The Alaska Center for Autism opened in March 2012 and is a satellite program of The Connecticut Center for Child Development, Inc. It is located in Holy Spirit Episcopal Church in Eagle River, Alaska and serves students from all over the state. It is the first school in Alaska dedicated to serving individuals with Autism using behavior analytic programming.
The Alaska Center for Autism serves students aged between 3 -21 who demonstrate a wide range of academic, social, communication, and daily living skills.
For more information on the areas of instruction, our staffing and other program components, please click on the information below each heading.
Our overall staff to student ratio is better than 1:1.
A high staff to student ratio is necessary to allow for the various rates students acquire new skills. Being able to provide 1:1 instruction allows each student’s programming to move at a pace that is appropriate for that student and enables staff to make modifications to ensure that students are making desired gains. Additionally, a high staff to student ratio allows for increased ability to provide individualized instruction across environments, including, school, home, and in the community.
Board Certified Behavior Analysts (BCBA) work directly with each classroom. They work in conjunction with the Special Education Teacher to develop goals, monitor student progress, create and implement individualized systems of reinforcement, and train instructional assistants.
In addition, we strongly encourage our staff to pursue higher education in Behavior Analysis and seek certification as either BCBAs or BCaBAs. We promote and support these efforts by providing tuition reimbursement and mentorship to employees who pursue this path. This level of commitment enables us to increase the number of certified professionals within ACA and in the community at large, while simultaneously, enabling us to better serve our students via the implementation of quality behavior analytic programming and support on a daily basis.
Each classroom is headed by a Certified Special Education teacher. The teacher works in conjunction with the Behavior Analysts to develop, implement, and monitor student programming and progress. The special education teacher trains and works hand in hand with the instructional assistants in their classroom to provide each student with a highly individualized program of instruction that is tailored to each student’s unique needs.
All of our classroom staff have a Bachelor’s Degree or higher level of education and work under the direction of the special education teacher. They receive on-going training in Autism and Behavior Analysis. They play an integral role in the daily instruction and set up for individual students. They work together with the Behavior Analysts and Special Education teachers, and related services personnel to ensure that each student’s program is implemented effectively.
All staff within each classroom rotate across students. So on any given day, each student will work with several staff members. This helps to ensure generalization of skills and limits the disruption to student’s programming when there are changes in staffing.
Technology is present in all areas of our lives and this is no less true for our students. There are always new developments and programs being developed. While this increase in the availability of technology is exciting and is proving to be beneficial for our students, it can be quite a daunting task to keep track not only what is available but is effective. Our Technology and Media Specialists help to keep us aware of what is available and to weed through the options to find the items and programs that will fit our needs the best. And of course work to keep our hardware working properly.
While we always aim increase appropriate behaviors and prevent unsafe behavior, all of our staff are trained in Physical Management Techniques. These techniques include reading a situation, de-escalation strategies and when necessary physical carries or holds to protect the student and others within the immediate environment. Having PMT specialists on site, helps to ensure that staff remain current on training and provides the opportunity for consultation to specific cases/situations as needed.
In order to maximize the effectiveness of our related services, we employ a consultative model of service provision. Within this model, related service providers collaborate with the educational team in the determination of goals, identification of targets, provision of staff training and translation of targets across activities throughout the school day. The service providers work in conjunction with the Behavior Analysts and Special Education Teachers to design, model, and train classroom staff on the implementation of teaching procedures as well as overseeing the implementation of those techniques as provided by classroom staff. This enables target skills to be imbedded into appropriate tasks across the day as opposed to having those skills only targeted in isolation and for a finite period of time. As a result, learning opportunities are maximized and generalization of skills to the natural environment is promoted. It also allows for the integration of various IEP objectives, for example communication goals can be targeted while simultaneously targeting daily living skills, as opposed to only be targeted during pull out speech sessions.
Speech and Language Pathologists work in a consultative manner with Behavior Analysts, Special Education Teachers and classroom staff to develop goals and monitor student progress. A key element of this approach is the on-going training the SLPs provide to staff so that language and communication goals can be targeted throughout the school day across all areas of instruction. This ensures that students get increased opportunities to practice each skill and ensures that the daily environment can help reinforce utilization of these emerging skills in a natural way that cannot be achieved via pull out sessions.
In order to provide a seamless program, we regularly collaborate with private and/or district provided service providers including, but not limited to, Occupational Therapists, Physical Therapists, Reading Specialists, Augmentative Communication Experts, Psychologists, medical experts, DDS teams.
In accordance with our commitment to ensuring our students live life in a least restrictive environment, we collaborate with community at large. This includes bus drivers, yoga instructors, hair dressers, dentists, emergency responders and the many other people in the community at large who play a role in the lives of our students.
We adhere to the Alaska State Standards within our programming. Those standards allow for each school/district to select their own curriculum materials. Given the wide range of skill sets and deficits our students’ exhibit employ a wide range of curriculum and instructional materials as well as a high percentage of teacher created materials that allow for a highly individualized program of instruction.
The specific instructional strategies and delivery methods of the curriculum materials are tailored to meet each student’s unique needs. Teachers make modifications to insure that the instruction is appropriately matched to student, sufficient practice opportunities are presented, and to increase student engagement via the incorporation of topics of interest to the student. Wherever appropriate and possible, technology is incorporated into programming.
Supported inclusion enables our students to be involved with the general population via participation in school and community events and programs. ACA staff provide individualized support to ensure the experiences are positive and successful for the students.
Staff from ACA who know the student and their programming, accompany the student and offer support, monitor reinforcement systems, provide pre/post-teaching, create necessary material modifications, and collect data to ensure that the inclusion opportunity is meeting the needs of the student.
The number of hours per day, week, month, is flexible and based upon the student’s needs and the schedule of the inclusion location. Generally, the initial time spent in supported inclusion is low and it is gradually and systematically increased in accordance with progress in the location Flexible in how often kids go – increase.
Locations are determined based upon the goals of inclusion and the individual student’s needs. It may take place at a school within the student’s home district, a private school, or in community based programs and activities such as, summer camps and clubs.
In order to achieve our goal of generating socially significant outcomes for our students and their families, it is vital that the family play a role in identifying areas of need. For example a student might experience difficulty going to the grocery store, the movies, restaurants, etc. This may limit the family’s ability to participate in and enjoy those events. It is critical that families help us identify these areas of need so that we can target the necessary skills to participate in these activities.
ACA provides school based, community based and home based parent training sessions that are individualized based on the student and family’s needs. Training consists of ACA staff modeling program implementation, explaining programming and then having the parent or care giver implement the programming with staff support. Depending on the specifics of the program the training may be done in one day or may be done across a series of training sessions.
School Based Training:
A parent or caregiver comes into the school and receives training from ACA staff on implementation of specific programs and/or reinforcement systems.
Community Based Training: ACA staff, a parent /caregiver and the student go into the community location where the targeted skills will be worked on.
Home Based Training: ACA staff go to the student’s home to conduct observations and develop programming or reinforcement systems that are specific to situations that may only be faced in the home environment.
Parents, caregivers and other service providers can schedule times to come into school and observe student programming.
Full program reviews involve meeting with the special education teacher and/or behavior analyst to review student progress on current programs. Program materials and data are reviewed. It is a chance for the team and the family to touch base and have an in depth look at programming.
In order to prepare our students to achieve the greatest level of independence possible, it is important that we develop IEP goals and objectives that not only address academic areas of need, but also address needs that span full gamut of development (e.g., social, daily living, coping skills, etc.). Each students needs are unique and therefore parent involvement in identifying areas of need outside the school is essential in developing appropriate goals and objectives.