May 6, 2015

Chesapeake Schools Expand ASD Knowledge

Chesapeake City Public Schools’ Autism Services Improvement Team (ASIT) has taken a strong stand toward improving division knowledge about autism spectrum disorder.

The ASIT team invited Cohort 1 teachers, general educators, central office administrators, related service providers, and building administrators to participate in the Foundations of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) Online Course to increase institutional knowledge of ASD throughout the division. To date, three Chesapeake leaders have facilitated online discussion groups. A total of 86 Chesapeake personnel have successfully completed this online course, with an 89% completion rate. Cohort 2 teachers and personnel will be encouraged to complete the Foundations course in the fall.

In the summer, the ASIT team, along with central office administrators, plan to embark on completing the online course, Evidence-Based Practices to Teach Students with ASD. By the fall, the invitation to participate in this course will be open to building administrators, Cohort 1 teachers, related service providers, and any other interested staff within the division.

In addition to this training, Cohort 1 teachers and coaches are receiving training and coaching in Visual Supports in the autism classroom. Coaches have received coaches’ training and will meet for support in monthly Coaches’ Meetings. Coaches, paired with ACE Technical Assistance Associates, are meeting with Cohort 1 teachers to support them as they plan and develop their visual supports and implement visual supports to fidelity in their classrooms.

Chesapeake is ready to invite the next round of Cohort 2 teachers to begin working with coaches in the fall.

Chesapeake and ACE are very proud to announce that one of our ACE Teacher/Coaches has been selected as the Chesapeake Elementary Teacher of the Year. Trish Momtsios is a LEAD Teacher at Hickory Elementary School and also serves as a Teacher/Coach with the ACE Grant Project. In addition to her Chesapeake work, Trish joined a group of Region 2 CoLA Book Club members this to present Drawing a Blank: Improving Comprehension for Students on the Autism Spectrum in Norfolk and Portsmouth. We are excited to have Trish working with the ACE Grant and so pleased with her accomplishments.

CoLA Summer Institute Registration Open Now!

VCU-ACE is excited to announce the 2015 Communities of Learning in Autism (CoLA) Summer Institute! The theme of this summer institute is Practical Solutions. Regional CoLA participants, identified autism specialists and autism division leaders are eligible to attend.

  • June 24-25, 2015
  • The Westin, Richmond (6631 West Broad Street, Richmond)
  • Early bird registration through June 2nd $70, after June 2nd $90
  • Hotel costs are included for registrants traveling more than 50 miles one way (2 per room)
  • Register now!

Dr. Staci Carr will be presenting on "Qualify of Life in Emerging Adults with Autism Spectrum Disorder." Everyone wants the best quality of life. Having, or not having, a disability does not determine quality of life. Carr's presentation will examine the influences of degree of disability, social and communication ability, academic success, employment, and independence and autonomy on quality of life in young adults with autism. Dr. David Pitonyak will be presenting on "The Importance of Belonging." Being connected to people we care about is critical to our emotional and physical well-bring. Many people receiving our services are sick from loneliness. Pitonyak will discuss ideas for moving beyond interventions and coverage to a system that supports enduring, freely chose relationships.

Other topics and activities include:

  • Social Skills
  • Inclusion
  • Self-Determination
  • Staff Training
  • Networking

Don't miss out on this amazing summer learning opportunity!

Spotsylvania County Schools Incorporate Book Studies into their Autism Professional Learning Community

It is no secret that visual supports can assist students with autism to become more independent. But, did you know that visual supports can support a student with autism to learn academic content? Teachers working with students with autism in Spotsylvania County Schools have been participating in a monthly professional learning group discussing different visual supports that can be used to support students on the autism spectrum that struggle managing their behavior and learning academic content in a traditional manner.

Each month, the group reads a chapter of the book Visual Supports for People with Autism: A Guide for Parents and Professionals. Teachers implement one new visual support in their classroom and come to the monthly meeting with an example of the visual support to share with their peers. They also give examples of how this assisted the students in the classroom and any modifications that may of be made to the visual support to work for individual students. One teacher in Spotsylvania County, Jennifer McMichael shared that she loves the variety of visual supports that are brought to this group meeting. She loves the creativity that teachers use as the match visual supports to their students’ needs. She also stated that “this book study has allowed teachers working with students with autism to understand that even high functioning students with autism benefit from the support of visuals.”

Paige Carter, Autism Specialist for Spotsylvania County Schools, loves how teachers supporting students in the inclusive setting can use the great photo and pictures examples in this book to provide examples to general education teachers on how the general education curriculum can be modified. This book study has been so successful this year that the lead team has decided to hold a spring book study on communication strategies and autism.

For more information on how your division might conduct a book study, or to participate in one of the online book studies that are currently being held across the state of Virginia, contact Noel Woolard at

How To Video Series Continues to Grow!

One of the most exciting features of our website is the How To Video Series. These videos are great because in just 5 to 8 minutes they demonstrate an evidence-based practice and show several examples of how to implement that practice. Check a few out today!

Current videos in the series include:

How To: Gestural Prompting

How To: Physical Prompting

How To: Visual Prompting

How To: Verbal Prompting

How To: Model Prompting

How To: Providing Reinforcement

How To: Teaching Requesting

How To: Visual Supports

How To: Environmental Considerations - Physical Structure

How To: Environmental Considerations - Schedules

How To: Environmental Considerations - Routines

How To: Task Analysis

Webcasts Highlight Virginia General Assembly Changes

We are excited to announce two special upcoming webcasts by Christy Evanko!

Autism, ABA, and the Virginia General Assembly: Legislative Updates for Parents and Caregivers

  • June 23 at 3:30 pm
  • Focus on what parents need to know about recent developments with the General Assembly
  • How recent developments may affect children with ASD

ABA and the Virginia General Assembly: Legislative Updates for Current and Prospective Behavior Analysts

  • July 21 at 3:30 pm
  • Geared towards Board Certified Behavior Analysts® (BCBA®) and those wanting to become BCBAs®
  • Focus on different Virginia laws pertaining to Behavior Analysts
  • Insight into what the future may hold for Behavior Analysts
  • Review of the legal responsibilities of Behavior Analysts in Virginia

Register now to take part in these webcasts! Archived versions of the webcasts will be on the website after they air.

Christy Evanko lives outside of Richmond with her husband, two daughters, and one son who has ASD. Christy is a Board Certified Behavior Analyst(R) who received her education from the University of North Texas. She is a co-owner of Snowflakes ABA, LLC and works with children with ASD using Applied Behavior Analysis. She also created a piano program called Piano Foundations for Children with Autism and writes inclusion books under the label, Good Friend Books.