Research News

Grant bolsters VU autism training for Tennessee educators

Kennedy Center exterior
Vanderbilt Kennedy Center (Vanderbilt University)

A grant from the Tennessee Department of Education will allow the Vanderbilt Kennedy Center’s Treatment and Research Institute for Autism Spectrum Disorders (TRIAD) to continue a 13-year partnership to provide autism-specific training opportunities for school personnel throughout the state.

The three-year, $1.5 million grant marks the largest award received since 1999 when TRIAD first partnered with the Tennessee Department of Education to offer training for educators.

This increase in funding correlates with the ever-growing need for autism services, said Zachary Warren, assistant professor of pediatrics and psychiatry and TRIAD director.

“Given that we are now seeing autism in over 1 percent of the population, we must increasingly develop realistic ways for meeting the intensive educational needs of students with autism,” Warren said. “Our partnership with the Tennessee Department of Education provides us the opportunity to translate cutting-edge educational science into sustainable educational practice throughout the state. [rquote]This type of partnership is, in my opinion, critical to improving educational, vocational and social outcomes for individuals with autism.”[/rquote]

The training opportunities are free and include individual and team-based workshops on topics ranging from communication, social skills and behavior. Workshops are designed for specific audiences including teachers, administrators, teaching assistants and parents.

“Everything we present is very current on what we know works for kids with autism, and we break it down in a way participants can easily understand and implement,” said Pablo Juárez, educational consultant with TRIAD. “If the teachers can use what they learn immediately, it benefits the students more quickly, and the teachers will continue using those strategies if they see them working.”

Last school year, TRAID reached 1,400 school personnel in 86 of Tennessee’s 95 counties. The current grant will enable TRIAD to conduct more than 25 workshops each year.

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