Image of the word Autism spelling out with wooden Scrabble tiles

What is Autism? What is Autism Spectrum Disorder?

Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and autism are both general terms for a group of complex disorders of brain development. These disorders are characterized, in varying degrees, by difficulties in social interaction, verbal and nonverbal communication, and repetitive behaviors. With the May 2013 publication of the DSM-5 diagnostic manual, all autism disorders were merged into one umbrella diagnosis of ASD. Previously, they were recognized as distinct subtypes, including autistic disorder, childhood disintegrative disorder, pervasive developmental disorder–not otherwise specified (PDD-NOS), and Asperger syndrome. 

To learn more about What is Autism? What is Autism Spectrum Disorder? vist Autism Speaks.

What are Evidence-Based Practices (EBP)?

While many interventions for autism exist, only some have been shown to be effective through scientific research. Interventions that researchers have shown to be effective are called evidence-based practices. The National Professional Development Center (NPDC) uses rigorous criteria to determine whether a practice is evidence-based. Currently, the Center has identified 27 evidence-based practices. Please note that every identified practice is not necessarily appropriate for every learner. Practices are most effective when carefully matched to a learner’s specific needs and characteristics. More information about each of these evidence-based practices can be found on the NPDC website.

COLA Logo - Shape of Virginia with the letters C-o-L-A written over the shape, along with "Communities of Leaders in Autism

The Region 6&7 Community of Leaders in Autism (CoLA) is an opportunity for leaders in the field of autism to share experiences, learn from each other and network both personally and professionally. Our groups meet regionally in the fall and spring and come together for a state-wide conference in the summer. The CoLA is led by the VCU Autism Center for Excellence (ACE) and the Technical and Training Assistance Center (T/TAC) with the goal of providing professional development around evidence-based practices for educating students with ASD. Leadership teams of 3-4 people, including general and special education teachers, paraprofessionals, related service providers, and/or administrators, that attend these meetings are charged with bringing information back to their divisions to share with others.  For more information about this group please visit the VCU ACE CoLA website or contact T/TAC coordinators Holly Nester or Lynn Everett.

Featured Resources

The VCU Autism Center for Excellence (VCU-ACE) is a state and national leader in developing, cultivating, and disseminating knowledge to increase implementation of research-based practice needed to effectively support individuals with autism spectrum disorder to lead quality lives in their home, school, community and work.

The Autism Internet Modules (AIM) are designed to provide high-quality information and professional development for anyone who supports, instructs, works with, or lives with someone with autism. 

Autism Focused Intervention Resources and Modules are designed to help you learn the step-by-step process for planning for, using and monitoring evidence-based practices with learners with ASD from birth to 22 years of age. Supplemental materials and handouts are available for download.