What's New at ACE?
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.
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.
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.
New Information Just Added to the VCU-ACE Resource Pages!!
Check out the updated Research and Articles sections on each of the Resource pages on the VCU-ACE website! VCU-ACE has identified and summarized relevant and recent research articles in each category. Click on the link in the title of the article to review a summary of the article and the research findings. The citations are also included so that you can locate and read the articles in their entirety if you want additional information. And don’t forget to regularly visit the home page of the VCU-ACE websitewww.vcuautismcenter.org as we are constantly adding the newest information in the field to the Research and Interventioncolumn. Happy Reading!
Professional Learning Communities Move Ahead in Newport News!
Contributed by Wendy Clayton, Autism Specialist
Early in the 2012 - 2013 school year, all Newport News Public School (NNPS) self-contained classes for students with autism were rated using the Autism Program Environment Rating Scale (APERS) to determine use of Evidence-Based Practices and gaps in programming. The results were shared with teachers individually, who then set professional growth goals, in the areas requiring improvement. Upon analysis of the data, the goals, and the needs of teachers, visual supports were a common thread at the elementary levels and social skills/competence at the secondary levels. Teachers were given many options with which to address their goals, one of which was the formation of Professional Learning Communities (PLC) in these two areas. The purpose of the PLCs is to provide the resources, support, research, and practice, to improve student outcomes and to support the attainment of the Professional Growth Goals for which all teachers will be held accountable at the conclusion of the 2013/14 school year.
Visual Support PLC: Elementary
The Visual Support PLC began with a definition of visual support/schedules and the importance for students with ASD. Teachers learned the different supports that might be used for various students and situations. Additional areas discussed were supports for teaching routines and sequencing skills, as well as, teaching choice and management.
Future PLC meetings resulted in teachers making a visual schedule for one student in their class with the specific icon type, goal and function in the class. Teachers were required to use the book with their student, make adjustments and report back successes and challenges. Further PLC meetings exposed teachers to more advanced visual supports and mini schedules. urrently, the visual support PLC is breaking into small groups according to age/grade level and need of student/teacher to allow more targeted investigation/research and construction of supports appropriate for students. Teachers will continue to meet with their small group partners as they investigate, construct, use, and take data on the effectiveness of the visual support chosen. Small groups will report back to the larger PLC quarterly.
Social Skills/Competence PLC: Secondary
The Social Skills PLC began with the middle and high school ASD teachers as well as interested secondary teachers from two middle schools. It began with discussion relative to three areas of life that secondary teachers would address with their students in the area of social skills. Teachers divided into three groups to research and talk about what social skills training would be necessary for: person-centered planning/self-determination; relationships; and community/employment. Many resources were shared to address the areas listed above.
Teachers were interested in beginning social skills groups at their schools to address the identified social skills needs of their students. In order to determine the goals for the social skills groups, the Bellini Social Skills Inventory was agreed upon as the consisted measure. The group thought it important to target the specific needs, develop specific goals, and take data on skill improvement in order to determine if the group was having a positive effect on the students or was merely a “nice” social gathering.
Each school has developed their own structure for groups. Most involve neurotypical student involvement in some way. The impact of the PLC is evident in each high school’s level of involvement. Different activities occurring in the division include: a gardening/marketing group which works in collaboration with another high school’s cooking competition club; an acting group practicing for a school performance; students have jobs at school functions; and social skills clubs. Teachers continue to use the Bellini Social Skills Inventory to drive social skills programming.