Donna's Favorites

Mentoring as a Way to Teach Young Adults Social Competence

In this article from the website "One Place for Special Needs" describes the strategy of using a mentor for a young adult as a strategy for teaching social skills in real world settings. Dawn Villareal explains the role of the mentor and also interviews one of her son's mentors to help parents identify the qualities to look for in a mentor for their own child. She also describes how she set up her son's program and identifies specific resources parents can use to set up a program specific to their child's needs.

Read the article here

Setting Up Effective Parent-School Communication

Regular communication between parents of students with disabilities and their child’s teacher(s) can be critical to a student’s success. Margaret Oliver, a parent of a young adult with ASD and a K-2 teacher for students with ASD, has see this from both sides.  She has thought about this issue of two-way communication and developed the following resources to help. 

  • Page 1 is a review of the types of communication methods or practices that parents and teachers may use:  non-responsive, unstructured, plan-in-place, and overwhelming and how the communication might look from the parent and teacher’s perspective. 
  • Page 2 offers guidelines for parents and teachers for communicating under the three conditions:  Daily exchanges, exceptional circumstances, and conflict resolution.
  • Page 3 offers a checklist for effective parent/teacher communication that both parents and teachers can fill out to give both an idea of their communication preferences. Knowing these preferences, parents and teachers can develop a plan that aligns with their preferences and meets the information needs of both.
  • Page 4 provides an individual communication plan form that describe frequency and method of communication that will work for them. With this plan, parents and teachers can stay informed and know what to expect from the other regarding regular communication.

See if these resources can help you establish a suitable plan for your situation. Developing the best IEP for your child will not benefit your child if you and your child’s teacher cannot stay in touch about successes and challenges. Communication is the basis for working as a team.

Click below to download these forms for your own use, and thank you, Margaret for your thoughts!

Download PDF

Motivating Children and the Path of Least Resistance

Motivating your child with Asperger Syndrome is a common challenge parents face. This article by Dan Coulter, the parent of an son with Asperger Syndrome, is called Motivating and the Path of Least Resistance. It provides ideas beyond the typical "first do your homework and then you can play video games”  strategy that by itself may not be enough.  Coulter expands his advice to encompass a broader life lesson that can help your child take an important step toward maturity.  No strategy is fail-safe, but see if this may be an important and successful tool with your child. Check it out at:

Open Court Resource Guide: A Video Series

Going to court is unsettling. It is particularly unsettling for youth with special needs and for their parents. The purpose of this video series prepared by the The Ohio State Bar Foundation is to help parents and youth with special needs understand the court process.  The first video explains a person’s rights when they are apprehended by the police. The second explain the court process and who may be in the courtroom. The third video explains how to prepare for a court appearance and how to act inside the courtroom.  These three videos are helpful for parents and for young adults when a youth is involved with the legal system.

Choosing the Right Services for Your Adult with ASD

Choosing services for an adult family member with Autism Spectrum Disorder can be difficult for parents. They find themselves having to make decisions without knowing the range of issues they need to consider. Families want a service that reflects their family values and one that is designed to provide the supports required to help their son or daughter remain actively engaged. This tool, Quality Residential and Other Services for Adults with Autism Guide, provides a framework to help parents in making this important decision.

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The Family Crisis Handbook

How to cope when a loved one with a developmental disability experiences mental health or behavioral issues

This resources developed by professionals, parents and advocates in New Jersey provides families with service and treatment information and practical tips  so that they can more effectively advocate for their loved one during a behavioral crisis as well as planning for their future. While system information in this guide addresses services in New Jersey, it also identifies the roles of the many professionals families may encounter,  describes the types of medications that may be helpful, and provides support learning to advocate for appropriate services  for their family member.

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One Place for Special Needs

The website One Place for Special Needs has compiled web-based resources for families, educators and adults with disabilities who are interested in learning to drive. These weblinks include resources compiled previously and shared on the site. The first: The Driving Guide includes links to information ranging from Adaptive Driving and Driving with Autism to Traumatic Brain Injury and Driving. Driving Basics includes the addition of  links to free videos that on many facets of driving from becoming familiar with your vehicle to a guide for mirror adjustments and instruction on driving defensively.

Going To Work: A Guide to Social Security Benefits and Employment for Young People with Disabilities (2011 Edition)

Developed by the Institute for Community Inclusion, this booklet

  • Provides basic information about Social Security disability and health benefit programs
  • Tells what happens to Social Security disability and health benefits when a young person goes to work
  • Explains how to maximize a young person's options when he or she goes to work.

Young people and their families are in the best position to make choices about working when they have good information about the impact of work on benefits. The purpose of this booklet is to give families and professionals working with young people some practical, hands-on information about work incentives.

Tips to Help your Whole Family Enjoy the Holidays

Rethink Autism has made this helpful video available to show strategies for help prepare your child for the holidays. Take a look and see if some of these strategies can help your child navigate the many gatherings with new people and new activities that the holiday brings. Rethink Autism uses the video to introduce their parent-focused video-based lessons for teaching children with autism.

Ten Facts Parents and Educators Need to Know About Bullying

This link to an article on the website of PACER's National Bullying Prevention Center provides vital information to parents and educators about the likelihood of bullying for children with disabilities, the effect of bullying, and resources and strategies to that can be used to stop bullying. The site also provides additional resources to address the issue of bullying in the school environment

Dear Teachers and Parents: A Letter from a Student with Autism

With the beginning of school, it is helpful for us to look at school from the perspective of the children and youth that school is designed to educate. This letter from a student with autism identifies some of the "messages" educators need as a reminder as a new school year begins.

