Autism Awareness Centre – upcoming conference in Ottawa!

We wanted to let our readers know about an upcoming autism conference in Ottawa that is going to be amazing for parents, teachers and professionals alike!

Autism Awareness Centre is presenting a 2 day conference on March 25 and 26 at the National Gallery of Canada on Sussex Drive.

Tickets can be purchased directly on the Autism Awareness Centre’s website. Please note that the early bird price is available until March 8th so get yours early!

And now for the amazing line up of speakers!

Monday, March 25
Catherine Faherty

From Asking for Help…to Self-Advocacy…to Self-Determination
catherine-fahertySelf-determination, the process by which a person makes his or her own decisions, is a currently a popular subject in schools, universities, and in disability support services. Professionals and families who value the process of self-determination wholeheartedly desire to have their students, children, and clients participate in self-determination. The problem is that most parents and professionals, usually being non-autistic, may not realize that they have unconscious assumptions about underlying skills, such as asking for help and self-advocacy; both required skills in the process of self-determination. These assumptions may not take into account the unique needs for unique support and accommodations specific to their autistic students, family members, or community members. Features inherent in an autistic style of thinking and learning must be acknowledged and proactively planned for when expecting children and adults to speak up for themselves: to ask for help, to self-advocate, and to become fully engaged in self-determination. It is much more than asking a child for what he wants – and expecting him to answer authentically; or routinely extending an invitation to a teenager to participate in her I.E.P. meeting; or waiting for an adult to express a particular need for assistance in the community.

This workshop will break down some of the basic skills needed for true self-determination, and evaluate them according to how to teach these skills to your ASD students over time. Guided by her experience as a TEACCH teacher, therapist, and author; together with what she has learned from listening to the autistic community, Catherine Faherty will suggest strategies for parents, teachers, and therapists as they work with children, teens, and adults, with the goal of laying a foundation for self-determination. This presentation is meant to cover a wide range of functioning levels and ages, with suggestions on how to assess and individualize the strategies when indicated.

Catherine Faherty One of the pioneers in the University of North Carolina’s TEACCH Program, first created a model TEACCH classroom in the mid-1980’s, and has served individuals with autism, their families, and professionals, as a TEACCH autism specialist and teacher trainer from 1990 to 2012. She has written training manuals, including the TEACCH Structured Teaching Self-Assessment: Guides to Individualizing the Schedule and Work System. Catherine’s first groundbreaking book Asperger’s…What Does It Mean To Me? promotes self-understanding for children and youth, encouraging mutual understanding within their families, schools, and communities. Her book, Understanding Death and Illness and What They Teach About Life, was awarded The 2009 Book of the Year by the Autism Society of America, is an interactive guide for individuals with ASD and their loved ones. In her book, Communication: What Does It Mean To Me? she teaches how to avoid misunderstanding and improve communication between spectrum and non-spectrum communication partners. Catherine Faherty, as a member of Carol Gray’s Team Social Stories, is one of five worldwide authorized trainers of Social Stories (TM).

Visit to learn more about her services and books; download articles for parents and teachers with practical strategies; and learn about her exciting new offering, TAG: The Autism Gathering and its upcoming April 2013 retreat/workshop for autistic adults, near Asheville, North Carolina.


Tuesday, March 26
Stephanie Madrigal

Informal Dynamic Social Thinking Assessment and Core Treatment Strategies for Home and School
Madrigal_StephanieThis workshop is designed to help parents and professionals better understand the inner minds of individuals with social learning challenges. We introduce the Informal Dynamic Social Thinking Assessment, a tool described in Michelle’s book, Thinking About YOU Thinking About ME, 2nd Edition. IDST assessments are not only useful as part of the initial or three-year testing process. Instead, this type of assessment can be done on an ongoing basis to gauge students’ abilities and needs across time. The IDST is invaluable in learning more about the way our children/students think, and how their social thinking deficits affect them. This, in turn, illuminates why they need direct teaching of social concepts and arms us with relevant knowledge to determine specific treatment strategies that are best aligned with their needs. Video clips of the informal assessment will demonstrate ways in which all of us (diagnosticians, parents, paraprofessionals, treatment clinicians, etc.) can work more effectively with this population.

This is a day filled with very practical information! In the afternoon, participants will learn about Social Behavior Mapping. SBM is a visual teaching strategy which demonstrates how doing what is “expected” or “unexpected” in specific social situations impacts how those around us feel about our behaviors and how that, in turn, impacts how they treat us, and ultimately how we feel about ourselves. This technique is now widely embraced as a core Social Thinking concept used for all students. Rounding out the day, basic concepts and ideas will be presented for running Social Thinking groups as well as specific teaching strategies that help make the abstractions of the social world more concrete! We will delve into how we make friends, distinguishing between:

1) “being friendly,”
2) developing a friendship
3) having a “bonded friend.”

We will discuss how conversational skills are only one component to keeping friends; “hanging out” actually means we share space without necessarily talking! Parents and professionals give high praise for the practical nature of this workshop. Information presented concentrates on students with near normal to far above normal verbal intelligence (verbal IQs above 70). Most strategies focus on school-age children and adults, although the information is helpful for those living and working with younger children.


