The Northeast Pennsylvania Regional Autism Acceptance Project was established by Dr. Dan L. Edmunds, Ed.D. in the Scranton and Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania area to help autistic, Asperger's and other developmentally different persons based on autonomy, understanding, tolerance, inclusion, self-determination, and meaning as well as providing educational and other advocacy for persons with special needs. Please contact us at or visit

Thursday, September 3, 2009


Dr. Dan L. Edmunds, Ed.D.
Tunkhannock, PA
Telephone: 570-836-7777

"Dr. Edmunds has developed a strong rapport with (my child). He even waits at the corner of our street in anticipation of his visits. More importantly, over the course of the summer we saw a definite improvement in (his) socialization and behavior at home...I have been extremely impressed with Dr. Edmunds' extensive knowledge...I also appreciate the comfort we receive in learning of positive results he has achieved with other children. Although I have read extensively myself and spoken with his developmental pediatrician, Dr. Edmunds has been able to translate his theoretical understanding into practical steps that have helped (my child) and us."

Dr. D.L. Edmunds has developed compassionate, innovative approaches for autistic developmentally different children that focus on their strengths, are dignified, and build on the forging of emotional connections. His unique program is the ONLY relationship based program available in Northeastern Pennsylvania (Scranton/Wilkes-Barre area) and the Southern Tier of New York.

THE NORTHEASTERN PENNSYLVANIA AUTISM ACCEPTANCE PROJECT seeks to educate the public, educators, parents, and others on accepting autistic persons, finding means to be inclusive of persons with developmental differences, and to be able to provide relationship based supports that respect the autonomy, dignity, and self determination of the individual.


Dr. D.L. Edmunds believes that many programs that have been designed for autistic persons do not respect their dignity and seek to force and coerce them to be 'typical'. Dr. Edmunds believes that the strengths of autistic persons must be recognized and an attitude of acceptance must prevail where autistic persons are seen as individuals with the same desire as any other person for self determination and autonomy. Dr. Edmunds comparison is to that of a person living in a foreign country. A person may be able to reside in a foreign country not knowing the language, but it would be easier for the person if they knew something about the language and culture. Therefore, programs provided to autistic persons should not be focused on making them into something they are not, but helping them to navigate through the mainstream and develop an understanding of how the majority operates. Dr. Edmunds is honored to not only collaborate with autistic persons but to call them friends. Dr. D.L. Edmunds has had the privilege of working with over 100 autistic and developmentally different children and their families. He has developed one of few relationship and strengths based programs that help these children to navigate through the mainstream while respecting their autonomy, self determination and dignity. Dr. Edmunds work has to been to help these children with functional independence while respecting them as persons worthy of respect.

Dr. Edmunds is noted child and family psychotherapist with 10 years of experience in the field. He has written numerous articles and been a presenter on local and nationally syndicated radio programs. He is the founder of the International Center for Humane Psychiatry. He serves as a Professor of Existential Psychology and Religion for the European American University.

Saturday, August 1, 2009


PHONE: 813-598-5091

Professor of Comparative Religion and Human Services

Psychotherapist for Children, Teens, and Adults

Lecturer, Speaker, and Public Intellectual
Consultant and Expert on Autism, Asperger's and Developmental Differences

Activist for Social Justice


as well as numerous articles on mental health reform, ethics in practice, autism/developmental differences, extreme states of mind (schizophrenia, psychosis, bipolar), traumatic stress, and emotional health.

Speaker on local and nationally syndicated radio programs

Board Certified in Sexual Abuse Issues, American Academy of Experts in Traumatic Stress

To arrange a consultation in person or by telephone, to arrange a lecture or seminar, or for media interview requests, please contact:


Telephone: 813-598-5091











"With much compassion and understanding, Dr. Edmunds has an innate ability to connect with distressed persons, aid them through challenges and seek to understand their experience. His work with autistic persons and persons undergoing extreme states of mind is unique and amazing. Dr. Edmunds is controversial and often iconoclastic as he is a critical thinker. From theologian to humanist, from youngest legislative aide and registered professional lobbyist to social activist, from mainstream mental health professional to an outspoken critic of his field, Dr. Edmunds has not been afraid to speak out and tackle irrationality, oppression, and injustice. From his youth, Dr. Edmunds has involved himself in struggle for human rights and the dignity of persons. He has never been one to back down when confronted with a challenge, and he does not accept things at face value, rather he has a brilliant and critical mind of reason."


Order books by Professor D.L. Edmunds,Ed.D.

A number of Dr. Edmunds' books are also available to be ordered through

Degree programs, training, and mentorship via European-American University

Dr. D.L. Edmunds' private practice of psychotherapy for children, adolescents, and adults is located in Tunkhannock, Pennsylvania. Dr. Edmunds is one of few offering a holistic, drug free, relationship based approach that encourages self determination, autonomy, and dignity. Dr. Edmunds' work has focused on drug free approaches to Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, relational approaches for autism/developmental differences, resolving traumatic stress, assisting troubled children and teens, and helping individuals be able to understand and manage extreme states of mind (schizophrenia, bipolar). Dr. Edmunds has developed the Northeastern Pennsylvania Autism Acceptance Project

that focuses on autonomy, understanding, tolerance, inclusion, self-determination and meaning. It is a dynamic and innovative program serving autistic and developmentally different persons in Northeastern Pennsylvania and offering support and consultation to special education departments, educators, parents, and others. In addition to his private practice of psychotherapy, Dr. Edmunds serves as a consultant to special education departments and as a psychological evaluator for various community based programs for children. He is also involved in conflict resolution and mediation. Dr. Edmunds devotes time to scholarly research of consciousness studies, Comparative Religion and the Sociology of Religion, Philosophy, and Psychology. A committed social activist, Dr. Edmunds works diligently to encourage an end to poverty and a society that is dedicated to compassion, ethics, human rights, equality, and dignity. He had been the youngest legislative aide and later registered professional lobbyist to serve in the State of Colorado. In 2006, Dr. Edmunds established the International Center for Humane Psychiatry to encourage ethics and compassion in the field of mental health and to address issues of psychiatric abuse and promote more humane and dignified approaches towards helping distressed persons. Sinced 2006, Dr. Edmunds has delivered workshops and lectures, conducted radio interviews, participated in rallies and protests, attended professional conferences and meetings focused on mental health, juvenile justice, and foster care reform and in promoting caring approaches for distressed individuals and meeting our children's true needs. In 2008, Dr. Edmunds began organizing the Humanist Center for Freethought and Social Activism

to promote scientific inquiry, exploration of philosophical concepts, examination of comparative religion, and mythologies. In addition, to promote holding beliefs based on logic and reason rather than ascribing to dogmatism, authority, or tradition. The Center encourages the skeptical questioning of ideas, concepts, beliefs, and authority.

The Center also encourages social activism. The Center is committed to erasing oppression in all its forms and is dedicaed to radical democracy where racism, homophobia, sexism, class divisions, and inequalities cease and where there is true justice, not just for an elite few. It strives for the liberation of oppressed persons, for basic human rights,civil rights, cultural freedom, and ecological responsibility. The Center opposes imperialism and militarism and struggles against corporate exploitation of workers and the disadvantaged.

