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July 11, 2013

The Reported “Child Count” of ASD in Virginia Increases!

A Message from Carol Schall, Ph.D., VCU-ACE Director of Technical Assistance
There was a moment in our most recent advisory council meeting when our Director, Dr. Paul Wehman, let out a breath in amazement at a number.  That number was the most recently reported child count data for Individuals with ASD in Virginia.  The number had increased in one year by 11.28% from 13,141 on December 1, 2011 to 14,624 on December 1, 2012. That increase is notable nationally and in Virginia because the number of individuals receiving services in special education overall has decreased slightly, while the number of individuals with ASD has increased significantly.  On the face, this number is surprising.  Anytime an 11% increase is observed in the incidence of a disability, state leaders should investigate.  

Yet, an increase alone is not the only way to consider this number.  Instead, we should consider this number as an overall measure of the incidence of ASD.  According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the incidence of ASD is one child in every 88 children or 1.1% of school age children.  Another way to measure the impact of the child count in Virginia is to compare it with the CDC incidence rate of ASD.  Are we, in Virginia, comparable to this national estimate of the incidence of ASD?  In 2011, the estimated total number of school-aged children under 18 years old in Virginia was approximately 1.8 million.  While this number may be off slightly because it is from an earlier year, it is the best we have for comparison to our 2012 child count in Virginia.  Given that number, the Virginia Child Count of ASD in 2012 represents approximately 0.8% of Virginia children.  From that perspective, the 2012 Child Count is slightly under the national estimated prevalence of ASD.  Even this figure is slightly deceiving.  In fact, some children with ASD may be counted and served under different categories in special education or may be home schooled, thus, while 0.8% is less than 1.1%, it may not be an under-representation of ASD.  

Nevertheless, the 11% increase in the Virginia Child Count figures of ASD from 2011 to 2012 may represent Virginia catching up to the national figures and continually adjusting to providing the best services to children and youth with ASD.  In the end, it is not so much about the count as it is about the quality of school services children with ASD receive.  Teachers who teach children with ASD successfully have said, “If you can teach a child with ASD, you can teach anyone.” At VCU-ACE, we work for and collaborate with those teachers. We continue to increase access to quality professional development and coaching so that every one of those 14,624 children in Virginia will receive an excellent education.

Visit the VDOE website for more information on the VA Childcount Data.
Visit the CDC website for national data and resources on ASD. 
Visit the VCU-ACE website for more information on Professional Development Opportunities, Technical Assistance, and Resources.  

Register NOW for VCU-ACE Online Courses starting in September!

Registration is now open for the sessions of the 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 online courses starting in September!  

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.

The course for Paraprofessionals is designed to provide support staff with the skills and knowledge needed to support students with an ASD in the school setting. The course provides an overview of the potential roles and responsibilities the paraprofessional may be asked to deliver. Participants will learn how to carry out their responsibilities while maintaining respect for the students and exhibiting sensitivity to beliefs, values, and cultures.  This course meets the requirements of H.B. 325 and the VDOE Training Standards for Paraprofessionals.

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

Henrico County Public Schools Initiates a Professional Learning Community in Social Skills and ASD!

During the Henrico County Public Schools Autism Team’s strategic plan process, stakeholders developed a goal that focused on building social skills supports capacity throughout the division.  One element of this goal was to gather input from a group of teachers who were already engaged in social skills instruction within their respective schools.  Members of this “focus group” were able to discuss the planning and development of their projects, successful components and barriers that they encountered, and their vision for the future.   Two critical questions were then posed to these participants: 1)  What do you need to continue to meet the social skills instructional needs of your students, and 2) What are ways in which we can get more staff interested and involved in offering this type of educational support to a broader range of students with ASD?

Results indicated that teachers would significantly benefit from the formation of a Professional Learning Community (PLC) for staff engaged in social skills instruction.  The “focus group” then shifted roles to develop and implement this new learning community.  Starting in October 2013, members of this PLC will meet every 9 weeks.  A survey will be distributed to identify and prioritize topics and formats.  In addition, a support network will be set up where teachers will be able to utilize a blog, virtual library, and a standard library for relevant resources.  The interest and enthusiasm amongst the staff is quite evident and the social skills needs of students will be better served during the upcoming years because of the motivation of this dedicated group of teachers!  Way to go Henrico! 

Save the Date -- Insight 2013: Topics in Autism Now Scheduled!

