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News from Across Virginia

Chesapeake Schools Expand ASD Knowledge

Chesapeake City Public Schools’ Autism Services Improvement Team (ASIT) has taken a strong stand toward improving division knowledge about autism spectrum disorder.

The ASIT team invited Cohort 1 teachers, general educators, central office administrators, related service providers, and building administrators to participate in the Foundations of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) Online Course to increase institutional knowledge of ASD throughout the division. To date, three Chesapeake leaders have facilitated online discussion groups. A total of 86 Chesapeake personnel have successfully completed this online course, with an 89% completion rate. Cohort 2 teachers and personnel will be encouraged to complete the Foundations course in the fall.

In the summer, the ASIT team, along with central office administrators, plan to embark on completing the online course, Evidence-Based Practices to Teach Students with ASD. By the fall, the invitation to participate in this course will be open to building administrators, Cohort 1 teachers, related service providers, and any other interested staff within the division.

In addition to this training, Cohort 1 teachers and coaches are receiving training and coaching in Visual Supports in the autism classroom. Coaches have received coaches’ training and will meet for support in monthly Coaches’ Meetings. Coaches, paired with ACE Technical Assistance Associates, are meeting with Cohort 1 teachers to support them as they plan and develop their visual supports and implement visual supports to fidelity in their classrooms.

Chesapeake is ready to invite the next round of Cohort 2 teachers to begin working with coaches in the fall.

Chesapeake and ACE are very proud to announce that one of our ACE Teacher/Coaches has been selected as the Chesapeake Elementary Teacher of the Year. Trish Momtsios is a LEAD Teacher at Hickory Elementary School and also serves as a Teacher/Coach with the ACE Grant Project. In addition to her Chesapeake work, Trish joined a group of Region 2 CoLA Book Club members this to present Drawing a Blank: Improving Comprehension for Students on the Autism Spectrum in Norfolk and Portsmouth. We are excited to have Trish working with the ACE Grant and so pleased with her accomplishments.


Spotsylvania County Schools Incorporate Book Studies into their Autism Professional Learning Community

It is no secret that visual supports can assist students with autism to become more independent. But, did you know that visual supports can support a student with autism to learn academic content? Teachers working with students with autism in Spotsylvania County Schools have been participating in a monthly professional learning group discussing different visual supports that can be used to support students on the autism spectrum that struggle managing their behavior and learning academic content in a traditional manner.

Each month, the group reads a chapter of the bookVisual Supports for People with Autism: A Guide for Parents and Professionals. Teachers implement one new visual support in their classroom and come to the monthly meeting with an example of the visual support to share with their peers. They also give examples of how this assisted the students in the classroom and any modifications that may of be made to the visual support to work for individual students. One teacher in Spotsylvania County, Jennifer McMichael shared that she loves the variety of visual supports that are brought to this group meeting. She loves the creativity that teachers use as the match visual supports to their students’ needs. She also stated that “this book study has allowed teachers working with students with autism to understand that even high functioning students with autism benefit from the support of visuals.”

Paige Carter, Autism Specialist for Spotsylvania County Schools, loves how teachers supporting students in the inclusive setting can use the great photo and pictures examples in this book to provide examples to general education teachers on how the general education curriculum can be modified. This book study has been so successful this year that the lead team has decided to hold a spring book study on communication strategies and autism.

For more information on how your division might conduct a book study, or to participate in one of the online book studies that are currently being held across the state of Virginia, contact Noel Woolard at


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