Tunkhannock, a beautiful town in the Endless Mountains of Pennsylvania is located approximately 40 minutes from the Scranton/Wilkes Barre region and about 2.5 hours respectively from the New York (Manhattan) and Philadelphia Metropolitan areas and approximately one hour from Binghamton/Elmira, New York. Dr. Edmunds is accepting new clients and is also arranging to see clients in Dunmore, Pennsylvania (next door to Scranton). To arrange a consultation, seminar/lecture, or for media interview requests, please write to:

or contact

(813) 598-5091

Dr. Dan L. Edmunds, Ed.D. on Facebook

Professor Dr. D.L. Edmunds is a noted child and family psychotherapist, expert on autism and developmental differences, Comparative Religion scholar, public intellectual, humanist, philosopher, critical thinker, social activist, and author. Dr. Edmunds is a radical voice encouraging critical inquiry and challenging the psychiatric, political, and societal establishments. Dr. Edmunds strives for human rights, compassion, and dignity in the mental health system. He is an ally of the psychiatric survivor movement and a social activist promoting the need for understanding and equality and ending oppression in all its forms. In addition to his work as a psychotherapist, Dr. Edmunds conducts extensive study into the sociology of religion and belief, and has explored various religious groups (Jewish, Muslim, Eastern Orthodox Christian, Old Catholic, Roman Catholic, Buddhist, Jain, Sikh, Hindu, Baha'i, among others.) He has published a number of articles exploring religious belief and traditions. He is the author of the recent book, THE ODDITIES OF RELIGION

which critically examines religious dogmatism. Dr. Edmunds has explored meditation practices as well as ayurveda. Dr. Edmunds collaborates with a number of individuals in the holistic healing arts, among them Maya Winddancer Noble, a licensed acupuncturist and scholar of Oriental Medicine. Together, they have sought means to manage physical and emotional pain and encourage wellness. Dr. Edmunds completed undergraduate studies at the University of Florida in Comparative Religion and Sociology. He completed post graduate coursework in Dispute Resolution through the Department of Conflict Analysis and Resolution at Nova Southeastern University. He received his Master of Arts from the University of Scranton and earned his Doctorate of Education in Community Counseling from the University of Sarasota. Dr. Edmunds lectures extensively and has been a guest on local and nationally syndicated radio programs broadcast in Los Angeles, CA; Melbourne, FL; Tampa/St.Petersburg/Clearwater, FL; Hartford, CT.

Dr. Dan L. Edmunds with the Dunkle Family at the opening of an exhibit on psychiatric abuse held in Center City, Philadelphia. The Dunkle family's daughter, Shania, sadly died in the office of her physician from a psychiatric drug.



Dr. Edmunds speaking at event in Niagara Falls, New York, USA


January 20th: Radio Interview- Clearwater, Florida
March 26th: Scranton, Pennsylvania
June 1: New York, New York






AUTISM, ASPERGER, DEVELOPMENTAL DIFFERENCES SERVICES FOR NORTHEASTERN PENNYSYLVANIA AND SOUTHERN TIER OF NEW YORK REGION- THE AUTISM ACCEPTANCE PROJECT- providing training and instruction to educators, parents, and others on understanding developmental differences, encouraging inclusion, and developing approaches that respect dignity, autonomy, and self determination.

The Northeast Pennsylvania Autism Acceptance Project helps autistic, Asperger, and developmentally different persons be able to navigate through the mainstream with dignity. It is focused on the principles of autonomy, understanding, tolerance, inclusion, self-determination, and meaning. Our objective is to provide education and consultation to special education departments, educators, parents, mental health professionals, and others that promote relational approaches and which are respectful to the person.









A 5 year old boy who had been given a diagnosis of autism began working with Dr. Edmunds. He was completely non-verbal when Dr. Edmunds encountered him. He came into the office and began to bang on the computer keyboard. In the main room of the clinic was a large pit of plastic balls. Dr. Edmunds told him, "I am going to have to scoop you up and throw you in the ballpit." He smiled and walked away, only to return to the keyboard with his hand outstretched towards the keyboard, not touching it, just grinning. Just as he touched it, Dr. Edmunds picked him up and said, "yep, to the ballpit with you." He giggled and smiled, and then returned to the keyboard again, but this time he did not touch it, he just fell into Dr. Edmunds arms and then for the first time spoke "throw me in."

From Dr. Edmunds text: ROOTS OF DISTRESS (2008) Order your copy of ROOTS OF DISTRESS

Alan was seen by most as an obstinate young man who had completed departed from any sense of reality. His hallucinations had earned him the diagnosis of a psychotic disorder not to mention he frequently displayed aggressive behavior. Reading the charts from before, it painted a monstrosity, but gave little detail to what Alan's experience might have been. When I first encountered Alan, I did not demand that he speak to me or that he not speak to me. I made no demands. I solely informed him that I was a supportive person who wanted to know him for who he is. This opened the door to intense dialogues. Together we explored questions about life that we both may have never thought much on before. The topics would drift to purpose, impermanence, suffering, the human condition. He related to me the pain of years of abuse, how he felt dehumanized and humiliated by the various people he thought would help him. He told me of his feelings of being alone, of being nothing. This feeling of nothing for him was an end at the time, but really it was the beginning. It was the door for him to question life, to question what he had been taught, to become. He related to me about his hallucinations, and his imaginary friends became mine as well. I asked about their habits, and their words. I noticed that these beings he saw were him at various points in time. As I met each of these beings, I learned something a bit more about the experience of Alan. Gradually as his emotional needs were met and he began to see himself once again as a singular person in the present moment of time and space, these beings began to depart. I saw in Alan the resilient human spirit and I will not forget him.

I was contacted on one occasion to conduct an assessment and consult with a family in regards to their son who was in his early twenties who had been involuntarily committed by his father to a state mental hospital. As I entered the facility, wondered how any in this place could not feel worthless, depressed, and mad. I entered to meet John. He appeared somewhat lethargic because of the cocktail of psychiatric drugs he was being given, but he greeted me warmly and with a smile. John began to immediately speak and told me how he was an African American infant who when he was around two years old was turned white. (John was quite pale in complexion). He then proceeded to tell me about the mind control he felt he was experiencing, that his freedom was taken away, he could no longer think for himself. I asked him who he felt was controlling his mind. His answer did not surprise me- it was his father. I later asked the mother if John's father was a racist and if John had been abused. The answer was yes to both; the father had been linked to racist organizations. The abuse began around the age of 2. It was clear that John had a powerful message, though surrounded in metaphor. To the person only wanting to categorize behavior and ignore experience, would they have known what John was seeking to communicate?

Membership is $60 per year. Members receive updates as well as a copy of CHILDREN OUR TREASURE or ROOTS OF DISTRESS. Members can also take satisfaction in knowing that there support helps individuals obtain drug free therapeutic services who are undergoing financial hardship as well as supporting our publication and educational efforts.
Write for Membership information

"(Dr. Edmunds) is gifted with intellectual curiosity, a well ordered mind and humility. Perhaps his best skills are his wonderful openness and ability to find calm even in the most troubled situation."-Eddy Regnier, Ph.D., Clinical Psychologist and Associate Professor of Psychology and Behavioral Sciences

"I have known Dr. Edmunds for about 10 years, and am very familiar with his work. In my opinion, he is man of high integrity. He is firm in his convictions and not easily swayed by political pressure or public opinion. Regarding theology, I think these qualities are quintessential as the spirit speaks from the inside out, and a truly religious man must have the courage to trust and follow his inner guidance. (Dr. Edmunds) is also a very clear thinker and writer. And shows plenty of initiative. I especially admire his devotion to defending and supporting the spirited nature of our young people. I know he has a wealth of experience working with people, and I know he communicates his ideas well. He is not a closed system, but able to listen and open to new ideas...Dr. Edmunds is a great ally... He has confronted folks within the mental health system for awhile and chose integrity and truth over security and passivity more than once." -DR. JOHN BREEDING, PH.D, psychologist and author of "Wildest Colts Make the Best Horses" and "True Nature and Great Misunderstandings"

"Dr. Edmunds has developed a strong rapport with (my child). He even waits at the corner of our street in anticipation of his visits. More importantly, over the course of the summer we saw a definite improvement in (his) socialization and behavior at home...I have been extremely impressed with Dr. Edmunds' extensive knowledge...I also appreciate the comfort we receive in learning of positive results he has achieved with other children. Although I have read extensively myself and spoken with his developmental pediatrician, Dr. Edmunds has been able to translate his theoretical understanding into practical steps that have helped (my child) and us."-S.J., Pennsylvania

"(Dr. Edmunds) message is so vital, and so inspiring."- H.M., United Kingdom

"I really like what you are doing and have done. Congratulations, and keep up the good work!" -Dr. Clancy D. McKenzie, M.D., Professor of Integrative Medicine, Board Certified in Psychiatry and Neurology, author of the Unification Theory of Mental Illness

"I think (Dr. Edmunds) insights are RIGHT ON and deserve a place in canon psychological, growth, and child development texts. The patterns he describes and the reactions I experienced, and have witnessed others experiencing, could not have been more accurate and profound. I think a great goal would be entirely replacing the DSM with the patterns and reactions (Dr. Edmunds) observed because those present dilemmas that can actually be nurtured and solved.- J.K., California

I first learned of Dr. Edmunds in February 2006, when I read an article on the Internet that he had written: “The Value of a Relationship Approach to Autism.” In an age when psychiatry and psychology have tried to reduce man’s hopes, his goals and his emotions to the biochemistry of the brain, I found Dr. Edmund’s article to be a breath of fresh air and I wrote to him and let him know that.

