The Hope Source
autism self regulation

Behavior modification isn’t about controlling the behavior of others.
When it comes to “managing” or modifying the difficult or undesirable behavior of another, we walk a fine line between attempting to control the actions of another and guiding their behavior in a different direction. How do we guide someone else’s behavior? We use our own behavior as a means of facilitating behavioral change. We guide someone in modifying their behavior by modeling behavior that demonstrates we are able to manage our emotions and, thus, our actions in a challenging situation. It is in repeatedly observing our actions that model competency that teaches the less-skilled individual how to successfully manage his or her own emotional response to a stimulus. By teaching someone how to successfully and skillfully utilize their own inner resources, we are able to facilitate lasting change.
The best way to learn how to facilitate change in others is to first facilitate change within ourselves.
How do we react under pressure? At what times do we feel most challenged? To what degree do we allow ourselves to become overwhelmed by the stresses of life? What situations cause us to feel incompetent or unable to control our emotions? How do we self-soothe to get back to our baseline level of functioning? What works for us and what doesn’t?
Understanding what triggers us to react and behave a certain way and, subsequently, how we respond, is the only way to successfully model a desired behavior for someone else. Being non-reactive is not a natural state for most of us; we must consciously focus on maintaining and regulating our own emotional response to external circumstances and this must be practiced. By managing our own emotional and physiological responses to the behavior of another, we are able to embody a sense of stability, consistency and confidence that is much needed when someone else is exhibiting challenging behaviors.
Control thyself; That is the fundamental component of understanding our approach to behavioral modification. 🙂
written by Sarah Corey, MA 


Read more about our approach to ABA on our Resources page!

Autism Resources

autism and environmental overstimulation

autism and overstimulation

The Purple Philosophy

Autism and Environmental Overstimulation

Whether you have a child or know someone on the spectrum, understanding a few things about autism and environmental overstimulation is crucial to a successful interaction. Environment can make or break an individual’s success. If a child with autism is struggling to engage or is escalating into fight or flight, before you respond consider the surroundings.

Take a look around…what is the surrounding environment like? Are you in a busy or high traffic area? Is it noisy? Are there other people around? Is it possible the lights too bright? Do the walls contain images filled with colors and words and pictures? Can people pass through at any moment? Is the ceiling high and echoey? Might there be background noise that is distracting like a loud fan, a noisy appliance or a buzzing light fixture? Any or all of these factors can increase anxiety and aggression for someone on the spectrum which impacts the ability to learn or remain regulated for quality engagement.

When you are teaching a skill or even just engaging with someone on the spectrum, it is crucial to start in a low-stimulatory environment. Of course what is “low-stim” for one person is going to differ and be somewhat specific to each individual. One person may be able to handle a moderate amount of background noise while being highly put off by light or smell, for example, and another person may be extremely sensitive to noise. You must know the person with whom you are seeking to engage. If you do not know him or her very well, always choose the least stimulating environment.

Don’t forget that you are stimulating, too. Your mannerisms, way of speaking, tone of voice, your overall demeanor and affect are all factored into the equation. So, when with someone on the spectrum, keep verbal communication to a minimum. As they begin to grow competent in the role or skill you are teaching, even if it’s just turn-taking in a general conversation, gradually increase the complexity of the environment over a period of days, weeks or months depending on the individual.

Want to read more?

  1. To read the latest THS posts, go here:
  2. To learn more about how we set up our environments, look here:
  3. For information about the Dynamic 12, click here:

The Purple Philosophy: Social Communication 

When it comes to ASD and social communication, supporting social interaction is an important piece of the puzzle. At The Hope Source, we recognize that offering safe, supportive opportunities for students to engage in age-appropriate peer interaction facilitates growth and leads to competence. Fostering social competence is reliant on honing the skills of social referencing and reciprocity.
In order to engage in a social interaction, a person needs to be able to take another’s perspective and adjust the interaction accordingly. One of the challenges faced by individuals with autism is an overall lack of awareness of the feelings and emotional states of others and failure to pick up on nonverbal cues like facial expressions, inflection and intonation of voice.
We often see that a child or adolescent on the spectrum is failing in traditional school environments, not because of academic content, but because the social environment and demands in social cognition and social communication are so high.
Individuals with ASD often do not understand why friendships are not developing or how to recognize and repair the breakdown. This leads to anxiety surrounding school and thus, impacts academic success. By creating an environment in which students on the spectrum can explore peer interaction and develop academic skills, The Hope Source and Dynamic Minds Academy offers the best of both worlds!
Aristotle knew and we agree; Both are critical to education and long term quality of life.


Want more information? Here’s a start:

  1. To read the most recent Purple Philosophy blog post, click here:
  2. For more information about social communication and how it relates to autism and the D12, click here:
  3. To learn how to use simple games to practice nonverbal communication with your child, click here:



episodic memory

The Purple Philosophy: Episodic Memory 

When a child experience success, they develop memories that they can retrieve when faced with similar situations. This is called Episodic Memory – one of our memories impacted by ASD.

When you have experiences that are meaningful, they become a part of you. And when something is a part of you, you can more readily access it to apply it to your past, present and future experiences. Episodic Memory gives you sense of self; It gives you roots.

When a behavior intervention has a strong Episodic Memory focus as its internal reinforcement, then generalization isn’t a problem. If you are able to retrieve meaningful past experiences and apply them to your current situation, competence increases, problem solving increases and anxiety decreases.

Can you imagine if you didn’t have strong Episodic Memory? EVERY experience would be NEW! And thus, quite scary.

Intervention must focus on helping an individual discover what is important (the treatment goal in this case) from an experience. Then, continue to help them relate, retrieve and reapply what they learned in SIMILAR experiences that they encounter. Over time, they will begin to build a sense of self and the competence to tackle any situation they encounter.

