News from Across Virginia
Updates on Recent Regional Communities of Learning in Autism (CoLA) Activities!
Regions 1 and 8 CoLA members met in February in Mechanicsville. Highlights of the meeting included the Division Spotlight, where Greensville County Autism Specialists, Marchae Cannady and Bridget Mangrum Brown, shared their experiences using the Comprehensive Autism Planning System (CAPS) model within their school division. The CAPS model was designed by Shawn Henry and Brenda Smith Myles to help teams move from thinking about separate interventions to comprehensive implementation. The CAPS form allows teams to plan for a student across the day and across environments regarding their academic goals, modifications, accommodations, strategies, and data collection. Greensville shared that using this model helped provide consistency across staff members as well as transitions between grade levels and schools. Several participants also brought Ipad Apps to share with the group!
More CoLA News ...The Region 2 CoLA met in Norfolk in February. The Learning Boost on Social Skills Groups was presented by Staci Carr, VCU-ACE Technical Assistance Coordinator. Several members also shared favorite Ipad apps for working with students with ASD in the “APP Smackdown” portion of the meeting. Members of the Region 2 CoLA interested in participating in a supplemental Learning Community on Video Self Modeling will be meeting separately and presenting information learned at upcoming CoLA meetings.
Noel Woolard, VCU-ACE Technical Assistance Associate, also presented on Social Skills Groups when the Region 3 CoLA met in Kilmarnock in February. Noel was able to share about the success of specific elementary social skills groups in the Northern Neck Regional Special Education Program (NNRSEP), where she provides technical assistance and coaching. Several division representatives also shared celebrations and exciting things that are working for students with ASD in their schools.
CoLA Outreach Continues ...When the Region 4 CoLA met in April, the agenda was divided into 2 main topics – information on the VB-MAPP and Training for Paraprofessionals. During introductions, attendees shared not only their names and divisions but also the biggest challenge in regard to educating students with ASD within their division. Several specific areas were identified, which will be used in planning agendas for future meetings. A 6 question quiz was then used to discover what individuals know about the VB-MAPP and how they are using it. During small group discussion afterwards, those with more experience with the VB-MAPP were able to share with those who had less. The final discussion centered on HB325 and how to address/provide the required training for paraprofessionals by September 2014. Several divisions shared ways in which they were approaching education of paraprofessionals including training by division staff, the VCU-ACE online course, and training through private schools and agencies.
A Region 5 CoLA Meeting was held in Staunton in April in conjunction with a VB-MAPP & EBP Training. Amanda Armstrong, Autism Coordinator at the Region 5 TTAC at JMU, and Steven Celmer, VCU-ACE Technical Assistance Associate, introduced participants to four different evidenced-based practices and provided an opportunity to practice them while obtaining feedback on performance. Additionally, data collection and analysis procedures were discussed and relevant materials necessary for accurate collection of data were provided.
VCU-ACE and the TTAC at Virginia Tech hosted the winter 2013 CoLA Meeting for Region 6 at the Greenfield Education Center in Botetourt County in February. This meeting had more than 85% of Region 6 school divisions represented -- What a great turnout! Division leaders in ASD were provided with an introduction to Verbal Behavior and some of the assessment tools that can be used with students. Interest was high in learning more about these instruments and the opportunity to receive additional training and support in learning the VB-MAPP (Verbal Behavior Milestones Assessment and Placement Program) was extended to those divisions in attendance. The Division Spotlight offered three divisions the opportunity to share and discuss initiatives underway for students with ASD. Kathleen Wright and Jessica Morris from Montgomery County Schools provided participants with information on their consulting teacher model. This division has multiple teachers who provide support at each school specifically in the area of autism. Paige Callahan, from Salem City Schools, provided information on the documents and process that the division has created for teachers to request resources and support for students with ASD. Julie Baker and Karen Turner, from Botetourt County Schools, provided information on how the division is addressing social skill assessment, planning, and instruction.
The winter 2013 CoLA Meeting for Region 7 was held on April 25th at the SWVA Higher Education Center in Abingdon. During this meeting, division leaders and teachers in ASD had the opportunity to learn about “Data Collection & Analysis - From Goals to Decision-Making.” Participants were engaged in discussion, problem solving, and resource sharing. Attendees left with many resources and tools to share with educators in their divisions. The Division Spotlight featured Jackie Davis from Tazewell County Schools and Whitney Sizemore, a job coach from Goodwill Industries, who shared about how Project SEARCH is being implemented for students from Tazewell County Schools. The presentation was a great opportunity for participants to learn about the process and collaboration that is needed to get such an initiative off the ground. Positive employment experiences and personal skill growth s are being realized for students with disabilities through this initiative.
