GSE Autism Education Program; Innovative and Expanding

Dr. Joel Arick works with a group of special education teachers at an autism workshop. For more than 30 years Dr. Joel Arick has researched Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). A special education professor in the GSE, Arick has directed several state and federal projects in the field and co-designed two research-based curricula that are implemented in schools.

Autism affects one child in 166, says the Center for Disease Control. In the last 10 years, the number of children with autism has increased 500%. In Oregon, specifically, the incidence of ASD has increased 1,157% over the last 13 years. These drastic increases have overwhelmed special-needs programs for school-aged children. The prevalence of ASD means that, on average, every elementary school in Oregon is affected.

Historically, there has been little classic research in the field. PSU has been a leader in such research-based study and in serving the special needs community. Dr. Arick has devoted his career to this research, promoting effective programs to support children with ASD and promoting and providing professional development in the field.

The exact cause of autism is unknown; and it affects children to varying degrees of severity. But there are common symptoms among those diagnosed. According to the Autism Society of America, these include impairments in communication and social interaction, unusual sensory responses, repetitive behaviors, and difficulties with changes in daily routines.

In 1997, Dr. Arick and a team of special educators, including PSU faculty members John Gill, Helen Young and Misten Antholz, began a five-year study to identify the best methods of instruction to educate children with these special needs. As a result of this work (see Autism Outcome Study, http://www.autismstudy.pdx.edu), Dr. Arick spearheaded the Regional Program Autism Training Site Project (RPATS) is now in its fourth year. RPATS is a collaboration between the Oregon Department of Education, regional programs, school districts, and Portland State University. The project works to teach children with autism critical lifelong skills that allow them to function independently in society. These include the skills to tolerate people and value interactions, to communicate intentionally and effectively, to organize information and make purposeful decisions, to tolerate change and accept new experiences, to be independent of constant verbal directions, and to self-monitor and manage stress.

Training sites at 20 state wide locations offer autism specialists and educators comprehensive workshops and extensive hands-on on-site training in research-based instructional strategies. Each center also offers training and resources to parents through workshops, evening classes, and one-on-one coaching.

At the elementary level, RPATS offers communication skills, functional routines, and the implementation of the STAR Autism Program (i.e., Strategies for Teaching based on Autism Research, Arick et al., 2004). At middle and high school levels, the project works to develop tools for independence and routines for social and community success. The base of this curriculum is the FACTOR Program (Functional Assessment and Curriculum for Teaching Everyday Routines, Arick et al., 2004). Pro-Ed Inc. in Austin, Texas, publishes both the STAR and FACTOR Programs. RPATS also trains local specialists how to teach the program on their own. This ensures each community a permanent resource and a way to perpetuate a culture of learning. The outcome has been remarkable. Laura LaMarch, an autism specialist with the Northwest Regional Education Service District, says the STAR curriculum is “extremely effective. Every child that has come into the program has shown dramatic progress.”

RPATS is unique in offering such on-site and research-based training. It provides critical services to communities outside the metro area. Dr. Arick and his team plan to expand the RPATS project to reach even more Oregonians. They hope to develop 15 more training sites by next year. The work done through this program, and others, underscores the core values held by the Graduate School of Education, which seeks to serve all students by addressing their diverse needs.

Scholarship System Gets an Upgrade

Scholarships are critical for many students and can make a difference in whether a program is accessible or not as well as provide emotional encouragement for their career choice. Applying is now easier with the implementation of a new on-line system for students, those writing recommendations, and for evaluation committees that must read submitted materials.

For more information, or if you would like to add to scholarships being offered, contact Sandy Wiscarson at wiscars@pdx.edu or make a gift online through www.foundation.pdx.edu.

GSE Professor Selected to Advise National Group

Dilafruz Williams, GSE professor and Chair of the Educational Policy, Foundations, and Administrative Studies Department, was selected by the Education Commission of States National Center for Learning and Citizenship to serve on the 100 District Leaders for Civic Engagement and Service-Learning Network.

Selection is based on leadership and commitment to integrate and sustain quality citizenship education and service-learning in K-12 schools. Dr. Williams joins a national cadre of district-level administrators and policymakers advancing the civic mission of American education through policy, practice and infrastructure support.

Dr. Williams is also a Professor of Public Administration in PSU’s Mark O. Hatfield School of Government. She has long been recognized as a leader in local education efforts and is often tapped for her expertise. In 1995, she co-founded the Environmental Middle School— now called Sunnyside Environmental School—in the Portland Public School District. She was elected to a four-year term on the Portland School Board in July 2003.

