Back To School!

With the summer winding down, many school districts are getting ready to return to school. Many colleges and numerous school districts have already started the back-to-school routines. Many parents struggle with the task of getting their kids ready for the morning bell while some families enjoy the return to routines. The back-to-school series will focus on various aspects of helping families manage the challenges of school routines and finding the right mix between structured activities and the idle time that kids desperately need in order to just be kids. The first installment looks at the various schools that focus their curriculum on autism and designing a program that is best suited for the student with autism.


10 Impressive Special College Programs for Students with Autism

  • Drexel University Autism Support Program
  • Rutgers Developmental Disabilities Center
  • Mercyhurst College AIM Program
  • Midwestern State University
  • St. Joseph’s University Kinney Center
  • Boston University Supported Education Services
  • University of Alabama College Transition and Support Program
  • Autism Collaborative Center at eastern Michigan University
  • University of Connecticut SEAD Program
  • Marshall University Autism Training Center



10 Local Schools with Curriculums designed for students with Autism


  • A Step Up Academy – Jenkintown, PA
  • Autistic Endeavors Learning Center – Philadelphia, PA
  • Comprehensive Learning Center – Southampton, PA
  • Devereux Kanner/Kanner Cares – Downingtown, PA
  • Green Tree School & Services – Philadelphia, PA
  • NHS School – Philadelphia, PA
  • Pathway School – Norristown, PA
  • TALK Institute and School – Newtown Square, PA
  • The Melmark School – Berwyn, PA
  • The Timothy School – Berwyn, PA





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Back Yard Barbecues

This is the final installment in our summer series. We look at the summer-ending Labor Day picnics and offer ideas for a good time. The tips below will make your last summer hoorah a pleasant time for everyone.

  • Create a social story for your child to know who will be at the family picnic
  • Rehearse “taking turns” and “playing nice” with others
  • Plan to praise your child for managing his/her behaviors during difficult social situations
  • Try to keep your child in sight while he/she plays with others…you will want to intervene quickly if needed
  • Plan for short “quiet” breaks to manage the sensory overload that your child may be experiencing
  • Come with your child’s favorite snacks
  • Come with food prepared form home that you know your child likes
  • Prepare activity bags for your child
  • Pack ear plugs/head phones
  • Pack sunscreen and bug repellent
  • Have wipes on hand as needed
  • Remember to hydrate-drink plenty of water if spending time outside

Here are three recipes you may enjoy…


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On the Road or In the Air

This installment in our summer series will offer tips for summer traveling in the family vehicle or via an airplane. As I stated in the first installment, the key to a successful trip is preparation. I hope the tips below will make your journey a pleasant trip for everyone.

Tips for Long Car Rides

  • Prepare activity bags for
    your child
  • Consider a personal DVD player
  • Pack ear plugs/head phones
  • Pack favorite snacks and beverages
  • Have wipes on hand as needed
  • Pack their favorite pillow and clothing for the ride
  • Bring their favorite CDs and other media options to occupy their time
  • Bring activity books for use in restaurants…don’t forget the crayons
  • Let your son/daughter take photos of the journey…assist with a journal of the family vacation
  • Avoid rush hour traffic if possible
  • Add extra days, if feasible, to include overnights and relaxing by the pool

Tips for Air Travel



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Cheers to Your Summer Vacation

This installment in our summer series will offer tips for swimming at the neighborhood pool. This can be a fun activity for most kids as the water is a good way to “Cool Off” from the high temperatures. Hopefully the tips below will offer some assistance to make the trip to the pool an enjoyable activity for everyone!

  • Before entering the water, review the Rules of being safe in and around the water (e.g., Do not go into the water without an adult; No running around the pool area; No fighting or horse-play in or near the water.)
  • The water acts as a sensory activity for anyone deciding to play or swim in the pool or ocean. It can help someone on the spectrum as it may act as a calming activity for him/her.
  • Having music playing nearby can help as it acts as another sensory activity to help maintain calm while in the water.
  • Have water toys on hand to add to the enjoyment.
  • Be aware of the water temperature…too cold or too hot can have a negative impact for someone on the spectrum.
  • Have goggles handy in case the chlorine is too strong.
  • Bring water to drink and plenty of sunscreen!!!
  • Most importantly…ALWAYS remain nearby when your child is in the water…even if it’s shallow water.




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Summer Series Kickoff: Cheers to Your Summer Vacation!

Summer is upon us! For many families, vacations are planned, trips to the beach, and swimming at the neighborhood pool will be a new routine for the coming months. This can be a challenge for many families, but for those families with a family member on the spectrum, the challenges can be difficult to overcome. The following series will focus on summer activities and will offer tips to make every summer activity an enjoyable one for you and your family.

