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September 9, 2013

New School Year = New Happenings at VCU-ACE!

This new school year brings a number of new projects and happenings at the VCU Autism Center for Excellence!  As we celebrate the return of early mornings, school buses, excited students, and happy teachers, VCU-ACE is continuing to take an active role in discovering new practices that will improve services and outcomes for youth with ASD.  This year in particular, those activities can be seen in the addition of two new Project SEARCH with ASD Supports sites in Hanover County and South Hampton Roads and a new charter school for youth with significant disabilities in Richmond City Public Schools!

Project SEARCH is a unique transition to employment program for youth with disabilities.  In two sites in Virginia, this project has been successfully enhanced to serve students with ASD.  As a result of our research on this model, additional federal funding has now been awarded to expand the model to two additional sites.  Starting this fall, there are now four Project SEARCH models in Virginia where staff are implementing the enhanced ASD supports for their students.  We are excited to be able to increase the opportunities for youth with ASD to receive transition to employment education in this evidence-based model.

In addition, Richmond City Public Schools has welcomed a new charter school to their array of educational services. The Richmond Career Education and Employment Academy (RCEEA) opened its doors on September 3, 2013 to students, including those with ASD, who need intensive education outside of the regular school building.  More specifically, RCEEA promises to provide education in functional academics and employment externships through community based instruction. The plan includes a curriculum that embeds standard based academic skills in the context of functional everyday activities. For example, instead of teaching reading and hoping that youth with significant disabilities generalize that skill to reading a bus schedule, the RCEEA will teach reading by teaching that skill on a bus, in the kitchen, at work, and while having fun in the community.  VCU-ACE staff members, Carol Schall and Staci Carr, have been instrumental in the development of the curriculum and in training the staff who will implement it with students.

Both Project SEARCH and RCEEA will continue to improve our understanding of how best to support youth with ASD as they transition from school to work and adult independence. Indeed, the experiences of these youth will lead the way for the thousands of children with ASD behind them who will need excellent educational services as they enter adulthood.

Please visit the Richmond City Public Schools website for more information on RCEEA.

For more information on Project SEARCH with ASD Supports, visit the VCU-ACE website.

Registration Opens September 13th for VCU-ACE’s Newest Online Course!

The new Providing Effective Instruction for Students with ASD course is set to launch in October 2013!  Registration will open on September 13, 2013 under the Online Courses listings on the Professional Development section of the ACE website.  This course focuses on identifying skills to teach, identifying what strategies and tools are best for teaching specific skills, and implementing these strategies and tools.  This is an instructor facilitated course that includes discussion boards, interactive activities, and more!  To create sustained learning in the workplace beyond the 5 week course, cohorts and special groups are encouraged to enhance the online learning experience by engaging in collaborative discussion and supplemental activities.  VCU-ACE is excited to be able to offer this new online course.  Be sure to check out all of the learning opportunities available through our courses, webcasts, and seminars!

Live Paraprofessional Training Offered in Henrico!

VCU-ACE was pleased to provide live training for twenty seven paraprofessionals in Henrico County on August 12-14, 2013.  This three day training covered the same content as the VCU-ACE online course, Autism Spectrum Disorders for Paraprofessionals: Providing Effective Instruction and Supports.     Participants learned about the characteristics of ASD, working as an educational team, visual structure and supports, instructional supports, prompting, reinforcement, and how to prevent and respond to interfering behavior.  These paraprofessionals worked through the content and participated in activities designed to promote application of the knowledge and skills they learned during the training.  After successful completion of all course activities, each participant received a Certificate of Completion indicating that they have met the requirements of House Bill 325.  

VCU-ACE offers limited live training opportunities throughout the state, as well as the monthly online course for paraprofessionals.  For more information on the online course and/or to register, visit the ACE website

Check it Out!! New information for paraprofessionals and educators has just been added to the ACE website under the PARAPro tab!  Please contact Dr. Selena J. Layden at if you have any questions about live training for paraprofessionals, the online course, or the webpage content.


Learn More About the ACE-IT in College Program!

In 2010, Virginia Commonwealth University was one of 27 universities across the U.S. to receive funding for a 5-year demonstration grant from the federal US Department of Education, Office of Postsecondary Education. ACE-IT in College is a collaborative effort between the Rehabilitation Research and Training Center (RRTC) and the Partnership for People with Disabilities in the VCU School of Education. ACE-IT in College provides an inclusive, on campus, college experience for young adults with intellectual disabilities. The main outcome of the program is competitive employment in an area of interest for students which is developed through VCU coursework, internships, and employment.  Please visit the ACE-IT in College website to meet the students, hear from faculty and families, and learn more about this comprehensive program.

News from Hampton City and the Northern Neck Regional Special Education Program…

Teachers, administrators, and support staff in Hampton City and the Northern Neck Regional Special Education Program are gearing up for a great 2013-2014 school year!  This year these divisions will begin to work towards implementing evidence-based practices with lessening support from Noel Woolard, VCU-ACE Technical Assistance Associate, so they have been planning how they will best use their available division resources to support those who instruct students on the autism spectrum.  Several initiatives will be replicated in new buildings and with new staff members across most of these divisions.  One of the most successful initiatives across all divisions has been professional development in the form of Professional Learning Groups (PLCs) or Collaborative Learning Teams (CLTs).  These groups meet as often as once a month and are led by teachers who have taken a leadership role in their building.  Meetings consist of a short presentation on a pre-selected topic with the remainder of the meeting consisting of discussion and demonstration.  Jessica Rogers, a teacher at Northumberland Elementary School, enjoys this Type of professional development.  She shared, “I have found the discussion between teachers during these meetings very helpful!  It’s always nice to see how other people are implementing evidence-based practices.  I get many great ideas from these meetings.”  Professional Learning Group meetings in these divisions will begin in October and end in May.