Autistic individuals who exhibit challenging behaviors are increasingly likely to hold communication deficits, require supports in daily routines, and are less likely to be placed in inclusive school settings (Lory et al., 2020; Iadarola et al., 2017). As such, challenging behaviors pose a significant impediment on children’s academic progress by decreasing learning opportunities and positive social interactions (Lory et al., 2020). Moreover, educational settings become the primary service provider for Autistic children once children enter elementary school (Brookman-Frazee et al., 2009). As such, it is necessary to train educators and school professionals in evidence-based interventions as an avenue to support Autistic students and imbue increased self-efficacy in school professionals (Corona et al., 2016).
The School Consultation Project (SCP) at the University at Albany Center for Autism and Related Disabilities (CARD) is a grant-funded series of trainings developed by educational consultants, working to provide instruction and resources in evidence-based practices at no cost to educators and school professionals statewide. Utilizing a train-the-trainer model, the goal of the SCP is to help school districts meet the needs and increase their capacity to service Autistic students by assisting school districts in developing their own in-house Autism Resource Team. These core teams emphasize the importance of a collaborative, multidisciplinary approach to support students and are composed of special education teachers, general education teachers, paraprofessionals, speech language pathologists, school psychologists, social workers, as well as school administrators. Our intent is for each Autism Resource Team to be willing to serve as a resource and mentor for their colleagues after the training is over, disseminating and adapting their knowledge to new contexts and future students.
The SCP employs a Prevent-Teach-Reinforce model (PTR; Dunlap et al., 2010) to address challenging behaviors among Autistic students. The PTR model is an evidence-based intervention model that is aligned with Positive Behavior Support (PBS; Carr et al., 2002) and draws upon principles of Functional Behavior Assessment (FBA; Sugai et al., 2000) where challenging behaviors are addressed by understanding the purpose of the behaviors in order to appropriately modify the child’s environment and effectively reinforce desired behaviors (Dunlap et al., 2010). The PTR model has three main components: “Prevent” strategies work to change the environment, events, or interactions that may influence or provoke the challenging behavior; “Teach” strategies focus on teaching students the skills or replacement behaviors that serve in place of their challenging behaviors; “Reinforce” strategies emphasize the importance of consistently reinforcing desired behaviors to increase their frequency (Dunlap et al., 2010). A student-centered, flexible format is used to design meaningful strategies and interventions to build the capacity of the teams that will be supporting all Autistic students with unique challenges in educational settings.
Prior to beginning the program, each Autism Resource Team is asked to provide one to two case examples of Autistic students in their program to focus on throughout the duration of the program. These students can either be a typical example of many students in the program or be a student who presents unique challenges to the staff working with them. The program is conducted over five training sessions spanning a duration of three months, with a total of 25 hours of training. The program utilizes two styles of instruction: didactic presentations and collaborative model application. Didactic presentations focus on topics such as characteristics of ASD, the PTR model, PBS principles, the FBA process, as well as strategies to create a behavior intervention plan. Case examples are utilized during model application for teams to problem solve and practice the skills learned during the didactic presentations, including defining target problem behaviors, collecting data on such behaviors, and implementing intervention plans. These sessions provide school professionals an opportunity to hear perspectives from all members of their team and encourages open, honest discussions about every aspect of servicing Autistic students including personnel issues, leadership issues, policies and protocols, family issues, as well as systemic problems. Program facilitators provide real-time feedback and input to the school teams throughout the duration of the program.
The School Consultation Project at the University at Albany Center for Autism and Related Disabilities, funded by the New York State Education Department, has served 117 schools and approximately 1,170 school professionals in evidence-based interventions within New York State since 2008 and looks forward to doing so for many years to come.
Krista Drapalik, BA, is a Graduate Assistant, Erica Davis, LMSW, is a Training Program Coordinator, Jane Ann Worlock, MS Ed, is a Senior Trainer, and Kristin V. Christodulu, PhD, is Director at the University at Albany Center for Autism and Related Disabilities. For more information about the School Consultation Project, please contact Erica Davis at 518-442-5414 or email@example.com or visit our website.
Brookman-Frazee, L., Baker-Ericzén, M., Stahmer, A., Mandell, D., Haine, R. A., & Hough, R. L. (2009). Involvement of Youths with Autism Spectrum Disorders or Intellectual Disabilities in Multiple Public Service Systems. Journal of mental health research in intellectual disabilities, 2(3), 201-219. https://doi.org/10.1080/19315860902741542
Carr, E. G., Dunlap, G., Horner, R. H., Koegel, R. L., Turnbull, A. P., Sailor, W., Anderson, J. L., Albin, R. W., Koegel, L. K., & Fox, L. (2002). Positive Behavior Support: Evolution of an Applied Science. Journal of Positive Behavior Interventions, 4(1), 4-16. https://doi.org/10.1177/109830070200400102
Corona, L. L., Christodulu, K. V., & Rinaldi, M. L. (2016). Investigation of School Professionals’ Self-Efficacy for Working With Students With ASD: Impact of Prior Experience, Knowledge, and Training. Journal of Positive Behavior Interventions, 19(2), 90-101. https://doi.org/10.1177/1098300716667604
Dunlap, G., Iovannone, R., Kincaid, D., Wilson, K., Christiansen, K., Strain, P., English, C. (2010). Prevent-teach-reinforce: The school-based model of individualized positive behavior support. Baltimore, MD: Brookes Publishing.
Iadarola, S., Shih, W., Dean, M., Blanch, E., Harwood, R., Hetherington, S., Mandell, D., Kasari, C., & Smith, T. (2017). Implementing a Manualized, Classroom Transition Intervention for Students With ASD in Underresourced Schools. Behavior Modification, 42(1), 126-147. https://doi.org/10.1177/0145445517711437
Lory, C., Mason, R. A., Davis, J. L., Wang, D., Kim, S. Y., Gregori, E., & David, M. (2020). A Meta-analysis of Challenging Behavior Interventions for Students with Developmental Disabilities in Inclusive School Settings. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 50(4), 1221-1237. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10803-019-04329-x
Sugai, G., Lewis-Palmer, T., & Hagan-Burke, S. (2000). Overview of the Functional Behavioral Assessment Process. Exceptionality, 8(3), 149-160. https://doi.org/10.1207/S15327035EX0803_2