VCU-ACE November 2012 Enews
November 7, 2012
Richmond Public Schools and ACE Staff Embark upon Innovative Paraprofessional Training Model
When House Bill 325 passed last spring and mandated training for all paraprofessionals who work directly with a student with ASD, many school divisions were taken aback with how to get this daunting task accomplished. Not so in Richmond Public Schools (RPS). The Office of Exceptional Education, including members of the Autism Supports Team, Department of Professional Development, and Department of Human Resources, welcomed this as an opportunity to provide their direct line staff with valuable instruction on the basics of Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD), evidence-based classroom supports, and strategies on how to handle interfering behaviors. This paraprofessional initiative corresponded nicely with the pre-existing RPS Autism Services Strategic Plan, as the first goal of the plan focused on building the capacity of staff to learn and implement evidence-based practices.
RPS is using the online training program created by VCU-ACE with generous funding from the Virginia Department of Education. The content areas were derived from the Skill Competencies for Professionals and Paraprofessionals in Virginia Supporting Individuals with Autism Across the Lifespan, previously developed by the Virginia Autism Council. Since this past April, VCU-ACE has offered the Autism Spectrum Disorders for Paraprofessionals: Providing Effective Instruction and Supports online course on a monthly basis. The course consists of 5 modules that the learner must complete within the monthly session, usually about 4 weeks.
The RPS Team decided that all of their 400+ parapros needed the knowledge and should receive the training, not only the paraprofessionals who were currently working directly with students with ASD. They recognized that most of their parapros either worked directly or indirectly with a student with ASD, or would work directly with students on the spectrum in the future. In addition, they realized that merely assigning these critical staff the task of completing the online course on their own would not result in the outcomes they desired. Their idea was to offer a central location for staff to take the course online and to have coaches available onsite who are well versed in ASD.
Participants in the RPS program are given the amount of instruction and guidance they need to log on to the PC, access the course on Blackboard, and complete the necessary assignments. Care is taken to ensure that instructional assistants are assigned to specific months in such a way as to not burden the schools in terms of staff coverage. Two cohorts are held each month and the participants attend a 3 hour session, once a week for four weeks. Henderson Middle School houses an impressive technology lab consisting of two impressive classrooms outfitted with PC terminals, LCD’s, and Smart Boards so it was chosen as the perfect location to house this effort. RPS hopes to have the vast majority of their staff trained and certified by Winter 2013/14.
Congratulations to ALL of the hard working staff within RPS for seizing the opportunity to ensure that all staff working with students with ASD have a high degree of skill!
Wise County Schools’ Susan Mullins Named School Psychologist of the Year in VA!!
Congratulations to Wise County Schools’ Susan Mullins who was recently named Virginia’s School Psychologist of the Year! She is one of two certified psychologists in Wise County Public Schools whose primary role is to help evaluate and determine whether a child is eligible for special education services. Susan also participates in the VCU-ACE technical assistance project in Wise County. She is a member of the division’s Autism Services Improvement Team (ASIT) and works with students and teachers to implement the three year technical assistance grant by providing training and coaching to teachers and helping define assessments for teachers to measure students’ progress in social, behavioral, and academic areas. VCU-ACE wishes Susan all the best as she now serves as Virginia’s nominee for the national award.
VCU-ACE Participates in Southwest VA Leadership Conference!
Teresa Lyons, Technical Assistance Associate for Regions 6 & 7, represented VCU-ACE at the 2012 Southwest Virginia Leadership Conference in October. Sponsored annually by UVA Wise’s Center for Teaching Excellence, the conference goal is “to bring together administrators, leading experts, and creative thinkers to aid public school administrators in creating successful and engaging learning environments in the region.” Teresa was invited to present sessions on VCU’s Autism Center for Excellence and on how school divisions can implement a model for coaching that leads to changes in autism practices. Teresa’s co-presenter for these two sessions was Cindy Bates, Special Education and Autism Coordinator for Wise County Schools.
Participants in the session “VCU-ACE: Resources and Training to Virginia Educators in Autism Spectrum Disorders” were provided with information on the professional development opportunities available through VCU-ACE and the many resources available on the ACE website. Participants also learned about the VCU-ACE Technical Assistance model and the local supports available to them. In the session “Coaching that Leads to Change: Addressing Best Practices in Autism,” Cindy and Teresa presented a model for coaching that can be replicated in divisions with limited staff and resources. Participants were also provided with tools helpful in identifying personnel, times, and targets for a division as well as with tools to use in the implementation of a division coaching model.
Happy Thanksgiving from VCU-ACE!!