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School Administrators and ASD Part 1
School Administrators and ASD Part 1
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Hello and welcome to our webinar today.
This webinar is part
of our Tri-State Autism Spectrum Disorder webinar series,
which is brought to you
by the Colorado Department of Education,
the Kansas Autism and Tertiary Behavior Supports Network,
and the Nebraska Autism Spectrum Disorders Network.
We're glad you could join us today.
Our presentation today is on school administrators
and autism spectrum disorders,
and this is part one of this webinar.
Today we're gonna answer frequently asked questions
that we have received from administrators over the years,
and then part two next week is actually going to be advice
from current school administrators,
so definitely tune in for that as well.
This webinar today is presented by me, Annette Wragge.
I am the state coordinator
for the ASD Network in Nebraska,
and you can see my contact information there on the screen
if you wanna reach out to me after this webinar.
So to kind of set the stage for our webinar today,
we wanted to reference the, this Wallace Foundation study
that was originally done in 2004 and 2021.
And one of the main conclusions from this study
is that leadership in terms of like administrators
in school settings is second only to classroom instruction
among all school-related factors
that contribute to what students learn at school,
so that's really powerful.
I mean, the takeaway there is that leadership in schools
is so very important.
there was a subsequent publication from the Wallace Group
that was done to reflect just the changes that have happened
since the earlier study in 2004.
And some of the things that came out
of the more recent look into this issue
is that effective principles are at least as important
for student achievements as previous reports had concluded,
and likely it was understated, right?
So they're likely even more important
in relation to student achievement
than had been originally thought.
Principals have substantively important effects
that extend beyond student achievement.
A couple other things to note is that effective principles
orient their practice
towards instructionally focused interactions with teachers,
building a productive school climate,
and professional learning communities,
and strategic personnel and resource program management.
Additionally, principals must,
effective principals develop an equity lens,
and are called on to meet the needs
of growing numbers of marginalized students.
And so we wanted to just start this webinar
with drawing attention to really how important
school administrators are in all of these ways, right?
Looking at student achievement,
looking at collaborating with teachers,
really helping teachers
and weighing in on instructional strategies,
their impact on the school climate, and certainly,
developing a climate in schools
that supports marginalized students
and that could also include students with disabilities
that we're gonna talk about today.
So on our agenda today, we're just gonna answer
some of the frequently asked questions
that we have received over the years
from school administrators on how they support students
with autism in school settings.
So let's get started.
One quick note, our format today,
we're gonna have some call-in questions
that are from our ASD team.
They have a little fun with it,
posing some questions that they have heard
from school administrators over the years.
So we definitely wanna give credit where credit's due.
A recent presentation that we heard from Karen Haase
at the Tri-State Law Conference,
where she used this format of calls
regarding frequently asked questions that she received.
So kudos to Karen,
it kind of inspired our format for this webinar.
So let's listen to question number one.
Okay, so this is Nicole.
And I just have a quick question for you.
We've had kids with autism in our school before,
and this kid doesn't do any of those things,
like he makes good eye contact, he doesn't hand flap,
I mean, he even talks,
but he came to school with a prescription from the doctor.
So now what do I do?
Okay, so question number one,
what do we do about students with autism?
They may not look like other students that we've had.
And then also, there was a note in there
about a prescription from a doctor.
So I'm actually gonna address that first.
Frequently over the years,
we have received calls from schools
when they have been brought a prescription by a parent,
you know, from a doctor or an outside provider.
And the bottom line for schools is that educational services
are based on IEP team decisions, right?
So while we could certainly consider,
and we should consider input from outside providers,
especially if they know the student,
they've done really good evaluations,
we should consider that information as part of,
you know, all of what we know about the student.
But just a note that says, you know,
however many hours a week of ABA services for a student
would not be something
that just ultimately drives educational programming.
The IEP team gathering information about the student
through the MDT process initially
and whenever re-evals are done
and additionally through their ongoing assessments,
those are the things that we wanna use
to drive educational programming, so not prescriptions,
but the other issue was, you know, what do,
this student doesn't look like other students
that this administrator has had with autism.
And so that brings us to one of the questions
that we really wanted to answer, which is,
why is it important for administrators and staff
to understand autism and the autism spectrum?
Really the basis for that question is important
because autism really is a spectrum disorder.
So you may have one student with autism who's non-verbal
and looks a certain way,
and that might be your experience with autism.
And so when you get other students
and students that look very differently,
maybe highly verbal, (laughs) and, you know,
a different range of cognitive abilities,
it's hard to kind of wrap your head around
that these are both students with autism.
And the truth is that we have students
on both ends of that spectrum and everywhere in between.
And so one of the best interventions,
I say this in most trainings that I do,
one of the best interventions for administrators,
for teachers is simply understanding the autism spectrum.
We are better equipped to serve students with autism
if we have a good understanding
of what the autism spectrum includes.
So autism spectrum disorder is a developmental disability
that can cause significant social communication
and behavioral challenges.
And according to the Center for Disease Control,
1 in 44 children are impacted.
So what that means to you in schools
is you're going to have students (laughs) with autism,
Most schools have more than 44 students,
and so whether you have one right now or not, you will,
You will have students with autism in your schools.
Quite a few features that directly impact learning,
the very first one is something that's, you know,
fairly common in individuals with autism
and other disabilities, but attention difficulties,
and so sometimes that it really manifests
into a comorbid condition of ADHD or ADD.