He responded saying that as a mental health professional, “I have fought to return a conscience to the profession where we understand that our work is not to subdue and label individuals and function as 'social police' but to aid in resolving conflict, restoring relationships, and helping individuals to become empowered and find meaning in their lives. Bio-psychiatry does not understand this and is completely incompatible with such a conception.”

Since that time, Dr. Edmunds began working with CCHR and was invited to become a member of the CCHR advisory board (a Commissioner) and he accepted. In that capacity, he has been interviewed about his work with Autistic children for a CCHR radio show, “Take America Back” and has assisted several CCHR chapters in their activities. One activity was to serve as a keynote speaker at the Grand Opening of the CCHR traveling exhibit in Buffalo, New York. I was told that his speech there was inspirational and was very well received by the audience.

-Carla Moxon, Director of Field Activities
Citizen's Commission on Human Rights International

"I have since KNOWN all that you are working on and it gives me a great sense of hope to finally hear that people are understanding and working towards a better, more humane way to care and prevent the kinds of horror and de- humanisation of beautiful people like L.! Thank you!---M.M.
New Zealand

I read your paper with great interest and appreciation for your putting forth the issues with such clarity. I, too, work with children and am deeply concerned about the number of children who are on drug "cocktails" and the frequency with which parents are told medicating is the treatment of choice. Most of these children started with an ADHD diagnosis and an ADHD drug and then progressed to the "cocktail" and more severe diagnoses as their brain and bodies reacted negatively to the initial drug and subsequent drugs, much as you describe in your paper.

I have been forwarding the link to your paper to other mental health professionals I know.

If possible, your very important point about the NIH concensus report needs attention. As written it says " we have do not have an independent, valid test for ADHD. Some people may not know how to decipher this statement, especially if they are not already knowlegeable about this report. Thank you for your timely contribution. --R.P.
Clinical Psychologist

"I admire your compassion and willingness to listen to the voice of children. I find your work very inspiring and it has helped my own family immensely!"

"I really appreciated attending your lecture. You really listened to my concerns and seemed interested in my child's well being which I have not always found from other professionals.

wanted to let you know that I have been reading and enjoying your articles to no end. My daughter is 13 and she actually has done some "cutting".... I will elaborate more later. Just know that what you are doing is truly helping my family. I do ride her alot and am not very positive with her like I should be."

Dr. Dan, Thanks for being there in my darkest times and giving me the courage and direction to overcome challenges and create a new and better life.

Thank you for your wonderful expertise in regards to autism. We have implemented many of your suggestions with great success.

My child experienced many nasty side effects from medication. We are relieved that we have escaped this nightmare and thank you for your words of encouragement and methods that have helped us to address our son's needs. Thanks!

Professor Dr. D.L.Edmunds is a radical psychotherapist, a friend and advocate of psychiatric survivors, and a critic of the mental health establishment.

Dr. Edmunds is a voice for the marginalized and for the many who lack a voice within the psychiatric system. A person of deep compassion and principle, Dr. Edmunds is a noted psychotherapist, child development/behavioral specialist, Comparative Religion scholar, sociologist and counselor working with both children and adults.

Dr. Edmunds speaks truthfully and directly and has posed critical questions to the psychiatric establishment and to society as a whole. He has developed approaches towards helping distressed individuals that are compassionate and empowering and encourage self-determination and autonomy. He has been an advocate for social justice, informed consent, and for human rights in the mental health system.

Dr. Edmunds has become deeply concerned with the medicalization of human experience and how mental health services have often become 'mechanical', not seeking to truly be caring and empathic, limiting consumer choice, and often not providing informed consent. He has sought for care that is recognizes people's experience and treats them as people, care that is holistic,which recognizes the mind-body-spirit connection, and which takes into account issues of social injustice and how they impact our emotional well being and often shape our possibilities and who we become. Dr. Edmunds has challenged the mental health system establishment to respect persons experience and once again a common healing ground betwen the therapist and client. His writings have often focused on the need for building of community, holistic approaches, and the role of the family as well as social and political processes that lead towards emotional distress. He has challenged stigmatizing labels and exposed the violence that is often inflicted upon individuals by those who claim to be in the role of 'helper'. He encouraged a mental health system which does not force people into treatments that they do not want, which respects their dignity, and which allows their experience to be heard and validated.

Dr. Edmunds has been interviewed on local and nationally syndicated radio programs in regards to these important issues.

Dr. Edmunds was born in Tampa, Florida and spent much of adolescent years in Fort Collins, Colorado where he graduated from Fort Collins High School. As a youth, he was involved in a program for exceptional students and was awarded by the Fort Collins Coloradoan newspaper for his essay as a sixth grader on Ethical Reasoning. From his youth, he became active in community and civic affairs and social and political change. Dr. Edmunds seeks for a society that places people before profits and treats all with compassion and equanimity. He served as a director of the Students for Peace and Justice and was involved in various political campaigns as a teen. In 1991, he served as the youngest legislative aide in the Colorado State Senate, serving in the office of State Senator (later U.S. Representative) Robert W. Schaffer. He later became the youngest registered professional lobbyist, being registered in the States of Colorado, Wyoming, and Arizona. He was a volunteer for the Larimer County, Colorado Office of Veterans Affairs. In 1992, he obtained the permission of then Mayor Nicholas Fortunato to develop the Ormond Beach, Florida Youth Commission. He served as a county campaign coordinator for U.S. Representative Corrine Brown's campaign in 1992. This accorded him the opportunity to transport Martin Luther King III, the son of the slain civil rights leader, to an event at Bethune Cookman College and exposed him to diversity, civil rights, and social justice concerns. As a public intellectual and left libertarian, Dr. Edmunds continues to remain active in political and civic affairs and encouraging a society that is based on equality, peace, and justice. In 2008, Dr. Edmunds organized the Humanist Center for Freethought and Social Activism in order to encourage an end to oppression, ecological responsibility, freedom, equality, and respect for diversity.

State Senator Schaffer letter

Dr. Edmunds' lecture to Libertarian Party

He served as a volunteer for the REACH program, a program for children with developmental differences through Saint Brendan's Roman Catholic Church in Ormond Beach, Florida and also with the Peninsula Medical Center in Ormond Beach, Florida.

Dr. Edmunds is a graduate of Fort Collins High School in Fort Collins, Colorado, having also attended Seabreeze High School in Daytona Beach, Florida. He received his Bachelor of Arts degree in Comparative Religion with a minor in Sociology from the University of Florida in Gainesville, Florida. While at the University of Florida, he developed and coordinated a campus ministry and various community outreach programs. He also as part of his studies in Comparative Religion, visited and conducted study of various spiritual communities, among them- the "Rainbow Family", a community of individuals dedicated to non-violence and non-hierarchical egalitarianism; and the International Society for Krishna Consciousness ("Hare Krishna"). His undergraduate study in Comparative Religion included coursework in Church-State Relations, American Religious Diversity, American Religious History, African Religion, Islamic Civilization, Chinese Buddhism, Christian Mysticism, Cults, Sociology of Religion, and Asian Religion. As part of his minor in Sociology, Dr. Edmunds participated in coursework in Latin American Studies. He had many courses with Dr. Dennis E. Owen who studied American religious history and diversity and assisted in the compilation of information on various religious denominations in America. In 1995, he became a director of the Rose Garden Children's Foundation, a non-profit organization dedicated to assisting physically, hearing, and emotionally challenged children. The Rose Garden Children's Foundation had been established in 1995 by his now late grandmother, Rose J. Johnsen and his mother, Denise Edmunds. Mrs. Johnsen, the wife of the late Wesley G. Johnsen who served as President of the United Bank of Fort Collins (now Norwest) was an entrepreneur involved in investment banking in China and devoted to philanthropy and humanitarian causes. His mother, Denise Edmunds, overcame the challenges of a serious hearing impairment to be an owner and breeder of thoroughbred racehorses and to later earn a degree in Paralegal Studies and is presently continuing study in Organizational Management. Both Dr. Edmunds' parents had been involved as well as his paternal grandfather in the thoroughbred horse racing industry. Dr. Edmunds himself later became involved as a clinical director for a therapeutic equestrian program.

