Top 10 Best Autism Podcast Episodes of 2020

As my second year of podcasting comes to a close, I wanted to take some time and reflect on some of the best autism podcast episodes from this year.  I recently was able to survey over a hundred of my listeners and find out who they were and what they loved about my podcast episodes. I loved finding out that many of your favorite episodes were mine as well.

Some of my favorite episodes have also had a personal impact on my life. There is the autism success story of Michelle C. whose daughter went from 2 words to over 500 words during the COVID-19 shutdown by taking my courses. Additionally, I loved the Kate Swenson episode where Kate unknowingly addressed an issue that I’d been having in my home and once that interview was over, I was able to fix the problem.

Between solo shows, ABA professionals, autism researchers, speech-language pathologists, nutritionists, parents of children with autism, and adults with autism, I’ve managed to present a wide variety of guests who can share their experience and expertise with you. I feel honored to listen and learn from these guests, and I hope that you’ll continue sharing your thoughts about the best autism podcast episodes by filling out my podcast survey.

Many of you know about my first book, The Verbal Behavior Approach, but you may not realize how much my podcasting has informed my new book Turn Autism Around which will be published in March 2021. I am so thrilled to take what I’ve learned while working with you, your families, and autism professionals, and turn it into a book that will help even more families. It is never too late or too early to make meaningful progress in your family’s journey with autism.


  • Which episodes listeners overwhelmingly voted for as the most helpful podcast episode of 2020.
  • How one of my podcast guests was able to help me with a problem I had been having at home with my son, Lucas.
  • That I’ve featured more adults with autism so that parents and professionals can see a fresh perspective.
  • About the works of autism professionals who are at the forefront of autism research, and I share some of my favorite insights from their papers and presentations.

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Transcript for Podcast Episode: 104
Top 10 Best Autism Podcast Episodes of 2020
Hosted by: Dr. Mary Barbera

You're listening to the Turn Autism Around podcast episode number one hundred and four. I'm your host, Dr. Mary Barbera, and it is my pleasure to present my top 10 favorite podcast episodes of 2020. This is our last episode of this year. Last year, episode number 52, I did my top picks from 2019. So I guess it's becoming a tradition. I independently picked my top 10 favorites.

And then we also got some input from you all that filled out our podcast listener survey. So let's get to the top ten of 2020.

Welcome back to another episode of the Turn Autism Around podcast. This is a special episode because it is the top 10 episodes. Last year, we started the podcast in January 2019. So in December of 2019, I presented the top 10. And I guess we're going to make it a tradition making each December, the last episode of the year will be the top ten. That episode last year was Episode 52. This episode is 104. So any time I do an episode, we have a link that goes right there.

So if you are out driving or walking and you want to look into these episodes further, you can always go to Mary Barbara dot com forward slash the episode number. In this case one zero four, and you can get all the show notes, all the links that I discussed. And this year's kind of special because in addition to being the top ten of my favorites, we also did our first podcast Listener Survey back in November. And I got a lot of really great data. Up until then, I was really kind of flying blind and assuming that half of you were professionals and half of you were parents and not knowing what percentage had really young children or older teens and adults.

So even though we have many people listening and over three hundred fifty thousand downloads in two years, less than two years, I got one hundred and sixty responses, which doesn't sound like a lot, but it really gave me some good feedback on if people liked interviews versus solo shows or a mixture of both. Actually the vast majority of people, 94 percent, I believe, said they liked the mixture of both. So we're going to continue on with that.

I've been saying there's half and half. Half parents have professionals, but our survey results showed that actually there's more parents and caregivers here, 70 percent versus twenty one percent professionals and nine percent both parents and professionals like myself, where I'm a parent and a behavioral analyst. The ages of your children or clients. Actually sixty four percent were under the age of five. The biggest part of our audience have children or clients three to five years of age, which is great because a lot of my emphasis over the past year and going forward into 2021 will certainly be those little kids under the age of five. So we have sixty four percent of you with that age range. Six to 12 yearolds, twenty nine percent. And then teens we have five percent and adults we have two percent.