But also sometimes we have students who struggle a bit
and we have to think about that when we set up the room
and we think about where they're doing their work,
and we also have to think about strategies
to keep them on task
when there are some competing interests.
And you can see some of the other ways
that directly impact learning.
And so we're gonna talk about training later
that can help your staff address some of those things.
Working with individuals with autism
has truly been one of the greatest experiences of my life.
I have learned so much from individuals with autism,
and I just am so appreciative of a brain
that works so differently (laughs) than mine, right?
That sees the world so differently.
So we just wanna appreciate the strengths
and we really wanna provide our students some feedback
on the things that they are doing really well.
So look for things that students with autism are doing well,
and definitely let them know that if you see it.
But we often see kids that can learn and follow rules
once they've been taught,
also have this ability to take a topic or a special interest
and really go all in, right?
So they can learn all kinds of things about a certain topic
or various special interests over the years,
and that's pretty cool.
Strong visual performance skills is often something
that individuals with autism have
as well as good rote memory as I mentioned before,
and then probably my favorite
is just how honest individuals with autism are.
If you need a truth bomb (laughs)
or you need to be told something about maybe the cologne
or perfume you're wearing, (laughs)
or my favorite is one of the individuals
I'm pretty close with always tells me
my laugh is really loud, and he's right, right?
But individuals with autism are really good at honesty,
and they're gonna tell us what they think,
they're not really good at being deceptive.
And so I certainly appreciate the honesty
that I get from them.
That is not enough to kind of give you a foundation
of autism and the characteristics of autism.
So I wanted to draw your attention to some webinars
that we have available,
and that the information on the screen is simply explaining
that we have worked with the states of Kansas and Colorado,
and many of you are here from those states for this webinar
to develop a really robust webinar series.
And on the Nebraska page,
I know I have people from other states joining,
but on the Nebraska website,
when you log into our webpage or our webinars,
you can see that there's a little section that says,
"New To Autism?
Check out our introductory webinars
to start learning today!"
And you can click on that button,
and there are introductory, you know,
just kind of really quick overviews about autism spectrum
that could help you, certainly help some of your staff
just learn the basics of autism.
And I promise you that will be a really good
foundational intervention to have in place
as you work to really support students with autism.
We have lots of other topics
if you need more advanced training on autism,
and we are gonna talk
a little bit more about training later.
Okay, so let's move on to question number two.
Hey, Annette, I have this new kid,
and man, he is really smart, like top of the class,
he is testing at the highest level of some of our kiddos.
And but the parents share that he's got autism, but man,
I just really don't think that he needs any support
because he is doing so great.
So I just didn't know, like, does he really,
I just don't think that he's gonna need an IEP,
but just wanted to ask you what you thought.
And so let's take a look at that.
So what do we do with those students
that seemingly have a lot of skills, right?
So I'm gonna talk about Nebraska,
but this is also very relevant for Kansas and Colorado.
So in Nebraska, each school's district are,
we're responsible for providing special education services
and/or related services to all eligible students,
birth to 21, who've been identified with a disability, okay?
And one of the disabilities in it's Rule 51 in Nebraska
And so we have to consider
if students fall under the autism disability category
for special education services.
So now let's talk about, do we evaluate, again,
we're talking about this smart kiddo per, you know,
at first glance, right?
Testing at a high level,
but parents are talking about autism.
So we've kind of come up with this statement,
and I know our colleagues in Kansas and Colorado
feel the same, but this is really good guidance to you
reiterated by recent attendance
at our Tri-State Law Conference,
where lawyers who consider all of the landscape
that's going on nationally on this very topic weighed in
and gave the same guidance.
But when there is debate, evaluate, okay?
Specifically, if a parent requests an evaluation, (laughs)
the best thing you can do is proceed with an evaluation.
Evaluations can be triggered based on school suspicion
of a disability,
let's say students new to the district
or new to maybe a building in the district, and there are,
it's triggered some concerns about autism,
but also we have to look at behaviors,
if there's an increase in behavior, criminal behavior,
deterioration of grades, hospitalization,
just some big changes going on, trauma,
some other things on the right-hand side here,
other medical diagnoses that, you know,
we have students who've been diagnosed with this and this
and this, but it's not really getting to the heart of it
and problems persist, we might wanna consider autism.
If there's been a discussion of red flags
specifically for autism here,
or if parents and staff request an evaluation
because they have concerns about autism,
we should do an evaluation, okay?
We don't want to get caught,
and the lawyers were really clear on this,
do not use the, that we're using MTSS.
Well, we're using multi-tiered systems of support
or response to intervention
for those of you that are using RTI processes.
And so we're gonna do that instead of an evaluation,
that's not good guidance.
You definitely want to evaluate
if concerns about autism were brought up, okay?
And the bottom line is to kind of address that issue
of kids that seemingly maybe don't have a disability,
we do need to evaluate.
And kids with autism
who are kind of on that side of the spectrum
where they're more verbal, they have higher IQs,
they often are still significantly impacted
in those disability areas of social communication,
and absolutely need special education services and supports
to gain skills that would really improve
their quality of life, and often,
they need those supports to be successful in school
and really be able to access a free,
appropriate public education.
So we don't wanna overlook those kids,
even if at first they present as, you know,
having all of this language and ability,
we need to look closer at that.
