February 4, 2016


VLCA on Social Skills

This Virtual Learning Community (VLCA) is designed to provide educators with a platform to learn and share skills, knowledge, and strategies related to teaching social skills to students with ASD in school, home, and community settings. Weekly sessions will alternate between live virtual meetings (Wednesdays 3:30-4:30pm, via Zoom video conference) and online activities and discussions (self-paced through the week via Blackboard).

Topics discussed by the community will include components and barriers to implementing social skills training, social communication instruction and curricula, self-regulation resources, planning individualized instructional, and evaluating implementation. Participants are expected to participate each week, share resources and reflections, and evaluate their own implementation.

Social Skills VLCA Description

Social skills encompass a wide range of diverse skills that form one of the core, defining characteristics of Autism Spectrum Disorder(ASD). Unfortunately, for many students with autism, challenges in these areas severely limit opportunities in the classroom and in the community. This Virtual Learning Community in Autism is a collaborative forum for professionals supporting individuals with autism in social skills training (SST) and those who are interested in starting SST groups. Individuals participating in the VLCA will learn alongside others by reviewing content identified by the learning community leader, engaging in activities and discussion related to social skills, and sharing the outcomes of this work. Through ongoing sharing of experiences and collaboration, the entire community of learners will advance in both knowledge and skills.

Weekly sessions will alternate between live virtual meetings (Wednesdays 3:30-4:30pm, via Zoom video conference) and online activities and discussions (self-paced through the week via Blackboard). Participants are expected to participate each week, share resources and reflections, and evaluate their own implementation.

Who Should Participate:

  • Those responsible for organizing social skills training programs

  • OR, those interested in starting a social skills training group in their division

  • Those responsible for selecting social skills curricula and materials

  • Those who deliver social skills instruction, in the classroom and/or community

  • Division Leaders

  • Special Educators

  • Related Service Providers

  • Others wanting to know more

To register for this course please use the following link: http://www.vcuautismcenter.org/te/vlcs/socialskills.cfm

The Foundational Five

It can be difficult to know what to do and how to support learning in individuals with ASD. Many times, professionals resort to a trial and error approach. Now, research has established that a variety of practices are the most effective for individuals with ASD, or evidence-based practices. It’s important to note that there are many different types of evidence-based practices for autism spectrum disorder. However, we want you to focus on just five of them—The Foundational Five. These Foundational Five practices are all easily individualized, they can all be used conjunction with any other strategies or interventions you choose to use, and they are all based on the principles of Applied Behavior Analysis. The Foundational Five include: Antecedent Based Intervention, Visual Supports, Systematic Instruction, Reinforcement, and Social Communication Intervention. Over the next few months, we’ll explore The Foundational Five—starting with Antecedent Based Intervention.

To learn more read our upcoming Practice Brief on The Foundational Five please go to the following link: https://vcuautismcenter.org/resources/factsheets/

Antecedent Based Intervention

Antecedent Based Intervention, or ABI, is a collection of evidence-based strategies and practices we use proactively to reduce interfering behavior and encourage independence. ABI targets the antecedent, or what happens before a behavior. Antecedent Based Intervention focuses on modifying the environment and changing the elements that could prompt an interfering behavior to begin. In other words, the goal of ABI is identifying what in the environment is prompting the interfering behavior to occur and putting things in place that will PREVENT the issue from ever occurring. Ultimately, the goal is to help the student understand what to do, how to do it, where to go, and when things will happen. ABI is all about being proactive and helping the student feel safe, in control, and prepared!

There are many aspects to ABI including: modifying the environment, providing choices, and using motivating items. In this issue, we’ll explore more about modifying the environment. These environmental considerations can include visual supports, schedules, routines, physical structure, and visual clarity.

To learn more read our upcoming Practice Brief on Antecedent Based Intervention please go to the following link: https://vcuautismcenter.org/resources/factsheets/

Environmental Considerations

Environmental considerations can make a big impact for individuals with ASD! Physical structure and visual clarity refer to the way we structure an environment. It can also include how we reduce distractions by using clearly defined spaces, both physically and visually, organization, arrangement, and flow. Visual supports are tools that help make transient auditory information more permanent. Visual supports help make information more concrete and can include a picture, a graphic representation, a schedule, or a word. Visual supports help students with ASD understand rules, routines, tasks, expectations, or social responses. Schedules are especially important because individuals with ASD often struggle with time management, transitions, and schedule changes. While routines and schedules might sound the same, they are actually different. A schedule helps us understand expectations throughout the day. On the other hand, routines are simply tasks we complete throughout the day like getting dressed and brushing our teeth. Classroom routines might include arriving at school, participating in circle time, getting our classroom supplies, and even solving mathematical equations or writing a paragraph. Teaching and providing routines for individuals with ASD helps reduce anxiety and ultimately increases independence!

Straight from the Classroom

Last semester, Stefanie Paul, an embedded coach and VCU-ACE Training and Technical Assistance Associate helped preschool teachers in developing goals, including those surrounding environmental considerations. The teachers implemented visual schedules and visual supports including mini-schedules and timers. They also used objects to assist students with transitioning, including a bottle of soap to transition to handwashing activities. Stefanie has noted the biggest impact so far has been empowering teachers to problem solve and make decisions. She also noted that being proactive with environmental considerations and using solutions based on EBPs has improved the learning opportunities for all preschoolers and improved teaching practices. A teacher participating in Project PASS, Kerry Grissom, added, “I have made many changes to include visual schedules and visual supports for choice making. The biggest change made, that has reduced tantrums and frustrations, would be using transition items and visual timers."

Want to learn more?

For more in-depth information about The Foundational Five, sign up for the Evidence Based Practices to Teach Students with ASD. The next course starts July 11, 2016.

Looking for something you can use right now?

Our Explore ASD Seminar Series has thirty minute presentations on environmental considerations, including Introduction to the Use of Schedules, Visual Supports and Autism Spectrum Disorder, and Structuring the Environment and Tasks for Students with ASD. Click here to register.

Our How To video series includes several 5-10 minute presentations on environmental consideration including physical structure, visual supports, schedules, and how to use routines. We also have preschool specific presentations on these same topics! Click here to view https://vcuautismcenter.org/te/how_to/

Don't Forget!

This month’s live webcast is Strategies to Improve Processing in Students with ASD by Nicole Beurkens, Ph.D on February 9, 2016 at 3:30 p.m. ET!

Dr. Beurkens will cover a wide variety of strategies, including simplifying the environment!

Registration is free but required, please go to the following link: https://vcuautismcenter.org/te/webcasts/details.cfm?webcastID=345