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June 5, 2012

New VA-ABA Consortium Announced!

VCU-ACE is pleased to announce a collaborative partnership between George Mason University, Lynchburg College, Old Dominion University, and Virginia Commonwealth University, which will offer the Virginia Applied Behavior Analysis (VA-ABA) Consortium.  The Consortium will provide five courses in applied behavior analysis approved by the Behavior Analyst Certification Board (BACB).  The Consortium's primary goal is to provide educators with instruction in applied behavior analysis that will broaden the range of empirically-supported teaching methodologies needed to meet the academic, social, and behavioral learning needs of diverse students.  The Consortium's secondary goal is to provide educators with the educational and experiential requirements needed for them to sit for the Behavior Analyst Certification Examination.

The VA-ABA Consortium provides participants with a unique experience to work with other students throughout the state of Virginia as well as professors from each of the universities. Currently the five courses are offered through face-to-face meetings using a combination of video conferencing, web conferencing, and Blackboard. Students may participate from any of the four participating universities.  A Practicum in ABA is also offered through the VA-ABA Consortium for students who wish to complete the supervised experience requirement needed to sit for the Behavior Analyst Certification Examination. This experience provides the opportunity to apply knowledge of assessment, instructional strategies, and environmental and technological supports, while working collaboratively with parents and educational teams to develop individualized programming.

The first cohort will begin fall semester 2012.  Consortium applications are currently being accepted and are due by July 20, 2012.  Spaces are limited.  For further information about the program and how to apply, please visit the VCU-ACE or the Consortium websites.

VCU-ACE Exhibits at VCASE Conference!

VCU-ACE was pleased to be an Exhibitor at the Virginia Council of Administrators of Special Education (VCASE) Spring Conference, Leading Positive Teacher Performance, on May 23-25 at VA Beach.  Becky Boswell, ACE Outreach Coordinator, shared resources and information about the many training opportunities VCU-ACE provides, including the new Paraprofessional Training Initiative.  In addition, Dawn Hendricks, ACE Director of Training, and Samantha Hollins, Educational Specialist for Autism and Severe Disabilities, VA Department of Education, presented on “A New Frontier:  Changing how Virginia Supports Educators Serving Students with Autism ” at the Thursday afternoon Kaleidoscope Session.  VCU-ACE is already looking forward to sharing new initiatives at next year’s VCASE Conference!

News from the PARAPro Training Team!

Great news!  The Autism Spectrum Disorders for Paraprofessionals: Providing Effective Instruction and Supports course has been so well received by individuals throughout Virginia that we are opening up more sections for this summer!  VCU-ACE is pleased to continue to offer this course and expand sections to allow more people to access it.  Please check our website for future offerings!  

We have also received wonderful feedback from participants. Take a look at some of what those who have taken the course have had to say about it!
• "I thought it was fabulous. I wish I had been able to take this 4 years ago, when I started this job! I really liked being able to see examples in action through the videos."
• "Very well thought out - the progression of content was great!"
• "It was very helpful to use the Activity Book-Think About It! Apply it! sections and really look at my student as the situations in the videos unfolded! The videos allowed me to see exactly how to implement strategies discussed in the lesson. Especially helpful was showing how the student may be expressing his needs/wants, and then how to apply what I've learned."
• "This was so complete. I did not even feel like I was learning. I'm just so glad to have had the opportunity to take this course. It was wonderful!"
• "...Well done and perfect for parents and educators alike exactly as is."
• "Thank you for a great course! I look forward to signing up for more and have recommended this to my child's school. Administration is considering having ALL para pros take this!"
• "Please continue these types of classes. HELPFUL, JUST SO HELPFUL."
• “I just wanted to let you know how much I enjoyed the Paraprofessional Course. The program was incredibly informative. I have been working with children with Autism for the last four years and found this course amazing! I believe this course should actually be mandatory for all paraprofessionals entering the Autism field in Henrico County.”

VCU-ACE truly appreciates your feedback and is always striving to make our courses better! Thanks!

Recent Training on Verbal Behavior Well Received!

