Kentucky Autism Training Center Newsletter Articles

DSM-V and Changes to the Autism Diagnosis

By W. David Lohr, MD


Many people have questions and concerns how the new DSM-5 diagnostic criteria will effect individuals with autism. To help families understand the changes here are some important points to remember:


  1. The prevalence of autism has increased dramatically in the last 10 years in part due to increased awareness but also related to diagnostic practices.
  2. DSM-5 was developed with the goal of a clearer, simpler, more reliable diagnosis which recognized the “essential shared feature of the autism spectrum”
  3. The diagnoses of autism, Asperger’s Disorder, and Pervasive Developmental Disorder have been replaced by one diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder
    1. Experts don’t agree on which patients would be diagnosed with Asperger’s disorder and which patients would be diagnosed with autism using DSM-IV.
    2. Research has not shown that the outcome for Asperger’s Disorder is different from high functioning autism.
    3. DSM-5 combines criteria for social and language symptoms into one domain of social communicative and interactive problems and now all three criteria must be met.
    4. DSM-5 continues with the same set of criteria for repetitive, restricted behaviors but also includes symptoms for sensory problems.
    5. Studies which compare DSM-IV and DSM-5 criteria for autism show that DSM-5 will diagnose Autism Spectrum Disorder less often.
      1. A well-publicized study by McPartland showed that 61% of cases with autism disorders would not meet DSM-5 diagnoses
      2. A more recent study with a larger patient group showed that DSM-5 would diagnose 91% of those children with a DSM-IV diagnosis of an autism disorder.
      3. DSM-5 is more specific than DSM-IV; that means that if a clinician using DSM-5 diagnoses a person with autism, it is more likely the person actually has the disorder.
      4. Various studies encouraged modifications to DSM-5 to require fewer symptoms to be present to meet the diagnosis. However, the committee which created the new criteria did not accept these suggestions. Instead DSM-5 allows symptoms to be present either by history or currently and features more descriptions examples to meet the diagnosis.
      5. DSM-5 is an evolutionary step for the diagnosis of autism based on consensus opinion of leading experts in the field.


For more information visit the KY Autism Training Center website or YouTube channel to view Dr. Lohr’s archived presentation about the DSM-IV and Changes to the Autism Diagnosis. More information is also available on the following article PDF | TXT and e-newsletter.


W. David Lohr, M.D. is an Assistant Professor of Child Psychiatry, Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, University of Louisville School of Medicine, Louisville, KY


KY Autism Training Center Summer 2013 Newsletter August 2013

Our Work in Schools

By Laura Ferguson, MEd., BCBA, LBA


During the 2008-2009 school year, the training site project began in Jefferson County Schools 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. This year the KATC will be working 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.


North Middle School

North Middle SchoolThis year I have had the privilege of working in North Middle School in Hardin County. Our training site involves working with several individuals on the autism spectrum. We work in several different classroom settings. The staff involved in the training site initiative were already displaying the use of evidence- based practices, but were very willing to learn about new and emerging practices in the field. The school had a strong display of visual supports, behavior plans, reinforcement systems, and communication instruction. Throughout this year the staff has demonstrated the ability to adapt to behavior changes directed by the district consultant and KATC staff. The staff has been excited to work with the project and to learn new practices for students on the autism spectrum.



Pride Elementary School

Pride ElementaryIt has been a pleasure to work in Ms. Deidra Hightower’s classroom at Pride ElementarySchool in Hopkins County. The classroom is a self- contained unit that has individuals with a range of developmental disabilities. The environment and setup of the classroom is warm and encouraging. Entering the classroom within the first month of school beginning; the students and staff knew the routine and expectations. The staff involved in the training site initiative were already displaying the use of evidence- based practices, but were very willing to learn about new and emerging practices in the field. The school had a strong display of visual supports, and reinforcement systems. Students did not need verbal prompts to understand what was expected of them. The use of adapted materials made instruction obtainable for all students to master. Throughout this year the staff has demonstrated the ability to adapt to behavior changes directed by the district consultant and KATC staff. The staff has been excited to work with the project and to learn new practices for students on the autism spectrum.



