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August 5, 2013

Announcing NEW VCU-ACE Seminars on The Comprehensive Autism Planning System!!

VCU-ACE is pleased to announce the release of our newest online seminars!!  Joining our seminars on Characteristics of Autism
Spectrum Disorder
, Environmental Structure and Visual Supports, and Communication, are five short seminars on The Comprehensive Autism Planning System (CAPS).   VCU-ACE Training Staff, Dawn Hendricks and Selena Layden, join three staff from the Ohio Center for Autism and Low Incidence (OCALI), Shawn Henry, Amy Bixler Coffin, and Brenda Smith Myles, in describing CAPS, its purpose, and essential elements. Case studies are also included to help educators understand how CAPS can be implemented for students with ASD. 

CAPS is a comprehensive, yet easy-to-use system that provides a framework to help educators implement an instructional program for students with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). The CAPS model breaks the student's program into core components and helps educators determine when to target critical goals, including those related to communication and social skills; identify the structure, supports, and instructional strategies required; as well as delineate the data collection to be used to ensure students are progressing.

Visit the VCU-ACE website to access all of our online seminars.

More Exciting News from the VCU-ACE Training Division!

VCU-ACE New Online Course Coming Soon!!

VCU-ACE is excited to announce that our newest online course, Providing Effective Instruction for Students with Autism Spectrum Disorder, is set to launch in October 2013!  This 5-week course will help teachers refine their current practices, learn new tools and strategies, and improve student outcomes.  This professional development opportunity includes a focus on teaching skills beyond academics.  In particular, social and communication skills will be addressed using systematic instruction.  Several learning formats will be utilized, including audio presentations, interactive activities, and a discussion board.  Stay tuned for more information including when you can begin to register!! 

VCU-ACE Develops a Train the Trainer Model for Paraprofessional Training!
VCU-ACE has developed curriculum and a Train the Trainer model to prepare division leaders with the necessary skills and materials to provide the VCU-ACE live paraprofessional training to staff in their divisions. The training also gives suggestions for post-training follow-up activities to further promote application of skills.  In July, VCU-ACE provided this training to members of the Southeastern Cooperative Educational Programs (SECEP) and several VDOE T/TAC staff.  The training was enthusiastically received by all who attended.  For more information about the Train the Trainer model for paraprofessionals, please contact Dr. Selena J. Layden at

Mark Your Calendars for These Upcoming Training Opportunities!

Registration for Insight 2013 Now Open!

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.   Registration for all three of this year’s Insight: Topics in Autism events is now open.  On Friday, October 18th, Peter Gerhardt, Ed.D. will share information on Beyond Behavior:  Transition Planning for Youth with Autism Spectrum Disorder at the Doubletree Hotel and Conference Center (formerly Holiday Inn Koger Center) at 1021 Koger Center Blvd., Richmond, VA.  Dr. Gerhardt will offer his perspective on Life after High School:  Transition to Adulthood for Learners with Autism Spectrum Disorder to family members at the Autism Society-Central VA meeting that evening.  On Saturday, October 19th, Dr. Gerhardt will share important information for families on Sexuality and Sexuality Instruction for Learners with Autism Spectrum Disorder.  Both Friday evening and Saturday’s presentation will be held at the River Road United Methodist Church, 8800 River Road, Richmond, VA.  Visit the VDOE T/TAC at VCU website for more information, including presentation summaries, intended audiences, and fees involved, and to register for any or all three of these events.  Please note separate registration is required for each presentation.  This conference is designed for practitioners and family members who support students with autism spectrum disorder.  We hope to see you there!


Register Now! Temple Grandin and Jed Baker Scheduled to Speak in Richmond!

On the morning of 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.  In the afternoon session, Dr. Jed Baker will offer a dynamic and comprehensive presentation entitled, “No More Meltdowns.”  For more information on the day’s agenda and to register, please visit the Future Horizons website.  Please plan to stop by the VCU-ACE exhibit table if you attend!!


July was a Great Month for Education in VA!

Virginia’s Annual Conference for Early Intervention Providers - A Great Learning Experience!

