The 3 A’s: Autism, Arts, and ABA

This will be a fantastic presentation!

Finding appropriate leisure activities that can be done independently or with peers can be challenging for individuals with autism. This workshop describes the importance of the 3 A’s: Arts, Autism, ABA.  Augusta Levy Learning Center team’s up with Oglebay Institute to engage individuals with ASD in a variety of art specialties incorporated in their daily ABA services. We will discuss the specialties in detail and how they specifically pertain to individuals with autism and how they can be individualized to their needs. We will discuss the importance of leisure activities and how the arts can be an important aspect of every individual’s daily life.





Haley Rauschenberg, M.S., BCBA, Outreach Consultant at Augusta Levy Learning Center
Kim Kafana, Dance Instructor at Oglebay Institute.

Applied Behavior Analysis and Occupational Therapy:  A Partnership in Treatment

Applied Behavior Analysis and Occupational Therapy:  A Partnership in Treatment

Presenter:  Lydia Brodegard, MOT, OTR/L, BCBA

Course Overview:

A look at the partnership between occupational therapy and applied behavior analysis to provide an effective multidisciplinary treatment plan for children and young adults. Develop an understanding of the two disciplines and their importance to adequately serve and promote functional independence and life skills.

Lydia is a 2005 graduate of West Virginia University School of Medicine with degrees in Health & Human Performance and a Master of Occupational Therapy. She completed the Applied Behavior Analysis program in 2014 from Penn State University. She is nationally certified by the National Board for Certification in Occupational Therapy and the Behavior Analysis Certification Board. She holds license in West Virginia and Ohio and the Ohio Department of Education.

Lydia spent two years in early intervention and outpatient therapy before entering the school system where she spent eleven years as a school based Occupational Therapist/Autism Specialist. During that time she served on the preschool assessment team, autism assessment team, and as the behavior intervention specialist.

Lydia currently serves as the Behavior Specialist in Switzerland of Ohio Local School District working with students pre-k through high school. Services provided include functional behavior assessments, behavior observations, behavior intervention plans, transition plans and crisis plans. Interventions applied include nonverbal strategies, social skills, student specific programming, and various ABA based interventions. During her short time in SOLSD, Lydia has assisted in implementation of Positive Behavior Interventions & Support in the district and is recently assisted in the launch of Swiss Options for Success, alternative unit for district high school students.

Lydia also holds an executive position on the West Virginia Behavior Analyst Association.

Health and Wellness Management in Autism Spectrum Disorders

A diagnosis of autism is often accompanied by various complications and/or other diagnoses.  Dr. Jodi Lindsey, MD will be discussing of a wide variety of health and wellness concerns affecting individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorders, including:
  1. Genetic syndromes – Evaluation and associated medical issues
  2. Epilepsy – evaluation and management
  3. Allergies and immune disorders
  4. Gastrointestinal Disorders – evaluation and management
  5. Feeding/Eating Issues – description and management
  6. Metabolic disorders such as Diabetes
  7. Disrupted Sleep – evaluation and management (brief overview of points from previous talk that I gave)
  8. Neurodevelopmental disorders such as ADHD, developmental delays including cognitive delays, and other learning disabilities
  9. Anxiety disorder, OCD, and mood disorders
  10. Utilization of Preventative Medicine in Autism Spectrum Disorder

Dr. Jodi Lindsey, MD, is the Administrative Director of WVU Medicine Children’s Hospital Neurodevelopmental Center in Morgantown, West Virginia.  Dr. Lindsey is also a staff physician at the WVU Medicine UHC-UPC Whitehall Medical, specializing in Pediatric Neurology and Neurodevelopmental Disabilities.  She is currently a board member of the Mountaineer Autism Project.


Bringing ABA into your Home

One of the best things about ABA is that it does not require the use of expensive equipment or tools, making it easy to do at home. Throughout this workshop we will focus on how to optimize your home environment for children with autism spectrum disorders. We will discuss how to arrange the environment to increase communication and prevent behaviors.  We hope to help you with the following skills and tasks: promoting independence, teaching safety skills, encouraging language development, and helping regulate unwanted behaviors.

ABA and speech and language therapy do not have to be sit-at-the-table-drill-work…we play a lot too!  We are excited to share with you some strategies that you can take home and implement today!


Angela Wood, M.Ed., BCBA

Angela is the Executive Director at the Augusta Levy Learning Center in Wheeling, West Virginia.  She has early intervention experience, previously working with the West Virginia Birth to Three program.  She has also worked as a school consultant, designing and implementing behavior protocols for students with moderate to severe behaviors. Angela is currently a board member for the Mountaineer Autism Project.

