Monday, December 15, 2014

A Look Back at 2014 with In S.T.E.P.P.S.

It seems like we say this every year around this time, but seriously, where has time gone? Is 2014 really over? Are we REALLY going into 2015? Ok, time to let go of the denial and realize we can’t stop time. However, one thing we can do is reflect back on what was probably the best year yet at In S.T.E.P.P.S. Hopefully we will say that again next year, but for now… 2014 was pretty darn awesome.

-In S.T.E.P.P.S. Moved-

If you have been with In S.T.E.P.P.S. since the beginning (way, way back in 2010), you may be familiar with our “office journeys” over the years. We started off in a kitchen and living room. Then we moved into a small, 2 room office in Irvine. Then we busted down some walls and expanded into another space. Then, we grew out of that office and desperately needed more room. So we packed everything up and crossed the hallway of our building and have made a new home in a large space that we are LOVING. There is a room for social skills, a conference room and lots of individual offices, a beautiful reception area, a kitchen (with a dishwasher!), a training room, a toy room, and more. If you haven’t had a chance to see it, come out for our Holiday Open House on December 23rd and check it out!

-In S.T.E.P.P.S. Went to Mexico-       

In S.T.E.P.P.S. crossed borders this year back in March. One of our supervisors, Mayra Corona, gave a presentation on ABA and PRT to more than 800 people in Puebla Mexico. 800 people! Can you believe that? We are so very proud of our team for branching out and reaching new people in new locations!

-In S.T.E.P.P.S. Expanded -

Speaking of reaching new people, In S.T.E.P.P.S. is now serving families in North San Diego County! This project was headed by two of our BCBAs, Nicole F and Nicole H (or more affectionately known as “The Nicoles”), and we are so excited for this big step! We started accepting insurance and private pay clients in October. Woohoo! In S.T.E.P.P.S. is expanding!

-In S.T.E.P.P.S. Turned 4-

Every year we have a little birthday party for ourselves to celebrate our anniversary. This year was no different! Well, other than the fact that we had waaaaay more people! We kind of love that our “birthday” is in the middle of July so that we can enjoy the beautiful weather outside as a group. So this year we had a fabulous pool party!

-In S.T.E.P.P.S. Team Member Accomplishments-

2014 was so good to our team in their personal and professional endeavors. Our Clinical Director, Dr. Erin McNerney, became a Licensed Clinical Psychologist. Yay! On top of that, we have SEVEN BCBAs on staff! Congrats to Elise, Nicole F, Kimberly, and Nubia for passing that beast of an exam this year! Good luck to our staff that will be taking the test in 2015. Study hard!

-In S.T.E.P.P.S. Programs-

Let’s just say, our programs had a fantastic year. First, our Social Skills group has really flourished! We added new groups, brought new kiddos on board, and all involved have been super successful! We also started our PEERS Group for Teens. On top of all of that, Parent’s Night Out is filled to capacity every month. We love that parents are getting a few hours off and letting us have dance parties with their little ones! We also started our Remote Program this year and hosted a family from Germany for a multiple-day, intensive parent training course. We hope to have our Remote Program reach more families in our office and through the use of technology in the coming months.

-In S.T.E.P. P.S. Growth-

It is hard to believe how much we have grown in 2014! Aside from our physical move to a new office and expanding to San Diego, growth is happening across the board! We have lots of new clinical team members on board, we have taken on more clients, and our presence on the internet is really booming. Our Facebook page has almost 300 likes (make sure you find us, like us, and follow us) and we have created Pinterest Page to create boards of fun ideas for our staff and families to use (again, make sure you find us and follow us). We have some great ideas for upcoming posts on our blog! We even had a piece written by Lindsey Lewis, one of our supervisors, be featured on the Autism Speaks blog!  Check it out here:

-In S.T.E.P.P.S. Supervisor Retreat-

We had our first Supervisor Team weekend retreat in 2014! We spent the weekend in a beautiful villa in Temecula and spent two days team building and brainstorming program ideas! Not only did we get a TON of work done, we also ate delicious food and shared lots of laughs. Sometimes we have to pinch ourselves when we see the team of people around us. Our “In S.T.E.P.P.S. Culture” is so unique and the family-vibe that is felt across our staff really shows that.

-In S.T.E.P.P.S. Holiday Party-

Our annual Holiday Party had a major makeover this year! It was held at the beautiful Coto de Caza Golf and Racquet Club. The 2014 party included a wonderful slideshow put together by Lindsey L., a DJ for dancing, delicious food, and lots of people. It was definitely our biggest Holiday Party yet! This year we did therapist awards (think Academy Award style) and gave recognition for Creativity (Megan Y.), Collaboration (Melissa), Perseverance (Jeannie), Responsibility (Lindsay M.), and Top Clinician (Jeanette).Congrats to our winners and thank you for all of your hard work!

