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VKC, state team to expand services for children with autism

Jul. 7, 2016, 9:06 AM

The Tennessee Department of Education (TDOE) has awarded three training and technical assistance grants totaling $3.25 million to Vanderbilt Kennedy Center’s Treatment and Research Institute for Autism Spectrum Disorders (TRIAD) to enhance statewide services for children with autism and other intellectual and developmental disabilities from birth to kindergarten.

This new funding allows TRIAD to strengthen its Early Learning Program, which includes diagnostic and early intervention services for children younger than 36 months through the Tennessee Early Intervention System, as well as various professional development opportunities for TDOE preschool educators statewide.

Under two grants — a three-year grant contract focused on extending existing services in Middle Tennessee and a one-year pilot contract focused on developing new services in West Tennessee — TRIAD early intervention programming begins within weeks of an autism evaluation, and ongoing supported mentorship and coaching is available to providers from local Early Intervention Resource Agencies (EIRA) across these regions. TRIAD will expand its deployment of rapid remote diagnostic evaluations, meaning families in rural and low-resource areas will have greater access to these services.

“We aim to provide high-quality, evidence-based services and training for families and professionals in the topics and skills of most need,” said Alacia Stainbrook, Ph.D., who directs these programs at TRIAD. “To accomplish this, we’re working with our partners at the state level to increase access to all that need it. We very much believe that geography shouldn’t limit anyone’s ability to receive good services.”

In addition, a five-year grant continues a long partnership with TDOE to provide professional development and training opportunities for preschool educators across Tennessee, with a large focus on developing model preschool classrooms in various regions of the state. The TRIAD model classrooms serve as regional training sites and best-practice demonstration sites for preschool educators. Current examples of TRIAD model classrooms are in Medina and Cookeville; a model classroom will be developed within Franklin Special School District during the 2016-2017 academic year.

TRIAD received a large five-year grant contract, which began July 1, 2015, to provide professional development services and behavioral support to K-12 educators across Tennessee. TRIAD’s director, Pablo Juárez, M.Ed., BCBA, sees the opportunity to more fully tie these various services together in a way that fosters active family and professional engagement.

“We’re working with our partners at the Tennessee Department of Education to develop supportive systems of care and education that use each pivotal point of service as opportunities to empower families and professionals to access the services they need, when they need them and where they need them,” Juarez said.

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