The first installment in this series will focus on the family vacation. Taking the family on a journey to a new and exciting location can be fun and memorable for everyone. Follow the tips below to minimize the stressors that sometimes are associated with traveling with the family:

  • Read everything you can about your destination location.
  • Preview videos and other materials available about your trip. Help your son/daughter with autism learn about what to expect once you arrive.
  • Research activities that are available and any schedules to consider in order to plan for your child’s success.
  • Prepare for your child’s needs and pack accordingly. For example, if you’re visiting a location that has loud noises associated with the destination, plan to bring along ear buds or a head set with his/her favorite music. If you’re visiting a location that has foods that your child may not enjoy, research other options in the area. Some resorts will have a refrigerator in your room to pack preferred food items for the trip.
  • If you’re vacation includes a trip to an amusement park, visit guest relations/services first in order to obtain additional information to make your visit a success
  • Plan for “down time” each day in order to manage the stressors.
  • If your vacation includes extended periods of driving, pack activity packets to keep everyone occupied during the journey.
  • Develop social stories to match the expected activities/events during the vacation.
  • If you’re planning to be in the sun…pack plenty of sunscreen.

In this summer vacation series, follow along as we discuss tips for use at the pool, traveling, and attending the backyard barbecues.

Happy 4th of July!


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Early Intervention Services Around the World- Happy Travels

KenCrest had the distinct pleasure of hosting a visitor from India last month. Radhika, pictured in this photo, visited our West Center and toured the facility. Debbie, also seen in the picture, is the Center’s Program Coordinator. Radhika was able to observe students in several classrooms and the various teachers conducting their lessons. In her classroom at The Little Champions, located in Kolkata, Radhika teaches children on the spectrum. While students at the West Center may have the same teacher for two or three consecutive years, students that Radhika teaches are likely to remain with her much longer. This level of consistency over time has proven successful for the students and Radhika as students on the spectrum tend to display greater degrees of academic growth with fewer changes in their life (Richmond, 2007).

 Data released by the CDC (2014) placed the prevalence of autism in the U.S. at approximately 1 in 68 children. No data are available from India to provide a specific estimate of prevalence, however, Radhika shared that the census at The Little Champions is always full.  

 We hope the remainder of Radhika’s stay in the U.S. is pleasurable and we welcome her for a return visit in the near future. Perhaps we can visit her school in Kolkata someday. Happy travels!

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Early Intervention Services Around the World

Special Education services in Russia date back to the early 19th century. Russian special educators learned from leading European countries and built their own standard of practice (Vodonos, 2012). Any services that were provided early on were supported by the church and private donations. Eventually, programs received support from their government. Early intervention services include parent education, training the parents to employ the educational interventions, child education, and home consultations. As in many countries, professionals in Russia consider the impact that a child’s communication has on his/her environment. Treatment goals are then designed around the child’s strengths to interact with his/her environment. Services in Russia were not always child-centered. In the mid-nineteenth century, many of the kids with special needs were sent to boarding institutions, isolating them from society. As services improve throughout Russia, kids with special needs are remaining with their families and receiving services in their homes and within their communities. This is a practice that has been common in the United States for many years.

We had a wonderful visit from a special educator from India this week. You  can look forward to reading that story in the near future.



  • Vodonos, I. (2012). A Policy Analysis of Russia’s Proposed Special Education Standards. University of Washington.
  • International Society on Early Intervention (ISEI),


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Early Intervention Services Around the World

Issues relevant to early intervention transcend national boundaries. The rapidly expanding knowledge base of early intervention is the product of contributions from researchers, clinicians, program  developers, and policy-makers from numerous countries. Communication within and across national boundaries of these advances has improved in recent years due to technological innovations, greater availability of journals and reports, as well as increased interest in international organizations.

Here is a look at Early Intervention in other countries:

  • In Germany, EI services are offered from 0-6 years-old and the parental role in the service is Family-Centered.
  • The ECI (Early Childhood Intervention) in Bavaria established a National Centre of Early Aid (Nationales Zentrum fur Fruhe Hilfen). Their focus is on early detection of children at risk and supporting families in difficult social-economic situations (ECI, 2009).
  • The ECI centers in Switzerland focus 0-7 years-old and the parental role is Parents as Partners. Support for the services comes from government funding and public services.


The Council for Exceptional Children (CEC) has a division (DISES) to coordinate EI services outside the United States. Their Mission Statement:

The Division of International Special Education and Services (DISES), a division of the Council for Exceptional Children, promotes knowledge, exchange, collaboration, human rights and advocacy to those who provide services for individuals with disabilities.

In the coming weeks, we will continue to examine the differences of EI services as they are provided around the world.


  • Early Childhood Intervention – Progress and Developments 2005-2010.
  • Guralnick, M.J. (2011). Why Early Intervention Works: A Systems Perspective. Infants & Young Children, 24(1), 6-28.
  • International Society on Early Intervention (ISEI),

About the author: Dan Thrash, M.A. has been working for KenCrest for 20 years. He has been working with people with autism for over 30 years. He is the father of three sons and a professor of Special Education.

