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January 16, 2013

Check Out the New Resources Section on the VCU-ACE Website!

VCU-ACE is pleased to announce the launch of the new and improved Resources section on the VCU-ACE website.  Throughout the new Resources section, you will find web links, guides, factsheets, agency information, trainings, videos, and research articles to help you support individuals with ASD. We now offer the following sections for the individual with ASD, family members, educators, providers, professionals, and community members: Autism Spectrum Disorder (What does it mean and where do I start?),  Screening and Diagnosis, Evidence-Based Practices, Communication, Early Intervention, Families, Eligibility and the School-Aged Child, Adolescence, Adults, Technology, and Smartphone Technology. 

We encourage you to explore and share the information on these Resource Pages and to contact us if you still have questions or need additional resources. You can reach us at and toll-free at 855-711-6987.  Please also investigate the opportunities for Professional Development  that VCU-ACE offers, including webcasts, seminars, online courses, and live trainings.  Many of these correspond to the Resource topics listed above.  In addition, VCU-ACE has developed Factsheets and Briefs on numerous topics that may be helpful to individuals with ASD and those who support them. You can see the entire list and download and print the documents from the ACE website.

VA Autism Screening and Diagnosis Task Force Publishes White Paper!

It is well documented that ASD can be accurately diagnosed between the ages of two and three in many children.  Identifying and diagnosing ASD at a young age often enables children to begin receiving ASD-specific early intervention services, which research shows can produce favorable outcomes. However, studies have determined that services designed to provide screening and assessment, which lead to diagnosis are not sufficient in Virginia. In fact, children in the Commonwealth are often being diagnosed much later than is optimal.

To help improve services for those with ASD and their family members, the Virginia Commonwealth University Autism Center for Excellence (VCU-ACE) convened an interdisciplinary Task Force of stakeholders across the Commonwealth to study issues related to medical and educational assessment.  The Task Force, composed of educational, medical, and community-based providers, as well as family members, convened for 18 months beginning in 2011.  The task force evaluated three different topics related to identification of ASD: screening, diagnosis, and systems change.  Upon completion of the evaluations, recommendations were made to improve services related to screening, diagnosis, and identification of ASD in Virginia. A summary of the research conducted as well as the recommendations made by this Task Force is now available through a VCU-ACE White Paper titled, Assessment of Screening, Diagnosis, and Identification of Autism Spectrum Disorders in Virginia. A link to the White Paper can be found in the "Research and Articles" section of the Screening and Diagnosis Resources page on the ACE website.

VCU-ACE Hosting Level 1 Training on the ADOS-2 and an ADOS-2 Update!

On Monday and Tuesday, March 18-19, 2013, Barbara Webb will return to Virginia to present a "Level 1 Workshop on the Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule 2 (ADOS-2)."  Thanks to support from the Autism Society – Central VA, the workshop will be held at the River Road United Methodist Church in Richmond.  

The Autism Diagnostic Interview, Revised (ADI-R) and the Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedules(ADOS Editions 1 and 2) have become the standard instruments for assessing autism and PDD across age, developmental level, and language levels.  Used in research for decades, these comprehensive instruments provide a thorough assessment of individuals suspected of having autism or other autism spectrum disorders.  Like its predecessor, the ADOS-2 is a semi-structured, standardized assessment of communication, social interaction, play, and restricted and repetitive behaviors. It presents various activities that elicit behaviors directly related to a diagnosis of ASD. By observing and coding these behaviors, information can be obtained that informs diagnosis, treatment planning, and educational placement.  This revision improves an instrument already viewed as "the gold standard" for observational assessment of autism spectrum disorder (ASD).  With updated protocols, revised algorithms, a new Comparison Score, and a Toddler Module, the ADOS-2 provides a highly accurate picture of current symptoms, unaffected by language. It can be used to evaluate almost anyone suspected of having ASD--from 1-year-olds with no speech to adults who are verbally fluent.

This 2-day workshop will teach attendees how to use the ADOS-2 in clinical practice or in an educational assessment to assess and diagnose or determine eligibility of autism. The presenter will describe the ADOS-2 and demonstrate administration and scoring for educational eligibility.  Instructional methods include lecture, videotaped administration and scoring, and discussion.  Participants will have the opportunity to practice scoring while observing the administration of the ADOS-2. Participants will also have practice administering the ADOS-2.  The workshop will also include a brief overview of the new Toddler Module for the 12-30 month-old child.

The workshop is designed for clinicians and educational personal with a prior background in autism and formal testing, for example: physicians, psychologists, school psychologists, educational diagnosticians, speech/language pathologists, occupational therapists, counselors, and social workers. Individuals with less background in testing but who provide service for individuals and families affected by autism may take the workshop for informational purposes.

