START Connecting Articles

Welcome Back

Welcome Back!

We hope your return to school has been smooth and filled with many positive moments, even amidst this complex transition for school staff, students, and families. We know some of you spent last year in your school building teaching face-to-face, while others had frequent vacillations between face-to-face and remote learning, and still others taught virtually for the entire academic year...

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START-isms: Values to Guide our Work

START-isms: Values to Guide our Work

As part of our 20th anniversary celebration, we are debuting our updated START-isms. What are “-isms”? They are “concise and forcefully expressive phrases” (Oxford Languages online dictionary). So, what are START-isms? They are pithy phrases that represent the values that guide our work. As you explore the START-isms on our website, you will see classics that you have heard many times while others are new or refreshed... 

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When words matter

When Words Matter

Beginning in the 1970s, Autism Awareness week was a way to raise awareness about autism at a time when the known prevalence of autism was 1 in 2,500 and it was considered an uncommon childhood disorder. Eventually, Autism Awareness month and World Autism Day were established to continue the effort to increase awareness. Fast forward to 2021, and so much has changed about our understanding of autism...

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Empower One, Empower ALL

Empower One, Empower ALL: Creating a Peer to Peer Culture One Classroom at a Time

For the past twenty years, START has supported the development of Peer to Peer programs around the state. We have observed the magic that results when peers are together building authentic friendships in classrooms and schools, and we have seen firsthand the benefits of these programs for both students with ASD and their peers when programs...

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We can't say it enough - Use evidence-based practices!

We can't say it enough - Use evidence-based practices!

For students with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), the research literature is clear about the importance of using evidence-based practices and professional judgement to systematically address learning and behavior support needs, while also respecting the strengths and preferences of the individual and the family. Collecting and evaluating data assures interventions are effective in developing social...

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Supporting Families at Home with PBIS

Supporting Families at Home with PBIS

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many public schools across Michigan were not able to offer a full-time return to face-to-face learning in the fall. Depending on each district’s circumstances various models or a combination of models were offered including all face-to-face learning, all online learning, or a hybrid approach. In an effort to assist families supporting their children with learning at home...

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Independence and Social Opportunities

Independence and Social Opportunities

What goal is most important for your child to have a quality life? We have asked this of numerous parents and school professionals during our trainings over the past 20 years. The top two answers are invariably – “I want my child to be independent and I want my child to have meaningful social relationships.” If you ask kids this same question, you will get a similar answer – “I want to do things my way and I want friends...” 

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Get Moving: Exercise is an Evidence-Based Practice

Get Moving: Exercise is an Evidence-Based Practice

Although it feels like we just started the new school year, winter is coming soon. For many, the chilly temperatures will cause us to hunker down. Playing outside, taking a bike ride, or just going for a walk becomes increasingly difficult when weather dictates we stay inside. If we have learned anything from this year, we know staying still can create restlessness, and for many of our children with ASD, this can greatly...

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task analysis

Task Analysis

As teachers and school professionals, one of our primary goals is to teach students new skills. No matter the age of the student, the academic, social and independence skills we teach can have a profound impact on participation and quality of life. It is important to understand some students may need more assistance in learning certain skills. A task analysis breaks down a skill that has multiple components...

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Back to School

Back to School Fall 2020: Persisting in a Pandemic

This week is the official start of the fall season. It is usually the time when kids are settling into school, the leaves turn colors, football is in full swing, and the hunt for pumpkins begins. Here at START, we attend the kick off RCN meetings, prepare for the first intensive training modules, and finalize the agenda for the November RCN leadership meeting. This school year will...

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Padlet 101

Staying Connected and Engaged During Times of Distance

One of the most difficult aspects of social distancing is being socially distant. During the school year, we work hard to help students be connected with each other and engaged in their school community. When students are at home, whether it is due to COVID or the break of summer this becomes more difficult. Families become tasked with taking a larger role in helping....

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Children running

ASD and Siblings

Each child with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is unique in personality, abilities, and challenges. ASD presents in a wide variety of ways with varying levels of impact on communication, social interactions, and behavior. While ASD affects the individual, it also has an impact on family dynamics. This is especially true for sibling relationships. Brothers and sisters with or without ASD have distinct ways....

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Phil Callaway Quote

A Reflection & Response to COVID-19

I am starting this article with a phrase we have heard repeatedly over the past two weeks - we are living in unprecedented times. Although this is true, it is a statement that hardly conveys the magnitude or impact of this situation on individual lives and communities. In this present moment, we can only see snapshots of all the ways this is impacting people. This is a difficult time...

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Remember self-advocacy! This topic was presented at the Fall RCN Leadership Day and we want to recap how important it is to be mindful of self-advocacy across all ages and environments. Self-advocacy is simply defined as being able to communicate for yourself about the things that are important to you, asking for what you need and want, telling others about your thoughts and feelings...

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Promoting Engagement in Preschool Classrooms

Promoting Engagement in Preschool Classrooms

Engagement is critical for all students, whether they have disabilities or not, but it can be especially important for young students with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) since these children may not readily learn from observing others, and often have challenges related to motivation, attention, and understanding expectations...

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State Funded Initiative: Michigan Alliance for Families (MAF)

State Funded Initiative: Michigan Alliance for Families (MAF) 

The Michigan Alliance for Families (MAF) is a statewide parent resource agency supporting families of children with disabilities and their involvement in their child’s education. MAF maintains regional parent mentors across Michigan who themselves have a family member with a disability. Every staff member...

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