About the author: Dan Thrash, M.A. has been working for KenCrest for 20 years. He has been working with people with autism for over 30 years. He is the father of three sons and a professor of Special Education.
About the author: Dan Thrash, M.A. has been working for KenCrest for 20 years. He has been working with people with autism for over 30 years. He is the father of three sons and a professor of Special Education.
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Early Intervention Services Around the World

Throughout the month of April, we have examined the early intervention services provided in our own communities. Early intervention services vary as you travel around the globe. In the coming weeks, we will look at a few differences in the way a child receives services and the varying ways the family participates in services for their child. Later in the month, we will host a visiting special education teacher from India. I trust she will be able to share her views on early intervention as she visits our KenCrest center in West Philadelphia.

Differences in culture are apparent as you travel around the world. Culture provides a framework for understanding the values and expectations in the context of early intervention. How a specific culture views their youth will determine the values placed on early intervention.

Professional perception of the role of parents in Early Intervention over the past fifty years in Europe has changed slowly but inexorably. From seeing them as being ‘important’ in an ill-defined way, through a ‘partnership’ which was mainly conducted on the professionals terms, to a more equal though sometimes uneasy partnership (Buultjens, 2000).

EI services in North America take place from birth to three years of age. However, in many European countries the duration of intervention carries through until the student enters the school system.

In the coming weeks, we will examine the differences of EI services as they are provided around the world.


  • Buultjens, M. (2000). Low Vision in Early Intervention Services for Children with Visual Impairment in Europe.…/08-16.doc
  • Early Childhood Intervention Analysis of Situations in Europe,

About the author: Dan Thrash, M.A. has been working for KenCrest for 20 years. He has been working with people with autism for over 30 years. He is the father of three sons and a professor of Special Education.

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A Mothers Voice-as an Educator and Parent

As a parent, we only want what is best for our children and we quickly learn that we are their only voice.  Brandon was born at the end of October and at our 2 month check-up with the doctor, I expressed concerns that I had.  I had noticed he was tight on his right side (his arm and leg were more stiff when I changed him), right tilt of his neck and a very visible flat spot on the back of his head.  I asked the doctor what she thought and she just nodded and said “well maybe..”  I asked her if it warranted a call to Early Intervention and she said it was up to me.  I was really looking for someone to tell me what to do since you are just figuring everything out for the first time as a new parent.  But then I remembered that I am Brandon’s only voice.  I placed a call that afternoon to Early Intervention of Montgomery County and 2 weeks later had an evaluation in my home for Brandon.  It was determined from the evaluation that yes, Brandon had Torticollis and we had Physical Therapy, 1x/week.

Chris Lewis, our Physical Therapist has been monumental in Brandon’s development.  Brandon had a tilt to his right side and his Torticollis was also related to his Reflux.  She provided suggestions and strategies on a weekly basis and my husband and I were like sponges!  We wanted to do EVERYTHING that she recommended.  There was one session in particular that she showed me a football hold that we could show my husband to make him feel more involved since he was not there for the sessions.  He tried the position that night and was so excited that he was practicing with Brandon.  I was involved for the first 2 months for his sessions because I was still home on Maternity Leave.  Chris also took a picture of the position so that I could use it to show him and model.  We also received our session notes electronically and it is great because I am able to send them to other family members and my husband to keep them updated on Brandon’s progress!  A few weeks later, she discussed ways of making Brandon more independent while I did activities around the home.  We had a fancy highchair still in the box and Chris recommended a feeding chair that was more appropriate and we could use it earlier b/c it would fit him better.  HE LOVED THE CHAIR and being able to play with his toys!  I loved it because my arms and hands were free to prepare dinner!!!  Chris learns about your routine as a family and builds strategies around what you do during the day.  Now that I am back to work, I send Chris updates about Brandon before his session so she knows what we have been working on and all the new things he is doing, trying  and learning.  There is always ongoing communication which I value as a mommy!!!

Most recently, we had our quarterly review and Brandon is doing EXCELLENT.  There is no visible tilt and the flat spot on his head is unnoticeable!!  Our service frequency has been decreased to 1x/month from 1x/week already!!!  Early Intervention, Kencrest and Chris Lewis are the key reasons why Brandon made such a huge leap in development.  I just think that if I didn’t make that call in January, we would probably just be starting the process after his 6 month checkup and the diagnosis of Torticollis could have prolonged his development in rolling, sitting and other future milestones.  He is also thoroughly enjoying sitting like a big boy in the store carts now thanks to the green light from Chris.  I was telling her how much he loves to see what is happening when we are shopping and she recommended that we try letting him sit in the cart.  We tried it that night and as you can see from the picture, he was a big FAN!!!  Thank you for all you do and the positive impact you have on so many young lives!!! Continue reading

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