Deidra Darst, MS,CCC-SLP

Deidra is the Director of the Mountaineer Autism Project.  She currently works as a speech language pathologist in the school system and with the West Virginia Birth to Three program.  Deidra’s son, Colin, has autism.  She is the author of a blog entilted, The SLP Mom, and has authored two books, the latest being Artie is Awesome, a children’s book that explains autism and teaches self-love and acceptance.

A Collaborative Intervention Approach for Pediatric Feeding Disorders

A Collaborative Intervention Approach for Pediatric Feeding Disorders


Kaitlyn Martin, MA, BCBA

Cassaundra N. Miller, MS, CCC/SLP

Dr. Susannah Poe, EdD, BCBA-D

The prevalence of feeding difficulties in children with developmental disabilities is extremely high.  To ensure the use of best practice, we must not only advance our knowledge in behavioral feeding intervention but also collaborate with other disciplines.  This course will be an overview of collaboration strategies for behavior analysists and speech language pathologists.   We will outline developmental feeding milestones, discuss the development of intervention plans, review case studies, and expand on the importance of evidence-based practice through analysis of current research texts.

Dr. Susannah Poe, EdD, BCBA-D

Dr. Poe is a dually-credentialed licensed psychologist and board certified behavior analyst.  She is a professor in the Department of Pediatrics at the WVU School of Medicine.  She is the Director of Applied Behavior Analysis Services at WVUH Children’s Neurodevelopmental Center in Morgantown, West Virginia.  Dr. Poe also serves as the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) Act Early Ambassador for West Virginia.  She currently holds a position as an executive board member for the Mountaineer Autism Project.



Kaitlyn Martin, MA, BCBA

Kaitlyn Martin is the WVUCED Coordinator for Behavior and Learning Intervention Services. Kaitlyn is a Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA) who holds a Master’s degree in Applied Behavior Analysis from Ball State University. She has previous experience working in a multi-disciplinary clinic with children with autism where she implemented ABA services and parent training. Kaitlyn also has experience providing services as a consultant in a school setting and in a severe behavior disorders clinic. Through these opportunities she was worked with individuals, ages 2-18, with a variety of disabilities.


Cassaundra N. Miller, MS, CCC/SLP

Cassaundra Miller currently serves as the speech language pathologist and clinic coordinator for the WVUCED Feeding & Swallowing Team.  She is Medical Community Coordinator for the Family 2 Family Program, and also provides speech and feeding intervention to young children through West Virginia Birth to Three.  After graduation from West Virginia University, Cassaundra began her career in the acute pediatric rehabilitation setting where her interest in feeding and dysphagia first emerged.  Cassaundra has a special interest in telehealth and is piloting a telehealth program for feeding intervention through the CED.


You may register for this event through Eventbrite.


ABA and Augmentative Alternative Communication

How’d they do that? – A case study on implementing a speech generating communication device using Skinner’s analysis of verbal behavior for an early learner with autism

           Teri Leffler BCaBA, Clinical Director, Bright Futures Learning Services

Beverly McCoy BCBA, Assistive Technology Director, Bright Futures Learning Services

The use of speech generating devices to support communication for learners with autism is increasing.  With the development of augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) technologies and implementation techniques primarily driven by beliefs and experiences of clinicians, research on implementation techniques utilizing Skinner’s analysis of verbal behavior are limited (Light et. al. 2018).  This case study will provide a brief overview of research finding related to implementation of AAC for learners with autism before providing a detailed case history of an early learner in an intensive applied behavior analysis program.

Parent-Child Interaction Therapy for Preschoolers on the Autism Spectrum

Parent-Child Interaction Therapy for Preschoolers on the Autism Spectrum

Presenters:  Cheryl B. McNeil, Ph.D., and Christopher Owen, B.S.

Cheryl B. McNeil, Ph.D. is a Professor of Psychology in the Clinical Child program at West Virginia University.  Her clinical and research interests are focused on program development and evaluation, specifically with regard to abusive parenting practices and managing the disruptive behaviors of young children in both the home and school settings.  Dr. McNeil has co-authored several books (e.g., Parent-Child Interaction Therapy: Second Edition, PCIT-Toddler, Handbook of PCIT for Children with ASD, Short-Term Play Therapy for Disruptive Children), a continuing education package (Working with Oppositional Defiant Disorder in Children), a classroom management program (The Tough Class Discipline Kit), and a Psychotherapy DVD for the American Psychological Association (Parent-Child Interaction Therapy).  She has a line of research studies examining the efficacy of Parent-Child Interaction Therapy and Teacher Child Interaction Training across a variety of settings and populations, including over 100 research articles and chapters related to the importance of intervening early with young children displaying disruptive behaviors.  Dr. McNeil is a master trainer for PCIT International and has disseminated PCIT to agencies and therapists in many states and countries, including Norway, New Zealand, Australia, Taiwan, Hong Kong, and South Korea.

