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November 3, 2011

Exciting Things are Happening in Richmond Public Schools!

As a direct result of VCU-ACE Technical Assistance (TA) helping Richmond Public Schools (RPS) identify priority goals for the division, a pilot social skills program has been created and initiated at a middle school in Richmond. Six students with ASD are taking part in learning about how to make friends, deal with conflicts, and stay safe on the internet (social media sites). The curriculum is roughly based on the PEERS (Program for the Education and Enrichment of Relational Skills) Program, which is a 14-week evidence-based social skills intervention for motivated teens created and researched by staff at UCLA. Students are being assessed for their knowledge of various relationship/social skills before and after the intervention. The administrative and teaching staff at this middle school have been instrumental in making this program take shape. The students with ASD meet on Mondays for their skills session, then on Wednesdays they get together with non IEP students to practice new skills and engage in fun activities.

RPS is in the process of creating two levels of parent support; a webpage dedicated to parents, family members, and students with autism; and a pilot project of outreach/networking groups for parents and family members. The webpage content is currently being developed and will include ASD info, training opportunities, lots of resource links, IEP information, and much more. The networking group will begin in November and will be parent driven to ensure attendance and investment.

RPS is also moving forward with developing division wide ASD coaching capacity by training their VCU Autism Certificate participants (64+ of them!) to become coaches or in school support staff to assist their building co-workers with evidence based practice education or implementation.  Way to Go Richmond Public Schools!

Sharing the VCU-ACE Model Nationwide

The VCU Autism Center for Excellence (VCU-ACE) presented at the National Association for State Directors in Special Education (NASDSE) 74th Annual Conference and Business Meeting held in Chicago on October 18th.  The theme of the Conference, “Connectivity in Practice," directly corresponded to the presentation, “Connecting to Higher Education for Training and Technical Assistance in Autism: VCU Autism Center for Excellence.”  The format consisted of a panel discussion, which lead participants through the development and implementation of the VCU-ACE.  Panel members included Doug Cox and John Eisenberg from the Virginia Department of Education; Paul Wehman, Dawn Hendricks, and Carol Schall from VCU-ACE; and Maria Beck from Richmond City Public Schools. 

The presentation began with the history of the state of autism services in Virginia that led to the ACE initiative.  The panel then described the current role of ACE in Virginia:  increasing knowledge, skills and abilities in evidence based practices and ensuring practice to fidelity of evidence based instructional, classroom, and school wide procedures and policies.  Maria Beck concluded the meeting with an overview of how this training and technical assistance works in the context of a public school division.  Panel members were overwhelmed with the interest and attention of audience members.  At the conclusion of the presentation, Doug Cox remarked, “This is a wonderful opportunity to share our model for improving the education of students with autism. We are hopeful that other states will follow in our footsteps.”

75+ Educators Trained on Screening, Identification, and Assessment Guidelines for ASD!

VCU-ACE collaborated with Commonwealth Autism Service on October 14th to provide training to more than 75 educators, representing the school divisions of Hampton, Newport News, Portsmouth, Suffolk, Williamsburg – James City County, and VA Beach, on “Guidelines for Screening, Identification, and Assessment of Children and Youth with ASD.”  Donald Oswald, Ph.D., Director of Research and Diagnostics at Commonwealth Autism Service, offered his expertise and experience in presenting the following:  information on screening, diagnosis, and the eligibility processes for students with ASD; how to identify autism in the schools, including who should be a member of the assessment team and appropriate diagnostic instruments; the characteristics of autism that have adverse effects on educational performance; and how to communicate with families when moving from diagnosis to services. 

ACE Training News!

Don’t Miss the Upcoming ACE Webcasts! Register NOW! 

Register NOW for the November and December ACE webcasts featuring Dr. Tony Gentry on “Smartphones, iPads and Tablet PCs as Cognitive-Behavioral Aids in Autism” and Robert Schramm on “ABA = Good Teaching.” 

Registration will soon open for the Winter 2012 Webcast Series.  On January 10, 2012, Carol Schall, Ph.D., VCU-ACE Director of Technical Assistance, will speak on the topic, “Function Matters!  How to Determine Why a Student Demonstrates Problem Behavior.”  During the ACE February webcast, the audience will be introduced to Roseanne, an adult woman with Asperger’s Syndrome. This webcast will offer an interview with Roseanne and she will have the opportunity to talk candidly about her diagnosis, her strengths, and personal challenges. In her own words, Roseanne will outline issues and concerns surrounding, obtaining, and maintaining employment as a person who struggles with the social world.  Additionally, she will discuss supports and services she has found beneficial throughout her lifetime.   Make sure you register for this February 14, 2012 presentation! 

VCU-ACE Kicks Off Conference in the Roanoke Valley

Adam Dreyfus, Technical Assistance Associate with VCU-ACE, kicked off the Greater Roanoke Valley Autism Action Group’s annual conference with a keynote address to parents, educators, and members of the community. His presentation on “It’s Just Good Teaching: Verbal Behavior Analysis” was well-received by participants.  All walked away with strategies to use immediately with their students and children.  Adam followed up his keynote presentation with a session on “How Much is Too Much Help?” addressing how to reduce prompting and learned helplessness. Also representing VCU-ACE was Teresa Lyons, Technical Assistance Associate in Southwest Virginia. Teresa presented on “Apps for Individuals with Autism: Use of the iPad and iTouch.”

On Saturday, participants learned of the importance of building a community of support from the keynote speaker, Kristi Sakai, author and parent of three children with Asperger syndrome.  Kristi followed up her keynote presentation with a session on “Sexuality: I need to talk about WHAT?!”

This conference provided information to parents on numerous topics including verbal behavior analysis, visual support, transition planning, writing IEP goals, and behavior intervention plans. Participants appreciated the number of relevant topics, knowledgeable presenters, exhibitors showcasing local resources, child care, and the Central Virginia Autism Society bookstore.  Information about future events can be found on the GRVAAG’s website.

Educators and Professionals at William and Mary Symposium Learn About ACE Training Opportunities!

On Thursday, October 27th, Dr. Dawn Hendricks and Joy Engstrom, from the VCU-ACE Training Division, presented at the 2011 William and Mary Symposium on Professional Collaboration and Inclusive Education. The symposium provides a quality professional development opportunity for educators accountable for the academic and behavioral success of students with disabilities and other struggling learners. The presentation provided a cursory overview of the VCU-ACE with a focus on the training that is available through the center to educators and other professionals across the state.

ACE Website Updates!!

The Training Pages on the ACE website have been updated!  New information has been posted on the Virginia Skill Competencies, including links to the Competencies, a Summary/Guide document, and a Competency Tracker.  You will also want to check our Home Page often for the latest news Across Virginia and the Nation, and for Upcoming Training Activities! 

Check Out the Two New Articles on Behavior Just Added to our Resources page! 

Two new articles have been recently added to the Resources page on the ACE website:  from The Behavior Analyst Today, "Effective Behavioral Intervention for Adults on the Autism Spectrum: Best Practices in Functional Assessment and Treatment Development;" and from the Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, "Functional Analyses and Treatment of Precursor Behavior."  Be sure to check out the ACE Factsheets and Briefs while you are there!

Registration Opens November 9th for ACE Online Class starting in January!

Registration for the free VCU-ACE online class “Foundations of Autism Spectrum Disorders,” which starts in January, will open on November 9, 2011.  All ACE courses are open to anyone in VA wanting to learn more about ASD.   Check out our Online Courses webpage for full course descriptions.