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Archived News: What's New
January 2014

Cozy up in a Cohort: A New Approach to Professional Development

Are you looking for ways to provide professional development to staff at little to no cost? VCU-ACE can help! We know with busy schedules and budget constraints, finding resources for training can often be difficult. So, we have made three of our online courses available for cohort registration for school divisions.

A cohort is a group of 20-30 educators or related personnel from the same school division who are placed together in a course group with an instructor from the division. The group goes through the course together but manages the coursework on their own time and at their own pace within the course’s 4 or 5-week time frame. The instructor from the division supports and guides the participants as they complete the course, and ensures participants fulfill all requirements of the course. More importantly, they assist with building knowledge and skills by leading participants through discussion groups, analyzing case studies, and answering content related questions. This is an excellent opportunity to ensure participants are embedding the course content into their daily job tasks. The process for cohort participation is easy. Here are some ways to get started:

1. Visit the VCU-ACE website and choose a course in which your division is interested. Current options are: Evidence-based Practices to Teach Students with ASD, Strategies for Supporting Positive Behaviors in Students with Autism Spectrum Disorder, and Foundations of Autism Spectrum Disorder. Be sure to also check the course schedule to determine when the course is offered.

2. Pick a division instructor! This person will be the contact for VCU-ACE and the support to the participants. The instructor will be responsible for ensuring participants’ completion of the course, maintaining regular contact with the VCU-ACE course facilitator,
guiding participants through learning activities, and being available to educators taking the course as needed. More information will be provided regarding roles and responsibilities of the division instructor prior to the start of the course.

3. The division instructor or representative then contacts Taryn Goodwin at tmgoodwin@vcu.edu to determine availability of the cohort option with the particular course and scheduled course date of interest. Please be aware that cohort options are filled on a first-come, first-serve basis by course and spots fill up quickly!

4. Once you have approval that the desired course and course date is available for your division, start a sign up list! To participate as a cohort, you must be able to register between 20 to 30 staff members. This can include anyone in the division – special educators, general educators, administrators, resource staff, therapists, social workers, etc. And then let the learning begin!

For additional information on how to get started, please contact Taryn Goodwin at tmgoodwin@vcu.edu.

 

What it is REALLY like to partner with VCU-ACE!

By Deborah Hammer
Autism Specialist, Arlington Public Schools

Almost three years ago, Arlington Public Schools became one of the first school systems chosen to partner with VCU-ACE. At the time, I was thrilled that our application had been accepted, but didn’t really know exactly what to expect. I had to wait until we gathered together for a week in April in a Richmond hotel basement to get the full story.

That week was a gift. With five of my colleagues, we met our “prize” from VCU-ACE, staff member Steven Celmer. Steven and the other VCU-ACE faculty helped us craft a meaningful and comprehensive plan for improving the services that our school system provides to our students, families, and staff members. VCU-ACE staff kept us motivated and on task, but our entire group benefitted from having the time away from other distractions to really concentrate on identifying our areas of need and developing an overarching mission statement and achievable goals.

Since returning from Richmond in 2011, we have met at least monthly as a larger VCU-ACE committee, comprised of APS staff from across disciplines, parents, and of course, Steven. Some members have changed over the years and our goals have been fine-tuned, but we have continued to have the constant support and advice from our resident VCU-ACE staff. VCU-ACE provided the technical support that enabled us to implement our goals and we were able to accomplish the following:

• Create advice cards for how schools can create a more welcoming atmosphere in IEP and other meetings.

• Create a checklist for administrators to know what to look for when observing a classroom serving students with autism.

• Develop The Family Resource Binder: a book for families that explains special education, offers a variety of resources, and provides an organizational system for parents so that they can easily refer to the IEP, eligibility, and medical records and make it easier to collaborate with new professionals.

• Develop and implement The Social Skills Inventory (SSI): a method for teachers and therapists to assess their students in their current performance of social skills in a variety of domains. We are also able to use the data to show global strengths and deficits in a particular school or program. In addition, we have tied a number of our curricula in our lending library to the SSI so that staff members have an easy way to locate materials that can assist them with teaching a particular skill.

• Implement our Coaching model: The other autism specialists and I have learned a strategy for making the most out of the limited time we have each month to work 1:1 with teachers in our autism-specific programs.

There are also a number of intangible rewards that we have gained from participating in the VCU-ACE cohort. These include:

• Meeting and working with the teams from the other school districts, and learning that we all face similar challenges!

• Fostering a better relationship with the parents with whom we work, both on the committee and through the initiatives that we have implemented.

• Gaining more confidence in knowing that we are on the right track in providing our best to the community in regard to our students with Autism Spectrum Disorder.

I highly encourage other school systems to apply for this opportunity. I know that the application process can seem daunting, but I promise you that it is worth it. We are extremely grateful to VCU-ACE and Steven Celmer for working with us, and we would apply again if we were allowed! - Deborah Hammer, Autism Specialist, Arlington Public Schools

Please Note: Applications for Technical Assistance from VCU-ACE in Cohort 2 (2014-2017) are due by 5pm on Wednesday, January 15, 2014. The full application can be downloaded on the VCU-ACE website.

 

Check Out the VCU-ACE Winter Online Course Schedule!!

VCU-ACE online courses offer high-quality, intensive training on aspects related to Autism Spectrum Disorder. When taking a course, participants complete a variety of course activities, which may include viewing narrated lectures, completing readings, and carrying out other learning activities designed to help apply course content.

Courses are for any educator who supports students with ASD. This includes general education teachers, special education teachers, paraprofessionals, and related service personnel. However, others will also benefit from participation in the courses. Individuals who may be interested include administrators, family members, and other service providers.

Visit the VCU-ACE website to view all future course offerings! Register early as there are limited spaces in each course and courses fill-up quickly.


VCU-ACE Winter 2014 Course Schedule:

Foundations of ASD
February 10-March 10, 2014
April 7-May 4, 2014

Strategies for Supporting Positive Behaviors for Students with ASD
January 13-February 17, 2014
April 21-May 26, 2014

Evidence-based Practices to Teach Students with ASD
March 10-April 14, 2014

Don't forget our self-paced online courses. You can register for these courses anytime and complete them at your own pace. They include:

Improving Goal Mastery through Data-based Decision-making
Screening for Autism Spectrum Disorder
My Child was Just Identified with an Autism Spectrum Disorder: Now What Do I Do?

 

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