The courts overall have said that social functioning
is educationally relevant.
So they're, they don't consider that outside the parameters
of IDEA and therefore special education.
So we definitely wanna look at those students as well.
Just a quick note on medical diagnosis
and educational identification, so again,
the caller said parents had talked about autism.
Sometimes parents will take the student
and/or the individual,
and they will have a medical diagnosis.
A medical diagnosis of autism
does not automatically translate into eligibility
for special education under,
you know, our school autism disability category.
We can certainly take that information that was done
for a medical diagnosis and use it
as part of our information gathering that we would do
by the educational multidisciplinary team, okay?
But on the slide,
you can see that there are some differences there.
Diagnosis is like from a doctor or a clinical psychologist,
and it's based on a set of criteria used in those settings,
which is the Diagnostic Statistical Manual 5.
And it's often determined by an individual, possibly a team.
But if you look at the educational identification
that we use in schools,
it's based on federal law and then our state laws,
it's used only in public schools,
and it must be completed by a team.
So a team of people gather information about the student,
and then we look at are they eligible
for special education services
under our rule and our definitions, okay?
And we're just looking at using
the autism disability category
as their way to receive special education services.
We are not diagnosing, we don't diagnose in schools,
we're not diagnosing them with autism.
We're simply saying they're eligible
under that particular category,
that category describes their needs the best.
Hey, Annette, It's Principal Polly.
We have a student that needs
some pretty individualized instruction.
We don't really do that here,
and we obviously don't have enough staff.
So should I recommend they move,
or do I recommend a special school, maybe that,
maybe one that has ABA
since we don't really do that in schools anyway?
What are your thoughts?
So how do we serve students with autism
and how do we think
about individualized comprehensive programming services?
(laughs) That's a lot, right?
If you have staff that aren't very familiar with that.
Just so you guys know,
some educational programs for students with autism
should include the following.
Well, the first box is really important
because in the field of autism,
there's been a lot of research done on what works
and what doesn't,
what is effective based on peer-reviewed research studies.
So peer-reviewed larger-scale studies that have been proven
to be effective with students with autism.
And we actually have a really good body of evidence
around on that topic.
The latest study that was done or report that was done
in 2020 from the National Professional Development Center
on autism spectrum disorders
identified 28 evidence-based practices.
Many of those evidence-based practices are things
your staff might be familiar with or that we,
certainly, all of our groups provide training on,
that are things you wanna make sure they're utilizing
in their programming for students with autism.
I linked that report in the resources so you can access it.
And I also later on show where your staff can access
online training modules on those evidence-based practices.
And then, again, know that many of the trainings
that any of our three tri-state groups offer
are based on those evidence-based practices.
Additionally, as the caller noted, (laughs)
the parent was requesting
applied behavior analysis services,
and she was saying, you know, "We don't do that."
The reality is that schools actually do provide
applied behavior analysis.
Many of the interventions that you might have heard of
or that your staff are using, like things like PECS,
the Picture Exchange Communication System,
structured teaching, verbal behavior,
and intensive teaching, programming,
those things are all based on the principles
of applied behavior analysis and come from the field of ABA
and actually our ABA programming.
So it may not look like ABA programming looks like
in a clinical or a private setting,
but our educational interventions in schools should be,
and many are,
and most of the list of the 28 of evidence-based practices
are based on applied behavior analysis.
So make sure your staff know that,
make sure you talk about that or talk to us about it
so you can be a little more fluent in it.
We don't wanna be telling parents we're not doing ABA
because you likely are,
or your staff should be using interventions
based on applied behavior analysis.
Additionally, behavior supports,
it really is important that we are using
proactive positive ways to support students
who engage in problem behavior, so that's super important.
Visual supports just really easy to implement.
Visual supports have been found to be very effective
with students with autism to, you know,
show them what's gonna happen in the daily routine,
what's expected of them, how much work they have to do.
So visual supports are really important.
A functional communication system
is just absolutely a foundational thing
that needs to be in place for all students with autism.
all humans need to be able to ask for the things
that we want, say the things that we don't want,
ask for a break, all those kinds of things.
And if a student doesn't have a way to ask for those things,
there's likely going to be problem behaviors,
and also, it's just a critical skill to living life.
And we want to be able to make sure you want to,
as an administrator, I should say,
make sure that you're having conversations with staff
on what's the student's functional communication system
and do we have a functional communication system
in place for this student?
Also, the need to address social skills development,
I will tell you that something that I see often
and I definitely don't wanna see (laughs) anymore
or as often is I or IEPs that are developed for students
with autism that don't have any goals
that address social skills.
And we know that for individuals with autism,
social skills is one of those triad,
it is a core area of deficit, right?
They struggle often with social skills
and social competence.
And social competence affects everything,
it affects your ability to be a valued member
of a school community, certainly later, having a job.
It might even affect your ability to interact
with your teachers in an appropriate manner.
And so we need to be addressing social skills.
The courts have said that social skills
are educationally relevant.
We need to have goals and be actively teaching social skills
to students with autism.
So definitely be talking to your staff about that.
Also, sensory supports, 'cause as I noted earlier,
sensory processing issues are very common
in students with autism,
and we need to have supports in place for that.
And then super, super important
is that your staff are collecting data on the progress
that students are making and analyzing that data
to determine if we need to make programming changes.
