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Grant significantly expands Vanderbilt’s autism training for Tennessee educators

Jun. 17, 2015, 2:20 PM

The Tennessee Department of Education (TDOE) has awarded a five-year, $10 million training grant to Vanderbilt Kennedy Center’s Treatment and Research Institute for Autism Spectrum Disorders (TRIAD), continuing a 16-year partnership to provide education and training opportunities for school personnel throughout the state.

This ongoing TDOE support allows TRIAD to continue to provide services to educators serving kindergarten through high school at no direct cost to those educators, their schools or school systems. Further, it allows TRIAD to dramatically increase the number of educational opportunities available to educators.

“This award, the largest in this unique partnership, quadruples the budget of our professional development, education and behavior analysis team,” said Pablo Juárez, associate director of TRIAD and principal investigator of this grant contract. “It allows us to continue to create innovative programming to support educators across Tennessee as they serve students of varying needs, including those with autism.”

Through this grant, TRIAD anticipates being able to deliver approximately 100 professional development and training opportunities annually to educators through statewide workshops, trainings and partnerships as well as online education.

“Together with the Tennessee Department of Education, we are able to lead the nation in statewide initiatives aimed directly at understanding what ASD means within our own borders, how that compares nationally and how to best approach early intervention and school-based educational and behavioral support for students from Memphis to Mountain City,” said Zachary Warren, Ph.D., associate professor of Pediatrics, Psychiatry and Special Education and TRIAD director. “We’re very proud to be playing this role within Tennessee.”

This new training grant will support TRIAD’s school age services from July 2015 through June 2020.

“Evidence-based practices for teaching students with autism are fundamental to TRIAD’s professional development and training approaches,” said Sarah Blumberg, Ed.D., TRIAD’s school-age program coordinator. “The wonderful thing about the evidence-based practices we teach and model is that they work really well for all students regardless of diagnostic status. In fact, they also work really well when applied to adult educators, which is why these same evidence-based practices provide the structure for all of the opportunities presented by TRIAD.”

Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a neurodevelopmental disorder, which according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) impacts 1 in 68 children. TRIAD became a member of the CDC’s Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring (ADDM) Network in January 2015, which is the national network of sites collectively responsible for the CDC’s prevalence data on ASD.

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