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April 9, 2012

United States Centers for Disease Control (CDC) Announce Updated Autism Prevalence is One Child with an ASD to Every 88 Children in US!

A Message from Carol Schall, Ph.D., Director of Technical Assistance

One in every 88 children has an Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).  Let me repeat that statement: one out of every 88 children has an ASD.  When considering boys, that number is even more shocking.  For boys, the reported prevalence is one out of every 54 children.  That means that slightly over 1% of all school aged children may have an ASD.  Ten years ago, in 2002, the measured prevalence was one child with an ASD to every 250 children.  In fact, for some time now, the projected prevalence of ASD has been the fastest rising developmental disability in the world.  Extrapolating that figure to the entire population of children between the ages of birth to 18 years old in the 2010 census means that there could be as many as 842,702 children in the US right now with an ASD. 

Behind this overall prevalence, there are some interesting findings though.  For example, this new data suggests that the majority of children with ASD do not also have an intellectual disability.  In addition, while there is an increase in the prevalence of ASD in every racial group, according to the CDC, the greatest increase is noted for black and Hispanic children.  Finally, the average age of diagnosis has dropped, but not low enough.  Research suggests that early intervention for young children with ASD is most effective when it starts before the age of 3 years old, yet, the average age of diagnosis for most children in the study is after the age of 4 years old.  This data suggests two important issues.  First, we must continue to educate pediatricians to look for the signs of ASD earlier at well baby visits.  Second, we must continue to work for equity in health care across race and national origin. 

While we ponder and adjust to a world where ASD is common, we must not forget that numbers do not tell the whole story of a group of people.  Behind these numbers are children, adolescents and adults in need of services and, yes, excellence from their teachers, bus drivers, principals, baby sitters, cafeteria workers, and families. More than the numbers themselves is the need.  Perhaps that is the real story to discuss as we ponder the effect of this increased prevalence.  Almost one million children (.84 million to be exact) in the United States have support needs that may exceed their school’s ability to meet them.  To be fair, many children with ASD are being educated successfully in their public schools.  Nevertheless, most teachers and schools in the United States report that they struggle to understand how to educate children and adolescents with ASD.  That is where VCU ACE can be most effective.  It is our mission and passion to make these children welcome in their school and neighborhoods.  We work for a day when all 0.84 million children with an ASD live, play, and learn next to their brothers and sisters. We work in schools, with teachers, principals, educational administrators, paraprofessional educators, families and others who love and care for children and youth with ASD to assure that these children are college ready, career ready, actively engaged citizens in their communities.

Headlines from the Training Division ...

Excitement for the Launch of the PARAProject!

VCU-ACE has been overwhelmed with the enthusiastic response to the launching of our first section of Autism Spectrum Disorders for Paraprofessionals: Providing Effective Instruction and Supports on April 2nd!  This course is designed for paraprofessionals working with students with ASD in the educational environment, but is appropriate for any person who works in a support role within a school division or who interacts with students with ASD but may not have primary responsibility for the student. This course is self-paced and participants will receive a Certificate of Completion if they review all the content and pass each of the quizzes within the course.

The level of interest in this course has already exceeded expectations! The April class filled quickly, and the May section began to fill as soon as registration opened.  There are still a few spaces in the May session at this time, so be sure to register soon if you want to take the course in May!  This course will run on a monthly basis, so there will be opportunities in future months for all interested to participate. You can find more information about this course and other paraprofessional resources on our website at:


New Course on Supporting Positive Behaviors Opens with Huge Interest!

Have you ever had a student with a behavior that interfered in their learning or the learning of others in the classroom?  If you have or if you are just curious about behavior then this is the course for you. The Strategies for Supporting Positive Behaviors in Students with Autism Spectrum Disorders course will make its debut on April 16, when eighty learners will embark on a four week journey that will provide them with information and strategies to incorporate into their daily activities to proactively support students with ASD demonstrating interfering behaviors.  The course first begins by addressing the fundamentals of behavior and the relationship of behavior to the core deficits of ASD.  Once learners have a solid understanding of how and why behavior develops they will explore and break down the Functional Behavior Assessment (FBA) process. Learners will navigate their way through the process learning to define behaviors, understand behaviors, observe behaviors, and develop a hypothesis statement about the behavior.  Discussion of the FBA process will then lead the learners into investigating strategies that can be used when developing a Behavior Intervention Plan (BIP) for students with ASD. 

