Infographic: Autism Prevalence In Public School For Children

Autism Prevalence In Public School For Children

Infographic: Children Exposed to Domestic Violence

Children Exposed to Domestic Violence

STEM may help teens with autism clear hurdle

If college-bound youth with autism gravitate toward STEM majors, then this has the potential to be a silver lining story for a group where gloomy predictions about outcomes in adulthood are more the norm.” says study author Paul Shattuck.

WASHINGTON U. – ST. LOUIS (US) —Young people with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD) gravitate toward STEM majors in college, but just getting there is still a struggle.

“STEM careers are touted as being important for increasing both national economic competitiveness and individual career earning power,” says Paul Shattuck, assistant professor of social work at the Brown School at  Washington University in St. Louis.

“If popular stereotypes are accurate and college-bound youth with autism gravitate toward STEM majors, then this has the potential to be a silver lining story for a group where gloomy predictions about outcomes in adulthood are more the norm.”

Straight from the Source
Read the original study
DOI: 10.1007/s10803-012-1700-z

The study provides the first national picture of college enrollment and science, technology, engineering, and mathematics participation for young adults with an ASD, compared with 10 other disability categories, including learning disabilities; speech/language impairment; intellectual disabilities; emotional disturbances; hearing impairment; visual impairment; orthopedic impairment; other health impairment; traumatic brain injury; and multiple disabilities.

Published online in the Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, the study found that 34.3 percent of students with an ASD gravitated toward STEM majors—not only higher than their peers in all 10 other disability categories, but also higher than the 22.8 percent of students in the general population who declared a STEM major in college. Science (12.1 percent) and computer science (16.2 percent) were the fields most likely to be chosen by students with an ASD.

But the study also learned that young adults with ASD have one of the lowest overall college enrollment rates when compared with students in other disability categories. Factors such as gender, family income, and ability to carry on a conversation played a role in whether or not the individual with ASD attended college.

“Clearly, only a subset of youth with autism will head to college after high school,” Shattuck says. “A low family income puts these young people at a disadvantage even if they are cognitively capable. We need to get better at connecting students with financial aid to help them achieve their highest potential and be contributing members of society.”

According to the study, the tide may be turning. Advances in early identification and treatment of ASDs are likely to increase college enrollment rates, and with it increased participation in STEM majors.

“More and more children are being identified as having autism, children who grow up to be adults. With the majority of a typical lifespan spent in adulthood, that phase of life is the one we know least about when it comes to autism spectrum disorders.”

The study was funded by the National Science Foundation, Autism Speaks, the National Institute of Mental Health, and the Institute of Education Sciences.

Teen with autism uses it to accomplish great things!

By guest author
Alexis Wineman

Miss Montana 2012

One would think that after such a long time to finally have a real diagnosis of what was wrong with me I would be relieved, but at the age 11 all I really knew was that this “thing” I had was ruining my life and I may never get better.  That is what I felt when the term “autism” entered my family’s life.  My parents were very relieved to finally have a name of what was wrong with me, but what they did not seem to understand was that just because it had a name did not mean the bullying and teasing would end, that my speech problems would end or that I would suddenly be accepted by my classmates.  All I knew was that I was still having meltdowns and that school was where I did not want to be.

School was something to survive.  Although there were teachers who tried to help me get organized, middle school was so overwhelming.  Changing classes, keeping up with a homework planner, all the different books were more than I could handle.  The only time I felt good was when I was by myself.  My brother, who is five years older than me, pushed me into joining the cross country team.  The middle school and high school team trained together and he wanted me to learn what it is like to belong to a group that does not judge you and accepts you for who you are.  My coaches were tough, but they were tough on everyone, and we always knew how much they cared about each of us.  It was the first time I truly felt like I belonged and I will always be grateful to my brother for pushing me out of my comfort zone.

As I entered high school I was finally beginning to learn real coping measures, but still had the normal fears of moving up in school.  Luckily… Continue reading

Living and Working With At Risk Youth, A Developmental Perspective 2012 – TRAINING COMPLETED

A ChildWise Community Learning Seminar

When: Saturday, Nov. 10th
Where: Microtel Inn & Suites Sidney, MT
Time: 11:00 am – 4:30pm (lunch on your own from 12:30-1:30)
Cost: $50 (+ $15 if claiming CEU’s)

*Special discounted rate available for Parents & Foster/Adoptive Parents (Please contact the Conference Coordinator)


Difficulties associated with failure to master significant developmental stages and domains are often associated with insecure attachment and are compounded through childhood and adolescence. Attachment disruptions compromise normal childhood development and give rise to complex emotional and behavioral difficulties in many special needs youth. These special needs youth are often misunderstood, leading to poor assessments, misguided interventions and multiple academic and out-of-home placements that fail.