Inspiration from MLK Jr.


Martin Luther King Jr. was a minister, activist, and leader in the civil rights movement.  He saw injustice, and he couldn’t sit idly by and let it continue.  He spoke up for what he believed in and brought about change because of it.

I read something this past weekend that said, “Instead of posting tons of MLK Jr. quotes tomorrow, why don’t we go out and live his words.”

So here I am – posting MLK Jr. quotes – but also, trying to live that life too. It’s easy to reflect on a day like Martin Luther King Jr. Day and respect the man for whom the holiday is honoring…but what do we do the day after the holiday? Do we take those quotes that we read on social media and try to apply them to our lives somehow?   These are some pretty amazing MLK Jr. quotes that I think we here at MAP aspire to live by:


“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.”


“The time is always right to do what is right.”


“Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, ‘What are you doing for others?”


“The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.”


“Faith is taking the first step even when you don’t see the whole staircase.”


Here in West Virginia (and nationally as well), we see a population that continues to grow – 1 in 59 children have an autism diagnosis.  As this population grows, the need for trained professionals grows as well.   It is estimated that less than 10% of the autism population in WV has access to life-changing, doctor-prescribed treatment.  These children need – and deserve – evidence-based treatment.


What is MAP Doing to Address the Needs of the Autism Community?



We see the need, as we are sure you do too.  As  MLK Jr. said, “The time is always right do what is right.”  So right now, we are taking steps to make ABA therapy more readily available for all children in our state.  This is an enormous undertaking – and won’t happen overnight – but we must do it.  Change must happen if we want to serve our children with autism well, West Virginia.  We see a need and cannot remain silent.


Ten years ago, MAP started a huge battle – insurance reform.  Back then, no autism therapies were covered by insurance companies – ABA, speech, OT, PT – nothing!  MAP was instrumental in getting legislation passed – so if your child has an autism diagnosis, and their therapy is covered by insurance, you have MAP to thank for that.


Next up:  Medicaid.  MAP continued the battle, and Medicaid is on board for ABA therapy.  We continue to work on policy implementation so that providers can start to treat clients and bill for those services.


Currently:  As stated above, we need more professionals.  We need more Board Certified Behavior Analysts to meet the needs of the ever-growing autism population.  MAP is working to provide scholarship funds for students who wish to pursue degrees in behavior analysis.  Our goal would be this: to help you get the degree necessary to help these kids, then keep you here in West Virginia to live, work, and serve within our local communities.


Like I have alluded to in the last few weeks:  MAP has big goals for 2019.


Just imagine if MLK Jr. hadn’t spoken up for what he believed in, where would our nation be today?  He was just one person, but look at the waves his small ripple created.  We know that we are just one nonprofit organization, but we have big dreams too.



….So how can you help?


We need more ABA providers.  If you have ever considered a career in behavior analysis, now is the time to do it.  Becoming a Board Certified Behavior Analyst or a Registered Behavior Technician (RBT) could be the career you’ve always dreamed of – one where your work could be life-changing for so many families here in West Virginia.


People with autism matter to us here at MAP.  We need to fight for them – and do the hard work – even when it isn’t easy or comfortable.  They deserve the best, and we are dedicated to bringing about change to make that happen.


1 in 59 might sound like a small number to you – but when your child is that “one, ” it matters – and it’s worth the work, fight, blood, sweat, and tears.


As you reflect on the words of MLK Jr. today, I hope that they inspire you to speak up for the autism community in your area.  The time is now!




If you are interested in becoming a Friend of MAP and helping us in our crusade to bring life-changing ABA therapy to more children in the state of West Virginia, please reach out!  We would love to hear from you.  

Deidra Darst is a speech language pathologist, autism mom, and State Director of the Mountaineer Autism Project.

Parenting a Special Child

I doubt you really planned for this – special needs parenting.  You probably didn’t read books about “parenting autism” while you were pregnant or while you were waiting to adopt.  Most of us weren’t autism specialists, and some of us didn’t even know that autism existed.  Autism just wasn’t on your radar.

