The Autism Blog

The Gift of My Brother

Yoav laughing after telling a pun on his 52nd birthday

Yoav cracking himself up telling a pun on his 52nd birthday

As we continue our month-long celebration of Autism Awareness and Inclusion, we are excited to feature the powerful perspective of a loving sibling and their families journey with autism.  This piece is a potent reminder of special sibling relationships, the power of inclusion in the community and the brightness individuals with ASD such as Yoav bring to our world. Read full post »

Autism Guided Me Through A Pandemic

Autism affects an estimated 1 in 54 children annually, which represents a 10% increase over 2014.

All this month we celebrate and shine a light on all individuals with ASD and their families for the beauty and light they bring into our world. We welcome guest author Nicole Gorman, M.Ed. from the Alyssa Burnett Adult Life Center. Read full post »

Ask Dr. Emily – Going Back to School Support

Dr. Emily Neuhaus, the author of The Autism Blog's Ask Dr. Emily monthly series

Dr. Emily Neuhaus, the author of The Autism Blog’s Ask Dr. Emily monthly series, answers a reader’s question that we want to share with all our readers.

Welcome to the April edition of Ask Dr. Emily

Ask Dr. Emily is a monthly series on The Autism Blog where Dr. Emily Neuhaus, a clinical psychologist at Seattle Children’s Autism Center, answers a reader’s question.

We often receive questions that we want to share with all our readers. We welcome you to send us your questions and Dr. Neuhaus will do her best to answer them each month. Send your questions to

This month, Dr. Emily answers a reader’s question about how to prepare kids to go back to school with tips and resources from Andrea Lupas, Ph.D.; and Lia Thibodaux, Ph.D.


My kids are going back to school in person soon after a long time of learning at home! What do we need to know to prepare them?


In a year full of changes, this is definitely another big transition for kids and their families! It’s great that you’re thinking ahead so you can ease that transition back to in-person education, especially since this shift can mean new health guidelines and procedures at school, a new schedule and sequence for the day, and lots of big feelings.

Fortunately, today we’re featuring guidance from two skilled psychologists – Dr. Andrea Lupas, Ph.D. (Postdoctoral Fellow, Seattle Children’s Autism Center); and Dr. Lia Thibodaux, Ph.D. (Postdoctoral Fellow, Neuropsychology Consultation Service). They’ve put together a wealth of strategies and resources to get kids and families back to school in the smoothest way possible.


How to Support Children Going Back to School during COVID-19

Andrea Lupas, PhD & Lia Thibodaux, PhD

More schools are beginning to move toward in-person learning. Some children may do well with the transition and others may need extra support. Below are suggestions for supporting your children as they go back to school. Click here to download a handout with these strategies plus sample guides to use at home.

Health and Safety  

Monitor your child’s health. If they are sick or have a fever over 100.4, do not send them to school. Temperature and symptom checks can be completed each day as a family to make these behaviors seem normal for children.


Before going back to school, teach children how to:

  • Distance from Others
    • Teach your child by using physical cues to show them what distance means.
    • Show them how to measure distance by stretching out their arms.
    • Hula hoops, jump ropes, or tape on the floor may also be helpful.
    • Teach kids how to wave and say “hi” instead of hugging.
    • The Center for Disease Control (CDC) now recommends keeping 3 feet apart in schools, instead of 6 feet. Washington schools are currently allowed to decide if they will distance 3 or 6 feet. It is important to ask your child’s school what they will do for distancing so that you can prepare your child.
  •  Distancing resources:




  • Wash Hands 
    • Handwashing should last 20 seconds. 
    • All parts of hands (under fingernails, thumbs, and the back sides of hands) need washing. 
    • Use songs to help children spend the full 20 seconds washing their hands. 
      • Example songs are the “happy birthday” song twice or the alphabet song. 


  • Practice distancing, masking, and handwashing at home before going to school. 
    • You can turn these into games to make them more fun! 
    • Building routines, rewards, and breaks into practice can help your child be successful. 
    • Visual timers or counting aloud/on your fingers are helpful tools to show children how long they should wash hands or wear a mask. 


