What's New at ACE?
Paul Wehman to Receive Princeton Lecture Series Fellowship
Dr. Paul Wehman is the Director for Virginia Commonwealth University's Rehabilitation Research and Training Center (RRTC). He is a researcher and advocate dedicated to the hiring, advancement, and retention of individuals with significant disabilities in competitive employment.
He is the principal investigator of the NIDRR-funded project on Facilitating Employment for Youth with Autism: A Replication Study of an Internship Model to Identify Evidence-Based Practices and the recently completed project on Vocational Rehabilitation Service Models for Individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorders. Wehman will receive the 2014 Eden Autism Services' Princeton Lecture Series Fellowship Award.
The Eden Autism Services Lecture Series' mission is to inspire growth in the views of medical professionals. Improving the quality of life for people with autism and their families is an essential topic that the Eden Series addresses throughout their year round educational outreach service programs. The award recognizes Dr. Wehman's career in the field of autism research.
Professional Learning Communities Move Ahead in Newport News!
Contributed by Wendy Clayton, Autism Specialist
Early in the 2012 - 2013 school year, all Newport News Public School (NNPS) self-contained classes for students with autism were rated using the Autism Program Environment Rating Scale (APERS) to determine use of Evidence-Based Practices and gaps in programming. The results were shared with teachers individually, who then set professional growth goals, in the areas requiring improvement. Upon analysis of the data, the goals, and the needs of teachers, visual supports were a common thread at the elementary levels and social skills/competence at the secondary levels. Teachers were given many options with which to address their goals, one of which was the formation of Professional Learning Communities (PLC) in these two areas. The purpose of the PLCs is to provide the resources, support, research, and practice, to improve student outcomes and to support the attainment of the Professional Growth Goals for which all teachers will be held accountable at the conclusion of the 2013/14 school year.
Visual Support PLC: Elementary
The Visual Support PLC began with a definition of visual support/schedules and the importance for students with ASD. Teachers learned the different supports that might be used for various students and situations. Additional areas discussed were supports for teaching routines and sequencing skills, as well as, teaching choice and management.
Future PLC meetings resulted in teachers making a visual schedule for one student in their class with the specific icon type, goal and function in the class. Teachers were required to use the book with their student, make adjustments and report back successes and challenges. Further PLC meetings exposed teachers to more advanced visual supports and mini schedules. urrently, the visual support PLC is breaking into small groups according to age/grade level and need of student/teacher to allow more targeted investigation/research and construction of supports appropriate for students. Teachers will continue to meet with their small group partners as they investigate, construct, use, and take data on the effectiveness of the visual support chosen. Small groups will report back to the larger PLC quarterly.
Social Skills/Competence PLC: Secondary
The Social Skills PLC began with the middle and high school ASD teachers as well as interested secondary teachers from two middle schools. It began with discussion relative to three areas of life that secondary teachers would address with their students in the area of social skills. Teachers divided into three groups to research and talk about what social skills training would be necessary for: person-centered planning/self-determination; relationships; and community/employment. Many resources were shared to address the areas listed above.
Teachers were interested in beginning social skills groups at their schools to address the identified social skills needs of their students. In order to determine the goals for the social skills groups, the Bellini Social Skills Inventory was agreed upon as the consisted measure. The group thought it important to target the specific needs, develop specific goals, and take data on skill improvement in order to determine if the group was having a positive effect on the students or was merely a “nice” social gathering.
Each school has developed their own structure for groups. Most involve neurotypical student involvement in some way. The impact of the PLC is evident in each high school’s level of involvement. Different activities occurring in the division include: a gardening/marketing group which works in collaboration with another high school’s cooking competition club; an acting group practicing for a school performance; students have jobs at school functions; and social skills clubs. Teachers continue to use the Bellini Social Skills Inventory to drive social skills programming.
New Information Just Added to the VCU-ACE Resource Pages!!
Check out the updated Research and Articles sections on each of the Resource pages on the VCU-ACE website! VCU-ACE has identified and summarized relevant and recent research articles in each category. Click on the link in the title of the article to review a summary of the article and the research findings. The citations are also included so that you can locate and read the articles in their entirety if you want additional information. And don’t forget to regularly visit the home page of the VCU-ACE websitewww.vcuautismcenter.org as we are constantly adding the newest information in the field to the Research and Interventioncolumn. Happy Reading!
Cozy up in a Cohort: A New Approach to Professional Development
Are you looking for ways to provide professional development to staff at little to no cost? VCU-ACE can help! We know with busy schedules and budget constraints, finding resources for training can often be difficult. So, we have made three of our online courses available for cohort registration for school divisions.
A cohort is a group of 20-30 educators or related personnel from the same school division who are placed together in a course group with an instructor from the division. The group goes through the course together but manages the coursework on their own time and at their own pace within the course’s 4 or 5-week time frame. The instructor from the division supports and guides the participants as they complete the course, and ensures participants fulfill all requirements of the course. More importantly, they assist with building knowledge and skills by leading participants through discussion groups, analyzing case studies, and answering content related questions. This is an excellent opportunity to ensure participants are embedding the course content into their daily job tasks. The process for cohort participation is easy. Here are some ways to get started:
1. Visit the VCU-ACE website and choose a course in which your division is interested. Current options are: Evidence-based Practices to Teach Students with ASD, Strategies for Supporting Positive Behaviors in Students with Autism Spectrum Disorder, and Foundations of Autism Spectrum Disorder. Be sure to also check the course schedule to determine when the course is offered.
2. Pick a division instructor! This person will be the contact for VCU-ACE and the support to the participants. The instructor will be responsible for ensuring participants’ completion of the course, maintaining regular contact with the VCU-ACE course facilitator,
guiding participants through learning activities, and being available to educators taking the course as needed. More information will be provided regarding roles and responsibilities of the division instructor prior to the start of the course.
3. The division instructor or representative then contacts Taryn Goodwin at firstname.lastname@example.org to determine availability of the cohort option with the particular course and scheduled course date of interest. Please be aware that cohort options are filled on a first-come, first-serve basis by course and spots fill up quickly!
4. Once you have approval that the desired course and course date is available for your division, start a sign up list! To participate as a cohort, you must be able to register between 20 to 30 staff members. This can include anyone in the division – special educators, general educators, administrators, resource staff, therapists, social workers, etc. And then let the learning begin!
For additional information on how to get started, please contact Taryn Goodwin at email@example.com.
An Update from the VCU-ACE Communication State Goal Committee! Check Out the New Webpages!!
VCU-ACE and our collaborators have been hard at work and making great progress on all three of the identified State Goals: Communication, Administrator Support, and Transition. In recent months, the Communication State Goal Committee has completed and launched new web pages specific to communication and students with ASD. The web pages include information on why it is important to teach communication, what to teach in the area of communication, assessments for communication, modes of communication, functions of communication, and much more. Additional pages will be added as the committee continues to move forward with goal work. Please take a few minutes and visit the new Communication Resource pages on our website to learn more about improving communication skills with students with ASD.