No, you were just a regular person.  You were a regular person who became a parent.  Then, suddenly, BOOM!  Your child received an autism diagnosis and you immediately became an autism parent.    

With that diagnosis of autism, you are immediately granted a special title:  special needs parent.

Now, you did nothing special to earn this title.  You never took and passed the “Welcome to Autism” course as presented by your pediatrician.  You don’t have exceptional patience, nor do you have remarkable knowledge or understanding about special needs or autism.  You aren’t uniquely equipped in any way. Sadly, you have no superpowers.  Bummer, right?!


So many times, we hear people say things like:

“I don’t know how you do it.”

“You are so strong, I couldn’t do what you do every day.”

“I wouldn’t have the patience or understanding to “deal with” a child on the spectrum.”


I believe that people mean well when they say these things.  Perhaps they admire you and the job that you are doing as you parent your child on the spectrum.  Sometimes though, as a parent on “this side of the fence,” these sayings can be frustrating.

We know that we aren’t special.  We don’t have all the answers.  We have days where we question every little decision.  Some days we cry and definitely don’t feel “strong,” as others might assume that we are.  You might even want to shout from the rooftops, “I’m not special!  I’m not any better equipped for this than any other parent!”  Again, we have no super-human, autism-parenting know-how…yet here we are.

I write this to encourage you.  On those days where you feel clueless, helpless, or otherwise less than that superpower persona that you think the world is holding you to…it’s okay.   Breathe.  You aren’t meant to be Super Mom or Super Dad.  You don’t have to know everything or be everything.  It is okay and normal if you don’t know all of the answers.


So how do we do it, you ask?

The answer is simple:  we love our children and will do whatever it takes to give them a happy, successful life.  That’s it.  We are just doing what every other parent in the world is doing – our “normal” is just a little different from that of neurotypical parenting.

We might not have the answers, but we find someone who does.  We seek out professionals – doctors, specialists, therapists.  Our days are filled with research and therapy.  We read books, scour the internet, and talk to other parents who have walked the autism path before us.

We have been given an extraordinary mission: to parent a child with a disability. We have been given a very important job, and we rise to the occasion. I have never thought myself “special,” but I was given a son who is.  I’ll do what it takes to give him his best life, to be successful and to be happy. I’ll sacrifice. I’ll love him. I’ll love him more than I love donuts… and I really love donuts.

Deidra Darst is a speech language pathologist, autism mom, and State Director of the Mountaineer Autism Project.

“Knowledge is only rumor until it lives in your bones.”

Deidra Darst is a speech language pathologist, autism mom, and State Director of the Mountaineer Autism Project.

“Knowledge is only rumor until it lives in your bones.”

The Asaro Tribe, Papua New Guinea

I recently read this quote, and it really resonated with me as an autism mom. At first reading, it might seem a little odd, but just think about it for a minute…knowledge is only rumor until it lives in your bones…

Don’t we all feel that way as parents to children with special needs? How often do we say, “Until you live it every day, you wouldn’t understand it.”

Maybe you thought you knew. Before you had kids, you knew of autism. Maybe you knew the clinical definition. Maybe you even knew someone with autism. Maybe you were like me and worked with children on the spectrum. You knew what it looked like, and you weren’t even taken aback by sensory issues or social communication deficits.

As a speech language pathologist, I worked with children on the spectrum. I could see autism traits in strangers at the grocery store…but until I lived it every day with my own son, I had no idea, really.

I had no idea that it’s work, day in and day out.

I had no idea that it can be a constant battle for services.

I had no idea that it’s sleepless nights and exhausted days that only strong doses of caffeine can manage.

I had no idea that it’s sudden attacks of worry about their future.

I had no idea it’s sometimes two steps forward and three steps back.

I had no idea that it’s occasionally jealousy and resentment when you see their typical same-aged peers do the things that your child cannot yet do.

I had no idea that everyday tasks can be so challenging.

I had no idea of the isolation you sometimes feel living this autism journey.

I had no idea just how expensive it can be.

Since the knowledge of autism now lives in my bones, I have learned some amazing things:

I know that an autism diagnosis doesn’t change your child or the love that you have for them.

I know that kids on the spectrum work harder than other human beings on the planet.

I know that every milestone is hard-earned and should be highly celebrated.

I know that the little things are truly big things.

I know that the people who dedicate their lives to helping these kids are real heroes.

I know that our world isn’t necessarily autism-friendly, and we need to work really hard to make it more so.

I know that this autism journey is often an uphill battle, but our kids are worth it and deserve the best.

So here is the knowledge that lives in our bones – may we know it, and use it for good.