Participants will understand the interface of attachment and developmental processes. They will also learn the origin and assessment of emotional and behavior difficulties and central issues that must be addressed to foster change and growth.

This presentation will focus on attachment and developmental theory and will address:

  • The developmental origins of emotional and behavioral difficulties in children.
  • The interface between attachment and developmental processes which give rise to emotional and behavioral difficulties in personality formation.
  • How skewed developmental processes compound and exacerbate emotional and behavioral difficulties across time.
  • A way of seeing children that determines who we can be for them.

If you have any questions, please contact Cathy Huntley, ChildWise Conference Coordinator, at (406) 457-4816 or e-mail:

Miss Montana speaks of development disorder

For much of her first 11 years, Alexis Wineman was bullied and teased, staying quiet to hide her speech problems, descending into self-loathing, looking at herself as a punching bag, scratching her arms and even banging her head against walls.

After one bout of frustration in school, a teacher told her she wasn’t getting paid enough to deal with her kind of behavior.

“I felt so alone growing up, and I still do at times,” Wineman, now Miss Montana 2012, told a group of more than 300 people Friday at a conference on autism and Asperger’s syndrome, put on by the Helena-based ChildWise Institute. “Something was wrong with me and no one could tell be what it was.”

Things turned worse for Wineman in fifth grade, when deadlines and timed math tests made it harder for her to stay “below the radar,” or get by “as the cute one who was just a little slow.” Her parents took her to see her pastor, and then a therapist. Wineman, figuring she was there because something was wrong with her, wasn’t cooperative.

Then a doctor saw her for about five or 10 minutes, declared her depressed, and put her on pills that made her tired, angry and forgetful.

Another doctor connected her with a pediatric psychologist. She met a therapist with a cat, which Wineman liked. After three days of tests, she was referred her to a pediatric neurologist, who hooked her head up to wires and gave her more tests.

“To be honest, I didn’t have any idea why I was doing all of this,” she said. “All I knew was I must be sick. Very sick. And it must be bad if I was going to all these doctors.”

Her mother didn’t give up on her, but no matter what she said, it often sent her into fits of screaming.

In seventh grade, her condition found a name: Pervasive development disorder, including borderline Asperger’s syndrome.

“I couldn’t have cared less what it was called,” she said. “It ruined my life before I had a chance to live it.”

She still had some unhelpful teachers, but flunked classes.

Then, in the summer before high school in Cut Bank, she knew things had to change.

She continued cross country running, to help with a sense of belonging. And her siblings encouraged her to join the speech and drama team _ “where it is OK to be a little different,” she said, one of many times she drew laughs from the audience.

Still, she specialized in pantomime, to avoid speaking in front of others.

Meanwhile, her mother talked her into joining the cheerleading team.

“And I hated that more than anything,” she said. “And yet it did force me to walk within a peer group that I was not used to, and I did gain communication skills I had yet to tap into.”

The “group of misfits” in speech and drama became her best friends, and she went to state tournaments. She refused to cheerlead as a sophomore, but returned as a junior and (ironically, she said) became squad captain as a senior, and joined in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade in New York City.

“And that was cool,” she said.

Such things have been exciting, though she’s had to push to take advantage of such opportunities, she said. “But to be able to experience normal things is also exciting,” she said.

The iPod, she said, has been her saving grace. The music (she’s partial to swing and Celtic) helps her focus and address fears in the morning, and then relax and decompress at the end of the day.

“By the time graduation rolled around, I was proud of who I was, and I was confident that I had overcome this vicious circle in which I had been sinking,” she said. “I graduated high school, which was something I previously felt was impossible.”

She said she surprised everybody when the decided to enter the Miss Montana program. She told people she wanted to prove to others what she could do; but really, she said, she wanted to prove it to herself.

Now, she has been accepted to the University of Montana, and is deferring enrollment for a year and still looking at her options. She’s slated to be on a national stage _ the Miss America pageant _in Las Vegas in January.

“Being on the (autism) spectrum is not a death sentence, but a life adventure, and one that I realize has been given to me for a reason,” she said.

View the original article at

MT group: Autism disorders sharply increasing

HELENA – Autism spectrum disorders diagnoses in Montana have increased as much as 80 percent in the last few years, partly thanks to increased awareness, according to the Childwise Institute, a Helena-based nonprofit that advocates for children’s well being and abuse awareness.

