The ASERT Collaborative has several ongoing projects. Some projects start in one region and others are offered statewide. Below are a few projects and initiatives the ASERT Collaborative is working on to help address unmet needs in Pennsylvania. The ASERT Collaborative uses data from multiple sources, including the Pennsylvania Autism Needs Assessment and the Pennsylvania Autism Census, to identify project priorities.
Pennsylvania Autism Census
The 2014 Pennsylvania Autism Census Update was released in the Fall of 2014 by the PA Department of Human Services, led by the ASERT Eastern Region. The Pennsylvania Autism Census is an administrative count of the number of individuals who are receiving services in public service systems. The 2014 update used data from multiple Pennsylvania systems. The full report, previous report, and a clickable map by county are available at paautism.org/census. Pennsylvania Autism Census data can be customized and catered data requests are available. Contact ASERT@drexel.edu to request specific data or reports.
Person-Centered Assessment and Monitoring System (PCAMS)
The Bureau of Autism Services and the ASERT Collaborative Central Region at Penn State Hershey are piloting the Person Centered Assessment and Monitoring System (PCAMS), which is designed to evaluate the impact of frequent assessments of areas related to positive outcomes for adults living with ASD (e.g., community participation, social health, emotional/mental health, physical health). The overall goal of PCAMS is to validate a person-centered model of regular assessment that additionally provides indication as to the progress of participants enrolled in BAS programs. Enrollment in PCAMS should improve the care of adults with ASD by drawing attention to critical areas and factors that may be predictive of success in adults with ASD. Participants who enroll in PCAMS will be asked to complete surveys sent via email quarterly. After completion of the surveys, data will be visualized and distributed to the participant to be shared with their provider team. This data can be used to guide person-centered treatment planning and track individual progress.
To participate, the individual must be 1) enrolled in Adult Community Autism Program or the Adult Autism Waiver (AAW), 2) English-speaking, 3) able to read at a 3rd grade level, 4) able to self-report on their own experiences, and 5) able to access survey links sent by email. Personnel at Central Region ASERT will provide in-person/web-based trainings to all provider agencies in how to use PCAMS data to inform treatment planning and progress monitoring, as well as provide on-going support as needed. Individuals enrolled in ACAP and who are interested in participating in PCAMS should contact their Behavior Health Specialist (BHS) about enrolling. At this time, PCAMS is being piloted in select AAW agencies, with the intention to expand statewide. Individuals enrolled in the AAW should discuss their interest with waiver personnel.
Adult and Adolescent Multimedia Social Skills
The Multimedia Social Skills Groups are two interventions which help teens (ages 13 to 17) and young adults (ages 18 to 35) who have high functioning autism improve their social conversation skills. These groups have been found to be particularly helpful for people who become highly anxious in social situations and have awareness of their challenges. These groups have two components: skills building (instruction on how to make and keep friends, dating and relationships, employment-specific social skills, and others) using video modeling and peer generalization for real world practice. These groups are being offered as a clinical service in the Central Region, the Eastern Region is looking to recruit adolescent participants in the Scranton area and the Western Region is also recruiting adolescent participants in the Pittsburgh area. Please go to http://www.paautism.org/ASERT-Social-Skills-Groups for more information.
Care Coordination, Assessment and Responsive Engagement for Transition Age Youth with Autism Spectrum Disorder (t-CARE)
The primary goal of the project is to develop an intervention program to help bridge care and skill development for individuals with autism during the critical transition from adolescence to adulthood. The program focuses on transition skills, such as independent goal setting, self-monitoring, problem-solving and self-advocacy. t-CARE also uses on-going multi-domain assessment and feedback to help the participants identify their personal strengths and needs. From the assessments, the t-CARE coordinator guides the participants to build goals to address areas of need, self-evaluate progress, and revise interventions as needed. In addition, the program works to help the participants identify accommodations that support their needs and effectively communicate them to others. The two year program is being piloted in the Central Region for adolescents age 14-19. It requires monthly sessions with the t-CARE coordinator and the participation of an Elected Reporter, an adult actively involved in the individual’s life who can provide feedback and support throughout the program. Currently enrollment in this pilot program is full, with no additional participants being accepted at this time.
Adult Community Autism Program (ACAP) and Adult Autism Waiver (AAW) Focus Groups
The Bureau of Autism Services (BAS) commissioned the ASERT Collaborative Eastern Region to conduct a series of focus groups in 2013-2014 to engage the two current BAS programs: the Adult Autism Waiver (AAW) and the Adult Community Autism Program (ACAP). ASERT facilitated dialogue among individuals who directly interact with these programs including: individuals with autism, families, service providers, and program administrators. Through this dialogue ASERT accumulated detailed knowledge about their experiences with AAW and ACAP. The results of this project informed program planning and helped to bridge program engagement with BAS, ASERT and service providers. Results of this initiative were communicated to individuals and families through community meetings and a formal report. In late 2015, ASERT conducted a second round of ACAP focus groups to learn if and how program experiences have changed since the first focus groups. Results from this second round of focus groups are in progress.
Psychosocial Rehabilitation for Adults with Autism Spectrum Disorder
Psychiatric Rehabilitation is a service offered to individuals with psychiatric diagnoses and is funded by Behavioral Health Managed Care Organizations. There are many existing programs across the state. There are eligibility criteria to include a formal psychiatric diagnosis for each participant. The goals of the service fall into five categories: Living, Learning, Socializing, Working and Self Maintenance. ASERT has been working with programs in the Western and Central regions of the state to assist counselors in their understanding of autism and enhance their capacity to serve adults with autism. Training continues to be provided to programs currently serving adults. Reference and training materials are in development and will be made available on the ASERT website upon completion. ASERT is also working with Behavioral Health Managed Care Organizations to identify this as a sustainable support for adults with autism across the state.
Justice System Projects
The ASERT Collaborative Eastern and Western Regions are working on several initiatives to prevent and improve justice system interactions among individuals with autism in Pennsylvania. ASERT is training justice system professionals on autism, and providing tools and supports to help describe how autism “looks” in communities. Trainings, tools and supports are available throughout the state. Please contact the ASERT Collaborative Eastern Region (ASERT@drexel.edu) if you are interested in a training.
Education of Emergency and Pre-Hospital Responders on the Care of Patients with Autism Spectrum Disorder
ASERT has provided face to face training to over 500 Emergency Medical Service (EMS) and Emergency Department (ED) personnel. In collaboration with the Pennsylvania Department of Health (DOH) and Health Services Council ASERT developed an online training for Emergency Medical Technicians (EMS) personnel across the state. Training courses have been approved by the DOH for CEU’s. Individuals with Autism in Emergency or Crisis Situations, Part 1: & 2 and A Guide for Emergency Department Personnel: Assessing and Treating Individuals with Autism. Resources such as a brochure entitled Assessing Patients with Autism Spectrum Disorder in the Emergency Department Brochure and Instrument to Prepare for Acute Care of the Individual with Autism Spectrum Disorder in the Emergency Department have been developed and are available on the ASERT website: Tools to Support Emergency Room Personnel in the Treatment of Individuals with Autism
ASERT has developed a DVD and training manual for Emergency Room Staff. Please contact the ASERT Resource Center to obtain copies of these (firstname.lastname@example.org or 877-231-4244). These tools are being used in emergency rooms across the state.