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August 8, 2012

VCU-ACE Participates at Shining Stars Conference!

The VCU Autism Center for Excellence (VCU-ACE) participated at Creating Connections to Shining Stars 2012, Virginia's Collaborative Early Childhood Birth through Five Conference, in July.  The conference provided both early intervention and early childhood providers with information regarding service delivery for children with developmental delays and disabilities.  VCU-ACE was able to contribute information specifically geared towards children with autism spectrum disorder through presentations and a conference exhibit. 

Dawn Hendricks, VCU-ACE Training Director, partnered with Deana Buck from the Partnership for People with Disabilities to provide a presentation titled, "Supporting Families as they Learn More About Autism Spectrum Disorder: Hints, Strategies and Resources."  The session provided participants with key information to assist families as they learn more about ASD and included tips for talking to parents.  Participants also learned about the "Learn the Signs: Act Early" campaign, sponsored by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. User-friendly resources were shared that were designed to improve developmental outcomes for all young children. 
Alicia Hart, VCU-ACE Training Associate, presented on "Overcoming Feeding Difficulties in Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder." The session provided an overview of the eating challenges children with ASD may present and the potential reasons why such challenges may develop. A focus was placed on strategies to address challenges and overcome feeding difficulties within the context of the home and school environment. 

News from the VCU-ACE Training Division!

The summer months have given many people an opportunity to expand their knowledge on autism spectrum disorders by participating in the VCU-ACE online courses, Foundations of Autism Spectrum Disorders, Strategies for Supporting Positive Behaviors in Students with Autism Spectrum Disorders, and Autism Spectrum Disorders for Paraprofessionals:  Providing Effective Instruction and Supports.  Over 80 individuals participated in the Foundations of Autism Spectrum Disorders and Strategies for Supporting Positive Behaviors in Students with Autism Spectrum Disorders courses that concluded in July. 

The Foundations for Autism Spectrum Disorders course provides participants with an understanding of the primary characteristics of ASD, which include impairments in communication and social development and the presence of repetitive patterns of behavior. Secondary characteristics, including sensory processing differences and motor deficits are also be explored. The Strategies for Supporting Positive Behaviors in Students with Autism Spectrum Disorders course is designed to provide teachers, related service providers, paraprofessionals, administrators, families and other service providers with skills and knowledge needed to support students with an ASD who demonstrate interfering behavior in the school setting. For more information and to register for either of these online courses, please visit the VCU-ACE website.

July PARAPro Training – Over 300 Trained in One Month!

Due to the high demand for training of paraprofessionals in the summer, VCU-ACE expanded the course participant limit to allow all interested the ability to participate in the Autism Spectrum Disorders for Paraprofessionals: Providing Effective Instruction and Supports in July.  Over 400 individuals registered for the July PARAPro Training and 316 successfully completed the course.  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 online course is run on a monthly basis and is self-paced.  Participants can receive a Certificate of Completion if they meet all of the course requirements.  Visit the VCU-ACE website for more information and to register for an upcoming session!   

Here are just some of the remarks from participants in the July course for paraprofessionals:

“I finished Module 5 and just wanted to tell you I have enjoyed taking this class. It gave me new idea(s) and insight on how to improve on some things I do now. I can't wait to talk to my supervising teacher when we go back to work in August about the “Apply it” and other things I learned.”

“I have finished the class!!! I really enjoyed it. It helped me to understand the complexity of some of the students in my classroom …Thanks for providing an excellent opportunity for the paraprofessionals to learn.”

“I am enjoying this class! I have worked one-on-one with a young man with Autism for the past 5 years with absolutely no training in Autism, but as I am taking this class, I realize that most of what I have done with this young man is what I was supposed to do. He has really come out of his shell and can now recognize the difference between literal and figurative language. He also can make jokes and talk freely to his peers. I now know that the techniques I was using were the right ones. Thank you for this wonderful class!”

“I just wanted to Thank You. I really enjoyed the Paraprofessional course on ASD. I enjoyed reading the comments and suggestions from the discussion boards and I am so glad I took the course. I really enjoyed reading the comments and suggestions you gave each and every one of us. So great job responding to us all and Thank you again. I would suggest anyone working with a child with ASD to take this course.”

