By Astrid Liddel
Finding someone with high-functioning autism to interview for my blog was surprisingly difficult. People don’t tend to advertise their autism, so you can imagine how excited I was to have the opportunity to interview Sean Barron about his inspirations and advice to young people with autism—particularly young writers!
Sean is a journalist for The Youngstown Vindicator in Ohio, as well as an author of two well-known books about autism: There’s a Boy In Here: Emerging from the Bonds of Autism (co-authored with his mother), and Unwritten Rules of Social Relationships: Decoding Social Mysteries through the Unique Perspectives of Autism (co-authored with Temple Grandin). He has been publicly speaking at autism conferences about his experiences since 1992. The following is a transcript of our interview.
Astrid Liddel: How has autism affected your life?
Sean Barron: I had a lot of the classic symptoms of autism: unusual preoccupation with objects, manipulation of objects, very little empathy. I had a lot of speech and language delays. Social skills were challenging because I didn’t learn that as a young child. I had a lot of dietary problems. I had a lot of sensory overload things, and that impacted my diet.
AL: Has being autistic impacted how you write and speak?
SB: I don’t think it does today. I learned all those things in-depth as I worked my way through my autism. There was a time when autism didn’t impact my life a whole lot. The same is true of my ability to speak in public. By the time I became more proficient at those two skills, I had made tremendous progress in terms of healing. I worked hard to try to connect to the world.
AL: What inspires you to write and speak?
SB: In the early 90s, I made a lot of headway. I have come a long way battling my autism. I started feeling better about myself. I approached my mother about writing a book. Rain Man came out two years earlier, so autism was more known. I decided I wanted to try to write about it and, hopefully, use what I went through as a source of inspiration for people. Mom was reluctant at first; then I convinced her to try it. We wrote the book from our own perspectives, and it came together over time.
AL: What advice do you have for young autistic people?
SB: I really shy away from giving advice, because I don’t feel like I’m an authority on autism. It’s important to not define yourself by a label, because fifty years ago, when I was diagnosed, autism was a terrible thing to have. Now people on the spectrum are given positive things and making an impact. It’s important to strive to do what you feel is purposeful; the things that we all need. People with autism are just as capable as neurotypicals and can have an impact in the world. Think that way as opposed to being defective.
AL: Do you have any specific techniques to manage your autism?
SB: I don’t have any, because it doesn’t impact my life. When I was going through it, I tried a lot of ways. Nowadays I don’t feel like I have to do anything insofar as keeping it under control. I’ve really worked at learning social skills. It is a process, like learning to play a musical instrument or a sport. You work at it and become more proficient at it. They have that in common, in my opinion. The more you dedicate yourself to it, the better you become at it.
AL: Do you have specific advice for aspiring writers?
SB: Writing is also a process. If you want to write, start writing. It doesn’t have to be anything magnificent or a bestseller. Find what your passions are. As far as writing, the first thing is to take notice of what you feel passionate about. If you don’t feel [an] interest, then it will catch up with you sooner or later. Writing is about being able to effectively convey your perspectives of something in a way that other people can relate to and understand. If I’m not interested, I’m not going to write about it. Even if I have a lot of knowledge, if it’s not interesting, the lack of interest will catch up to me.
AL: How have you grown over your career?
SB: I’ve become a better writer. I’ve had people say my writing is distinctive and know I’ve written something without seeing I wrote it. I’ve become more outward-thinking and socially aware; more interested in other people [rather] than in just talking about myself. When I had [more severe] autism, I was very self-focused because I tried to make sense of the world. Now I feel more in tune with other people. I hate to see people suffer or go through bad experiences. It’s much more about reaching something greater than myself.
Astrid Liddel is a CBS staff member and blogger publishing under a pseudonym.
©2018 by Center for Behavioral Sciences, Inc. All rights reserved.
On Saturday, September 29th, we celebrated Center for Behavioral Sciences’ 14th anniversary and the grand opening of our new 4,100 sq. foot Irvine office, with a gathering of clients and staff!✨🎊 Our new main office is just across the street from CBS’ Intensive Treatment Center. It features five large treatment rooms (including a dedicated space for social skills groups for autism); and conference facilities for workshops, as well as for parent and staff training.
At the party, CBS staff started a new tradition with the “Wall of Publications,” featuring peer-reviewed publications by CBS’ Director, Dr. Joyce Tu, Clinical Director, Dr. Shaji Haq, and an up-and-coming CBS clinical staffer (soon-to-be Behavior Consultant), Dr. Fahad Alresheed. It’s exciting to work with people so driven to advance the science of behavior analysis, and so dedicated to CBS’ primary mission: To enrich the lives of individuals with developmental disabilities through cutting-edge, research-driven behavior analytic services!
We’re excited to announce our newest service for CBS clients: Social Skills Groups for Autism! 🙌 🎉 Our group sessions are happening now, in our Main Irvine Office! Mastering social skills can profoundly improve life for those with social deficits—particularly in the ability to make and maintain friendships, and to participate in school and the workforce.
Our social skills groups for autism typically last between two and four hours, and take place by appointment only (depending on staff and client availability) on weekdays between 9:00 a.m. and 6:00 p.m. Group sessions are a great way to have fun and interact while learning social skills in a supervised, controlled setting.
A functional behavior assessment is usually a prerequisite, to confirm whether the program fits each client’s needs and goals. So before you begin, please contact us to speak with one of our supervising Board Certified Behavior Analysts to discuss your situation. Or to learn more about whether this service might be right for you or your loved one, you can also check out our social skills groups for autism page!