Rockfield Elementary School

Rockfield ElementaryLast but not least, I have had the opportunity of working with a great team of teachers at Rockfield Elementary in Warren County. The school allowed us the opportunity to work in several classrooms throughout the building. From the beginning of the training site process, the staff was willing to work as a strong team to focus on evidence based practices for all students on the autism spectrum. Throughout the year each teacher has embraced suggestions and modeled new practices to fidelity. The students at Rockfield have made tremendous progress, because of their commitment to implementing new procedures.

I look forward to continuing to work with the staff and students at Rockfield Elementary, Pride Elementary and North Middle for the rest of the school year.



Laura Ferguson is a certified behavior analyst and a Field Training Coordinator for the KY Autism Training Center. She provides direct training and technical assistance to education staff, social and community personnel, counselors, job coaches and families.


KY Autism Training Center Spring 2014 Newsletter April 2014

Choosing a Behavior Analyst: Not All Clinicians are Created Equal

Christopher D. George, M.Ed., BCBA, LBA


The diagnosis of a child with autism is a life-changing event. In addition to dealing with the emotions of the diagnosis, your family needs to seek quick answers to questions and determine the most effective treatment for your child. With 1 in 88 children currently being diagnosed with autism (CDC statistics) and there being no known cause, you have a plethora of possible treatments or combinations of treatments to research and decide what you think will work best for your child. Within the field of applied behavior analysis, there are different procedures, techniques, and styles instead of a ‘one size fits all’ treatment package. I wish that I could give you a matrix that would easily match you up to the best BCBA for your family, but unfortunately this is a decision making process. Hopefully the points below will help to focus your thoughts and streamline the process.


1) Know your family. Every family has their own lifestyle and this will impact the type of ABA service delivery and BCBA that you choose. Many families see the success of a 40 hour a week ABA therapy treatment plan and want that for their child, but in reality, their priorities and the demands on their time do not make this a viable option. It is very important to know how your family functions best and be able to clearly explain this to potential clinicians. Just because your work schedule only allows you a few hours a night two days a week to work 1:1 with your child and the BCBA is not something to be ashamed of. Do not try to rate yourself against the other families in your support group, and make statements about what you can or are willing to do that just sound good. Be honest and know that as BCBAs we will not judge you, but we need that information to know if our style will be a good fit for you or if we need to shape our strategies and techniques to provide you with the best possible service. Failure to address these characteristics up front can lead to frustration, disappointment, and lost treatment time. Some questions to answer about yourself and to share with potential clinicians,

  • What does your schedule and/or your spouse’s schedule look like?
  • When can you schedule time to meet with the BCBA and to work with your child? How many days a week for what length of time?
  • Would you prefer to work in your home or to work in a ‘clinic’ location?
  • Would you like a BCBA who provides direct matter of fact instructions (i.e. ‘Just tell me what to do and I’ll do it’) or would you prefer someone to take more time explaining why they want you to do something (i.e. ‘I need to understand it before I will do what you are asking me to do.’)?
  • What is your current discipline style? Are you a permissive parent that takes the path of least resistance or are you an authoritative parent who expects your children will do what you say when you say it?
  • How often are you willing/able to collect data of target behaviors and skill building strategies?
  • Other critical family dynamics that the BCBA should be aware of? (i.e. blended family, joint custody, involvement of grandparents, siblings with or without diagnosed disabilities, strong support network or no support network, limited financial resources, etc).


