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Archived News: What's New
March 2014

Supporting Independence in Adolescents on the Autism Spectrum

One of the most vital aspects to a young individual with autism is their ability to develop skills to enhance independence. As most readers can attest the challenges of years spent in high school are daunting and can be overwhelming. Discovering one's independence is a challenge commonly associated with a teen's life development. Factor in what that period of life is like for an individual youth on the autism spectrum, gaining independence like their classmates assert can be difficult.

Research indicates that students who demonstrate greater independence and/or behavioral autonomy during high school are more likely to be employed and live independently after entering adulthood than students who are more dependent on staff or caregivers. There are now strategies identified to assist professionals and caregivers in supporting independence in adolescents with autism spectrum disorder.

Caregivers can assist in this task by using 12 Evidence Based Practices that have been identified to address organization, sequencing, and problem solving and planning. Of the 27 researched EBP’s the 12 noted that support independent functioning are: differential reinforcement, extinction, prompting, reinforcement, response interruption and redirection, self-management, task analysis, visual supports, work systems, antecedent-based interventions, functional behavior assessment (FBA), and social narratives. Using resources EBPs and encouraging the child's personal strengths will aid in their self-efficacy and help them to function as a productive and happy self-reliant member of society. For more information on this article, click here.

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VCU-ACE Accepts 6 Divisions for Cohort 2!

Spring is right around the corner, the season of growth and change. As the VCU-ACE Technical Assistance team celebrates the accomplishments and growth of the Cohort 1 divisions, we prepare for the accepted divisions of Cohort 2.

We thank the 21 divisions who submitted thoughtful applications with a clear dedication to improving services for students with autism. Each application was carefully screened for completeness and scored using a qualitative rubric assessment. The divisions that were chosen received an average score of 94 out of 100; the quality of the applications submitted were exceptional. We want to thank everyone who applied to be in the cohort. We were impressed with the effort and thought evident in each application. Our only regret is that we could only choose six of the 21 deserving school divisions.

We are pleased to announce the 2014-2017 Cohort 2 ACE Technical Assistance School Divisions:

Alexandria City Public Schools

Bedford County Public Schools

Chesapeake County Public Schools

Franklin County Public Schools

Spotsylvania County Public Schools

Warren County Public Schools

We look forward to developing new relationships with these six divisions, while providing follow-along support to our current cohort one divisions.


Smooth Sailing in Henrico County Public Schools!

The Autism Services Improvement Teams (ASIT) and ACE staff are busy plotting the course for the next two to three years of follow-up work. Although each division’s strategic plan looks different, there are critical common goals to every transition process. There is consideration of how to continue the momentum and efforts from the projects that have moved beyond pilot stages. Variables within the sustainability plans include: staff that can assume long-term responsibility, budget implications and how to continue replication. The question arises, how do the divisions develop the infrastructure to assume autonomy with these improvements to further the vision on a “systems-change” level?

The Henrico County Autism Improvement Team is working on these changes. This team is led by the Autism Program Coordinator, Laura Dean, and the two Autism Coordinators, Kristin Herman and Erin Jordan (affectionately known as “The Autism Trifecta”). This dynamic trio has engaged in a thorough review of progress achieved thus far from the ACE-Henrico County Public Schools partnership. The present Autism Service Improvement Plan consists of five goals: increase in knowledge of ASD amongst administrators and other staff, social skills initiatives, redefinition of their specialized programs, improved transition outcomes, and an effort to increase capacity by supporting staff through the BCBA® certification process. All goals have shown significant progress and many objectives have been officially completed.

The next phase for Henrico County Public Schools and their students on the spectrum will be comprised of continuation of the pre-existing goals with varied alterations of each. In one example, there will be emphasis on supporting administrators through training on recognizing fidelity within classrooms using an Autism Rubric. This rubric is created by current and former HCPS Autism Coordinators. Other examples of these goals involve analysis, revision and replication of pilot programs. Overall the “Phase Two” goals represent a fine tuning of the work that has already started. Henrico County Public Schools’ improvements in their systems-level supports are proving to be quite beneficial to their students with ASD and their families.


Paul Wehman to Receive Princeton Lecture Series Fellowship

Dr. Paul Wehman is the Director for Virginia Commonwealth University's Rehabilitation Research and Training Center (RRTC). He is a researcher and advocate dedicated to the hiring, advancement, and retention of individuals with significant disabilities in competitive employment.

He is the principal investigator of the NIDRR-funded project on Facilitating Employment for Youth with Autism: A Replication Study of an Internship Model to Identify Evidence-Based Practices and the recently completed project on Vocational Rehabilitation Service Models for Individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorders. Wehman will receive the 2014 Eden Autism Services' Princeton Lecture Series Fellowship Award.

The Eden Autism Services Lecture Series' mission is to inspire growth in the views of medical professionals. Improving the quality of life for people with autism and their families is an essential topic that the Eden Series addresses throughout their year round educational outreach service programs. The award recognizes Dr. Wehman's career in the field of autism research.


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