Throughout the course, learners will follow three individuals with ASD who demonstrate behaviors by completing Think About It! and Apply It! activities. These activities will provide the learner an opportunity to apply the information they are learning in the course.  Upon completion of the activities in the course, including a quiz to assess acquired knowledge, the learner will receive a Certificate of Completion.  The next Strategies for Supporting Positive Behaviors in Students with Autism Spectrum Disorders course will be offered starting June 18.  Enrollment for the June 18 course will open on April 18. Be sure to register early to guarantee yourself a spot in this invaluable course!


VCU-ACE April Webcast Will Inspire!

Register NOW for the VCU-ACE April Webcast, “An Extra Ordinary Life:  Using Person Centered Planning,” featuring Sam and Bradford Hulcher.  You will be inspired after hearing this mother and son share the journey from Sam’s diagnosis to adulthood.  Join VCU-ACE from 3:30pm-4:30pm on April 10th to hear and see how dreams really do come true.    

Here's just a preview of  “An Extra Ordinary Life:  Using Person Centered Planning” --
When their son, Sam, was a preschooler, he was diagnosed with autism. His parents were told that he would never be able to communicate, to read, to learn, or to be around typical peers. Determined to create an "ordinary" life for their son, Sam's parents used the principals of person centered planning and self-determination to create an enviable life for Sam. In this presentation, Sam and his mom, Bradford, will share Sam's journey and some of the tools used to facilitate the path to an "extra" ordinary life for him. This presentation will discuss how these principals were used throughout his entire lifetime and are still utilized now as he is preparing for the transition to adulthood.

A little about Sam and Bradford -- Sam Hulcher is a 2011 graduate of Deep Run High School in Henrico County where he was actively engaged in many facets of curricular and extracurricular opportunities within the school community. Sam has attended the VDOE I'm Determined Youth Summit for the past 3 years and is currently participating in a one year internship with Project Search at St. Mary's Hospital.  Bradford Hulcher is the Executive Director of the Autism Society, Central VA. She is a graduate of Partners in Policymaking and a Medicaid Waiver Mentor. Bradford serves on the Virginia Autism Council and the Advisory Board for the VCU Autism Center for Excellence (ACE).  Bradford has presented on person centered principals, self-determination, transition issues, Autism Spectrum Disorders, and Medicaid Waivers across the state. 

Register for this and all upcoming webcasts! If unable to view the webcasts on the original date they air, remember all VCU-ACE webcasts are archived for your future viewing!!

Virginia BCBA Consortium Coming Soon!

VCU-ACE is pleased to help launch the Virginia Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA) Consortium!  This consortium will allow people to register for college courses in Virginia that will prepare them to sit for the BCBA exam.  George Mason University, Old Dominion University, Lynchburg College, and Virginia Commonwealth University will all host locations for students to take the courses. Courses in this consortium will be taught in one of the locations and students will be able to sit in any of these locations to take the courses virtually. The first cohort is scheduled to start in the Fall of 2012. More information will be available soon so please make sure to check our website!

The Latest from Our Technical Assistance Division ...

2012 CoLA Summer Institute Planned!

VDOE and VCU-ACE are pleased to announce that a Summer CoLA Institute is being planned for statewide Community of Learning in Autism (CoLA) participants on June 20-22, 2012 in Richmond.   This 3 day conference will bring together statewide leaders in autism for networking and learning opportunities in coaching and teaming, transition, and communication and social skills.   More details and registration information will be available soon.  Please contact Becky Boswell, VCU-ACE Outreach Coordinator, for more information –

Exciting Things are Happening in Greensville Public Schools!

It’s been a busy year in Greensville County!  President Obama visited Greensville High School in October and Greensville County Public Schools and VCU-ACE are near the end of the first year of our partnership.  Greensville made a strong statement at the beginning of this project by choosing the following Vision Statement: “We do not teach labels, we teach children.”  That commitment has helped provide the continuing push to insure that all of the children diagnosed with autism in their division receive individualized instruction and supports from K-12.

