CHAIR: Dr. Cynthia Zierhut, Early Days Autism Center
FIRST SESSION – Inclusive practice in early education; global and local efforts
Prof. Paola Aiello
Paola Aiello is Associate Professor in Special Didactics and Pedagogy and she is Doctor of Philosophy in Educational Research Methodology at the Department of Humanities, Philosophy, and Education, University of Salerno. Since 2009 she has been lecturing in undergraduate and postgraduate courses as well as in a number of continuous professional development courses, offered by this Department. She has been the Director of the Post-graduate course entitled “Didactics and psycho-pedagogy for students with autism spectrum disorders”. Since 2013 she has held the position of Delegate for disability. Currently, she is the Principal investigator of the Scientific Project “Inclusion and teaching: teacher education based on simplex didactics”. She is also involved in other research projects related to the development of technology to promote inclusion, simplexity in didactics and didactics for students with autism spectrum disorders. Her research interests include inclusion, teacher education and the implicit variables that influence teacher agency to implement inclusive practices in formal and informal educational contexts.
Rethinking teacher education to improve levels of inclusion in Italian schools
The presentation is aimed at initiating debate and sharing future research on how to implement evidence-based practices in inclusive school settings effectively. It will thus be focused on Italian educational cultures, policies, and practices to foster school inclusion, making particular reference to teacher education.
The following questions will be posed:
– how can teachers be equipped with those competencies necessary to implement EBP in school settings and which competencies should they acquire?
– how can EBPs be harmonized with the Italian school organization and classroom settings?
Responses to these questions provide insight to foster school inclusion of pupils with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) within Italian schools, this being considered a difficult challenge for both mainstream and learning support teachers as well as researchers in education because the social deficit characterizing ASD seems to undermine participation in school activities.
- Sharma, U., Aiello, P., Pace, E.M., Round, P. & Subban, P. (2017) “In-service teachers’ attitudes, concerns, efficacy and intentions to teach in inclusive classrooms: an international comparison of Australian and Italian teachers”. In European Journal of Special Needs Education, DOI: 10.1080/08856257.2017.1361139
- Aiello, P., Agrillo, F., Russo, I., Zappalà, E., & Sibilio, M. (2019). Group-based Early Start Denver Model: An educational approach for pupils with Autism Spectrum Disorder in Italian preschools. In the Italian journal of special education for inclusion, 7(1), pp. 155-170.
- Aiello, P., Sharma, U. (2018) “Improving intentions to teach in inclusive classrooms: the impact of teacher education courses on future Learning Support Teachers”. In Form@re, vol. 18, n. 1, pp. 207-219.
Dr. Filomena Agrillo
Dr. Filomena Agrillo is a Research Fellow in Didactics and Special Pedagogy at the Department of Humanities, Philosophy and Education at the University of Salerno. She is currently involved in a research project on the Implementation of the Group-based Early Start Denver Model in Italian pre-schools. During her doctoral studies, she carried out a feasibility study on the implementation of the Model in Italian pre-schools. In 2018, she was trained at the Early Days Autism Center (CA – USA) on the implementation of the G-ESDM.
Dr. Emanuela Zappalà
Emanuela Zappalà is currently a Ph.D. student in “Didactic Corporealities, Technology, and Inclusion” at the Department of Humanities, Philosophy, and Education of the University of Salerno. Her research interests include teacher education and more specifically inclusive and special pedagogy and didactics, simplexity in didactics and special didactics for students with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). More specifically, Dr. Emanuela Zappalà research focuses on investigating inclusive practices that may support teachers in promoting full participation and development of students with ASD. She is now exploring the Group-based Early Start Denver model and its application in inclusive schools to observe and investigate the way it may support teachers’ professional development and identify teaching strategies that can support the teaching-learning process of teachers and their students with ASD.
