Our Autism Training Program for Practitioners and Parents
In 2007 the Kansas legislature approved the Home and Community Based Services Early Autism Waiver, which for the first time provided intensive early intervention services to young children diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorders. But since the autism waiver was implemented, the diagnosis rate of autism the United States has climbed from 1 in 88 children to 1 in 68. As a result, the demand for trained therapists who can provide specialized intervention services has brought even greater urgency to K-CART's training mission, one of the Life Span Institute’s 13 centers.
From the very beginning, K-CART took the lead in training providers and parents throughout the state. K-CART was the first–and remains the only–training program approved by the Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services for the early autism Medicaid waiver program. K-CART’s Autism Training Program is clearly tackling a big job.
According to Linda Heitzman-Powell, associate research professor and director of training for K-CART, the state recognized from the beginning the need for a uniform training program in the basics of autism and intervention in order to ensure uniformity across the state.
Since 2008 the Autism Training Program at K-CART has trained 623 professionals, paraprofessionals, family members and others. Seventy training sessions have been held throughout the state as of spring 2015.
“The training is required, in varying degrees, for five of the six services offered by the state,” Heitzman-Powell said. These services are respite, intensive individual support providers (IIS), parent support and training, autism specialist and interpersonal communication therapy (added in 2012).
“Using evidence-based practices, the 40-hour training program for IIS providers covers the following: basic screening and autism characteristics; reinforcement; antecedent and consequential strategies to reduce problem behavior; peer networks and social skills; behavioral domains; home-based team meetings; wrap-around services, and Medicaid documentation. Training for autism specialists and interpersonal communication therapists focuses on understanding the function of problem behavior, developing peer networks and using assessments required for Medicaid recipients.
Heitzman-Powell has seen the impact of the training on providers across the state. “The most common feedback we get is that trainees can’t believe what a difference this is going to make for their clients and themselves,” she said.
ATP training partners include two applied behavioral science faculty at the University of Kansas: Claudia Dozier, associate professor, and Pam Neidert, assistant professor. Partners across the state include the Kansas City Autism Training Center, Prairie Village; Kid’s TLC, Olathe; Integrative Behavioral Technologies, Basehor; the Summit Center for Child Development, Kansas City, Mo.; Heartspring, Wichita; school districts in central and southwest Kansas, and families in Kansas City, Manhattan and southeast Kansas who volunteer their children for hands-on demonstrations.