The Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board awarded more than $305,000 to Sam Houston State University in the form of a grant to launch training workshops for teachers who work with students with autism starting in Spring 2019.
The Low Incidence Disabilities and Autism program, part of the College of Education at SHSU, will now start recruiting 20 educators to take part in the two-day training workshops. Ultimately, the program will expand the improvement and treatment for children of all ages in each school district in Texas. It is anticipated the grant will make it possible to create 20 centers, impact over 820,000 educators and more than 4,200 students with autism over the two years.
“We are very excited to have been awarded this grant from the THECB. The project aims to train teachers in functional behavior assessment and behavior intervention plan procedures, which will benefit teachers, educational service centers, and most importantly, students diagnosed with autism,” said Kristina Vargo, project director and assistant professor in the Low Incidence Disabilities and Autism program.
Those that attend the training workshops will have the opportunity to learn skills related to evidence-based practices, behavioral assessment and function-based intervention strategies for students with autism spectrum disorder.
Vargo, along with Vickie Mitchell, associate professor, and William Calderhead, assistant professor, will provide board certified behavior analyst support to the educators after the training workshops. They will then enlist professionals from educational service centers across the state to continue the trainings with additional teachers.
“We look forward to being part of a project that will positively impact our local community, as well as students with autism across the state of Texas,” Vargo said.
The grant is part of the THECB statewide training model initiative to help students on the autism spectrum overcome the barriers to participate in further education and employment following completion of high school.
According to a recent Texas Education Agency’s academic performance report, students with autism and intellectual disabilities are likely to engage in behaviors that impede learning, limit social relationships, or restrict participation in inclusive environments, and may even include severe problem behaviors, such as aggression and self-injury. Educators need to understand and implement personalized Functional Behavioral Assessment and Behavior Intervention Plans in order to address these behaviors.