We’re happy to show you all the tools at our disposal.

    Does your child like to communicate using a phone or tablet?  Please share your story on the A is for Apple Facebook page!

    Do you have a question you’d like answered?  Please email it to us at for inclusion in a future newsletter.

    Inside A is for Apple


    The 2016 Autism Speaks Walkathon – Event Recap

    Last month, the A is for Apple team participated in the Autism Speaks 2016 Walkathon.

    History Park in San Jose was packed full of wonderful people!  We had balloons and snacks for kids at our booth, and handed out lots of brochures.  The whole team talked with parents, fellow vendors, and many curious visitors about autism awareness.  Our friends from the San Andreas Regional Center even dropped by during their rounds.

    Our team participated in the walk as well.  We had plenty of company—it’s great to see so many come out and show their support with us.

    A big thank you to everyone who came out!  We raised close to $2,000 for autism research & awareness at this event.  The whole team looks forward to next year’s walkathon!

  • Thrive – April 2016 Issue

    by A is for Apple, Inc. | Apr 06, 2016

    “The Autism Job Club”: A Valuable Job-Hunting Resource for Young Adults on the Autism Spectrum


    As children grow, the question of their future arises.  Will my child be independent?  Can they find work?

    We see many teens and young adults with special needs enter the workforce every year.  There are additional challenges, but it’s not impossible at all.

    An excellent book about this topic is “The Autism Job Club” by Michael Bernick and Richard Holden.  Published in 2015, the book sheds an important light on the challenges adults who fall within the autism spectrum encounter in today’s job market.

    We asked A is for Apple’s Senior Behavioral Program Supervisor to read the book and give us his thoughts.  Here’s his review.

    What the Book is About – Strategies for Improving Skills and Finding a Rewarding Job

    “’The Autism Job Club’ brings to light the difficulties that adults on the autism spectrum experience when attempting to enter today’s job market.  The good news is, it’s a much more welcoming job market than it used to be.  The authors want to make it even better.

    “In this book you’ll find a number of tools, tips and resources which will help readers find a job.

    “Individuals on the spectrum, parents, and employers alike, will gain further affirmation that the individuals on the Autism Spectrum aren’t much different from other individuals in the job market.  You must discover, nurture and market your skills, just like neurotypical job applicants do.

    “The book is broken into 6 strategies, each outlining the best ways for adults with ASD to introduce themselves into many competitive fields.  Through the use of:

    • Job coaches,
    • Mentors,
    • Ongoing behavior therapies,
    • Ongoing job skill training,
    • And the proper networking,

    “Individuals can find the support needed to rid themselves of the feeling that they don’t have a place in the working world.

    “Currently, many companies across the globe have taken up the charge to create and develop meaningful positions within their organizations for new employees on the spectrum.  Global giants like SAP, Freddie Mac, Computer Aid and Microsoft, all recently began developing technical and software jobs suitable for these individuals.

    “What kinds of jobs are we talking about? The book gives several examples:

    • Software Development
    • Software Testing
    • Craft Work
    • Warehousing
    • Baking
    • Mechanical Repair

    “In addition, new job opportunities occur in smaller industries, especially through large DIY and crowdsourcing communities worldwide.  Now, individuals with access to basic technology can create business opportunities from the comforts of home.

    “Many obstacles do remain, but opportunities are opening up, thanks to the efforts of people and organizations across the globe.  With resources like “The Autism Job Club,” the parents of ASD children can help their children to prepare for the challenges they’ll face in adulthood.

    “Unlike previous generations, the possibilities of potential employment for the ASD population increase every day!”

    What Readers Think

    The book’s website,, leads with a quote from California Senator Dianne Feinstein. She praises the book as a “light on an important issue and offer valuable strategies to improve employment for adults with autism.”

    She’s not the only one. On its Amazon page, 88% of reviewers gave “The Autism Job Club” 5 stars. Their reviews share a high opinion of the book’s impact:

    • [The book] “offers insights to teachers with children on the autism spectrum.”
    • “As the father of a son on the autism spectrum, I stare at the ceiling at night wondering if my son will find his place in the workforce and this book speaks directly to this concern.”
    • “It is my hope that this book reaches as wide of an audience as possible, so that the proposed collective employment strategies are implemented, and we all can benefit from integration of this valuable workforce into the ever-changing economic landscape.”
    • “This book can help teachers advise autism spectrum students on career choices.”

    These reviews come not only from parents, but from nonprofit directors & teachers too.

    Job Help in California

    As mentioned in the book, many businesses are adding jobs suited to workers on the autism spectrum. But how do you find them?

    More good news. Programs now exist to help you do just that. California’s state government and nonprofits have a number of job programs for teens & young adults.

    We’ve gathered some links to help you locate & apply for them.

    Also, a job fair is coming up later this month: “Pathways to the Future” Employment and Transition Fair on April 23, from 10am to 1pm.  It’s sponsored by the SF Autism Society.

    The fair is at UC Berkeley’s Campus, in Cheney Hall. For more information: (510) 704-4476 ext. 106. Email: or

    Help Your Child Thrive in Their Future Job

    If your child is younger, please save this newsletter for later. We hope the resources mentioned here provide guidance for their future. As always, if you have questions about preparing an older child for their future in the workforce, please ask your A is for Apple supervisor.

    See you next month!

    Autism Speaks Walk on April 23

    Autism Speaks Walkathon 2016

    Last year, A is for Apple participated in the Autism Speaks walkathon to raise money for autism research.  The walk is back this month—Saturday, April 23.  We’ll have a team walking, and a booth. 

    Come join us!

    Where it’s Held: History Park in San Jose, at 601 Phelan Avenue.  Google Map
    Starts at 9 a.m. and goes to 1 p.m.

    How you can join us:

    1. Donate on our “Team Page”:
    2. Visit our booth.  We’re giving out tote bags, water bottles, balloons, and rainbow temporary tattoos for the kids.
    3. Walk with our team.  Register to walk with us on our Team Page.  Help us raise money for autism research!
    4. Share the event on Facebook and Twitter.

    We hope to see you at History Park on April 23.  Bring your walking shoes!

    Autism Speaks Walk 2016 – Event Information

    Autism Tips: Daily Routines – Getting Dressed

    Getting Dressed

    We have one more topic for our Daily Routines series – getting dressed!

    So far we’ve covered hair brushing and getting a haircut, brushing teeth and visiting the dentist, and feeding at home and eating out at restaurants.  We’ll finish up the series with getting dressed.

    Getting Dressed, Day After Day

    “Dressing myself” is a milestone in any child’s growth.  It takes patience and persistence to both teach the child, and for the child to learn everything they need.  If the child has special needs, the sensory experience can make it even more challenging.

    Like all activities, repetition and reward go a long way here.  Since how you dress your child teaches them how to do it, using the same methods over and over helps them learn a “proper” dressing routine.

    To make the process as simple (and repeatable) as possible, try these tips.

    1. Make up a picture chart on a big piece of paper.  Tape it to the inside of the child’s bedroom or closet door.  This serves to remind them of everything they need to do when getting dressed.
    2. If your child resists wearing a certain clothing item, offer them a choice of 3 items.  This gives them a sense of control.
    3. Have your child stand against a wall or chair so they can balance while you dress/undress them.  This also lets them watch what you’re doing.
    4. Divide your child’s wardrobe into different sections:  School Clothes, Going-Out Clothes, Cleaning/Playing Clothes, etc.  Then the child knows which clothes to select for which activity (and doesn’t go play outside in their school uniform!).
    5. If your child doesn’t like getting ready in the morning, try this:  Before he/she wakes up, lay a set of clothes out on the floor, in the shape of a body.  When they wake up, they see clothes laid out just like they’d wear them.
    6. Does your child sometimes put their socks or underwear on backwards?  Try marking the front of the underwear with a laundry marker.  For socks, you can mark the heel, or buy socks with colored heels.

    Resources to help:
    21 Stress Free Tips for Teaching Your Child with Special Needs to Dress Themselves –

    Do you have any successful dressing methods?  Please share them on our Facebook Page:

    Autism Awareness

    Million-Dollar Shot

    A Million Dollar Hole-in-One for Autism

    The Ernie Els Autism Foundation just got a million dollar boost!

    On March 7, 2016, professional golfer Rickie Fowler attended an event with several other pros.  They all came out to support Ernie Els’ foundation. 

    The challenge?  Sink a hole-in-one with all eyes on him.  The reward?  One million dollars for the foundation’s research & education programs.

    A hole-in-one is hard enough to do on its own.  A hole-in-one with a million dollars on the line?  Now that’s a challenge!

    And Rickie did it.  He sank a clean hole-in-one.

    Watch it yourself, right here: Watch Rickie Fowler’s million-dollar hole-in-one for Ernie Els’ autism foundation –

    What a great thing to do for autism awareness!  Thank you to Rickie Fowler, to all those golfers who came out in support, and to the Ernie Els Autism Foundation for its good work.

    Ask A is for Apple: How to Celebrate Autism Awareness Month

    Show Your Support for Autism Awareness!

    “Dear A is for Apple,
    I heard this month is Autism Awareness Month.  What does that mean?”

    Autism Awareness Month coincides with World Autism Awareness Day, April 2.  The entire month of April is dedicated to autism awareness.  Businesses and charity organizations hold events and celebrations, like the Autism Speaks Walk (see the Local Events section above).

    You can help us raise autism awareness too!  Here are some ways you can celebrate Autism Awareness Month.

    • Change the lightbulbs in your home.  Blue is the official color for Autism Awareness Month.  You’ll find blue lightbulbs for sale at Home Depot and Target.  These stores donate a percentage of the lightbulbs’ sales to autism research.
    • Put a blue overlay on your Facebook photo.  Here’s an easy way to do it: Autism Speaks Light It Up Blue Color Tool.
    • Make a pin!  We make pins every year to show our support for Autism Awareness.  Several of our directors have theirs on, in the photo above.  Here’s how you can make your own pins at home.

    Instructions for Making Pins
    You’ll need these materials:

    • Acrylic blue paint
    • Painting sponges (or brushes, but sponges work easier)
    • Puzzle (pay attention to the puzzle piece size and quantity. Typically any puzzle with over 60 pieces has the right size you’d want for a pin.)
    • Hot glue gun and glue sticks
    • Metallic pin backings
    • Paper towels/plates (for keeping the work area clean!)

    Craft stores like Michael’s carry most of these items.  Target carries plenty of puzzles.

    Steps for Making the Pins:

    1) Sort the puzzle into pieces you’d want for pins.  Most will work fine, but some pieces (depending on the puzzle) won’t work right.

    2) Flip over the pieces so the back side (non-colored) is face up.

    3) Use the brush/sponge to paint all the pieces Blue.  And allow to dry. (Should only take 5-7 minutes. Apply a second coat/touchup if desired.)

    4) Once dry, flip the pieces over to the image side up, and place them on the clean paper/area. Plug in glue gun.

    5) Apply a small dab of hot glue to the image side of the piece.  Arrange the pieces in the direction you would like the pin to be when worn.

    6) Place one metallic pin backing into the hot glue dab.

    7) Put the puzzle piece to one side, to cool.  Repeat adding the pin backing for the other pieces.

    8) Once all of them are finished & cooled, place them in a Ziploc bag.  Hand them out to whomever wants them.

    9) Optional—Print out a small handout that gives a brief history of autism awareness and why the puzzle piece is significant.  Here are examples: “What does the Puzzle Ribbon mean to you?”

    Join us on the A is for Apple Facebook page this month!  We’ll have announcements for awareness events you can attend.

    Do you have a question you’d like answered?  Please email it to us at for inclusion in a future newsletter.

    Inside A is for Apple

    Ethical Discussions at the CalABA Conference, February 26-28

    All A is for Apple employees must abide by our high ethical standards.  We are helping your child thrive, a responsibility we do not take lightly.  calABAtopWhich is why we were thrilled when Steven, one of our Clinical Directors, returned from February’s CalABA conference in Santa Clara with notes and experiences from eye-opening discussions about ethics in our field.

    Here are additional notes from some of the workshops he attended.