2) Know your child. While 1 in 88 children are currently being diagnosed with autism, my experience has taught me that everyone is unique. The combination of their strengths, weakness, challenging behaviors, and health issue will impact the type of treatment necessary and the necessary skills/experience of the BCBA. Knowing these factors and attempting to match them with the BCBAs skills/experience will be important. It is equally important to have a basic understanding of goals and outcomes that you have for your child, and what you want the BCBA to focus and work on. When searching for a BCBA to work with your child, you will need to quickly give a brief overview of who your child is, what skills they currently have, what you are concerned about, and what you hope to achieve. This will allow the BCBA to talk about their experience with the challenges you have listed as well as briefly explain how they hope to help you accomplish your goals. This dialogue should help you to know if the clinician will be a good fit for your child.

  • What are your child’s diagnoses?
  • What are some things that your child does well? Favorite activities?
  • What missing skills are you concerned about?
  • Does your child engage in challenging behaviors? What are they?
  • What do you hope your child learns in the next 6 months? A year? 5 years?
  • If you could name just one thing that is most important for you to see your child accomplish, what is it?


3) Know your funding source. There are many different funding streams that can help to pay for behavior analytic services including: private insurance, Medicaid waiver, private pay, etc. Each of these different funding streams has different regulations/requirements, limits on units of service, and qualifications to provide the service. It will be necessary for you to know exactly what these are so that you understand the limitations of how the BCBA will realistically be able to provide the service. (i.e. if you want a BCBA to work with your child 20 hours a week but your funding source will only pay 3 hours of service, you need to talk to the clinician about what they can do with the 3 hours a week and not why they won’t provide 20 hours a week of service). Collect the following information about your funding source:

  • What are the minimum qualifications for the clinicians to provide behavioral services within this funding stream? (In KY, private insurance companies must use a Licensed Behavior Analyst, however Medicaid waivers allow other disciplines to also provide behavior support.)
  • How many hours a week will your funding source pay for?
  • What does the funding source require for documentation?
  • What type of service delivery model will the funding stream pay for? Will they allow direct 1:1 work with your child or only consultation?
  • Are there any limitations on where the funding stream will pay for the service? At home? in school? In a clinic?
  • Are there annual caps on how many hours of service or total dollar amount of service your funding stream will pay for?
  • Are you able to use more than one funding stream to pay for similar services?


4) Research potential agencies/BCBAs. Once you have determined how your family operates, what your child needs, and what your funding source will provide, it is time to start looking at specific agencies and clinicians. While much of this article has discussed getting matched up with a specific BCBA for your skill strength, many agencies have the ability to offer several choices of clinician and will work with you to find the best match within their agency for your family. Sometimes, the additional supports provided by the agency administration can be an added benefit for your child and family. This section will include a combination of questions both for agencies and clinicians

  • Ask around. Often word of mouth reputation is the best indicator of good quality services. Talk to your case manager, support group, etc about who provides good quality services. But know that this is just someone’s opinion and not always factual. When asking others about agencies and clinicians be specific:
    • What exactly did you like about their services?
    • What exactly did you not like about their services?
    • What type of success did your child have when working with them?
  • Research online. Many agencies and clinicians have a webpage that talks about their mission, values, services, etc. Get online and see what they say about themselves and see if this sounds like a good fit for your child and family.
  • Call the agency. Once you have narrowed down your search, call and talk to them about the services they provide.
    • How many years have they been in business?
    • How many clinicians currently work for the agency?
    • How does the agency match up clients and clinicians?
    • Can the agency provide them with families they are currently serving that they can talk to about the services they have received? Do they have documented testimonials or satisfaction data on the services they provide?
    • How does the agency work with the family if the clinician is not a good fit for their family?
    • What types of supervision and supports are provided by the family to the clinician?
    • Ask to speak to potential clinicians within the agency as necessary.
  • Talk to the clinician(s). These questions could be asked of a clinician prior to selecting them and/or during the first visit if you have chosen a particular agency to get services through.
    • What is their educational background? Are they Board Certified? Are they Licensed? Are they working on certification or licensure?
    • How many years have they been providing behavior analytic services?
    • What types of clients have they worked with in the past?
    • How many total clients are they currently serving?
    • How much time will they be able to work with your child each week?
    • Do they still have a supervisor or mentor that they can go to with clinical questions, etc? If so, how often to they seek their input? (note: I feel it is very important for clinicians to constantly be seeking supervision, regardless of how long they have been a BCBA).
    • What special skills or focus do they have in their clinical practice?
    • Ask about their style, approach, and what you as a parent can expect from them in teaching you to follow the recommended strategies.
    • What can you expect from them in regard to data collection, written strategies, other documentation.