VCU-ACE continues to make improvements to all course offerings ... Thanks for your feedback!!

VCU-ACE Webcast Announcements

VCU-ACE Technical Assistance Coordinator, Emily Helmbolt, will present the August webcast “Transition for Youth with Autism from School to Adulthood: Critical Considerations” on Tuesday, August 14th at 3:30pm.  An increasing number of individuals with ASD are now entering high school and transitioning to adulthood.  For the student with ASD to have a successful transition to adulthood, thorough and systematic planning and preparation is required, and transition planning must begin long before the student enters high school.  This presentation will provide a brief overview of the research regarding the outcomes of adults with ASD and will discuss the primary areas of concern for this group, including employment, residential living, social interactions,and community integration. Ms. Helmboldt will discuss how to determine the student’s curriculum and prioritize skills through assessment and transition planning using an ecological approach.  Resources for transition staff, family, and individuals will also be offered.

Emily is a coordinator for the intensive school division technical assistance initiative at VCU-ACE and the primary technical assistance provider for Richmond City Public Schools.  She holds a Master's Degree in Rehabilitation Counseling from VCU/MCV and is licensed as a Professional Counselor.  Having a diverse background in rehabilitation, cognitive behavioral therapy, Autism Spectrum Disorders, behavior analysis, and positive behavioral supports enables Emily to apply herself in many aspects of the ACE project. She previously served as a community resource manager with the Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services, behavior consultant, job coach, and residential counselor.

September Webcast Announced!

On Tuesday, September 11, 2012, Dr. Maria Urbano will provide an update of the evolving diagnosis of ASD including the current diagnostic controversy, the newest prevalence data, and recent genetic findings accompanied by neuroscience developments on the VCU-ACE monthly webcast titled, “Autism: An Evolving Diagnosis.” 

Maria Urbano, M.D. is a board certified psychiatrist and fellow of the American Psychiatric Association.  She is currently an associate professor of the department of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Eastern Virginia Medical School.  In February 2010, Dr. Urbano and Dr. Deutsch, chairman of the department of psychiatry and behavioral sciences, began the Autism Spectrum Disorders Program for Older Adolescents and Young Adults, which has a clinical, research, and educational division.  Dr. Urbano has seen over 150 ASD patients since the beginning of the program.  She is the principal investigator of three research projects including two promising drug trials of new medications for ASD.  In conjunction with the Children's Hospital of the King's Daughters Children's Hospital, the ASD Program sponsors an annual conference entitled Insights into Autism which features regional and national speakers who present new neuroscience and clinical data.

You can register for all upcoming webcasts on the VCU-ACE website.  Webcasts are also archived for future viewing!

VCU-ACE Website News!

VCU-ACE Announces New Online Course for Medical Professionals!

VCU-ACE in collaboration with the Virginia Learn the Signs: Act Early Group is pleased to announce the launch of a new online course for medical professionals on Screening for Autism Spectrum Disorders.  This introductory course is designed for medical personnel, specifically for pediatric health care providers, including practicing pediatricians, neurologists, psychologists, psychiatrists, nurses, medical residents, and medical students.  However, the content is also applicable to any person who wishes to gain more information about the importance and procedures for screening for autism spectrum disorders.  This online self-paced course contains four modules designed to help medical personnel gain the knowledge and skills to ensure timely and appropriate screening for autism spectrum disorders (ASD).  Participants will learn about the diagnostic process and best practices for supporting a family through screening and diagnosis for ASD.  For more information and to register for Screening for Autism Spectrum Disorders, please visit the VCU-ACE website


Be on the lookout for two new VCU-ACE Online Seminars!

- Children with ASD often have challenges learning to communicate.  Children can be taught to communicate in a variety of different ways including the use of verbal language.  An Introduction to Teaching Young Children with ASD to Verbally Communicate  is designed to help caregivers and educators teach verbal communication to children with ASD.  This seminar will provide information for finding ways to motivate children to talk, setting up an environment that encourages language, teaching communication during natural situations, and prompting the child to communicate.