Implementation of the G-ESDM in an Italian preschool: teacher’s perspective
The Group-based Early Start Denver Model (G-ESDM)  is an educational approach developed to holistically support students with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) in preschools. Although to date, it has only been experimented in Australia [2;3] and in America , an analysis of its principles and practices suggests the potential feasibility of implementing the model within the Italian inclusive context. Moreover, G-ESDM training may support the professional development of both curricular and support teachers that is in line with the National Indications . On the basis of these reflections, this paper presents the methodology and results of the first phase of a case study aimed at implementing the G-ESDM in a Circolo Didattico (preschool and primary school) in Scafati (Salerno, IT). Fixsen’s Active Implementation  was adopted as a guiding framework for the research. During the first phase (Exploration), the link among educating community needs, the potential level of acceptability and implementation of the G-ESDM in this specific context was assessed. Among the instruments used, a questionnaire was designed and administered. Data collected showed the need for specific training on G-ESDM practices and the levels of acceptability and possible implementation were high. It is hoped that this research may widen the choice of efficacious educational interventions teachers can adopt in an Italian school context for children with ASD.
 Vivanti, G., Duncan, E., Dawson, G., Rogers, S.J. (2017). Implementing the group-based Early Start Denver Model for preschoolers with autism. Springer International Publishing.
 Vivanti, G., Paynter, J., Duncan, E., Fothergill, H., Dissanayake, C., Rogers, S.J., & Victorian ASELCC Team. (2014). Effectiveness and feasibility of the Early Start Denver Model implemented in a group-based community childcare setting. Journal of autism and developmental disorders, 44(12), 3140-3153.
 Eapen, V., Črnčec, R., & Walter, A. (2013). Clinical outcomes of an early intervention program for preschool children with autism spectrum disorder in a community group setting. BMC pediatrics, 13(1), 3.
 Russo, Agrillo, Sibilio, Zierhut (2019, gennaio). Implementation and teacher training of Group-based Early Start Denver Model in a mainstream preschool. Poster presentato al ABAI San Francisco.
 Law 107/2015. “Riforma del sistema nazionale di istruzione e formazione e delega per il riordino delle disposizioni legislative vigenti”. Gazzetta Ufficiale n.162 del 15-07-2015.
 Fixsen, D. L., Naoom, S. F., Blase, K. A., Friedman, R. M. (2005). Implementation research: a synthesis of the literature. Tampa, FL: University of South Florida, Louis de la Parte Florida Mental Health. Implementation Research Network (FMHI Publication #231).
Aiello, P., Agrillo, F., Russo, I., Zappalà, E., & Sibilio, M. (2019). Group-based Early Start Denver Model: An educational approach for pupils with Autism Spectrum Disorder in Italian preschools. ITALIAN JOURNAL OF SPECIAL EDUCATION FOR INCLUSION, 7(1), 155-170.
Agrillo, F., Zappalà, E., Aiello, P. (in press). Il Group-based Early Start Denver Model nel contesto educativo italiano: uno studio di caso. Instant-book in Collana SIRD Studi e ricerche sui processi di apprendimento-insegnamento e valutazione.
Prof. Umesh Sharma
Umesh Sharma is Professor in the Faculty of Education at Monash University, Australia where he is the Academic Head of the Educational Psychology and Inclusive Education Community. Umesh’s research programs in the area of disability and inclusive education span India, Pakistan, China, Bangladesh, Fiji, Solomon Islands, Vanuatu and Samoa as well as Australia, Canada, USA and New Zealand. He has conducted several award winning national and international projects on topics like Funding of education for students with disability for the Commonwealth of Australia, the Development of Personalised and Support Guidelines for Victorian Government, and the development of the National Policy on Inclusive Education for Solomon Islands.. He is the chief co-editor of the Australasian Journal of Special Education and the Oxford Encyclopedia of Inclusive and Special Education. He has authored over 100 academic articles, book chapters and edited books that focus on various aspects of inclusive education. His co-authored book “A Guide to Promoting a Positive Classroom Environment” was the recipient of the International Book Prize Award from the Exceptionality Education International. His project on the development of the Pacific Indicators for Inclusive Education received the Zero award for outstanding policy development from the United Nations in Vienna, 2016. He was recently (2019) named the top Special Education Researcher in Australia based on the impact of his work locally and internationally by the Australian Chief Scientist https://specialreports.theaustralian.com.au/1540291/. His main areas of research are: positive behaviour support, inclusive education for disadvantaged children and policy and practice in special and inclusive education.
How best to prepare teachers to include all learners?
