The Center for Persons with Disabilities at Utah State University

Autism Support Services: Education, Research, and Training

Project Details

Project Context:
The national trend of an increase in the number of individuals identified as having autism spectrum disorders (ASD) is also occurring in rural Utah. Intensive treatment programs are limited, however, especially in the northern area of the state.

Project Focus & Services:
The Autism Support Services: Education, Research, and Training (ASSERT) Program is a collaborative effort of the Department of Special Education & Rehabilitation and the Center for Persons with Disabilities, a University Center for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities at Utah State University.

ASSERT provides services to preschool children with autism and their families.

ASSERT has a three-fold mission:
1. Education: To provide effective educational and behavioral early intervention using research-based best practices.
2. Research: To conduct research to improve educational and behavioral interventions for children with autism.
3. Training: To serve as a model training classroom for USU pre-service special education teachers and to provide training opportunities for other educational professionals throughout the state of Utah who are interested in learning to work effectively with children diagnosed with ASD.

ASSERT's primary focus is to promote the development of critical communication and social skills so that children will succeed in inclusive school classrooms. Intervention procedures are evidence-based, derived from research in applied behavior analysis and incorporate validated curriculum materials.

FY 2012 Focus:
Ten preschoolers with autism and their families currently participate in the program. These preschoolers also attend their district's preschool programs while attending ASSERT. Six new students will be admitted in the fall.

This year, 12 USU graduate students and 35 undergraduates will learn through experience to implement services and conduct research on autism. Seven studies to improve intervention techniques were published or accepted for publication this year and several others are currently in progress.

ASSERT has started a new school district partnership with Granite School District in Salt Lake City, Utah and will be working with them over the next few years to build an ASSERT model training classroom in their district. The on-campus classroom will remain the same.