That's super important and definitely something
that you wanna talk to your staff about.
Okay, I know that was a lot, but we made it through.
So let's see what question number four is.
Hi, Annette, this is Principal Smith.
I know you kinda get tired of hearing from me, but hey,
I just wanted to talk about a situation.
I have staff members,
actually, including an administrator in our building, which,
you know, so I'm guessing this is, you know, okay,
but they said that the student that we were meeting on
is incredibly rude to the staff and choosing not to behave.
So they feel strongly the staff doesn't need any training
in the area of autism because this is really just about,
you know, this student is just pretty much choosing
to be defiant and choosing not to behave.
And you know, when it comes to training,
we really, you know,
I kind of think maybe we could use a little bit of it,
but we really can't find subs, you know,
in order to do the training.
So I was wondering too, like,
do you think they need training?
And then the other thing is,
if we do, is it okay if I tell mom just go ahead
and keep that kiddo home that day
so we can go ahead and train the staff?
A couple things.
We're gonna jump into training and resources for your staff,
but the issue of subs,
I'm just gonna take that one and talk about it first.
We do have teams who on occasion very infrequently
will decide to send, you know,
the entire team that's working with a student with autism
to a training.
And they might have a conversation with the IEP team
about that, including mom and dad,
about what's the best way to serve that student
while if the whole team is attending training together,
and there is value to a team going to training.
So, you know, on a very individualized, infrequent basis
for a team to talk about training
and what the best thing would be for that student
during that time, I think that's very appropriate.
Frequently sending a student home
or telling 'em not to come to school because
staff were meeting or training,
of course, would be not appropriate.
So that's all I'm gonna say about that.
So we have a student who's rude, right?
So he's saying some things that staff don't like,
but staff are pretty adamant that this is a behavior problem
that is this student's problem, right?
And it's not a training issue on their end.
However, what we know, one, if this behavior is increasing,
then we know it's being reinforced, (laughs) okay?
So if a student's being rude
or increasingly engaging in problem behaviors,
it's most likely that there's something environmentally
that is contributing to that increase, right?
Or at the very least,
there's not something in place environmentally
to decrease that behavior.
And that often just leads to a training issue in staff
because what we know is that students with autism
sometimes require, and students with behavior issues
do require some interventions
that staff likely haven't had a lot of background in.
Most special education teachers and other specialists
on the team did not have extensive training on ASD
during undergraduate or graduate programs
that we just know.
There might have been a little bit of an overview,
there might have been one behavior class,
but the bottom line is most of our educators
come out without direct experience and/or extensive training
on working with, effectively with individuals with autism
and/or individuals who engage in problem behavior.
And so they're going to need some training.
And I get that subs are an issue, they absolutely are.
However, what also is an issue is problem behavior (laughs)
in the school setting, staff being frustrated,
staff being burnt out.
And so we have to weigh out the value
of spending the time on training,
building your staff's skills
to ultimately really be able to respond to problem behavior
and teach critical skills
and just make school just a better place
where everybody wants to be,
where the staff wanna be and the students wanna be,
and sometimes that requires a commitment to training,
So as far as what staff need,
just what are the core trainings that individuals
working with students with autism may need,
as I said earlier, intro to autism is really important,
it's just something we need
to understand the autism spectrum
so that when a student is rude to us,
we don't take it personally,
we can kind of think about that.
I've been told a lot of things over the years,
and I'm pretty good at not being (laughs) too offended
by what an individual or student with autism might say to me
because I understand autism
and I know that they're not very good at thinking
about other people's perspectives.
They are not thinking that,
"Oh, Annette might be offended if I say that to her."
They're just thinking about what's on their mind (laughs)
at the moment.
But that enables me to not be offended,
but also as an educator to think, "I need to have a lesson,
I need to start working with that student on what to say
and things they can say to peers
but that they can't say to adults," and that kind of thing.
I had a student one time who whenever his classroom teacher
said something that he didn't agree with,
he would stand up point at her and say, "You are wrong,"
you know, in a really loud voice.
And (laughs) so we, she was pretty offended, I will say.
And I was like, "That's okay, he's, you know,
he's in second grade, we just need to work on this.
It's just kind of the way his brain is.
He's very black and white.
He sees things as they're either right or they're wrong,
and when they're wrong,
he likes to kind of make a big deal about that."
But I was able to, in some individual sessions with him,
talk to him about kind of make a new rule book,
and one of our rules that we wrote was that it's not okay
to tell teachers they're wrong
and certainly not to shout it out.
And so we kind of came up with what to do,
what he could do if he thought somebody was wrong,
and that was a little more socially acceptable.
But so we have to,
if we understand autism and the characteristics of it,
we can just intervene more effectively, okay?
Also on this list, verbal behavior or direct instruction
of language and learning skills.
A lot of our kids who really come to us with a deficit
in basic language and learning skills,
they need some direct instruction to acquire those skills.
And I like to call that training,
what to teach and how to teach.
And many of our educators have told us over the years
that that training has just literally been transformational
They now can be more effective
in teaching some of those core learning skills
and also effective in ways to teach those skills
But also Principles of Structured Teaching
is a really good training on using visuals effectively,
not just, you know,
making the environment more comprehensible,
but using visuals to teach independent functioning,
and that's super important for our students with autism,
sometimes they leave school
and they're super prompt-dependent,
and so we need to help them find organizational strategies,
schedules, maybe even a schedule on their iPad,
and ways to task, analyze different work tasks and stuff
and be able to do, use those things independently,
Also, educational identification of autism
for any of your team members who might be on the team
looking at EDID of students,
their eligibility for special education,
social skills, as we said before,
we need to know how do we intervene effectively
and teach students critical social skills
and also what do we do about problem behavior?