So that was great information. My first book, as you may or may not know, The Verbal Behavior Approach: How to Teach Children with Autism and Developmental Disorders was published way back in 2007, so many years ago.

And that book and really all of my online courses and my new book is all based on children, teens and adults with a developmental language ability of a five-year-old or younger. So that one- to five-year-old, whether you're chronologically that age or developmentally and language wise at age, that's really who I help the most. Sure. If you have children who are conversational, these techniques work for typically developing kids and adults as well. But it really is great that those that chose to fill out the survey that knew about it and then filled it out really helped me see.

Kind of what the audience makeup is, so you can it's not too late to fill out the survey, you can fill that out at Mary Barbara dot com forward slash podcast survey and we'll keep that open because any time you can give us feedback and let us know what you like, what you don't like. And it was interesting because I had picked my top 10 favorites for the year and then compared them to the survey. So the survey really matched up. Seven of the 10 were mentioned at least once by the podcast listeners as being their favorite as well.

In the end, it is never too early or too late to make meaningful progress. And my goal is that each child and adult become as safe as possible, as independent as possible, and as happy as possible reaching his or her fullest potential. So let's get to the top 10 now. I'm going to go like I did last year. I'm going to go in the date of publication of the podcast. We did have a number one and number two fan favorite from the survey. So when we get to those, will identify those. But just going to go in order of the podcasts airing. So the top 10 autism podcast episodes of 20/20, starting with number one, which is our first episode of 2020 which was episode number 53 with Dr. Mark Sundberg.

This was mentioned by a few of our survey respondents and Dr. Mark Sundberg is the author of the VB-MAPP Assessment, which I use all the time, my courses are, especially the verbal behavior bundle, is based on VB-MAPP level one and two and three. Dr. Mark Sandburg's episode number fifty-three was over an hour long. This is was published in January of 2020. And in that episode I announced my new book, Turn Autism Around An Action Guide for Parents of Young Children with Early Signs of Autism would be published. I got a book contract last January. It was signed.

So Mark Sundberg has been a mentor to me since 2003. In my new book, he has graciously allowed us to share his self-care checklists for dressing, grooming, feeding and potty training. They're incorporated into the book. It's made the book so much better. And the other kind of things that I remember from that podcast episode, I remember way back in 2003 or 2004 when I worked for the Verbal Behavior Project of Pennsylvania, we did a case study in front of Mark Sundberg.

And at the time we were trying to get this young boy, I forget how old he was, maybe 10 years old, and we were trying to get him to have some receptive discrimination. So the teacher was holding up two cards, a banana and a shoe, and she was saying touch banana or touch shoe. And one of the really big aha moments of my whole career as a behavior analyst was when Dr. Sundberg looked at these videos and he suggested that that was not a good way to test receptive. First of all, the teacher's hands were essentially full with the cards and so there was no ability to prompt the student, to give a gestural prompt or prompt or a full physical prompt. Because you had these, her hands were full with the banana and the picture of the shoe.

And so he suggested that we use flat surface like a table. He also suggested, which we talk about in in episode fifty-three, is that one of the prerequisites for good receptive ability like Touch Banana versus Touch Shoe is that you need good scanning. And the only way to really get good scanning is to get matching strong. So I now, you know, always started with a field of three to five, always start with matching, getting scanned really strong, expanding matching.

And a lot of times with these kids that are stuck with receptive abilities, we can get that going through matched to receptive transfers. We also talk about transfer procedures pretty much in episode number fifty-three. It's just a really great episode. So if you haven't listened to it, I would highly recommend so. OK, next stop. That is our podcast one. So the second one that I consider a top ten favorite, which was also on the survey, picked out a few times, is number 70, Kate Swenson from Finding Cooper's voice. It's an interview Kate has grown a Finding Cooper's Voice Facebook page, which is a blog and a Facebook page with over half a million likes and participants.