From left to right: Frances Liu, Rose J. Johnsen (late grandmother of Dr. D.L. Edmunds), Bruce E. Thomsen (step-grandfather of Dr. Edmunds)

University of Florida

He received his Master of Arts from the University of Scranton and was inducted in 1998 to the Theta Alpha Kappa National Honor Society for Religious Studies and Theology. His article, "The State of the Soul After Death According to St. John Chrysostom" which examined Eastern Orthodox Christian views on death was published in the University of Scranton's Diakonia journal for Eastern Christian Studies.Dr. Edmunds became exposed to issues of death, dying, and the bereavement process during his period as a chaplain and pastoral counselor for the elderly.

He completed post-graduate coursework in Dispute Resolution via the Department of Conflict Resolution and Analysis at Nova Southeastern University in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. He received his Doctorate of Education in Pastoral Community Counseling from Argosy University of Sarasota in Sarasota, Florida. This program was identical that of the Doctorate of Education in Counseling Psychology with an emphasis on spirituality. Dr. Eddy Regnier, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Psychology and Behavioral Sciences, a clinical psychologist, and a member of Dr. Edmunds' dissertation committee has remarked,"(Dr. Edmunds) is gifted with intellectual curiosity, a well ordered mind and humility. Perhaps his best skills are his wonderful openness and ability to find calm even in the most troubled situation."

Dr. Edmunds was awarded an honorary Doctorate of Divinity in 2007 from St. James Theological Seminary for his humanitarian service and he serves as a Professor of Comparative Religious Studies with the Seminary.

He is a member of the Board of Advisors and on the faculty of the European American University. He has lectured to various organizations and mental health professionals throughout the United States and served as a guest lecturer for a Sociology course at the University of Scranton.

In 1997, he was ordained as a clergyman. He has served as a chaplain for the elderly as well as a home for disabled veterans, many being assigned the labels of schizophrenia and post traumatic stress disorder. In 2005, he served as an interim pastor for a congregation of the United Church of Christ.


Liberal Catholic Apostolic Church

He is presently affiliated with the Liberal Catholic Apostolic Church. Headquarted in the United Kingdom, the Liberal Catholic Apostolic Church is a member of the International Council of Community Churches which is in turn a member of the World Council of Churches. Dr. Edmunds has conducted critical inquiry into religion and belief and feels it is necessary to break down the dogmatism and barriers in belief that lead people to misunderstandings and violence. Dr. Edmunds is an advocate of humanistic thought and is a member of the Society for Humanistic Potential. Dr. Edmunds is a member of the Brights movement established by Professor Richard Dawkins.

Dr. Edmunds' book THE ODDITIES OF RELIGION addresses the dangers of religious dogmatism and offers a critical examination of religion as well as humorous anecdotes from Dr. Edmunds' encounters with various religious groups.

Dr. Edmunds' knowledge in comparative religion, contemplative studies, beliefs, and studies of consciousness has not derived just from academic study, rather from the age of 13 he personally encountered and experienced various systems of belief, joining in the religious experiences of various faith communities- (Jewish {Orthodox, Conservative, Reform, and Reconstructionist}; (Christian {Eastern Orthodox, Protestant, Old Catholic and Roman Catholic}; Buddhist; Hindu; Sikh; Muslim; Baha'i, and others). Dr. Edmunds has developed particular interest in Buddhist psychology and meditation and has participated in various programs at the Kadampa Buddhist World Peace Temple in Glen Spey, New York.

In 1999, he began collaboration with Bobbi Gagne, director of the Sexual Assault Crisis Team of Vermont. Beginning in 2000, Dr. Edmunds began work with community based agencies providing mental health services to children and their families. In 2001, Dr. Edmunds developed a local radio program in the Scranton/Wilkes Barre metropolitan area addressing parenting issues and mental health reform concerns. He has lectured extensively across the United States and in Canada and has been interviewed on nationally syndicated radio programs as well as local radio programs in Los Angeles, California; Scranton, Pennsylvania; Clearwater, Florida; Melbourne, Florida; and Hartford, Connecticut.

After further training, Dr. Edmunds began work with autistic and developmentally different children. He has presently assisted over 80 autistic and developmentally different children as well as adults with Downs Syndrome utilizing relationship based interventions. He has developed the Northeast Pennsylvania Autism Acceptance Project encuraging autonomy, understanding, tolerance, inclusion, self-determination, and meaning for autistic and developmentally different persons. He has authored the book "NAVIGATING THROUGH THE MAINSTREAM" which discusses autism/developmental differences and gives examples of some of the breakthroughs and emotional connections Dr. Edmunds made in his work with these children.

Dr. Edmunds has successfully helped individuals experiencing extreme states of mind (those who have received labels of schizophrenia, schizoaffective disorder, psychotic disorder, and bipolar) in being able to understand their experience, develop resiliency, and decrease their dependency on psychiatric drugs and in a number of situations in collaboration with their physicians be able to eliminate the use of psychiatric drugs. His article "Journey Through Madness" was completed in collaboration with three individuals who had been given the label of a psychotic disorder. Dr. Edmunds has supported the development of communities for persons undergoing extreme states of mind where they can work through areas of distress in an environment where they feel safe, that is without force or coercion, and where they are not subjected to any 'treatments' they do not want.

In 2002, while completing doctoral studies, he dialogued with the now late Dr. Loren Mosher, M.D., founder of the Soteria Houses and former director of Schizophrenia Research for the National Institutes of Mental Health. He also had contact before his untimely death and was greatly influenced by the pioneering and humane work of Dr. Kevin McCready who established one of the first drug free, psychosocial treatment clinics. He has collaborated with his friend and mentor, Dr. Clancy D. McKenzie, M.D., a psychiatrist and neurologist who developed the unification theory of mental illness, the delayed post traumatic stress disorder model for schizophrenia and depression. Dr. McKenzie studied with Dr. O. Spurgeon English, an esteemed psychoanalyst and the head of Psychiatry at Temple University. Dr. McKenzie's textbook on the Unification Theory of Mental Illness was nominated for a Pulitzer.

Dr. Edmunds' therapeutic work is integrative and creative but has some influences from existential-humanistic and transpersonal psychology; the thought of the late Dr. R.D. Laing who promoted therapeutic communities aimed at treating mentally distressed persons with dignity; Stanislav Grof and transpersonal psychology; Eric Berne and transactional analysis; Bateson and games theory; Boszoromenyi-Nagi's family contextual therapy; Jungian psychology, Adlerian child guidance concepts; Carl Rogers and Person Centered Therapy; Dr. Silvano Arieti, Dr. Franco Basaglia and democratic psychiatry; the educational principles of New York State Teacher of the Year and author of 'Dumbing Us Down, John Taylor Gatto, among others. Dr. Edmunds has been greatly inspired by the work of his friend and colleague, Dr. John Breeding, PhD, a psychologist and author of "The Wildest Colts Make the Best Horses" and "True Nature and Great Misunderstandings" as well as the work of Professor Clancy D. McKenzie, M.D. In addition, he is pleased to work in collaboration with Maya Winddancer Noble, a licensed acupuncturist and scholar of Oriental medicine. Mrs. Noble completed a thesis studying schizophrenia from an Eastern perspective and she is the author of "Recipe for the World's Greatest Kids.". Dr. Edmunds has been particularly influenced by the philosophical ideas of existentialism (Camus, Sartre, Frankl), and Jiddu Krishnamurti and the political ideology of Professors Noam Chomsky and Cornel West.

