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Archived News: Across Virginia
August 2012

Richmond Times Dispatch Reports on the Challenge of Adult Relationships for People with ASD

When we think of relationships and individuals with ASD, often we think of young children and social skills activities or groups. Yet, the child with ASD grows up and moves from childhood to adolescence to adulthood. As he or she grows, those relationships move from playing together at recess, to hanging out at the movie theater, to yes, even dating, serious relationships, and marriage. According to Tammie Smith from the Richmond Times –Dispatch (August 19, 2012), connecting romantically for individuals with ASD may be especially difficult due to the social, communication and sensory challenges of ASD. Smith contacted Staci Carr, Technical Assistance Coordinator at the VCU Autism Center for Excellence (VCU-ACE), for more insight into the relationship discussion. Carr stated that, “Love for people with autism may look different from how love is usually depicted—people gazing in each other’s eyes with ‘love yous’ ending every conversation.” While there may indeed be many challenges for the individual with ASD, fulfilling relationships can be a realistic part of life. For more information and personal accounts on the importance of adult relationships, read the full article here.


Newport News School Division - Planning for a Busy Fall Season!

Newport News Public Schools is moving forward into a busy and exciting fall! VCU-ACE would like to welcome Newport News School Division’s new Autism Specialist, Wendy Clayton. Wendy has hit the ground running and the Newport News Autism Service Improvement Team (ASIT) has many training and goal assessment and implementation activities planned.

Training initiatives will begin in August with two trainings scheduled to kick off the school year. First, the new Newport News coaches will receive Coaches’ training and expectations on August 14. Then on August 23 & 24, ACE Technical Assistance Associate, Steven Celmer, will visit Newport News to train Coaches, SLPs, coordinators, and teachers on the VB-MAPP. The VB-MAPP will be rolled out in all of the self-contained classrooms for students with ASD in Newport News in the fall. Coaches will support teachers with implementation of this tool and accompanying evidence-based practices in the classrooms this school year. In addition, the APERS (Autism Program Environment Rating Scale) assessment will be completed in self-contained classrooms for students with ASD in Newport News this school year to provide baseline data and to guide evidence-based practice trainings and coaching work. Rotating, regular trainings for Newport News Public Schools staff who work with students with ASD are also being planned.

With the increased prevalence of autism, school assessment teams are being asked to evaluate more children on the spectrum and to use data to drive instruction and intervention. A group of Newport News Public Schools school psychologists and social workers are working together to develop a protocol to develop consistent, district-wide comprehensive evaluation of students suspected of being on the autism spectrum. The intent for this Community of Practice is to ensure that all students suspected of having an ASD are being thoroughly assessed in an effort to help decrease the age of initial identification. The committee plans to develop guidelines for ASD assessment that will be the standard used throughout the division. These guidelines will be reviewed and updated regularly to stay abreast of the most current and effective ASD evaluation techniques.

The assessment of ASD in the school system has typically been limited to using an Autism rating scale and conducting classroom observations. To help provide more comprehensive ASD assessments, several assessment team members have been trained using the Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule (ADOS), which consists of a variety of activities that allows examiners to directly observe/assess social and communication behaviors related to the characteristics of autism. Incorporating the ADOS into the ASD evaluation toolkit will assist with early identification and provide more information for developing effective instructional programming for children on the spectrum. An additional concern with current school practices is that some students, particularly those with higher functioning autism, are not being identified until well into their school years. Educating teachers about the risk factors and warning signs of ASD may help facilitate earlier identification. To address this concern, this Community of Practice plans to develop a questionnaire of common “red flags” to be used during pre-referral child study team meetings.

What an exciting time in Newport News Public Schools!


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