The Creating Connections to Shining Stars (CCSS) Conference was held July 22-24 in Virginia Beach.  This conference is a collaborative effort between many state agencies and early childhood programs in Virginia.  CCSC focuses on promoting and supporting the implementation of evidence-based practices in inclusive settings for young children.  The Communities of Practice in Autism (CoPAs) sponsored a half day with Rebecca Landa, Ph.D., CCC-SLP, founder and director of the Center for Autism and Related Disorders (CARD) and the REACH research program at Kennedy Krieger Institute.  Dr. Landa presented on Early Signs of Autism Spectrum Disorders and the Early Achievements Intervention Approach

VCU-ACE was also pleased to be a part of the conference.  Dr. Dawn Hendricks presented two sessions.  The first titled, Overview of the Autism Insurance Mandate: Providing Applied Behavior Analysis to Children with ASD, delivered information to Early Intervention providers about the newly implemented insurance mandate.  This mandate requires insurance companies to provide a number of services, including applied behavior analysis, to children with ASD ages 2-6.  The second session was titled, It’s about More than Cookies: Enhancing Communication in All Children with ASD.  This session provided information on resources VCU-ACE is developing to enhance the communication capabilities of all students with ASD.  The resources are designed to assist educational teams in identifying communication goals as well as modalities that will result in continued growth and result in individuals who are effective communicators across environments and partners.

VCU–ACE Participates in Longwood University’s Autism Summer Institute!

Longwood University held their 2013 Autism Spectrum Disorders Summer Institute on July 24 & 25, 2013.  Taryn Goodwin, VCU-ACE Training Associate, was among the many presenters providing professional development to those in attendance.  Taryn presented on Proactive Strategies for Addressing Sensory Dysfunction.  Thirty participants from around the state joined Taryn to learn about sensory dysfunction and how it impacts those individuals identified as having ASD.  Teachers, pre-service teachers, speech language pathologists, and paraprofessionals all were given evidence-based strategies to employ with students in their classrooms.  Attendees who participated in this two-day event were eligible to earn Continuing Education Credits (CEUs), which can be used toward licensure recertification.  Visit Longwood University’s website for more information on this event.         

Exciting News To Share from VCU!

VCU Study Shows Job Training Results in Competitive Employment for Youth with Autism
(Press Information released by Mike Frontiero, VCU School of Education, Richmond, VA, July 29, 2013)

A Virginia Commonwealth University study shows intensive job training benefits youth with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD), one of the most challenging disabilities in the world where only 20 percent find employment.  Published in the Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, the study demonstrates that nine months of intensive internship training, in conjunction with an engaged hospital, can lead to high levels of competitive employment in areas such as cardiac care, wellness, ambulatory surgery and pediatric intensive care units.

“This is the first study of its kind to demonstrate the skills and abilities youth with ASD have and the success they can experience at work,” said Paul H. Wehman, Ph.D., principal investigator of the study and Professor of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation and Director of the VCU Autism Center for Excellence at the VCU School of Education. “Previous research in this area showed that youth with ASD were employed at lower rates than even their peers with other disabilities.”

Traditionally, youth with autism between the ages of 18 and 22 remain unemployed after leaving school at rates of over 80 percent. But VCU researchers reported that those who completed a program called “Project SEARCH with Autism Supports” achieved employment at 87 percent. This study also showed that youth with ASD required less intense support as they became more competent at their work task.  VCU partnered on the study with Bon Secours Richmond Health System St. Mary's Hospital in Henrico County, VA and St. Francis Medical Center in Chesterfield County, VA; Henrico County Public Schools; Chesterfield County Public Schools; and the Virginia Department for Aging and Rehabilitative Services (DARS).

“Bon Secours has participated in Project SEARCH since 2010 and each year we find the students add a tremendous value to our team of caregivers,” said Michael Spine, Bon Secours Health System Senior Vice President of Business Development. “Project SEARCH graduates are permanent and important members of our staff, working throughout the hospitals in a variety of areas including labor and delivery, our cardiac units and wellness.”