Understanding the IO Waiver’s Adult Family Living Service

Parents work hard to arrange residential supports ad services for their adult children with disabilities. This article by the Ohio Legal Rights Service provides important information on the Individual Options (IO) Waiver, explaining the Adult Family LIving Services provisions under the waiver. For those who have been grandfathered to allow them to continue accessing Home/Personal Care Services, it also identifies situations when that service agreement might changes.

What can parents and educators do to eliminate the use of restraint and seclusion?

Students with disabilities make up 70% of students who are subject to restraint and seclusion in schools. Often these children are between the ages of 6 and 10 years of age. Parents of children with disabilities whose exhibit challenging behavior  have reason to be concerned because restraint and seclusion can have serious consequences and there is no evidence to support that it is effective in reducing problem behavior.

The U.S. Department of Education has issued a new publication on Restraint and Seclusion: Resource Document. It outlines 15 principles for educators, parents, school districts and others to consider when developing policies and procedures to support positive behavioral interventions and avoid the use of restraint and seclusion. The goal is to make sure that schools are safe and healthy environments where all students can learn, develop and participate in programs that promote high levels of academic achievement.

If your child's behavior is a concern, help your district take a proactive approach in adopting the 15 principles and educating school personnel to prevent the need for the use of an ineffective and potentially dangerous response to challenging behavior.

Friendship Circle Blog

Learning the social rules is a complex task and it can be a challenge for children with special needs including those with autism spectrum disorders.  This blog provides a resources for parents and educators by identifying a wide variety of activities to help children learn to read social cues. This particular article list twelve specific activities that parents can engage in with their children to help them prepare for navigating the social world along with links to additional resources to explore  specific types of activities. The more we can engage with children in ways that are fun, the more easily they will be able to master the many nuances of successful social interaction.

Tools and strategies to create a Bully Free World for Children with Special Needs: The Special Needs Anti-Bullying Toolkit

This link will  provide a wealth of information and resources for parents concerned about their child being bullied, and for parents who are concerned because their child is the bully. The site includes resources for  Parents, for Educator, and for Students. You won't feel helpless when you see the resources collected here. The site provides links to video, including segments from the movie Bully. The websiteis result of the work of the National Center for Learning Disabilities, AbilityPath, PACER's National Bullying Prevention Center, and Autism Speaks. Find strategies, tools and books to help address the serious issue of bullying.

Resources to Address and Prevent Bullying

Parents who's children are bullied are very concerned and want to protect their children, but they don't know how. Schools have a legal responsibility to protect all children in schools and legal responsibility specifically to prevent bullying, but they often don't know how to address this very serious issues. There is a now a government resource that provides guidances to parents and to schools. It offers resources on prevention and responding to bullying when it occurs. If you're concerned about bullying, make sure you're armed with this information on bullying.

National Center for Learning Disabilities - Universal Design for Learning

Universal Design for Learning (UDL) is a concept that guides educators in reducing barriers some students face in achieving academic success. This article from the National Center for Learning Disabilities, introduces parents to the concept and provides guidance for all parents in advocating for child's access to fuller educational experience.

To find out about how OCALI supports Universal Design for Learning, check out this UDL Webinar.


More than 2.5 million grandparents find themselves raising their grandchildren. In addition, many of these grandparents find themselves facing the challenges of raising child with a disability and they are seeking resources to support their child's special education and health care needs. This website is a great resource.  AARP had joined with several collaborators to create a web resource for these "grand families" called GrandFacts. This page includes a number of helpful links including a Grand Families Guide. It also includes a feature that allows grandparents to identify resources specific to the state they live in.  If you are a grandparent and have questions about your role or would like to connect with others in the same situation, check out this AARP webpage:

One Place for Special Needs

This website provides an excellent service for families and service providers. Dawn Villarreal, the writer and owner of the site, scours the landscape to identify resources on particular topics relevant to the daily lives of those living with the challenges of disability. She does in-depth searching and creates a targeted resource list on specific topics like this one on toilet training. After you've reviewed this resource, check out the list of topics on the One Place for Special Needs  home page. It will keep you checking back regularly to see what has been added.

Complete Guide to Special Needs Toilet Training

Coulter Video

Dan Coulter provides a terrific resource for families and professionals through his website. Coulter Vides was started after Dan's son, Drew, was diagnosed with Asperger Syndrome. They have focused on creating programs designed to help Drew and others like him succeed in school, work, relationships, and life. Their programs offer practical advice that they have gained through their family's experiences and through research and interviews. They are a family-owned video publishing company specializing in programs to help people with Asperger Syndrome and autism and those who support them. They have years of experience in television production, first-hand knowledge of Asperger Syndrome, and a broad understanding of autism spectrum conditions.

In their article "Practical Praise, Motivation, and Self Control" Dan offers guidance to parents and teachers on motivating children with Asperger Syndrome and other spectrum disorders. I like his concept of  "Practical Praise" targeting those behaviors that are important for success in school and in the community. The idea of helping these children learn to "re-think" their view of mistakes is an important one too. I hope you enjoy this resource and please check out others available on Dan Coulter's website.

Check out his article Practical Praise, Motivation, and Self Control by clicking here.

Donna's Favorites is a weekly series of recommended resources geared towards the needs of families. Selections are made by Donna Owens, who leads the work in the OCALI Family Center. The views and opinions expressed in these resources are solely those of the resource author and do not represent the views or opinions of the Family Center and/or OCALI.