Autism in Education’s primary mandate of identifying, disseminating and promoting evidence-based practice has continued and expanded since the partnership’s inception through the following initiatives and activities:
- Autism in Education (AIE) Professional Learning Symposium: “Advancing Capacity through Collaborative Learning”
In April 2013 more than fifty (50) educators from across Atlantic Canada who provide support to individuals with ASD and to the school teams who work with those students gathered at APSEA to participate in a 2-day professional learning forum entitled “Translating Research into Practice: Application of Evidence-based Practices to Address Challenging Behaviours.” The training was presented by Dr. Cathy Pratt, Director of the Indiana Resource Center for Autism at the Indiana Institute on Disability and Community located at Indiana University. The feedback from participants was extremely positive, with respect to both the content of the workshop and the value of having such an opportunity to collaborate, network, and problem-solve with professionals who bring shared experiences and unique insight to the discussion.
In light of the positive feedback from the 2013 symposium, the AIE Partnership has continued to host professional learning symposia each spring. In April 2014, Dr. Dennis Reid and Dr. Carolyn Green served as the keynote presenters for Day 1 of the 2nd Annual Autism in Education Professional Learning Symposium. Drs. Reid and Green are world-renowned experts in the field of staff training, with particular emphasis on the implementation of evidence-based practices for individuals with ASD and challenging behaviours in educational environments. The focus of the workshop was on coaching and support strategies for consultants working with staff who support learners with ASD in inclusive school settings. In May 2015, Dr. Jon Bailey presented a workshop on ethical and professional practice when working with students with ASD and challenging behaviours.
Day 2 of each symposium featured “AIE Talks” and consisted of presentations by participant/leaders from each of the provinces represented at the training. ASD Consultants/EIBI Coordinators shared aspects of their professional practice with their colleagues. Presentation topics included social skills training for elementary students with ASD; peer sensitivity training; Cape Breton-Victoria Regional School Board (CB-VRSB) PEERS® - social skills curriculum; using video modeling, using i-pads and technology to support students with ASD, and transition planning strategies. The 2013 and 2014 Autism in Education Symposia were co-sponsored by Autism Speaks Canada, through their Family Services Community Grants. The Autism in Education partnership received a portion of the generous support awarded by Autism Speaks to Canadian charitable organizations that provide key programs and support services which enrich the lives of individuals with ASD.
- On-Line Community of Practice
The community of practice across the Atlantic Provinces continues to be supported by the ongoing development of the AIE website. The objectives of the on-line community of practice include:
- to support the learning of newer practitioners by creating an atmosphere of mentorship
- to reduce the sense of isolation through providing a collective identity and collegial support with a network of experts
- to increase the breadth and depth of “expertise” available to any one province, department, region, or individual
- to identify and develop “best practices;” a common understanding within an emerging area of practice
- to reduce replication of work by identifying and sharing methodologies, tools, partnerships, resources, etc.
- to create new knowledge and spawn new ideas
- to evolve an Atlantic presence and collective identity
- Information Papers: Research to Practice
AIE information papers aim to promote informed decision making about issues and practices that affect the education and well-being of children with autism. The goal is that the papers will increase consensus across the Atlantic Provinces of the critical features inherent to effective educational practices for learners with ASD and mitigate the usage of unsubstantiated interventions and practices. Additionally, the papers support communication with other departments, stakeholders and families concerning issues of practice.
The AIE Advisory Committee has developed and released five information papers to date, including:
- Service Dogs and Autism Spectrum Disorders (2011)
- Evidence-based Practice (2012)
- Sensory Differences and Autism Spectrum Disorders (2013)
- Current Research Regarding Time-out (2014)
- Transition to School for Learners with Autism Spectrum Disorder (2015)
- Interprovincial Autism Training Initiative
The most recent initiative of the Autism in Education partnership involves an Atlantic Interprovincial Autism Training initiative. Over the past two years, APSEA’s Autism in Education Partnership, which includes the Provincial Autism Consultants and Directors of Student Support Services from the four Atlantic Provinces, has been working on an exciting new project. Expanding on a training program that began in New Brunswick in 2011, Autism in Education has been working with NB to develop an online course for educational personnel on Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD). The online course, “ASD and Behavioural Interventions: An Introduction for School Personnel” was launched on April 2, 2015 to mark World Autism Awareness Day. The first round of training participants included approximately eleven-hundred teachers, resource teachers, educational assistants, and other student support services staff from all four provinces. The first course was completed in June, 2015. Please contact your Provincial Autism Consultant/Specialist for information about future course offerings.
“ASD and Behavioural Interventions: An Introduction for School Personnel” is offered in both English and French, and is made up of ten e-learning modules. It includes topics such as ASD and its impact on learning, evidence-based practice, principles of learning and behaviour, and supporting communication and social skills development. The Autism in Education Partnership hopes this will be a valuable professional learning opportunity that will help school personnel increase their knowledge and skills related to the strengths and needs of students with ASD.