5) Know you are the consumer. Just because you have chosen an agency and clinician, know that you continue to have rights to know about your child’s treatment, question strategies or services, and choose another provider as necessary. Ultimately you are responsible for decisions and permission regarding your child’s treatment, so be a strong (but fair) advocate!

  • Always ask why a certain strategy should be implemented? Keep asking questions and for explanations until you understand. (If they can’t, this should be a red flag)
  • Ask the clinician to ‘show you’ what you want them to do. (If they can’t, this should be a red flag)
  • Ask the clinician to show you the graphs of your child’s behavior and to explain why there is or is not progress. (If they can’t, this should be a red flag)
  • Ask for copies of all documentation. Functional Assessment, Behavior Support Plan, and Progress Notes (as necessary). These are the formal clinical documentation of your child’s treatment.
  • After doing the above, if questions continue about the treatment you are receiving, ask the clinician to speak to their supervisor for a second opinion or call the agency administration (I know that often parents do not want to cause conflict, but it is critical to express any concerns as soon as possible.)
  • If you are unhappy with the clinician providing you supports, you have the right to request a new clinician or agency. Talk to the administration of the agency as well as your case manager or service coordinator to determine the best avenue for switching services.


Ultimately, the right BCBA will be a blessing to your child and family! Often these relationships continue for many years and everyone shares in the ups, downs, frustrations, successes, fears, hopes, dreams, tears of sadness, and tears of joy that come from raising a child diagnosed with autism. Your preparation in selecting the right BCBA can set the foundation for success and help to minimize the stresses associated with being a parent! For more resources in your search for the right match, please follow the links below:


Consumer Guidelines for Identifying, Selecting, and Evaluating Behavior Analysts working with Individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorders:


Kentucky Association for Behavior Analysis: www.kentuckyaba.org

Association for Behavior Analysis International: https://www.abainternational.org

Behavior Analyst Certification Board: http://www.bacb.com

Kentucky Applied Behavior Analysis Licensing Board: http://aba.ky.gov/Pages/default.aspx


Christopher George graduated from the University of Florida in 1997 with a Master’s in Special Education. He taught high school special education for 4 years. During the same time he helped establish a non-profit Americorps program that taught GED courses and auto repair to high school drop-outs. The cars that were repaired were given away to individuals coming off of public assistance (350 in 4 years). Chris completed his ABA course work under Dr. Martinez-Diaz and became a Board Certified Behavior Analyst in 2001. He served as a behavior analyst for the Alachua County School District for 1 1/2 years before moving to Kentucky to work at an ICF/MR under Department of Justice Review. Since leaving the facility in January 2006, he has provided community based services throughout the state of Kentucky as well as serving as a behavior analyst/consultant for the Columbus Organization.

He started, Applied Behavioral Advancements, LLC in March 2007. In addition to providing services through the SCL Medicaid waiver, he has contracts for behavioral services and consultation with the state-run psychiatric hospital, an ICF/MR, Seven Counties Services (crisis and pre-crisis intervention), and Laurel County Public Schools. Chris’ experience includes working with individuals diagnosed with mental retardation, autism, and/or psychiatric disorders. He prefers to work with individuals who engage in high magnitude/frequency physical aggression or self-injury.



KY Autism Training Center Spring 2014 Newsletter April 2014

Autism and Safety Webinar Series

By Heidi Cooley-Cook

The National Autism Association reports that roughly 48% of individuals with ASD will attempt to elope from a safe environment. They go a step further and note that this is 4 times higher than their siblings who did not have autism. Along with eloping, wandering, drowning, fire safety, inability to communicate needs to First Responder and teaching fire safety are very common concern for parents, care givers and others who care for individuals with autism.