Teaching children with a range of diversities including disabilities has often identified by teaching community as a significant challenge. Researchers have argued that teachers need to acquire a range of core knowledge and skills to teach learners with a range of diversities including disabilities. I believe that knowledge and skills on their own are inadequate and do not necessarily prepare teachers to teach all children. Teachers need not only just knowledge and skills they also need to demonstrate full commitment and they must be able to translate their skills into authentic inclusive practices in a real classroom. In a nutshell, teachers must have 3Hs- heart (i.e commitment), head (i.e. knowledge and skills) and hands (i.e. ability to translate their knowledge into practice). Unfortunately, not all teachers are prepared with heart, head and hands to include all learners through their formal teacher education programs. In this presentation, I will share how best we can prepare teachers with heart, head and hands to teach all learners. The presentation is informed by the research of our colleagues from around the globe including our own research in Australia, Bangladesh, Fiji and Solomon Islands. The presentation will answer a key question: “Is it really possible to prepare teachers with heart, head and hands?” If yes, how?
Prof. Catherine Tsao
Catherine Tsao is a Senior Program Associate at WestEd’s Center for Child and Family Studies. She plays a major role on several projects funded by the California Department of Education and currently leads the San Francisco Quality Connections project funded by First 5 San Francisco. Previously, she led the development of the California Infant/Toddler Learning and Development Foundations and the California Preschool Learning Foundations and has supported other states in the development of infant/toddler initiatives. Catherine earned her B.A. and Ph.D. from the University of California, Los Angeles and has held academic appointment in the UCLA Department of Psychology and the University Of Minnesota Institute Of Child Development.
Early Childhood Professional Development: Considerations, Challenges, and Lessons Learned from San Francisco’s QRIS
This presentation will highlight current practices to support the professional development of early childhood educators participating in San Francisco’s Quality Rating and Improvement System. We will also offer recommendations for future directions and share lessons learned from the SFQC Family Child Care Pathways Pilot.
Ms. Kathryn Wahl
Kathryn Wahl is the Director II of the Inclusion Collaborative at the Santa Clara County Office of Education. As the Director of the Inclusion Collaborative, Kathryn serves as the lead on several projects, including the California Equity Performance Improvement Program (CEPIP) grant, which is one of the two Equity Leads within the State System of Support. She has worked for the Inclusion Collaborative since 2014, being involved in the development and implementation of the EPIC Credentialing Program and the State Annual Inclusion Conference held at the Santa Clara County Office of Education (SCCOE). Kathryn has worked for SCCOE since 1995, starting as a Nutrition Consultant and then as an Early Childhood Special Education Teacher/Nutritionist for the SCCOE Early Start Program. Kathryn has supported teachers, students and families across the county in center based and home based programs and now supports local districts and agencies in creating inclusion programs. She has taught at local community colleges, developed inclusive training tracks for community colleges and worked for many community agencies in Santa Clara County. Kathryn earned her B.S in Dietetics and Food Administration at California Polytechnic State University and her M.A in Early Intervention Services, Special Education Program from Santa Clara University. Currently, Kathryn is a Commissioner for First 5 Santa Clara.
Preschool Inclusion: The On-Ramp to Success for Children with Neurodiversity
Learn why preschool is the on-ramp for success for all students, but especially for those children with neurodiversity. An inclusive preschool classroom gives the support needed to allow children with disabilities to stay in the least restrictive environment, learning alongside peers without disabilities to the maximum degree possible. Successful inclusive education occurs primarily through accepting, understanding, and attending to student differences and diversity. The driving principle is to make all children and families feel welcomed, appropriately challenged, and supported in their efforts.
D’Elia, L, Valeri, G., Sonnino, F., Ilaria, F., Mammone, A., Vicari, S. (2014). A Longitudinal Study of the Teacch Program in Different Settings: The Potential Benefits of Low Intensity Intervention in Preschool Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 44 (3), pp. 615-626.
Segall, M., Campbell, J. (2012). Factors Relating to the Education Professionals’ Classrooms Practices for the Inclusion of Students with Autism Spectrum Disorder. Research in Autism Spectrum Disorder, 6 (3), pp. 1156-1167.
Walker, S., Berthelsen, D. (2008). Children with Autistic Spectrum Disorder in Early Childhood Programs: A Social Constructivist Perspective on Inclusion. International Journal of Early Education, 4 (1), pp. 33-51.
