PACES - Pilgrim Area Collaborative Extended Services
Autism spectrum disorders (ASD) impact three essential human behaviors: the ability to learn, the ability to communicate and the ability to relate to others. These disorders often have a lifelong impact on a child’s ability to develop meaningful relationships, to learn to care for themselves independently and to be participating and productive members of their community. Often the autism spectrum is accompanied by other developmental delays such as mental retardation and language delay. Currently the most effective form of treatment of autism spectrum disorders is education of the child, the parents and of educators. (Educating Children with Autism, National Research Council, April 2002)
The Pilgrim Area Collaborative (PAC) has been providing educational services to children with autism spectrum disorders for over twenty five years. Since the manifestations of autism spectrum disorders vary greatly in severity of symptoms and the presence of additional disabilities, the PAC has chosen an eclectic model of service delivery that includes a variety of teaching approaches which the latest research and literature support. This eclectic model allows for individualization of services that meet the unique needs of each child and fit the context of the child’s family situation. In an effort to achieve our mission of servicing students in the least restrictive environment, the PAC has also collaborated with and consulted to member district staff who teach children with ASD in general education classrooms or in district programs.
While there is a great deal of controversy about which teaching approach or program model is most effective with students with ASD, at this time the research does not provide a clear and direct relationship between specific intervention techniques and children’s progress. There is general agreement however about some important features of effective programs. These include: early intervention, at least 25 hours per week of intensive instruction (which may take place in different locations), year round structured programming, and systematically planned and developmentally appropriate educational activities which focus on identified goals and objectives. Appropriate long-range goals for children with autism spectrum disorders should include helping children to reach their potential in personal independence and social responsibility. Thus educational programming needs to focus on teaching children social and cognitive skills, verbal and non-verbal communication, adaptive skills, socially appropriate behavior and helping them to generalize their skills across many environments. (Educating Children with Autism, National Research Council, April 2002)
The philosophy of the PACES program derives from a combination of developmental and behavioral orientations. The PACES program is designed to maximize children’s learning by developing strong parent-professional partnerships. Together families and educators develop specialized knowledge and skills about autism and its treatment. The PACES program helps parents, teachers and support personnel to master specific strategies, which enables them to teach children new skills and manage challenging behaviors.
The extended services provided by PACES staff are designed to supplement the child’s school program and facilitate the learning process across environments. Services provided by PACES are included on the student’s individual education plan (IEP) and review meetings are held periodically to evaluate progress, adjust goals and reassess needs and priorities. These services may be provided to students in the form of direct instruction and/or behavioral intervention. Services provided to parents and caregivers are typically in the form of specific training and consultation so they may be active participants in their children’s educational program. Training and consultation to school personnel is also provided to ensure consistency and carryover.
PACES PROGRAM STAFF
Our PACES home and school based programs are coordinated by Masters Level and certified staff (DESE and/or BCBA) with extensive training and expertise in the area of Autism Spectrum Disorders, Applied Behavior Analysis and effective treatment and intervention approaches. All PACES staff members have extensive experience and receive ongoing training in current best practices for children on the Autism Spectrum.
PACES EXTENDED SERVICES
SCHOOL BASED SERVICES
A PACES school based program is appropriate for those students who require the continued structure that is inherent within a classroom setting and who also require additional instructional time based on their profile of learning challenges.
This program is specifically designed for those students who cannot access or benefit from more traditional after school or extended day programming. Typically these are students who need constant adult supervision, have limited independent skills and may even engage in unsafe behaviors within the home.
This program may be appropriate for those students and families who have had traditional home based and parent training services in the past however, based on the intensity of their needs, continue to require additional structured programming beyond the school day. Within our PACES school based program we provide additional instructional opportunities based upon current IEP goals and objectives as well as structured social skill instruction and opportunities as well.
PACES school based programs are staffed with a certified teacher, licensed medical personnel (LPN, RN) and highly qualified paraprofessionals who all have experience in working with students on the Autism Spectrum. Transportation is provided by 7-D licensed PACES drivers from the student’s school program to the extended day program location.
