Kentucky Autism Training Center Newsletter Articles

2018 Winter/Spring Sensory Friendly Performance Shows in Kentucky

     Sensory-friendly theater performances are designed to create an environment that welcomes the unique needs of individuals with autism and other sensory processing related issues. In this relaxed atmosphere, theater goers are free to move, speak and react to the play. Accommodations for this performance are provided to create this inclusive environment such as: dimmed theater lights, extra space between patrons, and allowing entry and exit from the theater during the performance to name a few.  The following Kentucky theaters are offering sensory friendly performances this winter and spring:



Please visit the websites above or call the theaters directly to learn more about accommodations offered and how to attend the performances. 

Autism Friendly Business Initiative Provides Training for Local Businesses

      The goal of the Autism Friendly Business Initiative (AFBI) is to help Louisville’s efforts to become an autism friendly community through training local businesses about Autism Awareness, Acceptance, and Appreciation where individuals affected by autism can become valued participating members.  A 3-level system developed by a collaboration of parents, professionals and community members will facilitate this process for participating businesses.


AFBI logo

Level 1 -- Awareness

The business has made a commitment to train its management and staff in autism awareness. Employees view a 10-minute video on autism spectrum disorder, answer 3 questions regarding the video showing that they watched it and are aware of recognizing the signs that someone may have autism and how they should respond.

Level 2 -- Modifications

The business has made small modifications/adjustments to better support the autism community.

Level 3 -- Employment

The business has committed to reviewing hiring strategies and promoting a supportive work environment to individuals with ASD.


      Participating businesses will display the AFBI logo.  The AFBI logo communicates that a particular business is a place where individuals with autism will find understanding through education and a ‘judgment free’ zone for them and their families. The symbol will be available in many forms including a window decal placed on the inside of a certified business and digitally for social media and on local community websites.

     If you have a business and would like to join the autism friendly business initiative in Kentuckiana contact Families for Effective Autism Treatment (FEAT) of Louisville and the Autism Friendly Community of Louisville, KY to learn more about this initiative visit www.autismfriendlybusiness.com. AFBI can also be contacted by phone or email: 502-596-1258 or AFBI@featoflouisville.org.

Art Program Engages Students with Autism

By Mike Miller, M.Ed.

The Kentucky Autism Training Center (KATC), University of Louisville Autism Clinic (ULAC), VSA-Kentucky, and Norton Foundation collaborated to provide another art program for students with autism.   Students attending the art program are patients at the University of Louisville Autism Center whose ages range from 4 to 21.   Twelve students attended classes that were held in February at the University of Louisville Autism Center two nights per week for four weeks.

The art project was coordinated by teaching artist Pat Sturzel.  Students in the program completed art projects individually as well as a final group art project.  The quilted wall hanging pictured to the right was the final project for the group of young artists.  The wall hanging will hang in the lobby of the University of Louisville Autism Center lobby.


About Norton Foundation and VSA Kentucky:

The Norton Foundation is a family foundation that supports organizations that foster education, promoting hands-on, active learning.  The mission of the Norton Foundation is to promote the advancement of Waldorf education, and foster hands-on learning experiences and creative community in Louisville, Kentucky.

VSA Kentucky is a nonprofit organization dedicated to providing inclusive arts and education programs for children, youth, and adults with disabilities, in addition to, professional development for artist and teachers in schools and communities statewide.

KATC Model Training Site Project Gearing Up for Next School Year

Laura Ferguson, M.Ed., BCBA


This year we completed our 7th year of the training site project and as we enter our 8th year of the project we are excited that we will again be working in 29 counties throughout the state. The project continues to have a generous number of applicants. Within these schools we have seen a tremendous amount of growth in the knowledge of those evidence-based practices for individuals on the autism spectrum as well as a better understanding of autism. As we completed this year we have heard from teachers, staff, and administrators, about the impact the monthly visits have had on not just the students but also the staff. Myself and the two other school field training coordinators; Michelle Antle and Kim Howard are excited to work with staff throughout the state and to hopefully continue to increase knowledge and understanding of practices that will greatly impact students with autism for years to come.


Below are some comments we have received about the training site process from this past school year:

Timely expertise with insightful feedback and coaching are the most valuable assets for our district and staff in the classroom.”