“Witnessing how these ‘disabled students’ are transformed into valued employees and colleagues during their Project SEARCH year is the best example of how our system can be successful when our collaboration is employed,” said DARS Commissioner James A. Rothrock.  “Getting a job is the central accomplishment in life for all 20-year-olds,” said study co-investigator Carol M. Schall, Ph.D., Director of Technical Assistance for the VCU Autism Center for Excellence and Virginia Autism Resource Center. “For far too long, youth with ASD have been left out of that elated feeling that adults have when they get their first real employment. Through this study, we were able to demonstrate that youth with ASD can be successful employees.”  Youth with autism were employed in jobs not typically considered for those with disabilities in a hospital setting. They worked 20 to 40 hours per week and were paid 24 percent more than minimum wage.

The study is published online at
It was funded by the Disability and Rehabilitation Research Project (DRRP) grant #H133B080027 from the National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research (NIDRR), and by the Virginia Department for Aging and Rehabilitative Services.

Article Reference:
Wehman, P. H., Schall, C. M., McDonough, J., Kregel, J., Brooke, V., Molinelli, A., Ham, W., Graham, C. W., Riehle, J. E., Collins, H. T., & Thiss, W. (2013). Competitive employment for youth with Autism Spectrum Disorders: Early results from a randomized clinical trial. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders DOI 10.1007/s10803-013-1892-x

Newport News Autism Coaches and Teachers Share Information on EBPs to the Division’s Special Education Advisory Committee!

Newport News autism coaches, Kasey Reed, Teresa Crowson, Stefanie Paul, Carol Hughes, and Kim Keith, along with autism teacher,
Marlon Hooker, presented to the Special Education Advisory Committee (SEAC) of Newport News Public Schools on May 28, 2013.
Their presentation centered on specific evidence-based practices (EBPs) that have been coached and highlighted in division self-contained classroom settings (grades K-12) since fall 2012.  The group introduced and defined evidence-based practices, described how instructional practices become “evidence-based,” and who makes the determination.  Each coach/teacher illustrated a targeted practice used in their particular classroom using slides, photos, examples, and videos of students engaged in EBPs. Highlighted EBPs included: Picture Exchange, social narratives, Errorless Teaching, video modeling, visual supports for behavior, self-monitoring, reinforcement, communication, antecedent based interventions, speech generative devices/VOCA, and various reinforcement systems.  After the individual presentations, SEAC members were treated to an impressive video montage of students engaging in EBPs created by Teresa Crowson, OTR.

A Multi-Faceted Approach to Paraprofessional Training Finds Success in Botetourt County!

Paraprofessional training is a crucial part of a division-wide professional development plan.  In April 2012, the Virginia General Assembly passed House Bill 325 which requires that by September 2014, paraprofessionals who are assigned to work with a teacher who has primary oversight of students with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) receive training in student behavioral management within 60 days of assignment to such responsibility.

In response to HB 325, Botetourt County Public Schools (BCPS) looked at arranging for meaningful professional development for the paraprofessionals in their division.  The division created a multi-faceted approach that included training in characteristics of autism spectrum disorder and instructional skills appropriate for paraprofessionals.  BCPS laid the foundation of skills by having paraprofessionals take the VCU-ACE online course Autism Spectrum Disorders for Paraprofessionals: Providing Effective Instruction and Supports. In addition, BCPS collaborated with VCU-ACE to have their own staff trained to serve as instructors for their groups of paraprofessionals.  By doing this, the entire staff of BCPS paraprofessionals was able to receive training over three months and enjoy the benefits of having instructors who were familiar with the students with whom they worked each day.

In addition to the online course, BCPS also promoted a learning experience between the paraprofessionals and their supervising case managers.  The VCU-ACE course provides supplemental activities and materials designed to promote communication between paraprofessionals and their supervisory teachers as well as application of skills.  BCPS arranged for supervising case managers to receive recertification points if they completed the activities with their paraprofessionals.  In this way, staff developed their skills and knowledge as a team, leading to better support for students.

Finally, BCPS plans to provide live trainings to both their paraprofessionals and supervising case managers this fall around topics that build off of the VCU-ACE online course, covering areas related to effective supervisory skills for case managers and more advanced skills in behavior intervention.  Feedback from those participating in this professional development experience has been very positive.  BCPS is looking forward to assessing the impact of the professional development model in the coming school year and building upon these successes as the division continues to create effective teams to serve their students with autism spectrum disorder.