-In S.T.E.P.P.S. Holiday Open House-

This year we are hosting our first Holiday Open House on December 23rd from 10-2 complete with our own “Calm Santa” that will be available for free pictures and activities like cookie decorating and arts and crafts. This is a great opportunity for our clients to visit with Santa in a sensory-friendly, safe environment and for all of us to mingle with each other! Our clinical team will be on hand to make sure this event is successful for all! Check out more information here:

-In S.T.E.P.P.S. Professional News-

Finally, In S.T.E.P.P.S. has some big upcoming announcements in the publication world. We will fill you in once details have been worked out, so be on the lookout! Our team also attended some big conferences and events in 2014. We are always striving to be up to date on the latest research, studies, articles, and journals. We will share information that impacts our families frequently on our blog and Facebook, so check back often!

Phew…  It still is hard to believe how much happened in 2014. With that said, we are sure 2015 will be just as good to us! Thank you to you all for all your support and encouragement. We do this for you and we would not be able to do it without you! We wish you and your family a happy holiday season!

Thursday, December 11, 2014

You Are Invited to Our Holiday Open House!

Join us on December 23rd from 10 am to 2 pm for this fun holiday event at the In STEPPS office! We will have a sensory-friendly "Calm Santa" to visit with. Each child is welcome to take a FREE picture! There will also be fun activities like cookie decorating and holiday arts and crafts. This event is open to the entire community! It is a great opportunity for parents of children with and without special needs to see Santa and enjoy holiday festivities in a fun, safe environment. Our highly trained ABA team will be on hand to make sure this event is successful for everyone! You can RSVP by emailing Lindsey Lewis ( or check out our Evite here!

Hope to see you there! 

Monday, September 22, 2014

PEERS Social Group for Teens

IN STEPPS is excited to announce that we will be offering our next PEERS Social Skills Group for teens on October 13, 2014. This is such a unique and meaningful opportunity for teenagers with high functioning autism, Asperger's Disorder, ADHD, anxiety, depression, or other behavioral problems and their families. Check out the flyers below (click for full size) and email our Social Skills Coordinator, Elise, at She can provide you with additional information and answer any questions you may have. Feel free to pass this information along to anyone that it may be beneficial to. This group is open to the entire community, but space is limited. So sign up soon!

IN STEPPS is Expanding!

Hi Friends! We hope this latest post finds you all well. Going back to school can be a hectic time, so hopefully everyone is back in the swing of the routine and successfully adjusted. 

Wow, another busy Summer has come and gone. It is hard to believe that we celebrated our 4 year anniversary in July. Time sure flies! We have accomplished so many wonderful things, worked with amazing clients and families, and grown our agency bigger than we could have imagined. And we aren't ready to stop yet! There are some great things ahead for us that we are excited to share with you. To start with, IN STEPPS is now serving North San Diego county. This gives us the incredible opportunity to reach even more families in need of quality services and take our model beyond our Orange County roots. Hooray! Don't worry, we will continue to serve families in the OC area.

Here is the important information for those that are interested:

Two of our most experienced BCBAs, trained in PRT, will begin working with families beginning mid-October. Specifically, we will begin accepting insurance (Anthem Blue Cross, Blue Shield/Magellan, AETNA, and UBH/Optum) and private pay clients beginning in October and San Diego Regional Center soon after. We provide 1:1 and Parent Consultation/Supervision services in-home and in private preschools using PRT. 

We will begin by serving the following cities and areas:
San Marcos
Solana Beach
Cardiff by the Sea
La Costa
La Jolla

Please let us know if you need any information about our program or check out our website:

We will be happy to answer any questions you have, so don't hesitate to reach out to us.
As always, we continue to thank you all for your support! We wouldn't be where we are today without you! Keep checking back for updates on our program and services. There will be more good things to come! 

Monday, May 19, 2014

IMFAR 2014: A Week in Review


By Dr. Erin McNerney

Last week Dr. Bruinsma and I had the opportunity to attend the International Meeting for Autism Research, held in Atlanta, Georgia. We had a wonderful time learning about cutting edge research in the field of autism, meeting old colleagues, making new connections, and eating some famous Southern food. Some highlights from our trip:

Naturalistic Developmental Behavior Intervention: Get ready to hear this term! Naturalistic Developmental Behavior Intervention (NDBI) refers to empirically supported, naturalistic intervention, grounded in both developmental and ABA literature.  The emergence of “NDBI” as a term is exciting for us as it represents the unification of naturalistic treatment approaches that integrate both developmental and behavioral principles (e.g., PRT, EMT, ESDM, incidental teaching, etc.). This classification will help parents as they will be able to clearly see the commonalities among numerous naturalistic approaches. It will also help researchers as they work to identify active ingredients and quality indicators of intervention. And, it will help funding sources clearly distinguish between available treatments, those that are a more traditional ABA (DTT), and those that are naturalistic and developmental in their ABA approach.

