VCU-ACE August 2013 ENewsletter
August 5, 2013
Exciting News To Share from VCU!
VCU Study Shows Job Training Results in Competitive Employment for Youth with Autism
(Press Information released by Mike Frontiero, VCU School of Education, Richmond, VA, July 29, 2013)
A Virginia Commonwealth University study shows intensive job training benefits youth with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD), one of the most challenging disabilities in the world where only 20 percent find employment. Published in the Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, the study demonstrates that nine months of intensive internship training, in conjunction with an engaged hospital, can lead to high levels of competitive employment in areas such as cardiac care, wellness, ambulatory surgery and pediatric intensive care units.
“This is the first study of its kind to demonstrate the skills and abilities youth with ASD have and the success they can experience at work,” said Paul H. Wehman, Ph.D., principal investigator of the study and Professor of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation and Director of the VCU Autism Center for Excellence at the VCU School of Education. “Previous research in this area showed that youth with ASD were employed at lower rates than even their peers with other disabilities.”
Traditionally, youth with autism between the ages of 18 and 22 remain unemployed after leaving school at rates of over 80 percent. But VCU researchers reported that those who completed a program called “Project SEARCH with Autism Supports” achieved employment at 87 percent. This study also showed that youth with ASD required less intense support as they became more competent at their work task. VCU partnered on the study with Bon Secours Richmond Health System St. Mary's Hospital in Henrico County, VA and St. Francis Medical Center in Chesterfield County, VA; Henrico County Public Schools; Chesterfield County Public Schools; and the Virginia Department for Aging and Rehabilitative Services (DARS).
“Bon Secours has participated in Project SEARCH since 2010 and each year we find the students add a tremendous value to our team of caregivers,” said Michael Spine, Bon Secours Health System Senior Vice President of Business Development. “Project SEARCH graduates are permanent and important members of our staff, working throughout the hospitals in a variety of areas including labor and delivery, our cardiac units and wellness.”
“Witnessing how these ‘disabled students’ are transformed into valued employees and colleagues during their Project SEARCH year is the best example of how our system can be successful when our collaboration is employed,” said DARS Commissioner James A. Rothrock. “Getting a job is the central accomplishment in life for all 20-year-olds,” said study co-investigator Carol M. Schall, Ph.D., Director of Technical Assistance for the VCU Autism Center for Excellence and Virginia Autism Resource Center. “For far too long, youth with ASD have been left out of that elated feeling that adults have when they get their first real employment. Through this study, we were able to demonstrate that youth with ASD can be successful employees.” Youth with autism were employed in jobs not typically considered for those with disabilities in a hospital setting. They worked 20 to 40 hours per week and were paid 24 percent more than minimum wage.
The study is published online at http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10803-013-1892-x
It was funded by the Disability and Rehabilitation Research Project (DRRP) grant #H133B080027 from the National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research (NIDRR), and by the Virginia Department for Aging and Rehabilitative Services.
Wehman, P. H., Schall, C. M., McDonough, J., Kregel, J., Brooke, V., Molinelli, A., Ham, W., Graham, C. W., Riehle, J. E., Collins, H. T., & Thiss, W. (2013). Competitive employment for youth with Autism Spectrum Disorders: Early results from a randomized clinical trial. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders DOI 10.1007/s10803-013-1892-x
Newport News Autism Coaches and Teachers Share Information on EBPs to the Division’s Special Education Advisory Committee!
Newport News autism coaches, Kasey Reed, Teresa Crowson, Stefanie Paul, Carol Hughes, and Kim Keith, along with autism teacher,
Marlon Hooker, presented to the Special Education Advisory Committee (SEAC) of Newport News Public Schools on May 28, 2013.
Their presentation centered on specific evidence-based practices (EBPs) that have been coached and highlighted in division self-contained classroom settings (grades K-12) since fall 2012. The group introduced and defined evidence-based practices, described how instructional practices become “evidence-based,” and who makes the determination. Each coach/teacher illustrated a targeted practice used in their particular classroom using slides, photos, examples, and videos of students engaged in EBPs. Highlighted EBPs included: Picture Exchange, social narratives, Errorless Teaching, video modeling, visual supports for behavior, self-monitoring, reinforcement, communication, antecedent based interventions, speech generative devices/VOCA, and various reinforcement systems. After the individual presentations, SEAC members were treated to an impressive video montage of students engaging in EBPs created by Teresa Crowson, OTR.
A Multi-Faceted Approach to Paraprofessional Training Finds Success in Botetourt County!
Paraprofessional training is a crucial part of a division-wide professional development plan. In April 2012, the Virginia General Assembly passed House Bill 325 which requires that by September 2014, paraprofessionals who are assigned to work with a teacher who has primary oversight of students with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) receive training in student behavioral management within 60 days of assignment to such responsibility.
In response to HB 325, Botetourt County Public Schools (BCPS) looked at arranging for meaningful professional development for the paraprofessionals in their division. The division created a multi-faceted approach that included training in characteristics of autism spectrum disorder and instructional skills appropriate for paraprofessionals. BCPS laid the foundation of skills by having paraprofessionals take the VCU-ACE online course Autism Spectrum Disorders for Paraprofessionals: Providing Effective Instruction and Supports. In addition, BCPS collaborated with VCU-ACE to have their own staff trained to serve as instructors for their groups of paraprofessionals. By doing this, the entire staff of BCPS paraprofessionals was able to receive training over three months and enjoy the benefits of having instructors who were familiar with the students with whom they worked each day.
In addition to the online course, BCPS also promoted a learning experience between the paraprofessionals and their supervising case managers. The VCU-ACE course provides supplemental activities and materials designed to promote communication between paraprofessionals and their supervisory teachers as well as application of skills. BCPS arranged for supervising case managers to receive recertification points if they completed the activities with their paraprofessionals. In this way, staff developed their skills and knowledge as a team, leading to better support for students.
Finally, BCPS plans to provide live trainings to both their paraprofessionals and supervising case managers this fall around topics that build off of the VCU-ACE online course, covering areas related to effective supervisory skills for case managers and more advanced skills in behavior intervention. Feedback from those participating in this professional development experience has been very positive. BCPS is looking forward to assessing the impact of the professional development model in the coming school year and building upon these successes as the division continues to create effective teams to serve their students with autism spectrum disorder.