Emotion and Behavior Support 

Going back to school can cause kids to feel happy, worried, or other emotions. It is important to:


Listen to Feelings

Build Routines 

  • Rebuilding school routines is helpful for going back to school. Work with your child’s teachers to make sure there is a routine at school, too.
  • Picture versions of routines or spoken instructions help children understand routines.
    • An example of a picture routine (visual schedule) is provided in the link at the end of this blog. Picture routines should be specific to children and their routines.
  • Practice these routines before the first day of school.
  • Tell children about any changes, do not surprise them! It can be helpful to discuss changes with teachers or other school staff.

Give Rewards 

  • Reward children for specific, good behaviors. Rewards can be praise, extra play time, or fun items. 
  • If children aren’t motivated to distance, mask, handwash, or go to school, caregivers and teachers can help build motivation with rewards.
  • Rewards can be temporary solutions until your child is used to new routines and rules.
  • For example, if your child does not like washing their hands, tell them they can have 5 minutes of game time for practicing handwashing. 

Provide Visuals

  • Visuals about distancing, where/how to wear masks, how to wash hands, routines, and rewards are helpful for understanding. 
  • Example of a visual reminder to wash hands, wear a mask, cover coughs and sneezes, and distance:
  • See “Sample Morning Routine Visual” below!
  • See “Sample Guide to Practice Wearing A Mask” below!

 Other Resources


To Summarize:

  • Distance
  • Wear Masks
  • Wash Hands
  • Listen to Feelings
  • Give Rewards
  • Build Routines
  • Provide Visuals

These are suggestions that work well for most children. If your child is significantly distressed, consider working with a therapist of counselor.

Handout Link: Tips for Supporting Your Child Going Back to School During COVID

Ask Dr. Emily – Autism and Age Appropriate Interests

Welcome to the March edition of Ask Dr. Emily.

Ask Dr. Emily is a monthly series on The Autism Blog where Dr. Emily Neuhaus, a clinical psychologist at Seattle Children’s Autism Center, answers a reader’s question.

We often receive questions that we want to share with all our readers. We welcome you to send us your questions and Dr. Neuhaus will do her best to answer them each month. Send your questions to

This month, Dr. Emily answers a reader’s question about age-appropriate interests for their child with autism and severe intellectual disability.
Read full post »

Autism 203: ABA – What Parents Need To Know

Please join us for Autism 203: ABA – What Parents Need To Know, on March 18, 2021, a virtual panel presentation about Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) treatment for children with autism spectrum disorder.


  • Katherine Bateman, PhD, BCBA-D, LBA is a Research Scientist and Project Director in the Area of Special Education at the University of Washington
  • Ilene Schwartz, PhD, BCBA-D is a professor of Special Education at the University of Washington and the Director of the Haring Center for Inclusive Education at the University of Washington
  • Mendy Minjarez, PhD, is Executive Director, Seattle Children’s Autism Center, Assistant Professor, Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences University of Washington, Director, Applied Behavior Analysis Early Intervention Program, Seattle Children’s Autism Center
  • Nancy Rosenberg, PhD, BCBA-D is an Associate Teaching Professor in the Special Education department at the University of Washington and the Director of the UW Applied Behavior Analysis program

Intervention using the principles of Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) has long been considered an effective and gold standard treatment for children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). However, ABA is frequently misunderstood. Perceptions of ABA have recently been a “hot button” issue, due to reports that this intervention can lead to trauma. In addition, ABA advocates and members of the neurodiversity movement have sometimes been at odds, the former advocating for intensive treatment and the latter arguing that autism must be accepted as a form of diversity. This mixed information can be confusing for parents who are striving to choose the best therapeutic interventions for their child with ASD. This presentation will explore these perceptions of ABA and provide clarification of the scientific evidence for various claims, with the goal of helping parents navigate the confusion and controversy and confidently identify the best therapeutic intervention for their child and family.

This panel presentation will include:

• Brief overview of ABA including different applications of ABA (parent education, social skills, 1:1 intensive intervention, etc.)
• Brief overview of scientific evidence for ABA
• Discussion of benefits and criticisms of ABA for children with ASD and related disorders
• How parents can become educated consumers of ABA
• ABA and neurodiversity

Date: March 18, 2020

Time: 7 to 8:30 p.m. PT

Registration is not required

Watch live on Seattle Children’s Facebook page.

The event will start at 7:00 p.m. and will include time for questions at the end of the presentation.

Following the presentation, it can be viewed on Seattle Children’s Facebook and will be added to Seattle Children’s Autism 200 YouTube channel within two weeks of the lecture date.