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The Autism Program's January Newsletter

Our friends just call us TAP.  We focus on facilitating collaborations between agencies, schools, and individuals that enhance the community’s capacity and quality of services for individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) and their families.  Find more information about TAP on our website or follow us:
Sing, Validate, Breathe, and Squeeze to calm down because "you need to calm down" doesn't work

The Difference between Tantrums and Meltdowns

We've all been there. We're in the middle of the grocery store when all of a sudden we have a crying, screaming child on our hands. Is it a tantrum or is it a meltdown? Most of the time when we're asking this question we're trying to figure out if the behavior related to autism or is the child acting out - is it intentional or out of their control. Understanding the function of a behavior is critical to intervening appropriately and preventing future occurrence (and hint: in both cases the kiddo is out of control and needs compassion and support).

Tantrums are when a child is emotionally disregulated - when their feelings get too big for them to handle. It often happens when they want something they don't know how to get. Meltdowns are when a child is overwhelmed - when there is too much sensory information to process. What makes this really tricky is that one can lead to the other.  

To manage a tantrum, validate and support the child's big feelings, "Oh my goodness you are so angry right now. Did you want to hold the box of cereal I just put into the cart?" Just be careful not to reinforce the tantrum by letting it be an effective way to get needs met, "you can hold the next thing after you get calm." Here's more tips for managing tantrums.  

To manage a meltdown, you have to reduce sensory stimuli so they can de-escalate. Temperature, smell, sound, and light can all trigger meltdowns. This may mean going someplace quiet and dark to calm down, but you have to be careful not to unintentionally reinforce meltdowns as an effective exit strategy which means practicing tolerance to sensory input.  Here's a great list of strategies for public an home to prevent meltdowns.     
One distinction that people (especially on the Internet) often make is that tantrums are intentional and meltdowns are not, but this greatly overestimates children's abilities to emotionally regulate. Also, we don't often give ourselves enough credit for how difficult emotionally, physically, and socially tantrums and meltdowns are to go through for parents and practitioners as well as for children even when they happen in private settings.  
New at TAP!

New Semester, New Interns

Our regular Resource Room hours resume Tuesday, January 17th (we are closed Martin Luther King Jr. Day). 

Mondays 9:00 am - 6:00 pm 
Tuesdays 9:00 am - 5:30 pm 
Wednesdays 9:00 am - 5:00 pm 
Thursdays 9:00 am - 6:00 pm 
Fridays 9:00 am - 5:00 pm 
Saturday 9 am-noon

Please stop by a meet are Spring 2017 interns. We have a wonderful group of new and returning students. In addition to staffing the Resource Room and supporting TAP programming, this semester our interns will be taking a new project: learning how to directly implement behavior-analytic services.

Community Calendar: Don't Miss a Thing! Activities in the C-U Area this Month

Community Forum: CUAN

Tuesday, January 17th 6:30 - 8:00 PM
As of November 15th, the Autism Society of Illinois (ASI) has disbanded. Since the Champaign-Urbana Autism Network was affiliated with ASI, they now need to decide the future of the organization. They are hosting a forum at the Champaign Public Library in Robeson rooms A/B to discuss how to best move forward. Please RSVP or if you are unable to attend, please forward your thoughts to Teresa O’Connor at

Trust-Based Relational Intervention Parent Training

Starting Monday, January 23rd 6:00 - 8:00 PM (and continuing every other Monday)
Trust-Based Relational Intervention (TBRI) will help parents learn to understand their children who had a difficult start (e.g. difficult pregnancy or birth, prenatal substance exposure, medical trauma, abuse, neglect, or attachment difficulties) and learn how to meet their needs. Classes take place at Setphen's Family YMCA, registration is free, and child care is available. Contact Cari Vanderpool at to register or for more information.

New CUSR and Larkin's Place Programs Start in January

New to Larkin's place this year will be Build a Healthy You (ages 14 and older), Mindfulness for Kids (ages 9-12), and Preschool OT Playgroup (ages 3-4). The full program guide can be found at In January at CUSR: Pizza Completion and Game Day, Nacho Bar and Movie Night, Blackout BINGO and more. Check out the full calendar at     
Save the date

Night to Shine

On February 10th, First Christian Church is hosting a Night to Shine event sponsored by the Tim Tebow Foundation. Night to Shine is a Christian prom like event for children ages 14 and older. For more information or to register go to the event website.  
Interesting webinar

Creating a "Village" in Transitioning

Thursday January 12th at 6:30 PM. 
In this session, Dr. Ann Turnbull will focus on a process for mobilizing a "village" comprised of family members, educators, other professionals, friends, and community citizens to work together on a regular basis over time in order to orchestrate significant and sustainable change. Using a detailed handout and video segments, Ann will highlight five components of Group Action Planning - Inviting Support, Making Connections, Sharing Great Expectations, Solving Problems, and Celebrating Success. Register here.
Area Resources

Facilitated IEP

IEP facilitation is a process that helps foster effective communication between parents and districts as they develop a mutually acceptable Individualized Education Program (IEP).  McLean Unit 5 and and Eisenhower High School, Enterprise Elementary School, and Michael Baum Elementary school in Decatur are part of the pilot. For more information, check out their website.   

For more information on area resources, check out our website.

Volunteer Advocacy Project

Dr. Meghan Burke is a professor of Special Education at the University of Illinois. Dr. Burke developed the Volunteer Advocacy Project with the support of the Vanderbilt Kennedy Center. The project provides families with a 40-hour training on special education policy and advocacy. The second session of Volunteer Advocacy training is set to begin on March 2nd, 2017, continuing each Thursday evening from 6:00 to 9:00 pm, through May 11th, 2017 (call Family Matters at 866-436-7842 if you are interested). Her next research project will focus on  how individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities make decisions about important life choices. 
Research Participants Needed

Families of young children (3 -5) who have a language delay or diagnosed developmental disability

The project involves coaching one parent in their homes to use strategies that will promote the communication skills of their child while reading. The researcher will coach the parent and videotape their interactions with their child. The study requires a 2 hour commitment per week the 8-to-10 week study period. Participating families will be paid a stipend of $200. For more information contact Yusuf Akamoglu at or Hedda Meadan at, 217-33-0260.

For more research participant opportunities check out our website
Area Support Groups

Which one is for you?

CU Able - Thursday January 12tj at 6:30 PM
This group is intended for parents of children with disabilities. Child care is available. For more information contact their Facebook group.

Adults on the Spectrum - Please see their Facebook Page
This group is intended for adults who identify as having high functioning autism or being high functioning autistic.  It meets at TAP. For more information contact their Facebook page.

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The Autism Program at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign · Doris Kelley Christopher Hall · 904 West Nevada · Urbana, Illinois 61801 · USA

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