As the reported prevalence of students with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) increases, the need to provide necessary supports for educators to be successful in serving those students also rises. Project ACCESS has trained hundreds of In-District Autism Consultants (IDACs) to assist Missouri public school educators in their district with understanding how ASD differs from other disabilities and how to use strategies that are most effective in working with students with ASD.
Project ACCESS trained certified teachers and therapists to serve as an In-District Autism Consultant (IDAC) within their school district. IDACs had met prerequisite requirements, including having completed at least six days of autism-specific training provided by Project ACCESS, as well having earned certification in special education or a closely related field. These individuals were chosen by administration within the district to serve in a consulting capacity to their colleagues at the discretion of their district and within the context of their individual district's needs. IDACs do not provide consultation outside of their districts. IDACs typically work with special education staff but some work with general education staff as well.
While IDACs perform a variety of functions, their primary purpose is to effectively collaborate with fellow staff members and parents in order to provide quality educational programming and increase local capacity to serve students with ASD. Some examples of how an IDAC might serve include:
- collaborating and consulting with colleagues regarding best practice strategies or interventions
- administering autism-specific instruments
- developing evaluation plans and participating in IEPs for students
- assisting in providing modifications and adaptations for success in the least restrictive environment
- mentoring educators and team problem-solving
- providing professional development for staff and/or making staff aware of trainings available
In most cases it is possible for IDACs to carry their titles with them when they transfer to another Missouri school district with the endorsement of their new district's administration. A map of schools that have an In-district Autism Consultant is available on our website.
Many Missouri School Districts benefit from having one or more In-District Autism Consultants trained through Project ACCESS.
We love our In-district Autism Consultants (IDACs) and they have provided a knowledgeable and experienced community of collaborators and service providers for many years. Many of our IDACs have advanced degrees related to autism but many do not. As you are no doubt aware, the knowledge-base related to autism has grown exponentially in the last few decades. Feedback from our IDACs has indicated that some feel that they desire additional preparation to master evidence-based interventions and ABA strategies. In addition, many IDACs are more interested in better serving students in the classroom than being a consultant; not all IDACs are utilized by their districts as consultants. Over the years we have discovered that many IDAC attendees have enrolled in the IDAC training with the intention to learn more about autism interventions, although the focus of this training is learning to be a consultant.
With that understanding, we no longer offer IDAC training. Starting in 2018, we implemented the Project ACCESS Autism Credential (PAAC), whose participants are educators that work directly with students and are responsible for their programming. In addition, for individuals that are not classroom teachers, we are providing the designation of Project ACCESS Autism Team Support (PAATS). These are new designations by Project ACCESS and training began in the fall of 2018. By the time they have earned the designation, PAACs will have completed a rigorous schedule of training in evidence-based interventions, documented mastery of knowledge and skills through presentation of portfolio artifacts aligned to competencies, and experienced in-classroom coaching by experts in the field. For PAATS, the training is the same but there will not be a coaching component. More information about these programs is available on our PAAC/PAATS Frequently Asked Questions page. If you or your school is interested in the PAAC/PAATS professional development program, please fill out the PAAC/PAATS application form.
We anticipate that many of our PAAC candidates may come from our existing pool of trained IDACs, although being an IDAC is certainly not a requirement. The PAAC program is of benefit to educators whose primary duty is working hands-on with students on a daily basis, and it may be a stepping stone to a future cadre of more highly trained district-wide consultants who are highly trained in evidence-based interventions that can be used in the classroom. We anticipate that someday in the future we may be able to recruit the next generation of Project ACCESS Missouri Autism Consultants and Project ACCESS Professional Development Trainers from a pool of experienced PAAC program completers.