The START Project

START Project Mission: To work with schools, community partners, and families to support students with ASD to become active, engaged members of their schools and local communities, and successfully move into adulthood as independent individuals with many choices and opportunities.

The START Project is housed in the GVSU Autism Education Center, supported by the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. It is funded by the Michigan Department of Education, Office of Special Education to provide evidence-based training, technical assistance and coaching support, and resources to school-based teams in Michigan that support students with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). START is a statewide collaborative effort to make systems level changes to improve the educational programming and quality of life for students with ASD. 

Summary of the START Project 

Evidence-Based Practices

Focus of the START Project

  • Increasing professional knowledge of evidence-based practices and skills to implement practices for individuals with ASD at the student, classroom, building, and district levels.
  • Promoting inclusion opportunities and access to general education curriculum.
  • Providing accommodations and options for differentiated output to increase access to general education curriculum and settings.
  • Training school staff in team process and problem solving to improve efficiency and productivity of teams.
  • Providing training in positive behavior interventions and supports to improve behavior supports at the building and individual student level.
  • Establishing a set of universal supports to serve as a foundation for effective programming for all students with ASD that include program guiding principles, family involvement, team process, paraprofessional training, visual supports, peer supports, behavior supports, and educational strategies.
  • Creating peer to peer support programs that promote regular interactions between students.
  • Reworking early childhood special education programming to actively structure learning opportunities and engagement.
  • Improving transition outcomes through a systematic process of discovery, planning, natural supports, and community engagement.
  • Promoting collaboration and coordination across districts, counties, and regions to increase opportunities for sharing training and resources and moving toward a common set of principles and practices for effectively educating students with ASD.
  • Increasing capacity for local school professionals to provide training and coaching locally.
  • Increasing parent knowledge of evidence-based practices and engagement with the school team.
  • Linking and coordinating with other state initiatives focused on improving outcomes for students.

Core Goals and Activities

  • Intensive training and technical assistance to school districts using a team-based approach at the early childhood, K-12, and secondary transition levels.
  • A coaching model supports the implementation of evidence-based practices at the building and district levels.
  • Regional Collaborative Networks (RCN) serves as the infrastructure for collaboration and coordination across school districts, intermediate school districts, and community stakeholders, allowing shared training and resources and systemic planning on a broad scale.
  • Access to resources and information delivered through the project web site, conferences, leadership meetings, and summer institutes.
  • Family and Community engagement through training and planning to prepare students to be fully integrated in their school and local community.

Targeted Goals and Activities

  • Early childhood training and technical assistance that is grounded in evidence-based practices and focused on supporting school personnel to facilitate and expand learning opportunities
  • Peer to peer support training and technical assistance to increase opportunities for students with ASD to connect with peers in general education settings.
  • Transition to adulthood, addressed through Building Your Future (BYF) training and technical assistance, focuses on a V3 Discovery process (vision, vocational profile, and visual resume) and expanding peer supports to employment settings.