Those would be really be the core areas
that your staff should have training in.
And then there's lots of other additional things
that I think just based on what's going on
on each individual person's caseload
and the individual student's and team needs,
you could look at additional training.
Now the good news is that there is training
and there are trainings and resources that are available
that hopefully could meet your staff's schedule.
We can't solve the sub-issue,
that's something you would have to do,
but we can make things more accessible.
And so part of this webinar series,
we on the states' websites of Kansas, Colorado,
we have approximately over 70 webinars
on a variety of topics, and those are available 24/7.
Your staff can watch 'em as a team
and talk about individual application to students.
They can print certificates of attendance,
they're all super accessible.
Other options might be accessing your local autism agency
for a school district training.
So we offer in-person trainings in all of our states
where you can actually come to a site, that's kind of fun
'cause they can network with other educators
and realize they're not the only ones
kind of dealing with certain things.
But also, I did link a couple of other national resources.
The AIM modules also have online training that can be done
in 30 minutes to an hour on a variety of topics.
The AFIRM Modules I wanna note
because there are AFIRM Modules
for all of the 28 evidence-based practices,
those are those high leverage evidence-based practices
that you want your staff to be utilizing in their work
with students with autism.
And there are AIM modules available that can be done
on a computer, again, the team could go through it together.
And so definitely check those out. Those are available.
And then, you know,
might be that you need some consultation and support,
and you could reach out to, again,
your local state people for that kind of support.
Hey, Annette. This is Julie.
And I'm sped director at tiny district number two.
And I just, I know that all students that have autism
should have a para with them at all times,
but we're just so short-staffed right now,
We're not for sure what to do.
Can we like place them all in like one classroom together
with a couple of paras, or is that okay?
I mean I know we're gonna have a couple of paras gone,
I have one who just called in sick,
so I did go ahead and just call a couple of the parents
and told 'em not to send their kids tomorrow,
and they were totally okay with that.
So I just kinda wondered what your recommendation was.
Gimme a call back.
Okay, thanks. Bye.
Okay. So let's talk about paraeducators.
And question number five, which is,
do most students with autism need support
from a paraeducator?
Again, a couple of things from the call,
certainly, placement decisions are based on student need,
individual student needs.
You don't wanna throw a bunch of students
in a classroom together for ease of staffing.
All placement decisions are based on individual student need
and what would be the most,
the least restrictive environment for them.
But let's talk about,
there are a lot of paraeducators that are used
to support students with autism,
and so let's talk about that,
this issue of do most students with autism
need support from a paraeducator?
And the first thing I wanna say
is I'm gonna use a few cartoons from Michael Giangreco
'cause he does such a nice job illustrating
some of the issues that we have in special education
and really this issue of are paraeducators helping
or are they (laughs) hovering,
and is it a good thing or is it potentially could be,
you know, maybe not such a great thing?
So what do we know about paraeducators
and students with autism?
Well the bottom line is some students
benefit from and/or may require one-on-one assistance,
and it's just totally based on individual student need.
And so that's something that each IP team needs to consider
based on the student's needs.
But there are concerns in the field on the effectiveness
of paraeducators, and those are super important,
and they're mostly related to training and ultimately,
a lack of training for the para, supervision,
certified staff oversight and supervision of the para,
and giving them feedback on how they're doing.
lack of access to peers can be a problem if there's a para
assigned to a student's lack of access to certified staff,
which is a huge issue.
We want students to have access to certified staff
as well as support from paraeducators if they need it.
And then ultimately,
we can have students who are overly dependent on adults
'cause they've had this one-on-one person
kind of assigned to them all the time,
and so we really wanna be thinking about those things.
Those actually come from a study
on the effectiveness of paraeducators,
and what it showed was we should be concerned
and actively doing things that kind of counteract
those problems that can be part of having a para
assigned to a student with autism.
So there are some things that paras cannot be in charge of,
So identifying learner needs and instructional goals,
this one is a really big one.
Over the years, I've had conversations with a lot of paras
who are just doing amazing work
supporting some of our most needy students with autism.
But I have had questions about curricula.
I had a para meet me one time at the door, she said,
"I'm so glad that you're coming
to observe this student today
'cause I'm getting ready to order his reading curriculum
for next year, and I just wanted your input."
And I'm like, "Okay, you know, (laughs)
let's talk about that.
Let's go talk to the special ed teacher
and loop her into that because that's actually not something
that a para educator should be doing," right?
That's a certified staff role,
same as planning of the lessons to meet those goals.
So we wanna make sure certified staff are just looped in
and be really involved in programming for students
with autism and other disabilities.
So all of these things that you can take a look at,
but that evaluating the effectiveness of its instruction
are teachers need to be observing our paras
and their instruction and giving them feedback
and seeing if it's, you know, helpful or not, okay?
That's really important.
Also, we're just gonna go through a few tips for you
on those effects
of inappropriate paraprofessional proximity.
We have to just really have intentional conversations
about our highly valued paras,
about how close they are to our students
and if they're really able to move in and move out.