RESEARCH – We saw presentations about all kinds of research projects on areas such as eye-tracking, identification of biomarkers in autism, brain imaging, genetics, and randomized clinical trials. Overall, we are obtaining more and more evidence that genetics plays a key role in the development of autism, although environmental and/or epigenetic factors may also be playing a role. Eye tracking research is focusing on where individuals with autism look during tasks or interactions to try to define the qualitative differences that might exist, and that might impact ability to attend to, and appropriately participate in interactions. Biomarker research is focusing on identification of biochemical indicators (neurotransmitter or other molecules) that are indicative of autism. Randomized clinical trial research has more recently become more prevalent and is critical in identifying treatments (or active ingredients) that are both efficacious and effective (i.e. they work both in research AND in practice)! 

PRACTICE – Most if not all of the applied research studies presented focused on “natural” behavioral approaches. Many presentations also included a “parent-mediated” component, which is where parents and caregivers learn how to provide teaching and learning opportunities during daily routines. This was exciting for us to see that autism treatment is moving in the direction that already aligns with our In STEPPS model.  

PEOPLE and PLACES – IMFAR is a virtual “Who’s Who” of autism research! Yvonne and I were able to take a tour of the Emory Autism Center, led by Dr. Gail McGee and Dr. Michael Morrier. This center is a full inclusion NDBI model preschool located on the Emory campus, and has classrooms from age 2 through pre-K. What a delight it was to see this successful program! We also had the opportunity to see many other imminent figures such as Dr. Fred Volkmar, Dr. Sally Rogers, Dr. Ami Klin, Dr. Laura Schreibman, Dr. Aubyn Stahmer, Dr. Brooke Ingersoll, Dr. Sam Odom, Dr. Paul Yoder, and Dr. Daniel Openden. We met up with many of our previous colleagues from UCSB and UCSD, and made many new and exciting plans!

FOOD – Southern food was a new experience for Yvonne and me. We treated ourselves to some fried chicken, fried green tomatoes, grits, and bread pudding, among other delicacies. Wow, were these delicious! I think we are now converts!

After our whirlwind week Yvonne and I are now settling back to our daily lives at In STEPPS and busily making plans on how we can follow up on new ideas. We are already looking forward to IMFAR 2015!

Monday, April 14, 2014

IN S.T.E.P.P.S.' April Star!

Jessica is great at implementing the PRT components with a wide variety of clients, from non-verbal to high functioning, and from young children to adults with challenging behaviors. Jessica has the natural ability to connect with her clients and demonstrates great shared control. She is passionate about teaching and working with children, she is positive, professional, fun, responsible and hardworking. She makes our job easy when we go out on the field for supervision! We are so proud to have Jessica on the In STEPPS team!- Mayra C.

 is extremely bright, funny and creative.  She takes feedback well and can instantly change her own behavior to better suit the clients and their programs.  Jessica is always willing to sub on cases when therapists are ill or out of town.  She is an extremely quick learner and can pick up new programs, strategies and techniques very quickly.  Jessica is a pleasure to work with!  Thanks for all you do, Jessica!- Nicole H.

 is an excellent therapist with a lot of energy.  She is very professional and shows a great understanding of PRT.  Jessica is flexible with her clients as well.  She can adjust her approach per client regardless of age or ability.  She is also fantastic with following through/staying contingent and makes sure that she sets up really clear expectations to help her clients be successful.  Jessica is also creative and willing to be as silly as she needs to be to keep a child motivated.  I had the chance to see some pictures Jessica took of herself and a client recently where they had drawn silly faces on a glass door and then were making faces through the drawings.  Jessica's a Super Star
 Therapist and we're extremely lucky to have her as part of the In STEPPS family.-David 

Thursday, April 3, 2014

In S.T.E.P.P.S. in Mexico

By Mayra Corona, M.D., Case Supervisor 

In March I was visiting family in Puebla, Mexico. While on my vacation, I was contacted by Wendy Lopez, director of a psychiatric hospital in Mexico, who invited me to give a talk about therapeutic techniques being used in California for children with autism. The talk was intended for psychiatrists, doctors, special education teachers, and parents. I thought it would a nice opportunity to talk about ABA, PRT and our work with children and adolescents with autism. I have spoken in front of groups before and thought I knew what to expect. The presentation was scheduled on a Saturday,from 8am-11am and I was amazed that more than 800 people attended!. I talked about autism, provided an introduction to ABA (history and basic concepts ) and gave a brief presentation on Pivotal Response Teaching (PRT), the methodology used at In Stepps. Many people in the audience had never heard about ABA or PRT and they were very interested, and participated in the discussion with questions and comments. I was so happy to be a part of In Stepps and to have the opportunity to bring such important and needed information to my native country. I am hopeful we can continue to share our knowledge with professionals and parents in Mexico!