In 2018, in addition to our traditional training, Project ACCESS began an intense professional development program that involves a one-year to two-year commitment from participants. This program, entitled Project ACCESS Autism Team Support (PAATS) for the first year credential and Project ACCESS Autism Credential or (PAAC) for the second year credential, includes instruction in autism evidence-based practices (EBPs), function-based behavior interventions based on sound science, classroom coaching, implementation checklists with fidelity checks, national speakers, opportunities for graduate credit through Missouri State University, and administrator and para support training (optional).

Here are the features of the program:

Year 1

Year 1 includes a summer and two semesters of free, online training. The beginning summer includes online learning regarding basic practices: before we lead you through the deep dive on EBPs and ABA, you will need to meet some basic minimums such as classroom set up and organization, creating visual supports, arranging for reinforce Semester one is now online and will include instruction on 28 evidence-based practices, applied behavior analysis techniques, and best practice in foundational educator skills. Blackboard Learning Management will be used to provide asynchronous (anytime, anywhere-work on your own) lessons, but live Zoom check-ins will also be included, and online networking opportunities will be provided as well. Semester two will involve online training in team-based application of informal (classroom appropriate) functional behavior assessments and behavior modification strategies (these strategies are designed to help solve everyday behavior issues, but are not designed for making eligibility decisions or any other high-stakes decisions that would require consent for testing, notification, distribution of safeguards, etc. ) These are behavior management and instructional strategies that will help students achieve. We will provide mentored sessions occurring via Zoom and Blackboard (and potentially a few in-person sessions if conditions permit during the second semester). In addition, we will bring in national speakers to present some of the content. While we'd love to see people participate in these events in-person, we realize that we may be recording and providing on-demand access from some time to come.

This first year is appropriate for teachers, process coordinators, speech-language pathologists, and others who hold certification or professional credentials (we are working on a companion para-educator credential, but this is not available yet). Access to students with whom participants can work is necessary. Some of the training involves arranging physical environments, so access to a classroom is also necessary, but participants do not have to be classroom teachers. We anticipate offering Zoom office hours and distance e-coaching to select teachers who need additional support. This is perfect for new teachers, experienced teachers that need refreshing, and skilled, experienced teachers who want to learn more about the EBPs and ABA. We are working to individualize the training as much as we can to meet practitioners where they are.

At the end of this first year, Project ACCESS will award a credential to completers: The Project ACCESS Autism Team Support credential. Two semesters of half-price graduate college credit is optionally available to those who want to get graduate credit. The workload for each semester is roughly equivalent to a three-hour graduate level course, so participants should plan appropriately. Please note that a Bachelor's degree is required in order to qualify for graduate credit.

We know that this program is effective because of in-classroom coaching and administrator support. Goal setting and data collection are integral components. Applicants need to have a building principal or other nearby administrator who will be willing to complete a few hours of training over each semester spread out over the 15-week duration of each semester (this will only amount to a few minutes every few weeks of time). Building administrator participation that is supportive and in no way evaluative is a key ingredient to success of the program. The training is provided at no cost, but we will making some inexpensive book/resource recommendations. District directors of special education or another district-wide administrator will be required to provide a letter of support for that district’s teachers.

Year Two

Educators who have a classroom and are responsible for IEPs can proceed to year two. Year two will be OPT-IN at the end of year one. There are some important changes to how year two is structured that are results of changes to year one. First, since year two involves intense classroom coaching, not everyone who participates in year one will be able to be accommodated in year two due to manpower and geography constraints. At this time, Project ACCESS is unable to make guarantees regarding any district’s participation in year two. We plan to include as many educators as possible in the second year of the program. We believe it is very much still worth the time and effort to participate in year one even if year two participation is not available.

School districts will be asked to share the burden of costs for classroom coaching visits which will most likely involve a combination of distance e-coaching and live in-person classroom coaching. We aim to keep the cost low, currently $500 per teacher for the entire year. At some point in the future, one way that Project ACCESS intends to scale the program and keep costs low is to train a local district employee as coach in cases where we are able to approve candidates for this function, and where districts have someone on staff that can fill this role (this could be an added role for an existing employee, not a full-time position). These folks will have had to master the material in year one, and the best way to show this mastery is to actually participate in year one. If your district has such an individual, then year two will be very low to no cost as well.

The goal of year two is to expand teachers’ repertoire of skills related to the use of EBPs/ABA with fidelity. We will help teachers develop multi-component strategies for changing behavior, including diminishing problem behaviors and increasing appropriate behaviors that lead to independence and academic/adaptive skill success. This year involves practice, practice, practice under the collaborative eye of a mentor/coach.

Year two completers will be awarded the Project ACCESS Autism Credential and be listed on DESE’s website as a program completer. In addition, reduced-rate graduate college credit is available through Missouri State University. Up to 12 hours in total for year one and year two is possible, and MSU offers a transcribed Graduate Certificate in Individualized Studies, Focus Area: Research and Applications in Autism for Teachers to those who complete all four semesters. Moreover, nine hours of this can be used as electives for the MSU Master’s Degree in Special Education, Emphasis in Autism. Again, please note that a Bachelor's degree is required in order to qualify for graduate credit.

Application for the PAAC/PAATS program can be found on our main PAAC/PAATS page.