On Friday, March 22, 2013 Barbara Webb will provide an “Update of Administration and Scoring of the new ADOS-2.”  Participants in this one day update workshop are required to have attended a 2-day ADOS training prior to this workshop.  The workshop will also include a brief overview of the new Toddler Module for the 12-30 month-old child.

For more information and to register for either of these workshops, please visit the VCU-ACE website Live Training page or contact Becky Boswell, VCU-ACE Outreach Coordinator, at or 855-711-6987.  Please note, space is very limited for both workshops so please register early if interested. 

VCU-ACE Collaborates with Region 1 Consortium to Provide Training on the VB-MAPP!

VCU-ACE and the Region 1 Consortium conducted a day-long training on the VB-MAPP (Verbal Behavior-Milestones Assessment and Placement Program) in early December.  VCU-ACE Technical Assistant Associate Adam Dreyfus, in partnership with Region 1 Consortium Facilitator Carrie Radigan, focused on ‘unpacking’ the various parts of the VB-MAPP assessment.  The training started with an overview of the VB-MAPP, followed by a hands-on assessment, and concluded with a how-to-interpret the results session.  Over 30 participants representing nine school divisions in Region 1 participated in this professional development opportunity.  This workshop represents the first in a 3-day training sequence designed to respond to public school divisions increasing use of the VB-MAPP assessment tool as well as their desire to have more teachers, related service providers, and administrators trained on and familiar with the VB-MAPP.

Happy 2013 from the Newport News School Division!

It’s been a busy and productive fall in Newport News.  The ACE Service Improvement Team revised the Newport News Vision and Mission Statements at their fall academy in September and that has produced a renewed passion and excitement for the work!  Seven teachers were trained as coaches and have started their work supporting their colleagues (self-contained teachers ASD classrooms).  The coaches and teachers have completed training on the VB-MAPP as well as errorless teaching, prompting, task analysis, and MEI.  Coaches are now implementing these evidence-based practices in their own classrooms and supporting the implementation in the classrooms of their assigned teachers.  Teachers are already reporting positive gains and progress with students as they begin to implement both the VB-MAPP and the accompanying EBPs as part of their teaching practice. 

The APERS Assessment has been completed in all of the ASD self-contained classrooms in Newport News (15 classrooms)!  Data has been collected to compile division average data as well as individual classroom data.  The next step will be to develop classroom goals that compliment the division goals to move the program forward through coaching and training initiatives. 

Numerous trainings have been offered to staff working with students with ASD in the Newport News school division this fall including:  Visual Supports, Sensory Diets in the Classroom:  Easy Recipes, Troubleshooting FBA/BIPs, Video Modeling, VB-MAPP, and Errorless Teaching, Prompting, Task Analysis, and MEI.  In addition, Nelson Elementary School teachers of students with ASD held their first Parent Night, “Autism and You – Communication,” on December 5, 2012, focusing on the characteristics of autism and the connection to difficulties with communication.  Parents were divided into groups and had the opportunity to visit various stations after dinner.  Ruthan Newton, the Parent Resource Center Coordinator, provided information relative to resources in the area of autism.  A representative from the Sherriff's Dept gave a demonstration of "Project Lifesaver."  Wendy Clayton (NNPS) and Charlene Wentland (VCU-ACE) offered information relative to characteristics of students with ASD and held question/answer sessions for parents looking for strategies to use at home for various issues.  Patricia Allen, Carol Hughes, Deborrah Lewis, and Stefanie Paul, from the Autism Department at Nelson, hosted "make it-take it" sessions for visual schedules on object, picture, photo, and text levels for parents. Schedules were made to help parents teach their children at-home routines for homework, shopping, getting ready for school, getting ready for bed, and weekend routines. Dr. Melody Camm, Principal, facilitated the evening's activities.

The School Psychologist/Social Worker work group has developed two important documents to assist child study teams in Newport News as they work to identify and support students with autism. These documents, ASD Red Flags Checklist and Autism Evaluation Guidelines, are currently being disseminated out to pertinent chairpersons for review.  Following the ADOS training last spring, there has been an increase in the use of the ADOS assessment tool to help identify ASD and to support programming for these students.  The Assistive Technology Team in Newport News has contributed both to training and to resources for the teaching staff in Newport News.  They have been creating and posting on the Sharepoint website numerous visuals for teaching staff  to use for visual supports implementation and to support the assessment and teaching of the VB-MAPP. 

The second half of this year is expected to be just as productive as the fall!  Teachers and Coaches will be busy implementing VB-MAPP goals and objectives for targeted students, as well as addressing classroom goals from the APERS assessment.  Two classrooms from the ASD program will become the model sites for more intense communication programming as they begin to address communication programming for a communication rich classroom environment.  Training will be tailored to classroom APERS goals and take place in small learning communities, supported by the coaches.