    1. “Strategies for Teaching Independent Play Skills for Children with Autism and Distance Training Procedures to Train Natural Change Agents” – By Thomas Higbee.  The presenter showed how a child learned to play Hide-and-Seek using a binder, changing how it displayed different parts of the game until the child no longer needed the binder.
    2. “Extension of Functional Analysis to the Prevention of Problem Behavior” – By Tara Fahmie.  The presenter focused on the importance of early intervention and recognizing problem behaviors. A family with a young child that starts showing potentially-serious behaviors needs to address them at that time.  When the child gets older, the behaviors will only get more severe.
    3.  “Functional Skills and Curriculum-based Assessments for Learners with Moderate-to-Severe Disabilities” – By Patrick McGreevy.  Patrick demonstrated how to do a Tact (label) to Mand (request) procedure. A child may be able to repeat the label of an object, but not know how to use that label to request it. If a child CAN tell you what they want, it will benefit them now and when they are 60.

    Steven’s thoughts?  “It was a super event.  I’m looking forward to the next one.  Being able to see and meet some of the great minds in our field, instead of on a computer screen or book, is a neat experience.”

  • Thrive – March 2016 Issue

    by A is for Apple, Inc. | Mar 04, 2016

    Sports Ideas for Children with Autism: Which Will Your Child Enjoy Most?

    Sports Ideas for Children with Autism

    Now that spring is here, children often start playing sports. We can always tell when it starts by the questions parents ask!

    “What’s a good sport for my child?”
    “Should we try out for soccer?

    The best sport is the one your child enjoys and does best at. To find the right one, we encourage trying out several sports. Your child will quickly take to his or her favorite. (We’re happy to help you do this in our therapy sessions.)

    What kinds of sports should you try? Let’s look at some ideas of available sports.

    Ideas for Sports Your Child Can Try

    Here are sports we commonly see children play each year. These are presented in no particular order.

    • Soccer – Wonderful sport for social activity and exercise. But it may not work well for your child if they elope (please see the “Cautions” section later).
    • T-Ball – A very inclusive and easy sport to play. The Challenger Division offers T-Ball as a part of Little League.
    • Swimming – Maybe your child prefers the water? Swimming is a basic activity and a lot of fun. Plus it’s easier for a child with autism to compete, since swim teams compete individually.
    • Track & Field – Track events require fewer nonverbal communication skills than most team sports. It’s a simple sport some children with autism love.
    • Gymnastics – If your child likes tumbling and rolling around, they may take to gymnastics. It’s great for coordination too.
    • Bowling – Many children with autism like bowling. Even though it’s loud! They might like the repetition. Or seeing the pins go crashing down.
    • Basketball – Children of all ages enjoy basketball. It’s one of the most popular sports we see. It’s easy to learn and there’s immediate visual satisfaction when the ball goes in the hoop.

    Cautions to Keep in Mind

    Playing sports is always subject to your child’s age, physical ability, and level of socialization. Sometimes a child has a difficult time playing with other children, or they lack the fine motor skills needed for the sport.

    In addition, some children with autism may not find sporting activities “reinforcing.” Either because they include other children, the game requires motor movements they find very difficult, or they just don’t prefer the sport to things they normally do.

    There’s also the issue of eloping. “Eloping” refers to a child wandering or running away from a safe environment. We discussed the phenomenon in January: What To Do about Wandering Off: Safety Tips & Tracking Devices

    We see this come up in soccer. A child with autism will kick the ball, laugh…and then run away from the game as fast as possible.

    If your child has any history of eloping, you’ll have to consider that when trying out sports. We’re happy to help you determine if a certain sport is a good choice for your child.

    Preparing Your Child for Sports

    When you find a sport your child likes, they’ll need to learn how to play. Think of this in three parts:

    1. Building Familiarity – Making the child familiar with a sport’s overall portrayal, how it works, and what they’re expected to do. Talking with your child and using visual aids helps here.
    2. Task Analysis – Analyzing the actions needed to play the sport (called ‘tasks’). This can include motions like arm swinging, kicking while running, throwing, and rolling a ball.
    3. Motor Skills Training – Working with the child to train for those tasks, one by one. Just like we do for a daily routine.

    It’s not that different from many of our Occupational Therapy sessions. In fact, children often learn sports-related tasks faster than other actions.

    What about Horseback Riding?

    Some don’t consider it a sport. But we’ve found that some children absolutely love riding horses.

    It’s not hard to see why. Horseback riding is a tactile and rhythmic activity. The rider rocks back and forth while the horse trots. When the horse gallops, the rider feels a steady bounding.

    Some children appreciate the sensations so much, it becomes helpful for their therapy. It even has a name – “Hippotherapy.

    If your child isn’t afraid of large animals, by all means, try a little horseback riding!

    Need Help Choosing a Sport? Ask Your A is for Apple Supervisor

    When your child finds the sport they enjoy most, you’ll know it. They will light up, get excited, maybe hop up & down or grab for the ball.

    They may take to team sports like soccer or basketball. If not, individual sports like gymnastics or swimming might capture their attention.

    If you need help arranging for your child to try a sport, please ask your A is for Apple supervisor. We’re happy to provide all the help we can. Some sports you can even try out in our San Jose facility.

    We don’t have a pool though!

    See you next month!

    Ice Hockey and Star Wars in San Jose!

    Star Wars Night with SJ Barracuda Hockey

    Sunday, March 13 is Star Wars Night at the SAP Center!

    The new San Jose Barracuda minor-league Hockey Team has a special Star Wars-themed game coming up.  Starting at 5pm, the Barracuda take on the Ontario Reign.  It’s a special family-friendly event – great for kids who love hockey AND Star Wars!

    The game takes place at San Jose’s SAP Center.  Tickets start at $12, and each ticket includes a Barracuda hat.

    Get your tickets at any of the following:

    If you reserve in advance, you can join the Player Tunnel – where your child can high-five the players as they enter the ice.

    Autism Tips: Daily Routines – Feeding

    Eating Out

    Let’s continue our discussion on Daily Routines – getting dressed, haircuts, brushing teeth, etc.

    So far we’ve covered hair brushing/getting a haircut, and brushing teeth/visiting the dentist.  Now let’s talk about feeding.  Both at home, and eating out at restaurants.

    Daily Schedule – Feeding
    Almost every child within the autism spectrum has some issue about eating.  They may have difficulty chewing some foods, or they only want to eat one type of food.  Picky eaters are very common, and one of the most-discussed topics in our sessions.

    To help broaden the number of foods they’ll eat, try these tips.

    1. Choose a food that’s similar to those your child likes best – similar in texture (like corn chips if they like potato chips), or in taste (like fresh oranges if they like orange juice).
    2. Take baby steps when introducing a food – to start, just place a new food on the child’s plate for a moment.  Then take it away.  Repeat, but leave the food on the plate longer.  Watch how they react.  If they get interested, proceed with more baby steps.
    3. Take the baby steps one at a time – touching the food, smelling it, bring the food to the lips, touch with tongue, take a little taste, taste every day for a week.  Buildup is slow, but once done, you have a new food to feed your child!

    Additional help: Overcoming Feeding Problems in a Child with Autism –

    Regular Event – Going Out to Eat
    Eating out is a whole different process.  When you’re going to a restaurant, remember that familiarity & calmness are most important.

    • Plan ahead – Consider where you’re going.  Is the environment over-stimulating?  What time of day is quiet?  What types of foods will your child like there?
    • Show them the menu ahead of time, while sitting down, so they’re familiarized with the ordering experience.
    • Bring familiar items with you.  A few favorite toys, maybe a small snack, or visual cue cards to keep their attention.
    • Ask for a seat away from the kitchen or bathrooms.  Many people move through these areas, which may stress your child.
    • Consider informing the server of your child’s special needs.  This may avoid confusion if your child doesn’t respond to questions, or gets frustrated.  Most restaurants will gladly be patient & assist you.
    • Ask your server to tell you before they do any “Happy Birthday” singing.  That way you can take your child outside while the singing occurs.
    • If your child becomes over-stimulated, bring them outside or out to the car for a few moments.
    • When ordering food for your child, be as specific as you can.  If your child doesn’t like sauces or pepper, make sure the server knows not to include those on any part of his/her dish.
    • Ask for the check when the food is brought out.  This way you can pay while your child’s eating.  When they’re done, they may want to leave right away.

    Resources to help:
    Going Out to Eat – Autism Speaks
    Taking your autistic child to a restaurant: Tips on dining out for families living with autism –

    Do you have any successful feeding tips?  Please share them on our Facebook Page:

    Ask A is for Apple

    Learning to Communicate

    “Dear A is for Apple,
    My child is old enough to start talking, but [he/she] doesn’t.  When will my child talk?”

    We hear this question frequently.  However, the short answer is…we don’t know.

    But that shouldn’t stop us from answering the real question most families are asking when they say this.  They want to know – “When will my child start to communicate?”

    Let’s think about that for a second.  To communicate is to transfer some information from one person to another.  Communication can take many forms, both verbal and non-verbal.

    Communication begins with a child crying for milk (access), to have a dirty diaper changed (escape), or just to bring that “mommy” person back into the room (attention).  All this communication from a simple cry.  No words required.

    It’s important to recognize that communication happens between our kids and us every day, and in many diversified ways. Some children will develop the ability to use vocal verbal behavior, and will express their communication through words in the traditional sense.  Others may use picture icons that reflect a need or desired item (i.e., a bowl of grapes, a break from the task, a hug, etc.).

    In any approach, vocal or not, we should focus on the underlying motivation from our children to have a need met.

    Now, throwing a plate of broccoli off the table is inappropriate (and messy!).  But it’s also an effective way – if only momentarily – to communicate that your child does not want broccoli.

    When your child communicates inappropriately, it’s time to help them discover their more “appropriate voice,” using another communication method such as pictures or words, to meet the same need of conveying their feelings.

    We can listen with both our ears and eyes, to observe how their behavior communicates their interests and feelings.  We do this all while reinforcing the idea that their “voice”, in whatever form it comes, is one deserving of being heard.

    So if you start to wonder when your child will talk, consider something more important – just what it is they’re trying to say now.

    Do you have a question you’d like answered?  Please email it to us at for inclusion in a future newsletter.

  • Thrive – February 2016 Issue

    by A is for Apple, Inc. | Feb 02, 2016

    Time Off of School? Enjoy These Winter Activities with Your Child

    Children in the Snow

    Schools in the San Jose Unified & Cupertino School Districts will have a Winter Recess from February 15-19.

    One week with no school.  Most kids love that!  But children with autism may have trouble coping.  It’s a change to their daily routine.  Worse, it’s temporary.  This could make them anxious & cause outbursts.

    As the parent, what should you do?

    This issue will give you some activities to enjoy with your child, when you have a break from school.

    First:  Talk about the possibility of school closing before it happens. If you know a school break or bad-weather day is coming, talk with your child about what could happen, and what activities you can do instead. Use pictures if you have them. Knowing all this ahead of time can ease anxiety.

    Go to the Snow

    What better way to take advantage of a Winter Break, than to go play in the snow?

    Snow is a great sensory experience. Its texture & temperature often fascinates children. It is a deviation from routine, but it’s one where the child has an amazing new environment to explore.

    First, make sure to dress warm! Have your child practice putting on their extra clothes, gloves and boots before you leave. Then, drive out to the nearest snow area. The closest to the Bay Area is Dodge Ridge in Pinecrest, or Yosemite. Tahoe is a little farther.

    Once there, encourage your child to play with other children.  Sledding is a simple way to enjoy snow play (plus it’s good exercise!).

    However, your child may not show interest in typical snow activities, like building a snowman or sledding.  If so, try normal outdoor activities – playing tag in the snow, using plastic shovels to dig in the snow (like they would in a sandbox), or making a “snow castle.”

    You could even paint the snow! All you need is a squirt bottle with water & food coloring in it.  This is safe for everyone, and your child can have a lot of fun “snow painting.”

    Make Winter Crafts

    Does your child prefer to stay indoors?  Try encouraging them with crafts.  Have them make their own snowflakes!

    Three ways to make snowflakes:

    1. Fold a coffee filter it into fourths. Have your child cut small shapes from the folds. Then unfold, add glue and sprinkle glitter to make it sparkle.
    2. Visit the Make-a-Flake website. Click “Make Your Own Snowflake” to create virtual snowflakes.
    3. You can also make edible snowflakes.  Fold a flour tortilla into fourths, and then use scissors to cut shapes out of the folds, just like a paper snowflake.  Brush the tortilla snowflake with melted butter, sprinkle on some cinnamon sugar and bake at 350 degrees until crispy.

