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 work of the IRCA involves conducting outreach training, coaching and consultations, engaging in research, and developing and disseminating 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. This initiative does not target ASD 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://ismhi.indiana.edu.
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 and outside Indiana, and features practical and easy to apply articles. Topics addressed include applied behavior analysis (ABA), structured teaching, communication, technology, sensory integration, health issues, services in Indiana, and many others. Training events sponsored by IRCA and held around Indiana are also highlighted. To subscribe to the newsletter, contact Taylor Ritchie at email@example.com.
• Organize and conduct local, regional, and statewide virtual and 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, executive functioning, visual supports, sexuality, sensory integration, and many others.
• Organize and conduct virtual and in person training events with nationally recognized speakers including TEACCH® staff, Brenda Myles, Kathleen Quill, Jim Ball, 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 lending library at the Institute (https://www.iidc.indiana.edu/library/) 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://www.iidc.indiana.edu/irca/articles/speech-pathology-assessment-resource-list.
• Maintain an active presence via social media, including YouTube, Pinterest, Twitter, and Facebook. Our website at https://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.indiana.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. And a special feature of our website is a catalogue of visual supports that can be downloaded and personalized for free at https://www.iidc.indiana.edu/irca/resources/visual-supports/.
• Support the efforts of families and family groups. A listing of parent groups around Indiana can be found on the IRCA website (https://www.iidc.indiana.edu/irca/articles/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 family members. IRCA has also begun offering free parent zoom trainings monthly. For more information, visit our website.
• 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.
• 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. To date, IRCA has trained over 500 school-based teams. Once trained, IRCA staff are available to provide ongoing support to assist individual teams in achieving goals within their district. With the onset of COVID, this training has been moved to an online format and is available to all. Visit our website at Comprehensive Programming for Students Across the Autism Spectrum Training Series for more information.
• Organize and continually work with a network of autism leaders (over 200) across the state of Indiana to support their efforts as an extension of 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/irca/what-we-do/school-district-support.html. For parents considering a move to a school district, the autism leader may be a great resource about available options.
• Engage in individual consultations for individuals across the lifespan and across the spectrum. Often IRCA staff are called upon to assist in crisis situations or to help move a program in a more positive direction. IRCA staff members are available to address individual needs by observing the person in their natural settings and collaborating with the person's team and family members to conduct a functional behavior assessment, suggest appropriate services and adopt necessary supports. Consultations are now being conducted virtually as well.
• 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.
• Individual focused coaching. IRCA staff have also begun conducting coaching for individuals needing support with social skills or for those needing to develop executive functioning skills.
• 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 answer 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.
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 local 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 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 Needs Assessment Surveys.
• 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 by visiting our website at Grant Funding Opportunities.
I hope this is clarifies our work. This does not encompass all but gives you a snapshot into our work. If you have additional questions, concerns or recommendations, do not hesitate to contact Dr. Rebecca Martínez at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at (812) 855-6508. Visit our website at https://www.iidc.indiana.edu/irca/ for additional information. We are here to serve you.
Pratt, C. (2021). Clarifying the services of the Indiana Resource Center for Autism: What we do and what we don’t do. Retrieved from https://www.iidc.indiana.edu/irca/what-we-do/index.html.