Archived News: Across Virginia
February 2015

Project PASS Kicks Off in Chesapeake

In Chesapeake City Public Schools, a new early childhood special education grant project began this fall. The project, titled Project PASS (Preparing for Academic and Social Success), is designed to assist early childhood special educators and team members working with preschoolers with ASD and developmental disabilities. The goal is to build critical foundation skills required for independence, academics and social success for preschoolers prior to transitioning to the Least Restrictive Environment.

Project PASS focuses on:

  • Identifying and building student skill areas in the least restrictive environment
  • Providing professional development to ECSE teachers and related services professionals
  • Developing and implement steps for a smooth transition to kindergarten

The current Project PASS team consists of two early childhood special educators, related service personnel, an embedded coach from VCU-ACE, special education administrators, and primary school building administrators. The team is located at B.M. Williams Primary School and meets for professional development meetings once a month. The embedded coach is on-site at the school frequently during the school week.

The team is focusing on developing student and teacher goals, implementing evidenced-based supports and strategies, and ongoing coaching. The ongoing coaching is embedded within the early childhood classroom setting. Once the PASS model is completed the hope is to expand training models for early childhood programs state-wide. The VCU-ACE team is excited to be a part of this collaboration with the Chesapeake early childhood special education team to prepare preschoolers for academic and social success.


Exciting Activities in Franklin County

Franklin County, one of the Cohort 2 selected divisions, is making great strides in improving services for students with ASD. Many initiatives have started including a PLC (Professional Learning Community) for all who are interested in learning about Evidenced-Based Practices. The first 3 part series was on Visual Supports. The three part series includes:

  • a presentation about visual support use in the school setting
  • a follow-up 2 weeks later where participants come back and share what they have developed for their classes
  • participants go back to their school and present the information at the next faculty meeting

This series will be repeated for differential reinforcement in the spring.

The Benjamin Franklin Middle School Social Skills Club has begun and takes place weekly after school. Led by Peggy Fisher, the students will be taught social skills through the structure of the PEERS® curriculum , developed at UCLA by Drs. Elizabeth Laugeson and Fred Frankel, is an evidence-based group social skills program that helps adolescents and young adults learn, practice, and generalize skills needed for success in family, school, and community.

Finally, FCPS has embraced the coaching model and has begun coaching in elementary schools across the division. Through embedded training and coaching, coordinators in FCPS have learned the art of coaching and are taking this practice to heart to impact change across the division.


News from Cohort 1: Newport News

On January 26th, two SLPs and three ASD teachers presented “Conquering Communication Challenges” to all teachers and paraprofessionals working with students with ASD- K-12, and teachers of students with moderate and significant intellectual disabilities in Newport News Public Schools. This training is a result of the work the Model Communication Classroom Committee has done to develop the “Must Do Communication Strategy Protocol” for every classroom serving students with an autism spectrum disorders.

The committee members are: Betty Menking, SLP, Carolyn Hall, SLP, Kim Keith, Teresa Clement, and Stefanie Paul – all classroom teachers. This training completes the communication evidence based practices for all students when combined with the intensive practices resulting from the VB-MAPP assessment and goals in place in the ASD classrooms. The Content of the training was the evidence based practices necessary to facilitate communication development in five areas:

  • planning/arranging for communication
  • social communication
  • behavior IS communication
  • communication partners (roles)
  • developing visuals and knowing how to implement them

The training structure includes Instruction, How Do I Do This, Videos to Illustrate, and Practice. Fidelity checklists will be utilized in the classrooms to determine practice accountability for training content.

Charlene Wentland, ACE TA, Kelly Barrett, TTAC-ODU, Autism Specialist, Wendy Clayton, teachers Kasey Reed, and Erin Butterfield from Newport News, along with Trish Momtsios from Chesapeake and Jo Robertson from Gloucester co-presented a training sponsored by ODU T-TAC- based on the book Drawing a Blank: Improving Comprehension for Readers of the Autism Spectrum by Emily Iland. The content covers social, communication and developmental issues inherent in a diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder and how these issues operationalize to make reading comprehension a difficult task for students on the autism spectrum.

Social Skills PLCs are moving ahead in Newport News. The secondary team is working to add supports to the PEERS curriculum and to embed I’m Determined and Person Centered Planning into daily activities. The elementary team is working toward establishing social skills groups in classes and to increase the formal peer networks in their buildings through the establishment of Peer Buddy Readers.