In 2003, he received Board Certification in Sexual Abuse Issues from the American Academy of Experts in Traumatic Stress and is presently a member of the National Center for Crisis Management.

Dr. Edmunds received his Doctorate of Education in Community Counseling from Argosy University of Sarasota. His dissertation provided groundbreaking research on a social reinforcement based discipline plan for children given the label of ADHD than proved more effective than use of psycho-stimulant drugs. In addition, it demonstrated the efficacy of community based wraparound programs as an alternative to more restrictive settings. His doctoral study included coursework in Psychopharmacology, Adolescent Psychology; Brief Psychotherapies, Child and Adolescent Counseling; Pastoral Counseling; Models of Clinical Supervision; Theory and Practice of Motivation; Addictions Counseling; Quantitative and Qualitative Research Methods; Multi-Cultural Counseling and Community Development.

University of Scranton

Argosy University of Sarasota

European-American University

Dr. Edmunds published his first book CHILDREN OUR TREASURE: MEETING OUR CHILDREN'S TRUE NEEDS OUTSIDE OF THE BIO-PSYCHIATRIC PARADIGM in 2006. This text addresses the subjective nature of th diagnosis of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, the hazards of psychotropic drugs, and means to meet the needs of distressed children in humane ways. CHILDREN OUR TREASURE was the expansion of a lecture delivered at the 8th Annual Conference of the International Center for the Study of Psychology and Psychiatry (founded by Dr. Peter R. Breggin) held in Flushing, New York in October 2005.

Dr. Edmunds' other books include EXPERIENCE:THE SOUL OF THERAPY and ROOTS OF DISTRESS. ROOTS OF DISTRESS is an exploration of the social, familial, and political processes and methods of communication that can lead to emotional distress. ROOTS OF DISTRESS also explores ways we can transform ourselves and our society and explores the role of oppression in the lives of individuals. Dr. Edmunds also recently published THE ODDITIES OF RELIGION which is a collection of his direct experiences with religious groups and presents an argument against religious dogmatism and fundamentalism as well as encouraging rational and critical inquiry.

Dr. Edmunds has sought for reform and family rights in the child protective services and foster care systems. In February 2008, he participated in a meeting in Miami, Florida with advocates and foster care officials presenting needed reforms and means to meet our children's needs more effectively. Particularly in light of recent developments where two Luzerne County, Pennsylvania judges pled guilty to taking kickbacks for sending youth to detention facilities, Dr. Edmunds has been an advocate for juvenile justice reform as well as community based options for troubled youth.

In July 2008, Dr. Edmunds presented alongside Vicky Dunkle at an exhibit detailing situations of psychiatric abuse held in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Mrs. Dunkle sadly experienced the death of her daughter, Shaina, due to toxicity that developed from despiramine that was prescribed to her. Dr. Edmunds has been an advocate for individuals in situations where psychiatric drugs have induced violence, suicidal thought, or led to other adverse events.

Dr. Edmunds work has also focused on aiding persons undergoing extreme states of mind who have received the labels of schizophrenia and bipolar and he has frequently been a consultant in this regard. He has also assisted individuals who have developed various adverse emotional reactions to psychiatric drugs and has studied and written extensively on the harmful effects of many psychiatric drugs on persons' emotional health. Dr. Edmunds has worked in collaboration with physicians to help individuals reduce dependency on psychiatric drugs.

Dr. Edmunds' holistic and integrative work has become known internationally. His article,"Restoring the Soul to the Mental Health System" was published in the November 2007 Aaina Journal of the Center for Mental Health Advocacy in Pune, Maharashtra, India. His work is listed on the United Kingdom Critical Psychiatry Network. Dr. Edmunds has lectured extensively across North America.

He presented a paper entitled, "Thinking Outside the Bio-Psychiatric Paradigm"at the 8th Annual Conference of the International Center for the Study of Psychiatry and Psychology (founded by Dr. Peter R. Breggin, M.D.) held in Flushing, New York. Dr. Edmunds has published COMPREHENSIVE STUDY OF DRUG FREE APPROACHES TO ADHD, CHILDREN OUR TREASURE, THE ROOTS OF DISTRESS, EXPERIENCE: THE SOUL OF THERAPY, and NAVIGATING THROUGH THE MAINSTREAM and has written numerous articles addressing ethics in practice, child development, childhood trauma, drug free relational approaches, autism/developmental differences, schizophrenia and extreme states of mind, critical psychiatry issues, and spirituality/ consciousness studies. Dr. Edmunds and the International Center for Humane Psychiatry are also listed in Judith Haire's book, "DON'T MIND ME", a story of Ms. Haire's recovery from psychosis and trauma which was published in the United Kingdom.

Dr. Edmunds has been an advocate of democratic and alternative education (homeschooling, unschooling, Steiner schools, Montesorri, free schools) and was a presenter at the 4th Annual Alternative Education Resource Organization conference held in June 2007 at Russell Sage College in Troy, New York. He believes it is necessary for us to inspire an education system where children have a zeal for learning and their individual differences and learning styles are encouraged and respected. As an educational advocate, he has offered testimony in a number of due process hearings where significant compensatory education was awarded to children.

Dr. Edmunds began his counseling work aiding children and adults who were victims of sexual abuse and domestic violence. He has served as a chaplain and pastoral counselor, psychological associate and evaluator, therapist for community based agencies, assessment clinician for family court and juvenile probation; family mediator; autism specialist; and clinical director for a therapeutic equestrian program. He has provided expert testimony in child custody and juvenile hearings. He has assisted children and adults given serious psychiatric diagnoses as well as troubled adolescents, some of whom have been adjudicated delinquent. He presently serves as a psychological evaluator, a therapist for community based programs, and in private practice as an existential psychotherapist and developmental/ behavioral consultant in Northeastern Pennsylvania. Dr. Edmunds has contracted with various school districts and their special education departments to provide in service trainings as well as therapeutic assistance and consultation for their students.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009


Most of what I really need to know about how to live, and what to do and how to be, I learned from my behavioral therapist before I was 5 years old. These are the things I learned: Life isn't fair. Sometimes you get punished when you don't understand what you did wrong. Sometimes you get punished for not trying when you were doing the best that you can.Sometimes the people in control think you are stupid and that they are smart, but if they were really smart they'd know you weren't stupid. Grown ups don't share and never say they are sorry. The teacher doesn't care about what's important to you. Feelings don't matter, only doing matters. Do exactly as you are told and you get a cookie. Don't question why you are being told to do something, just do it, and quickly. Being autistic is a bad thing. Don't stare out the window in rapt amazement at the fluttering of leaves on a tree or at the formation of a cloud. It's not allowed. What is allowed is learning to put a lid on a box, 90 times a day, until you get it "right". Life is repetetive and boring. Always hug when told to hug. Always kiss when told to kiss. Act like a dog, but never say you are a dog. Act like a robot, but never say you are a robot. Only say what other people want to hear. Don't cry when you are in pain, unless they expect you to cry because they expect that you should be in pain. The only important things you learn are learned from someone holding a clipboard and stop watch. Thinking independently is a mistake. It doesn't matter that normal kids don't get treated this way. To the teacher: eye contact is more important than your pain. Life is: stimulus - response ... stimulus - response. Don't try to imagine someone elses thoughts, it's a waste of time. Saying strings of oral nonsense in response to strings of auditory nonsense is communication.Connecting words to your thoughts and then saying the words is not communication and will get you in trouble. If other people hit you, it's because you're a bad person or you did something wrong.If you hit back or try to defend yourself... then you're a bad person and you're doing something wrong.



