CA Dept. of Education


On Haitus

Autism Spectrum Disorder 2018-19


Ann England, M.A. CCC-SLP-L
Speech-Language Pathologist
Assistant Director Diagnostic Center, Northern California

Ann is the Assistant Director of the Diagnostic Center, Northern California, and the Co-Coordinator of the statewide initiative on ASD known as CAPTAIN (California Autism Professional Training and Information Network).  She oversees and maintains the CAPTAIN website:

Ann has 30+years of special education experience and has extensive training and certification in the assessment and teaching of students with an Autism Spectrum Disorder (e.g., ADOS, PECS, TEACCH, STAR, etc.) She has served on the California Legislative Blue Ribbon Commission on Autism: Task Force on Education and Professional Development and was a consultant to the Superintendent’s Autism Advisory Committee. 

Ann provides professional development throughout California and nationally on the topic of ASD and also provides onsite consultation and mentoring to school district administrators and teaching teams to assist in the development and implementation of evidence-based public school programs for students with an Autism Spectrum Disorder.  She is passionate about her work in the area of ASD and is dedicated to disseminating research based information about evidence-based practices for individuals with ASD to improve outcomes.

Submit A Question

Click a topic below to expand the full question and answer.

  • new!Free photos and videos of developmental milestones


Dear Ann,

I’m a professional who works with families and educators in the field of ASD. Do you have any ideas on how I can more effectively communicate and describe the features of ASD?
Any helpful tips or resources would be really helpful!

Thank you so much!



Hi Jennifer,

I also provide consultation to educators and families about ASD and have always tried to find video examples of the features about which I’m trying to communicate. Over the years I’ve created my own video library and obtained parent permission to share with others. However, you’re going to be thrilled with what just came out from CDC’s Learn the Signs. Act Early.

Milestones in Action is a library of FREE photos and video examples of important developmental milestones and it is available in both English and Spanish!

Screenshot of the Milestones in Action website

So now you have the resources of Milestones in Action to support observations and conversations with parents about age-appropriate milestones. You could use the provided Developmental Milestones Checklist and refer to the videos as you support the parent in completing the checklist.

Another great feature for professionals is that no permissions are needed to use the photos and images in this library for educational or awareness-building purposes. That means you can embed and share photos and videos on your website and within presentations. The CDC Learn the Signs. Act Early. wants you to share these photos and videos on social media to build community awareness of developmental milestones. They even provide the technology for you to add a link on your website!

Keep up the good work!


Learn the Signs. Act Early. Milestones in Action:

  • Do vaccines cause autism?


Dear Ann,

I still get asked if vaccines cause autism. Do you have any information I can pass along?
Thank you for any advice you can give us!



Hi Isabella,

That continues to be a question I get asked frequently, too.

Do know that a new meta-analysis confirms that there is no association between vaccines and autism. I’ve included the website address and a segment of the article and how to access a copy of the meta-analysis report.

Thanks for your question.




JOURNAL: VACINE, Volume 32, Issue 29, 17 June 2014, Pages 3623-3629

  • Updated critical review of Evidence Based Practices (EBPs)


I’m finding the EBPs for ASD really helpful in working with my students.  Is there any new research out there?  I don’t want to miss knowing about any new EBPs to help my students and families!


Such a great question!  You are correct that the last critical review of the peer reviewed research on ASD ended with the year 2011 so it’s definitely time!  The newly established National Clearinghouse on Autism Evidence and Practice (NCAEP) was formed with the purpose of providing a continuation of the previous National Professional Development Center on ASD critical reviews.

NCAEP will review research studies published in the last five years (2012-2017) which examine the impact of behavioral, educational, clinical and developmental practices and service models used with individuals on the ASD from birth through age 21.

Stay informed by visiting their website at or you can click on the link on the CAPTAIN website at:


  • Educating Older Students with ASD


Do you have any resources for older students with ASD?


Great question!  We know that the overarching goal of special education services and supports is to prepare our students with ASD for employment, postsecondary education, and life in the community after high school.

The Center on Secondary Education for Students with ASD (CSESA) is a multi-site research and development project funded by the U. S. Department of Education that focuses on developing, adapting, and studying a comprehensive school- community-based education program for high school students with ASD. The CSESA Project is the largest intervention study of high school students with ASD, with 547 students on the autism spectrum and their families participating.

One tool developed by CSESA is the Secondary School Success Checklist (SSSC), which is an evaluation of student skills completed by staff, families, and students (See References).

Students, parents and families, and school staff to assess skills that will support a positive high school experience, and help in planning for life after high school can use the SSSC. The SSSC supports teams in identifying priority goals related to:

  1. independence and behavior
  2. transition
  3. social competence
  4. academic skills (with a focus on literacy).

It is important to note that positive outcomes in these four domains have been directly linked to postsecondary success for students with ASD.

As you set out to do your planning, consider the results of the research recently conducted by CSESA that used the SSSC to gather information from teens, families and teachers about the needs and priorities for students with ASD.  Below is a list of the top five priorities for each of the three groups of responders:

The SSSC data, along with the transition assessment and plan, and information about the student and family, can guide the team in identifying priority goals and matching those goals to evidence based practices (EBPs) in an effort to develop the most effective programming.

Good luck!


Center on Secondary Education for Students with Autism Spectrum Disorders (CSESA)

CSESA Secondary School Success Checklist (SSSC):

  • Self-Care for Teachers Benefits Students


I notice that my students with ASD will notice the mood of my classroom staff and me! As you know, teaching can be more challenging on some days. Do you have any ideas on how to help my staff and me stay cool, calm and collected?