    Sometimes finding the right activity takes a few tries.  That’s okay; we have many more ideas to share.

    Winter Box

    If you have time before a school break or bad-weather day occurs, you can put together a Winter Box. This is a special container of new and fun things to do when school is out. Movies, music, books, toys, crafting supplies. Maybe even special snacks as well.

    The important thing here is: these items are ONLY used on school breaks or bad-weather days. That way the child has something to look forward to, but it isn’t a totally new experience.

    Also, take out only one item at a time to avoid over-stimulation.

    Work on Skills

    If you have some free time, why not work on your child’s developing skills?

    Sensory: Winter’s unusual changes can frustrate a child with difficulties processing sensory information. Especially if they associate the outdoors with calming activities. Still, you can use the snow for a learning experience.

    Put some (clean) snow in a dishpan or plastic tub, and bring it inside. The child can safely play with it there, getting used to snow’s temperature & texture. Once they’re comfortable, they can go out & play in the snow.

    Cognitive & Social: Since bad-weather days often keep a child at home, you’ll have time to help them improve cognitive skills. Try showing the child a number of people in magazines or photos online. Point to their face and ask, “What is this person feeling?” This helps them learn more about facial expressions and body language.

    For more information on communication & expression, take a look at our March 2015 blog post, “Improving Your Child’s Expressive Communication.”

    Child Upset? Indoor Quiet Time & Routine Activity

    Is your child upset over no school? Try a combination of indoor quiet time, and some routine activity.

    1. Quiet Time – Help your child drape a blanket over two chairs to create a tent. Then place cushions or pillows inside. The secluded space will let the child rest and calm down.
    2. Routine Activity – Some household work can help calm children by giving them something to focus on. Have them push a vacuum with you, pull a wagon around the house, or roll out cookie dough.

    Final Suggestion: You can use some of the school preparatory activities we covered in our August 2015 issue of “Thrive” during bad-weather days. For instance, keeping your child on their typical school-day sleep and meals routine.

    If you’re not sure which of these ideas to try, consider this: The last time your child had an unexpected change to their routine, what did they respond to the most?

    Recalling this may tell you what to try when Winter Break comes up.

    See you next month!

    Fun Activities: Celebrate Valentine’s Day

    Valentine's Day Fun

    Valentine’s Day is coming up!  For children, this holiday is a great opportunity to socialize and give gifts.  Sometimes schools will have students make valentines, cards and other crafts.

    Here’s a fun way to help your child enjoy Valentine’s Day: use a Social Story!

    Social Stories are visual guides which describe social situations or skills.  They’re often used to help children understand a new social interaction.

    We’ve made a Valentine’s Day Social Story for you.  You can download the file free from
    Valentine’s Day Social Story File – Made by A is for Apple

    (You’ll need Microsoft PowerPoint to run it.)

    PositivelyAutism has published additional Valentine’s Day activities here: Valentine’s Day Social Story and Activities –

    We hope you and your child enjoy this coming Valentine’s Day!

    Autism Tips: Daily Routines – Dental Care

    Oh no, the dentist!

    Let’s continue our discussion on Daily Routines – getting dressed, haircuts, brushing teeth, etc.

    Last month we covered hair brushing every day, as well as the regular (but potentially upsetting) haircut visit.  This month we’ll talk about something similar:  your child brushing his/her teeth every day.  And the regular event of going to the dentist.

    As before, we encourage the creation & use of a daily schedule.  Incorporating daily activities like hair brushing and brushing your teeth helps children stay calm and look forward to things during the day.

    (They may not look forward to going to the dentist, of course.  But let’s face it—none of us do!)

    Daily Schedule – Brushing Teeth

    As adults, we tend to brush our teeth without thinking about it.  But for a child with autism, the process takes some getting used to. Fortunately, we have an excellent resource for all parents:
    The Autism Speaks Dental Guide (PDF File).

    This guide goes through the steps of brushing your child’s teeth.  Then, teaching them how to brush their own teeth.  And once they’re comfortable with that, the guide helps you prepare for a trip to the dentist.

    Regular Event – Going to the Dentist

    It’s important to find a dentist who works with individuals with autism. This Resource Guide can help you find a local dentist (at least 5 are in the Bay Area).

    If your regular dentist is not on the list, don’t worry!  Just call them and ask if they’ll work with your child.  If they aren’t adequately prepared, chances are they know a fellow dentist who is.

    If your child becomes fidgety when in a strange place, the guide recommends practicing for a dental visit ahead of time.  Have the child lie down in a reclining chair.  Guide them through the activities they’ll do while at the dentist’s:

    • Opening their mouth
    • Holding their mouth open for a short time
    • Putting their hands on their stomach
    • Using a dental mirror or small flashlight to look inside their mouth (you can find these in stores)

    The guide contains a visual schedule for a dentist visit.  Show this to your child, and walk them through each step.  It will help familiarize the visit and give them a way to track how the visit proceeds.

    Autism Speaks also has a video called “The Dental Toolkit”. The video walks you through the entire dental care process – from finding a toothbrush your child will like, to brushing technique, to finding & visiting the dentist.  You’ll find many of the tips in the dental guide covered in the video as well.

    We hope these guides help you make dental care an easy & familiar part of your daily routines!

    How easy was it to teach your child to brush their teeth?  Please share your stories on our Facebook Page:

    Ask A is for Apple

    “Dear A is for Apple,
    How does the IEP Process work? How am I involved? What can I do?”

    We’re continuing our “Ask A is for Apple” discussion from last month about the IEP process.  Last month we talked about how the IEP process works overall.  This month, we’ll go over where your rights as a parent come into play during that process.

    The Request Stage

    We mentioned that the IEP process starts when someone—you or a school—requests an evaluation of your child.  If the school asks to evaluate your child, you can say no.  If you say no, the IEP process stops right here.

    If you request an evaluation, the school may take one of a few actions.  They may agree, beginning the evaluation.  They may invite you to a meeting to discuss the request.  They may decline it, or offer an alternative instead (such as a different teaching method).

    The Evaluation/Assessment Stage

    During the assessment, you’ll be asked questions about your family, the child’s behavior, etc.  Here’s the thing:  you can ask questions too!  Ask about the assessments, test results, school placement options, where to get the best services, etc.

    IEPprocesschart2Remember, this is all geared toward the child’s needs.  If you want to ask for a specific service, frame the request in their terms.

    • “I want OT services” = No
    • “My child will need OT services” = Yes

    The Evaluation Results Stage

    If the evaluation’s results don’t appear to “fit” your child, you have the following options to choose from:

    1. You can request more reviews.
    2. You can request an individual evaluation.
    3. You can request a re-evaluation.

    Whichever option you choose, you must make the request in writing.  Documentation is critical!

    The Eligibility Stage

    The group determining your child’s eligibility for special education may not agree with your position.  If so, you can disagree with their recommendation.  But again, do so in writing. 

    There are 13 categories of special education.  In order to qualify for special education, the IEP team must determine that a child has one of the following:

    1. Autism
    2. Blindness
    3. Deafness
    4. Emotional Disturbance
    5. Hearing Impairment
    6. Intellectual Disability
    7. Multiple Disabilities
    8. Orthopedic Impairment
    9. Other Health Impaired
    10. Specific Learning Disability
    11. Speech or Language Impairment
    12. Traumatic Brain Injury
    13. Visual Impairment

    13 Categories of Special Education –

    We list them here so you know what to expect.  If your child does belong in one of these categories, but the team does not assign them as such?  Request a re-evaluation (in writing!).

    The Placement Stage

    As you are on the IEP team, you’ll participate in setting the short-term and long-term goals for your child’s education.  Make sure the goals match your child’s needs.

    If you disagree with a placement, request more options in writing.  After you make such a request, officials must mediate your disagreement and find an agreeable position.

    These are your rights in the IEP process.  You may not need to use any of them—most of the people we’ve worked with on IEPs were professionals, and took pains to find a special education program well-suited to the child.  But in case you do, now you know what they are.

    Do you have a question you’d like answered?  Please email it to us at for inclusion in a future newsletter.

    Inside A is for Apple

    Therapist with Child and Mother

    We have a question for you, our readers.  Which section of “Thrive” do you enjoy the most?

    We spent a busy January gearing up for 2016.  Bringing on more therapists & supervisors.  Working to update our skills & the therapy tools available to our staff. 

    Now that we’re in February, we’d like to hear from you.  How is “Thrive” helping you & your family?  Do you read a certain section more often than others?

    Here’s a list of the “Thrive” sections we’ve used in the past year, for reference:

    • Main Article
    • Local Events
    • Fun Activities
    • Autism Tips
    • Autism Awareness
    • Ask A is for Apple
    • Inside AIFA

    Please send your favorite section to  And please include why you made your choice—we’ll use all feedback when creating future newsletters.  Thank you!

  • Thrive – January 2016 Issue

    by A is for Apple, Inc. | Jan 06, 2016

    What to Do about Wandering Off: Safety Tips & Tracking Devices


    None of us want children to wander off, but sometimes it happens.  Because child safety is so important, we’re starting off 2016 discussing it.  The good news is—there ARE things you can do right now.  Both to keep your child safe, and to help you find a child who’s wandered off.

    General Safety Tips to Prevent Wandering

    • Secure your home.  Locks on all doors and windows, a security alarm system with open-door alerts, and a fence around your yard all help to prevent children from wandering away.
    • In crowded areas like stores and sidewalks, always keep your child within arm’s length.  If they are younger, encourage your child to hang onto your purse strap, pants pocket, or hand while in public.
    • Talk to your neighbors.  Tell them about any fears your child has, if they will respond to their name or not, and what to do if they see your child out alone.
    • Create a handout with information about your child.  Include a description, photo, your name, address and phone number.  Keep these in your car, purse and wallet.  If your child does wander, you can give these to safety personnel as a quick reference.

    Many of these tips you already know, and have likely done.  Great!  Prevention is always best.

    Now, let’s talk about ways to find your child if they do wander.

    Tracking Devices to Help You Find Your Child If They Wander

    When children wander off, they often get scared and have trouble communicating.  If this happens to a nonverbal child, they can’t explain where they’re from at all.

    If this happens, the best way to help them is to track them.  With a wearable tracking device.  Wearable devices have one purpose:  Help you find where a wandering child is.

    Most wearables use GPS technology to pinpoint where someone is.  You use this technology in your car; it works just as well to find a wandering child.

    All you need is a wearable that sends a GPS signal, and a way to locate that signal.  Here are resources to help you do exactly that.

    The first is the TRiLOC GPS Locator from iLoc Technologies.  A GPS tracker worn like a watch, this device has won awards for putting technology to important use.  You can use any computer to locate the TRiLOC.  It also has an “SOS” button which sends an alert when pressed—and starts a voice call right away, so your child can tell you where they are.

    More Tracking Tools: “ID Clothing” and Phone-Scannable Pins

    If your child doesn’t like things on their wrists, you still have tracking options!

    First, there’s clothing with pockets for a GPS tracker. This way you can still use a GPS tracking device, but it’s someplace where your child won’t fiddle with it all day. Turning their clothing into unique identification.

    A great place to find this clothing is Independence Day Clothing. Every article of clothing contains a pocket for a GPS tracker. Slip in a tracker from one of the suppliers listed below, and you have “ID Clothing”!

    7 Tracking Devices to Find a Lost Child with Autism – Here’s a list of wearable devices for tracking someone who’s wandered off.

    Next, there’s a wonderful service called If I Need Help. The organization gives you both products and tracking help.

    “If I Need Help” does NOT use a GPS device. Instead, they give you a choice of items with a QR code on them: a patch for their jacket, a shoe tag, an ID card, a pin on their shirt, a bag clip, and more.

    If someone encounters a child who’s wandered? They scan the QR code with their phone, and get information on how to help the child. Even if your child cannot communicate, this product does for them.

    We hope this information proves helpful to you. One of our standing commitments is to help you keep your child safe, happy, and thriving.

    See you next month!

    Local Events: Sensory-Friendly Star Wars!


    Does your child want to see the new Star Wars? Take them to a Sensory-Friendly Film this month!

    AMC Theaters are running 2 Sensory-Friendly showings of “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” this month. These are the showtimes:

    Saturday, January 9 at 10 am – AMC Bay Street 16 in Emeryville.

    Tuesday, January 12 at 7pm – AMC Cupertino Square 16 in Cupertino.