- Because communication is so important for all of us, individuals with ASD must be provided with a way to communicate and must be taught how to build communication skills as they grow and develop. We want to support those with ASD so they can communicate anything they need to and can do so effectively and efficiently.  An Introduction to Alternative and Augmentative Communication (AAC) with Individuals with ASD is designed to provide an overview of the types of AAC systems available and to discuss how to use AAC devices to help individuals with ASD communicate.   

Check Out the Entire Listing of VCU-ACE Online Seminars on the ACE Website!


Newport News School Division - Planning for a Busy Fall Season!

Newport News Public Schools is moving forward into a busy and exciting fall!  VCU-ACE would like  to welcome Newport News School Division’s new Autism Specialist, Wendy Clayton.  Wendy has hit the ground running and the Newport News Autism Service Improvement Team (ASIT) has many training and goal assessment and implementation activities planned. 

Training initiatives will begin in August with two trainings scheduled to kick off the school year.  First, the new Newport News coaches will receive Coaches’ training and expectations on August 14.  Then on August 23 & 24, ACE Technical Assistance Associate, Steven Celmer, will visit Newport News to train Coaches, SLPs, coordinators, and teachers on the VB-MAPP.  The VB-MAPP will be rolled out in all of the self-contained classrooms for students with ASD in Newport News in the fall.  Coaches will support teachers with implementation of this tool and accompanying evidence-based practices in the classrooms this school year.  In addition, the APERS (Autism Program Environment Rating Scale) assessment will be completed in self-contained classrooms for students with ASD in Newport News this school year to provide baseline data and to guide evidence-based practice trainings and coaching work.  Rotating, regular trainings for Newport News Public Schools staff who work with students with ASD are also being planned.  

With the increased prevalence of autism, school assessment teams are being asked to evaluate more children on the spectrum and to use data to drive instruction and intervention.  A group of Newport News Public Schools school psychologists and social workers are working together to develop a protocol to develop consistent, district-wide comprehensive evaluation of students suspected of being on the autism spectrum.  The intent for this Community of Practice is to ensure that all students suspected of having an ASD are being thoroughly assessed in an effort to help decrease the age of initial identification.  The committee plans to develop guidelines for ASD assessment that will be the standard used throughout the division.  These guidelines will be reviewed and updated regularly to stay abreast of the most current and effective ASD evaluation techniques. 

The assessment of ASD in the school system has typically been limited to using an Autism rating scale and conducting classroom observations.  To help provide more comprehensive ASD assessments, several assessment team members have been trained using the Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule (ADOS), which consists of a variety of activities that allows examiners to directly observe/assess social and communication behaviors related to the characteristics of autism.  Incorporating the ADOS into the ASD evaluation toolkit will assist with early identification and provide more information for developing effective instructional programming for children on the spectrum.  An additional concern with current school practices is that some students, particularly those with higher functioning autism, are not being identified until well into their school years.  Educating teachers about the risk factors and warning signs of ASD may help facilitate earlier identification.  To address this concern, this Community of Practice plans to develop a questionnaire of common “red flags” to be used during pre-referral child study team meetings.  

What an exciting time in Newport News Public Schools!


VCU-ACE Provides Training in China!

VCU-ACE was invited to participate in a wonderful training opportunity in Beijing, China over the summer. Adam Dreyfus, VCU-ACE Technical Assistance Associate, was invited by Beijing Union University to attend a week long training that focused on assisting special education teachers in addressing the needs of their students diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder.  Adam joined Professors Ted Hoch and Carmen Rioux-Bailey from George Mason University in delivering two 3-day trainings. The first three days were dedicated to Applied Behavior Analysis and the utilization of research-based interventions that teachers could implement in their classrooms to help them address the communication, social skills, and behavioral issues that constitute the core deficits associated with autism.  The final three days expanded on the initial training but also included how to promote successful inclusion of students diagnosed with autism in general education settings.  Dr. Bailey is the proud mother of her adopted Chinese daughter Vivien as well as the Founder of the Washington Yu Ying Chinese Immersion Charter School located in Washington, D.C.