SECOND SESSION – Implementation of Evidence-Based Practice for children with ASD
Prof. Brian A. Boyd
Brian A. Boyd, Ph.D. is Associate Professor and Director of the Juniper Gardens Children’s Project at the University of Kansas. He has over 20 years of applied and research experience related to young children with autism spectrum and related developmental disorders. Dr. Boyd’s research interests have focused on the development and evaluation of evidence-based interventions for children with autism spectrum disorder as well as descriptive studies related to the sensory and repetitive behaviors of these children. He has over 60 peer-reviewed publications and various federal agencies, including the Institute of Education Sciences and the National Institutes of Health, have funded his research.
Bridging School and Home: Supporting Teachers and Parents of Children with ASD
This presentation will focus on a technology-generated solution to support teachers and parents of children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) as they co-implement an intervention across home and school settings. Both parents and teachers used technology to implement the Advancing Social-communication And Play (ASAP) intervention, a school-based intervention for 3 – 5 year old children with ASD. The strengths and challenges related to technology use, intervention implementation across contexts, and conducting research in schools in the United States will be discussed.
Boyd, B. A., Watson, L. R., Reszka, S. S., Sideris, J., Alessandri, M., Baranek, G. T., … & Belardi, K. (2018). Efficacy of the ASAP intervention for preschoolers with ASD: A cluster randomized controlled trial. Journal of autism and developmental disorders, 48(9), 3144-3162.
Kinard, J., Wilson, K., Dykstra, J., Watson, L., & Boyd, B. (2011). Advancing Social-Communication and Play (ASAP): Development of a Supplemental Intervention for Public Preschools Serving Children With Autism. Perspectives on School-Based Issues, 12(3), 91-100.
Prof. Lindee Morgan
Dr. Morgan is an Assistant Professor in Pediatrics at Emory University and is Co-Director of the Education Sciences Research Core at Marcus Autism Center. In addition, she serves as the Co-Director of the nascent Preschool Program at Marcus Autism Center and is a licensed speech-language pathologist. Prior to joining the faculty at Emory, Dr. Morgan served as the Director of the Center for Autism and Related Disabilities and the Associate Director of Implementation in the Autism Institute at the Florida State University College of Medicine. Dr. Morgan’s primary clinical/scholarly focus is intervention, largely classroom-based, for individuals with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Her research has focused on investigating treatments to improve active engagement, social communication, and other relevant outcomes for individuals with ASD across the lifespan. She is a developer of the Autism Navigator, a unique collection of web-based tools and courses designed to bridge the gap between science and community practice. Dr. Morgan is one of four authors of the Autism/Communication Navigator for Early Intervention Providers. She serves as a cabinet member of Get Georgia Reading and on the executive board of the Atlanta Autism Consortium. Her articles have been published in a number of leading journals including Pediatrics, the Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, and the Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders.
Application of SCERTS in the Inclusive Classroom Setting
This presentation will include a brief description of The SCERTS Model and a summary of associated research. Our efficacy trial of the Classroom SCERTS Intervention will be summarized along with implementation challenges and future directions. The use of SCERTS to promote active engagement in inclusive early childhood settings will be discussed.
Morgan, L., Hooker, J.L., Sparapani, N., Reinhardt, V., Schatschneider, C., & Wetherby, A. (2018). Cluster randomized trial of the Classroom SCERTS Intervention for elementary students with Autism Spectrum Disorder. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychiatry, 86(7), 631-644.
Wetherby, A. M., Woods, J., Guthrie, W., Delehanty, A., Brown, J. A., Morgan, L., Holland, R. D., Schatschneider, C., & Lord, C. (2018). Changing developmental trajectories of toddlers with autism spectrum disorder: Strategies for bridging research to community practice. Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, 61, 2516-2628.
