Just the Basics: Educating Young Children with ASD in Early Care and Education

Upcoming Offerings:

  Dates   Registration
September 9, 2024 - April 30, 2025          


This training is a facilitated online course for Early Childhood Education providers serving ages 2-5 years old. The course is provided as a collaboration between the VCU-ACE and the Virginia Department of Education.

Course Overview

The VCU-ACE Just the Basics: Educating Young Children with ASD in Early Education course is designed for early childhood education and early care professionals who want to expand their knowledge of best practices for young children with ASD. Families and community members are also welcome to take this course. While this course will provide foundational information about the characteristics of ASD and strengths of children with ASD, this is a hands-on course where participants will have multiple opportunities to assess their classroom practices and implement a variety of evidence-based practices for three main areas: environment, instruction, and interactions. Participants will have opportunities to apply what they've learned throughout the course. Activities include creating a student profile, the developing of visual supports, planning meaningful instruction through a classroom matrix, and designing social communication opportunities.

Who Should Take This Course

This course is designed for any professional who supports young children with ASD in early care and educational environments. This includes early childhood educators, child care professionals, aides or instructional assistants, administrators, related service providers such as speech and language pathologists (SLPs) or Occupational Therapists (OTs), and families.

Learning Objectives

Throughout this course, participants will:

  • Describe the characteristics of Autism Spectrum Disorder
  • Identify common strengths and interests of young children with ASD
  • Practice developing meaningful student goals
  • Assess teacher practices in the early childhood classroom through a self-evaluation process
  • Prioritize professional strengths and needs through self-assessment
  • Describe evidence-based practices in three main areas: environment, instruction, and interaction
  • Implement a variety of evidence-based practices that support environmental modifications including the use of physical structure, visual supports, routines and schedules, and choice-making
  • Implement a variety of evidence-based practices to support learning such as prompting and reinforcement
  • Design meaningful learning opportunities for young learners with ASD
  • Develop a classroom matrix
  • Implement a variety of evidence-based practices that support the development of joint attention, social communication skills, functional communication, and the use of Augmentative and Alternative Communication .

Organization of the Course

Please note that this online offering is NOT a self-paced course. You will have assignments and due dates that must be adhered to. The course is divided into learning modules. You will begin with the first module and work through each sequentially until all are completed.

Course Modules

Each module contains text, links, and one or more videos of an expert in ASD providing information on the module topic. Presenters include both professionals in the field as well as parents of children with ASD. The presentation may include support documents you can view or download and use. Additionally, website links may be provided so you can obtain further information.

Module Listing

Module 1: Foundations of Early Care and Education

Module 2: A Preschool for ALL

Module 3: Autism Spectrum Disorder

Module 4: Raising Expectations

Module 5: Student Goal Development

Module 6: Professional Skills Assessment Process

Module 6.1: Self-Assessment: Environment

Module 6.2: Self-Assessment: Instruction

Module 6.3: Self-Assessment: Interaction

Module 7: Creating an Individualized Learning Path

Module 8: Learning Path - Environment

Module 9: Learning Path - Instruction

Module 10: Learning Path - Interaction

Certificate of Completion from Virginia Commonwealth University Autism Center for Excellence

Upon completion of the course in its entirety, you will be eligible for a Certificate of Completion. This requires you to complete each module by viewing each presentation and reading any associated documents, articles, and web pages. Once you have completed the course content, please fill out the course evaluation. Once the evaluation is completed, you will be provided with a link for a printable Certificate of Completion. The course will document 32 hours of contact hours.

Continuing Education Units

Points for educators working towards licensure renewal (recertification) may be awarded for completion of this online course. VDOE provides the following requirements regarding professional development activities: Point value: one point per clock / contact hour; must be a minimum of five hours per activity. We estimate this course to take a total of 32 contact hours to complete. Any teacher who wants to use it as a professional development activity for recertification needs prior approval from the school district. The school district will be responsible for designating the actual number of points that a teacher can earn for participating in the course.

Please note that the course / training does not meet any of the requirements for initial licensure in special education or any category of licensure endorsement.

Accessing the Course

To participate, you need a computer with (preferably high-speed) internet access, Adobe Flash Player software within your browser, and a sound card with speakers in order to listen to the lectures (full text transcripts are provided for all lectures and multimedia).

Participants will be able to access course materials on VCU's "Canvas" website. Each participant is provided the course URL, a unique username and a password on the first day of class. Please note that each participant should have his or her own email address that is not shared with other individuals.


If special accommodations are needed, please contact Jennifer McDonough at (804) 828-1851 (voice) or (804) 828-2494 (TTY).