Friday, November 6, 2015


Hi Friends! Welcome back to our blog! Can you believe the holidays are already here? Where did 2015 go? Time flies! It has been a while since 1.) we have updated our blog and 2.) we have had the opportunity to recognize a worthy and wonderful In S.T.E.P.P.S. team member (blame it on the busy, busy work we do). We will get back to #1 soon since we have so many new and exciting things coming up that we can't wait to share. But for today, we wanted to take the time to praise one of our behavior therapists and share some of the qualities that make this particular person so awesome. 

So without further delay... drum roll ... Our IN ST.E.P.P.S. STAR award goes to .... 


Here are some of the things Steven's supervisors had to say about him: 

Steven has been an asset to each team he is on. He approaches each session with a  dynamic approach, bringing a fun and creative level of play to each session, and yet laid back attitude that draws the attention of every child to want to engage.  His hardworking work ethic, mixed with his personality make every session fly by. Steven applies feedback to his work promptly and eagerly and asks insightful questions. Steven is so flexible and dependable, always collects data, and steps up to the plate to help cover sessions whenever he can. He is a joy to have on any team! 

Steven has shown initiative in his professional development. He is very flexible and has been willing to take on a wide range of clients and accommodate changes to his schedule to best fit the needs of his clients.

It has been great having Steven on one of my cases. He is great with the client and makes the family feel comfortable in his presence. Steven is extremely flexible and can adapt at any moment to the current needs and motivation of the client. Steven responds well to feedback and immediately implements any suggestions given. Steven truly is a star at In Stepps.

Steven has a great, positive attitude and is always flexible. He has the wonderful ability to promote learning and teach skills inn an exciting way. Steven is so fun and the kids love him! 

Steven is such a fun therapist to watch. He easily adapts to working with so many different kiddos, who all have different needs and motivations.  He's a real asset to the In Stepps team! Congratulations Steven!

Thank you, Steven, for your hard work and dedication to all of your clients! We all appreciate you so much and so do the families you work with! 

Connect with In S.T.E.P.P.S.:

Friday, April 10, 2015

Things We Love: Snow!

It may be Spring, but we have a fun way to play in the “snow” at home! Thank you to one of our amazing therapists, Megan, for contributing this post to our ongoing “Things We Love” series. Let us know how this turns out!

Activity: Snow! This fun activity is super easy to make with 2 common household ingredients. Just combine 3 cups of baking soda & ½ a cup of hair conditioner!
Description: “Snow” takes less than 5 minutes to make and can be used to target numerous goals – especially when you add other items such as plastic animals, play-doh cutters/shapers, and craft supplies like popsicle sticks and pom poms! The possibilities are endless.  
Good for: Kids motivated by sensory play, pretend play, make-believe, expressive language goals, receptive language goals


Expressive Language

First Word Learners: Snow is usually stored in a plastic container or plastic bag. First words learners can request “open” as well as request “snow.” You can mold the snow into shapes and items to have first words learners request things such as “ball.” You can also incorporate different actions with the snow that a first words learner may use – “drop,” “smash,” and “push” or “press.” Get creative!

Two Word Requests: For shorter requests, kiddos can request what they’d like built – “small tower” “high wall” “big ball” “small snowman.” Many variations of this can be targeted with multiple cues including shapes, colors, size, and more!

Long Requests: You can target various three or more word requests such as “make a ball” or “give me snow.” You can also create opportunities to request items, and answer “wh”-questions (such as “what do I put in the snow?” or “where should I put the bear?”). When building something such as a snow house or snowman, kiddos can request parts of the house such as roof or door, or parts of a snowman such as arms and eyes. Kiddos can also request how they’d like something built – “make it high” or “make it low.”

Pretend Play

Aside from building a snowman, you can make-believe you’re cooking with snow and create any food item you can dream of! You can also pretend you’re playing in the snow, of course, and make snow angels, snow men, or snow forts! When incorporating other items, you can pretend to have a zoo with animals, a carwash with cars, or even create a house layout with a family.

Receptive Goals

One step: Snow can be used to target numerous one-step receptive directions including: “open the bag”, “pour the snow”, “make a ball”, “hand me the sticks”, etc. The motor skills to build with the snow are simple, and many of our kiddos can build easily. This gives lots of opportunities to follow a variety of instructions successfully, and it is really motivating!