Thank you for any advice you can give us!



Hi Jodi

You are correct that a sense of calm in the classroom must begin with the teaching team so your question is a good one. One of the factors that contributes to special education teacher attrition and retention is ‘teachers’ affective reactions to work’ and there is a lot of research surrounding teacher stress and burnout. New research is helping to clarify how teachers become chronically stressed, and how it can affect their students’ well-being and achievement.

This is fabulous that you have recognized that you and your team need to develop your own social-emotional competencies so you can then convey those skills to your students with ASD. I found it interesting that one of the articles mentioned that “….teachers need a level of social-emotional competence that’s way above the norm” because “….you couldn’t stick an average person in a classroom and expect them to be successful as a teacher!”

Researchers are definitely saying, “Happy teachers lead to happy students”! We know that the trend for the past few years has been for schools to increase emphasis on social-emotional learning (SEL) for students. We now have research saying that, “…teachers’ social-emotional competencies, especially their stress-management skills and their ability to regulate their emotions, are a vital piece of that puzzle.”

I have listed a few articles below and a very interesting website called, “Happy Teacher Revolution” that has some information and ideas that may be helpful to you and your teaching team.

One article pointed out that “self-care is not selfish and teachers need to be reminded of that because teachers often put themselves last.” One group of Baltimore teachers from around 12 school districts met every Friday during this past school year to attend Happy Teacher Revolution meetings, where they had a moment of mindfulness or guided meditation and read aloud the 12 choices to be a more balanced teacher (e.g., I choose to be happy. I choose to be mindful. I choose to be grateful. I choose to get outside and get moving. I choose what to overlook, etc.)

Most of us have heard the preflight safety announcements when the flight attendant says, "You must put on your own oxygen mask first before helping those around you." I wish you and your teaching team the best as you dedicate yourselves to developing your own social-emotional competencies so that you are better able to teach your students with ASD.



Education Week-Teacher: “How Teachers' Stress Affects Students: A Research Roundup” by Sarah D. Sparks, June 7, 2017,

Education Week-Teacher: “Happy Teachers Practice Self-Care” by Madeline Will, June 7, 2017,

Happy Teacher Revolution Website:

  • Social Skills; Scripting; Social Communication; Social Interaction


I have many students with ASD who are very high functioning but still are not able to be successful in social situations. Do you have any suggestions for me because I feel like I have tried almost everything! This weakness keeps getting in the way of my students being successful during classroom discussions, at recess and even for my older students who are at their work sites.


This is a very good question and one that I am asked a lot regarding students who have ASD but are considered ‘high functioning’ in other areas other than social skills.

It is so important to address social interaction and social communication skills from the very beginning (i.e. from the point when we make the diagnosis) as we know early intervention ensures better outcomes. When we look at the postsecondary data, we note better outcomes for those individuals who have had intervention to address social skills and have had inclusive opportunities.

I mention a lot in this Ask A Specialist-ASD, that we now have research as to which focused interventions are effective for individuals with an ASD. One such evidence-based practice (EBP) is Scripting which happens to be the latest addition to the Autism Focused Intervention Resources & Modules (AFIRM), which is an extension of the National Professional Development Center (NPDC) on ASD. The AFIRM Modules are a free online resource designed to help you learn the step-by-step process of planning for, using, and monitoring an EBP with learners with ASD. The learning module on Scripting was released on April 6, 2017 and is one of the important EBPs to help you support individuals with ASD. (See Reference)

According to the NPDC, Scripting is an intervention that research has shown to be effective for preschoolers (3-5 years) to high school-age learners (15-18 years) with ASD. Scripting can be implemented to address social, communication, joint attention, play, cognitive, school-readiness, and vocational skills.

Scripting is defined as a. “...visual or auditory cue that supports learners to initiate or sustain communication with others. “…. by presenting learners with a verbal and/or written description about a specific skill or situation that serves as a model for the learner, the learners can anticipate what may occur during a given activity and improve their ability to appropriately participate in the activity.” The interventionist needs to teach and make certain that scripts are practiced repeatedly before the skill is used in the actual situation.

Scripting is just one of several EBPs that can be implemented to improve the social skills of an individual with ASD. It is important to note that Scripting is an EBP often used in conjunction with other EBPs such as, modeling, prompting, and reinforcement.

What a gift it will be for you to add this important EBP to your intervention package for your students!
Good luck!


Griffin, W., & AFIRM Team. (2017). Scripting. Chapel Hill, NC: National Professional Development Center on Autism Spectrum Disorder, FPG Child Development Center, University of North Carolina.
Retrieved from

  • ASD: Autism; Self-Regulation


I have a student who is dependent on others for most everything especially when he gets upset or dysregulated. Any suggestions?

Thank you for any help!


This is such a great question and timely, too!

A new federal report (see reference below) recommends that schools emphasize building children’s “self-regulation” skills in order to increase opportunities for student success in a number of areas. For individuals with ASD we have an EBP (evidence-based practice) called Self-Regulation and you can learn more about that EBP and how to implement it with fidelity using the tools and resources through the free online AFIRM learning modules (see reference below).

Check out the following information about self-regulation that the Frank Porter Graham Child Development Institute has given us permission to print here:


    AFIRM Modules (Autism Focused Intervention Resources and Modules)
    Self-Management Evidence-Based Practice Online Learning Module:

  2. REPORT: Self-Regulation and Toxic Stress: Implications for Programs and Practice