Look Before You Leap

February 18, 2013
Chelsea Budde

Last week, more than 100 Special Education teachers and administrators, plus parents of children with autism spectrum disorders and related providers, converged in our area for a combined Community of Practice (CoP) on Autism Spectrum Disorders and other Development Disabilities (ASD/DD) and Autism Program Support Teacher (PST) meeting hosted by the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction (DPI).  The focus of the day's sessions was Evidence-Based Practice (EBP).  As such, there was an introductory presentation on the meaning and significance of EBP in the field of autism education and treatment.  Key themes emerging from this presentation were a) the importance of implementing the intervention with fidelity (as the researcher/developer of the intervention intended) and b) discerning the most appropriate intervention for the individual learner (knowing that not every intervention will be effective for every person with autism).  This first session was followed by overviews of select EPBs and discussion of case studies where various EBPs should be applied.

There are two critical FREE resources that educators and caregivers should know about regarding EBPs.  (I mentioned them in a blog in September 2012, but they deserve additional explanation.)  They are Autism Internet Modules (AIM) and The National Professional Development Center on ASDs (NPDC).

With so many possibilities to explore for the treatment and education of our loved ones with autism, choosing the road to travel on can be intimidating.  These websites not only offer the research basis for EBPs, but in the case of AIM, offer actual training in video modules regarding the interventions, which may include some best practices (ones that are considered tried and true, but lack the research criteria required to qualify as an EBP).  So instead of reading dozens of articles and books, you can download a PDF at NPDC's website (click on Evidence-Based Practices and then on EBP Briefs).  Each of the 24 EBPs has its own  components, including an overview, a bibliography-format evidence base list, steps for implementation of the EBP, and an implementation checklist.  This helps the reader to implement the EBP with fidelity.

More of a multi-media learner, or want more than the 24 EBPs listed through the NPDC?  Then click on over from there to AIM's website.  The Ohio Center for Autism and Low Incidence [Disabilities] (OCALI) hosts this gem, which features the "alpha" interventionist on the practice teaching you how to use the intervention!  There are pre- and post-module assessments, so you can determine if the practice is worthy of the time you'd take to complete a module (anywhere from 45 minutes to several hours).  There are FAQs, discussion questions, and lots of supplemental resources for each module.  A newer feature is the ability to earn a certificate of completion for only $10 per credit hour.  Otherwise, there is NO FEE to use the site.  Just create a login and password; and you'll never get spam or other solicitations from OCALI or AIM.

AIM has 41 modules available and another 34 in progress, spanning from Early Identification of ASD to Autism in the Workforce.  These are wonderful for professional development, continuing education, family supports, caregivers, educational assistants, and pretty much anyone who interacts with people with ASD.

There are almost infinite ways you can encourage the use of these resources in your community.  How are you using, have you used, or do you plan to use the NPDC and AIM to help determine your next steps?

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