Saturday, July 18, 2009


The Northeast PA Autism Acceptance Project provides consultation to parents, educators, special education departments and others on dignified, relational approaches to helping autistic, Asperger, and other developmentally different children and adults based on the concepts of autonomy, understanding, tolerance, inclusion, self-determination, and meaning. In addition, we also provide support for autistic and developmentally different persons. If you are interested in arranging a consultation please write to:
For more information, please see

Tuesday, July 14, 2009


Do not see my disability as the problem. Recognize that my disability is an attribute. Do not see my disability as a deficit. It is you who see me as deviant and helpless. Do not try to fix me because I am not broken. Support me. I can make my contribution to the community in my own way. Do not see me as your client. I am your fellow citizen. See me as your neighbor. Remember, none of us can be self-sufficient. Do not try to modify my behavior. Be still and listen. What you define as inappropriate may be my attempt to communicate with you in the only way I can. Do not try to change me. You have no right. Help me to learn what I want to know. Do not hide your uncertainty behind 'professional' distance. Be a person who listens and does not take my struggle away from me by trying to make it all better. Do not use theories and strategies on me. Be with me. And when we struggle with each other, Let that give rise to self-reflection. Do not try to control me. I have a right to my power as a person. What you call noncompliance or manipulation may actually be the only way I can exert some control over my life. Do not teach me to be obedient, submissive, and polite. I need to feel entitled to say 'no' if I am to protect myself. Do not be charitable towards me. Be my ally as I fight against those who exploit me for their own gratification. Do not try to be my friend. I deserve more than that. Get to know me. We may become friends. Do not help me, even if it does make you feel good. Ask me if I need your help. Let me show you how you can best assist me. Do not admire me. A desire to live a full life does not warrant adoration. Respect me, for respect presumes equity. Do not tell, teach, and lead. Listen, support, and follow. Do not work on me. Work with me.