The Kentucky Autism Training Center has developed a series of webinars to address these concerns. The first webinar was conducted on March 19, 2014 and focused on Autism and Safety in the Home. Various rooms of a home were featured and products and tips were shared that may aid in making that environment a safer environment. A review of evidence based practices that may be used for teaching fire safety was also reviewed. This webinar can be found on the KATC’s YouTube channel.

In the second webinar (April 16, 2014), participants will learn tips to help prevent Wandering. The importance of engaging neighbors, first responders, and other members of the community will also be discussed.

KATC will partner with a fire fighter to gain insight for the third and final webinar Autism and First Responders (May 21, 2014). This webinar will provide an overview of autism and how the characteristics of the disorder may impact emergency situations. In addition, participants will learn simple strategies to engage an individual they encounter that may have autism. Building on the second webinar, the importance of building community relationships will be discussed.

When parents, caregivers, first responders, and others in the community collaborate individuals with autism can best be supported and kept safe. IF you are unable to join for the live webinar, these will be available on the KATC’s YouTube channel. Subscribe to the YouTube channel and you will be notified with new webinars are added.



Heidi Cooley-Cook is a Family Field Training Coordinator for the KY Autism Training Center where she provides direct training and technical assistance to families.

KY Autism Training Center Spring 2014 Newsletter April 2014

The Reason I Jump Book Review

By Ally Brooks


“But still, we don’t want you to give up on us. Please, keep battling alongside us. We are the ones suffering the most in these scenes, and badly, badly want to free ourselves from our own chains.”



The Reason I Jump should be a quick read. It is 135 pages, written in question and answer form. The individual answering the questions and expressing himself with such beautiful depth and insight that I found myself crying at almost every turn of the page is a 13-year-old boy living with autism, communicating mainly through the use of an alphabet grid. Naoki Higashida answers fifty-eight questions about autism, from the very basic, “Why do you jump?” to the very complex, “What’s the very worst thing about having autism?”


Naoki describes autism in a way that few of us will ever have the opportunity to understand. He explains the daily challenges of living in a body that he feels very little connection to or control over, and at the same time conveys a deep connection to nature and love for his parents. Although each question is somewhat unique and he does offer insight to the specific question asked, his message, again and again, is that more than anything he hates disappointing others and that he feels a deep desire to please. What the reader can hear him begging, in almost every answer, to anyone who will listen, is NOT to give up on him, or any other individual with autism.


The reason I believe this book should be a quick read is due to its short length and easy to follow format. What I found though, about halfway through the book, was that I, as a parent of two children of autism, had to set the book down for a bit. His message and thoughts affected me so profoundly that it took me a few days to process and pick it back up. I thought through my own behavior, my own frustrations with my children and my reactions on hard days, and I was deeply disappointed in myself. How easy it is to forget that the struggle of autism is, of course, hardest for the individual with the disorder.


I decided before my children were ever born that I would tell them each day how beautiful and smart they were, and how proud they made me, every single day. During the week that I read this book, I think I must have said it quite a bit more than once a day. By the third day, as I was tucking Jasper into bed for the night, he started looking at me and telling me: “Mommy, I love you. I’m so proud of you.”


This is a book that should be read more than once. It should be read again and again and again. Every person who loves, lives with or works with an individual with autism should read this book over and over to remind themselves who this struggle is hardest on, and how desperately all humans want to do well and please others.


