VCU-ACE January 2012 ENews
January 9, 2012
News from the VCU-ACE Technical Assistance Division
Updates from Newport News:
The National Professional Development Center on Autism Spectrum Disorders (NPDC) is a multi-university center that promotes the use of evidence-based practices for children and adolescents with ASD. The NPDC is collaborating with Virginia to provide technical assistance and professional development to model sites, with the goal of demonstrating these evidence-based practices. One of the model sites chosen was the Kiln Creek Elementary School in Newport News, VA. The Newport News NPDC team welcomes 2 new staff members – Nancy Hamlin, the new Autism Specialist in Newport News and Kim Keith, the new Special Education Teacher for our NPDC project. Despite some staff changes, this Newport News team has been working hard and we have seen many positive changes in our students since the beginning of the school year!
Betty Menking, Assistive Technology Service Provider in Newport News, has organized a special Professional Learning Community (PLC) for Speech and Language Pathologists this year. Their focus is on the use of Boardmaker for visual supports and therapy materials. They have been meeting monthly to learn how to navigate Boardmaker and practice making activities for students. They will also spend time exploring websites for visual supports, therapy materials, and online books. This is a great professional learning activity to promote evidence-based practice for all students, including our students with ASD!
Charlene Wentland, ACE Technical Assistant Associate, spoke to the Newport SLPs on Dec. 7, 2011 about the ACE project and the Newport News ACE Team’s Service Improvement Goals. Carol Schall will present assessment/eligibility information to Hampton/Newport News School Psychologists and Eligibility Team members on January 30, 2012. Region 2 is also gearing up for its first Community of Learning in Autism (CoLA) meeting. This meeting for Region 2 Autism Specialists will be held on Jan. 25, 2012 from 12:30-3:30pm in Portsmouth. Be on the lookout for invitations!
Exciting Things Are Happening in Lancaster County Schools…
Team members at Lancaster Primary School in Lancaster County, in collaboration with Technical Assistance Associate Noel Woolard from the VCU-ACE, have created a Professional Learning Community (PLC) in Autism. This group began meeting in October, 2011 and has been meeting three to four times a month since. The group, which currently meets during the second grade planning block, is composed of second grade general education teachers, special education teachers, building level administrators, and the school guidance counselor.
The purpose of this PLC is to discuss evidence-based practices that can be implemented in the general education setting for any student on the autism spectrum. Most of the members of this group have completed the free online Foundations of ASD coursework offered through the training department at VCU-ACE. Jessica Davis, general education teacher with Lancaster County Public Schools and identified division coach, shares her perspective on the PLC: “The opportunity to share ideas and collaborate with our peers to brainstorm and share effective strategies is invaluable in making the academic day most beneficial for our students with autism. It gives us an open forum to reassure ourselves that we are creating a successful environment and allows us to reflect and grow as educators in order to meet our student’s needs.” Jessica Rogers, special education teacher with the Northern Neck Regional Special Education Program has also seen the benefits: “Teachers serving children with autism need a knowledgeable support team in their own school to help them look at all the different evidence-based practices out there, especially when traditional teaching styles may not always be most effective with that student. We’ve seen firsthand how, when the team works together, both the student and the teacher(s) benefit from the experience.”
Topics discussed thus far have included functional communication training, picture schedules, schedules of reinforcement, and social stories. Noel Woolard, facilitator of this group, has been working with division coaches to build a PLC that is sustainable and meets the needs of its members. “It has been a pleasure to work with these very motivated team members to discuss evidence-based practices that can be implemented with any student – regardless of whether or not they have been identified as a student on the autism spectrum. These practices are great teaching strategies that work if implemented with fidelity. I credit the success of this group to supportive administrators who have thought outside the box and have encouraged the creation of this group. I look forward to implementing a PLC in Autism at Lancaster Middle School during the spring semester of 2012.”
Lancaster County is one of the four counties in the Northern Neck Regional Special Education Program that was awarded the Technical Assistance Autism Center for Excellence grant last spring from VCU and the Virginia Department of Education.