Two-step with or without multi-cue: “Make a ball and hand it to me” – the immediate reinforcer can be completing a snowman with the ball. Easily add multiple cues with “big” or “little,” numbers, or preposition. “Pick up the hat and put it on top of the snowman!”  

Other Variations

Aside from “snow,” you can color this mixture with food coloring and make it into an aquatic sea tray with fish and boats. Or you could color the snow yellow to make sand and include cacti and rocks for a pretend desert. You could also pretend that it is sand from beach and add beach toys. The possibilities for scenes and play – even with the white snow – are endless! 

-Megan Y. 

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Things We Love: The Plastic Accordion Tube

Toy: The Plastic Accordion Tube aka "Pop Toob" 
Description: This toy is as simple as they come! It is a plastic tube that makes different sounds when you spin it. It folds up small or you can extend it and make it long. The activities you can create with this toy are endless!
Good for: Kids motivated by movement and sound, imitating sounds, targeting expressive language, pretend play, and social skills


Expressive requests

First words
“go” and/or “spin”

This toy is great for targeting these simple words. You can twirl the tube over your head, and as you do so, it makes a whistling sound. The tone of the sound changes by spinning it faster or slower. This creates a great opportunity to hold out for, or model, the word “spin.” You can also use the tube like a slide and have small toys slide down and prompt for “go.” This can be especially good for kids who do not yet have object permanence.

Two word combinations:
"Go fast", "go slow", "spin fast", "spin slow”, "long tube", "short tube”, etc. " Remember, the different speeds produce different tones which gives lots of opportunities for varied language!

Longer/ varied requests:
"Make a Light-Saber": turn off the lights and hold the short tube over a flashlight.  After the child makes the request you can turn the flashlight on and pull the tube long.
"Make a square.", "make an oval", etc.: you can many different shapes by connecting the tube together and bending it.
"Spin the tube fast", "spin the tube slow", and “spin the tube super fast!"

Imitating Sounds

A fully extended tube makes a great elephant trunk! You can hold it at the end of your nose, lift the other end high in the air, and make an elephant sound. Have your child do the same!

Use the tube as a telephone. Hold one end of the fully extended tube and have the child put near his/her ear. Use a whisper voice and talk into the tube. It’s like tickling them with your voice!

Spin the tube over your head and make helicopter sounds (kind of like “chicka-chicka-chicka” or whatever other sound you can come up with) and then give your child a turn!

Pretend Play

 It's a telescope and you're a pirate: "Land Ho!"
It's a microscope and you're a scientist: "I've discovered the tickle bug."
It's a stethoscope and you're a doctor: "Let's listen to your heart... bump, bump..."
It's a snake and, "It's Going to Bite You!"
Then Reverse the roles!

Other Activities

Take the tube into the tub and fill up a bucket with some water.  Dip the tube in and fill it with some water.  Hold both ends of the tube up so that it makes a "U" shape with the water at the bottom of the "U".  Put one end of the tube up to your mouth and blow hard so that the water shoots up and back into the tub.  Pretty Fun, right? Think of all the language you can prompt!
"on", "off", "water", "stop", "blow"..."under", "in", "pour"..."blow high", "be an elephant” "make a huge fountain." Get creative with it!

-David Koehler and Lindsey Lewis

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Things Parents of Kids with Special Needs Wish You Knew

“A kind gesture can reach a wound that only compassion can heal.”
- Steve Maraboli

Over the years, we have been lucky to meet so many families of children with special needs and become a part of their daily life. We have been there to experience great triumphs as well as to help overcome trials through ABA services and parent consultation. Through our interactions, we have heard parents discuss everything from behavior management and communication to sleep difficulties, food selectivity, potty training, and more. But there is something else that comes up frequently and consistently. Most parents focus on helping their child reach their potential at home and in school, but we often hear that the assumptions and perceptions of other people can be a source of great anxiety. At In S.T.E.P.P.S., we think it is important to increase public knowledge and raise awareness so that children with special needs and their families feel supported by their family, friends, neighbors, and community. Of course, every child and their abilities are different, but here are some things that we have heard directly from parents about what they wish YOU knew.