She also has a private group which she charges a nominal fee per month, which I've been a part of since she started it. And that really helps, especially parents of kids with severe autism. Kate has a son, Cooper, who is about 10 years of age and he has severe non-verbal autism. I've also, as I said, been a part of Kate's group and also have done some live Facebook live interviews, specifically on the potty-training topics. And this is a common question Kate gets from many members. The other great thing about Kate's episode, which is number seven. So when I say number 70, is at the very end. You know, if you've listened to a bunch of my interviews, you know, I'll always and almost always end with part of my podcast goals are for parents and professionals to be less stressed and lead happier lives.

Do you have any stress reduction tools or self-care skill management tools? And Kate said that Cooper doesn't wear headphones. And so his iPad was always so loud in the background, causing major chaos in our family until she found a noise volume reducer app that she could put on his iPad to basically make it not go up past half of the volume, you know, not go to volume 10, but only go to volume five. And I had never heard about that. Now Lucas listens with headphones, but he still, up until that point, was often playing it very loud and we were constantly telling turn it down.

And I immediately sort of got off that interview, downloaded the app. And it has really prevented Lucas from getting overstimulated from loud noises coming through his headphones. So that was really a great tip for me. And that is that episode number 70 with Kate Swenson. Moving on to my third pick is episode number seventy-eight with Michelle S. and Michelle C. actually ended up making it her story end up making it to Chapter eight of my new book. I really didn't know anything about her. She joined the toddler, my toddler online course during covid March, March 25th, to be exact. Michelle was a high school teacher by training. She was home on maternity leave. She had her daughter, Lena, who had just turned to just got diagnosed with autism and she had a newborn baby as well. She was locked down during covid. All services had stopped and she was not able to get Elaina into ABA like she had wanted to.

And she found my course and she started taking it and she did all the homework assignments, everything to the T, and she made remarkable progress. And I didn't know anything about her until the end of the course. She posted that her daughter went from two words to over five hundred words, and I wanted to get her on the phone. So I got her on a zoom call and we weren't even really planning on doing a podcast. But right before I hit record, I asked her, I said, can we just pretend this is a podcast just in case this turns out to be podcast worthy? And boy, did it become podcast worthy. Episode number seventy-eight Michelle details how she missed the first signs, was in denial.

Her husband, who's a police officer was less in denial than she as a teacher. And they got the diagnosis. They were all ready to start or get going with ABA and the world shut down. Her daughter made miraculous progress in only thirty-three days of the course, going from two words in one-hour time sample to one hundred and eighty words and phrases in the podcast. She also talks about how she had standardized speech evaluation right before and right after the course. And so she was very generous in allowing me access to those reports and my BCBA mentor, Dr. Rick Cabina and I have now written up Michelle C's daughter's case study and are hoping to get that published in a peer reviewed journal in 2021. So Michelle C has. That episode 78 is just a great success story.

The survey respondents who completed the podcast survey said they loved that episode. They loved Kelsey's episode. In Episode number three, I also featured Mandy V this year. I featured several podcasts where we feature success stories, and that seems to be something that listeners enjoy hearing. But episode number seventy-eight is a great one to listen to, especially if you are you, yourself or, you know, a family that really needs some hope that they can turn things around with a very young child.

OK, my fourth pick this year is episode number 80 with Denise Voight, who is a functional medicine nutritionist. And those of you that have listened for a long time know that I'm a registered nurse and a board-certified behavior analyst as well as a mom. And I know many of our kids have medical issues that co-occur with their autism and they also have severe nutritional issues in many cases. So Denise is a functional medicine nutritionist. She helps mostly kids with autism and ADHD. She fell into the whole world of nutritional counseling and nutritional. She has a master's degree in that specialty. When her son started showing signs of ADHD and he really responded to nutritional help. She also helps adults. And there's just a wealth of information. I really found that Episode 80 was a great one.