Prof. Lise Roll-Pettersson
Lise Roll-Pettersson is professor of Special education at Stockholm University, director of the Master of Science program in Applied Behaviour Analysis with a focus on autism. She has a broad international network and has organized international summits and conferences focused on behaviour analysis and autism in Higher Education. Research interests include quality of learning environments, evidenced based interventions, and systemic policy affecting the learning and development of children with autism and developmental disabilities. In collaboration with FPG Child Development Institute at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill and KIND (Center of Neurodevelopmental Disorders at Karolinska Institute) she is principal investigator of a four-year project funded by the Swedish Research Council. In this project, the Autism Program Environmental Rating Scale-Preschool – APERS-PE (Odom, Cox et al., 2013) has been translated and culturally adapted to the context of the Swedish support system and includes a quasi-randomized design study testing whether a competency-based training model will improve the quality of preschool learning environments for learners with ASD. Additional research interests include cultural aspects affecting supports and services to children with autism, as well as, the needs and perceptions of parents and extended family. Together with the Psychology department at Stockholm University, she initiated the first master program in behaviour analysis in Sweden of which the content has been assessed by the Behaviour Analytic Certification Board meeting international certification requirements.
Testing a competency based model to improve implementation of evidence based interventions in community based preschools: Adaptions and experiences from Sweden
The aim of the study described in this presentation is to test the efficacy of a competency -based training model in public service inclusive preschools in Sweden in which a child with autism was enrolled. The framework was grounded on procedures developed by the National Professional Development Center on ASD (NPDC). A quasi-randomized control design was used, participants consisted of 17 children with autism obtaining EIBI within the preschool setting. Preschool staff in the experimental group were provided with additional in-service training and monthly on-site coaching sessions. Prior to implementation of the model, a cultural adaptation of the Autism Program Environmental Rating Scale for Preschools (APERS-PE) to the Swedish context was conducted. Primary outcome measures include pre-post APERS-PE assessments, Vineland ratings, and child engagement, secondary outcomes include staff knowledge, teacher efficacy and GAS (experiment group). Findings reveal that the preschool environment as rated by APERS-PE improved to a greater degree in the experiment group, as well as, autism specific teacher efficacy. Relevance of an implementation science approach will be highlighted, interviews with parents, preschool staff and habilitation professionals in the experiment group are being analyzed
Bejnö, H., Roll-Pettersson, L., Klintwall, L., Långh,, U., Odom,, S. & Bölte,, S. (2019). Cross-cultural
content validity of the Autism Program Environment Rating Scale in Sweden. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10803-018-03870-5
Roll-Pettersson, L., Olsson, I. & Ala i-Rosales, S. (2016). Bridging the Research to Practice Gap: A Case Study Approach to Understanding EIBI Supports and Barriers in Swedish Preschools. International Electronic Journal of Elementary Education. 9 (2), 317-338. Retrieved from https://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/1a52/bf350c59af8f123416a69c27bdd8680d8d08.pdf
Prof. Michael Siller
Prof. Stephanie Shire
Stephanie Shire is an Assistant Professor in Early Intervention and Early Childhood Special Education in the College of Education at the University of Oregon. Her research interests focus on the development, adaptation, and real-world effectiveness of intervention programs for children with autism and other neurodevelopmental disorders examined through community partnerships in both low and high resource settings. She is interested in the use of effectiveness-implementation hybrid designs (e.g., Shire et al., 2017) to explore tools to efficiently and effectively support community practitioners as well as methods to optimize children’s outcomes.
Supporting Social Communication Interventions in the Community: JASPER Deployment
In order to bring known efficacious early intervention programs for children with autism into routine daily care, community clinicians and educators require access to high-quality professional development supports to grow the local capacity necessary to deliver complex behavioral interventions. This presentation will share results from effectiveness-implementation hybrid trials that examine strategies to support community interventionists’ delivery of the Joint Attention, Symbolic Play, Engagement, and Regulation (JASPER: Kasari et al., 2006) intervention as well as social communication outcomes for toddlers and preschool-age children with ASD. Strengths and challenges encountered when working to support providers in communities at a distance in both the United States and Canada.
Shire, S.Y., Chang, Y.C., Shih, W., Bracaglia, S., Kodjoe, M., & Kasari, C. (2017). Hybrid implementation model of community partnered early intervention for toddlers with autism. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 58(5), 612-622. Doi: 10.1111/jcpp.12672
Shire, S.Y., Shih, W., Chang, Y.C., & Kasari, C. (2018). Short Play and Communication Evaluation: Teachers’ assessment of core social communication and play skills with children with autism. Autism, 22(3), 299-310. Doi: 136236131667409