“They gave numerous suggestions and strategies that I could use in my immediate situation as well as generalize to the future. Very helpful in troubleshooting.”

It is beneficial to have someone else to come on site to give their perspective and suggest ways to improve the student's areas of need.”

“She provided us with plans and modeled how to interact with students. Also, the 1 on 1 meetings with the parents were very beneficial. I also feel that it has improved our parent’s awareness of ways to help the students.”


The model training site project began in Jefferson County Schools in 2009 under the guidance and partnership with the National Professional Development Center on Autism Spectrum.  The following year the KATC began to expand the project into other areas of the state.  Last year the KATC worked in all of the special education cooperatives throughout the state. Our work in the classroom involves monthly visits to support the local educational team in planning, implementing, and evaluating instruction. We work with the school team to select objectives and instructional plans for specified students as well as classrooms. Through the project our goal is to increase the school’s capacity for serving children with autism spectrum disorders by supporting their implementation of research-based strategies.

If you have any questions about the training site initiative feel free to email Laura Ferguson: Laura.Ferguson@louisville.edu

Raising Grandchildren with Autism

By Michelle Antle, Ed.S

According to the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP), “almost 7.8 million children are living in homes wheregrandparents or other relatives are the householders, with more than 5.8 million children living in grandparents' homes."  Many of these grandparents are also raising grandchildren with special needs. These numbers are staggering. AARP states that “these grandparents (and the children they are raising) are often isolated, lack information about the range of support services, resources, programs, benefits, laws and policies that may be available to help them successfully fulfill their care giving role.”

Rhonda Lawrence is one such grandparent.  She is currently raising her nine year-old grandson, Colton. Colton has lived with her most of his life.  In early elementary, Colton was diagnosed with an Autism Spectrum Disorder.  Even though his diagnosis was a lot to swallow, Ms. Lawrence did not hesitate to immediately begin searching for resources to help.  She is a single grandparent and has made many sacrifices in order to ensure Colton has all that he needs. She works long hours and has recently had to switch back to third shift in order to be able to care for Colton during his waking hours.  Colton is a brilliant young man and has progressed greatly thanks to the interventions his grandmother fought so hard for him to have! She is fortunate to have support from other family members that live close, and credits them for Colton’s successes too.  Ms. Lawrence emphasizes the importance of networking with other caregivers and professionals to stay up to date and in close communication with those that can help ensure successful outcomes for kids!

Autism Speaks has created “A Grandparent's Guide to Autism”. This family support tool kit is designed to help guide and encourage grandparents to establish positive and successful relationships with their grandchildren and the rest of their families.

Click here to read Autism Speaks “Grandparent's Guide to Autism.”

Grandparents: The Meaningful Difference in the Lives of Individuals with Autism:

By R. Larry Taylor, KATC Executive Director

Recently, I received an email from Katie Allen regarding the passing of her father, John Krueger (Jack).   She informed me that her son, Jake, an individual with autism, had shared a very special relationship with her father, and to celebrate that relationship, she would be making a gift in her father’s honor to theKentucky Autism Training Center (KATC).  While I was sorry to hear about her loss, I was reminded that frequently grandparents have that special relationship with their grandchild with special needs.

Oftentimes, grandparents find themselves torn, trying to make sure the time and support they give to each of their grandchildren is equal. Jack had four other grandchildren, and while I am sure he loved each and every one of them, he understood that what Jake needed from him was unique, and he provided the right amount of support that Jake needed. The principle that "equal is not always equitable" is particularly applicable in cases of grandchildren with autism, and grandparents seem to intuitively know and practice this principle.

Thank you, Jack Krueger, for the relationship you had with Jake and for helping us understand that, frequently, the support individuals with autism need comes from the natural support that exists within the family. Jake’s grandmother Becky has been equally important in shaping Jake into the fine young man he is becoming and she will continue to show the love and support that makes the positive difference.

This Summer 2016 KATC Newsletter is dedicated to you and the difference your love and support made for Jacob’s life.

Visual Supports for the Home

By Kim Howard, M.Ed.

