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204, 2019

Misunderstandings about ASD

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There are many myths and misunderstandings about autism spectrum disorder, and people with ASD. These are sometimes fueled by inaccurate information on the Internet and images portrayed in the mass media.

One thing we know for sure is that individuals on the autism spectrum face the same challenges, experiences, frustrations, and joys as everyone else does. Another irrefutable fact is that autism is a spectrum with significant diversity. Each person with ASD has a combination of symptoms that makes him or her unique. Furthermore, the same person may experience his or her symptoms of ASD very differently from one situation to the next.

One myth is that ASD is a form of intellectual disability or mental retardation. Another is that everyone with ASD has cognitive or intellectual disabilities. It is true that a large number of individuals with autism will be diagnosed with an intellectual disability. The most recent prevalence study conducted by the Centers for Disease Control (2018) reports that 31 percent of children with ASD had intellectual disability. However, there are also individuals with ASD who have average to above average intelligence, or who perform well in some areas and poorly in others.

Another myth is that people with ASD can’t form relationships because they lack social skills and a desire to interact with others. While difficulty in social interaction is a key factor in the diagnosis of ASD, it doesn’t mean that individuals can never form relationships with others, or that they don’t desire these relationships.

For many people on the spectrum, difficulties in forming relationships center primarily around challenges with understanding language and/or the subtleties of how people relate and interact, or express themselves. Just as with any other characteristic, each person will have varying levels of interest, ability, and anxiety when it comes to forming and maintaining relationships. Also, these relationships may appear different than those typically experienced by neurotypicals (i.e., people who are not on the autism spectrum).

505, 2018

National Magazine Hails Research on Best Autism Therapies by the National Autism Center at May Institute

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Randolph, Mass. – May Institute, a national provider of services for children, adolescents, and adults with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and other special needs, is cited in Autism Parenting Magazine for its authoritative research.

The article highlighted the National Autism Center at May Institute for “the largest review of autism research to date.” The center’s National Standards Project reviewed therapies for autism and determined which ones are effective and have scientific backing.

The project sought to answer one of the most pressing public health questions of our time — how to effectively treat individuals with ASD. It concluded that behaviorally based interventions (i.e., applied behavior analysis, behavioral psychology, and positive behavior support) have the most empirical support.

This information has never been more critically important than in the wake of the latest data released last week by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It found a 15 percent increase in the estimated prevalence of autism in the U.S. to one in 59 children – the highest estimate to date.

For May Institute and its National Autism Center, the CDC findings highlight several key areas for continued focus. These include how quickly a child receives an autism diagnosis, the need for early intervention, and ensuring that families have accurate information about effective treatments.

“We can’t overstate the importance of making this information universally available,” said Lauren C. Solotar, Ph.D., ABBP, president and chief executive officer of May Institute.

“We welcome the attention that articles like this bring to a topic that is steeped in confusing and often-conflicting information,” Dr. Solotar said. “The findings of our National Standards Project continue to serve as an authoritative source of guidance for parents, caregivers, educators, and service providers as they make informed intervention decisions.”

Download the results of the National Standards Project.

Learn about early warning signs for autism spectrum disorder.

2804, 2018

Commentary: Statement from May Institute Regarding CDC’s New Rate of One in 59 Children Identified with Autism Spectrum Disorder

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Randolph, Mass. – The statistics just released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) about the increase in the prevalence rate of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) in U.S. children are an important reminder of work that still needs to be done.

There likely are several factors contributing to this increase. First, as noted by the CDC, ASD is now diagnosed more often among children of color, and in particular black children. This is actually good news, as it suggests that we are doing a better job identifying children in some historically under-reached communities. The continued increase may also be due to factors that have now been in play for several years, including increased overall recognition of the symptoms of ASD and the broadening of the diagnostic criteria for ASD.

The CDC findings also highlight an area for continued focus, and that is in how quickly a child receives an autism diagnosis. Although the vast majority of families reported developmental concerns before a child’s third birthday, fewer than half the children in the sample were diagnosed prior to the age of 4.

We must redouble our efforts to educate families and practitioners about autism’s early warning signs and diagnose children at a younger age. The earlier a child is diagnosed, the better the long-term outcome. Research shows that early diagnosis and intervention during the first years of a child’s life can significantly impact his or her long-term prognosis, particularly in the areas of language and social behavior.

We must also make information about the most effective evidence-based treatment for autism universally available, and create easier, faster, and more affordable access to that treatment for every child and family that needs it, across all communities, ethnicities, and socio-economic groups.

Autism is a life-long challenge, and we must focus on long-term solutions. As the groundswell of children with ASD continues to expand, we face an overwhelming number of individuals with autism moving into and through adulthood. They often face daunting challenges as they grapple with transitioning into adulthood, finding appropriate housing and support services, securing meaningful work opportunities, and building a life integrated into the broader community. In addition, there continues to be a lack of meaningful research of evidence-based interventions for adults.

Life outcomes for a growing number of Americans depend on decisions we make today to address the rising tide of autism spectrum disorder.

404, 2018

May Institute Promotes Awareness, Acceptance, and Appreciation of Individuals with Autism

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Randolph, Mass. – During Autism Awareness Month in April and throughout the year, May Institute and its National Autism Center are committed to raising awareness about autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and informing the public about evidence-based treatments that can improve the lives of people living with and affected by autism.

