April 5, 2016


April is Autism Awarenes /Acceptance Month!

Every April, organizations and communities around the United States celebrate Autism Awareness / Acceptance by participating in educational, fundraising, and outreach activities. Some organizations focus on providing facts and information to help the public understand what autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is and how communities can help improve education, recreation, employment, medical care, and overall quality of life. Other organizations focus on acceptance, inclusion, and celebration of individuals with ASD in communities, schools, and places of employment.

VCU-ACE celebrates this month alongside individuals with ASD and other organizations! Additionally, we work throughout the year to improve services and supports for individuals with ASD by promoting the implementation of research-based practices in schools and the community through training, technical assistance, research, and collaboration. Throughout every endeavor, VCU-ACE believes that all individuals with ASD have the right to:

  • Access high quality supports and services across the lifespan that will enable them to lead lives of their choosing
  • Be treated with dignity and respect in all aspects of their life, especially when receiving supports and services
  • Exercise choice and control in their lives to the greatest extent possible
  • Lead self-determined lives
  • Communicate with a system that supports full participation across environments and people
  • Choose meaningful relationships
  • Receive an education that prepares them for life beyond high school including postsecondary education, employment, and engaged community citizenship
  • Be contributing members of their communities and be valued friends, co-workers, and family members

VCU-ACE is committed to expanding our own and others’ knowledge of ASD. During this month, take a moment to look through our website and learn more about ASD, including our newest self-paced course: The Parent Playbook!

The Parent Playbook is designed to introduce families to information about ASD, including tips specifically for parents and caregivers, information about the DSM-5, characteristics, interventions, as well as programs and services throughout the lifespan. Learn more by visiting www.vcuautismcenter.org

Antecedent Based Intervention: Motivation

In the last few months, we’ve discussed Antecedent Based Interventions as part of our discussion of The Foundational Five practices that form the cornerstone of our interventions. We have discussed the environmental considerations of ABI such as structure, schedules, and routines as well as providing choices. This month, we’ll tackle another important aspect of ABI—motivation!

At VCU-ACE, we believe that ALL students CAN learn. In order to accomplish this, one of the first things we must consider is student motivation. Many of our students with ASD, as well as many typically developing students, are not intrinsically motivated. In other words, they are not motivated by the task itself or the feeling of accomplishment they have. However, there ARE ways to improve motivation for students with ASD including:

  • Identifying a student’s strengths
  • Utilizing a student’s interests
  • Pairing yourself with motivating items and activities and provide those to the student during instructional activities
  • Using the Premack Principle, or FIRST work and THEN a more desirable activity
  • Interspersing hard tasks with easier tasks
  • Incorporating breaks

Want to learn more?

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

Looking for something you can use right now?

Watch the webcast Making the Most of Students’ High Focus, Obsession, and Interest Areas with Kathy Morris. In this webcast, Kathy reviews practical strategies for encompassing student interests in positive and productive ways. https://vcuautismcenter.org/te/webcasts/details.cfm?webcastID=209

Our Ask the Expert and How To video series includes several 5-10 minute presentations on ABI, including motivation. We also have preschool specific presentations on many topics!

Straight from the Classroom

The Franklin County ASIT team is preparing to initiate an exciting new pilot program next year! The ASD Nest model was developed by the New York City Department of Education in 2003 to facilitate successful learning for students with ASD in the inclusive classroom. The "Nest" classroom is organized to provide structure, support, and services that students with ASD require and which are beneficial for all students. The class is co-taught by a team of general and special education teachers. Franklin County administrators and a team of teachers from Burnt Chimney Elementary School will be visiting P.S. 112 in East Harlem in April. P.S. 112 is a highly successful elementary school with several Nest classrooms. The Franklin County team will have the opportunity to observe Nest classes, and speak with experienced teachers and school leaders as well as with some of the original developers of the Nest model. VCU-ACE is supporting Franklin County in training and preparation for piloting their first ASD Nest classroom at Burnt Chimney Elementary next year!

Don't Forget!!

This month’s live webcast is A Strange Story from a Strange World: My Life and the William and Mary Neurodiversity Student Group with Joel Carver. Joel Carver is a junior at the College of William and Mary and a neurodiversity advocate. He was diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome (now ASD) at a young age and discovered his condition in depth his senior year of high school.

Center for Transition Innovation (CTI) has an upcoming webcast series: Transition Planning and Emerging Adults with ASD! CTI is offering 6 webcasts in April and May to address the needs of emerging adults with ASD to be independent in their communities. Topics include: Building Relationships and Friendships; Personal Health and Safety and Community Participation; Internet Safety; and Sexuality Education. Find out more at http://www.centerontransition.org/training/upcoming.cfm

Stay connected throughout the month by following us on Facebook!!!