    Please note the following from AMC Theaters: “Guests are welcome to come dressed in costume, but we do not permit masks or face paint. In short, bring your lightsaber, turn it off during the movie, and leave the blaster and Darth Vader mask at home.”

    See our September issue of “Thrive” for more on sensory-friendly films.

    Autism Tips: Daily Routines – Hair Care

    For the next few issues of “Thrive,” we’ll devote our Autism Tips section to discussing Daily Routines – getting dressed, haircuts, brushing teeth, etc.

    Routines are extremely valuable to children with autism.  They thrive on the predictability.  Knowing what’s coming up gives them confidence and comfort.

    To make and stick to a daily routine, we often encourage the creation of a daily schedule.  A great way to make a schedule is through picture cards.  The picture cards show images of the things to do and places to go for the day.

    Of course, change is inevitable.  If you have something that doesn’t happen every day, make up a picture card for the event.  Or use a “question card” – a picture card with a question mark on it ( ? ) so you can explain to your child what will happen.

    Daily Schedule vs. Regular Event – Hair Brushing and Haircuts

    For our first discussion, let’s talk about hair care.  There’s a daily task—your child brushing his/her hair.  We also have a regular, but not daily event—going to get a haircut.

    You can add brushing hair to their morning schedule.  Children like to brush their hair.  It’s soothing, an enjoyable tactile experience, and part of getting ready for the day ahead.

    However, going to get a haircut can scare your child.  It’s a new environment, there’s unfamiliar noise, and something sharp is near their head!

    To prepare the child, show them a picture card and explain what’s coming up.  If you have a photo of them getting a haircut before, put that on the card.  If not, use the “question card” or show them images of other children getting haircuts.

    Bring along a toy or book you know calms the child, in case they start to cry or wiggle.  Most kid’s hairstylists have a good eye for this, and will move the scissors away to avoid accidents.

    When the haircut’s finished, remind them they can brush their hair again later.  This returns them to their daily routine, which should reassure them.

    How did your child handle their last trip to the hairstylist?  Please share your stories on our Facebook Page:

    Ask A is for Apple

    “Dear A is for Apple,
    How does the IEP Process work? How am I involved? What can I do?”

    This is a big question, with many elements involved.  We’re happy to answer it, but we’ll split it into 2 issues, this month’s and next month’s.

    First, let’s run through how the IEP process works overall.

    An IEP (Individual Education Plan) is a special education plan tailored to your child’s needs.  It may also involve additional services like SLP (speech-language pathology) or OT (occupational therapy).

    It all starts with a request.  You or a school requests an evaluation for your child.  The evaluation is to see if your child has a disability, understand their strengths & weaknesses, and make educational decisions for their future.

    Part of the evaluation is an assessment.  This includes tests, medical reports, observations & interviews.  You’ll be asked questions about your family, home environment, and the child’s behavior.

    The evaluation results will show if your child needs special education.  Using the results, a group determines the child’s eligibility for special education & related services. 

    If the eligibility decision meets your child’s needs, a team will write an IEP for the child.  You are part of this team.

    Before the team meeting, we advise reviewing all of the following information:

    • What the child can do (strengths)
    • The evaluation results
    • The child’s academic needs
    • Your concerns (document & bring)
    • Functional needs – the routine activities in your everyday lives

    That way you’re up to speed and ready to make decisions.

    In the process of writing the IEP, the team will discuss:

    1. What to do when behavior affects learning
    2. The “least restrictive environment” for your child’s learning
    3. Language & communication needs
    4. Assistive technology needs
    5. Annual goals and long-term objectives

    Using all of this, the right placement is determined.  Special education is a program, not a place.  After the IEP team determines goals, they’ll talk about where the needed services are provided.  Services may take place in your home, at school, or at a provider facility like ours.

    Once placement is arranged, that’s it!  The IEP process is now set up and ready to go.  Your child will begin receiving their individualized education plan.

    Next time we’ll discuss how you as parents are involved in the IEP process, and what your rights are.

    Do you have a question you’d like answered?  Please email it to us at for inclusion in a future newsletter.

    Inside A is for Apple

    Results of the 2015 Toy Drive

    We started a toy drive in December to help the South Bay community.  Thanks to the generosity of parents, A is for Apple employees and local friends, we collected 50 toys, gift cards and articles of clothing.

    The donations included sporting equipment, stuffed animals, a child’s basketball hoop, and assorted clothing for children ranging from toddlers to young adults.

    When we took the donations to Sacred Heart, we met with extremely happy volunteers.  When they saw what we’d brought, many excitedly pointed out how helpful the young adult clothing and sporting equipment were.  They don’t often receive donations for older children; everything we brought was sure to give some children a Merry Christmas.

    Thank you to everyone who donated!

  • Thrive – December 2015 Issue

    by A is for Apple, Inc. | Dec 01, 2015

    Join the A is for Apple Holiday Toy Drive!


    We are happy to announce that A is for Apple is running a holiday toy drive this December!

    We’ve partnered with the Sacred Heart Community Service program to collect toys this holiday season, out of the main office.

    The toy drive runs until December 15.  All toys collected will be distributed to needy kids throughout the Bay Area.  Sacred Heart also distributes food to thousands of families in need.

    The toy drive box is located in our main therapy office, by the front door.


    Want to help more children enjoy Christmas this year?  Please donate a toy!

    Suggested Toys

    Sacred Heart has guidelines about which toys they can & cannot accept.  These guidelines are motivated by child safety, which we all agree is important.

    Accordingly, here’s a list of toys we gladly accept:

    1. Super Hero Toys
    2. Dress-Up Clothes & Costumes
    3. Nail Polish/Makeup Kits*
    4. Shoes: Toms/Vans/Converse (up to Size 9)*
    5. Sports Equipment*
    6. Sunglasses or Watches for Kids*
    7. Toy cars & trucks
    8. Legos

    *Sacred Heart has the most difficulty getting toys for children age 12-17.

    Non-Acceptable Toys

    Here’s a list of toys we cannot accept in our Toy Drive box:

    • Toys that include weapons, such as fake knives or guns
    • Toys that promote violence

    What about Gift Cards?

    If you’re not sure what kind of toy to give, try a gift card. Sacred Heart accepts gift cards as family donations. iTunes, Amazon, and Target gift cards are all gratefully accepted.

    If you’d like more gift ideas – or are looking for gift ideas for your own children – please read our “Autism Tips” section below.

    Remember, our Toy Drive will run until December 15. Afterward, we’ll deliver the toy box to Sacred Heart so they can distribute the toys in time for holiday celebrations!

    Learn more about Sacred Heart’s efforts at

    Happy Holidays to all of you, from everyone at A is for Apple! We’ll see you again in January 2016.

    Local Events: Fantasy of Lights Drive-Thru, and Holiday Sensory-Friendly Films

    Fantasy of Lights Drive-Thru

    Every year, the Santa Clara County Parks Department puts on the Fantasy of Lights Drive-Thru in Los Gatos.  It’s a 1.5-mile display of dazzling lights and holiday music.  It runs every night from December 6 to December 31.

    (If you’d prefer to walk, there’s a Walk-Thru Day on December 5.)

    You will need pre-paid tickets to attend.  $20 per car.  More details and a ticket ordering link here:
    17th Annual Fantasy Lights Drive-Thru –

    Also, a reminder:  Sensory Friendly Films at AMC Theatres are still running.  Great for family outings.  In December, the films played are “The Good Dinosaur” (December 12) and “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” (December 22 & 26).

    See our September issue of “Thrive” for more on sensory-friendly films.

    Autism Tips: Holiday Gift Suggestions

    Stuck on what to get your child this year?  Let us help out with some ideas for holiday gifts!

    Our therapies show that kids with developmental disabilities love cause-and-effect toys, simple light/sound toys, musical toys and other sensory toys. 

    Here’s a list of those kinds of toys to help your holiday shopping.  We’ve included some links as well.

    Little People City Skyway

    Finally, here’s a link to a website with lots of toys you can buy online: Toys for Boys & Girls with Autism – National Autism Resources

    Don’t forget to share your holiday pictures with us on Facebook!  Here’s our Facebook Page:

    Autism Awareness: Sesame Street Has a Muppet with Autism!

    Julia the Muppet with Autism

    The “Sesame Street” show has entertained and educated children for generations.  They’ve introduced children to letters, numbers, music, friendship, good behavior, and much more.

    Now they are promoting autism awareness.

    PBS has a website devoted to Sesame Street and autism, at  On it you’ll find many stories of children with autism – what their days are like, meeting Muppets, and resources for parents.

    We also meet Julia, a Muppet girl with autism.  Julia joins Elmo and Abby in a new digital storybook titled, “We’re Amazing, 1, 2, 3!”  It’s a wonderful story about a playdate, and helps teach about autism. 

    Julia has not appeared on the Sesame Street TV show yet.  Would you like to see Julia on TV?  We sure would!

    If you would too, please contact Sesame Street through this online form:
    Contact Us – Sesame Street and Autism

    Tell them what you enjoyed about the “We’re Amazing, 1, 2, 3!” digital storybook.  Ask them when we’ll all see Julia on TV. 

    Maybe soon we’ll turn on Sesame Street for our children with autism, and they can see someone just like them.  How much more would we all learn that way?

    Ask AIFA: How can I involve my child in the holidays?

    “Dear A is for Apple,
    I’m not sure what to do during the holidays with my child.  What kinds of activities would help her enjoy the holiday season?”

    There are lots of ways you can include your child in holiday activities!  Here’s a big list of ideas you can try out.

    1. Practice things like unwrapping presents ahead of time.
    2. If you’re doing some Christmas baking, allow them to roll the dough, use the cookie cutters, and/or decorate the food.
    3. Have your child pick out a gift at the store for a needy child.  Then bring it to our toy drive!
    4. Write simple social stories or role play (especially for events you know the family might do – traveling, having extended family visit, etc.).
    5. Plan a quiet area for your child to go when they need a break.
    6. Watch for signs of increasing anxiety.  When you see it, offer a break.  (See our previous issue for more help here.)
    7. Talk with your child’s teacher to find out any holiday schedule changes at school.  Tell your child these changes so they know ahead of time.
    8. For a plane flight or long car ride, give your child small wrapped toys from the dollar store throughout the journey.  Especially when they’re being good!
    9. Take pictures whenever you can to share with your child.
    10. If your child is older, ask them for help with the holiday planning.
    11. Have your child participate in decorating the tree, hanging lights (for older kids), and wrapping gifts for others.
    12. Take goofy family pictures and allow your child to take a few pictures as well, choose one to send out as the family Xmas card.
    13. Help your child create their own homemade Xmas card.  Encourage them to color, paint, whatever they choose to express their artistic side.
    14. Take your child to the dollar store and let them help pick out small gifts for their classmates.  Have them make homemade cards to personalize them too.
    15. Allow your child to help set up the holiday meals, depending on their ages/capability – setting the plates, silverware, napkins, etc.
    16. Don’t clean up the wrapping paper as gifts are being unwrapped.  Take a moment to play in it!  Like leaf piles in the yard, wrapping piles can be just as fun!
    17. Offer simple choices between these activities whenever possible.  Two activities, choose one.
    18. Praise your child whenever possible—holidays can be stressful.
    19. Children sense when parents are tense.  So relax and have fun!

    Do you have a question you’d like answered?  Please email it to us at for inclusion in a future newsletter.

  • Thrive – November 2015 Issue

    by A is for Apple, Inc. | Nov 03, 2015

    How to Prepare for the Holidays

    The holidays are upon us and typically that means increased activity in the home, travel, seeing friends & relatives you haven’t seen for months.  New sights, sounds and smells.

    It all adds up to one big issue:  changes to your routine.  Changing routines often produces anxiety in children with developmental disabilities.

    Obviously we all want to avoid stressing our kids.  To that end, this month’s “Thrive” newsletter is dedicated to holiday preparations.  This article will talk about how to plan ahead and make the holidays fun for everyone.

    Preparing for a Fun-For-Everyone Holiday:  7 Ideas

    The following ideas come from a variety of sources:  healthcare studies, ABA techniques, industry research, and our own therapists’ experiences.  You can use any of them, or all of them.

    Rehearse with your child what to do during holiday events.  Go over what they should expect when traveling to visit family, when decorating the tree, or when opening presents.  This way they have an idea of the event already, and will feel calmer when it happens.

