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) engages in a range of activities that impact 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 don’t do, and to clarify the services 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.
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 the US. 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.
- 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 has 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, recreation, early intervention, technology (apps), personal management, visual supports, sexuality, sensory integration, and many others. Please take a minute to look at our “Service Options for 2014-2015” (https://www.iidc.indiana.edu/index.php?pageId=3678).
- Organize and conduct training events with nationally recognized speakers including TEACCH® Intensive Training, Kathy Oehler/Cheryl Boucher, Julie Steck, Brenda Myles, Jed Baker, Gailynn Gluth, Michelle Garcia Winner, and many others..
- Engage in applied research. As a university-based program, a primary responsibility of the IRCA staff is to conduct research. Strategies and policies that enhance the quality of life for individuals across the autism spectrum are a primary focus of research. In addition, doctoral and other graduate students are supported in their individual research and service efforts.
- Conduct a Needs Assessment survey, every three years, to gather data from families about the status of programs and supports related to individuals across the autism spectrum. This information is presented to Indiana’s Legislative Commission to inform policy and legislative decisions.
- Develop and disseminate written and video/DVD materials. Some of these materials are available for purchase (https://www.iidc.indiana.edu/index.php?pageId=9); many are available for free and on our website at www.iidc.indiana.edu/irca.
- 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 (www.iidc.indiana.edu/cedir) 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 http://www.iucat.iu.edu/.
- 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, and it maintains an updated list of parent support groups across Indiana. Families can find extensive information about service and funding options in Indiana and practical guidance on how to access these resources.
- Assist in maintaining a library collection of relevant books, DVDs, and videos for public distribution. Indiana resident’s can check out materials from the library at the Institute (www.iidc.indiana.edu/cedir) and have materials mailed directly to their home. 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 http://www.iucat.iu.edu/.
- Maintain an active web site at www.iidc.indiana.edu/irca. The IRCA website includes articles written by staff members, a list of training events, and very valuable information about resources and services in Indiana. For example, IRCA maintains an updated list of professionals who can diagnose and assess ASD, and maintains an updated list of parent support groups across Indiana. Families can find extensive information about service options in Indiana and practical guidance on how to access these services.
- Conduct outreach activities for families. A listing of parent groups around Indiana can be found on the IRCA website (www.iidc.indiana.edu/index.php?pageId=546). 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.
- Support students at Indiana University. The IRCA created and supports the Students on the Spectrum club 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 the 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. Once trained, IRCA staff is 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 200) 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.
- 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 individual 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 which focus on student outcomes. Some of these demonstration sites are available for others to observe.
- Conduct university coursework. Because of our association with Indiana University, IRCA staff members teach courses, serve as guest lecturers, and offer entire courses focused on autism spectrum disorders, social skill instruction, and other related topics. Online coursework with modules is also available.
- 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 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 these services that IRCA does not provide.
Here’s what we do not do:
- We are not a direct service provider. Children and adults with autism 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 does not attend case conferences. 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 a Needs Assessment Survey every three years and participate every fall in meetings of Indiana’s Legislative Commission.
- 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
Hopefully, this clarifies our work. If you have additional questions or concerns, do not hesitate to contact the IRCA via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at (812) 855-6508. Visit our website at www.iidc.indiana.edu/irca for additional information.
Pratt, C. (2014). Clarifying the services of the Indiana Resource Center for Autism: What we do and what we don’t do. Bloomington, IN: Indiana Resource Center for Autism.