In dealing with children with autism spectrum disorders, its all about relationship. These children are within a realm where they feel and respond much differently than others. There has been much focus on trying to eliminate certain behaviors or to evoke particular responses in children which actually become rote and repetitive for them without context. One of the goals in aiding these children should be in helping them find meaning. In order to do this we must be willing to not look at the child as broken, unable to respond, or even unable to communicate. These children DO communicate, however they are not always able to manipulate their senses to communicate in the typical ways of other children. As a result, they can become easily frustrated and trapped. The therapist must enter their imaginative world and learn to communicate in their language.
Dr. Stanley Greenspan gives an example of a child who initially went to a psychologist who engaged the child in repetitively placing pegs in a board or trying to find beads hidden under various cups. This was supposed to be a measure of the child’s intelligence and abilities but it proved ineffective. The child constantly hurled the pegs to the floor. A different psychologist took a unique approach in having the mother participate with the child in a series of interactions. First, the child began grabbing the nose of the mother. Rather than redirecting the child and seeking to have her refrain from the grabbing, the mother responded with a ‘toot toot’ noise and then allowed her to do it again responding with a new noise. The mother then gently touched the nose of the child and the child to the amazement of the mother smiled and let out a noise, “mo mo”. The child had indeed communicated but in her own language. The mother and child had made a real connection. This showed to the psychologist that this child’s cognitive development was within a normal range and here was a child who wanted to exert some control over her surroundings. Over time, the communication increased, and the mother was able to have ‘pleasurable’ discussions with her child that prior had never existed (Greenspan, The Growth of the Mind, 1997, pg. 8-9)
Children with language difficulties need to have emotional and social supports. Unless these are more fully developed, the language will be fragmented and lack meaning (Greenspan, pg. 32). Before language development can come, improving the understanding of non-literal and non-verbal communications need to be worked upon. There are 6 main milestones for children: self regulation and interest in their surrounding world; intimacy; two way communication; complex communication; emotional ideas; and emotional thinking. In Greenspan’s floor time model the first goal is to encourage attention and intimacy which helps in the further development of the first two milestones. The parent will actively participate in a period of play therapy engaging their child in creative play allowing the child some direction over the course of the session and taking interest in their activities as well as providing encouraging feedback. Self-regulation becomes difficult for some children because sensory stimulation can be so overwhelming or their attention may wander (Greenspan, Essential Partnership, pg. 8). Difficulties in intimacy occur because the child is not able to effectively read the cues being given. Often times the children will have an easier time with adult relationships because adults are more able to adjust their cues to the level of understanding of the child whereas this does not always occur with peers. A part of reaching out to these children and guiding them in the intimacy milestone is to provide them opportunities to interact with peers and to have them be able to relate back what the other person is stating and feeling. Making use of social stories and role plays can be helpful in aiding the child in understanding the feelings of others as well as their own feelings. A social story is a device used where a make believe dialogue is constructed and the child is asked to fill in the gaps. “A social story is a story written to specific guidelines to describe a situation in terms of relevant cues and common responses (Gray & Granard, 1993). The use of comic strip conversations can also be employed. “A comic strip conversation is the genuine ‘art of conversation’. This approach incorporates the use of simple drawings and color to illustrate an ongoing communication. This provides additional support to (children) who struggle to understand the quick exchange of information in a conversation (Gray, 1994). An advanced form of the social story is what is termed the ‘thinking story’. “Thinking stories demonstrate the variety of possibilities as to what people may be thinking when they make certain statements, or when they display certain behaviors…Thinking stories follow a specific, structured format, using picture symbols from Comic Strip Conversations to define and illustrate the abstract concepts covered in the story (Baron-Cohen, 1990, Dawson &Fernald, 1987). The person or therapist using the social story can help guide the child through and the use of feelings charts can also be a beneficial aid. To reach the milestones of two way communication and complex communication, it is important within the sessions that the parents have that they utilize a dialogue with the child, help guide them to use their face, emotions, hands, to convey their needs and desires. Encouraging the child’s imagination and creativity will help in the development of the complex communication as they begin to move towards problem solving. Lastly, it is important to work on logical thought, being able to take the things they have learned from the parent’s coaching and to actually be able to convey some insight and understanding of the world.
In the play therapy sessions, it is important for the parent and/or therapist to actively participate. The purpose should not be to entertain the child, but to interact with the child. Seek to draw near to the child, but this should not be forced, allow the child to express themselves at their particular pace. Use lots of gesturing and cueing and become a part of their imaginative play, allow them to show and teach you something about their world. It is important to not just tolerate their feelings and certainly not be dismissive of them, but allow the child to express their feelings openly being able to distinguish feelings from behavior. Don’t be afraid to challenge the child in new skills, they will be eager to learn as long as the challenge is not forced. From time to time, you will notice that these children will become obsessed with routines or repetition, so in the play do something to break the routine or repetition. If a child is repeating a certain topic or action, do something entirely different that will focus their attention elsewhere. Do not be repetitive in your directives and follow a plan of rote learning, allow the child to explore and display what they do know. It is important to ask open ended questions, let the children explain to you. Find out what these children find meaning in, and seek to have them tell you why. Don’t judge or evaluate their answers, but be a listener. Help the child to brainstorm new ideas, and particularly when conflict arises, let them be able to perform some self assessment, sit as a partner as they develop adaptive responses and utilize them. Don’t be afraid to allow the child to fail from time to time, they will learn and gain insight from their trial and error. When the child is expressing certain thoughts and feelings, help them to be able to label what it is they are expressing (Greenspan, Essential Partnership, pg. 20)
There are key social behaviors as they relate to relationship building that should be addressed with the child who has been diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome. The first is entry skills. This refers to how the child joins a group of children and whether or not they seek to include other children into their play. The therapist can help serve as a coach for entry skills and encourage scenarios where the child will have opportunities to exercise the skill (Atwood, 1999) Next is assistance, whether the child recognizes when to seek help from others or to provide help to others. Social stories can certainly be utilized in this situation. An example of a social story as given by Dr. Tony Attwood (1999) that applies to this skill is as follows: Sometimes children help me. They do this to be friendly. Yesterday, I missed three math problems. Amy put her arm around me and said, “Okay, Juanita” She was trying to help me feel better. On my first day of school, Billy showed me my desk. That was helpful. Children have helped me in other ways. Here is my list: I will try to say, Thank you! when children help me. Another example of a social story is: My name is Juanita. Sometimes, children help me. Being helpful is a friendly thing to do. Many children like to be helped. I can learn to help other children. Sometimes, children will ask for help. Someone may ask, ‘Do you what day it is today?’ or ‘Which page are we on?’ or maybe something else. Answering that question is helpful. If I know the answer, I can answer their question. If I do not know the answer, I may try to help that child find the answer. Sometimes, a child will move and look all around, either under their desk, in their desk, around their desk. They may be looking for something. I may help. I may say, “Can I help you find something?” There are other ways I can help. This is my list of ways I can help other children: Children like to be helpful (Atwood, 1999). For younger children the use of the Mr. Men stories (such as Mr. Nosy, Mr. Grumpy) by Roger Hargreaves can prove useful.
The other skills which need development include receiving and accepting compliments, accepting and receiving criticism, accepting suggestions, reciprocity and sharing, conflict resolution, monitoring and listening, empathy, and learning to ending meaning how to provide closure to an interaction. For conflict resolution skills I recommend the use of Weeks’s 8 fold model. In this model one first provides and effective atmosphere for the discussion and resolution of the conflict, clarify perceptions, focus on needs, build shared positive power, look to the future and learn from the past, generate options, develop doables, and make mutual benefit agreements (Weeks, 1992). The child diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome will need particular coaching and support in going through these steps.
Within the education system is a great misunderstanding of Asperger’s Syndrome. These children cannot be placed in an autism classroom as they are too high functioning. These children can be challenging and some teachers and school administrators are afraid of taking the necessary steps to insure these children’s success. Partial hospitalization becomes an easy out for the school districts. Teachers need to be able to build a relationship with the child and recognize their strengths, being respectful of the child’s personal space and boundaries and always speaking to the child in a calm and collected manner. “Teachers need to have a calm disposition, be predictable in their emotional reactions, flexible with their curriculum, and see the positive side of the child (Atwood, pg. 173) Some teachers see that these children will rock in their seats or move their hands or feet and look at these children as being disruptive in the class. The rocking behavior is a way that the child ‘grounds’ themselves, it is comforting for them, and is not a behavior to condemn the child for nor one that can or should be eradicated. If it appears to be a disruption, the teacher can provide a place for the child to be able to have a break until they feel they are more calm. School administration must understand that for the Asperger’s child that sensory stimuli can be very frustrating, and sometimes these children may need brief periods away from school that allow them to regain some emotional stability. Such absences should be written as allowable in the IEP and should not be treated as truancy situations. The size of the classroom is paramount for these children. “Open plan and noisy classrooms are best avoided. The children respond well to a quiet, well-ordered class with an atmosphere of encouragement rather than criticism. Parents find that with some teachers the child thrives, while with others the year was a disaster for both parties. If the teacher and child are compatible, then this will be reflected in the attitude of other children in the class. If the teacher is supportive then the other children will amplify this approach. If they are critical and would prefer the child were excluded, other children will adopt and express this attitude (Atwood, pg. 174). Once a child is in an appropriate environment with the necessary resources, this environment should be maintained. “Once parents have located a school that provides the necessary resources, then it is important to maintain consistency. Going to a new school means changing friends and the school not being aware of the child’s abilities and history of successful and unsuccessful strategies.” Children with Asperger’s syndrome may display an unsual gait and difficulties with motor skills and coordination. They may also have difficulty with sensory stimuli so it is important for the therapist to take note of distressing stimuli and help to limit these things within their environment as much as possible. Activities designed to work on motor skills and coordination can prove beneficial but consideration should be taken as to not force a child or cause undue frustration if the child’s abilities are impaired. Emotional coaching can prove effective for parents of the child with Asperger’s syndrome. Emotional coaching involves seeking to see the expression of emotions as a time for intimacy and teaching, providing validation to the child’s emotions, and helping the child to be able to label their emotions. The parent who is an emotion coach values the child’s negative emotions as opportunities for intimacy; can be patient with the child when they are sad, angry or fearful; can identify triggers; does not tell the child how to feel; does not expect to have all the answers (Gottman, 1999). There has been some discussion of a link between gastrointestinal disorders and children with autism spectrum disorders (Wakefield, 1997) Some children with autism spectrum disorders may exhibit encopresis. The child should be regularly seen by a physician if any problem arises. The child should not be punished for occasions of encopresis or be made to feel embarrassed. As pediatric neurologist Fred A. Baughman has stated, autism is a blanket term as is cerebral palsy identifying a developmental condition rather than a psychiatric issue. While those considered within the autism spectrum may display similar traits, there are diverse etiologies (Baughman, 2001). Some children with traumatic brain injury or epilepsy may display autistic traits. However, there can also be psychosocial reasons for the development of autistic traits. The term itself is very loosely used and at present the exact etiology is not fully known. I tend to look at autism as a variation in perception, yet a normal variation. These children are not defective. As individuals may be left handed or right handed, this is a variation, but does not state that a left handed individual who is in the minority is somehow defective or 'abnormal'. Rather, because children with autism have a variance in their perception, this causes them to come into conflict with the general functoning and perceptions of society as a whole. They have unique strengths but may need dome extra assistance in being able to navigate through what the rest of society typically perceives and how it interacts.
There are no medications that will cure autism and Asperger’s syndrome. Some individuals have used various medications in an attempt to control behaviors, however it must be realized that this is all that the medications are capable of doing is controlling a certain aspect of behavior by blunting certain brain functions. These medications all have serious risks. “Neuroleptics have their main impact by blunting the highest functions of the brain in the frontal lobes and the closely connected basal ganglia. They can also impair the reticular activating or energizing system of the brain. These impairments result in relative degrees of apathy, indifference, emotional blandness, conformity, and submissiveness, as well as a reduction in all verbalizations, including complaints or protests. It is no exaggeration to call this effect a chemical lobotomy…contrary to claims, neuroleptics have no specific effects on irrational ideas (delusions) or perceptions (hallucinations)." (Breggin, 1999) These medications also carry the risk of causing tardive dyskinesia or neuroleptic malignant syndrome. Tardive dyskinesia is permanent abnormal movements of the voluntary muscles. “NMS is characterized by severe abnormal movements, fever, sweating, unstable blood pressure and pulse, and impaired mental functioning. Delirium and coma can develop. NMS can be fatal…(Breggin, 1999) Common side effects of neuroleptic medications as reported by the Physicians Desk Reference are abdominal pain, abnormal walk, agitation, aggression, anxiety, chest pain, constipation, coughing, decreased activity, diarrhea, dizziness, fever, headache, inability to sleep, increased dreaming, indigestion, involuntary movements, joint pain, lack of coordination, nasal inflammation, nausea, overactivity, rapid heartbeat, rash, reduced salivation, respiratory infection, sore throat, tremor, vomiting. The SSRI antidepressants’ are also a common prescribed medication. These drugs can produce akathisia, mania, worsening of depression, obsessive compulsive like behaviors, and severe anxiety and agitation (International Center for the Study of Psychiatry and Psychology Newsletter, Summer 2002, pg. 15) The use of responsible psychosocial and relationship based approaches are far better than any short term benefit that neuroleptics may provide.
Scenarios to reflect upon- Evaluate each choice, what seems most appropriate? Joe is in class and his teacher is explaining a math assignment, Joe sits in his chair rocking back and forth incessantly. The teacher finds this disruptive.
The TSS intervenes by: A.verbally redirecting Joe to sit still and pay attention to what the teacher is saying
B.find a place within the room where Joe will not be a distraction to the teacher, allow him to rock if necessary, ask Joe to explain to you what instructions the teacher gave and insure his comprehension.
C.Place Joe in a time out until he agrees to stop rocking
Margaret has a particular interest in rock music and can give detailed descriptions of bands, songs, etc. Margaret is having an important conversation with her mother, but Margaret keeps getting side tracked wanting to talk about rock music. The TSS intervenes by: A. telling Margaret that later in the day they can listen to rock music together and discuss but presently she needs to listen to what her mother is stating
B.give Margaret a time out for not listening to her mother
C. allow Margaret to continue discussing rock music and have her mother continue the conversation later
John is changing classrooms which often can be frustrating for him. There is a lot of noise and distraction in the hall and someone accidentally bumps John in the hall. John becomes aggressive and begins pounding the lockers and cursing. He lunges at a boy who comes near him. The TSS intervenes by:
A.grabbing John’s arms and instructing him verbally that he needs to stop
B. retaining some distance from John, dialogue with him about what is frustrating him, ask him if you can accompany him to a quiet place to sit, offer him a drink, proceed to the classroom once hall is clear and John is more calm.
C. Tell John he will be sent to principal’s office if he continues to be disruptive. Lead him to classroom
D. Allow John to continue to pound on lockers until he de-escalates himself
Eric goes to a store and sees a man buying a toy. Eric gets very close to the man and loudly exclaims, “What are you doing? Who are you buying that for?” The man appears startled and walks away. Eric appears hurt that the man would not respond to him. The TSS intervenes by:
A. explaining to Eric that his interaction was inappropriate and he needs to have proper boundaries.
B. Explaining that the man probably misunderstood Eric and not to feel bad, and coach Eric on how he could interact better in social situations Tell the man that Eric has Asperger’s syndrome and that he hurt Eric’s feelings.
Valanti is frustrated and rather than speaking he clinches his fists, turns red, and begins stomping his feet. The TSS intervenes by:
A. giving Valanti a time out
B. take Valanti aside, allow him to vent, and discuss the feelings and why they were there, using a feelings chart if necessary.
C.Explain to Valanti that his outburst is inappropriate and he will receive a consequence.
SAMPLE FLOOR TIME SESSION (adapted from information provided by Dr. Stanley Greenspan, MD and Dr. Serena Wieder PhD
Preparation: 1 to 5 minutes
*What is your child’s mood and energy level? *What is your mood and energy level? *Remind yourself of your child’s sensory preferences to help him find his sensory “comfort zone” during your floor time session. *Is she more attentive to high or low pitched noises? *What kinds of textures does he like to touch and be touched by? *What kind of visual experiences attract her? *What kind of movement is stimulating, soothing? *What kinds of oral-motor activity organize his behavior? *What is the child doing? * How can I join in?
Interaction: 20 to 25 minutes
*Position yourself in front of your child.
*Use gestures, tone of voice, and body language to accentuate the emotion in what you say and do. Be animated.
*Talk less. Find ways to play that don't require words.
*When you do talk during play sessions, use language that is at your child's developmental level. If your child speaks in 2-3 word utterances, limit your own speech to 3-4 word utterances.
* Do less. To avoid overwhelming the child or dominating the activity, do only as much as the child is doing.
* Imitate the child’s actions.
* Follow the child’s lead regarding the “topic” for play. You can choose the topic at other times, but during floor time, let the child choose.
Fostering attention, engagement, intimacy
Follow the child’s lead and join him. It does not matter what you do together as long as he initiates the move.
Treat everything your child does as intentional and purposeful. Attach meaning to (seemingly) meaningless behavior.
Join in perseverative play.
Do not interrupt or change the subject as long as child is interacting
Pursue pleasure over other behaviors; do not interrupt any pleasurable experience.
Creating and sustaining interaction in the face of avoidance Do not treat avoidance or “no” as rejection; persist in your pursuit. Insist on a response—ANY response (not just the one you are hoping for). Play dumb or make the wrong move to provoke or sustain an interaction. Playfully interfere with what the child is doing. Block escape routes, and turn the child’s escape efforts into an interaction.



