VCU partners with Richmond metro schools division’s Region One Autism Education Consortium

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Paul H. Wehman, Ph.D.
Paul H. Wehman, Ph.D.

The Virginia Commonwealth University School of Education is partnering with the state’s Region 1 school divisions to establish the Region 1 Autism Education Consortium.

Approximately 2,200 students who are identified with, or exhibit characteristics of, autism spectrum disorders receive services in Region 1 schools. ASD are a range of developmental disorders characterized by impaired social interactions, problems with verbal and nonverbal communication, and unusual, repetitive or severely limited activities or interests. The consortium, facilitated by the VCU Autism Center for Excellence in the School of Education, will allow participating school divisions to build upon shared resources and expertise among the schools and VCU to respond to the increasing demand for effectively trained educators to serve students with ASD.

“The consortium that will be developed between the superintendent’s Region 1 and the VCU School of Education Autism Center for Excellence will be an outstanding opportunity to help improve the quality of services for students with autism spectrum disorders in Central Virginia,” said Paul Wehman, Ph.D., director of VCU-ACE. “This agreement will expand the opportunity for more technical assistance services to schools in Central Virginia who currently have more than one-third of all students with autism in Virginia, according to the Virginia Department of Education.

“A second major part of this consortium will be to begin the planning for a regional program to enhance the current service delivery model for some students with autism with uniquely challenging needs. Funding for this effort comes from the school divisions and the Virginia Department of Education.”

As a partner in the consortium, the VCU School of Education is following the university’s strategic plan, Quest for Distinction, which embraces the university’s role in creating sustainable university-community partnerships that enhance the educational, economic and cultural vitality of the community. VCU-ACE will provide schools with services such as strategic planning with in-class coaching and monitoring, professional development with follow-up supervision, and classroom-specific technical assistance including consultation and observation.

“We are extremely excited to partner with VCU-ACE on this next phase of our regional autism consortium," said James F. Lane, Ed.D., superintendent of Goochland County Public Schools and chair of the Region 1 Superintendents’ Study Group. “We have worked as a region for many years to foster strong professional development across Region 1, but this new partnership with VCU-ACE will allow us to expand our program and access the best research-based techniques in supporting students with autism.”

VCU-ACE is dedicated to improving services to individuals with autism spectrum disorders and to the implementation of evidence-based practices in schools and the community. VCU-ACE accomplishes this task through a rich array of training, technical assistance, research, collaboration and statewide systems change initiatives.