    If you are going to visit family or friends, make sure there is a quiet, calm place for retreat.  Bring your child to some rooms in the house.  They’ll indicate in which one they feel comfortable.

    Make a “Holiday Book”.  Here’s a fun idea, courtesy of Autism Speaks News:

    “Take pictures when you and your child trim the tree, visit relatives, open gifts, etc. Make a book about your holiday by gluing the pictures onto construction paper, writing a short sentence under each picture, and stapling the pages together. When someone asks your child a question regarding the holidays, your child can use the book as a visual cue to help tell about the things he or she did.”

    Decorate Gradually.  If your child has trouble with change, try decorating the house gradually.  For instance, put up a Christmas tree one day, but wait until the next day to decorate it.  Have them participate too.  It gives them time to adjust, and they get to help out.

    More Holiday Preparation Ideas

    When traveling, call the airline ahead of time & inform them your child has special needs. Most airlines will gladly work with you to keep your child calm and happy during the trip. If your child has any special dietary needs, make sure the airline knows in advance.

    Observe your child’s behavior during holiday gatherings. They may react differently than normal when they feel tired or stressed. If they display unusual behavior (for example—throwing objects or trying to hide), bring them to a retreat location for a few minutes.

    Make sure everyone’s needs are met. Holidays are family times; the whole family will have things they want to do. Remind your other children about their brother/sister’s special needs…but ask them what they want too.

    If traveling or visiting family, create a timetable for each day’s activities. Schedule meal times, one or more activities, etc. This provides your child with some structure, even in a different place. You may need to add extra details you don’t normally, in order to keep your child focused on activities and not on stress.

    A Little Planning Ahead Helps Children (and Parents) Enjoy the Holidays More

    The holidays are a time for us all to give thanks and spend happy times with loved ones. If you plan ahead and enlist the help of family & friends, the whole family will have a great time.

    Here are some additional resources to help your holiday preparations:

    Everyone at A is for Apple hopes you & your family have a Happy Thanksgiving!

    See you next month.

    Fun Activity: How to Make Kinetic Sand


    Does your child love touching objects?  Make them Kinetic Sand!  Its tactile nature provides a wonderful touch sensation for children.  Making it is easy, and a fun project for kids to take part in.

    Here’s a low-cost recipe you can use.


    • 5 cups Sand (about 10 lbs) – free or nearly free, if you have it
    • 1 cup and 3 tablespoons Cornstarch
    • 1/2 teaspoon Dish Soap (like Dawn Dishwashing Liquid)
    • Water (about 1 cup)
    • Optional: 1 teaspoon Tea Tree Oil (for antibacterial properties)

    To make the kinetic sand:
    Put the sand in a container.  Add corn starch, and mix it in thoroughly.  In a separate bowl, mix the water & dish soap.  Then add it to the sand.  Mix it all together thoroughly, and enjoy!

    Store in a covered container when you’re done.

    If you want to make a bigger batch, there’s a recipe on this page: Make Your Own Kinetic Sand (10 lbs for 50 cents!) –

    Autism Tips: Involving Your Child in Holiday Cooking

    Reindeer Cookies

    Looking for a way to involve your child in holiday preparations?  Try the cooking!

    Every holiday comes with lots of cooking.  There are always some simpler cooking processes which children not only do well at, but love doing.

    (NOTE:  Before cooking actual food, expose your child to some similar sensory activities.  For instance, playing with Play-Doh or Kinetic Sand (above), finger painting, gluing, or water play.  Keep your child’s likes & dislikes in mind.)

    For young kids who want to help with parts of the cooking process, start them off with simple “Play-Doh” types of activities.  Mixing and stirring, for example.

    Here are some simple recipes that involve smashing, poking, cutting, rolling, etc.  Great for kids to enjoy themselves AND make something delicious.

    If your child likes to follow visual schedules or is good at visual task analysis, try using visual step-by-step recipes with them.  Here’s a website with visual Thanksgiving recipes: Free Thanksgiving Visual Recipes –

    Share your holiday cooking pictures with us on Facebook!  Here’s our Facebook Page:

    Ask AIFA: How can I get my children to play together?

    “Dear A is for Apple,
    My other children aren’t sure about playing with their brother (who has special needs).  How can I encourage them to play together?”

    When one child in a family has special needs, other children are naturally uncertain about them.  Remember though, your children are curious too.  Use that curiosity to initiate playtime.

    Here are some ideas to get you started.

    1. Set some guidelines first.  Gather all your children and explain the behavior your special-needs child may display.  Tell the children when it’s okay to leave him or her alone, and when it’s okay to hug them!
    2. Time your activities.  Try a new activity for a short time, and see how everyone reacts.  For instance, rolling a ball back and forth between two children.  This is also a good way to introduce your special-needs child to new activities, alongside their siblings.
    3. Initiate some family play.  For example, read a story out loud and ask your children to act it out.  Or give each child bubbles to blow.

    Soon your children will see how, with only minor guidelines, play is normal and fun for everyone!

    A helpful book is “Special Brothers and Sisters.”  It’s a collection of real-life accounts from the brothers and sisters of children with special needs.  You’ll find caring stories and a lot of good advice.

    “Special Brothers and Sisters” on Amazon

    Do you have a question you’d like answered?  Please email it to us at for inclusion in a future newsletter.

    Inside A is for Apple

    We are now an Easter Seals in-provider network for Kaiser Patients!

    Easter Seals Logo

    A is for Apple is now part of the Easter Seals network!

    Lots of parents have requested our services through Easter Seals.  In the past we were unable to take them because we weren’t in-network for them.  Now we can take them.

    Plus, this also opens up our ability to take on children who have Kaiser Insurance.  Now, if you have insurance through Kaiser, our ABA therapy services are available to your children.

    Do you know someone who has Kaiser Insurance and needs help for their child?  Have them request A is for Apple through their Easter Seals coordinator.

  • Thrive – October 2015 Issue

    by Chris Williams | Sep 30, 2015

    Halloween Events and Harvest Festivals for October


    October is here!  The month of falling leaves, harvest, and Halloween. 

    October is also one of the biggest months of the year for social events—many of which are well-suited for children with special needs.  We encourage you to look at the events coming up, and enjoy what they have to offer you & your child.

    To help out, we’ve put together a list of Bay Area Harvest Festivals and other Halloween Events this month.  Trick-or-treating, hay rides, corn mazes… there are a lot of things to experience in October.  Let’s see what we can find.

    Uesugi Farms Pumpkin Park

    uesugifarms14485 Monterey Road, San Martin
    (408) 778-7225
    Uesugi Farms Website

    Uesugi Farms’ Pumpkin Park is open 7 days a week.  General Admission is free, but some events do need a ticket.  Parking fee on weekends.  It’s located in San Martin, which is about 30 minutes’ drive south of San Jose.

    The Pumpkin Park is a BIG harvest event running throughout October.  You’ll find giant sunflowers, a petting corral, corn mazes, and several rides (including a “cow train” children love!).  There’s a 10% ticket discount for disabled persons & veterans.

    Uesugi Farms is great for sensory experiences, with lots of straw, pumpkins, animals, etc.  Your child can touch the pumpkins, pet the animals, run around and have fun.

    Campbell Trick-or-Treating Event

    creepycrawly2015_2E. Campbell Avenue and North 1st Street, Downtown Campbell
    Trick-or-Treat in Downtown Campbell 2015 Website

    Every year, the City of Campbell closes the Campbell Avenue streets so children can trick-or-treat among the shops.  It’s a safe and fun way for kids to go trick-or-treating.  The event is also dog-friendly.

    This year, the “Downtown Campbell Trick-or-Treat” is held on Friday, October 30, from 5:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m.  There’s a costume contest afterward if your child wants to participate.

    Willow Glen Trick-or-Treating Event

    willowglenLincoln Avenue between Minnesota and Willow, Downtown Willow Glen
    Trick or Treat in Downtown Willow Glen Website

    Downtown Willow Glen also holds a Trick or Treat event on October 30.  This is great for parents with young children, or those who live in San Jose and who would prefer staying local.

    Downtown Willow Glen is closed for the Trick or Treat.  Session #1 is held from 11:00 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., intended for toddlers, preschoolers and children in strollers.  Session #2 is held from 3:00 p.m. to 4:30 p.m., intended for school-aged kids in costume.

    There’s no shortage of October events coming up!  Here are 3 more in the South Bay.

    Halloween Monster Bash in Mountain View

    2015_Monster_Bash_Poster_webMountain View Community Center/Rengstorff Park
    201 South Rengstorff Avenue, Mountain View
    (650) 903-6331
    Monster Bash – City of Mountain View

    The “Monster Bash” is an event put on by the City of Mountain View.  It’s held on Friday, October 30, from 4:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.  The Monster Bash has games, music, and an outdoor movie.  Attendance is free, and everyone’s invited (but remember to bring a blanket and chairs!).

    This year, the featured movie is “The BoxTrolls.”  Costumes are encouraged.  Since this is held outdoors, your child might become nervous if they’re scared of open spaces.

    Spina Farms Pumpkin Patch

    spinafarmsSanta Teresa Boulevard at Bailey Avenue, San Jose
    (408) 463-0125
    Spina Farms Pumpkin Patch Website

    Spina Farms is located between San Jose and Morgan Hill.  The Pumpkin Patch is open during October.  Hours are Sunday to Thursday 9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m., and Friday to Saturday 9:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m.

    Spina Farms has a wagon ride, train rides, a petting zoo, and of course a big pumpkin patch!  Parking and admission are free.  The Petting Zoo and Pony Rides are only available on the weekends.

    Trick-or-Treat at the Hollow

    happyhallowHappy Hollow Park and Zoo
    1300 Senter Road, San Jose
    (408) 794-6400
    Happy Hollow Park and Zoo Website

    On Halloween Night, Happy Hollow in San Jose holds its annual “Trick-or-Treat at the Hollow.”  The event is for children ages 2-10.  “Treat Stations” are set up throughout the park, so children can safely trick-or-treat and explore the Happy Hollow’s animal exhibits. 

    Like Uesugi Farms, the Happy Hollow is great for a safe sensory experience.  Animals big and small, birds, even reptiles in many beautiful colors.  Admission is half-price for everyone in costume (children and adults).

    Enjoy Your October!

    While 6 events are plenty to have a fun-filled October, your local area may have even more events.  Check your city’s website for announcements.  You may be surprised how much October fun awaits.

    We at A is for Apple hope you & your family have a safe and Happy Halloween!

    See you next month.

    What’s an IEP? Free IEP Workshop in Redwood City


    The San Francisco Autism Society is hosting an IEP Workshop on Wednesday, October 14.  At the workshop, Education Specialist Dianah Marr will give practical information about the IEP process.

    If you want to know what an IEP (Individualized Education Plan) is, or have questions about them, this workshop will give you answers.  It’s free to attend, but space is limited!

    If you want to attend, please email

    The workshop will be held at:
    Sobrato Center
    330 Twin Dolphin Drive, Redwood City
    9:30 a.m. – 11:30 a.m.

    Ask AIFA: Practicing for Halloween


    “Dear A is for Apple,
    My child doesn’t like wearing things on her head.  What should we do for a Halloween costume?”

    If your child has sensory issues (sensitive to touch, doesn’t like things on her face or head), start practicing sooner rather than later.

    First, find a costume the child is comfortable with. Try holding costumes up in the store for them to see and touch, and watch their reaction. Many costumes don’t have masks at all; you can start with those.

    Next, practice putting on their costume. During the weeks leading up to Halloween, have your child practice putting on their costume several times.

    Some of our children don’t like things on their faces. Costumes with masks sometimes irritate them. It’s a sensory difficulty, and we must keep this in mind. Practicing helps the child get comfortable with the costume.

    After that, prepare them for trick-or-treating. For some children, Halloween is a high-anxiety night. To keep them calm and having a good time, do a little preparation beforehand.

    Practice going up to houses (with neighbors you know) and have them knock on the door. Guide your child on what to do—hold out the bag, say “trick or treat!”, and say “thank you.”

    On Halloween Night, have a trick-or-treating plan. Bring a friend along. Bring flashlights so everyone can see. Set a walking pace your child will comfortably follow. Stop whenever your child feels nervous. Keep an eye out for things you know scare him/her (certain masks, strangers, a big crowd coming up the sidewalk).

    Need help practicing? Ask your A is for Apple supervisor for assistance.