My personal story of how this book came into my life:

My husband. My loving husband who is dealing with his own struggles of learning this new life with two children on the spectrum, but is at the same time also learning to live with the loss of his wife to AUTISM. He knows me so well that on a bad day, he cranks up the hip hop to see me smile and bounce. He strives to remind me of who I was before I was an autism mom by continuing to rent and record the Indie and foreign films that I used to love but can’t ever find the time or attention span to watch anymore. He also records and saves my favorite show, Jon Stewart’s Daily Show. I rarely have time to watch it, but I happened to turn it on one night and Jon Stewart had David Mitchell on as a guest. David and his wife have a child with autism and as they were looking for answers and information, his wife, who is Japanese, discovered this book. They were so moved by Naoki’s insights that they translated his work and in so doing, brought his voice and beautiful perspective on autism to a larger audience, an audience that would have otherwise missed out on Naoki’s powerful and moving message. It is not a book to be missed by anyone, as its message is universal—Don’t give up on us. Any of us.



Ally Brooks and family



Ally Brooks lives in Oak Grove, KY with her husband Jerry and two children, Jasper (4) and Ella (2) and their most recent addition, Tucker, their golden retriever. Before being stationed at Fort Campbell and making their home in Kentucky, the Brooks lived in Olympia, WA, and Birmingham, AL. Jerry is a Sergeant First Class in the US Army, and Ally holds an MBA and BA in Sociology. It was an easy decision for Ally to put her career aside to care for Jasper and Ella. Jasper was diagnosed with autism at twenty-five months of age, and Ella was diagnosed at sixteen months. There is never a dull moment in the Brooks’ household, which is typically full of a rotating cast of therapists, tutors, and care givers, referred to lovingly by Jasper and Ella as “all of our friends”. In their free time (as if!), the family loves reading Pete the cat, enjoying the lake and beach, and cheering on the Auburn tigers.

KY Autism Training Center Fall 2013 Newsletter November 2013

UofL opens new pediatric and dental offices at Sam Swope Kosair Charities Centre

By Julie Heflin


The University of Louisville and Kosair Charities have entered a new partnership, opening general pediatrics and pediatric dentistry practices at the Sam Swope Kosair Charities Centre, 982 Eastern Parkway, where children with disabilities and chronic health conditions and children from the community can get expert care from UofL pediatricians and pediatric dentists.


Kosair Charities has donated the rent amount over a five-year period, providing a combined 12,500 square feet of renovated space in the Kosair Charities headquarters building for the two clinics: University of Louisville Department of Pediatrics at Kosair Charities and University of Louisville School of Dentistry at Kosair Charities. The university may opt to renew the lease for two additional five-year terms, bringing the estimated value of this agreement to $3.7 million over 15 years.


The patient mix for both practices include children receiving services elsewhere on the Kosair Charities campus, children from surrounding neighborhoods, children whose families participate in the Family Scholar House program and children who are uninsured or under-insured.


The UofL Department of Pediatrics at Kosair Charities office has nine exam rooms, a laboratory and separate sick-and well-child reception areas. Pediatrician Erica Labar, MD, began seeing patients in the Eastern Parkway office on July 1. A second physician will join Labar in 2014. Medical students and pediatric residents will also rotate through the clinic.


“What could be more fitting than to provide a medical/dental home on the grounds of the former Kosair Crippled Children Hospital, where thousands of children were once treated for disabling diseases such as polio and smallpox,” said Gerard Rabalais, MD, MHA, chairman, UofL Department of Pediatrics. “I’m confident that Dr. Labar and her team will continue the tradition of compassion and excellence long associated with this historic location.”


The UofL School of Dentistry at Kosair Charities pediatric office recently opened under the leadership of Ann Greenwell, DMD, MSD. The clinical space is outfitted with six dental chairs and equipped to meet the special needs of autistic and physically-challenged children.


“We know good oral health is integral to overall health and wellness. Coordination of care is the future of health care in this country, and we are removing many of the logistical barriers for the children of the community,” said John Sauk, DDS, MS, dean of the UofL School of Dentistry.


The dental clinic provides comprehensive dental care– including routine exams, fillings, treatment for trauma, mouth guards for athletes and orthodontic care.


New patients are being accepted at both clinics. For an appointment with a pediatrician call 502-852-7170

For an appointment with a pediatric dentist call 502-852-5642.