Want more information? Here’s a start:

  1. To read the most recent Purple Philosophy blog post, click here:
  2. For more information about episodic memory and how it relates to autism and the D12, click here:

The Purple Philosophy: What does regulation sound like?

Shhh. Don’t disrupt the mindful engagement!

When someone is regulated their mind and body is attending, organizing and processing environmental, emotional and cognitive information appropriately.

When someone is regulated, they will be more confident and competent as solving functional problems and adjusting to social demands.

We can observe this confidence/competence objectively; The body is still, the mind is focused and the heart is trusting in the partner or the process.

Objectively observing and determining the function of behavior is the foundation of ABA. In this field, the word behavior is often discussed in the negative – abehavior to be changed. But if we go further than that, we can see that a lot of behavior is a symptom of deeper deficits.

Behavioral symptoms, such as aggression, are LOUD and that is a good thing! If we can see or hear it, then we can find what is really happening with the individual.

Most of the time, what we identify as a behavior is really feelings of incompetence to overcome a challenging situation causing anxiety and fear. Anxiety and fear lead to fight or flight behavior.

It is critical to not simply change or suppress this loud behavior before understanding it.

If we build confidence and competence in overcoming challenges, the “behavior” will become regulated – engaged, attentive and quiet.



Game Time! 

This is a revisit of a Facebook post we made way back in 2013 but it’s a good one!

Try these fun, nonverbal games/activities with your family to practice and strengthen your child’s ability to “read” others’ nonverbal cues and communication:

Charades: try acting out different emotions to help your child interpret your body language, facial expressions, and gestures.

Name that Face: you could practice the skill of interpreting others’ facial expressions in a variety of ways.

Peek-a-Boo with a twist: Hide your face and reveal a different expression, giving your child time to process and label the emotion being expressed.

Facial Expression Sort: Have a pictorial collection of faces expressing a wide range of emotions (magazine clippings would work great) and sort through the faces, categorizing them by the emotion expressed.

Mirror Me: Use a mirror so both you and your child can see your faces. Take turns making a facial expressions that the partner practices matching.

Family Feelings: Take pictures of each of your family members expressing several different emotions. Print off the pictures and create collages or posters for each emotion. To extend the activity further, list different scenarios in daily life that make you feel that emotion.

Have fun! We’d love to hear about your experience so comment below!


MYTH: My child will never develop vocal speech if they use a device or sign language to communicate.

As a Speech-Language Pathologist I’ve heard this concern frequently when an Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) modality was recommended. In fact, this is a common concern shared amongst parents, family members, and other professionals. I get the thought, if we focus on teaching communication in a different way (sign language, using a communication device, PECS®) how will the child learn to use his/her voice to communicate; However, research is showing quite the opposite. We know that when providing and teaching alternative ways of communication that may be initially “easier”, there is no direct correlation to an individual never developing and using vocal speech. While, there are some individuals on the autism spectrum that may never develop functional speech (approximately 25% of individuals diagnosed with ASD), others begin to use vocal speech after using an alternative mode of communication.

For more information visit

Kasey Kanger, MS, CCC-SLP
Assistant Clinical Director
The Hope Source

By Julie Brant Gordon, LCSW

Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder struggle with appropriate play, often engaging in scripted, rigid and isolated play.  Pretend play requires foundational skills in social communication, joint attention,  and flexibility – all areas of core deficit. It requires self-talk, adapting to another person’s variations and characters and generating symbols and elaborations. We often don’t see the connection to play as early learning. When it has a significant impact on later academic success.

What is Pretend Play?

  • Pretend play begins with simple representations – we agree that this block is a giraffe.
  • Pretend play is exploring and imitating daily tasks – what happens when I push this broom around like Mom did?
  • Pretend play is reenacting everyday life – play food in a play grocery store
  • Pretend play includes characters engaging – your doll invites my doll to a tea party
  • Pretend play is dynamic – the ground is lava and if you touch it, you’re out!

What is Role Play?

  • Role play takes characters to another level – I am someone else and you are someone else
  • Role play requires evolving scenarios – think theater!
  • Role play aides in social development and problem solving – practicing how you are going to introduce yourself, say I’m sorry or present a project in front of other.
  • Role play can also aide in reading comprehension – visualizing the picture that author is describing

Pretend play is most often associated with young children. But it is critical that transition-aged adolescents on the Autism Spectrum develop this skill. Choose age-appropriate ways to play and real-world scenarios to explore!

By Julie Brant Gordon

One of the biggest challenges in modern day parenting is just having a moment – a moment to truly be present without thinking about everything on your plate. Then, add Autism.

In the last 16 years in this field, the most important thing that I have learned is there is so much power in 10 minutes. You can set aside 10 minutes each day for togetherness. There isn’t pressure in 10 minutes, like there is in 30 minutes.

  1. Pick a good time. Try to find a time that isn’t too stressful. Do not choose 10 minutes before you have to leave to be somewhere.
  2. Put away your phone, turn off the TV.
  3. Pick a chore. Choose a simple chore that you don’t care about getting done right. Setting the table, folding socks, sorting mail, stirring the sauce, etc.
  4. Or don’t pick a chore! Take a walk, lie on the grass and just be. (This is the harder of the two).
  5. Go nonverbal! Try to limit how much you are talking or filling the space. Use gestures and expression to communicate. This will make the 10 minutes calm and slow it down.
  6. When the 10 minutes is over, share the experience with a simple recap. “I enjoyed stirring the sauce together.”

You will be surprised the impact of just 10 minutes of togetherness on the parent-child relationship. Try it each day.  Learn something new. Don’t worry about getting something done or being entertainment. Most importantly – enjoy!

Need more strategies? Learn more about our parent consultation services!

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