Working with Students with Autism in Schools
The Western MA Chapter of MSPA fall conference is focused on addressing the needs of students on the autism spectrum within the school setting. The conference involves two sessions designed to enhance the knowledge of attendees regarding the behaviors exhibited by students with ASD, how to assess those behaviors, and how to design interventions to support students in successfully participating in the school setting.
Session 1: Supporting Students with Autism in General Education
Students with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) present with myriad challenges that can impede their ability to succeed in general education settings. A core deficit of ASD is in the area of social communication and interaction. For example, students with ASD may struggle to get their point across, to engage in on-going reciprocal interaction, to think abstractly, or engage in imaginative thought. Individuals with ASD also exhibit restricted or repetitive patterns of behavior, interest, or activities. Thus, students with ASD may be overly rigid in their thinking or approach to activities, for example struggling to end an activity if it is not “completed” simply because time is up, or move from one activity to the next. Other students may find it difficult to focus on topics that are not relevant to something they are interested in, whilst others may be compelled to engage in odd behaviors, such as rocking or tapping objects. In this session we will describe challenges experienced by students with ASD and will discuss strategies for supporting students with ASD, to enhance their success in the classroom. Attendees will participate in group discussions, roleplays, and skill building activities.
Attendees will be able to:
Sarah A. Weddle, PhD, BCBA: Dr. Weddle began teaching individuals with Autism and related disabilities using principles of applied behavior analysis at Illinois State University in 2007. Sarah received her degree in educational psychology with an emphasis in school psychology from Northern Arizona University in 2015. She is also a Board-Certified Behavior Analyst, and the Director of Outreach and Behavioral Support at the May Institute. In her current position, she collaborates with both school districts and May Institute programs to address the academic and behavioral needs of children and adults with ASD and related disabilities. Dr. Weddle's research has focused on classroom-based functional analysis methodology, and narrative language intervention for culturally and economically diverse children.
Whitney L. Kleinert, PhD, NCSP: Dr. Kleinert is a postdoctoral fellow and behavioral consultant at May Institute. She received her degree from the University of Massachusetts Boston in school psychology and is a Nationally Certified School Psychologist (NCSP). She has worked in alternative school settings across the country in various roles including as a consultant, direct service provider, and school psychologist. She has given research- and practice-oriented presentations both locally and at the national level. In her current position, she provides consultation and direct services to students who have Autism. Dr. Kleinert is also working on research involving the development and implementation of a modular intervention to address the individual needs of students with Autism.
Cynthia M. Anderson, PhD, BCBA-D: Dr. Cynthia Anderson has been working with children with autism and other developmental disabilities for almost 30 years. She began her career at the Kennedy Krieger Institute and Johns Hopkins School of Medicine and went on to earn her Master’s degree and PhD in Clinical Child Psychology from West Virginia University. She was a Professor and Department Head at University of Oregon and served as the Aeschleman Professor of Behavior Analysis at Appalachian State University. Dr Anderson currently is the Senior Vice President of Applied Behavior Analysis and Director of the National Autism Center at May Institute. She has published over 70 peer-reviewed articles, books, chapters, and technical assistance documents in areas such as functional assessment and treatment of challenging behavior, parent training, and school-wide systems change. Dr Anderson is on the editorial board of Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, and is the Applied Representative to the Executive Council of the Association for Behavior Analysis International.
Session 2: Addressing Challenging Behavior Exhibited by Students with Autism
Students with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and other developmental delays may engage in challenging behavior that can interfere with their success at school. Examples of challenging behaviors include tantrums, noncompliance, aggression, self-injury, and destructive behavior. In this session we will explore the reason(s) why problem behavior may occur and delineate different methods of identifying the reason for challenging behavior. Methods of functional behavior assessment (FBA) that are appropriate and feasible for use in schools will be shared. Next, intervention strategies to (a) prevent the likelihood of challenging behavior, (b) increase new skills, and (c) reduce future occurrences of challenging behavior will be discussed. Attendees will have the opportunity to roleplay skills and to brainstorm strategies to support students they work with.
Erica Kearney, MA, BCBA: Ms. Helm holds a bachelor’s degree from Assumption College in psychology and a master’s degree from Westfield State University in applied behavior analysis. She is a board certified behavior analyst and has worked at the May Center for Autism and other Developmental Disabilities since September of 2008. She was nominated by Westfield State faculty and inducted into the honor society of Phi Kappa Phi in 2011 and remains an active member. Ms. Helm is a column writer for the Republican under the May I Ask section and has addressed topics such as augmentative communication and sleep problems. Ms. Helm additionally maintains relationships with surrounding colleges and universities as she supervises professionals working toward becoming board certified behavior analysts.
Sarah Helm, MA, BCBA: Mrs. Kearney holds a Master’s degree in Applied Behavior Analysis and certification as a Board Certified Behavior Analyst. She is also a licensed Behavior Analyst in the state of Massachusetts and is a member of the Association of Behavior Analysis International (ABAI). Mrs. Kearney has worked over thirteen years exclusively in the field of applied behavior analysis for children and adolescents with developmental disabilities. She is the Executive Director at The May Center School for Autism and Developmental Disabilities in West Springfield. Prior to becoming the director, Mrs. Kearney served as the Educational Coordinator, where she was responsible for overseeing of the May Center’s educational programming. Mrs. Kearney serves on the Springfield College Career Center Advisory Board. She writes columns for the Republican newspaper under the May I Ask section.
Accommodations & Other Information
The Red Barn is handicap accessible and arrangements can be made to provide necessary accommodations.
A lunch is served. Please email any needed accommodations or dietary restrictions to email@example.com PRIOR to the workshop.
For those wishing to pay by purchase order, please complete registration, print the invoice, and mail invoice and district purchase order at least one week PRIOR to the conference to:
MSPA-West, P.O. Box 149, Belchertown, MA 01007
AND PO materials can be emailed to Rob Santiago at firstname.lastname@example.org, again at least one week PRIOR to the conference.
For those wishing to pay by check, please complete the registration form, print the invoice, and mail check made out to MSPA at least one week PRIOR to the conference to:
Continuing Education Policy
The Massachusetts School Psychologists Association is approved by the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education to offer contact hours. The DESE requires the completion of a pre-test, which is to be completed prior to the workshop start time. A post-test is also required and will be given at the end of the workshop. Participants must attend the ENTIRE CONFERENCE and satisfy state regulations in order to receive contact hours. Each participant is responsible for knowing and meeting the DESE licensure requirements.
CE HOURS: The Massachusetts School Psychologists Association is approved by the National Association of School Psychologists to sponsor continuing education (CE) for psychologists. In keeping with NASP requirements, these are awarded in contact hours only. CE hours will be awarded at the close of the workshop. MSPA maintains responsibility for this program and its content.