Autism Training Solutions: interview with Janet Martin
With autism on the rise, school districts are being faced with the task of hiring and training highly qualified special education teachers to support children on the autism spectrum. Autism Training Solutions (ATS), an online education company based in Honolulu, HI, is dedicated to online, video-based training for educators within the field of autism and related behavioral disabilities. It offers professional autism training available for families, educators, and behavior therapists.
Janet Martin, ATS Vice President, says, “ATS offers training for front-line staff who work with children. Our curriculum addresses intervention strategies to prevent and reduce problem behaviors, and to increase social and life skills.”
She adds, “We didn’t create a new autism treatment, just a better method to train staff in established behavioral interventions.”
ATS’ training is the only 100% video-based training being utilized in schools nation-wide.
Through unique partnerships with service providers, schools and families, ATS has produced over 40 hours of professional-quality, high-definition, interactive videos using films of real children, from across the autism spectrum, receiving evidence-based interventions, both at school and within other natural environments. ATS combines these interactive videos with online practice sessions and supervision to train professionals, paraprofessionals, and parents.
“Our five-step ‘eTraining’ solution combines online video interventions, interactive activities, assessments, supervision and certification to ensure successful comprehension and field implementation,” Martin says.
The ATS program is based on field-tested and evidence-based behavior intervention strategies, Martin stresses. “Our trainings are approved by the Behavior Analyst Certification Board (BACB) for continuing education credits, aligned with the National Autism Center’s (NAC) National Standards Project, and reviewed by the field’s leading minds (Board Certified Behavior Analysts) and in-house Behavior Analysts. Our library consists of 2,000 video clips and over 40 hours of expert instruction.”
ATS training features downloadable lesson plans, interactive quizzes, a library of downloadable resources, fidelity checklists, and guided notes.
The ATS program allows a school or treatment provider to assess all new employees via an online pretest. During training, the staff member completes a set of chapters addressing a range of behavior topics. The trainee learns appropriate interventions and how to apply them to teach the child to manage or stop undesirable behaviors, including:
- Escape behavior (running away)
- Aggression (kicking, hitting, etc.)
In each chapter, the trainee watches a video lasting 2–10 minutes. Martin relates, “Our videos were shot on-site in a variety of settings, including provider clinics, family homes, and public schools. It gives the trainee a real view of what to expect.”
After the video segment, the trainee completes a brief competency check of 1-2 questions. After completing a chapter, they take a chapter competency check. At the end of each chapter, the successful trainee receives a Certificate of Completion to place in their personnel folder.
“All in all, each trainee has the opportunity to complete 41 hours of training,” Martin says.
The online program has helped schools increase the number of qualified special educators, and implement positive behavior support strategies to decrease problem behavior and increase positive, pro-social behaviors. It also provides strategies to teach hard-to-reach students and students with very limited communication. The program does not provide training on the use of restraints or medication to manage behavior.
“Our program is even used as an online textbook for special education and Applied Behavior Analysis collegiate programs,” Martin says.
Although typical ATS clients are private practice clinicians, public school staff, and universities offering undergraduate and graduate teacher training programs, Martin emphasizes that ATS is also committed to training parents of children with autism. “We provide parents an affordable and easy way to learn and implement the same evidence-based autism interventions used by teachers and providers in the comfort and privacy of home.
“ATS training lets parents build the necessary knowledge to collaborate and advocate with their child’s teachers and private therapists,” she says.
Parents can receive free access to ATS in one of three ways. ATS provides four hours of free online training for parents covering the basics of reinforcing positive training. “We also provide parents free monthly webinars,” Martin notes.” Additionally, if the child’s school is an ATS client, the school can offer parents the full 41-hour ATS training program for free!”
Martin says that this is a win-win opportunity for both schools and families. “When the school cannot help the student to manage their behaviors, the student often cannot focus on academics, and they cannot develop communication skills or other appropriate social skills.
“The school knows that their student improves their behavior if the parents get the same training as the school staff,” Martin points out. “And, if parents know how to implement the correct intervention at home, the child’s behavior will improve much faster.”
Interested parents can check to see if their child’s school uses the ATS program. “Parents have asked us to contact their child’s school to tell them about the program,” Martin says.
Parents who complete the ATS online program learn skills to not only help their child reduce undesirable behaviors, but also to address challenges to communicating with their child and to help them learn positive behaviors. These include:
- Improving communication for the child with poor verbal communication skills; for example, effective methods for teaching their child how to ask for help, or to how to tell their parent or caregiver when they don’t like something
- Self-help skills, including personal hygiene, dressing, etc.
- Play skills, such as how to play a board game, or how to appropriately handle losing in a game
“Once the parent learns the principles of behavior management,” says Martin, “they have the tools to do whatever they need to do.”