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September 10, 2012

Tips for Back-to- School Success!

“They’re going back….” To school that is. While this can be an exciting time for parents, it can also be a time for anxiety about what the year has in store for your son or daughter on the autism spectrum. Preparing your child for school can be an overwhelming task, especially if he or she will be going to a new school, new teacher, or new classroom.  Here are a few tips that we hope will be helpful in getting the 2012-2013 school year off to a successful start.  Please check out the entire list of tips by clicking on the link on the VCU-ACE Home Page

* Make sure communication is open and honest between teachers and parents.  Establish clear boundaries about communication, including frequency, type of communication, and necessary actions(follow-ups).

* Include your child in purchasing items for school. For example, clothing, folders, backpacks and lunchboxes. Giving your child a choice in what they will take and wear to school will help them feel some control over a potentially stressful transition time.

* Organization… oh my! Color-coordinate as much as possible. If there is a subject that has a book, notebook, and folder- have them all be the same color.  For example, a Green sticker on the math book, with a green folder, and a green notebook. So if there is math homework, all “Green” items will be grabbed and taken home.  You can also request for a set of school books to remain at home to minimize the amount of items that need to be carried to and/ or forgotten at school.

*Remember visual supports and positive reinforcement go a long way.  Set your child up for success with the supports they need at home (e.g., morning, nighttime, homework routines) and school.  When they demonstrate ease of transition, completion of an activity with success and/or independence, reinforce them! 

Don’t Miss a Full Day with Brenda Smith Myles at Insight 2012!

VCU-ACE is honored to be collaborating with the VDOE TTAC at VCU and the Autism Society – Central VA to bring Brenda Smith Myles to Richmond for Insight 2012!!  On Friday, October 19, Brenda will be presenting from 9am to 4pm at the Hilton Garden Inn Richmond Downtown.  The morning session will be on Strategies and Supports to Address the Hidden Curriculum and in the afternoon Brenda will address Strategies for Students with High-Functioning Autism and Asperger Syndrome Who Experience Difficult Moments.  The Autism Society – Central VA will provide a bookstore at the conference and Brenda’s books will be available!  The cost for the Friday workshop is only $55.00 per person before September 15, 2012, after that it will increase to $65.00.  So be sure to Register Soon to get the early-bird price!!

On Friday evening and Saturday morning, October 19 & 20, Brenda will be speaking at River Road United Methodist Church in Richmond.  Friday evening’s Parent Support Group Session will focus on Tantrums, Rage, and Meltdowns, while Saturday Brenda will speak at a Family Focus Session on Preparing for Transitions to Middle School and High School.  Brenda Smith Myles Ph.D., international speaker and consultant for the Ohio Center for Autism and Low Incidence, is the recipient of the Autism Society of America’s Outstanding Professional Award, the Princeton Fellowship Award, and the Council for Exceptional Children, Division on Developmental Disabilities Burton Blatt Humanitarian Award. Brenda has made over 500 presentations all over the world and written more than 150 articles and books on ASD including Asperger Syndrome and Difficult Moments: Practical Solutions for Tantrums, Rage, and Meltdowns (with Southwick) and The Hidden Curriculum: Practical Solutions for Understanding Unstated rules in Social Situations. In addition, she served as the co-chair of the National ASD Teacher Standards Committee and was on the National Institute of Mental Health’s Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee’s Strategic Planning Consortium.

Please click here for more information on Insight 2012 and to register online!

News from the VCU-ACE Training Team

The schedule is now available for the entire 2012-2013 Webcast Series!  Check out the great presenters and topics we have scheduled for September 2012-August 2013, and make it easy on yourself by registering for the whole series!  If you register now, you will still have time to view the webcast by Dr. Maria Urbano on "Autism: An Evolving Diagnosis" airing Tuesday, September 11th at 3:30pm.  And no worries if you can’t catch the webcast on the date it airs, all ACE webcasts are archived for future viewing at your convenience! 


PARAPro Update --
Interest in and registration for the VCU-ACE online course for Paraprofessionals continues at a brisk pace.  At this time, space is still available in the November and January sessions, so please register soon if interested.  Just a reminder -- The Paraprofessional Course will not be offered in the month of December, 2012.


Register NOW for VCU-ACE Online Courses starting November 5th!
Registration is now open for the Foundations of Autism Spectrum Disorders and Strategies for Supporting Positive Behaviors in Students with Autism Spectrum Disorders online courses running November 5 to December 2, 2012. The Foundations 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.  The impact ASD has on the person as well as the family unit is discussed. The course also provides an overview of learning styles, the history, cause, and early signs of ASD. 

The Strategies 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.  Participants will gain knowledge of the functional approach to behavior, providing behavioral support in the educational environment, understanding the behavior chain, the process of conducting a Functional Behavior Assessment, development and implementation of a behavior intervention plan, strategies for intervening with interfering behavior, and identifying and teaching replacement behavior. 

Space is limited in these sessions, so please register early if interested! 