    Do you have a question you’d like answered? Please email it to us at for inclusion in a future newsletter.

    Inside A is for Apple
    The A is for Apple Website wins a WebAward!

    Every year, the Web Marketing Association reviews hundreds of new websites. They select the best-quality websites in 96 categories, from Advertising to University, and award them a WebAward.

    For 2015, has won the Health Care “Standard of Excellence” WebAward!WEBAWARD15_Standard

    The whole A is for Apple team put a lot of effort into our website. Working with PlanetMagpie, we intended the new site to function as a complete resource for you, our families. An award is just icing on the cake!

    Thank you to the Web Marketing Association for this WebAward, and thank you to the A is for Apple therapists & supervisors who helped make it possible.

    WebAward Winners Page for

  • Thrive – September 2015 Issue

    by Chris Williams | Aug 28, 2015

    Family Support Groups in the Bay Area


    It’s hard at times. The attention your child needs, the scheduling, therapy, school days. Now and then, we all need a helping hand.

    Regional Centers provide some support through their programs and local events. These are great, and we always encourage our parents to make use of them.

    But if you need more than that, let us help.

    Over the years we’ve seen parents come together to help one another. It’s very beneficial for each parent as well as their children. These support groups take many forms & serve many purposes.

    If you’d like to join such a group, or just need the occasional outing, here are some family support groups you can look into. You’ll find these groups across the entire Bay Area.

    1. Parents Helping Parents (“PHP”)
      Office: 1400 Parkmoor Avenue, Suite 100
      San Jose, California 95126
      Tel (408) 727-5775
      Parents Helping Parents Facebook Page 

      PHP helps families who have children of any age with special needs. This support group has been vetted by SARC (San Andreas Regional Center) and has an excellent program. PHP runs support groups specific to a certain condition or disability. They will help you find other parents in similar situations to yours.

    2. Autism Playgroup San Jose
      Meetup Group, 212 Members

      This Meetup group organizes play dates for children with autism & related special needs. Social activities like trips to a park, swimming days, or just playing at one member’s house. There’s even the occasional “Moms Night Out” for relaxing. Plenty of events are already scheduled, with more coming.

    3. San Francisco Autism Society – Calendar 
      Mailing Address: P.O. Box 249
      San Mateo, California 94401
      Tel (650) 637-7772 

      The San Francisco Autism Society serves the entire San Francisco Bay Area. This page hosts their Community Calendar, where you can find all sorts of local groups & events. Hiking clubs, movie days, workshops, museum trips and more. Some of the other local support groups post their events to the Autism Society calendar. It’s a helpful place to look for San Francisco events where you & your family are welcome.

    4. Martial Arts for Kids with Special Needs 
      Meetup Group, 38 Members
      Held at: Darcio Lira Martial Arts
      1601 Railroad Avenue
      Livermore, California 94551
      Tel (925) 549-1590

      What’s a fun way for children to learn coordination and punch things … without hurting themselves? Martial arts! This Meetup group meets at 10:30 every Saturday morning, at Darcio Lira Martial Arts in Livermore. Two Sensei (teachers) work with special needs children from ages 5-16. The weekly class helps them learn social skills, awareness of their surroundings, and coordination. The class is free, but donations are accepted.

    5. Bay Area Parents of Special Needs Children 
      Meetup Group, 192 Members

      This Meetup Group is a little different. It’s meant for you, the parent. All parents of children with Autism Spectrum Disorder, Down syndrome, ADHD, & so on are welcome. It’s a place to ask questions, find useful resources, share experiences with other parents who understand your situation, and more. The group has been quiet for a while, but still maintains a healthy membership. Any member can suggest a Meetup, so don’t hesitate to make a suggestion.


    Do you know of a family support group not on this list? Please send it to us at The more groups we know about, the more parents we can inform.

    We hope one (or more!) of these groups gives you a helping hand, whenever you need it. Fun activities for your child, relaxing opportunities for you, and a community helping one another – these things help us all thrive.

    See you next month!

    AMC Sensory-Friendly Films
    (in partnership with the Autism Society)


    A “Sensory-Friendly Film” is a special movie time for special-needs children. The movie is not as loud, the lights are adjusted, and there’s no pressure to keep your child quiet & sitting still. If they want to get up, talk, or sing along, that’s fine.

    AMC Theatres has partnered with the Autism Society to host Sensory-Friendly Film days every month. Right now two local AMCs host Sensory Movies: the AMC Mercado in Santa Clara, and the Cupertino Square 16 in Cupertino.

    For September, the movie is “Hotel Transylvania” and it will air on Saturday, September 26.

    For full details, visit AMC Sensory Friendly Films at AMC Theatres –

    Autism Tips: Taking Your Child into the Community

    Often we find that the children we work with have a difficult time when out in their community. Some children are afraid of loud sounds, or crowds. Some need to leave the store with a new toy or candy. Or for unknown reasons, they just cry in all outside places.

    But even with these behaviors, kids need to experience the world and adapt to being in new places. Here’s how you can make it easier.


    1. Before going out into the community, have a plan. Set yourself up to be successful.

      We’ve seen families bring 3 kids to the store with no support or backup. One child has a meltdown, the other runs off, and another wants the cookies opened right now. Not exactly a successful trip!

      If you have backup, such as a partner or friend, bring them with you. Or, leave some children behind at home with another adult (if you must go out alone).

    2. Take short trips to desensitize the child.

      If you’d like your child to accompany you to the store without getting upset, this method should help. Make small trips with no plan of buying anything. Try going to places for only a few minutes, then leaving (on your terms, not the child’s). This helps the child adjust to the process of going out in the community, and returning home.

      If you want, you could bring some small snacks they love, or a favorite small toy. This way you’ll periodically reinforce their good behavior. For example, give them a small snack every 30 seconds or so when they’ve walked nicely with you. (Tell them they’re doing great too; this is excellent reinforcement.)

    3. Prepare for tantrums the first couple times.

      Some children will only leave a store if they get something. If your child is like this, make short trips to the store over & over…but don’t buy them a toy.

      The short trip helps to desensitize them. The lack of getting something teaches them a new behavior.

      They will resist at first, so prepare for a few tantrums. It’s unpleasant, we know, but you can do it. Once they begin leaving the store without crying, reinforce their good behavior with something else (not a toy from the store – perhaps a small snack). And a pat on the back too.

    For additional support or ideas, please ask your A is for Apple supervisor.

    Ask AIFA: Will Therapy “X” Work for My Child?


    “Dear A is for Apple,
    My friend said art/water/oxygen therapy worked for her child. Would it work for mine too?”

    Many therapies are proclaimed as “the solution” for children with developmental disorders. Some of the therapies we’ve heard about from parents are:

    • Horseback Riding therapy
    • Art therapy
    • Water/Swim therapy
    • Oxygen therapy
    • Dog therapy
    • Brain mapping
    • …and many more!

    It’s understandable to hope for big improvements with activities like these. However, be careful with these “non-evidence-based” therapies.

    We have heard some good anecdotes about working with dogs. That’s great – many children love dogs! But unlike ABA (Applied Behavior Analysis), there is no well-controlled, reviewed, and published study behind these “therapies”.

    ABA practices are evidence-based. Certified service providers such as BCBA (Board Certified Behavior Analyst) are regulated nationwide to make sure we all follow the evidence-based practices with children like yours.

    If you’re curious about an “alternative therapy”, do some research and look for studies behind it. Maybe your child will respond to it; maybe not. You can try, but the evidence just isn’t there. The best way to look for studies behind it is finding articles in peer reviewed journals. The JABA (Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis) is a big, well-known peer-reviewed journal. Ask your service provider or doctor if you need help finding any evidence behind the “therapy” they recommend.

    Also, our recommendation: Don’t start multiple therapies at once. Squeezing in 5 different types of therapy takes up lots of time, exhausts the child, and you don’t know which therapy is contributing to your child’s progress (or regress).

    If you still have questions, please talk with your A is for Apple supervisor.

    Do you have a question you’d like answered? Please email it to us at for inclusion in a future newsletter.

    Inside A is for Apple
    Stanford Microbiome Study – Would You Like to Participate?

    The other day, a research team from Stanford University contacted us. They told us about a new study involving children with Autism Spectrum Disorder, and the human microbiome.

    What’s the microbiome? According to the Stanford study’s page:
    “Our body hosts up to 100 trillion microbial cells that comprise the human microbiome, and outnumber human cells by 10 fold. These microbes play a critical role in human physiology by balancing the immune system, producing vitamins, promoting gastrointestinal motility, and impacting behavior.”


    Stanford wants to know if there’s any link between the microbiome and behavior associated with Autism Spectrum Disorder.

    Would you like to help them out?

    Participation involves answering a few questions, recording a video of your child, and sending in some samples (swabs, etc.). Stanford will provide the materials. There’s no cost to you.

    A is for Apple, Inc. is not affiliated with Stanford University in any way. We’re just passing the word along to you, our parents, to participate. If you want to.

    To learn more and sign up, go to

  • Thrive – August 2015 Issue

    by Chris Williams | Aug 04, 2015

    How to Prepare Your Child for School


    School starts very soon!

    Going to school can be very stressful for a child. Especially if this is their first year.

    Preparing your child for a school environment – playing with others, listening to the teacher – is part of our ABA and OT practices. But there are also several things you can do to help your child get ready for school.

    We’ve sorted our tips by date here, for easy reference. Please read these through, and try some out with your child.

    In the Weeks Leading Up

    • Work on skills that may have been lost over summertime – basic cognitive & academic tasks, like drawing or listening.
    • Go back to a regular schedule: Waking up & eating meals at the same times each day.
    • Put the child back on their school-day sleep routine.
    • Drive to the school to familiarize themselves with the route (a new route may upset the child if they’re not familiar).
    • Engage in what’s called “priming” – telling the child they’re going back to school soon.
    • Put together the necessary school supplies. Have your child put on their backpack so they get used to wearing it.
    • Be mindful of potty training. They may get anxious & Mom’s not there. It may help to bring their potty insert from home & leave it at the school during the day.
    • Take the child out for some extra socializing. Go to parks, the mall, or a library. This will help stir their curiosity.

    The First Day of School

    It’s here! On the first day, go into school with your child. Point out buildings they saw before. Be there when they see their classroom.

    Talk to the teachers. Make sure they have a way to contact you if it’s needed. Decide ahead of time the best way to communicate – a daily log, exchanging notes, email, etc. Frequent communication helps if there’s any issues (yours or theirs).

    And prepare yourself – Remember, the staff at the schools are trained to take care of children with special needs. The child IS quite safe.

    A Caution about Parent Anxiety

    It’s normal to feel anxious while your child’s in school. You may even want to stay there & help him or her through the day.

    However, this may not be the best thing for the child.

    Research papers published by UCLA, the University of Washington and the University of Hong Kong indicate that “intrusive parenting” – doing things like taking over tasks the child’s doing themselves, or giving excessive physical affection – may limit the child’s ability to interact with peers & make friends at school.

    Your therapist will help you with parental behaviors that encourage your child’s involvement in school.

    If you do have the time & want to help out, parents can be aides in “parent participation” schools. You’ll help out in the classroom, working with your child and others. Ask your child’s school administration about parent participation.

    We hope your child enjoys themselves in school! If you have questions about school preparation which we didn’t cover here, please send them to

    See you next month!

    Stay & Play Times at San Jose Public Library, Wednesday August 12

    A “Stay & Play” event engages children with books, songs, and playtime with others. They’re a fun way for your child to relax and learn.Aug15_libraryPhoto

    The San Jose Public Library holds Stay & Plays weekly, at its multiple branches. On Wednesday, August 12, they’ll host several Stay & Plays:

    Visit the San Jose Public Library Events page for a full calendar & driving directions. Call (408) 808-2100 for more information.

    Ask AIFA: My child is losing his Regional Center assistance! How do I verify insurance?


    “Dear A is for Apple,
    My child is losing his Regional Center assistance. How can I find out if A is for Apple will accept my insurance?”

    When children turn 3, or their medical circumstances change, a Regional Center may no longer offer financial assistance with your child’s therapy at A is for Apple. If this happens, don’t panic! We have a system in place to help you.

    We can check with your family’s insurance carrier to see if they will cover your child’s services. (Here’s more information about insurance plans we accept.) How? With this online form.

    Insurance Verification Form

    We’ve added a Verify My Insurance form to our website. It’s on this page: Get Started with A is for Apple.