Alumnus is Teacher and Mentor

Entering the Graduate School of Education, Lionel Clegg was recognized immediately as a rising star. A strong student and winner of both the Underrepresented Minority Achievement Scholarship (UMAS) and a scholarship through the Portland Teachers’ Program, Clegg impressed his peers and professors. In 1999 he completed the Dual-Inclusion Program in Special Education and Elementary Education. Now, as a master teacher, Clegg is committed to building strong citizens as well as strong students.

Clegg teaches at Woodlawn Elementary School in Northeast Portland, his own alma mater. During his eight-year tenure he has won many accolades for his teaching and mentoring. He was recognized by the Portland Public School District as an exemplary teacher and by the Portland Trailblazers as Coach of the Year, an award that included a $2000 grant. Clegg also was nominated for Disney’s Teacher of the Year award.

In addition to teaching in the classroom, Clegg oversees Boys of Distinction, a group for boys in grades 3-6, or others, that need positive role models in their lives. The goal of the group is to provide these boys with the tools needed to be successful both in and out of the classroom.

Clegg is determined to build a safe and supportive community at Woodlawn and beyond. For this reason, he has recently switched to teaching half time and has taken on an additional job and title in the afternoons: Woodlawn’s Parent Involvement Coordinator. His task is to help bridge the gap between parents and school. To support this goal, Clegg plans return to school and attain a Doctorate in the field.

Student Finds New Dual-Endorsement Program a Perfect Fit

Kristin Grazer’s path toward a career in education has been a winding one. As a result, future students will benefit from the deep pool of personal experience that she’ll bring to the classroom. Grazer grew up in the Beaverton area and spent her first term at a local college studying elementary education. Quickly she found that neither the college nor the elementary setting was a good fit for her. After years thinking she belonged at the head of a classroom, she found herself at a crossroads. She transferred to Oregon State University, changing majors and eventually creating her own combination graphic design and sociology degree that she earned through liberal studies in 2000. Grazer spent the next three years working for the American Lung Association of Oregon, specializing in tobacco prevention.

Her work in tobacco prevention ultimately led Grazer back to K-12 education, this time in middle and high schools, training teachers and teaching public health curriculum around the state. Many days, she found herself wishing she didn’t have to abandon the classrooms for her office. When Portland Public Schools (PPS) posted a job for a Substance Abuse Prevention Specialist four years ago, she jumped at the chance to spend more time with kids. It was the combination of two passions—public health and teaching—that would prove to be pivotal for Grazer.

Shortly after beginning her work for PPS, Grazer contacted the GSE about entering the Graduate Teacher Education Program (GTEP) as a prospective secondary health teacher. When an advisor instead suggested the Secondary Dual Endorsement Program (SDEP)— a pilot program that would teach content area teachers to also work with special needs students—she was hesitant. As she thought about the purpose of the program, however, she became more intrigued.

“When I got home, I pulled out the pamphlet and read about this amazing new program that could prepare me to better serve any student who walked through my door,” she said. “Because I already had so much teaching experience, I knew how unprepared I was for a fully-inclusive classroom. But of course I wanted to be the best teacher that I could be, and I suddenly realized that this program would help me be just that.”

Grazer has been able to remain in PPS—at Lincoln High School in Southwest Portland—for most of her student teaching. This allowed her to finish up her 3-year contract and student teach parttime last year. For her required full-time student teaching, Grazer splits her time between Lincoln and Conestoga Middle School in Beaverton. She will graduate this June with a Masters of Education degree. Her certification will include dual endorsements in health and special education with high school and middle level authorizations. She’ll be looking for employment in the greater metro area then.

“Sometimes I find it ironic that my first declared major, 11 years ago, was education. But it was elementary-focused, and if I hadn’t abandoned it and floated around for a while, I may never have discovered my true calling. The road has been a bit circular, but now it’s obvious that everything happened for a reason and that I’m right where I’m supposed to be. I’m having a blast and I can’t wait to put all that I’ve learned into practice,” she says. “Not only did I get a superior education, but I know that I will be much more marketable to potential employers because of SDEP.”

From The Development Corner

By Sandy Wiscarson, Director of External Relations

We are continually searching for ways to stay connected with you, our alums and friends. This e-newsletter is one effort and we hope that you will comment on what you like, areas of coverage that would interest you, and what you would like to see added or changed. Another way is to speak with a student when they make annual calls to alumni. Tell us what you are doing. You may also update your contact information at alumni.pdx.edu

Do you wish you could get together with former cohort members or other classmates? Help us determine how we can organize reunion events or other ways to connect, email me at wiscars@pdx.edu.

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