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November 7, 2012

VCU-ACE Announces New Online Course on Data-Based Decision-Making!

VCU-ACE is pleased to announce a new online course on Improving Goal Mastery through Data-Based Decision-Making!   This self-paced online course, developed in collaboration with Grafton Integrated Health Network, provides a structured and systematic approach to developing, implementing, and monitoring goals and objectives written for students with ASD.  The course begins by outlining how to write objective and measurable goals that will allow educators to determine whether a student is making adequate progress.  An overview of data collection, including types and purposes of data, is then provided. The final section describes how to graph data and use graphs to make informed decisions. A focus is placed on regularly reviewing student performance on goals and objectives and making person-centered changes in approaches when needed to facilitate progress. 

This course is designed for any professional who develops, implements, and reviews student goals and objectives and is responsible for implementing programs designed to build positive skills and/or reduce interfering behavior. Administrators who supervise professionals and/or participate in the development of student goals and objectives may also find this course beneficial. Parents who have children with outlined goals and objectives may benefit as well. Check it out!!

2012 Webcast News…

VCU-ACE was pleased to collaborate with the VDOE TTAC at VCU and the Autism Society-Central VA to bring Brenda Smith Myles, Ph.D. to Richmond for several presentations in October.  Dr. Myles will also be presenting the November 13th and December 11th ACE Webcasts on an “Introduction to the Hidden Curriculum” and “Strategies and Supports to Address the Hidden Curriculum.”  Please visit the ACE website for a detailed synopsis of these presentations and to register.  And remember, all ACE webcasts are archived for future viewing!


VCU-ACE Participates at Circle of Support in Prince William County!

The Arc of Prince William hosted its annual Circle of Support Conference at Hylton High School in Prince William on Saturday, November 3rd.  VCU-ACE was honored to participate as both a presenter and exhibitor this year!  Paula Kluth, Ph.D. presented the keynote on “The Problems with Behavior Problems:  Supporting Individuals with Autism and Other Disabilities” and breakouts on teaching literacy and providing inclusive environments for students with autism.  Staci Carr, VCU-ACE Technical Assistance Coordinator, offered sessions on “Adolescence, Sexuality, and Developmental Disabilities” and “College and ASD, ” while Becky Boswell, VCU-ACE Outreach Coordinator, shared information about all of the professional development opportunities ACE provides and the many resources available on the ACE website.  Thanks to all the family members and professionals who stopped by to speak with us!


VCU Receives Federal Grant to Determine Best Practices to Facilitate Employment for Youth with Autism

The VCU Public Affairs Office shared exciting news on October 17, 2012.  Virginia Commonwealth University, together with the Virginia Department for Aging and Rehabilitative Services and Henrico County Public Schools, has received a $2.5 million grant to expand research in how to best help youth with autism gain and maintain employment upon graduation.  The five-year grant, from the National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research-United States Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services, will expand a current randomized controlled trial at Bon Secours St. Mary’s Hospital in Richmond, VA, where all students who participated in the project in the first three years were subsequently hired as employees by that hospital. The new grant will allow continued research at St. Mary’s, as well as fund research sites in two additional community hospitals in northern and southeastern Virginia. The VCU team who applied for and received this grant is focused on employment issues and improving social and cognitive behavior of youth with autism.
Please click here to read the complete announcement!

As a follow-up to the announcement, Dr. Paul Wehman, Chairman Division of Research, Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, Director of Autism Center for Excellence, and Director of VCU-RRTC, participated in a radio interview on the Community Idea Stations – NPR on October 24, 2012.  Dr. Wehman provided insight on how this new grant will allow VCU to expand its autism work training.  To hear the interview, click here


A New Resource has just been added to the Adults and Adolescents Page of the VCU-ACE website!

"Project SEARCH for Youth With Autism Spectrum Disorders: Increasing Competitive Employment On Transition From High School" was published in the October 23, 2012 Journal of Positive Behavior Interventions. Authors Paul Wehman, Carol Schall, Jennifer McDonough, Alissa Molinelli, Erin Riehle, Whitney Ham, and Weston R. Thiss provide a description of how Project SEARCH, a model transition program for youth with disabilities, was used to help youth with ASD gain competitive employment. This article includes two case studies and a thorough description of the additional supports provided to increase successful employment on graduation from high school.

The online version of this article can be found here.  

DOI: 10.1177/1098300712459760
Journal of Positive Behavior Interventions published online 23 October 2012.