Regional CoLAs are uniquely designed for division specialists who are working in a leadership capacity in autism. Each school division is encouraged to designate two representatives to attend and participate in their regional CoLA meetings. These are individuals who will be willing to share information learned within their division and to share division work in autism with other COLA participants. Regional participants are also invited to attend an annual conference, where they can network with counterparts from across the state. The 2013 Summer CoLA Institute will be held in Richmond in June. If you have questions or would like more information on the CoLAs, please contact Becky Boswell, VCU-ACE Outreach Coordinator, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Individual and Family Support Application is Now Online!
News from the Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services -- The new Individual and Family Support Program (IFSP) is now open and ready for business. This program supports families who have a family member on the ID or DD waiting list with up to $3000 year for supports and services. A limited amount of money is available for the year, so funds will be distributed on a first come basis. Visit the Office of Developmental Services page on the DBHDS website for more information and to access an application. The information can be found under "Announcements.”
RPS Initiates Networking Efforts to Better Educate Parents!
Richmond Public Schools (RPS), one of the ACE Technical Assistance Divisions, embarked last year on a goal to improve how parents receive information about autism and school supports for students on the spectrum. RPS recognized that many parents within Richmond were not aware of the division-wide supports for students with ASD and that many parents and students themselves lacked basic and vital information about autism. RPS realized that without this knowledge, families might miss opportunities or be unable to advocate effectively for the needs of their sons or daughters. In an effort to reach all families, the RPS Autism Support Team created a process by which any and all parents could come together via a forum that would encourage sharing of experiences, networking, and gaining new information about autism.
Anita Swan, Director of the RPS Parent Resource Center, and the Autism Services Team decided to host an open house type event in February. Careful and diligent preparation for this event was the key to its success. Ms. Swan and committee members, in conjunction with administrators within all of the RPS elementary schools, distributed flyers, posted notices, and made numerous phone calls to spread the word about this exciting opportunity. Classroom teachers were also asked to share the event with parents. This first Parent Networking Open House attracted over 25 family members! The participants were able to meet and share with other parents from across the division. The agenda included various “Autism” related topics, such as initial diagnosis, IEP process, and how the Parent Resource Center can assist families.
The second Autism Parent Networking Workshop is planned to coincide with Autism Awareness Month in April. Similar events will be offered two to three times per year to elementary school parents, and this committee plans to eventually offer such gatherings to parents of students at the secondary level. Congratulations to the RPS Team for recognizing the need and helping educate families about available resources!
Professional Learning Groups: Learning, Collaborating, and Growing as a Team
If you are in the educational field, you have heard the famous Confucius quote: “I hear and I forget. I see and I remember. I do and I understand.” It’s no secret that good teaching requires that skills are solidly learned to build a firm foundation of understanding. Concepts, once learned, may be built upon at later times to achieve more complex understanding. We are all aware that educators strive to create opportunities where their students can “do” or practice skills in real situations to ensure long term retention. The same principles should be applied to adult learning.
Several VCU-ACE divisions, supported by Technical Assistant Associate Noel Woolard, are using the professional learning group model to assist in the understanding of evidence-based teaching practices for teachers, administrators, and staff. Hampton City, Northumberland County, Lancaster County, and the Northern Neck Regional Special Education Program have found that Professional Learning Groups are an excellent way for teachers who share a common interest in a topic or subject area to learn and grow from each other in a collaborative team environment.
Prior to the implementation of each division’s professional learning group, teachers self-rated their understanding and skill expertise on specific evidence-based practices. This data was used to determine the practices that would be focused on for the school year. Meetings are held monthly or bi-monthly and last for less than an hour each time. Teachers come to each meeting having completed a “pre-learning” or implementation homework assignment. With the support of teachers who have taken a leadership role in their group, a brief overview, which supports the pre-learning assignment of the evidence-based practice, is given. Teachers and staff then complete a variety of activities that assist in understanding how to implement the practice in their classroom. The group concludes with the explanation of the next homework assignment. Educators participating in these Professional Learning Groups are then able to take what they have learned back to their colleagues and students for implementation in the classroom.
The Department for Aging and Rehabilitative Services (DARS) Announces Temporary Voucher Program
DARS published a Press Release on January 25, 2013 that announced a Temporary Voucher Program for Caregiver Respite. Virginia families who care for a loved one with disabilities or chronic conditions can apply for up to $400 reimbursement for respite care under a new, limited voucher program from the Department for Aging and Rehabilitative Services. Beginning January 29, 2013, caregivers may apply to the Lifespan Respite Voucher Program. Those who qualify and are approved may receive up to $400 reimbursement for costs related to respite. The program will distribute vouchers for reimbursement from a federal grant limited to $179,079, which closes by July 31.
For more information on how to apply, visit DARS’s Respite Services site.
You may also visit Virginia Navigator for additional information on respite and related services available in the Commonwealth.