By Shaji Haq, Ph.D., BCBA-D
Over the past twenty years, applied behavior analysis (ABA) treatment providers for children with developmental disabilities—particularly autism spectrum disorder (ASD)—have multiplied exponentially. But ABA treatment facilities for adults are sparse. This is a tragedy; we’re often stopping short when treatment is still critical, and in some cases, even more so.
Many factors may have contributed to the increase in children’s ABA providers (e.g., Lovaas’ seminal study on the effectiveness of early intensive behavioral intervention in 1987, mandated insurance coverage, and funding and research for ASD treatment), but this increase addresses only part of the issue. Students with ASD often “age-out” of school systems or ABA agencies, leaving families with limited options—limited in terms of effective treatment, and limited in helping loved ones access services which are critical to independent, adult functioning.
Adult clients may lack the skill to participate in vocational or community integration programs. For example, adults with ASD who cannot successfully participate in community programs might have severely limited communication skills, difficulty managing personal hygiene, or display severe behavioral inflexibility (e.g., insistence on sameness of routines) that can be barriers to those programs. Many of these individuals also display problem behavior, such as aggression and self-injury, which often excludes them from participation.
Without ABA services to improve skills and treat behavior problems, the situation may seem bleak. But it doesn’t have to be. The key to ABA treatment is always identifying the cause of behavior. Experimental functional analyses (Iwata et al., 1982/1994), also commonly referred to as Functional Analysis Assessments (FAAs), are the gold standard for identifying the function, or purpose, of problem behavior for individuals (regardless of age) with developmental disabilities.
FAAs are an area of service CBS has begun to provide, which is not commonly found in Southern California. Our FAAs use rigorous data collection systems and research-based experimental design. Since 2004, Center for Behavioral Sciences has emphasized teaching individuals of all ages with developmental disabilities to reach greater levels of independence, and our new FAA program is a great step forward.
While an FAA and any behavior intervention translates to vastly different outcomes across individuals, at Center for Behavioral Sciences, we believe that older clients must be recognized as an equally-important population to children with ASD. Adult treatment goals may range from basic activities of daily living to more advanced skills, such as time management, decision making, how to use public transportation, and vocational training.
Iwata, B. A., Dorsey, M. F., Slifer, K. J., Bauman, K. E., & Richman, G. S. (1994). Toward a functional analysis of self-injury. Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, 27, 197-209. doi: 10.1901/jaba.1994.27-197 (Reprinted from Analysis and Intervention in Developmental Disabilities, 2, 3-20, 1982).
Lovaas, O. I. (1987). Behavioral treatment and normal educational and intellectual functioning in young children with autism. Journal of Consultation and Clinical Psychology, 55, 3-9. doi: 10.1037/0022-006X.55.1.
Disclaimer: This article is for general information only, and is not intended as legal or medical advice. Individual circumstances and outcomes vary, and the statements in this article may not apply to you. Please contact your health care provider or attorney regarding any specific issue or problem. The opinions expressed in this post are the opinions of the individual author and may not reflect the opinions of CBS.
©2018 by Center for Behavioral Sciences, Inc. All rights reserved.
This Month Marks CBS’ 14th Anniversary!
Founded in 2004, Center for Behavioral Sciences started with Dr. Joyce Tu’s vision of changing lives and empowering individuals with developmental disabilities through a commitment to research-driven behavior analysis. It was a commitment that endured, and it’s been quite a ride! CBS has grown to over 100 employees state-wide, providing quality behavior analysis and consulting services in California and beyond.
We’re proud of the work we do, and our staff who make it possible. In recent years, CBS staff have gone over and above—not only providing direct service to our clients but contributing original research, and presenting ABA workshops nationally and worldwide in places like Romania, China and Bahrain. This year, as part of its ongoing commitment to staff development, CBS deepened its reach locally with three new offices in San Diego, Irvine and Rancho Cucamonga, including two new staff training facilities.
In the coming years, we hope to do even better–with expanded capacity and the addition of our new Intensive Treatment Center, which opens this month. CBS is now one of the few behavior analysis agencies in Southern California offering functional analysis assessments, which are the modern standard for both clinical research and practice. This is what we call exciting!
We want to thank our clients and community for your continued support. It is you who have made CBS possible, and we look forward to more great strides together!
We’re excited to announce that effective September 1, 2018, CBS opens its fourth office, now including two treatment centers in Irvine! CBS has converted its original main office to an intensive treatment center with facilities for in-depth functional analysis assessments (FAAs) located at 17911 Sky Park Circle, Suite E, Irvine, CA 92614. You can also visit our more expansive new main office just across the street at 17802 Sky Park Circle, Suite 108.
CBS is one of the few behavior analysis agencies in California offering FAAs. This approach to assessment and treatment has been hailed as one of the most significant advancements in behavior analysis in 30 years, and it is the modern standard for both clinical research and practice. We’re thrilled to be able to serve our communities even better than before!
Our new main office will also be the primary location for CBS’ upcoming social skills groups, also beginning in September! Mastering social skills can profoundly improve life for those with social deficits—particularly in the ability to make and maintain friendships, and to participate in school and the workforce. We love making a difference in our clients’ lives!
With all of the focus on center-based programs, you might ask, why center-based? Although both home- and center-based programs can be effective depending on the circumstances, recent research suggests that those receiving center-based services demonstrate higher rates of learning. (Dixon, et al., 2017.) More information about the advantages of specialized center-based programs is available from the Association for Science in Autism Treatment. Or if you would like to learn more about the CBS team and our services, please feel free to contact us or follow the menu above.
Dixon, D., Burnes, C., Granpeesheh, D., Amarasinghe, R., Powell, A. & Linstead, E. (2017). A program evaluation of home and center-based treatment for autism spectrum disorder. Behavior Analysis in Practice, 10, 307-312. doi: 10.1007/s40617-016-0155-7.