monarch center for autism

Ask the Expert – Helping Your Child See New Success in 2018

The New Year is here and with it comes those New Year’s resolutions. Resolutions are the goals we set for ourselves for the upcoming year – try to eat healthier, save more money, make time to get to the gym.

This might also be a good time for families to reflect on what goals they may have for their children with autism. I frequently get asked the question, “Do you see this as something my child can do within one year?” Your child’s educational team also has to make this determination when writing goals for the Individualized Education Program.

In thinking about setting goals, take a page from the IEP guidelines and try to make them SMART: specific, measurable, attainable, results-oriented, and time-bound. Instead of, “I want my child to communicate more with me,” think about what is the most important thing they learn to communicate.  Instead of “I want my child to read”, maybe “I want my child to read 10 words, or 20 words,” or whatever makes the most sense.

As with any goal, in order to get somewhere, you have to know where you are at. It’s difficult to measure progress if you don’t have a baseline measurement to know what you are comparing to.  Additionally, it’s hard to know whether the teaching you are doing is having the impact you want, without occasionally measuring the progress. That’s why data-driven decisions are so crucial. If you have an idea in your mind about what kind of goal you want to work towards achieving with your son or daughter, stop and take a measurement of what their current skill is in this area.

Moreover, in determining what goal you want to achieve, you likely need to think about the environment and what changes are going to need to be made.  Who is going to be involved – the daycare, the school, the rest of the family?  Collaboration with others is going to be very important, because consistency is key. Teaching a new skill to anyone, requires the environment, including the people in it who will be reinforcing the behavior, to be consistent and to provide opportunities for your child to engage in the new skill.

If you realize months in that progress toward the goal set for your child is slower than you thought, call a team meeting! In other words, touch base with everyone involved in your child’s goal and see if you can figure out the potential barriers. Perhaps your child needs more instruction on a prerequisite skill, or he or she isn’t getting enough repeated practice of the skill. You can always recalibrate that goal into something that is going to be more achievable, and if you blow past it – even better!

For the rest of us, when thinking about those New Year’s resolutions that we made last year? How many of them did we achieve? Meeting even the goals we set for ourselves entails constant work and almost always the support of family and friends. Your goals for your children will most likely entail the same. But the feeling that comes after a lot of hard work and visible progress? That can’t be measured.


Monica Fisher, M.Ed., BCBA, COBA has over 14 years of experience working with children on the autism spectrum in home, school, and residential settings. A former Intervention Specialist, she is now a Board Certified Behavior Analyst and the Director of the Behavior Department at Monarch Center for Autism, where she is responsible for managing a team of behavior specialists and BCBAs. Monica also works for ABA Outreach, providing in-home consultative services for families in the Cleveland area. 




Upcoming Event: Learn More About Investment Opportunities for People with Disabilities

Our friends at the Monarch Center for Autism are hosting a wonderful event – see below & mark your calendars!
Stable Act Ohio
Please join Monarch Center for Autism for a STABLE Accounts training session on Thursday, January 26th presented by representatives from Ohio Treasurer Josh Mandel’s office. Pre-registration is required… 
STABLE Accounts – National Savings & Investment Solutions for People with Disabilities: STABLE Accounts were launched in June 2016 by the Office of the State Treasurer of Ohio. This national program is available to residents of ALL states in the United States. STABLE Accounts are made possible by the Achieving a Better Life Experience (ABLE) Act of 2014. This is the federal legislation that allows families and individuals with disabilities the opportunity to create tax-advantaged accounts that can be used to help maintain health, independence and quality of life, without losing eligibility for certain government benefits like Medicaid, SSI or SSDI.
  • Thursday, January 26 from 10-11am in the Board Room at Bellefaire JCB (22001 Fairmount Blvd. Shaker Hts., OH 44118): Free in-person training presented by representatives from Ohio Treasurer Josh Mandel’s office.
  • Thursday, January 26 from 12-1pm online only: Free online webinar presented by representatives from Ohio Treasurer Josh Mandel’s office.
 Topics will include:  What is the ABLE Act?  What are STABLE Accounts?  Benefits of STABLE Accounts.  Who can have a STABLE Account?  Enrollment process.  Eligibility certifications.  Funding your account.  Investment options.  SSI considerations.  Medicaid considerations.  How can you spend STABLE funds?  Non-qualified expenditures.  Spending from your account.  STABLE card.  Account cost.  STABLE vs. Special Needs Trust.  Helpful resources.  Question & Answer.  For more information, please refer to the attached PDF.
Since launching on June 1, 2016, STABLE has grown to be the largest and most successful ABLE plan in the nation! Please read sentiments below from some STABLE Account beneficiaries…
  • “I can finally go to work full time because I can save the extra money I make in a STABLE Account that does not affect my Medicaid eligibility.” (Cincinnati, Ohio)
  • “Using a STABLE Account and a Special Needs Trust together gives my client much broader spending power.” (SNT Advisor, California)
  • “I can now invest an equal amount of money for my child with special needs as I do into a 529 College Savings Account for my other children.” (Cleveland, Ohio)
For more information, please contact Lauren DeMinico at or 216-320-6805.