Barbara T Doyle

Effective Teaching, Successful Lives

Barbara T Doyle, MS
Clinical Consultant

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August 28, 2014

As promised, I am providing you with some ideas that have been generated by the wonderful participants in my mental health workshop. The following lists were generated at Rend Lake College, but they reflect the findings of other groups with whom I have had the privilege of working.

To begin, I divided participants into three groups. Each group formulated responses to one question.

1. What can mentally healthy people do?

2. What contributes to our mental health?

3. What harms our mental health?

In an inclusive way, we discussed how the answers to these questions apply equally well to children and adults with disabilities and children and adults with no identified disability. This is an important tenant of my approach to inclusion: ALL people are people. Disabilities do not define the person. The disability label is one guide to help us help children and adults reach their potential and have a high quality of life.

Check out this material and then discuss with staff, families and teams: Are we doing everything we can to promote the mental health of the children and adults we support? Are we doing anything that could harm mental health that we need to change? Are we systematically teaching the skills needed to be a mentally health person? We could  not list every element in each group, so what do YOU think needs to be added?

What can mentally healthy people do (most of the time)?

  • Hold a successful job in the community, towns, neighborhoods
  • Take care of household situations such as the finances, and keeping the family happy
  • Get adequate rest
  • Use thinking strategies to reduce anxiety
  • Take care of oneself; eating, bathing, personal hygiene
  • Identify and express needs
  • Know when help is needed and get the help that is needed
  • Feel good about achievements
  • Interpret, observe, receive information or feedback appropriately
  • Help others
  • Have good coping skills
  • Role play to experience other perspectives
  • Try new things
  • Identify the problem, find a method to resolve it, step back and evaluate before taking action
  • Predict the possible consequences of each choice
  • Accept the fact that failure is OK
  • Listen to music or meditate, do enjoyable, calming activities
  • Exercise or do high intensity activity
  • Find the humor in life, in self and in others
  • Journal, write things down, reflect 
  • Think in "shades of gray"    
  • Seek counseling and support when needed    

What can we do to support the development of mental health in  ourselves and others?

  • Be prepared for many different situations
  • Promote and support positive behavior
  • Support other’s decisions
  • Pay attention to verbal and non verbal communicative signals
  • Help people be a part of a community
  • Get to know each individual as a unique person
  • Observe others needs and respond with kindness
  • Demonstrate compassion
  • Be an EXAMPLE of what TO DO
  • Educate yourself; build awareness of the mental health needs of others
  • Listen to the problem with an open mind
  • Compliment others Recognize and celebrate successes, even those that might seem “small” to others
  • Recognize that every individual has their own habits and perspectives and RESPECT them
  • Remember that things that may not be important to you might be very important to others and respond accordingly.


What can harm our mental health?

  • Lack of family support
  • Negative personal history
  • Previous traumas that have not been properly addressed and treated
  • Self-medicating with alcohol or illegal drugs
  • Living up to a “bad” reputation
  • People talking about us in front of us as if we are not there
  • Humiliation and being humiliated
  • Poor diet
  • Lack of sleep
  • Family members lack of well being
  • Non-compliance with medical needs
  • Negative peer environment
  • Bullying
  • Embarrassment
  • Influence of people who lack compassion and kindness
  • Overly concerned about how others view self
  • Lack of validation
  • Being often confused
  • Feeling defective or broken
  • Feeling helpless
  • Feeling unloved or unliked
  • Lack of acceptance
  • Believing that things cannot get better
  • Social withdrawal, lack of social relationships
  • Feeling like a helpless bystander
  • Misuse of Facebook/social media to do harm
  • Financial burdens and concerns
  • Unrealistic work load
  • Becoming unemployed or long term unemployment
  • Having a stigma connected with you or your disability
  • Not having your concerns validated
  • Staff turn-over, including suddenly losing important people in your life who understand and like you
  • Concerns about world Events
  • Unexpected life Changes, out of our control like accidents, or death of loved ones
  • Intense or long term illness in self or loved ones
  • Insufficient Educational Level
  • Issues resulting from genetics


August 1, 2014

Hello again everyone. I hope you are having a wonderful summer.

I am updating my Upcoming Events page so please check it out.

You will see that an important focus for me this year is MENTAL HEALTH. The more I learn about mental health and mental health issues, the more I realize that we all can DO something about the mental health of children and adults with autism or other learning or developmental issues, as well as for ourselves and for everyone with whom we interact. I have developed workshops that focus on this topic with practical ideas of things we can DO right now that promote mental health and things we can all STOP DOING that may be having an negative impact on mental health. As always, my focus is educational (not medical or psychiatric ) and is designed to help us, regardless of our roles, help make the world a better place for children and adults with autism or anyone else.

We all know that mental health is as essential as physical health for a successful life where we can strive to fulfill our potential and have satisfying relationships with others. We also have seen in the news what can happen when we do not recognize and address the mental health needs of children and adults in our society.

So lets get started! I will help you learn how to start promoting mental health every day for yourself and others!

Keep in touch and as always, contact me if I can be of help.

Barbara Doyle


August 6, 2013


Wow the National Autism Conference in State College PA was great! I promised participants that I would post some of what we talked about in our sessions. The handouts are now in my Helpful Handouts section.

We talked about what skills people need to have to become truly employable. There is an urgent need for us to begin teaching the skills related to employability from very early in life instead of waiting until the teen age years. We decided this is true for our students with ASD as well as ALL students. People with ASD can be such great employees when we target and teach needed skills!