So a couple of the things
that we know from Michael Giangreco,
the man who developed those cartoons
also has done a couple different studies
on the effects of inappropriate paraprofessional proximity.
And one of the issues is really that separation
So the paraprofessional might sit close to the student,
they're kind of at the back of the room,
but it seems like there's a barrier
between the para and peers.
And I see this when I'm in a classroom,
where students will come and talk to the para,
they'll talk to the adult
and not to the student with autism,
and that really is a problem.
We don't want students
to be separated from their classmates.
We want adults to be trained to tell students,
"Oh, hey. Talk to John.
This is how you could get John's attention,"
so that they're interacting directly with students
And then also is the interference in ownership
and responsibility by gen ed teachers, okay?
So sometimes when there's a para assigned to a student,
the teacher of the classroom or the specialist teacher
is just assuming that that para is gonna meet all of the,
that student's needs,
and I think inadvertently just stops interacting
with the student.
And we really need all teachers and certainly,
our licensed teachers to be interacting
and providing instruction for our students with autism.
And so we wanna make sure we have practices in place
to avoid that.
There's just a nice cartoon that shows kind of that barrier
(laughs) that can be set up when there is a para
assigned to a student.
Another great one.
One note about this is that often we have kids
who do become very adult-dependent and prompt-dependent.
So we really wanna be talking to our paras about making sure
students are doing things independently
and that they're moving in, I like to call it a dance,
they're moving in to provide support when needed
and moving out when they're not needed.
So they're not just stuck to that student like Velcro.
They're not there to be a barrier
between them talking to other students
or talking to other teachers,
but they're gonna move in and provide support when needed
and move out when not,
and really aware of how much support they're providing
to the student and fading that support
so that the student becomes more independent.
So that's super important.
And the last thing I'll say
is that great paraeducators used wisely,
certainly, I echo this sentiment by Giangreco
They are worth their weight in gold,
and we wanna support them by giving them
this important feedback and training
so they can do their very best
when working with students with autism.
Just to wrap up this discussion,
just a little guidance
on the effective use of paraeducators,
bring support staff if you can.
I know staffing is an issue,
but bring 'em to training with the teachers and the team
so they can all hear the same thing
and go back and do the same thing.
Include them in the discussion on IEP goals.
I had a para who was doing absolutely everything
for a student, she would hang up his coat,
she was put his books away,
she would put his stuff in his desk.
And when I asked the teacher if she had told the para
that that's actually on his IEP
to do those things (laughs) independently,
the teacher was like, "No."
I'm like, "Well we need to let her know
that's actually a goal that he's working on.
We need him to do those things independently,"
and the para had no idea about that, right?
So we need to make sure they know why we want them to work
on some of the skills that we want them to work on, okay?
You can really encourage meetings and discussions,
discuss the effects of that close proximity
and how you want them to move in and move out,
and then remind gen ed staff and all your specialist staff
of their important role in the education of all students
and certainly, students with autism.
Okay, question number six.
Hey, Annette, this is Jennifer.
I'm just calling.
We have a student with autism,
and my staff is at a complete loss of what to do.
This kiddo's just running around the classroom all day.
I now have a para that's refusing to work with her,
not to mention we have zero time for training,
which I know you hear a lot,
it's just what everyone's dealing with.
So I guess what I really need to know from you
is that can you send someone by this afternoon
and train my staff and then tell us
exactly what we need to do?
Oh, I love it.
Okay, so we have a stressed-out administrator, right?
She's like, "How do I support these staff?
And can you come by right away?"
Well that's probably not gonna happen,
but, but let's take a look at question number six.
As an administrator,
what is the best way to you support your staff
who are working with students with autism?
So this is a hard one to answer,
but there are actually are some things
that we can suggest
that we've seen really effective administrators do.
And the first one is really making sure
that your staff have time to attend training
as I've talked about,
but also some time to meet and to plan.
Oftentimes we're asking staff to put together
an individualized program for a student with autism,
and they need some time to do that.
And so there's often just time needed for them
to kind of put their materials in place,
to talk to each other,
maybe for the teacher to train the paras
on a certain strategy.
So just really kind of listening to them and supporting them
with that time,
but also just some other things that staff can do
or that administrators can do to support their staff
would be, be visible in the classroom, that is just,
teachers have told us over the years, you know,
"My principal comes in and they talk to my students."
And that is incredibly meaningful.
Staff can feel really supported when you do that.
Also, ask them about their concerns, you know,
sometimes just voicing that it was a hard day
or that things are a little stressful can be helpful, right?
Discuss high-leverage evidence-based practices or, you know,
kind of remind them, are you using those things?
How's that going? Are you collecting data?
You know, be talking to them about some of the things
that we've covered today, and then, you know,
collaborating with them.
When we have had teams attend training
or like our state conference,
and the administrator comes with them,
there's just tremendous value to that,
it just gives teachers a sense of support.
And I will tell you that autism training,
we have heard (laughs) repeatedly over the years,
it's good for all, it's good for all students,
it's actually, we cover a lot of things
that are good for working with adults.
And so we do think it would be beneficial,
and it's one way to help your teams feel really supported.
And then don't hesitate if you need to
to get outside consultation for your staff
if they are countering some things
that they don't know how to effectively deal with,
so that would be just some recommendations we have.