Summer Break is finally here! Everyone in the family is ready for a pause from school routines and looking forward to funsummer. But for children with autism spectrum disorder shifting gears into summer may be difficult due to the loss of routines that take place during the school year. One way to support children with autism during summer break is build up the use of the evidenced based practice of visual supports into your own home. You might be asking yourself why visual supports?  There are 26 other evidenced based practices to choose from. Children with autism are visual learners. Spoken words disappear but a visual support is available to be looked at as often as needed. Visual supports can reduce anxiety and help children with autism be more independent in their daily lives. If you are thinking to yourself WOW how do I get started? One logical place to start is to partner with is your child’s school!  Find out what visuals supports are already in place in your child’s classroom and look to see where you might be able to use them in your home routines. So now you are asking yourself: Where can I find some free visual supports? Here is an easy answer. My favorite websites for free printable visual supports are: http://www.victoriesnautism.com/ and https://www.iidc.indiana.edu/pages/visualsupports . Both of these websites have a ton of free materials that can be printed out & used at home

Kentucky Office of Autism Signed into Law by Governor Bevin on April 1st

Housed at both the University of Kentucky Human Development Institute and the University of Louisville Autism Center, the Kentucky Office of Autism coordinates statewide efforts to enhance the quality of life and independence to individuals with an Autism Spectrum Disorder and provides support to their families and caregivers. Signed into law by Governor Bevin on April 1, 2016, the Office is the center of a communication network sharing autism-related information among state agencies and provides administrative support to the Advisory Council on Autism Spectrum Disorders to unify and promote initiatives aimed at improving Kentucky’s system of care. In addition, the Office works to increase the capacity of qualified providers of services through training opportunities in evidenced based practices and technical assistance to providers, professionals and employers.

  • Create a centralized location to coordinate statewide and regional efforts to enhance the quality of life and independence to individuals with an autism spectrum disorder and to support their families and caregivers
  • Improve coordination of autism resources within the system of care supporting children and adults with autism and help make those resources available to families and self-advocates
  • Provide administrative support to the Advisory Council on Autism Spectrum Disorders to unify and promote initiatives aimed at improving Kentucky’s system of care.

The meeting for the Kentucky Advisory Council on Autism (KYACA) is open to the public and you are welcome to attend.  The remaining 2016 dates are August 25th and November 10th 1:00-3:00 pm EST.  These meetings will be held at the Cabinet for Health and Family Services (CHFS) Conference Suites B and C - 275 East Main, Frankfort KY.  If you haven’t been to CHFS before, please allow 15-30 minutes to park, sign-in, and find your way to the meeting.

Please enter the building through the doors facing the parking lot, titled “Visitors”. Sign in at the front desk and request written directions to the Advisory Council on Autism meeting in conference suites B & C.

Can’t attend the meeting in Frankfort in person? Video conferencing is available in the following locations to encourage public participation.

To participate in local live video conferencing locations of the KYACA meeting, please contact one of the following Commission for Children with Special Health Care Needs offices:

  • Louisville Sarah New  310 Whittington Parkway Suite 200 Louisville  Phone: 502-429-4430
  • Paducah Debbie Davidson  400 Park Ave Bldg. D Paducah  Phone: 270-443-3651
  • Lexington Judy Blackwell   333 Waller Ave. Lexington   Phone: 859-252-3170
  • Somerset Devenna Bales 401 Bogle Street STE 104 Somerset   Phone: 606-677-4120
  • Owensboro Peggy Tichenor  600 Breckenridge Street Suite 1200 Owensboro  Phone: 270-687-7038
  • Hazard Dinah Sturgill 103 Town & Country Ln Suite M Hazard  Phone: 606-435-6167
  • Bowling Green Janet Harper 2040 Louisville Rd  Phone: 270- 746-7816

KATC Parent Summit Partnership in Hazard and London, KY

By Heidi Cooley-Cook


The Kentucky Autism Training Center partnered with the Kentucky Valley Educational Cooperative, Kentucky Educational Development Corporation, and the Office of Autism to host a 2-day Parent Summit in Hazard April 15 & 16.  Parents, Caregivers, and Professionals came from all over the eastern portion of the Commonwealth to participate in the event – Strategies & Resources for Today, Tomorrow, & Beyond. Participants noted that it was a ‘Great Summit Overall’ and that they loved learning about Supported Employment, Meeting Sensory Needs and Increasing Communication and Appropriate Behaviors in the Home.