Similar to much of the United States, Montana has seen a dramatic rise in autism diagnoses, from 188 to 617 during 2000 to 2010, according to Autism Maps.

Friday and Saturday, Childwise is hosting an autism and Aspergers conference that is open to parents, educators and health professionals dealing with children with these disorders.

“We’re touching parents and teachers and they’re learning a great deal about, first of all, having some relief. I spoke with some parents earlier whose child was diagnosed earlier this year, in February. They’ve got a great sense of relief that they’re not alone and it’s not the end of the world and guess what? My child is still my child. No difference,” said Todd Garrison, the executive director at Childwise.

Autism spectrum disorders deal with developmental disability that causes problems with social interaction and communication. The conference focuses on students ages three to 21.

In 2010, 2.6 out of every 1,000 children in Montana were estimated to have autism spectrum disorder.

Garrison said that the increase of those diagnosed with the developmental disorder in Montana is due to better understanding among parents and medical professionals with diagnoses, signaling that it is more prevalent than anyone realized.

View the original article at

Helena to host conference on autism and Asperger’s

September 19, 2012 12:00 am  •  Independent Record

The ChildWise Institute will be holding an Autism and Asperger’s Disorder Conference Sept. 28 and 29 at the Best Western Great Northern Hotel.

Keynote speakers include Ellen Notbohm, an award-winning author and columnist, and Patricia Wright, the national director of autism services for Easter Seals.

Notbohm is scheduled to speak from 9:30 a.m. to noon on Friday, Sept. 28. The title of her presentation is “Parent View, Child View: Putting Autism in Perspective.” Notbohm has two sons who are on the autism/ADHD spectrum; she will offer guidelines for facing a child’s autism with a healthy and productive outlook. Notbohm will also share some of the ideas from her book, “Ten Things Every Child with Autism Wishes You Knew.” Copies of the second edition of the book will be available at the conference.

Notbohm will debunk misconceptions about autism, identifying common environmental, language and social-emotional challenges/characteristics of autism and how adults can modify their own behavior and environment to better communicate with and teach children with autism. Attendees will also gain a parent’s perspective on the multi-disciplinary network of therapeutic, educational and social services that parents must navigate and manage on behalf of their children with autism, and learn how professionals and family and community members can provide perspective and emotional support to parents of children with autism.

Wright is to speak from 1:30 to 4:30 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 28. Her presentation is titled “Living with Autism Spectrum Disorders.” The session will focus on effective services and supports that promote quality life outcomes for those living with autism. Specific strategies will be discussed with the focus on practical strategies that can be implemented to produce meaningful results. Through advocacy, service delivery and collaboration, individuals with autism can receive the services and supports they need resulting in a high quality life.

Also speaking will be Miss Montana, Alexis Wineman, who will open the conference on Friday, Sept. 28. Wineman was diagnosed with Asperger’s disorder when she was 11 years old and has overcome many obstacles in her life. She is passionate about raising awareness on autism spectrum disorders and advocating for Montana’s youth.

The Saturday schedule for the conference includes several breakout sessions. Topics include: transition into adulthood, insurance provider Q&A, nutrition for cognition, understanding the school’s responsibility and communication strategies.

The conference is geared toward educators, psychologists, therapists, mental health professionals, health care providers and parents. Continuing education credits are available. Cost of the conference is $99 for one day, $175 for two days. For more information and to register, visit Registration deadline is Sept. 24.

The Helena-based ChildWise Institute is a nonprofit organization that works to improve the lives of vulnerable children through education, awareness and advocacy.

The ChildWise Institute was created by Intermountain but operates with its own staff and board of directors. The organization helps children by providing parents, policymakers and health care and education professionals with tools they can use to help better the lives of those in their care.

Getting the 2012 candidates talking about kids

We have another Federal issue that is threatening funds for children and families that you need to be aware of and decide if you want to take action and contact your legislators. Social Services Block Grants fund Montana’s foster care, child and adult protection services, and services for the disabled. This type of grant provides millions of dollars of funding that is critical to the state and to children and families who often are our most vulnerable citizens. Please look through the information below sent by the Alliance for Children and Families. There are very easy steps included to contacting your legislators.  Also, please share with others who would want to support this funding. Thank you for your time considering this issue.

— Todd Garrison, ChildWise Institute Executive Director

The kids are back in school, and you’ve given them everything they need to succeed. But has your school? Has the government?