And a final resource that we have for administrators
is something that we developed many years ago
as just a really quick walkthrough form
that administrators could use
to look at quality programming, interactions of staff.
It's also a really good tool that teachers can use
to observe paras and give them feedback
and/or the principal could use to give feedback
to either teacher or para.
And it really just looks at, you know, a couple things,
especially if you have a lot of adults in an environment,
we wanna make sure that they're kind of entering quietly
and implementing the plan for student, collecting the data.
This provides supports to student section
is really specifically developed around those problems
that we saw in the para proximity report,
and so this would be a way to have a conversation
with people about it, are they sitting behind the student?
Are they moving in and out as needed and not just, you know,
Velcroed to a student?
Are they helping other students, you know,
with and without IEPs and such?
It goes on a little bit about facilitating interactions
for the student with other peers and adults
and then also looks at communication of the adult
around the student.
So it can be a really nice easy to complete form
that would help you dialogue with your support staff
as well as your certified staff.
Okay, moving on to the question
everybody wants to talk about,
how do we deal with problem behaviors?
Hey, I'm Ashley.
So we have this student with autism,
and she's injuring staff members,
I mean it's kind of concerning.
I think the teacher is even wearing protective gloves,
and we really just don't know what to do.
I mean she knows what she's doing is wrong,
and she continues to do it.
We have a classroom of other students to attend to,
we don't know what else to do.
We've shortened her day, she's still having outbursts.
We sent her home again today,
and my staff are really over it.
Can we talk about options? Thanks.
Okay, so a couple of things in that call.
I do wanna talk about shortened day schedules,
but I also just wanna talk about how do we support students
who are engaging in problem behavior?
And so I've talked a lot about training,
that's kind of your number-one resource,
but let's talk a little bit about shortened day
and the appropriate uses of a shortened day schedule.
This is actually something that comes up quite often,
and I really wanna give you guys good guidance on this.
So just note that the only time it's appropriate
to shorten the school day for a student with a disability,
a student with the IEP
is when the IEP team determines that it's,
the shortened is required to address
the student's unique disability-related needs.
So some good examples are if the student's medical needs
Let's say the student is physically unable to tolerate
a full school day, you know,
maybe they've had an illness or a sickness
or something like that,
then a shortened day may be appropriate.
But couple of caveats,
before deciding to shorten the school day,
the IEP team must consider if there's any other way
to meet the student's needs.
Additionally, when a student's school day is shortened,
the IEP team must include, one, why they needed it, right?
Why because of their disability-related needs,
they needed that shortened day?
And two, a plan for the students return to full-day school.
That's super important.
And oftentimes we're not seeing those,
that documentation hasn't been done.
And then three,
the student should return to a full school day
as soon as he or she is able.
And in most circumstances, shortened day should only be used
for a very limited amount of time.
So just remember those things.
And also important to note that managing student behavior
as a means of discipline is an inappropriate use
of a shortened school day.
So using that shortened day
'cause we're having discipline problems,
kids engaging in problem behavior
is an inappropriate use of a shortened school day.
So I just wanna really reiterate that.
Ultimately, if a student is engaging in problem behavior,
injuring staff, maybe injuring self, or injuring others,
the IEP team has to put in place a plan
to support that student
with positive behavior interventions.
And most likely,
a functional behavior assessment needs to be done
And the development of an effective
behavior intervention plan needs to be done
that would ultimately enable the student
to participate in the full school day.
we have to remember are not positive behavior supports,
that cannot be part of a behavior intervention plan,
That's not our long-term plan.
Also just included for you,
additionally from our guidance federally on shortened days,
inappropriate uses of shortened days
also include the following.
So I'll just let you guys kinda look through those
'cause occasionally we do, (laughs) we do hear that,
"Well, we just don't have transportation later in the day,
so we're sending the student home."
And so you definitely wanna check this list
'cause a lot of those things are considered
inappropriate uses of shortened day schedules.
But ultimately, back to this question
of a student is engaging in problem behavior, what do we do?
And basically what the Office of Special Education tells us
is that the IEP team is responsible
for putting a program in place to support a student.
So the bottom line is we need to address problem behaviors
we need to do FBAs and BIPs when they're necessary,
and help students be successful and increase, you know,
pro school behaviors and decrease problem behaviors
in schools and behaviors in other settings
so that they can have access to gen ed settings,
all the things in the school that might be available
to them if they didn't have those problem behaviors
so that we can also make sure
they have educational opportunities
in the least restrictive environments.
So no easy answers there, but ultimately,
problem behaviors for students don't mean they leave school
or is that student's problem, it means as schools,
we come up with ways to address and teach
alternative behaviors and deal with problem behaviors.
And one resource that we have,
a new resource from the Office of Special Education
is this Positive, Proactive Approaches
to Supporting Children with Disabilities:
A Guide for Stakeholders.
This actually came out in July 2022.
It's linked in the PowerPoint,
and it's also listed in our resources.
There's some really good information in here for schools
on supporting students with challenging behaviors
who are on IEPs.
And also an additional document that came out this summer,
a Q&A document on addressing the needs of children
with disabilities under IDEA's discipline provisions.
So definitely check those out
so you're kind of up to date on current recommendations
from the Office of Special Education
on discipline issues for students with autism.
Hey, Ashley, it's Principal Patty.
Oh, I so wish you would've answered.