1. My child is not “misbehaving” because they are a “brat” or I am a “bad parent”

2. I notice when you stare or give dirty looks (and it doesn't feel good).

3. Meltdowns and tantrums are hard on me AND my child.

4. My child is unique and amazing! Get to know him/her.

5. I worry about how my child is treated when I am not around.

6. There are reasons for my child’s behavior(s).

7. Pity is not productive.

8. An understanding smile is a simple thing to do and it can make my day!

9. I try to focus on the positive by myself, but positive words from others means a lot. 

10. I need empathy and kind words, not judgment, from those around me.

11. I go to great lengths to keep my child safe at home and when we are out in public.  

12. Just because my child can’t talk doesn't mean they don’t hear what you are saying.

13. I have to parent differently than parents with typical kids.

14. If you want to know something about my child, just ask.

15. My child may learn differently than others, but he/she is not “broken.”

16. I want to talk about my kids and I want to hear about yours.

17. I am always anticipating what my child needs or wants.

18. My child may have a sensory processing issue that makes it hard for him/her to be still or quiet.

19. Simple things like going to the store can be a challenge (and sometimes I dread it).

20. If you have met one child with autism, you have met ONE child with autism. Every child is different, don’t compare.

21. Rude and insensitive comments don’t help and make me feel guilt/embarrassment that I shouldn't have to feel.

22. Try not to take things, like language, for granted. Some of us can only hope to hear our child say “mom/dad” or “I love you.”

23. I can’t always just “find a sitter.”

24. Don’t assume my child can’t do something just because he/she has special needs.

25. I live in fear that I will turn my back for one second and my child will wander off.

26. Interacting with my child may take a lot of work and patience, but please don’t let that stop you from trying. It is SO worth it! 

27. I don’t have all the answers, but ... 

28. I don’t need unsolicited advice.

29. My child needs the same things all kids need: love, acceptance, laughter, play, and fun!

30. I am “on” 24/7 and need to be ready for anything.

31. I am exhausted.

32. My child may not understand things like sarcasm or emotions.

33. It is important for my child to have friends and interact with other kids.

34. I need friends, too! Keep inviting me out for coffee or dinner or come over and just hang out with me.

35. I constantly worry about my child’s future and what will happen if something happens to me.

36. I am an advocate for my child in every setting of his/her life. This means I am live and breathing paperwork, calls, appointments, emails, therapies, and meetings.

37. Your children learn from modeling. Show them how to be tolerant, accepting, and compassionate by doing it yourself.

38. You can help my child reach his/her potential just by helping raise awareness.

39. My child has so many great qualities and abilities!

So, friends, what else would you add to this list?

-Lindsey Lewis

Connect With Us!

We have had our blog up and running for a while, but we wanted to take a minute to reintroduce ourselves and reach out to those that may have just come across our organization. 

Welcome to the In S.T.E.P.P.S. Blog! We are thrilled you found us! 

Click around to read a little bit more about us and get to know our team and what we do. We have many ideas in the works to make our blog more relevant to our followers so we hope you keep checking back for new posts. You can subscribe to our blog directly on this page. 

Other ways you can connect with us

Sign up for our Newsletter: Email

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We are always continuously coming up with new ideas and programs so follow us and join us on the journey as we "STEPP" ahead together!

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Join IN STEPPS at the TACA San Diego Chapter Meeting!

In STEPPS will be presenting on PRT as an effective intervention for Autism at the TACA San Diego chapter meeting on March 24! Check out the flyer below. Hope to see you there! 

Autism Researchers Coming Together!

We are excited and proud to announce that our Directors, Yvonne Bruinsma and Erin McNerney, are co-authors on an important position paper published yesterday in the prestigious Journal for Autism and Developmental Disorders.  This position paper has an impressive list of authors that include some of the biggest names in current research on Autism Treatment and we are thrilled that In STEPPS was able to contribute to this important work!

The paper is titled: Naturalistic Developmental Behavioral Interventions: Empirically Validated Treatments for Autism Spectrum Disorder. It describes how the field of Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) evolved from Discrete Trial Training to naturalistic teaching methods like PRT and ESDM that take developmental theories into account. It also describes common elements in naturalistic developmental intervention models demonstrating that these models have more similarities than differences. In short, the paper makes a strong case for autism researchers and practitioners to come together and work under the NDBI umbrella in order to bring improved understanding of the interventions to parents and funding agencies, and the most up-to-date, high quality services to our kids.  