Check Out the Changes on the VCU-ACE Website!

The VCU-ACE website is currently undergoing several revisions and changes to make it easier for you to find the information you are seeking. All of our course, webcast, seminar, and state training information can now be found under the "Professional Development" tab. And in the coming weeks the "Resources" section will have a whole new look!  Be sure to check it out!!!  If you ever have any questions about the website or are looking for information on resources in VA, please feel free to email us at or call toll-free to 855-711-6987.

It's Business as Usual for Botetourt County Public Schools!

The summer months have not slowed down the momentum built in Botetourt County Schools for systems-change in services and practice for students with autism spectrum disorders.   Teachers returned after a restful summer refreshed and ready to take on the learning of new strategies to support their students with autism spectrum disorders. 

This past spring, several preschool teachers, elementary teachers and speech language therapists were trained and coached in how to complete the VB-MAPP (Verbal Behavior Milestones Assessment and Placement Program) assessment on a student with autism.  Now, that these teachers have completed this assessment on several students within the county, the teachers are being taught how to translate the information gathered in this assessment into teaching practice.  These teachers received training at the start of the 2012-13 school year in Errorless Teaching and Multiple Exemplar Instruction.  This training will be followed up in the fall with classroom visits and coaching by division staff, with the support of ACE Technical Assistance Associates, to ensure implementation of these practices with fidelity. 

This fall the division will move forward in its plan to systematically address the implementation of evidence-based practices associated with the learning of social skills to include social skill groups, peer-mediated instruction, social narratives, and video modeling.  In the spring, several elementary teachers, middle school teachers, and speech language therapists received training and coaching in how to complete a social skill assessment on a student with an autism spectrum disorder.  During the 2012-13 school year, the use of the social skill assessment will spread to include those at the high school level.  During the teacher work week at the start of this school year, this group of teachers received training in how to take the information learned on the assessment and to translate it into practices that address each student’s individual social skill instructional needs.  This training will also be followed up in the fall with classroom visits and coaching by division staff, with the support of ACE Technical Assistance Associates, to ensure implementation of these social skills practices with fidelity.

Wonderful Things are Happening in Wise!

Three weeks into the 2012-13 school year and Wise County is off to an intense start in its ongoing implementation of its division plan to improve services for students with autism spectrum disorders.   In early August, Wise County hosted the training associates from VCU-ACE as they delivered a two-day live ParaPro training to all special education paraprofessionals in the division.  Seventy-nine paraprofessionals, covering preschool to high school and from collaborative to self-contained programs, received training in basic information on autism and educational programming, prompting, task analysis, behavior supports, communication strategies, and social skill strategies.   The paraprofessionals soaked up the information delivered and have been seen implementing the strategies learned in their classrooms.  The implementation of these strategies is already leading to more independence and less instances of challenging behavior for students.  Many paraprofessionals have expressed how the hands-on application of the strategies within the training has helped them with to know how to implement them in the classroom.

The paraprofessionals have not been the only ones to receive training.  During the teacher workweek, all special education professionals received training in how to engage in comprehensive planning for students with autism that includes teaming, ongoing data collection, and making data-based instructional decisions.   As with all training in the division, teachers will receive ongoing support through classroom visits and coaching by division staff with the support of the ACE Technical Assistance Associate to ensure implementation of teaming and data collection with fidelity.

To support the division goal in the spread of evidence-based practices for students with autism, the division has identified one teacher per school who will be an autism resource person to other teachers in the building.  This resource person will receive materials, training, and coaching so that they can support their colleagues in addressing the ongoing comprehensive educational needs of the students with autism within their building.   To this end, the autism resource teachers received training this past week on how to complete a social skill assessment, how to interpret the results, and how to translate those results into goals.   These teachers will receive ongoing classroom visits, coaching, and follow-up training in how to take the results from the assessment and develop programs that address the individualized social skill needs of these students through the use of evidence-based practices to include social skill groups, peer-mediated instruction, social narratives, and video modeling.

While initiatives are moving forward in social skill instructional practices this year, the division coaches are providing ongoing support to the self-contained classroom teachers who received targeted coaching last school year.  In the spring, meetings were held with each teacher to address planning for the fall to include development of a classroom layout that addressed visual structure and boundaries and development of staff and student schedules.  In addition, a workgroup met this summer to identify curriculum materials in literacy, phonetic instruction, and mathematics that will be used in all self-contained classrooms from elementary to high school.  During the teacher workweek, each teacher was seen moving furniture, hunting for furniture, taking photos, laminating pictures, and more with the end result being classrooms that are highly structured with clear boundaries and clear locations for group work, independent work, play, and more.  Students and staff each have individual schedules that include designated times for literacy instruction using the four-block model and mathematics instruction.  During coaching visits, it was noted by all involved, as well as other staff in the building, that the classrooms were running much more smoothly with all individuals knowing exactly what is expected of them and when.  Wise County coaches and teachers are excited about the resources that have been made available to them to support instruction and in the changes they are already seeing in their students.