News from Across Virginia
Last Call for VA ABA Consortium Fall 2014 Applications!
The Virginia Applied Behavior Analysis Consortium is currently accepting applications for our new fall 2014 cohort! The VA ABA Consortium is a university-based partnership designed to provide participants with high quality coursework in Applied Behavior Analysis, (ABA) and to prepare participants to take the Board Certified Behavior Analyst® (BCBA) exam if they choose. The Consortium is comprised of four cooperating Universities including George Mason University, Lynchburg College, Old Dominion University, and Virginia Commonwealth University. The VA ABA Consortium provides the six course sequence and offers supervised experience that is consistent with requirements of the Behavior Analyst Certification Board®, (BACB) and allows participants to take the BACB® exam. Participating in the VA ABA Consortium allows participants to interact with expert instructors from our four universities as well as to complete the program with other students across Virginia. The VA ABA Consortium allows participants to obtain the supervision experience needed in order to apply skills being learned. To learn more about the VA ABA Consortium and apply, please visit our website. Applications are due !
Students with disabilities ACE-IT at VCU - VCU places students with disabilities in standard classes
In 2010, Virginia Commonwealth University was one of 27 universities across the U.S. to receive funding for a 5-year demonstration grant from the federal US Department of Education, Office of Postsecondary Education. ACE-IT in College is a collaborative effort between the Rehabilitation Research and Training Center (RRTC) and the Partnership for People with Disabilities in the VCU School of Education. ACE-IT in College provides an inclusive, on campus, college experience for young adults with intellectual disabilities. The main outcome of the program is competitive employment in an area of interest for students which is developed through VCU coursework, internships, and employment. Please visit the ACE-IT in College website to meet the students, hear from faculty and families, and learn more about this comprehensive program.
Working Smarter Not Harder – The Benefits of Professional Learning Communities
Professional Learning Communities (PLCs) are becoming more commonplace within many school divisions as school personnel strive for improvement and to keep up with the demands of an ever-changing educational landscape. The characteristics of successful PLCs include: collaboration, desire to learn, willingness to take on tasks to increase group learning, respecting and valuing the opinions of colleagues, and a drive to grow professionally. Being a part of a PLC can have many benefits. It can reduce feelings of isolation and enhance understanding of content material and evidence-based practices used with students with autism spectrum disorder. It can also result in strong collegial bonds between co-workers.
Over the past 2 years, several of the divisions in which VCU-ACE Technical Assistance Associates are embedded have implemented a variety of PLCs to meet the professional development needs of their educational staff who serve children and youth with ASD. These groups were initially jointly led by VCU- ACE and division staff; however, divisions have now taken over total responsibility to sustain and even expand them. PLCs are located in the all of our divisions: Botetourt, Wise, Newport News, Hampton, Henrico, Greensville, Richmond, Arlington, and NNRSEP. A few highlights from selected divisions include:
Two PLCs are available for participation in Newport News. The first targets social skills and social competence at the middle and high school level. A team of approximately 10 teachers and specialists get together to discuss social skill lesson planning and special events, and to problem solve social skill issues present for many adolescents with ASD. The second PLC addresses evidence-based practices (EBPs). This group of educators works diligently to develop materials, train other staff, and provide support to others who teach individuals with ASD.
Henrico County is developing social skills classes for students with ASD at the middle school level. The two pilot programs implementing this intervention have developed a PLC to provide information to assist other educators to develop similar programs.
In Greensville, autism specialists have developed a paraprofessional PLC to provide training and an opportunity for paraprofessionals to problem solve and learn new strategies and practices for working with students with ASD.
Arlington City has developed a PLC to support the use of both a Social Skills Inventory and the use of assistive technology for their Speech Language Pathologists.
The consensus among all VCU-ACE divisions is that Professional Learning Communities provide a venue for collaboration, training, and problem solving. In addition, there is great value in collaborating with other professionals who share a given situation and similar interest. In the case of educators serving students with ASD, the PLC model has allowed people who are interested in a specific topic (e.g. social skills, evidence based practice, communication) to develop their skills in collaboration with their peers.
Virginia Autism Research Survey Announced!
Research Study: The Impacts of Access to the Least Restrictive Academic Environment for Academic and Career Goal Attainment for Students with High Functioning Autism as Reported by their Parents.
Being conducted as part of dissertation research, this study is an investigation into how access to inclusive educational environments may or may not impact the academic and career goal attainment of high school student's with high functioning autism and Asperger syndrome in the Commonwealth of Virginia.
Please visit the facebook page of Virginia Autism Research for more information. This is a statewide effort so anyone, especially in the regions of the Commonwealth that may not have a support structure, are encouraged to participate in this study.
Click here for the link to the survey. Two $75 Target gift cards will be raffled off to parents who complete a questionnaire.
Contact Laura Harris, MEd., PhD(c), Division of Special Education and disAbility Research, George Mason University at
Lharri14@gmu.edu for more information.
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!
Great News for VA in the Area of Early Screening and Diagnosis of ASD!
The Partnership for People with Disabilities at Virginia Commonwealth University recently received funding for a project titled "Autism Spectrum Disorder Screening and Diagnosis: Early Systematic Training in Effective Practices (ASD Early STEP)." The grant project is a collaborative effort with the Partnership, VCU-ACE, and Commonwealth Autism Service. The project provides three years of funding to train professionals who serve young children, including early interventionists, pediatricians, and others, in three state locales. Family members of children suspected of having ASD will also receive training and support. VCU-ACE is excited be a part of this grant opportunity!