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Archived News: Across Virginia
November 2013

Henrico County Public Schools and VCU-ACE Initiate Preschool Assessment and Support Project

In their second year of embedded Technical Assistance (TA), Henrico County Public Schools (HCPS) staff turned to VCU-ACE TA
Associates to seek guidance on evaluating and improving quality within their preschool ASD program. Currently, this program consists of six self-contained classrooms distributed across the division. The students from these classrooms feed into their zone programs with the goal of needing less intensive supports on arrival. The critical areas of improvement desired were increased independence with self-care skills, functional communication, and instructional control (the ability to follow simple directions, attend to teacher, and sit at a table for academic tasks.)

The Henrico County staff became inspired during the Community of Learning in Autism (CoLA) Summer Institute when they attended the session presented by Newport News Public Schools (NNPS) and VCU-ACE staff discussing how that division had worked the previous year on an all-school wide effort to assess their self-contained classrooms for students with ASD utilizing the Autism Program and Environment Rating Scale (APERS). This tool lends itself quite well to examining various domains of a classroom in order to strategically plan for targeted professional development and intervention.

HCPS and VCU-ACE Technical Assistance staff have spent the first part of this school year observing each of the six preschool classrooms and gathering information from teachers, paraprofessionals, related services staff, and parents. Staff have noted that it has been a pleasure to spend so much time with each teacher and to get to know all of the incredible young students in the program. The process is currently in the analysis phase, and the next steps are to roll out the results with all ASD preschool staff, create individualized training and coaching plans for each teacher in areas in which they chose to focus, and to provide other training opportunities to various staff on targeted evidence-based practices.

The positive effects of this robust project will expand into HCPS elementary schools and beyond as these students with higher levels of independence and pre-academic skills will be able to reach their maximum potential in future grades. Kudos to Henrico County Public Schools for making such a difference for their students with Autism!


Wise County Public Schools Share Their November “Autism Tip of the Month!”

The “Wise County Autism Tip of the Month” is one of many ongoing products that the Wise County Autism Services Improvement Team (ASIT) has developed with the goal of systems-change for all students with ASD in their division. This monthly tip is sent by the team to all school administrators and special education teachers. For the month of November, the division’s autism coaches sent out a summary of some of the most important things that they have learned along the intensive systems-change journey that started a little over two years ago with the VCU-ACE Technical Assistance grant. Thank you Wise County Public Schools for sharing your November “Tip of the Month!”

“The monthly tip for November is actually a reflection on the ‘Top Fifteen’ most important things we have learned since we began our journey to improve services to students with autism a little over two years ago. Along the way, we have discovered that all of our students have benefited from the sharpening of our skills. This list was created by the autism coaches.
1. The first visual support that should be considered is the arrangement of the room. Make sure that physical boundaries are clear to support structure.
2. Everyone needs a schedule. This is a life skill.
3. Before prompting, have a plan for fading prompts.
4. Be quiet! Verbal prompts are the most difficult to fade. Choose other options when appropriate and avoid pairing verbal prompts with other prompts.
5. Teach social skills lessons with the end in mind. Plan the teaching of social skills just as you would an academic area. Look at the long range goal; do a task analysis of what you need to get there; teach each step or skill required systematically; and finally, bring them together and help your student meet his/her goal.
6. All goals should include a baseline, if progress is to be measured.
7. Data should drive all of our decisions.
8. “A picture speaks a thousand words,” so graph it.
9. When teaching communication, begin with mands (requests.)
10. The VB-MAPP is an awesome tool for assessing the communication skills of our students and provides a road map for teaching new skills.
11. Errorless teaching works and it can be implemented in all settings.
12. Transition begins with the first IEP.
13. Literacy is for everyone.
14. Reinforcement is a powerful force that is always at work (either for us or against us.) Make it work for you.
15. Teaming and systematic planning are essential to effectively addressing the learning and behavioral needs of our students.

Thank you for working hard to make sure our kids have the best!!!!!”


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