It has been a horrible day and our sped teacher
has tried everything your team recommended this morning,
I mean, we tried the visual schedule, didn't work.
Tried the sensory room, didn't work.
I don't know what else to do.
Frankly, I just think this kid knows
exactly what he is doing and is just being naughty.
Can you please call? I need to chat.
I love the honesty from that frustrated administrator.
And we actually have a really nice document.
I wanna give credit to our colleagues from TASN from Kansas
'cause they started this fabulous resource
called Things to Consider When It Just Isn't Going Right.
And we've tweaked it and modified it a little bit,
but definitely kudos to them for developing it.
But sometimes, right, things aren't going well,
team is frustrated, student is having, you know,
maybe rough day after rough day,
and maybe the school's even reached out
for some consultation support, and, you know,
they've been told, "We will be there in a month,"
or something like that.
So what do you guys do in those situations?
Well, we came up with this form, again,
with our help from our colleagues.
And it's just something for I would convene an IEP meeting
and just start going through these things,
and it really might generate some ideas
of either supports you can put back in place
or things that might be missing
that could really change the direction
of how things are going.
So it's, you know, let's just look at a couple of these.
One, that communication system that I talked about earlier,
does the student have a way to communicate
wants and needs in all environments?
And if they don't,
they might be engaging in problem (laughs) behavior
as a form of communication, right?
Another one that jumps out at me
are preferred activities and breaks built into the schedule.
I love to put those things in the schedule,
so I am delivering good things, right?
Oh, you get to have this,
your preferred interest or your break.
And I, and when we set that into the schedule
and make sure there's access to those preferred things,
we're doing a couple of things,
we're pairing ourself with reinforcement,
but we are also helping maintain instructional control,
So sometimes we're like,
"Oh, they're not getting that thing that they really like
'cause they haven't done their work,"
but if they're gonna throw a tantrum and get out of work,
we don't maintain instructional control
in that scenario either.
So if we can say, "Hey, you know what?
You've been working hard, go ahead and take a break
and go over to your preferred item for a little bit,
or, you know, go read about dinosaurs for a few minutes
and then bring 'em back to do a little more work,"
that can be a really effective way to avoid a tantrum,
but also maintain instructional control.
We're telling you when you get to access
your preferred thing.
But, you know, just looking through this list
can really give the IEP team some ideas to think
about what supports do we have in place,
and is there something missing that might be contributing
to the student having a difficult time?
So here's just some additional things.
One that I wanna note especially is the last one.
Are we consistently providing supports
that we know will help this student?
There are things like visual schedules that sometimes will,
team will use very consistently with a student,
and then they'll kind of determine
maybe the student isn't looking at it very often or isn't,
doesn't seem to be needing it anymore,
and so they'll pull that support away,
and then student starts having some tough days.
Support's like a visual schedule
of exactly what's gonna happen each day,
those should be in place all the time no matter what.
We want 'em to be appropriate for the student.
So we don't want big pictures for a high school student
that can read or anything like that,
it should be student appropriate,
but we would wanna keep those supports in place.
I use my calendar every day to see what I'm doing.
And so that question is always really good to help us think,
did we pull some supports out of the student's, you know,
program because we thought they didn't need 'em anymore?
And are there some of those supports
that we can put back in place
that would actually really help them
and maybe turn things around when things aren't going right?
So it's just a really good list to look through
and talk through with your team
when you're having some tough times.
All right, that was a lot.
Thank you again to all of our call-ins,
our administrator questions, and those who've inspired
some (laughs) of those administrator questions.
And now I just wanna talk briefly about accessing resources.
As I mentioned, this is a tri-state collaborative.
I'm from Nebraska,
and so I'll talk a little bit about Nebraska's resources.
But if you're in Colorado
and you wanna access the Colorado Autism Education Network,
there is a link on this slide that should be hyperlinked
in your handouts.
You can definitely get ahold of the autism team in Colorado
to ask about, you know, more support or specific questions
around some of the content that we've covered today.
The same thing can be done in Kansas.
You can contact the TASN Autism
and Tertiary Behavior Supports project
and ask for additional support.
And then in Nebraska,
you can contact the Nebraska ASD network
If you need additional support
or questions about training and such
that would help your school district
and help you as an administrator support your teams.
Also, we included a lot of the resources
that we covered today, they should be linked in here.
I did include the Nebraska Autism FAQs for administrators.
Just so you know,
Kansas shared a document that they created,
and we utilized a lot of that
in the development of our (laughs) resource.
So hopefully that'll be a good resource for others.
That evidence-based practices and autism,
I referred to that when I talked about training
and said there's 28 evidence-based practices
that have been identified
by the National Professional Development Center
on autism spectrum disorders,
that is this evidence-based practice report.
They're definitely something your teachers
working with students with autism should be familiar with.
And so that might be a really nice thing to print
and share with them.
And then some of the other documents that I just reviewed
in the behavior section, you can access there.
Some references to things we covered.
And just a reminder to join us
for part two of this webinar series,
and that is going to contain interviews
with some school administrators sharing their expertise
on how they're winning at supporting students with autism.
So hopefully, you can join us for part two of this webinar.
And just a reminder that all of our webinars
are recorded and archived, but they're available
on each of our state websites on demand,
and you can see the link here for Colorado, Kansas,
So definitely check out those archived webinars
for additional training.
Thanks for joining us today.
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