We would be happy to email the paper to any of you that would be interested in reading it, but below is the link if you would like to download it from your own computer.

Download Your e-Offprint (PDF file)
Your 'Online First' electronic offprint is now available! Download your PDF file using the following link:

If the PDF file does not open automatically, please copy and paste the URL into your browser window. Please note that your free e-offprint will only be available for four weeks!

Your article will be assigned to a specific journal issue. After the production of that issue has been completed, you will be notified by email and a new, paginated e-offprint with the final cover of the respective issue will become available to you as a free PDF-download. Any additional (printed) offprints or posters you might have ordered will then be shipped to you.

Monday, January 5, 2015

10 Ways to Make 2015 a Great Year

by Lindsey Lewis

2015 is here whether you are ready or not! It is crazy to think that we are just as far from the year 2000 as we are close to the year 2030. We hope that you and your family enjoyed the holiday season and that you were able to enjoy the company of the ones you love most. Over here at In Stepps, we are back to business as usual! Vacations have wrapped up and our office is bustling with activity again after the holiday lull. We can’t wait to share all of the exciting things coming up.

A New Year is always packed with potential; each of us vowing that this year will be better than the last. For many people that can include a new exercise regimen or eating healthy. For others it means kicking addictions or repairing relationships. For those that have a child with autism, or any other special need, the goal for the New Year may simply be to make through 2015 smoothly. Many of you may find yourself at a point where the hope the New Year brings also brings anxiety, fear, and uncertainty. Will this school year finish successfully? Will the next IEP go well? What will we have to fight for? Will my child stay safe? Will we have any progress? If you find yourself feeling less than enthusiastic about the New Year, here are 10 ways that you can make 2015 a great one! 

1. Be Good to Yourself
As a parent, it can be difficult to put yourself first. Making your needs a priority often takes a back seat to the needs of your spouse, your children, your job, and anyone else that counts on you. Remember, your needs count and your needs matter. Believe it or not, the health of your family depends on you making time to care for yourself. We know it is not easy, and it may seem like there are not enough hours in the day. So start small. Take a few minutes during the day to do something for yourself whether it is enjoying a cup of coffee, calling a friend, going for a short walk, or simply sitting down. Eventually, increase the amount of time and take an hour to go for lunch, an exercise class, or get a haircut. Life can feel like a whirlwind, especially when you have a child with special needs, but it is okay to need a break. It is okay to take a break. If you spend a few moments every day doing something that you want to do, you’ll find your mood is better and you’ll have more energy and motivation to keep going. The payoff is huge and your family will reap the benefits!
* Note: In Stepps offers Parent’s Night Out once a month to allow families the chance to go on date night or just have a few hours off. We take the kids and you take the time for yourself!

2Change Your Own Behavior
This one is tough, but it is important. A lot of times we can find ourselves in ruts or up against the wall and have no way of knowing how to fix it. Start with you. Recognize the things that trigger you, that frustrate you, or that you see as a deficit and really look at how you can change your own behavior to get the outcomes you are looking for. This is taking the ABA approach that therapists are using with your child and using it yourself. Identify your behavior that needs to change or a skill you need to develop, make a goal, and go for it! We even encourage the use of reinforcement (think your favorite chocolate or a Starbucks latte). Don’t forget to collect data and so you can see the changes yourself. Ask your In Stepps parent consultant or supervisor for help on this one!

3. Make Lists
To-Do lists are great and you should use them! There is no way to predict what kind of things are going to come your way and that can be incredibly anxiety provoking. By writing down what needs to be done, you’ll feel a greater sense of empowerment each time you cross something off of your list. By the way, list making doesn’t have to stop with to-do lists! You can make lists for everything from grocery lists and meals for the week (you’ll save a lot of time and money) to organizational tasks. Write out the goals for yourself, your child, your family, and your career. You can cross things off as you accomplish them or put them away and come back to see how far you (and your child) have come!

4. Take Things One Day at a Time
Life is going to offer up good days and not so good days. Instead of worrying about what tomorrow is going to bring, focus on today. Identify the great things that happened or fix the things that didn’t go so well. If you think of the big picture all at once, you are going to feel like there is no way to get a handle on everything. By staying in the present moment, you’ll find that you are less overwhelmed and you won’t miss the moments from today that would pass unnoticed if you are worrying about tomorrow.