    Click the “Verify My Insurance Coverage” button. The form will open right away. You’ll need to fill in your information, your child’s information and your insurance policy information. Instructions are included. The online form is HIPAA-compliant, so you can rest assured that your private medical information will be kept private.

    Important Note: You’ll need scanned copies of your insurance card (both sides) and prescriptions, to complete this form.

    If you need help working with the form, please email our Intake Department at

    Our new form will shorten the time needed to verify coverage, so your child continues to receive the care they need. Please try it out!

    Do you have a question you’d like answered? Please email it to us at for inclusion in a future newsletter.

    Inside A is for Apple

    Staff News – New OTs, First RBT in Campbell and More Therapists Taking BCBA Exam

    In the past month our therapists & supervisors have been busy. We have new staff hires, new certifications and BCBA exams coming up.

    Staff Hires & a New RBT

    We’ve hired 3 new Occupational Therapists this summer! If your services include OT, you’ll meet them soon.Aug15_insideAIFA

    One of our therapists has also passed the tests to become a Registered Behavior Technician, or RBT. Registered Behavior Technicians must be approved by the Behavior Analyst Certification Board (BACB) to work on specific behavior assessments for our BCBA supervisors.

    This is a first – A is for Apple now has the very first RBT in the City of Campbell.

    Two BCBA Exams Coming Up

    We have 2 of our technicians lined up to take the BCBA exam this month. If they pass (and we’re sure they will!), they will become our newest Board Certified Behavior Analysts.

    In the autism therapy industry, a BCBA exam is similar to a lawyer’s “bar exam”. It’s a form of continuous education, and a way to keep a strict ethical standard in place across the industry.

    BCBAs are authorized to manage groups of children’s cases, and to work directly with insurances agencies on ABA services.

    How does all this benefit you, our parents? More flexibility in scheduling your child’s sessions.

    These staff improvements expand our existing workforce’s capabilities, so we can make more services available to you.

    If your Regional Center has suggested working with an RBT, or you know someone who needs ABA therapy services for their child, please contact us for help.

  • Thrive – July 2015 Issue

    by Chris Williams | Jul 07, 2015

    Activities Issue: Summer Fun for Everyone

    Our July issue of “Thrive” is dedicated to summer fun for our families.

    Summer is a great time to be active. Local groups, nonprofits and even cities run events, classes and games for kids. Your child has plenty of opportunities to have summer fun, be social, & participate in a community.

    In our main article right here, we’re talking about sports. You’ll find storytime events & parks to play in afterward. We hope one or more of these activities helps you & your child enjoy some summer fun!


    E-Sports Soccer Teams

    E-Sports Soccer is an all-volunteer collective of youth soccer teams. Special-needs and neurotypical children, aged 5 and up, play soccer together. They even have a “Rising Stars” group for 3- and 4-year-olds to play too!

    E-Sports Soccer Website

    E-Sports started their soccer program in Foster City in 2000. Now they operate in 10 Bay Area cities with 3 sports to choose from (E-Soccer, E-Karate, E-Hoops). According to the website, E-Fitness is coming soon.

    We like the E-Soccer teams because they’re group sports. The players are active, being social with one another, & making friends.

    You’ll find E-Soccer Teams in: San Francisco, Foster City, Half Moon Bay, Hayward, Pleasanton, San Ramon, Sunnyvale, and Walnut Creek.
    (Note: Some of these teams may have closed registrations by now.)

    E-Soccer is free of charge to attend (donations accepted for equipment). Parents and volunteers work together to make the experience fun for all the kids.

    If you don’t have an E-Soccer team near you…start one of your own! Contact E-Soccer to ask about starting up a team in your area.

    Little League Challenger Division

    Maybe your child likes baseball more? If so, they can join the Little League!

    The Little League Challenger Division was established in 1989, for boys and girls ages 4-18 with physical and mental challenges. In a Challenger game, every player gets a chance to bat. It’s a highly-supported way for kids to play a summer sport and make friends.

    About the Challenger Division –

    We asked the Challenger Division which leagues offer Challenger programs in our area. Here’s what they said:
    “Thank you for your interest in the Challenger program. Below is a list of the closest leagues to your location that offer Challenger. Please feel free to contact them at your convenience.”

    Almaden Little League
    San Jose, CA
    Contact: Debbie Osborn
    (408) 460-1699

    Branham Hills Little League
    San Jose, CA
    Contact: Marie Kozacek
    (408) 499-5595

    Cambrian Park Little League
    San Jose, CA
    Contact: Rob Griffin
    (408) 423-2086

    The Cambrian Park Little League begins its Spring 2016 Challenger registrations in November. The other Leagues will open Challenger registration toward the end of the year, also for the Spring 2016 season. Mark your calendars.

    Call or email your neighborhood league (using the above information) to ask about signing up.

    Scouting Troops for Kids with Special Needs and Disabilities

    If you’re interested in more of a year-round activity, consider the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts of America. Both groups have scouting units who welcome kids with autism or other developmental delays.

    Locally, we know of these three:

    You’ll find a complete list for the state here: California Autism Friendly Scouting Unit Locator

    All of these scouting units follow a set of rules for working with special needs children. Many units have a Special Needs Coordinator or Autism Support Specialist available.

    Contact the troop nearest you to ask about open membership slots.

    More Activities Always Coming Up

    If your child isn’t ready for this sort of summer activity yet, please save this email for next year.

    Do you know a summer sport we didn’t list, or which is coming soon? Please share it with us, at! The more active children are, the more they grow & thrive.

    Have a fun & active summer! We’ll see you next month.

    Toddler Storytime at Campbell Library, Wednesdays at 10:30 AM

    Our local libraries have many wonderful events for children of all ages. Every Wednesday morning the Campbell Library has “Toddler Storytime” for children ages 1-3. Bring your child for stories, music and social play!campbelllibrary

    When: Every Wednesday, 10:30 AM – 11:00 AM
    Where: The Campbell Library
    77 Harrison Avenue, Campbell

    Call (408) 866-1991 for more information.

    Ask AIFA: What’s a Good Park for My Child in San Jose?

    “Dear A is for Apple,
    The Magical Bridge Playground looks great! But it’s in Palo Alto, and we live in San Jose. Is there a playground closer to home where I could take my child?”

    Yes! There are several good parks in the San Jose area. Today we’ll talk about one: the Rotary Children’s Garden.


    The Rotary Children’s Garden is located on Coleman Avenue, between Guadalupe Parkway & Walnut Street. It was created & is maintained by the Rotary Club of San Jose.

    The playground is a beautiful open layout, fully enclosed with one entrance (for safety). Some of the features you’ll find include:

    • Soft padded ground coverings all around.
    • Several cement slides (They might look daunting, but they ride very smooth!)
    • Interactive art structures that kids can spin to make big insects move
    • Sensory sand play areas
    • Multiple rope-climb structures
    • Rock incline climbing structures
    • A wheelchair-accessible merry-go-round
    • Accessible Seesaw
    • Swings (There’s only one platform swing and chair swing though)

    The Rotary Club made sure children of all needs could come & play here.

    One important thing to remember: There aren’t many shaded areas on & around the playground. We talked with a park official, who said they are addressing the shade issue.

    Just in case, make sure you bring plenty of water and sunscreen. Watch your child for signs of fatigue; with the summer heat upon us, staying cool & hydrated is extra-important at a playground.

    Please Note: The water feature has been turned off due to the drought. However, the rest of the park is still open from 10am-6:30pm.

    One of our supervisors went to the Children’s Garden and had this to say: “All in all, it’s a very nice new playground that will allow many children of all capabilities to play.”

    You’ll find more details about the Rotary Children’s Garden at

    Inside A is for Apple

    New Salinas Location for ABA Therapy in Monterey County

    A is for Apple is expanding! We’re opening a location in Salinas on August 1.july15inside-white

    The Salinas location will act as a “hub” for Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA) therapists. It will allow us to bring ABA therapy services to families in the Monterey County area.

    Please note: The Salinas office is for administrative purposes only. Monterey County ABA therapists will arrange sessions with you in your home. If your child enjoys coming to our San Jose therapy facility for on-site therapy, this arrangement will continue unchanged.

    We expect to add Speech-Language and Occupational Therapy services in Salinas toward the end of the year.

    If you live in Monterey County, or know someone who does, please contact us for local help.

  • Thrive – June 2015 Issue

    by Chris Williams | Jun 09, 2015

    Travel Tips for Summer Trips

    Summer is here! Many of you are planning to travel and enjoy the season. We encourage all of our families to take trips and enjoy some fun together. Sometimes, though, travel can be a challenge.

    By now most of you have heard about Donna Beegle and her 15-year-old daughter, Juliette, being kicked off a plane in Salt Lake City. Juliette has autism and would not eat cold food on the flight. Her mother tried to get her some hot food, but the situation resulted in a minor disturbance which led to the captain requesting their removal.


    Family Kicked Off Flight after Daughter with Autism Deemed ‘Disruptive’ – NBC News
    Woman Claims She and Daughter with Autism Were Kicked Off United Airlines Flight – ABC News

    An upsetting situation for the family, for sure.  It got us thinking about what families can do to make summer travel less stressful.

    To that end, we’ll discuss some “Travel Tips for Summer Trips” in this issue of Thrive.

    Planning Ahead Makes the Trip More Fun

    One important thing to do, if your child has special dietary needs like Juliette, is call or email the airline ahead of time. Ask for Customer Service or Customer Care. Explain that you have “specific travel needs.” The airlines will do their best to make your family comfortable.

    A second Travel Tip: Plan for your child’s entertainment needs. Try this – the day before the trip, put out their toys to see which toys they go for. Stagger showing them new items, until it seems they’re getting bored with the one they see in front of them. Make note of which ones they like right now, and bring those on the flight.

    A is for Apple Travel Tips for Your Fun Summer Trips

    Every child’s needs are unique. We have this list of Travel Tips, collected from years of working with children of all ages.

    Some may be appropriate for your child. Some may not. Please read through the list, and if one tip looks like one your child would enjoy, try it out.

    • Make a list of things you’ll need well in advance.
    • If you want to buy them a new toy, do so a couple days before the trip starts. Don’t introduce it to them during the trip; this may upset them.
    • Pack familiar food for meals & snacks. Don’t try to introduce new foods right before the trip.
    • If you have one, bring along an iPad with games and movies.
    • Don’t forget their headphones and ear plugs.
    • Prior to the travel day, use social stories to explain where you’re going & how you’ll get there. Use pictures to show the transportation method, and what to expect on the way. This will familiarize the trip to your child, so they’ll understand what’s happening better.
    • If your child is being toilet trained with a special toilet insert, take it with you.
    • Bring along comforting items, such as stuffed animals and a blanket.
    • If child is still small, bring their stroller to use during long waits in line.
    • Keep your child occupied. If they appear bored or anxious, offer them a choice of toys or games so they have something to focus on.
    • Don’t forget to take care of yourself as well. Your comfort & enjoyment are important too!

    If you’d like to try out any of these tips in the presence of one of our therapists, please ask your supervisor. We’re happy to arrange it.

    Have a safe & happy summer!

    We Appreciate Your Feedback

    Now that you’ve received a few issues of our “Thrive” newsletter, we’d like to ask for your feedback. What do you think of the articles? Are they helpful? Encouraging? Is there a topic you’d like to read more about?

    Use our dedicated feedback email address:

    We welcome ALL feedback from our parents at this email address. If you want to share your thoughts about a behavior technician, a supervisor or a billing process, please email & tell us.

    Feedback emails will receive a personal response from your supervisor, or from A is for Apple management, if you need anything.

    Thank you for taking the time to send us your feedback!

    Walk Now for Autism Speaks – Event Recap

    The annual “Walk Now for Autism Speaks” took place on May 16. It went great!

    We had bubbles, face painting and apples to give out at the Resource Fair. Three of our speech therapists and five supervisors staffed the booth. Which had a lot of people stop by – the therapists who did face painting said the kids kept them pretty busy all day!

    To all of you who came out and walked with us, thank you for supporting Autism Speaks. All of our crew came out to walk & appreciated everyone who joined in. (Our mascots Ace and Gizmo had to stay home, sadly. Otherwise they’d have joined us out walking too.)

    Our big Raffle Winner was Alysa Nagatani of San Jose. She won the iPad Mini!