VCU-ACE is honored to again be collaborating with the VDOE T/TAC at VCU and the Autism Society-Central VA on the annual Insight conference.  This year’s Insight: Topics in Autism conference will be held on October 18 & 19, 2013 in Richmond.  Peter Gerhardt, Ed.D. will be speaking on “Beyond Behavior: Transition Planning for Youth with ASD" during the day on Friday, October 18th at the Doubletree Hotel and Conference Center (formerly Holiday Inn Koger Center) at 1021 Koger Center Blvd., Richmond, VA.  On Friday evening, Dr. Gerhardt will share information with families on "Life after High School: Transition to Adulthood for Learners with ASD" and on Saturday, October 19th, he will present important information on “Sexuality and Sexuality Instruction for Learners with ASD” at the River Road United Methodist Church, 8800 River Road, Richmond, VA.  This conference is designed for educators, practitioners, and family members who support students with autism spectrum disorder (ASD).  Registration will open soon – Stay Tuned for more information!!

2013 CoLA Summer Institute a Huge Success!

VCU-ACE was proud to collaborate with the VDOE T/TACs to host the 2013 Communities of Learning in Autism (CoLAs) Summer Institute in Richmond on June 26th and 27th.  Over 110 autism specialists and school division autism leaders from across VA gathered to learn more about communication, inclusion, coaching, pragmatics, assistive technology, supporting administrators, social skills, teaming with paraprofessionals, and more!!!  This year’s Poster Session and Networking Reception included 23 poster presentations highlighting the exciting work being done across VA to support students with autism.  CoLAs meet regionally throughout the year and come together for this time of statewide networking and training at the Summer Institute.  For more information on CoLAs, please contact Becky Boswell at

September 2013 – February 2014 VCU-ACE Webcast Schedule Announced!

VCU-ACE is excited to announce our next series of Webcasts!  Register starting July 15th and plan to join us on the second Tuesday of every month at 3:30p.m. for the airing of these informative webcasts.  If you are unable to view them on the date they air, remember all VCU-ACE webcasts are archived for later viewing at your convenience.  Visit the VCU-ACE website for more information, webcast descriptions, and presenter bios.  

September 10, 2013
DSM 5: The Impact on ASD by Carol Schall, Ph.D.
October 8, 2013
Standard Diploma Credit Accommodations for Students with Disabilities by Samantha Marsh-Hollins, M.T., Ph.D. Candidate
November 12, 2013
Bullying and Autism Spectrum Disorder by Staci Carr, Ed.M, Ph.D. Candidate

December 10, 2013
Sexuality Instruction and Learners with ASD by Peter Gerhardt, Ed.D.

January 7, 2014
Inclusion: Making the Marriage Work – Part 1: Academics by Barbara Webb, Ed.D.
February 11, 2014
Inclusion: Making the Marriage Work – Part 2: Communication and Social Skills by Barbara Webb, Ed.D.


VCU-ACE Participates at the 2013 I’m Determined Youth and Parent Summit!

VCU-ACE was honored to be invited to the I’m Determined Youth and Parent Summit on June 19-21, 2013 in Harrisonburg, VA.  What an exciting event this was!  In attendance on the campus of James Madison University for these three days were close to 200 youth, aged 14-25, 150 parents, and 50 speakers and exhibitors/vendors!  VCU-ACE exhibited at the Parent Summit and shared information with family members on resources and the free online training opportunities available on the ACE website.  Becky Boswell, VCU-ACE Outreach Coordinator, also presented a Friday morning workshop on “Supporting Independence in Youth and Young Adults with Autism Spectrum Disorder.”  Since adolescence and the emergence into adulthood can be a difficult time of transition for individuals with autism spectrum disorder, the session provided information to help encourage and promote independence and in turn support a more successful transition.  Several topics were discussed including:  social skills, the Hidden Curriculum, hygiene, sexuality, and bullying.  A list of references was also provided for those wanting to do additional research on the information provided.  VCU-ACE is already looking forward to next year’s Summit! 


Temple Grandin and Jed Baker Scheduled to Speak in Richmond!

On September 20, 2013, Dr. Temple Grandin will share her unique perspective on living with autism in “The Way I See It” at the Omni Richmond Hotel, 100 South 12th Street, Richmond, VA.  Dr. Grandin has served as inspiration and role model to hundreds of thousands of families and persons with autism. In this presentation, Temple will eloquently and candidly describe the challenges she has faced and offer no-nonsense ideas on how others dealing with autism can meet these obstacles and improve the quality of their lives. Backed by her personal experience and evidence-based research, Temple will share her valuable insights on a wide variety of topics, and offer useful do’s and don’ts.

In the afternoon session, Dr. Jed Baker will offer a dynamic and comprehensive presentation entitled, “No More Meltdowns.”  Having earned his MA and Ph.D. in clinical psychology from the University of Albany, Dr. Baker is a behavioral consultant for several New Jersey school districts where, nearly two decades ago, he organized a group to help children with social communication problems.  This presentation will be extremely valuable to all family members and professionals working with individuals with autism spectrum disorder, attention deficit disorders, learning disabilities, mood and anxiety disorders, and other issues that impact social-emotional functioning.

For more information on the day’s agenda and to register, please visit the Future Horizons website.  Be sure to stop by the VCU-ACE exhibit table if you attend!!