Clarifying the Services of the Indiana Resource Center for Autism: What We Do and What We Don’t Do
Contributed by: Dr. Cathy Pratt, BCBA-D
The staff of the Indiana Resource Center for Autism (IRCA) engage in a range of activities that affect individuals across the lifespan and across the autism spectrum, family members, and the professionals who serve them. The intent of this article is to explain what we do and do not do, and to clarify the work of IRCA.
The overall goals of the IRCA are to conduct outreach training and consultations, engage in research, and develop and disseminate information on behalf of individuals across the Autism Spectrum. The IRCA’s efforts focus on providing communities, organizations, agencies, and families with the knowledge and skills to support children and adults, of all ages, in typical early intervention, school, community, work, and home settings. We are university-based and part of Indiana University’s Indiana Institute on Disability and Community.
In recognition of the increasing mental health needs in our state, IRCA also houses the Indiana School Mental Health Initiative (ISMHI). This initiative does not target autism solely, but looks at meeting the needs of all students with and without disabilities. For more information about this project, visit the ISMHI website at https://lookupindiana.org/schools/.
Here is what we DO:
Develop and distribute an e-newsletter. The newsletter is free to every family member, professional, individual on the autism spectrum, and interested individual across Indiana and beyond. Topics addressed include applied behavior analysis (ABA), structured teaching, communication, technology, sensory integration, health issues, and many others. Training events sponsored by IRCA and held around Indiana are also highlighted. To subscribe to the newsletter, contact Pam Anderson at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Conduct outreach activities for families. A listing of parent groups around Indiana can be found on the IRCA website (https://www.iidc.indiana.edu/pages/parent-groups). Parent support group leaders are invited to be included on an IRCA-managed announcement-only listserv to receive resource and information updates important to families with members on the autism spectrum. In addition, IRCA staff work with local schools and parent groups to provide on-site presentations at parent support group meetings across Indiana.
Organize and conduct local, regional, and statewide on-site training events. IRCA staff also work with local agencies and organizations to conduct workshops that meet their particular needs. IRCA staff members have many years of experience and expertise in a wide range of topics, including structured teaching, applied behavior analysis, evidence-based practices in education, communication, social skills instruction, behavior programming and assessment, technology, personal management, visual supports, sexuality, sensory integration, and many others.
Organize and conduct training events with nationally recognized speakers including University of North Carolina TEACCH® Autism Program staff, Brenda Myles, Jed Baker, Ross Greene, and many others.
Engage in applied research. Every three years IRCA staff conduct a Needs Assessment survey to gather data from families and/or professionals about the status of programs and supports related to individuals across the autism spectrum. In addition, doctoral and other graduate students are supported in their individual research and service efforts.
Assist in maintaining a library collection of relevant books and DVDs for public distribution. Indiana residents can check out materials from the Library at the Institute (https://iidc.indiana.edu/library/index.html ) and have materials mailed directly to their home, school or office. This service is free for Indiana residents. Library materials housed in the Institute’s lending library collection are listed online as part of Indiana University’s library system at https://iucat.iu.edu/. One special feature of the library is a comprehensive collection of assessment tools for speech language pathologists at https://guides.libraries.indiana.edu/c.php?g=199526&p=1312760.
Maintain an active presence via social media, including Pinterest, Twitter, and Facebook. Our website at www.iidc.indiana.edu/irca includes articles written by staff members, a list of training events, and valuable information about resources and services in Indiana. For example, IRCA maintains an updated list of professionals who can diagnose and assess ASD (https://www.iidc.idiana.edu/irca /learn-about-autism/how-and-where-to-obtain-a-diagnosis-assessment-in-indiana). Families can find extensive information about service and funding options in Indiana and practical guidance on how to access these resources.
Support students at Indiana University. IRCA created and supports the Students on the Spectrum Club for students at Indiana University and Ivy Tech. This is a self-directed club that provides a social network for students in Bloomington, as well as provides information that supports them during their university/college experience. Information about the SOS Club can be found at https://www.iidc.indiana.edu/pages/students-on-the-spectrum-club.
Train school-based teams in Indiana. Every year local special education planning districts are invited to organize a team to receive more intensive training in educating and supporting students across the autism spectrum. Once trained, IRCA staff are available to provide ongoing support to assist individual teams in achieving goals within their district.
Organize and continually work with a network of autism leaders (over 150) across the state of Indiana to support their efforts as an extension of this team training. The list of autism leaders in every special education planning district can be accessed on our website at https://www.iidc.indiana.edu/pages/local-district-autism-leaders-mentors-coaches.
Engage in individual consultations. Often IRCA staff are called upon to assist in crisis situations or to help move a program in a more positive direction. IRCA staff is available to address individual needs by observing the person in their natural settings, and collaborating with the person's team and family members to suggest appropriate services and supports.
Work in collaboration with schools and/or districts to create sustainable and positive change through a combination of coaching and training strategies. Schools/districts receive support in implementing evidence-based practices (EBP) or strategies that are focused on student outcomes. Some of these demonstration sites are available for others to observe.
Participate in national/state/local organizations. IRCA staff members are also involved in various local, state, and national organizations in a volunteer capacity and serve on various boards and committees. This helps staff bring national initiatives to Indiana.
Perhaps the activity that keeps us the busiest is responding to the numerous emails and calls requesting assistance, guidance, and resources related to programming and service options. Every year, IRCA staff answers hundreds of requests for information about topics that range from behavior to insurance coverage. As Indiana’s statewide and state-mandated autism center, IRCA is committed to responding with accurate and timely information that addresses the needs of individuals across the autism spectrum and across the lifespan.
While we engage in many activities, there are a number of activities that are outside our work scope. We can however refer families, professionals, and other interested individuals to programs that provide services that IRCA does not provide.
Here’s what we DO Not do:
We are not a direct service provider. Children and adults on the autism spectrum do not reside at the IRCA, nor do they attend ongoing programming provided at our center. Instead, our goal is to build local capacity by working within communities.
IRCA staff do not attend case conferences as advocates. There are other organizations in our state that can assist when advocacy is needed. We are asked at times to assist with mediation related activities, and we can negotiate that work.
We are not a lobbying organization. As a university-based program, we are clearly instructed not to lobby. Instead, our job is to inform the state of the current status of services, available options, and model programs in other states. As part of this information providing process, we conduct a Needs Assessment Survey every three years.
We are not a funding agency. The IRCA works with limited funds, and is not funded to provide financial assistance to families, professionals, or individuals across the autism spectrum. However, we might be able to point you in the direction of grants (https://www.iidc.indiana.edu/pages/grant-funding-opportunities).
I hope this clarifies our work. If you have additional questions or concerns, do not hesitate to contact Dr. Cathy Pratt, BCBA-D at email@example.com or by phone at (812) 855-6508.