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Archived News: Across Virginia
October 2011

A Wonderful Outcome Proves the Resilience of One Little Boy with Autism

After being lost for five days in the woods near Battlefield Park in Hanover County, Robert Woods Jr. was found safe and unharmed late on Friday afternoon, October 28th. Thousands of volunteers had searched for days, including many from the autism community in Central Virginia. Interviewed by The Richmond Times Dispatch, some of those who knew Robert spoke of his resilience, resourcefulness, and determination, and the fact that his autism may have helped him endure his time in the woods alone. "He was probably wandering and exploring the whole time," said Carol Schall, assistant professor and the director of technical assistance for VCU's Autism Center for Excellence. While other children would have been very frightened, "he was probably just taking it as it came."

To read the entire story, click here.


The Partnership for People with Disabilities Announces New Online Module, “Autism in Infants & Toddlers: What Every Early Interventionist Needs to Know.”

A free online module is now available for early intervention service providers and anyone who supports families with young children. Autism in Infants & Toddlers: What Every Early Interventionist Needs to Know provides an overview of Autism Spectrum Disorders in infants and toddlers, including definitions, prevalence, and early signs and symptoms. Participants will learn about social interaction, communication, and play of young children with ASD, as well as other characteristics. Completing this module will result in a certificate and one credit hour of professional development.

For More Information: Virginia Early Intervention Professional Development Center


Dr. Rebecca Landa Provides Valuable Information on Early Diagnosis to Virginia Stakeholders

The VCU-ACE Diagnostic and Evaluation Taskforce joined efforts with the Virginia ACT Early Summit on September 27, 2011 for an exciting and informative day with Rebecca Landa, Ph.D., CCC-SLP. Dr. Landa is the Director of the Center for Autism and Related Disorders at Kennedy Krieger Institute and professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine. In the morning, Dr. Landa provided a webcast presentation, “The Progression of Autism Spectrum Disorder in the First Three Years of Life: Key Considerations for Early Identification, Intervention, and Communication with Families” to over 300 people in Virginia. In the afternoon, Dr. Landa met with the Taskforce and Summit members to share her expertise as they work to improve early diagnosis and identification of ASD in the Commonwealth of Virginia. The taskforce and summit will continue to collaborate in order to promote the early recognition and diagnosis of ASD and enhance the services provided to Virginia families.


The State Autism Professional Development Consortium Meets in September

The State Autism Professional Development Consortium (SAPDC) is led by VCU-ACE and is comprised of representatives from institutes of higher education throughout the state. The SAPDC held its first meeting of the year on September 15. There were 12 members in attendance representing 9 different universities, colleges, and community colleges including Virginia Commonwealth University, George Mason University, Old Dominion University, Mary Baldwin College, Lynchburg College, Rappahannock Community College, J. Sargeant Reynolds Community College, Longwood University, and the University of Mary Washington. The consortium works to identify concerns surrounding professional development in higher education for preservice and inservice educators serving students with ASD, to collaborate to advance coursework and programs, and to ensure accessibility for all stakeholders.


Bon Secours St. Mary’s Employee Wins State Award

Kalyn Hutson entered Bon Secours St. Mary’s Project SEARCH at 20 years old. Kalyn is a young woman with a bubbling personality and enthusiasm that is palpable. She has an autism spectrum disorder and a speech impairment, but Kalyn does not let this hold her back. When interviewed for participation in the project, she quickly announced “I want to participate in this project because I want to work at St. Mary’s full time one day!” Kalyn was accepted into the Project SEARCH, a national research study Virginia Commonwealth University’s Rehabilitation Research and Training Center conducts. This study is funded by the U.S. Department of Education’s National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research.

Through Project SEARCH, Kalyn spent the entire 2010-2011 school year at St. Mary’s. She rotated through three 10 week internships including: Ambulatory Services, Main Operating Room, and Central Sterile. During her time there, Kalyn was excited to learn her tasks and quickly became independent. Her supervisors praised her high energy, work ethic, and ability to learn the jobs with little supervision.

Kalyn’s success has not been easy. She sometimes struggled with expressing her thoughts and emotions with her peers, coworkers, and supervisors. However, Kalyn has chosen a road of perseverance and she has achieved what many only dream of accomplishing. On August 18th, Kalyn Hutson reached her dream! She was offered a full time position with benefits in Bon Secours St. Mary’s Main Operating Room.

On October 3rd, Kalyn received the Virginia Rehabilitation Association Distinguished Achievement Award. This honor was presented at an awards dinner held at the 2011 Virginia Collaborations Conference in Virginia Beach, VA. The award is given to a person with a disability who has demonstrated imagination, perseverance, resolve, and an indomitable spirit in working to overcome barriers in their lives resulting in a better quality of life for themselves and others. Congratulations Kalyn!!


The Virginia Autism Council Finalizes its Action Plan for 2011-2012

The Virginia Autism Council is a group comprised of autism experts from various organizations, agencies and disciplines from around the state working to define needed skill competencies and advance higher education, training and educational opportunities for personnel and caregivers supporting individuals with autism. The VAC has been working diligently to finalize its action plan for the upcoming year. Goals involve 4 broad areas and include:

Goal 1: Gather, synthesize, and disseminate knowledge on behalf of citizens with autism.

Goal 2: Develop best practice tools that serve as catalysts and that promote exemplary training and services.

Goal 3: Promote the interests of citizens with autism and those who are affected by autism.

Goal 4: Support and address gaps in the system structure related to autism.

In the upcoming year, the VAC has plans to revise and update its website, continue providing a comprehensive calendar of training events taking place throughout the state, offer tuition reimbursement to students taking courses in ASD, work with institutes of higher education to recognize programs in alignment with the skill competencies, partner with agencies to provide training throughout the state, and provide information and guidance regarding the use of the Virginia Skill Competencies.

More information:

Virginia Autism Council website


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