Moving on to next on our list of top ten is the number one fan favorite by far. It was mentioned multiple times, and that is episode number eighty five with my typically developing son, Spencer. And this episode was all about siblings. I say in that episode that one of the few blessings have covered this year of the covid shutdown was having Spencer come home from New Orleans and live with us from for several months from March through July. And I interviewed him in person in my video studio in my home right before he returned to New Orleans to start medical school.

We discussed with Spencer, I discussed with Spencer the role of siblings and the feelings, unique relationships he has with Lucas. And we also talked about embarrassing moments, his sibling feelings of responsibility, what the future might hold. It's a very good episode. So that is episode number eighty-five. Number six on our list of top ten is number eighty with Keri Magro, who is an adults with autism. He has a doctorate in education and he is a keynote speaker, is a great guy, is an author. I featured several adult autistic individuals this year, Kerry Magro, Eileen L. Kelly Carpenter, Rachel Barcelona.

Great episodes to give us their insight on what it was like growing up with autism. And they are all fully conversational. And Rachel is in college still. She's a beauty queen. Kelly Carpenter and her mom, Susie, were on the show. She is a young adult. She's driving. And we talk about bullying and those sorts of things. But Kari Magro, I think is just a wealth of information and real leader in the field. He is episode number eighty eight. Next on our list at number seven of our top ten is episode number ninety with Tamara Casper. And we she is both a speech and language pathologist for many years, as well as a BCP for several years. We talk about speech and specifically about apraxia and autism and our survey results.

Many people said that any episode that involves speech or speech strategies they loved. And Tamara Kasper's episode number ninety was mentioned a few times as well. In the episode, Tami and I share our funny and very similar stories of the first time we each saw Dr. Carbone present. And really, Tammy gives us her herexpertise on apraxia and basically says that it's the same treatment for very young children with apraxia and autism versus just autism we need to treat. Kids with minimal vocalizations, the same combining man's tax code, using multiple control teaching sign addressing in this episode.

And we also talk about addressing pacifier addiction, which is up until I saw Tammy's presentation at the National Autism Conference. I didn't really hear anybody else talking about pacifiers. And I think it's a big deal. And I have six steps to weaning from pacifiers available as a cheat sheet. I also have that in my book coming up, because I do think that very young children who are addicted to pacifiers or bottles are still on that well past the age of one. It can really affect their talking as well.

So the next episode to make our top 10 is the only solo show that I picked this year. It's episode number ninety-three where I discuss Dr. Ami Klin's research. I watched, I was live in person at the National Autism Conference at Penn State in 2019 when I heard Dr. Klin present at the Q&A session. During his presentation, I raised my hand and I asked if he thought if autism could be prevented. He said no, he didn't think that autism could be prevented. But he was pretty sure, based on his research about gazes and twin studies, as well as early intervention studies, that prevention of intellectual disability, prevention of speech disorders and behavioral disorders could be prevented if we started and detected autism or signs of autism early.

And we started treating it intensively in a 2020 paper that he wrote with colleagues. It's more of a white paper, more of an opinion piece, how we have to really start treating autism signs of autism as early as possible. And we have to train parents how to get things back on track, if possible, or be aware when eye gaze and babbling, imitations start to get off track.

I think I saw Dr. Klin, as I said, present live in 2019. And then I saw his two different workshops in 2020. And I in episode number ninety-three I summarize both the 2019 as well as a two 2020 talks as well as 2020 paper. I summarize this and I talk about some of the real key takeaways I had in that episode. One of the stats in his paper is that intellectual disability occurs with autism in black children almost twice as much as in white children. And I talk about this also in episode number ninety-nine with Maria, who founded Autism in Black. So lots of great research summarization in episode number ninety three. As I said, it's my only solo show that I picked this year for the top ten. The next episode on our top ten list is number ninety-five with Dr. Keith Williams, who is a PhD and BCBA-D.