“We have been proudly serving individuals with autism across the lifespan to increase their independence and promote their dignity since our founding in 1955,” says Lauren C. Solotar, Ph.D., ABPP, President and CEO. “When The Autism Society of America launched the first Autism Awareness Month in April of 1970, May Institute enthusiastically joined in. And we wholeheartedly embrace this year’s theme of ‘moving beyond simply promoting autism awareness to encouraging friends and collaborators to become partners in acceptance and appreciation.’

“Making people aware that one in 68 children has been diagnosed with ASD is just the beginning,” continued Dr. Solotar. “It is vitally important that we all continue to learn more about these individuals, appreciate their gifts and talents as well as their challenges, welcome them into our schools and communities, and treat them with the respect they deserve.”

Toward that end, May Institute offers the following 30 articles about autism and related special needs from its library of resources, written in accessible and practical language by dozens of its clinical experts. These articles provide important information on a range of topics including diagnosis, early intervention, effective treatment, and everyday living strategies for individuals and families living with ASD.


1. Get the Facts About ASD
2. How Is ASD Diagnosed?
3. Early Intervention
4. Evidence-based Practices
5. What Is Applied Behavior Analysis?
6. What Does That Mean? (Part 1)
What Does That Mean? (Part 2)
7. Functions of Behaviors
8. Reducing Self-stimulatory Behavior
9. Behavior Traps and How to Avoid Them
10. Communication Tools for Children with ASD
11. Collaborative Communication
12. Addressing Different Needs of All Children
13. Taking Turns
14. Helping a Child with ASD Prepare for Change
15. Helping a Child with ASD Adjust to Change
16. Colds and Flu
17. Seven Steps to Building Respectful Teaching Relationships with Children (Instructional Control)
18. Homework: from Stress to Success
19. The Pros and Cons of Using Prompts
20. Welcoming a Pet into the Family
21. Coming of Age with a Developmental Disability
22. Helping a Young Adult with Special Needs Develop Dating Skills
23. Helping People with Communication Disorders Make Themselves Understood
24. Managing Sensory Overload
25. Turning 22 and Autism
26. Helping Individuals with Autism Develop Friendships
27. Vacationing with an Adult with Intellectual Disabilities
28. Anxiety Disorders in People with Intellectual Disabilities
29. Aging Adults and ABA
30. Celebrating the Special Qualities of Individuals with ASD

3001, 2018

May Institute Enhances International Reputation for Clinical Excellence in 2017

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Randolph, Mass. — In 2017, May Institute further advanced its reputation for excellence in the field of applied behavior analysis (ABA), adding four national experts to its clinical leadership team, and sharing its expertise in ABA on a global level.

It was also a year in which the organization was ranked #17 on The Commonwealth Institute’s list of Top 100 Women-led Businesses in Massachusetts, up from #26 the previous year.

May Institute served 3,278 individuals and families in fiscal year 2017 through its 144 programs and sites across the country. More than 82,000 students in 162 schools were impacted through May Institute’s Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS) systems-wide change initiative. Our staff also trained 340 public school educators.

In 2017, Ivy Chong, Ph.D., BCBA-D; Sarah Frampton, M.A., BCBA; Richard B. Graff, Ph.D., LABA, BCBA-D; and Alice Shillingsburg, Ph.D., BCBA-D – all highly esteemed experts in ABA – joined the organization, adding further breadth and depth to a roster of clinical experts that includes 35 doctoral-level staff and more than 80 behavior analysts.

“May Institute remains committed to maintaining the highest standards of clinical excellence, identifying underserved and at-risk populations impacted by autism, and bringing evidence-based services to the point of need,” said President and CEO Lauren C. Solotar, Ph.D., ABPP. “Following the clear direction outlined in our newly launched, five-year strategic plan, we continue to expand the reach of our services. This includes working with the U.S. State Department and the government of Oman to help that country more effectively respond to what it calls ‘a tsunami’ of potential autism diagnoses.”

In addition to providing consultation and trainings about autism and ABA for colleagues in Oman and other countries, May Institute recently entered into a memorandum of understanding to explore the development and operation of a school for children with autism in the United Arab Emirates.

Other memorable milestones for the organization in 2017 included the expansion and relocation of two of its special education schools for children with autism and other developmental disabilities in Massachusetts.

Diversity and inclusion continued to be a strong focus for the organization. In addition to being named one of the top 20 women-led businesses in Massachusetts, May Institute elected Mary Lou Maloney, a pioneer in deinstitutionalization and lifelong advocate for individuals with disabilities, as the first woman to serve as chairperson of the Board of Trustees. With the addition of Joan Goldberg, J.D., women now account for half of the total Board membership.

Other achievements of fiscal year 2017:

  • Increased annual revenue to $123.1M
  • Earned three-year accreditations from the Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities (CARF) for home and school consultation, and adult services
  • Raised $815,411 through gifts from individuals, corporations, foundations, and community partners; 90 donors helped fund a splash pad for the May Center School in Randolph
  • Provided diversity and inclusion training to nearly 800 employees
  • Launched a five-year strategic plan with the goal of becoming the premier global leader in providing innovative applied behavior analysis services to individuals with autism spectrum disorder and neurobehavioral disorders across the lifespan
  • Recognition of May Institute’s Shared Living Program participants with a 2017 Community Living Recognition Award at the 24th Annual Shared Living and Adult Family Care Conference
  • Earned first place awards for its 60th Anniversary Year Annual Report from both the New England Society for Healthcare Communications and the Publicity Club of New England
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