Following the success of the event in Hazard, the KATC was asked to assist with the planning and organization of an event in London.  Together the KATC, the Southeast South Central Educational Cooperative, the Office of Autism, Action for Autism, and Kentucky SPIN hosted Partnering for Exceptional Outcomes – 2 half days of trainings/resource gathering.  The dates and times for this event coincided with a local summer camp so that parents and caregivers could attend while their child/children were off having fun!  Again, participants were able to learn from Roundtable Hosts and breakout sessions.  Attendees noted that they loved the networking with other participants and learning from the Roundtable Hosts and the presenters of the breakout sessions.

Did you miss out on these training opportunities?  The Kentucky Autism Training Center is part of the Kentucky Statewide Family Support Coalition – led by The Arc of Kentucky and the Coalition is organizing 5 Regional Resource Fairs.  These will be FREE and offered in Elizabethtown (June 27), Lexington (June 30), Paducah (July 18), Owensboro (July 19), and Grayson/Ashland (July 26).  The format will be very similar to the events the previously mentioned events.  We welcome you to join us for an afternoon of resource gathering, networking, and learning.

12:00 – 1:15 pm          Exhibits & Lunch

1:15 – 2:45 pm            Breakout Sessions

Futures Planning or Behavior in the Home/Community

2:45 – 3:00 pm            Break

3:00 – 4:30 pm            Resource Roundtables

4:30 – 5:00 pm            Networking


Please do not forget to register for the Regional Resource Fair as lunch will be provided.  You may register by calling The Arc of Kentucky 1-800-281-1272 or 502-875-5225

2015-16 KATC Training Site Initiative Update

The KATC Training Site initiative for the 2015-16 school year is up and running in eastern, western and central Kentucky.  The initiative is a collaborative effort with special education cooperatives and the sites are visited by three KATC Field Trainers.

In eastern Kentucky, KATC Field Trainer Kim Howard, is currently working in 6 counties in the KEDC cooperative area with a total of 9 classrooms involved. In the KVEC cooperative area Howard is working with 2 counties, but has a total of 8 classrooms involved this school year. “I am so pleased with the progress that I have already seen in the classrooms we are working with. The teachers involved in the training sites are working hard to implement evidence based practices for their students. Throughout the school year these teachers are using action plans to ensure student success.  I look forward supporting these schools throughout the year and seeing the success of students!” Kim Howard.

In the central part of the state, KATC Field Trainer Laura Ferguson, is working at training sites in Bullitt, Carroll, Owen, Oldham, Henry, Pendleton, Jessamine, Bardstown, Laurel, Casey, Harlan, and Hardin counties and school districts. The Low Incidence consultants involved in this area include Carla Jordan (OVEC), Kim Weber (NKCES), Sally Miracle (CKEC) and Renee Leach (SESC). Along with the cooperatives KATC works in collaboration with several district consultants including Debbie Williams (Bullitt), Denise Emberton (Hardin), Jennifer Bryant (Oldham), and Sarah Whitfield (Jessamine).

“With the start of the school year under our belt our classrooms are focused on creating behavior plans, structured teaching systems, systematic instructional procedures, and classroom setups that work best for individuals on the autism spectrum. Through data from our classroom observation tool our goals and action plans were developed to set up areas to increase or areas of focus for each classroom or individual student. Our goals are that each teacher progresses in their knowledge of the 27 evidence-based practices. I look forward to working with each of these dedicated teachers and staff.” Laura Ferguson.

KATC Field Trainer Michelle Antle is working with schools in the western Kentucky region this school year where there are currently six training sites. Caldwell County Middle School and Central Elementary in Graves County were both selected as first year sites, while Calloway County Middle School, Lone Oak Middle School in McCracken County, and South Christian Elementary and Christian County High Schools continued their work under this initiative.  The GRREC region also has training sites at Stevenson Elementary in Russellville Independent School district, South Hancock and North Hancock Elementary in Hancock County School district.  In addition, Antle and the GRREC consultant are supporting Hardinsburg Elementary in Breckinridge County and Jamestown Elementary in Russell County, both of which are in their second year of implementation as a training site.