Richmond Public Schools and ACE Staff Embark upon Innovative Paraprofessional Training Model

When House Bill 325 passed last spring and mandated training for all paraprofessionals who work directly with a student with ASD, many school divisions were taken aback with how to get this daunting task accomplished. Not so in Richmond Public Schools (RPS). The Office of Exceptional Education, including members of the Autism Supports Team, Department of Professional Development, and Department of Human Resources, welcomed this as an opportunity to provide their direct line staff with valuable instruction on the basics of Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD), evidence-based classroom supports, and strategies on how to handle interfering behaviors. This paraprofessional initiative corresponded nicely with the pre-existing RPS Autism Services Strategic Plan, as the first goal of the plan focused on building the capacity of staff to learn and implement evidence-based practices.

RPS is using the online training program created by VCU-ACE with generous funding from the Virginia Department of Education. The content areas were derived from the Skill Competencies for Professionals and Paraprofessionals in Virginia Supporting Individuals with Autism Across the Lifespan, previously developed by the Virginia Autism Council. Since this past April, VCU-ACE has offered the Autism Spectrum Disorders for Paraprofessionals: Providing Effective Instruction and Supports online course on a monthly basis. The course consists of 5 modules that the learner must complete within the monthly session, usually about 4 weeks.

The RPS Team decided that all of their 400+ parapros needed the knowledge and should receive the training, not only the paraprofessionals who were currently working directly with students with ASD. They recognized that most of their parapros either worked directly or indirectly with a student with ASD, or would work directly with students on the spectrum in the future.  In addition, they realized that merely assigning these critical staff the task of completing the online course on their own would not result in the outcomes they desired. Their idea was to offer a central location for staff to take the course online and to have coaches available onsite who are well versed in ASD. 

Participants in the RPS program are given the amount of instruction and guidance they need to log on to the PC, access the course on Blackboard, and complete the necessary assignments. Care is taken to ensure that instructional assistants are assigned to specific months in such a way as to not burden the schools in terms of staff coverage. Two cohorts are held each month and the participants attend a 3 hour session, once a week for four weeks. Henderson Middle School houses an impressive technology lab consisting of two impressive classrooms outfitted with PC terminals, LCD’s, and Smart Boards so it was chosen as the perfect location to house this effort.  RPS hopes to have the vast majority of their staff trained and certified by Winter 2013/14.

Congratulations to ALL of the hard working staff within RPS for seizing the opportunity to ensure that all staff working with students with ASD have a high degree of skill!

Wise County Schools’ Susan Mullins Named School Psychologist of the Year in VA!!

Congratulations to Wise County Schools’ Susan Mullins who was recently named Virginia’s School Psychologist of the Year!  She is one of two certified psychologists in Wise County Public Schools whose primary role is to help evaluate and determine whether a child is eligible for special education services. Susan also participates in the VCU-ACE technical assistance project in Wise County.  She is a member of the division’s Autism Services Improvement Team (ASIT) and works with students and teachers to implement the three year technical assistance grant by providing training and coaching to teachers and helping define assessments for teachers to measure students’ progress in social, behavioral, and academic areas.  VCU-ACE wishes Susan all the best as she now serves as Virginia’s nominee for the national award.

VCU-ACE Participates in Southwest VA Leadership Conference!

Teresa Lyons, Technical Assistance Associate for Regions 6 & 7, represented VCU-ACE at the 2012 Southwest Virginia Leadership Conference in October.  Sponsored annually by UVA Wise’s Center for Teaching Excellence, the conference goal is “to bring together administrators, leading experts, and creative thinkers to aid public school administrators in creating successful and engaging learning environments in the region.”  Teresa was invited to present sessions on VCU’s Autism Center for Excellence and on how school divisions can implement a model for coaching that leads to changes in autism practices.  Teresa’s co-presenter for these two sessions was Cindy Bates, Special Education and Autism Coordinator for Wise County Schools. 

Participants in the session “VCU-ACE: Resources and Training to Virginia Educators in Autism Spectrum Disorders” were provided with information on the professional development opportunities available through VCU-ACE and the many resources available on the ACE website.  Participants also learned about the VCU-ACE Technical Assistance model and the local supports available to them.  In the session “Coaching that Leads to Change: Addressing Best Practices in Autism,” Cindy and Teresa presented a model for coaching that can be replicated in divisions with limited staff and resources.  Participants were also provided with tools helpful in identifying personnel, times, and targets for a division as well as with tools to use in the implementation of a division coaching model.