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Archived News: Across Virginia
January 2013

VA Autism Screening and Diagnosis Task Force Publishes White Paper!

It is well documented that ASD can be accurately diagnosed between the ages of two and three in many children. Identifying and diagnosing ASD at a young age often enables children to begin receiving ASD-specific early intervention services, which research shows can produce favorable outcomes. However, studies have determined that services designed to provide screening and assessment, which lead to diagnosis are not sufficient in Virginia. In fact, children in the Commonwealth are often being diagnosed much later than is optimal.

To help improve services for those with ASD and their family members, the Virginia Commonwealth University Autism Center for Excellence (VCU-ACE) convened an interdisciplinary Task Force of stakeholders across the Commonwealth to study issues related to medical and educational assessment. The Task Force, composed of educational, medical, and community-based providers, as well as family members, convened for 18 months beginning in 2011. The task force evaluated three different topics related to identification of ASD: screening, diagnosis, and systems change. Upon completion of the evaluations, recommendations were made to improve services related to screening, diagnosis, and identification of ASD in Virginia. A summary of the research conducted as well as the recommendations made by this Task Force is now available through a VCU-ACE White Paper titled, Assessment of Screening, Diagnosis, and Identification of Autism Spectrum Disorders in Virginia. A link to the White Paper can be found in the "Research and Articles" section of the Screening and Diagnosis Resources page on the ACE website.


Happy 2013 from the Newport News School Division!

It’s been a busy and productive fall in Newport News. The ACE Service Improvement Team revised the Newport News Vision and Mission Statements at their fall academy in September and that has produced a renewed passion and excitement for the work! Seven teachers were trained as coaches and have started their work supporting their colleagues (self-contained teachers ASD classrooms). The coaches and teachers have completed training on the VB-MAPP as well as errorless teaching, prompting, task analysis, and MEI. Coaches are now implementing these evidence-based practices in their own classrooms and supporting the implementation in the classrooms of their assigned teachers. Teachers are already reporting positive gains and progress with students as they begin to implement both the VB-MAPP and the accompanying EBPs as part of their teaching practice.

The APERS Assessment has been completed in all of the ASD self-contained classrooms in Newport News (15 classrooms)! Data has been collected to compile division average data as well as individual classroom data. The next step will be to develop classroom goals that compliment the division goals to move the program forward through coaching and training initiatives.

Numerous trainings have been offered to staff working with students with ASD in the Newport News school division this fall including: Visual Supports, Sensory Diets in the Classroom: Easy Recipes, Troubleshooting FBA/BIPs, Video Modeling, VB-MAPP, and Errorless Teaching, Prompting, Task Analysis, and MEI. In addition, Nelson Elementary School teachers of students with ASD held their first Parent Night, “Autism and You – Communication,” on December 5, 2012, focusing on the characteristics of autism and the connection to difficulties with communication. Parents were divided into groups and had the opportunity to visit various stations after dinner. Ruthan Newton, the Parent Resource Center Coordinator, provided information relative to resources in the area of autism. A representative from the Sherriff's Dept gave a demonstration of "Project Lifesaver." Wendy Clayton (NNPS) and Charlene Wentland (VCU-ACE) offered information relative to characteristics of students with ASD and held question/answer sessions for parents looking for strategies to use at home for various issues. Patricia Allen, Carol Hughes, Deborrah Lewis, and Stefanie Paul, from the Autism Department at Nelson, hosted "make it-take it" sessions for visual schedules on object, picture, photo, and text levels for parents. Schedules were made to help parents teach their children at-home routines for homework, shopping, getting ready for school, getting ready for bed, and weekend routines. Dr. Melody Camm, Principal, facilitated the evening's activities.

The School Psychologist/Social Worker work group has developed two important documents to assist child study teams in Newport News as they work to identify and support students with autism. These documents, ASD Red Flags Checklist and Autism Evaluation Guidelines, are currently being disseminated out to pertinent chairpersons for review. Following the ADOS training last spring, there has been an increase in the use of the ADOS assessment tool to help identify ASD and to support programming for these students. The Assistive Technology Team in Newport News has contributed both to training and to resources for the teaching staff in Newport News. They have been creating and posting on the Sharepoint website numerous visuals for teaching staff to use for visual supports implementation and to support the assessment and teaching of the VB-MAPP.

The second half of this year is expected to be just as productive as the fall! Teachers and Coaches will be busy implementing VB-MAPP goals and objectives for targeted students, as well as addressing classroom goals from the APERS assessment. Two classrooms from the ASD program will become the model sites for more intense communication programming as they begin to address communication programming for a communication rich classroom environment. Training will be tailored to classroom APERS goals and take place in small learning communities, supported by the coaches.


The Department for Aging and Rehabilitative Services (DARS) Announces Temporary Voucher Program

DARS published a Press Release on January 25, 2013 that announced a Temporary Voucher Program for Caregiver Respite. Virginia families who care for a loved one with disabilities or chronic conditions can apply for up to $400 reimbursement for respite care under a new, limited voucher program from the Department for Aging and Rehabilitative Services. Beginning January 29, 2013, caregivers may apply to the Lifespan Respite Voucher Program. Those who qualify and are approved may receive up to $400 reimbursement for costs related to respite. The program will distribute vouchers for reimbursement from a federal grant limited to $179,079, which closes by July 31.

For more information on how to apply, visit DARS’s Respite Services site.

You may also visit Virginia Navigator for additional information on respite and related services available in the Commonwealth.


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