1. Participants will be able to describe how to assess “thinking with your eyes” and how this is different from identifying what some one is looking at.
2. Participants will be able to describe the core components of the “Double Interview” and explain how it helps assess perspective taking.
3. Participants will be able to describe how to fill out each of the four columns on Social Behavior Maps.
4. Participants will be able to describe the Four Steps of Communication as a primary component to assessing and treating social skill deficits.
5. Participants will be able to define at least three different stages of making friends and how to teach students to advance from one stage to the next.
6. Participants will discuss how to teach nonverbal ways of maintaining a friendship when peers “hang out”.

Stephanie Madrigal MS, CCC-SLP is a speech-language pathologist and senior therapist at the Social Thinking Center. She has worked alongside Michelle Garcia Winner since 2003. She graduated in 1993 with a BA degree in Speech Pathology and Audiology from San Jose State University and completed her MA degree in Speech Pathology from the same university in 1995.

Known for her warm, friendly rapport with her students and their families, Stephanie runs Social Thinking groups for a variety of ages of clients with social cognitive deficits, develops therapeutic and educational products related to teaching Social Thinking, and conducts Dynamic Social Thinking Assessments with clients ranging from five years old to adults. She was instrumental in developing and implementing an Internship Certification Program servicing educators around the world, conducts trainings to enhance and implement social cognitive teachings in school districts in the San Jose area, provides intensive training to educators participating in the Social Thinking Center’s three-day Mentor Program, and conducts workshops for parents and educators on topics related to Social Thinking.

A creative therapist who infuses humor and fun into teaching, Stephanie co-authored, with Winner, Superflex: A Superhero Social Thinking Curriculum (2007) and has continued to co-author related Superflex comic books: Superflex Takes on Glassman and the Team of Unthinkables (2009), and Superflex Takes on Brain Eater and the Team of Unthinkables (2012). Educators and parents have praised Superflex and “the power of this cartoon character,” who when paired with the Social Thinking curriculum, teaches students to build their own superflexible thinking skills to overcome the thoughts that are causing them trouble. Comic books on other Unthinkables are in the works.


Coverage for Autism wait times in Ottawa!

I was thrilled today to hear all the great coverage by the CBC. It started this morning during my commute when I heard the interview on CBC Ottawa Morning. Unfortunately I missed CBC Ottawa at 6 on TV. Hopefully I can watch it from their website!


It seems autism and the wait times in Ontario are getting some attention. This is good news.

Lets keep the momentum going friends!

Here are links to the two stories on CBC from today:going! Keep spreading the word. Write to the Auditor and the Ombudsman. Tell them your story.

Please help The Gloucester Association for Children with Special Needs!

Dear Friends of AAO:

This past week we heard that there will be no more funding from the City of Ottawa for the “Around the Campfire” program run by The Gloucester Association for Children with Special Needs.


Last year when my daughter was diagnosed, we started becoming a part of all the autism related emailing lists around Ottawa. I remember when I received an email about the “Around the Campfire” program and thinking how great I thought it was and how when my daughter was older I would definitely want her to be involved in it!! Therefore, I am quite frustrated and sorry to hear that the city has decided not to fund it.

Please take a moment to read the letter below from Joanne, the Director of Gloucester Association for Children with Special Needs. Hopefully you will take a minute to write to your City Councillor and/or the Mayor and ask them to reconsider. Remember – “Never underestimate the power of a small group of committed people to change the world. In fact, it is the only  thing that ever has.” (Margaret Mead)


Last week my husband, David attended the year end budget meeting for Gloucester Association for Special Needs (GACSN). Two city reps attended the meeting and announced that ATC would not be funded after the Spring session. When David told me the news I has shocked and very angry. I didn’t sleep that night! I sent out a quick notice to WIMS – a parent group – to inform the public. Some parents have written the mayor and city councillors and this seems to have lit a fire under the City staff.

I spoke with Diane Cyr today, she works with the city’s Special Needs department. She informed me that the city would possibly be coming up with some money but we will be lucky if we only get enough to fund two sites. I had to cancel Orleans for the winter session due to low numbers. Central and Kanata have waiting lists. I informed GACSN and the city that there is a strong interest/need in Barrhaven.

My husband’s philosophy is to strike while the iron is hot. If more parents write letters expressing their thoughts we may be able to get more funding. Your letters should speak to the city’s decision to cut Around the Campfire, and to the fact that so little is offered to our kids who have high needs. I would love to share the letters that have been sent to date…I will need consent from the parents, staff and grandmother who wrote the letters. Believe me you would cry. Around the Campfire is a program that offers our little guys an opportunity to be themselves, to laugh and have fun. The staff love working with the kids and I know the kids love the program.

Thursday night I cried. I don’t cry very often but I found myself crying because my two little ones don’t play with toys, they come home from school and hang out with David, Stella and me. They don’t have play dates….I can’t really buy them gifts other than clothes. Their world is so small!

I created this program for them and for all of your kids and all of the other kids out there like Jackson and Ferne. It makes me terribly sad to think that the city cannot fund a little program like ATC.

To those of you who have written letters, thank you from the bottom of my heart. I urge other parents to write letters….We are a minority but our voices can be heard.

Joanne Small-Greenall

ATC Director

Parent of 3 amazing kids