Middle School is a tough time for all students and to help their students on the spectrum, Greensville has launched a social skills group at Wyatt Middle School that is based on the PEERS (Program for the Education and Enrichment of Relationship Skills) program run out of UCLA’s Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior.  The program helps teachers individualize instruction and tackle issues such as conversational skills, making friends, teasing, bullying, telling jokes, and handling disagreements.

Greensville is also moving forward with one of their key goals -- “By August 2016, all professionals and paraprofessionals employed for a minimum of 3 consecutive years at GCPS will have completed their 'Autism Competency Portfolio.”  The Autism Service Improvement Team (ASIT) has been meeting monthly and is using the Virginia Autism Council’s Skill Competencies for Professionals and Paraprofessionals as a core resource.  Led by two teachers, Marchae Cannady and Bridget Brown, the team has been meeting with teachers, paraprofessionals, and other key stakeholders to insure that the ‘Autism Competency Portfolio’ meets Greensville’s needs.  Mrs. Cannady and Mrs. Brown have also started a bi-monthly meeting for the teachers and paraprofessionals working directly with students diagnosed with autism at the elementary and middle school level.  Greensville has also adopted the Verbal Behavior Milestones Assessment and Placement Program (VB-MAPP) as an assessment instrument to help their teachers identify the areas of greatest deficit and address them in a comprehensive way.  Under the stewardship of Dr. Heritage Rae Mitchell and Mary Wellman, Greensville County Public Schools continues to demonstrate their commitment to all of their students.

Botetourt County Public Schools are Enthused about Coaching!

Botetourt County Public Schools (BCPS) has been making great strides in providing coaching across the division, and recently, things have really begun to ramp up!  Two areas that BCPS is focusing are language instruction and social skills instruction.  In each area the division has begun to engage in a comprehensive systems-change program involving training and, more importantly, coaching around both assessment and evidence-based instruction.

To help support professional development around the area of language instruction for students with ASD, BCPS analyzed various sets of scope and sequence and decided to pursue the use of the Verbal Behavior Milestones Assessment and Placement Program (VB-MAPP).  To support language instruction, Moving Toward Functional Social Competence was chosen.  Each of these tools was selected for division-wide use to achieve consistency of instruction across settings throughout the division.

In moving towards division-wide implementation, BCPS recently engaged in two-day sets of workshops led by TA Associates Steven Celmer and Teresa Lyons.  To ensure sustainable practice, on day one the division elected to have the TA Associates first train the selected division coaches.  Then on day two, the division coaches used the skills that they had gained to deliver training to educational teams from the division.  The teams have since been working to complete the assessment for one student on their caseload, and have been receiving follow-up coaching from the division coaches to further support their learning of either the VB-MAPP or Moving Towards Functional Social Competence.

While this training and coaching process on assessments is scheduled to continue through the end of this school year, starting in the 2012-2013 school year, BCPS will move toward supporting staff in translating the assessment information into evidence-based instruction for both language and social skills.  Relevant practices will be targeted, and the same process of “TA Associate coaches Division Coaches – Division Coaches coach Teams” will be repeated to ensure that skills and knowledge reach the level of implementation in the classroom.

Don’t Miss the 10th Anniversary of the Connections Family Resource Fair in Richmond...

For 10 years, representatives of organizations and agencies invested in the lives of children and youth with disabilities have come together to plan an annual Connections Family Resource Fair in Richmond.  Join us on April 28th from 9:30am-12:30pm at the Children’s Museum of Richmond, Central location, as we celebrate the 10th Anniversary of this family fun and educational event!

Connections provides an opportunity to visit with and gather information from over 60 exhibitors. Admission to the Children’s Museum is FREE to the first 500 participants, and special features this year include Magician Jonathan Austin, dental screenings, child-friendly entertainers, arts and crafts, pet therapy dogs, and legal and financial consultations.  VCU-ACE will be there and we hope you will be too!

For more information, visit