As election season heats up, it’s time to ask what investments the candidates would make in improving the well-being of our children by addressing child poverty and education. Because new data shows that many students are still getting left behind.

Federal test score data shows that only around one-third of fourth graders can read proficiently. And it’s even worse for low-income students and communities of color. In Montana, seventy-seven-percent (77%) of fourth-graders from low-income families can’t read proficiently.

Few people would consider it right to have a child go hungry, though odds are, many do not consider the implications of such hunger beyond the discomfort of a growling stomach. However, the cumulative consequences of children growing up without proper nourishment are much more far-reaching and serious. Not only does the lack of proper nutrition lead to poor health, it also limits children’s long-term cognitive and socio- emotional development. In recent years, food insecurity and hunger have become problems faced by an increasing number of children, strongly impacting the health, academic performance, and employability of an entire generation.

According to  Montana’s partnership with Share Our Strength (, eighty-percent (80%) of teachers in Montana say children are coming to school hungry at least once a week. It’s no surprise when you consider that forty-four-percent (44%) of children in Montana under the age of eighteen live in moderate poverty (source:

So far the media and the candidates have largely glossed over these issues. And without voters voicing their concern, they have no reason to. Join us in demanding the campaigns give more time to kids!

Let’s be child-wise. Contact the Presidential  and local candidates in your area and tell them that the well-being of our children is the  most important thing on Earth, and you expect them to make children a priority, not a footnote.

Did you know only 1 in 3 fourth graders read proficiently? Tell the 2012 candidates we can do better! Mitt Romney; Barack Obama.

Low-income students are scoring much worse on reading tests. Why aren’t the 2012 candidates talking about this? Mitt Romney; Barack Obama.

Reaching for the stars, feet on the ground

By Ellen Notbohm

Author, Ten Things Every Child with Autism Wishes You Knew

When I take the podium to keynote the ChildWise Autism and Asperger’s Conference on September 28, I’ll marvel as I always do at the setting, a gathering of parents and teachers of children with autism, the likes of which didn’t exist as recently as fifteen years ago. In the years since writing my books about teaching and raising a child with autism, I’ve worked with thousands of families and schools around the world. The questions that come to me have so many common threads. What’s the first thing a parent should do? The second? The third? How do I keep from becoming overwhelmed with conflicting information?  How do I know if my child will ever (speak, read, go to college, hold a job, marry)? How can I teach him to reach for the stars?

We’ll consider all those questions in my keynote and the round-table sessions that follow. But let’s tackle that last one here.

“Reach for the stars.” We start by recognizing that a metaphor dear to us may be meaningless to a child with autism. Concrete, literal thinking is a common characteristic of autism, and a concrete thinker will ask, which star do I reach for, when there are zillions? I could stretch until my arms pull from their sockets and I can’t get close. Wouldn’t I burn up if a got close to a star? If I did catch one, then what happens?

What do we really mean when we say “reach for the stars?” Most often we are urging our children to push themselves to excel. But how will it be heard by a child with autism, who likely is struggling with multiple sensory, communication and cognitive challenges? Will they take it as encouragement? Admonishment (for not trying hard enough)? Anger (for not being good enough)?

Before a child can reach for the stars, he must be grounded in self-confidence and optimism. We have to place him under a sky figuratively cloudless enough that he can see that metaphorical star, and the star must be reachable. We lay the foundation for our children’s success when we give them clear, relevant, incremental, developmentally appropriate, attainable goals, along with the tools, problem-solving strategies and emotional support to achieve them. We teach them to reach not for a metaphor, but for realistic achievements and qualities, for the best they can be. And we assure them, daily, that their best efforts will always be good enough for us, that we care more about the sincerity of their effort than about any outcome. My son didn’t even know what a valedictorian was until shortly before he became one. He had simply done his best, because that was a star high enough for him–and for us.


Award-winning author and mother of sons with ADHD and autism, Ellen Notbohm’s books and articles on autism have informed and delighted millions in more than nineteen languages. Her work has won a Silver Medal in the Independent Publishers Book Awards, a ForeWord Book of Year Honorable Mention and two finalist designations, a Mom’s Choice Gold Award, Learning magazine’s Teacher’s Choice Award, two iParenting Media awards, and an Eric Hoffer Book Award finalist designation. Her book Ten Things Your Student with Autism Wishes You Knew was named to’s list “The 20 Essential Books about Special Education.”  She is a contributor to numerous publications, classrooms, conferences and websites worldwide.

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