Adam Dreyfus and Steven Celmer, Technical Assistance Associates from VCU-ACE, conducted a one-day workshop on Verbal Behavior at George Mason University on Saturday, May 12th.   As more and more school divisions across the state adopt assessment tools like the ABLLS-R (Assessment of Basic Language and Learning Skills) and the VB-MAPP (Verbal Behavior Milestones and Placement Program) to help them assess the skill levels of their students diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder, demands grows for trainings and workshops to train teachers how to use these tools. This workshop introduced participants to the vocabulary of ‘Verbal Behavior’ as well as included hands-on examples of how to implement programs, design curriculum, collect data, and make data-based decisions.  The feedback received was positive with the main comment being, “This should be a week-long workshop.”  These assessment tools are currently being used in Greensville County Public Schools, Hanover County Public Schools, Henrico County Public Schools, and Wise County Public Schools just to name a few. The term ‘Verbal Behavior’ refers to a 1957 book written by noted Psychologist Dr. B.F. Skinner.  His theoretical work has formed the foundation for hundreds of research projects that explore how children learn to speak, learn to listen, and learn to follow directions.  Dozens of effective interventions for students with autism have been developed from this work.

Farewell and Thanks!

VCU-ACE offers a Heartfelt Farewell and Thanks to Doug Cox for his many years of faithful service to the Virginia education community upon his retirement as the Assistant Superintendent for Special Education and Student Services at the Virginia Department of Education.  VCU-ACE congratulates and looks forward to our continued relationship with John Eisenberg as he takes on this new role!  

Greensville County Schools Establish Regular “Autism Team” Meetings!

Greensville County Public Schools is off to the races!  While the partnership between Greensville County Public Schools and VCU-ACE produced a nicely-structured and functional Autism Service Improvement Plan, Greensville recently recognized a need not being met in the plan and took matters in their own hands.  Bridget Brown, from Edward Wyatt Middle School, and Marchae Cannady, from Greensville Elementary School, have now established a bi-monthly “autism team” meeting, where they and their staffs meet to discuss delivery of instruction, classroom management, and how to improve the delivery of services to their students.  All staff are welcome to attend these meetings and often the group is made up of other special education teachers, administrators, and paraprofessionals, who are not currently working with students on the spectrum but who want to be informed.  These meetings have resulted in more communication and collaboration between classrooms and schools and serve as a perfect example of ‘building capacity within a division.’  Kudos to the folks at Greensville County Public Schools for taking the initiative to launch this program!  VCU-ACE is proud to be working with such a dedicated and creative team of professionals.

A Word about Richmond Public Schools Autism Team’s Coaching Project

As part of the RPS Autism strategic plan process, stakeholders developed a goal which focused on building teacher-support capacity throughout the division.  They identified a cohort of RPS employees that have completed the VCU ASD certificate program as being well qualified to serve as building “coaches”.  Over 70 RPS staff have either finished or are currently enrolled in the Autism Certificate Program.  It is a 2 year post-bachelorette curriculum where students are expected to attend four courses and engage in field based work.  The level of mastery in autism spectrum disorders and evidenced based practices that is obtained through this program has enabled these educators to be in prime position to offer their expertise to newer or lesser experienced staff across the division.
The first year of the coaching process was aimed at creating a model by which the division could have autism mentors within each school over a period of time.   These “go to” persons would offer supports by meeting with teachers and observing classrooms to identify needed supports and then provide brief but intensive technical assistance and coaching to increase knowledge of best practices as well as improve fidelity of implementation.  Five coaches paired up with 6 teachers during this inaugural year.  

In order to prepare the coaches and ensure that they still retained a high level of knowledge of the five priority evidence based practices (EBP’s)*, ACE and the RPS Autism Mentor teachers developed a coaches manual and training protocol.  The coaches were trained on the roles and expectations of coaches as well as retrained on the previously mentioned EBP’s utilizing modules from the Quality Behavior Competencies, Autism Internet Modules (OCALI), and the National Professional Development Center on ASD.  Coaches completed pre and post test measures and targeted training was accomplished based on those scores.  In tandem with the retraining sessions, coaches were offered coaches “support” meetings where their individual experiences were shared and the process was further refined. 

By the end of the 2012 school year, the model coaching group had been able to work with six RPS staff for over 3 months.   Overall, the coaches feel that they did make a difference and that classroom supports were improved for their partner teachers.  Based on the initial anecdotal results, 60% of the staff coached benefitted from this experience by:  better understanding the characteristics and supports of ASD, learning about and implementing certain EBP’s, and developing critical resources for their students to use.  The “coaching project” planning committee is focused on refining the “coachee” selection process to include an application and statement of interest.  And for the upcoming 2012-2013 school year, approximately 5 more coaches will begin working with new staff.