10/06/2011 | Evelyn Gould, MS
Applied behavior analysis (ABA), the application of scientifically established principles of learning and behavior to increase socially significant behaviors and decrease problematic ones, is considered to be at the forefront of effective therapeutic and educational interventions for children with autism. Schools are beginning to incorporate ABA into their classrooms through the hiring of board certified behavior analysts (BCBAs), yet many schools remain without access to a BCBA and budget constraints severely limit current BCBA’s in their ability to provide the level of individual support teachers and schools need to provide an effective education to every single child with autism.
To help address this need, in April of 2011, the nonprofit organization, Autism Care and Treatment Today! and The Center for Autism and Related Disorders, Inc. (CARD) announced a charitable initiative for schools called Skills 4 America™ to provide educators with the knowledge and tools needed to effectively treat children with autism. The grant provides training in the principles and procedures of ABA via an online training course called CARD eLearning ™ as well as access to an online toolkit called Skills® which provides educators with a comprehensive assessment, curriculum design, and progress tracking system. Both CARD eLearning and Skills were developed by CARD, which has treated thousands of children with autism over the past 20 years.
CARD eLearning is a 40-hour online training course providing foundational knowledge in applied behavior analysis (ABA), autism and research-proven intervention techniques. The training series consists of nine video-based training modules that feature online note taking, quizzes, a final exam and a certificate of course completion. In addition, CARD eLearning serves as a valuable management tool by providing administrators with the means to monitor the performance of teachers taking the course. CARD eLearning trainees are also eligible to receive continuing education units (CEU's) and certification for the training they receive.
While CARD eLearning provides educators with what they need to know regarding how to teach, they are still faced with figuring out what to teach. This is particularly challenging for teachers considering the unique needs of children with autism and related disorders. Skills addresses this part of the process by providing educators with everything they need to effectively design and manage individualized treatment programs for every student.
The first challenge that Skills helps educators address is the identification of each child’s particular educational needs (i.e., what exactly the child already knows and what they need to learn, in order to prioritize educational goals). Typically, carrying out a comprehensive skill assessment is time-consuming and costly for educators. However, with Skills, teachers have access to a comprehensive, age-appropriate assessment that links results directly to curricula covering each of the major developmental areas: language, play, cognition (perspective taking or “Theory of Mind”), executive functions (goal-directed behavior and self-management), motor, social, adaptive and academic skills). Together, the eight curricula offer almost 4000 lesson activities that are directly linked to specific IEP goals and benchmarks. Once educators have chosen the activities to teach, detailed lesson plans provide step-by-step instructions and a wide-range of printable materials, including customizable lesson guides, visual aids, worksheets, data sheets, and tracking forms.
Educators are increasingly being held accountable for demonstrating effectiveness and for making data-driven educational decisions. To address this need, the Skills system includes a variety of charts and graphs that allow educators to track not only each student's skill acquisition but also the impact of various events (challenging behavior, alternative treatments and life events) on student learning. In addition, administrators can view and compare the performance of students assigned to each teacher or contrast teachers' effectiveness in relation to one another with their students.
Educators are faced with great challenges as they attempt to meet the needs of an increasing number of students with autism in their classrooms. The current economic climate means that schools are struggling to access the training and tools they need to provide an effective education to every child. If we are to effectively address this “autism crisis” in our classrooms, innovative solutions are needed. One such solution could be the development of affordable, online training and curriculum design tools, such as CARD eLearning and Skills.
Free access for your school
The Skills 4 America initiative continues to provide free access for schools to Skills and CARD eLearning until the end of 2011. Administrators can apply for the 2011 Skills 4 America grant by registering online at www.skills4america.com.
For more information regarding CARD, you can visit www.centerforautism.com.