Social Skills & Employment Group for Young Adults with Autism Now Available

By Lori Wilson


The Center for Accessible Living (CAL) and the University of Louisville Autism Center at Kosair Charities are seeking young adults ages 21 to 30 years old to participate in a social skills group focusing on employment.  Our program will be tailored to enhance specific social communication areas that are often lacking in those with ASD to allow for successful employment within their sphere of interest.  The group will:

  • Be run by a Licensed Psychologist and an Occupational therapist for 12 weekly sessions beginning Monday, January 27, 2014 from 10-11:30 a.m.
  • Use a combination of evidenced based practices.
  • All instruction will include modeling, rehearsal, and feedback and generally consist of four steps:
  1. introducing the topic with a social script
  2. explaining skills through nonverbal activities and modeling the correct behavior
  3. conducting role-plays through simulated situations
  4. disseminating homework for skill practice
  • Employ a web based program (JobTIPS) to improve effectiveness in practicing these skills
  • Measure effectiveness of the program by utilizing pre and post assessments completed by client and employer/supervisor
  • Include job searching assistance through CAL with Barbara Davis who has extensive experience helping people on the autism spectrum obtain employment in their area of interest.

All group participants must be current Vocational Rehabilitation clients.  Your Voc Rehab counselor can submit CRP and Life Skills Coaching (32H) referrals to Amy Jones at Phone: (502)589-6620, Fax: (502) 589-3980 or ajones@calky.org.  All referrals must be made before December 20, 2013.  Also required is a psychological evaluation within the last year or an assessment can be scheduled with the UofL Autism Center.

This group is limited to first 6 participants.  Additional groups will be forming in the future.


KY Autism Training Center Fall 2013 Newsletter November 2013

LEAD Parent Graduation Ceremony

By Heidi Cooley-Cook


October 25th was a day of learning, information sharing, networking, and empowerment for over twenty individuals from across the Commonwealth.  In the morning, Support Group Leaders came from all corners of the state to review statewide resources and collaborate with each other.  Amy Cooper-Puckett, Policy Liaison for the Department of Behavioral Health Developmental Intellectual Disabilities, provided an overview of the state’s various waivers and discussed the Community Autism Forums and the Kentucky Interagency Council for Autism Spectrum Disorders.   The Leaders then discussed their group’s strengths and highlighted successful activities.  This proved to be time of inspiration for several Family Support Group Leaders - walking away with new ideas to take back to their communities.  Together, challenges were reviewed and prioritized.  Initial brainstorming was done that morning and the group will continue to meet remotely and take steps to overcome and/or combat the challenges identified.


Following the morning’s workgroup, participants transitioned to the graduation and pinning ceremony for the first cohort of Family Leaders.  The Family Leaders are part of a new initiative for the KATC.  These individuals applied in early 2013 to join the KATC’s Family Network (link to the Family Network page).  Sixteen individuals from ten counties came together in May for two days of intensive training through collaboration with the Council on Developmental Disabilities.  The group then engaged in enrichment sessions monthly via webinar with the final two enrichment topics presented in-person on October 25th.  Pamela McDaniel, Council on Developmental Disabilities, and Heidi Cooley-Cook, KATC, kicked of the afternoon and Larry Taylor, KATC Executive Director, followed with a presentation on Special Education Law for Families.  Donovan Fornwalt, CEO of Council on Developmental Disabilities, joined Senator Julie Denton for an empowering session on Legislative Advocacy.  The nine Family Leaders in attendance were then pinned.  Please join me in congratulating the 2013 KATC Family Network: Family Leaders - Pat Benningfield (Bowling Green), Ashley Bradford (Lexington), Whitney Durham (Corbin), Debbie Gilbert (various – Commission for Children with Special Health Care Needs), Trish Hicks (Webbville), Donna Littrell, Bronston), Alicia Owens (Bowling Green), Shelley Shepherd (Bowling Green), and Terri Srinivasan (Maysville).  Ally Brooks (Oak Grove) was not able to join us for the graduation, but was also pinned a Family Leader!