5. Ask for Help When You Need It
There is no shame in asking for help. In fact, we demand you do it more often! Remember, you are only one person and you can only do so much. You are balancing the needs of your family, your marriage, career, yourself, and your child with special needs. That is a lot for one person to manage. Go easy on yourself and if you need something, ask for it. We often forget that the others around us are not mind-readers (especially those living under the same roof), yet we can be extremely resentful when people aren’t doing what we expect or need from them. This can cause an excess of unnecessary tension in a household and it has a ripple effect. So instead of feeling like you have to take on everything on your own, ask for help. Create a chore chart, hold a weekly family meeting to divide the tasks for the days ahead, and ask others to help out when you need it. If a friend or family member asks how they can help, instead of saying “I got it” or “It’s fine”, take them up on the offer! That feeling of being stretched extremely thin will be long gone once you feel you aren’t doing everything all on your own.

6. Try Something New
You probably feel like you have the “circus routine” down with all of the balancing and juggling you are doing every day. It may feel like every day is just a repeat of the last. The best way to get out of a mundane existence is to change things up once in a while! Want to redecorate? Move your furniture around or pick up colorful new sofa pillows. Did you find a great recipe on Pinterest you have been wanting to try? Get in the kitchen and make it! Is your local community center offering an art class you would be interested in? Sign up! Is there a new restaurant your spouse mentioned? Plan a date night! Get the kids involved, too. Try a new movie, a new food, or a new activity. For little ones with autism change can be scary so start small if you need to, but use it as a learning opportunity! Never underestimate the power of introducing new things and activities to your life. The excitement can be contagious!
*Check out the In Stepps Pinterest page at and get inspired!

7. Appreciate the Small Victories
Have you seen that quote floating around that says something like “enjoy the little things in life because someday you will realize they were the big things?” That is what this resolution is all about. When you are living day in day out with a child that has special needs, days can easily blend and fade into each other. When one thing is accomplished, how quick are you to overlook it and focus on the next thing that needs to be accomplished? But wait a minute, that accomplishment was a big moment! Celebrate it, document it, appreciate it, and revel in it. Think of what it took to get to this point and how much work was put in. If you miss all of the seemingly small triumphs, chances are you won’t fully appreciate the major successes you and your child encounter.

8. Take More Pictures
This one doesn’t need much explanation. Take more pictures of your kids, the world around you, and the places you go. The most important reason why? We are in 2015; think about how fast we got here. Your life and your kids are going to grow and change so much, and photos will be your window for memories. Take videos while you are at it; you’ll want to remember the sweet voices of your children when they were little. If you have a child with autism or special needs, photos and videos will be what reminds you where you have been and a great way to document progress over time. Photos are the best way to remember the highlights each passing year!

9. Spend Less Time Comparing
It is so easy to fall into the trap of comparison. Especially when you are buried deep in the world of autism and special needs. How many times have you compared your child to typical developing kids? How many times have you compared your child with autism to another child with autism? How many times have you compared yourself to the “put together” mom? How many times have you compared your marriage to another? We live in a society that likes to share just about everything on social media and that can make it easy to browse through your newsfeed and get a glimpse into another person’s world. Remember, no one’s life is perfect and everyone has their own struggles. There is no benefit or productivity in comparing what you have to what someone else has, especially when it comes to your child. You will just find yourself discouraged and empty. Instead, channel that energy and focus on all the reasons you have to be proud of your life, your family, and your reality (hey, make a list: see #3). Love, appreciate, and be compassionate of others but quiet that voice of envy.

10. Spend More Time Enjoying Your Life
You have a plate full of responsibilities and obligations you must fulfill every day, but let that be just a small portion of your daily living. You will inevitably face a great deal of challenges at the hand of autism, but make a resolution to not allow autism to define you or your child. Give your children the gift of a childhood that includes laughter, play, and fun. Remember the reason you fell in love with your spouse. Share in gratitude for the home you have built and the life you have created. Be good to yourself and those around you. Get outside, enjoy the sunshine, and spend lots of time loving each other. Your world is unique. Embrace the journey because life is too short to waste on wishing you were somewhere else.