    Thanks to your support, Team A is for Apple contributed $1,380 to Autism Speaks. All told Autism Speaks raised $257,548 for autism support programs & research.

    We’ll be back for next year’s Walk, of course. You’ll hear about it right here in “Thrive”.

    Inside A is for Apple

    Calm Your Child with a Digital Aquarium DVD

    Does your child have trouble calming down, or shows challenging behaviors? If so, we have a recommendation that may help.

    It’s called “The Digital Aquarium.” The Digital Aquarium is a DVD which shows a beautiful panorama of ocean life – sea turtles, coral reefs, and big schools of fish swimming across the screen. Like a nature documentary.

    Here’s an example of the Digital Aquarium on YouTube:
    The Digital Aquarium, a Sensory-Based Relaxation Tool – YouTube

    The Digital Aquarium is made by Calming Strategies, at There are four DVDs available. They all depict different types of ocean life, accompanied by soothing music.

    From the maker’s website: “The video programs are like a virtual dive. Teachers and caregivers for children with autism have told me that the video images and music simply lower the energy level in the room to the point where they can get through a structured activity.”

    We’ve seen firsthand how relaxing videos like the Digital Aquarium can be. If your child has trouble calming down or focusing on tasks, we recommend showing them a Digital Aquarium DVD. You can order them directly from

  • Thrive – May 2015 Issue

    by Chris Williams | May 05, 2015

    The Magical Bridge Playground – A Place for Everyone to Play

    On April 18, 2015, the new Magical Bridge Playground opened in Palo Alto. It’s the first of 34 playgrounds in Palo Alto to specifically accommodate children with developmental disabilities.

    The entire playground was designed and built so kids of all abilities can play and socialize. We can’t convey just how much we appreciate the City of Palo Alto creating this play space.

    What the Playground Holds: Soft Surfaces, 7 Play Zones, Calming Stations

    Last week we sent one of our Senior Behavioral Program Supervisors out to see what the park offered children & parents. He attended with one of our clients, who had originally gone to Magical Bridge on Opening Day…but the playground was so packed they couldn’t do much.


    They found it still busy, even on a Thursday afternoon!  The playground is broken up into zones: Swinging Zone, Playhouse, Slide Mound, Music Area, etc. All the surfaces are completely flat, made from soft rubbery material. Perfect for wheelchairs and walkers.

    In fact, you’ll find wheelchair ramps everywhere, and very few stairs. You can even push a child’s wheelchair onto the Merry-Go-Round, lock their chair into place, and give it a spin!

    If your child becomes overstimulated or startled, there are Calming Stations throughout the playground. Bring your child to the closest station whenever they need to rest & calm down.

    Inclusive Experience: Everyone Can Enjoy the Magical Bridge

    The Huffington Post published a wonderful article about the Magical Bridge this past week. It tells the story of how the playground came to be – when a mother saw the need for an inclusive play area 6 years ago.
    Inclusive Playground Makes Playtime Magical For Kids of All Abilities – Huffington Post

    Now it’s here for all of us to enjoy.

    All of our clients’ children can use the Magical Bridge Playground, in one manner or another. So can their siblings, whether they’re affected or not.

    That was a big thing we discovered while at the playground – there were lots of neurotypical kids playing too. Some right alongside their special-needs brothers, sisters & friends.

    The playground is open to everyone, with no encumbrances and no judgments. Visitors are very open—just out having a good time. It’s a great place for parents to meet other parents & socialize.

    We saw a group of moms chatting while their children played. Like you’d see at any park. It truly is a “magical bridge” for everyone.

    A Place to Enrich Your Child’s Life – and Playtime

    The Magical Bridge Playground is located within Mitchell Park in Palo Alto, at 600 East Meadow Road. You’ll find plenty of parking at each access point. The playground and park are open dawn to dusk. Ideal for family events, picnics and more.

    The playground also has a Facebook Page for updates:

    We encourage all of our parents – bring your children to Magical Bridge! They’ll have a wonderful time, and so will you.

    Not only is it perfect for everyone to enjoy, but Magical Bridge can even aid their therapy. Locations like a playground vary a child’s routine, encouraging new experiences. Incorporating games while you’re at the playground helps them stay calm & focused.

    If you’re curious about ways to do this, please ask your A is for Apple supervisor.

    Like Us? Yelp Us!

    Yelp Screen

    Calling our regular Yelp readers! Is your child thriving with his/her therapy? The A is for Apple Yelp page needs your help!

    If you regularly read & write Yelp reviews, we’d appreciate your sharing the good news on Yelp. Our Yelp page is here:

    A is for Apple, Inc. (San Jose, CA) –
    Or search Yelp for “A is for Apple” in San Jose.

    Thank you!

    Join Us at the Autism Walk on May 16


    Please join us at the “Walk Now for Autism Speaks” event on May 16 from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. We’re meeting at History Park (1650 Senter Road) in San Jose. The Walk starts at 11.

    If you’d like to show your support, register to walk with us on our Team A is for Apple Page.

    Your kids can enjoy our booth in the Resource Fair, with a photo booth, bubbles . . . Gizmo & Ace, our miniature schnauzers, will be there too!

    Plus you can enter our Raffle. We’ll have great prizes available:

    • iPad Mini
    • $100 Amazon gift card
    • Sprouts gift card

    Raffle tickets will be $1 each. 100% of the proceeds benefit Autism Speaks.

    We invite all of our parents to come walk with us. If you can’t make it out, donations are gratefully accepted at our Team A is for Apple page.

    Inside A is for Apple

    Our Supervisors Volunteer Weekends to Spread the Word about “Walk Now for Autism Speaks”

    On Saturday, April 18, A is for Apple Supervisors ran a booth to raise awareness about the upcoming “Walk Now for Autism Speaks” event.raffle

    They set up a table at Sprouts of Sunnyvale, spoke with shoppers for several hours, and sold tickets for our May 16 Raffle (see the prize list above).

    They sold 50 tickets, and also received $92 in donations from caring shoppers. Everyone who came to the booth wanted to donate after we told them about the Autism Walk. Some asked where the event would be held; that’s why we put the reminder in above.

    A big thank you to Sprouts of Sunnyvale! The manager kindly let them set up the table outside his store. He even donated the Sprouts Gift Card for our Raffle.

    Also, a big thank you to our supervisors for volunteering their weekend. It was very hot out—but that doesn’t stop our commitment to helping children thrive!

  • Thrive – April 2015 Issue

    by Chris Williams | Apr 07, 2015

    Walk Now for Autism Speaks is May 16. Join Us!

    The 10th annual “Walk Now for Autism Speaks” event is coming up!  The walk begins on Saturday, May 16 at 9 AM, in History Park in San Jose.  Will you join us there?

    Walk, Donate, Come Have Fun – and Help Us Further Autism Research

    The Autism Speaks Walk helps raise funds for scientific research into the causes, treatments and possible cures for autism.  Autism Speaks also, through its Walks and other events, helps raise awareness about autism’s effects on individuals, families and society.

    We are a fervent supporter of their work.

    That’s why we’ll have a big turnout:  Walkers participating for the fundraising, a booth in their Resource Fair with a photo booth & bubbles…Gizmo (our teacup Schnauzer) is even putting on his bunny ears!

    Bay Area participants have raised over $72,000 so far.  With your help, we can reach $75,000 before the Walk.

    We encourage everyone to come out and join us in supporting Autism Speaks!

    Donate or register to walk on our “Team Page” here:
    Team A is for Apple – Walk Now for Autism Speaks Bay Area

    What You’ll Find at the Event

    The Walk. Registered team members collect donations before participating in the Walk at History Park. You can donate, register with a team (like ours!), or come cheer the participants.

    The Resource Fair. Autism Speaks also puts on a Resource Fair with local service providers & organizations, offering information and fun activities.

    A is for Apple’s Resource Fair booth will have our staff giving out information, answering questions, and blowing bubbles with the kids!

    How You Can Help

    Visit our Booth: Come take photos with your kids, play with bubbles, and meet others in our community.

    Donate: We have a Team Goal of $2,500. If you’d like to donate, there’s a “Donate Now” button right on the page. Donations also accepted at our booth.

    Join Our Team: Register to join us for the Walk, either on our Team Page or at our booth. Everyone’s welcome to join.

    Tell Your Friends: The more people know about the Autism Speaks Walk, the more funds we raise for autism research.

    If you are not in the Bay Area on May 16, you can still help out! California hosts 7 Walks for Autism Speaks. Search for the other California Walks on this map:
    Search for a Walk – Walk Now for Autism Speaks

    About Autism Speaks

    Autism Speaks is “The world’s leading autism science and advocacy organization, dedicated to funding research into the causes, prevention, treatments and a cure for autism; increasing awareness of autism spectrum disorders; and advocating for the needs of individuals with autism and their families.”
    (From their website)

    The organization holds dozens of Walk Now events every year, across the U.S. and Canada. They’re a powerful advocate for families, and everyone at our office is grateful for their hard work.

    We hope to see you at History Park in San Jose on May 16!

    Please feel free to use our new email to give us feedback about our services.

    See you next month!

    Help Us Reach 1,000 Likes on Facebook!

    The A is for Apple Facebook Page is only 14 likes from 1,000.

    Have you liked our page yet?  If not, please join us.  Not only will you help us reach 1,000 Likes, but you’ll receive regular posts of helpful articles on autism & encouraging stories of children growing & thriving.

    Like the A is for Apple Facebook Page here.
    Thank you!

    Ask A is for Apple

    How Can I Improve My Child’s Expressive Communication?

    One of the first steps in learning speech is repeating sounds others make.  A child sounds out new words and learns what they mean.  We call this “Echoic Skill”.

    There are ways you can improve your child’s echoic skills.  Right now.

    Depending on your child’s age and where they’re at with their therapy plan, he/she may not know how to imitate words you speak to them yet.  If not, here is the first thing you can do to help them along.

    If your child doesn’t imitate sounds or words yet…
    Play a “Sound Game.”  While you engage in a fun activity (playing with their favorite toys, games, tumble play, etc.), imitate any sounds your child makes.  Make it into a fun game with them.  If both of you can make the same sounds back and forth, your child is learning how to imitate!

    For 9 more ideas to encourage their speaking requests.

    Inside A is for Apple

    3 of Our Supervisors Attend CalABA Conference for Continuing Education

    From February 19-21, we had 3 of our Program Supervisors attend the CalABA Conference in San Diego.

    Website: 33rd Annual Western Regional Conference – CalABA

    Our supervisors went not only to represent A is for Apple, but to continue their own education at the Conference.  They attended panel discussions, presentations and conversations with others in the child therapy industry.

    Among the topics covered, they learned about:

    1. Building gesture imitations – Reaching, crawling, locating a hidden object
    2. New research on verbal behavior in children
    3. Discussion on which mistakes you see other providers make when they are delivering services to children under 3
      • (Example: Adding programs too quickly when fundamental skills aren’t fully learned)
    4. Methods of conducting assessments, while also building rapport with the child
    5. Priorities to keep in mind when giving parents guidance
    6. And many more!

    There was even a surprising study discussed.  The experimenters tested ABA therapy methods with dogs instead of children, to determine just how effective the methods could be.  Results were impressive – the ABA therapy methods helped nervous dogs overcome fears (such as thunder/loud noises) and adopt better behaviors (e.g., stop them running into walls).

    It’s an unusual way to verify a therapy technique meant to help children.  But we think it adds independent proof to ABA’s effectiveness!

  • Thrive – March 2015 Issue

    by Chris Williams | Mar 02, 2015

    Welcome to “Thrive”!

    You are receiving this email because you are one of A is for Apple’s wonderful parents or you are involved in the therapy services industry. 2015 promises to be an exciting year at A is for Apple with many new developments. We’re starting up our e-newsletter and a blog to give you more regular, helpful information.

    “Thrive” will aim to address all of our therapy services – early intervention, ABA, speech-language therapy, OT—so that you will always find something useful.

    When it benefits you, we’ll also include links to third-party research or new therapy developments. This is something we’ve done with our social media presence for a while now. “Thrive” will add to that with input from our clinical supervisors.

    Like our new website, we want “Thrive” to help all of our parents, and any other parents whose children need our services. If you have a question for us, please email us at and we can address it in our next issue

    Help us reach other parents too, by sharing “Thrive” on social media! You’ll find the sharing buttons below, and on our website.

    See you next month!