Archived News: Across Virginia
May 2014

Newport News Schools Host Visitors from Saudi Arabia!

The Newport News Public School (NNPS) Division’s autism assessment journey has taken an international turn! In the fall/winter of 2012, teachers in/and self-contained autism classrooms in Newport News were assessed using the APERS (Autism Program and Environment Rating Scale). After over a year of intense work on evidence-based practices, these same classrooms were reviewed for post assessment outcomes. Division compilation outcomes showed major gains for most domain areas – excellent work Newport News!

Due in part to Newport News’ progress using the APERS, the division was chosen to host a team of educators from Saudi Arabia. These educators are learning about the APERS at the National Professional Development Center (NPDC) in Chapel Hill, NC and needed the experience of a live demonstration site. Ann W. Cox, Ph.D., Scientist and Project Director at NPDC, brought the three visitors: Ashwaq Alzamel, M.Ed, Autism & Behavioral Disorders Specialist; Ahmed Jomaa, School Psychologist, Center for Autism Research at King Faisal Specialist Hospital and Research Center; and Rogaiyah Hamidaddin, Pediatric Speech-Language Pathologist, Center for Autism Research and Researcher at Prince Salman Center for Disability Research, to observe and learn from the Newport News classrooms and staff.

The visitors were in Newport News for three days in March 2014. They learned about the NNPS program for students with autism and how the staff had used the APERS to assess the programming, set goals, and implement evidence-based practices. The visit was a great success! The tour included visits to the classrooms of Stefanie Paul, Katie Palmer, Kim Keith, Marlon Hooker, Kasey Reed, and Sarah Lambrecht. The visitors also interviewed coaches, Teresa Crowson, Crystal Hunt, and Kim Keith. The program and process was explained to the guests by Wendy Clayton, NNPS, and Charlene Wentland, VCU-ACE. The feedback received was very positive and these educators were excited to go home to Saudi Arabia with lots of ideas and strategies for using the APERS assessment tool. As an added bonus NNPS now has new friends in Saudi!

Newport News has instituted additional training opportunities for staff this semester. Some of the secondary teachers of students with autism are involved in a literacy Professional Learning Community run by Daniel Beigun from the VDOE TTAC at ODU. This group is practicing blending literacy skills, vocational skills, academic skills, communication, and social skills into theme-based lessons and then identifying ASOLs for assessment. This has been a very creative and exciting community. In addition, in collaboration with the NNPS Parent Resource Center, Staci Carr, VCU-ACE, presented “Puberty, Relationships, and Sexuality” to a number of Newport News parents, teachers, and community members on April 22nd as part of April Autism Awareness Month.


News from Cohort 2 – Chesapeake City Public Schools!

The May 2014 Chesapeake SEAC (Special Education Advisory Committee) meeting will have a special emphasis on autism! The Autism Society Tidewater Chapter and the Chesapeake Public Schools, Autism Services Improvement Team, will present: “Autism, Putting the Pieces Together” on May 6th at the School Administration Building. For further information, visit the Chesapeake Public Schools website.