Winter 2019

Hello everyone.

Happy 2019!

I hope this is going to be a very good year for all of us in human services. My goals for this year are to continue to spread the word in our fields about the value of people with disabilities, the best ways to create a truly inclusive society, effective ways to teach new skills, strategies to enhance communication, adaptations to improve quality of life, and the improved use of assistive technology (both low tech and high tech) to enhance participation and contribution. To reach that goal, I continue to travel, train and teach in schools, adult services, mental health settings, the child welfare system, colleges and universities and elsewhere. Be sure to contact me if I can be of help to you or anyone who needs support. After spending more than 50 years in our field, I find that there is still much to learn, share and improve!

Keep in touch via my phone 217-971-5152 or by email

Barbara Doyle to be Recipient of the 2017 Margaret Bancroft Distinguished Leadership Award

On November 15, 2016 the Winston Knolls School announced Orland Park resident, Barbara T. Doyle, the 2017 recipient of the Margaret Bancroft Distinguished Leadership Award. Barbara has Bachelor of Science degrees from Illinois State University in Elementary Education and Special Education and a Master of Science degree in Business Management from National Louis University in Human Resource Development.

Mrs. Doyle is a founding Board member of the Illinois Assistive Technology Program, a federally and state funded program that provides information, technical assistance, training, device loans and cash loan programs to the citizens of Illinois.

Additionally, Barbara has been the recipient of many distinguished honors throughout her career:

  • Exceptional Parent Magazine Symbol of Excellence, 2017

  • Winner of the Autism Society of America Book of the Year award, 2006 Literary work for†“ Autism Spectrum Disorders from A to Z”

  • Los Trastornos del Espectro de Autismo de la A a la Z, the Spanish-language version of “ Autism Spectrum Disorders from A to Z” Winner of the Autism Society of America’s 2006 Outstanding Literary Work of the Year

  • Judevine Center for Autism Educated Heart Award, 2003

  • Sertoma International Service to Mankind Award, 1976

The Margaret Bancroft Distinguished Leadership Award will be presented at the Annual Awards Dinner on Monday, January 16, 2017, at 6:00 PM. The event will be held at the Metropolis Ballroom in Arlington Heights, Illinois. Individual tickets are $85 and a table of ten can be purchased for $850. Please go to or call 630-283-5046 for additional information and to purchase tickets.

Summer 2015

Happy Summer!

I can hardly believe that 2015 is almost half way finished! In preparing for the rest of this year, I wanted to talk to you about QUALITY OF LIFE. We use the phrase "quality of life" in planning and discussing children and adults with autism and other special learning differences. But what is a quality life?

A quality life includes:

  • the opportunity to make real choices, not just select from less preferred options. A "choice" needs to be made by selecting from an array of highly preferred options to be a quality choice. Choices need to be available regarding every aspect of life from as simple as what socks are going to be worn today to what restaurant in which to eat, what environment in which to live and what people with whom to interact. 
  • the opportunity to be treated as an adult if you are an adult! We MUST stop interacting with adults with disabilities as if they are naughty children when they do no do as we ask or cooperate as we expect. MY quality life includes not having to always do the things I do not want to do. I do not go where I do not want to go, and do not eat what I do not like. Most adults who are living a quality life strive to make choices that reflect their own needs and wants, desires and preferences. Adults with autism or other differences need the same approach if they are ever to have a "quality life."
  • the ability to communicate with a variety of people in a variety of situations using a variety of different means and discussing a wide variety of topics. How many goals on individual plans for children and adults address this essential need? Some people with ASD can only communicate in one way with one or two people. This will NOT lead to a quality life.
  • the opportunity to find a way to be a healthy person and have a healthy body. Long ago a person said to me, "If you have your health, everything else can work out." I did not understand that like I do now! We need to be sure that elements of health such as movement, healthy food options, careful choices in essential medication, outdoor activities, drinking clean water, etc. are included in each child and adult's day, every day. Motivation is key here!
  • the opportunity to be liked, loved, understood and accepted. Those of us working in the field need to emulate parents who focus on positive and endearing qualities of their children, minimizing problems while addressing problems.
  • the opportunity to "self-actualize" to become the fullest person you can be. Here is a great dictionary definition of "self" ..."a complete and individual personality, especially one that somebody recognizes as his or her own and with which there is a sense of ease." We want children and adults with ASD to be at ease with themselves and others. We need to become more at ease with the wide variety of personalities and personal styles we encounter in the unique people who share the characteristics of autism spectrum disorders. In this way we can really individualize and be sure that we are not promoting "one size fits all" in our programs and approaches.

What else contributes to a quality life? Let me know what you think as you discuss this with your friends, family and

colleaguesYou can reachme via e-mail at or by phone at 708-966-4683.

Summer 2014: Mental Health

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 couldnot 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 inourselves 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

Summer 2014: Mental Health Introduction

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.

Summer 2013: Being Truly Employable

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!

Summer 2013: Introduction

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.