Sara Egorin-Hooper—Supervisor, Baltimore County Public Schools

Administrators benefit by teachers learning EA

“Administrators benefit greatly by having their teachers trained in Early Achievements. They need to have teachers who really understand how to instruct the core deficit areas for students with autism so that they [students] can achieve more and they can be more successful. EA gives these students an opportunity to be so engaged and so it brings a whole new level of meaning and understanding to their learning and you see that [learning] happening. I feel like the EA strategies are great for every student, not just students with ASD."

EA brings students to life

“I’ve seen students that seem very detached before [Early Achievements intervention] all of a sudden come alive. I see them understanding, really getting the meaning of what’s being taught. I also see a lot of students who have been very attached to only adults who are prompting them constantly start to be very aware of their peers and wanting to learn in a group, which is very important for school readiness and having new skills. Schools often assume that students of any age, even three or four years old, are going to come in and just know how to be part of the group and they [children with autism] don’t and EA actually teaches them to do that. It teaches the teachers how to teach them to do it.

EA provides high quality training

“Early Achievements [training] is the most quality trainings that I’ve ever seen in terms of professional development. … One of the greatest things about EA is the way that the teachers are taught it. Both novice teachers and veterans alike are just given so much specific and rich information. The way that teachers are taught Early Achievements principles are really following best practice for adult learners. First, people [in the workshop] are presented [with information] in a very chunked small way so they can concentrate on just that and really clarify it and understand it so that they own the learning. They are given not only specific examples but then [the] … beautiful videotapes … allow people to see how to proceed, how to implement a strategy. They get to do make and take so they come home with the materials [to use in the classroom]. … They’re given practice right at the training and then focus [on those practices] … for that week when their coach comes. They [the trainers] build in repetition and review so that people get to really own it and be able to use it. And you see that in the way they’re [teachers and instructional assistants] generalizing information."

Changes in EA-trained teachers

“The change that I saw with the teachers after they completed the Early Achievements training was quite remarkable. They were transformed from kind of feeling wobbly about what to teach and how to teach it into feeling confident about being able to differentiate and customize and personalize instruction to students with autism spectrum disorders."

Enthusiasm and excitement in EA-trained teachers

“It was a real revelation as far as I was concerned, watching both the instructors and the students and you also saw that it [EA workshops and coaching] helped all of the staff. You saw a difference in the related service providers, the speech language pathologists, and the occupational therapist. There was just this enthusiasm and excitement [from teachers] that went into the students and I saw them responding in a different way than I’ve ever seen young students with autism spectrum disorders respond."

Shifting teachers' perception of children as learners with potential

“They’re [teachers] taking advantage of what’s being offered and there’s a richness to it and a depth [in instruction] that I just didn’t see before Early Achievements. More before I would see very rote learning [in children with autism], I would see very prompt-dependent learning, and now I’m seeing students that really understand and are excited about their learning. So they’re trying to bring their peers into it... and teachers understand that everybody can be a successful participant. I think that when staff, including administrators in the school, see that, they’re really wowed by it. I think that they look at these children’s strengths that we haven’t [always] noticed before, and look at how capable they are of being contributing members … and successful learners and teachers to other students".

Sara Egorin-Hooper

Mary Lou Haughney—Director, Children's Services SPIN, PA

EA fosters intentional instruction

"This program brings intentional teaching to a whole new level. It is quite remarkable the success that our children have demonstrated and the enthusiasm of the teaching staff with the incredible support of the EA coach, Anne Michelle to team, prepare and carry out the techniques on a daily basis without any drastic change to our program structure. I invite you if you have the opportunity to visit our EI classrooms and observe the great work in process. With sincere appreciation not only from me but from our children, teaching staff and families, Mary Lou"

Mary Lou Haughney

Heather Calkins— Assistant Principal, Brennen School, Delaware

Being aware of children's learning challenges

“School-based administrators need to be aware of the challenges that students with autism face. Students with autism typically do not learn well in a group setting. They do not have those skills that they need to be aware of all that’s going on in their environment, and in order to take meaning from that environment. Early achievements targets the specific skills that those kids need in order to be ready for the school setting so that they can be instructed in that least restrictive environment.”

Early Achievements is compatible with ABA programming

“The Early Achievements intervention added value to our program. We are a program based in Applied Behavioral Analysis and use those instructional strategies, and the Early Achievements program fit right into that and enhanced our students’ learning, but definitely built on the foundation that they already had.”

Effective EA professional development fills a gap

“Finding effective professional development for teachers of students with autism is challenging. There really isn’t a whole lot out there to specifically meet the needs for those teachers and those students. Curricula that are out there do not address the needs of early communication for students with autism. The EA training provides teachers those evidence-based instructional strategies that are grounded in applied behavior analysis that truly target the needs of young children with autism and help teachers to become better teachers.”

EA trainings are engaging and relevant

“The trainings that were provided were very engaging for teachers. The fact that the trainers had visited our teachers’ classrooms before the first training was very helpful. The trainers were able to use specific examples from the teachers’ classrooms of what was working and what could be improved on. They knew what books the teachers had used so far. They knew what objects they had used and were able to relate the trainings directly to activities and students in the teachers’ classrooms.”

Importance of the EA workshops and coaching

“Administrators should permit their teachers to go to the whole set of Early Achievements trainings. By breaking the training up across the school year, into multiple days, the training was given in digestible amounts that the teachers could learn each element of the program thoroughly. Training days were then followed up by in vivo coaching by instructional coaches, which allowed the teachers to be given specific feedback on what was going well and what they could improve on, what they needed to work on. The in vivo coaching also gave the opportunities for teachers to ask specific questions about how to implement the strategies with their kids, and troubleshoot things for their individual kids.”

EA fosters peer-to-peer engagement and effective group learning

“Whether it’s a preschool classroom, kindergarten, or school-age classroom, students need to be aware of their peers, what their peers are doing, in order to be able to learn within that setting. Schools are set up for kids to learn in groups, and kids need to have those skills to be effective in a group. Knowing when to wait to be called on, knowing when to respond chorally, and administrators need to be aware of those skills and those deficits for so many children with autism so we can help set our teachers up to set up those opportunities for kids to learn those skills.”

Importance of administrator involvement with teachers

“If I had any tips for any of the other administrators, it would definitely be to be involved, to attend the trainings when you’re able to, but even more so, to let the teachers know that you’re in it with them. To be involved in and out of their classrooms, watching what they’re doing, talking to them, finding out what’s working and what’s not working, to be a support to them.”

Heather Calkins