Bright Stars Parenting Program

For Parents of Bright Children with Mild Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)

The online parent training program, Bright Stars, has been created specifically for parents and caregivers of highly intelligent children on the mild end of the autism spectrum!

In my years of practice, I have seen countless children with ASD who have incredible potential but are struggling with social, behavioral, and/or emotional challenges at home or at school. These children may not need (or qualify for) special education, or intensive ABA therapies.   And yet, there are obstacles that parents find extremely challenging to navigate.

In the months following initial diagnosis or even further down the line, I often find parents returning to my office to seek my advice and consultation on dealing with behavior issues, tantrums, rigidity. Most of the times, these parents are already juggling all kinds of therapies that have been recommended for their child -Speech, O.T, social groups, ABA and every other activity they can think of to provide opportunities for their child to learn and grow. Amidst all this, there is one thing I see taking a back seat time and again. And it is the one thing that is actually the most crucial component of the child’s growth and success. And that is parent training.

Some of the questions that parents have posed to me most often are:

What more can I do at home to help my child progress socially?”

“I really need help figuring out how to deal with the day-to-day frustrations”

“My child has a lot of anxiety. How can I help him cope with it”

“I know my child can do so much better at school if she could only focus! How can I help her with it?”

While regular consultations with an expert would help with these issues, this can at times become cost prohibitive, not to mention take up valuable time.  To be honest, while bringing your child to see a professional is important, and warranted in many circumstances – in my professional opinion, the most crucial ingredient to your child’s success is that you – who spends more hours with your child than anyone else – be equipped with the knowledge, skills and tools of experts like myself. Because unlike other ailments like coughs and colds and sinus infections, the remedy doesn’t begin and end in the doctors office with a prescription. It takes an active education and participation of the parents for successful administration of the “treatment”.

And this is the idea behind Bright Stars. Through this program I have condensed answers to literally hundreds of parent questions, problems, and challenges into concise, content-rich video modules to impart the education and support you need to have the information and energy to be your best self and bring out the strengths of your child.

Course Format and Content

The course includes one video module and accompanying parent handout addressing strategies for that topic. I find this online format to be highly effective and less time consuming (and needless to say, more money saving!) than individual office visits.

The three modules in the Bright Stars Parent training program have been carefully chosen to give a you a solid foundation in understanding the underlying causes of problem behaviors and challenges. They also provide you with effective tools and techniques to handle them when they happen, and teach you how to anticipate and prevent them before they happen again.The Three Modules in the program are Behavior Challenges and Motivation, Social Perspective Taking, and Rigidity – the three primary domains most commonly impacted in kids with mild ASD.

Module 1 talks about motivation and Behavior Challenges.How do you motivate your child? What do you need to do to help your child make good behavior choices, and why do some typical discipline strategies often fail?? We will talk about how to establish the best parenting framework to elicit your child’s motivation and improve his/her behavior.

Module 2 talks about Perspective Taking as a Second Language: Social communication is not only about conversing and getting your thoughts across or your needs met, but is also about reading subtle gestures and body language and inferring from tone what might not be said directly in words. This can be a major challenge for children on the spectrum. It can affect how they relate to peers, family members, and can contribute to anxiety and self-confidence. In Module two we discuss this in detail, and outline the main parenting tools to use to teach your child social perspective taking.

Module 3 is all about Tools and Tips for Handling Rigidity. Why does a small change in routine elicit such a strong reaction from the child on the spectrum? Life is full of unexpected events. How do you handle an outburst at a seemingly small change in plan? What about when your child is stubborn, strongwilled, or refuses to budge on his or her agenda? We discuss in this module what you need to know to teach flexibility.

Free Training Video

Here is a free introductory video I created that gives a framework to understanding the unique developmental profile of your bright child on the autism spectrum. If you have any questions about the program, or are interested in purchasing it, please send us an email at

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Are you ready for help? We’re ready to start you on your journey to maximize the developmental, social, emotional, behavioral, and academic potential of your child, teen, and/or family.


What Others Say About Us

I am a general pediatrician with a special interest in ADHD, spending about 20% of my clinical time caring for ADHD patients. I have known Dr Pontillo since 2005 and have an enormous respect for her clinical skills and insights. She is my “go to” psychologist for more complicated developmental issues and for diagnosis of subtle high functioning disabilities. Dr. Pontillo’s interest in her patients and her ability to clearly delineate developmental problems allows parents to move forward with establishing a treatment plan. She is an invaluable resource to the San Diego Pediatric community.

Nicholas Levy, MD, Medical Director, El Camino Pediatrics, V. Asst Clinical Professor, School of Medicine, UCSD

Dr. Pontillo is an exceptional, and one-of-a-kind child psychologist. I have referred many children of my patients to Dr. Pontillo and she has always given them the best care and attention. Referring a patient to another professional is a big responsibility. I always look for a colleague who is efficient, professional, experienced and one who is able to come up with a clear diagnosis. I keep referring to Dr. Pontillo because of her expertise, efficiency and especially her warm and caring personality that is extremely necessary when dealing with children. I very highly recommend Deborah Pontillo, Ph.D as a child diagnostician, developmental and behavioral specialist, and therapist.

David Kravetz, M.D., Professor of Clinical Medicine, School of Medicine, UCSD

I’ve been referring my patients to Dr. Pontillo for the past several years with the utmost confidence that she will care and understand their developmental needs. Dr. Pontillo always provided them with a balanced and age appropriate intervention to help not only the child but the family as a whole.

Chrystal de Freitas M.D., Pediatrician Carmel Valley Pediatrics