This was our number two fan favorite from our survey. Dr Williams is an international feeding expert. He's a behavioral analyst. I saw the National Autism Conference lecture from Tamara Kasper, from Dr. Ami Klin, from Dr. Vincent Bowen and from Keith Williams. And in two of the cases I got interviews, two of the situations with Ami Klin, Dr. Carbon. I did so those shows to summarize it. But Dr. Williams was nice enough to agree to come on the show. In his national autism conference lecture, he talked about how he's seeing severe nutritional deficiencies like rickets and scurvy and in children with autism.

And he's seeing it more and more as the years go by. So I had him on the show, and it's a really great episode. It's number ninety-five. And in that episode, he talked about paper from Susan Mays and a colleague. Susan is at Hershey as well. And her research is showing that picky eating is now a diagnostic indicator for autism. And you can add that to the list. So if you have a very young child and you're trying to determine if it's autism or ADHD or speech delays if they have picky eating. That's more of a sign that it's going to be autism. It's so common among children with autism in episode number 95. I also learned about a book by Keith Williams and a colleague called Broccoli Boot Camp. And I was able to pull that reference into my new book.

I was also able to include some of the information I learned within that podcast right into my new book. At the last draft, Dr. Williams also reviewed my new book and wrote a wonderful endorsement, as did Dr. Sundberg and Dr. Cabina and many of the guests, Dr. Bridget Taylor, Dr. Amanda Kelly. Michelle C. So the podcast has really enabled me to get new information to get it out there, either in a podcast and or in my new book, and as well as to run my new draft book by these experts for endorsements. So last but not least of our final top 10 for 20, 20 isn't is episode number one hundred, which is such a milestone for me. It was just a few weeks ago. It's the term autism around panel, including Michelle C from Episode 78, Dr. Ali Patterson, who is a BCBA who also joined my toddler course during covid and did her own episode.

And then we had two more people on the panel, Peter, who is a dad of an 11-year-old from Australia, and Julie T, who is a BCBA and a mom of a twenty four year old with autism who graduated from college. So it's a great discussion about what turning autism around really means. And there's been discussion. What do you mean? Turning autism around? Some people don't like that title, but guess what? It's the title of my podcast. It's the title of my new book. And what turning autism around means is really just getting each child or adults with or without autism to be as safe as possible, as independent as possible, as happy as possible, reach their full potential for all of you parents and professionals to be less stressed and lead happier lives. It's an optimistic approach that whatever the struggles, whether it's severe autism, not potty trained, picky eating, we can turn things around or we can start to make improvements.

We can break things down and really look at the whole picture and see what's most important to work on first and to move forward. And for really little kids like Michelle, C's daughter or other people that I've interacted with, it might mean, you know, really becoming more and more indistinguishable. It might mean being able to go to regular preschool without support or kindergarten eventually without support. But if I really don't want to get caught up on where you're going to end up for each child or client, turning autism around means something different. And it's a very positive, child friendly look at the whole picture and really go for those safety, independence and happiness, which are my goals for both of my sons, for all of my clients, for all of your children and clients as well.

So those are my top ten. I hope you enjoyed it. They're all going to be listed in the show notes at And maybe you have feedback. Maybe I didn't pick one of your top ten if you have input for me, it's not too late to fill out the podcast survey. You can always email me at [email protected]. We have a big year coming in 2021. The book will be out on March 30th, 2021. We're going to be doing a pre-launch soon. We're going to be building a launch team to help me get the word out. This book is going to really help a lot of people. Dr Temple Grandin did the forward for the book. I've gotten many, many endorsements from podcast guests and from parents and professionals of all walks of life. So I'm super excited to be done with 2020 and to move on to 2021. And I hope you enjoyed this episode listing out the top ten. I wish you a very happy New Year and I will see you in January.