In aiding children with developmental challenges, we must first realize that this requires a team effort and a strengths based approach. It is necessary to not focus on what the child cannot do but look at what the child can accomplish and build upon this. Parents can enlist the support of professionals but must realize that it is they who are the most important persons in the child's life and that furthering the development of their child is not just the work of professionals but is a collaborative effort from everyone involved with the child. It is necessary that for any interventions to truly be effective and helpful, that they must be consistent and constant. The interventions must be the same throughout all domains that the child is present in.
It is crucial for us to understand the environmental responses that children have, whether they have developmental concerns or even if they do not. If a teacher, parent, or other person has a hostile tone, a poor demeanor, a loud voice, etc. All of these things can be overwhelming to the child and can provoke a behavioral response. All behavior is purposeful and should be looked upon as so, even negative behaviors. Behaviors are a way of the child speaking to us about a distressing situation or an apparent need or desire when they may not be able to convey this to us verbally. Light, sound, and other sensory stimuli can also produce distress for a child. We need to create awareness of what in the environment may serve as triggers to distress and seek to modify the environment to make it a more comfortable and safe place for the child. We must also be cautious in how we view children. If we look at a child displaying negative behavior as a 'monster' or feel that because a child may be rambunctious at times that we must automatically resort to medicating them, then we have taken a negativistic attitude that will surely be passed on to the child. Children are keenly aware, even those with communication struggles, of adult's perceptions of them. We should look at our children through the eyes of delight and address behavioral difficulties not in terms of how we can subdue, but rather how we can meet needs and resolve conflict and remove distress.
The floor time model is of particular usefulness in working with children with communication and social struggles. For those children who are non-verbal, we can begin to introduce hand signals, moving to use of pictures, and then gradually encouraging the child to make use of words or phrases to indicate desires. It is not important initially whether the verbalizations are correct but rather that a verbal attempt was made. When a child displays such a behavior as spinning objects, in the floor time model, we would not be aversive, but rather gently introduce a new toy or object and seek to divert the child to a more productive activity. In situations of echolalia, we can say such things as 'that's TV talk', and provide means to divert this to a different means of conversing. It is important to provide the child with understandable signals and meaningful statements and phrases when we are desiring them to behave in a different way.
In order for children with developmental concerns to be able to integrate more into the social sphere, it is necessary that they not be isolated into situations where they are labeled and shuffled away from typical peers. Rather, they should be included as much as possible with typical peers. They may need additional support and accommodations, but how will they begin to learn important skills unless they have frequent and continuous exposure to the world around them. I have developed the use of what I term 'real life rehearsals', where we may set up a particular social scenario for a child. It may be such a thing as being able to make a purchase at the grocery store. The therapist and parents guide and coach the child ahead of time in how to go about such an activity and then have them actually demonstrate it. Social stories and comic strip conversations are very useful in conveying information as these children tend to be visual learners. Social stories can be simply made booklets that the child helps to create where a particular task or scenario is outlined with what behaviors are expected. The comic strip conversation is helpful in building empathic skills as well as reflective thinking as we ask the child to develop captions for what different individuals may state and think in various situations.
Lastly, I think it is crucial, though it may appear controversial to some, to state that children with developmental concerns can and will be benefited from a psycho-social and relationship based approach alone. Some have decided to resort to medications, and I am placing no blame or condemnation on those who have made this decision, however making a suggestion that there are alternatives and informing of these alternatives as well as the hazards of psychotropic medication usage. First, I will not argue that medications can 'work' in the sense of subduing behavior. However, strapping a child to a chair would also work in regards to subduing behavior. This would be aversive and quite possible illegal. I see little difference between such an approach and that of using psychiatric medication. The difference is that one is a physical restraint, the other a chemical restraint. When we say that something 'works', often we are not looking at the mechanism by which it works. Dr. Peter R. Breggin, MD compared the use of anti psychotic medications in children to 'chemical lobotomy' as it blunts the functions of the frontal lobes. The risk of tardive dyskinesia, a permanent disfiguring neurological impairment exists with these drugs. In addition, such drugs as Risperdal are prescribed off label and are not indicated for anyone below the age of 18 but continue to be prescribed.
It may require more diligence, effort, and patience, but I remain convinced after working with over 40 children with developmental challenges, that relationship based approaches, rather than chemical restraint, prove to be a true means to teach our children skills, to focus on their strengths, to build on their development, and to help address challenging behaviors and to address the real source of conflict and distress rather than just blunting it.


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Dr. Dan L. Edmunds is a noted psychotherapist and child/adolescent developmental specialist in private practice in Northeastern Pennsylvania. His background and experience can be obtained at To arrange a consult, please contact