AFTER SCHOOL PROGRAMS
The Pilgrim Area Collaborative, in collaboration with member towns, is pleased to offer Kids Konnections and Teach Social! PAC (Social Thinking Groups). These unique after-school programs, designed specifically for students with special needs, serve all ages from elementary through high school.
Kids Konnections provides children with a structured after-school program in fun-themed groups which foster self-esteem and independence while building peer relationships and social skills. Children are grouped according to age, ability and interest. All programs are instructed by highly trained and experienced staff. A high staff to student ratio ensures that students are provided the support necessary to fully participate. The focus of Kids Konnection is on building peer relationships in a fun and motivating environment. The goal is to develop the strengths of each student and encourage the development of lasting peer relationships.
Social Thinking Groups - Teach SOCIAL! PAC
Teach SOCIAL! PAC serves students with social cognitive deficits in age-approariate after school groups. These programs are directly based on the conceptual model and practices of social thinking developed by Michelle Garcia Winner. Social thinking is designed for individuals with near-average to above-average cognition who struggle with understanding and processing the social world. Our highly trained staff expand upon Michelle’s concepts each week in a small-group therapeutic setting. Students will be grouped (no more than 6 per group) by age with peers who have similar cognitive, social, language and auditory processing abilities. For more information on the SOCIAL THINKING approach and to read about Michelle’s philosophy, please visit online: www.socialthinking.com
HOME BASED PROGRAMS: Direct Instruction / Parent Training
“Families represent the most powerful and pervasive influence that a child will ever experience.” (Journal of Early Intervention, 21(1) 1997, Providing individual supports to young children with autism and their families)
It is important therefore that parents become actively involved in educating their children and become empowered to both teach their children new skills at home and to learn to respond to behavioral challenges that may arise.
Initially, a ‘needs assessment’ is completed with the family. This may include formal and informal assessment tools such as: a developmental checklist; ABLLS; interviews with parents and school staff; functional behavior assessment; home and school observations. The goal of the needs assessment is to identify specific areas of need and develop priority goals and objectives for both the student and the family.
An array of support services are available to families through the PACES program which are designed to equip parents with the skills needed to effectively support their children in the home and community setting. These may include a home instruction program for students and/or training and consultation to parents in the areas of functional communication skills, play skills, personal care skills, behavior regulation and community skills. A treatment plan is developed for each student and family that includes recommended goals and objectives, a timeline for the training and support and desired outcomes for the child and the family. The ultimate goal of the home program of direct instruction and/or parent training is to give students the skills to learn in the home and community setting and to give parents/caregivers the skills to facilitate this learning.
In order to serve as many students as possible in the least restrictive settings, the PACES program provides educational consultation to district staff members who are teaching children with ASD in general education classrooms and district programs.
The PACES program may provide support to district staff in a variety of ways depending on the need. This support includes direct observation, consultation and written recommendations in the following areas: inclusion, social skills instruction, behavior management, curriculum modification, program design and assistive technology.
The PACES staff also offers comprehensive evaluations/assessments in the following areas: Psychological, Speech/Language, Occupational Therapy, Physical Therapy, Educational, Social/Cognitive and Functional Behavior Assessments.
It is important that both general education and special education professionals and paraprofessionals have opportunities to learn about new practices in the field of Autism and Special Education and to be able to share ideas and experiences.
Professional development activities serve to broaden and deepen the knowledge base of those personnel who work with students with autism spectrum disorders and related disabilities. The bigger the staff member’s teaching “toolbox,” the more effective he/she will be as an educator.
The PACES program offers to district and Collaborative staff a variety of interactive workshops in the following areas:
• Overview of Autism Spectrum Disorders
• Behavior Regulation & Positive Behavior Support
• Curriculum Modification
• Social Skills Training
• Social Thinking Curriculum and implementation
• Integrating/Including Students with Autism Spectrum Disorder
• Total Communication
• Data Collection and Analysis
• Writing Measurable IEP Goals
• Sensory Integration
• Assistive Technology
• Crisis Prevention Intervention
• Physical and Psychological Management Training (PMT)
• Effective Teaching Strategies (discrete trial, incidental & structured teaching, reinforcement)
For a printable brochure of the PACES Program, click here