Here is a skills list that my participants generated. Some are things that we need to KNOW, some are things that we need to be able to DO. We discussed how what you DO is sometimes much more important than what you know because others generally see what we DO and cannot see the content of our minds.

You will notice that each skill mentioned here could and should be broken down into many, specific, objective, and measurable goals. What would happen if we recognized the importance of these skills and started teaching them in an age appropriate way starting at age five, not fifteen!

The list would not be overwhelming if we started teaching from early in life and divided teaching and learning opportunities between school,  home and the community. Assume competence and start teaching these skills no matter what the age, stage or diagnosis of the individual. Start wherever you are with whatever you can do!

We list the most important one first:

  • Being a safe person who understands and uses only safe behavior towards self and others and who cannot be taken advantage of by unsafe people.
  • understanding privacy and property of self and others
  • treating others in a respectful way
  • resolving conflicts appropriately for the setting
  • reading and responding to body language
  • being responsive to the cues of others
  • actively listening and providing feedback to what was said
  • flexibility
  • moving easily from activity to activity at the lead of another
  • discriminating what to say to whom and when and where
  • self-knowledge: the only path to self-advocacy
  • making requests and getting the help one needs
  • generally using courteous behavior
  • able to identify, accept and incorporate constructive "criticism"
  • organizational skills
  • task analysis
  • planning skills (to complete tasks and meet deadlines)
  • telephone skills
  • prioritizing
  • patience
  • initiation skills
  • personal integrity and the behavior that goes with it
  • team building and people skills
  • emotional control: recognize your own emotions and manage the behavior related to your emotions
  • recovering from your own emotional reactions quickly and independently
  • recognizing the emotions of others and managing your behavior related to the emotions of others
  • knowing and understanding the use of humor

So let's get busy making ALL students more employable!


Hello everyone! Happy Summer!

I added dates for upcoming presentations in 2013

and more details will follow soon, as they become available so check the

Upcoming Events Page please.

2013 has been a wonderful year so far. I continue to focus on projects in the metro-Chicago area and will travel nationally and internationally for conferences, consultations, technical assistance, and training. It seems that my messages of practical, ready-to-implement strategies that lead to lifelong success for everyone on the autism spectrum are needed more than ever for people on the autism spectrum of all ages.

As always, my services include technical assistance, training, presentations, and consultations to child or adult programs, educational staff, therapists, mental health professionals, the child welfare system, universities, families and organizations.

I have developed a full day workshop focusing on Mental Health for people with ASD or other developmental or intellectual issues. We have seen in the news that the lack of mentally healthy thinking patterns have led to undesirable consequences. Although we cannot always prevent mental health disorders, we CAN recognize thinking and learning patterns that do not support mental health. In addition, we CAN teach people skills that can lead to healthy thinking and behavior. I hope you will be able to join me for one of these special workshops this fall. Be sure to check my upcoming events pages for information.

I continue my very specialized focus into 2013 providing more supports to children and adults on the autism spectrum who are also deaf or hard of hearing. Autism with hearing impairment is challenging, but over the years I have developed effective strategies for learning, teaching, supporting and improving communication for this group of dually challenged individuals. My ideas are appropriate for school/educational staff, families, adult services providers, teacher training programs, mental health programs, and state and private schools for the deaf. If you have an interest, let me know. I will be working on more handouts and informational papers for this population this year so check back often for new information and ideas.


Thank you for visiting this web site

and please come back soon! New Materials and ideas added frequently.



Barbara Thompson Doyle, M.S., is a Special Education professional and award-winning author with 42 years of experience in developmental disabilities, autism, deafness, deafblindness, and mental health services. Ms. Doyle is a consultant in private practice and is well known for her practical and positive approaches to addressing the needs of children and adults with disabilities across their life times. An enthusiastic and engaging lecturer, keynote presenter, teacher and trainer, Ms. Doyle travels extensively to bring her holistic, humane and effective approaches to others. Ms. Doyle is "Aunt Barbara" to Tom, who has an Autism Spectrum Disorder and is a licensed CPA in California: GO TOM! There are now four more children with autism spectrum disorders in Barbara's extended family.

ASSUME COMPETENCE! Children and adults with autism have a rich internal life with many thoughts and feelings that they cannot always share with others. When we treat people as competent, fully human, and capable, they become more able to share themselves with us. So pay attention to the feelings that people with autism may be having. Avoid using embarrassment or humiliation in an attempt to manage behavior. Do not talk about people in front of them as if they are not there. Include everyone in conversations and situations assuming that they understand and feel more than we think. You will find these strategies lead to more success for everyone and emphasize our full humanity. They also model for others what we want them to think and do when they interact with our children and adults with autism or other special learning differences.

Please check out the free materials you can download and share in the Helpful Handouts section. Got feedback? Tell Barbara how she can improve these informational materials.

Interested in using sign language with people with ASD? Barbara's DVD "Signing for Life" teaches you how to do that! You can learn more about the DVD at her Online Store.

The Upcoming Events tab will show you where you can join Barbara in her speaking engagements. Contact Barbara if you have any questions about her upcoming presentations or to schedule Barbara to come to

where you live, work or play!


Autism Society of America
The Literary Work of the Year 2006 Educational Division

Premiado por la Sociedad de Autismo de America
Obra Literaria Excepcional 2006

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