Welcome to the spring edition of the Utah autism newsletter. So much is happening in the Autism community, and we have many resources to share.
What happened with autism insurance reform in the legislature this year?
Are you wondering where things actually ended up? Well to recap, the original legislation, House Bill 69, sponsored by Ronda Rudd Menlove (R-Garland), was held in the House Rules Committee and was not released. This bill would have required providers of accident or health insurance policies to include coverage for the treatment of individuals with autism spectrum disorders. It would have established a $50,000 minimum annual benefit for Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) therapy.
Representative Menlove then introduced House Bill 272 which ultimately did pass during the legislative session. The linked Salt Lake Tribune article explains this bill and includes several links to obtain more information. This pilot program will pay for therapy for approximately 350 children between the ages of 2-6. It will begin on July 1, 2012 and last for two years. For an overview, read this Salt Lake Tribune article HERE.
The headline news a few weeks ago drew the public attention to a recent prevalence study that revealed a sharp increase in the number of students diagnosed with autism spectrum disorders (ASD). While the rate of ASD in the general population is reported to be higher in Utah, the increase in students receiving special education services in Utah is similar to most states in the country. Factors contributing to the reported increase may be attributed to:
- Increased public awareness
- Increased knowledge among teachers
- Availability of new assessment tools
- Broader definition of autism
Regardless of the reasons for the increase in prevalence, autism has a significant impact in the classroom and on the education of the students with the disorder. The Utah school system recognizes this. We need to share the non-headline news that Utah districts, charters schools, and state leadership provide training and technical assistance for educators who serve students with autism. Some of these trainings and resources available to Utah educators include:
Conferences for Teachers:
1. Foundations of Autism Conference hosted by the Utah State Office of Education (USOE) and the Utah Personnel Improvement Center (UPDC).
This is an annual conference for parents and educators covering basic characteristics of students with autism and evidence based interventions for academics and behavior. The next conference will be March 7th 2013. Jo Mascorro will be the guest speaker.
2. Southern Utah Autism Conference hosted by the Southwest Education Development Center and the Utah State Office of Education
This is now an annual conference for parents and educators in southern Utah.
3. Utah Valley University Autism Conference hosted by the college of Humanities and Social Sciences at Utah Valley University.
This is an annual conference for parents and educators emphasizing current research in ASD and support for families.
This annual conference hosted by the Utah Education Association includes sessions on autism. The next convention will be help October 18th and 19th, 2012 in Salt Lake City.
5. Family Links Conference hosted by the Utah Parent Center
The Family Links Conference will be March 8th and 9th 2013. Jo Mascorro will present on behavior support for students with autism and other disabilities.
6. The Behavior Summer Camp, a mini-conference focusing on behavioral supports will be June 7th & 8th and will include:
- The Tough Kid series of publications
- SuperHeroes social skills curriculum and training
- Functional behavior
- Bullying prevention
Autism related professional development trainings, available to Utah school districts:
This Utah State Office of Education and Utah Personnel Development Center initiative focuses on working with district teams to institute best practices in academics, positive behavior supports, and coaching.
2. Discrete Trial Teaching provided by the USOE and UPDC
3. Positive Behavior Supports for Students with Autism, 2-year cohort provided by the UPDC
4. Intensive Discrete Trial Teaching by the ASSERT program at Utah State University
Professional development training opportunities provided to Utah school districts upon request:
1. STAR Autism Program training provided by UPDC
2. Pivotal Response Training provided by UPDC
3. Superheroes Social Skills training and materials provided by USOE
4. Prevent-Teach-Reinforce Behavior Support provided by UPDC
5. 24 Evidence-based Practices for Students with ASD provided by UPDC
6. Other trainings customized to fit the needs of districts and charters provided by USOE and UPDC
1. Autism Grants available through the Utah State Office of Education.
These grants are awarded to districts and charters to improve their capacity for working with students with ASD. Jocelyn Taylor from the Utah State Office of Education heads the grant awarding committee.
2. Utah Essential Educator
The Utah Essential Educator is an online journal that features topics of interest to Utah teachers. This publication is created by the Utah Personnel Development Center and includes bi-monthly articles on autism spectrum disorders.
The Utah Special Educator journal is published twice a year by the Utah Personnel Development Center and is provided free to all Utah special education teachers, administrators and related service providers. It frequently publishes articles on autism and related topics. Past issues are available online at the UPDC website. There have been two special monograph editions of the Special Educator that focused primarily on autism. These are the February 2008 and the December 2010 editions.
4. Utah Personnel Development Center Website – Autism Resources
The UPDC website has an autism resource area that contains archived trainings: 24 Evidence-Based Practices for Students with ASD, a DVD on high functioning autism, resources for staff development in autism and links to many other informative websites.
The Autism Internet Modules site contains thirty-seven modules on ASD with many more in the works. The OCALI Webinars site has modules on Autism 101, District Planning, Social Competence, and Understanding and Addressing Challenging Behaviors of Individuals with Complex Needs.
These publications are written for general education teachers and provide information on understanding and educating students with ASD. They are free and available online.
As this list suggests, there are an abundance of training opportunities for educators available at no cost to Utah districts and charter schools. Local educational leaders assess the needs of their staff, consider the past training and current knowledge base of their staff, and take into account he unique strengths and challenges of their students in designing the most appropriate personnel development for their situations. As scientists continue to work on the answers to the many questions raised by the recent prevalence study, Utah autism advocacy groups, institutions of higher education, state leadership, local educational agencies, and educators continue to work together to put all the pieces of the autism educational puzzle together.
Authors: Cathy Longstroth, Utah Personnel Dev elopment Center (UPDC), Jocelyn Taylor, Utah State Office of Education (USOE), Amy Peters, UPDC