The second cohort of Family Leaders will begin in Spring 2014 - space is limited so please apply now!


Heidi Cooley-Cook is a Family Field Training Coordinator for the KY Autism Training Center where she provides direct training and technical assistance to families.

KY Autism Training Center Fall 2013 Newsletter November 2013

KATC Training Site Project at Millard Elementary School

By Laura Ferguson


This year I have had the privilege of working with Melissa Sanders, a teacher at Millard Elementary in Pike County, and many other hard working paraprofessionals in the classroom. From the beginning of the year it has been a great opportunity to work with all the professionals in the room. The classroom environment displayed the use of evidence- based practices. The classroom implemented the use of visual supports, which included picture and written cues for each student, reinforcement and communication systems, and behavior management procedures. The environmental arrangement was organized to meet the specific needs of each of the students in the classroom. Throughout this year the staff has demonstrated the ability to adapt to behavior changes as well as take direction from consultants and demonstrate the new strategies to fidelity. The staff has been excited to work with the project and target specified tasks for each student. Classroom goals have already been met because of the follow through and consistency of all the professionals who work in the classroom.


The training site project began in Jefferson County Schools during the 2008-2009 school year under the guidance and partnership with the National Professional Development Center on Autism Spectrum.  The following year KATC began to expand the project into other areas of the state.  This year the KATC will be working 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.


Congratulations to Millard Elementary School’s commitment to all kids! I look forward to working with Melissa, the paraprofessionals and their wonderful students for the remainder of the school year.


Laura Ferguson is a certified behavior analyst and a Field Training Coordinator for the KY Autism Training Center. She provides direct training and technical assistance to education staff, social and community personnel, counselors, job coaches and families.


KY Autism Training Center Fall 2013 Newsletter November 2013

"The House of Pooh" Sensory Friendly Performance with Stage One Theatre

By Heidi Cooley-Cook



Joining the ranks of 'big' cities like New York, Chicago, Boston, Nashville, and others, Louisville now offers Sensory Friendly Live Theatre Performances! Stage One partnered with the Kentucky Center and the KATC to bring live theatre to families impacted by autism or other sensory sensitivities. Stage One prepared videos, photos, and artist renderings of the environment, actors, and set to assist families in preparing their loved one for October 12. Nearly 150 individuals converged at the Kentucky Center for The House at Pooh Corner for the 11:00 am performance. After a warm welcome by Peter Holloway, Executive Director of Stage One, and short overview of the accommodations, the play began. In addition to the prep materials available on-line, there were several accommodations available for the performance including:


  • Theatre was not filled to capacity
  • Patrons able to select their own seats
  • Patrons allowed to move freely through the aisles
  • Individuals free to vocalize during the performance
  • House lights remained on at low level during entire performance
  • Light sticks were used by ushers to give warning to the audience just prior to loud sounds or startling moments
  • Entering and exiting the theatre was permitted throughout the performance
  • “Quiet Room” at the back of the theatre provided continued viewing away from the audience - patrons were able to control sound and lighting in this space
  • Additional space was available just past the lobby area for individuals needing a bit more room to move around away from the theatre - Live video and audio feeds were available in this room
  • Trained Kentucky Center volunteers to assist with patron needs and requests


Accolades and smiles exuded from the patrons as they left the theatre. Some stayed to meet the cast, while others dashed out. What a success the first Sensory Friendly Performance was! Stage One and KATC are each taking steps to continue the momentum gained from TheHouse at Pooh Corner. Discussions have already begun at Stage One - looking forward to the next Sensory Friendly Performance - Diary of a Worm, a Spider, and a Fly! Date for the Sensory Friendly Performance not available at time of the time of publishing this newsletter.


Here at the KATC we are developing a new brochure to assist families in preparing their loved one for attending a play.


Heidi Cooley-Cook is a Family Field Training Coordinator for the KY Autism Training Center where she provides direct training and technical assistance to families.

KY Autism Training Center Fall 2013 Newsletter November 2013