Course Facilitator: Teresa Cogar, M.Ed, PBSF

Course Facilitator: Teresa Cogar, M.Ed, PBSF


Course Title:Autism Spectrum Disorders for Paraprofessionals: Providing Effective Instruction and Supports

Course Facilitator: Teresa Cogar, M.Ed, PBSF


Mailing Address: 1314 West Main St

P.O. Box 842011

Richmond, VA 23284

The Lead Course Facilitator is responsible for the oversight of the course and will ensure the class runs efficiently. While taking this course, you will be assigned to a Course Instructor. This person will be there to assist you as you move through the course content by sending reminders as you complete the course. They are also there to answer your questions! Should you have any questions about the content of the course or the expectations for successful completion of the course, this is who you should contact. At the beginning of the course you received an e-mail telling you whichof the instructors is your main contact. You will also be able to access this information on the Blackboard course site. Please feel free to e-mail them at any time with your questions.

Technical Support

Contact Jessica Morrisby phone between 8am and 4pm, Monday – Friday at 804-827-1434

or e-mail at.

Requests from School Divisions Regarding Course Completion

Many school divisions use the VCU-ACE Paraprofessional online course to meet the requirements of HB 325, which requires training for paraprofessionals. You may be asked to provide a copy of your certificate to the school division where you are employed.

In addition, a school division may ask VCU-ACE for the names and/or certificates of participants who have registered for or completed the course. To assist school divisions in accurate record keeping, VCU-ACE will provide the names and/or certificates of participants who registered and/or completed the course to their school divisions if requested.


If you, as the participant, do not wish to have your name or certificate information shared with a school division, you may opt out in writing by contacting Teresa Cogar at .

Pace of Course

Participants will have access to the course for one month. The course will run from the first weekday of the month to the last weekday of the month. Please see the dates listed in Blackboard for the exact dates of the course. During the course, there will be five modules that must be completed. You will work your way through one module at a time beginning with Module One and ending with Module Five.Participants will have access to Modules One and Two during the first week of the course. Modules Three and Four will become available during the second week of the course. Module Five will be available starting during the third week of the course. Once a module is available, it will remain available until the end of the course allowing you to complete the modules at your pace.

Access to the Course

Participants will be able to access course materials on VCU’s “Blackboard” website. Each participant is provided the course URL, a unique username, and a password that is used to login to the website. Please note, the username and password should not be shared with other individuals and each participant should have his or her own e-mail address.

Course Overview

This course is an online offering through the Virginia Commonwealth University Autism Center for Excellence (VCU-ACE). This course is designed to provide paraprofessionals with skills and knowledge needed to support students with an ASD in the school setting. The course will provide an overview of the potential roles and responsibilities the paraprofessional may be asked to deliver. Participants will learn how to carry out their responsibilities while maintaining respect for the students and exhibiting sensitivity to beliefs, values, and cultures. A focus will also be placed on effective teaming and communication with professionals and parents.The course is divided into learning modules and will provide participants with an overview of the primary and secondary characteristics of ASD, the development and implementation of the Individualized Education Plan (IEP), includingeducational accommodations and modifications and appropriate educational strategies used to support students with ASD. A focus of the course is on understanding interfering behaviors which students with ASD may demonstrate and effectively supporting the student to reduce these behaviors and increase positive skills.


The course is designed to target paraprofessionals who provide any type of instruction or behavior support to these students in any educational environment. However, the course is appropriate for any person who works in a support role within the school division or any person who interacts with students with autism spectrum disorder but may not have primary responsibilities for the student. This can include but is not limited to:

  • Classroom Paraprofessionals
  • Individual Student Paraprofessionals
  • Hallway Monitors
  • Cafeteria Monitors
  • Bus Drivers and Assistants
  • School Nurses
  • Resource Teachers (physical education, art, music)
  • Librarians
  • Computer Lab Personnel
  • Office Personnel

Learning Objectives

Upon completion of this course, the participant will be able to:

  1. Identify the core characteristics of ASD and discuss the impact of these characteristics on a student with ASD.
  2. Discuss what it means to presume competence and how to demonstrate respect for individuals with ASD
  3. Describe the different components of the Individualized Education Plan (IEP)
  4. Identify team members instrumental in supporting individuals with ASD and describe the importance of communication and collaboration in the educational process
  5. Identify strategies for effective communication with educational team members
  6. List ethical and legal considerations and describe the importance of confidentiality in the educational environment
  7. Identify legal and general responsibilities of the paraprofessional
  8. Describe different ways to structure the environment to support individuals with ASD
  9. Describe how to implement a variety of educational modifications and accommodations to provide an individualized education
  10. Discuss how to structure instructional activities for success
  11. Define prompting, task analysis and reinforcement and describe how to teach using these strategies
  12. Describe how to use visual supports to promote understanding and independenceand discuss how to use schedules, first-then boards, choice boards, and work systems
  13. Describe strategies to promote communication and socialization of students with ASD
  14. Define the term behavior
  15. Identify and discuss the functions of behavior
  16. Describe the parts of a behavior plan and identify how it is used in the educational setting
  17. Describe strategies used to deescalate interfering behavior and ensure safety
  18. Identify the role of the paraprofessional in supporting a student with ASD in the educational setting.

Module One: Overview of Autism Spectrum Disorder

  1. The History of ASD
  2. Characteristics of Students with ASD
  3. Dignity and Respect of the Student with ASD

Module Two: Responsibilities of the Paraprofessional and Description of the Educational Process

  1. The Educational Team and Individualized Education Plan
  2. Responsibilities of the Paraprofessional

Module Three: Instructional Strategies and Considerations

  1. Environmental Considerations
  2. Visual Supports
  3. Instructional Strategies
  4. Prompting & Reinforcement

Module Four: Social and Communication Strategies

  1. Introduction to Communication
  2. Introduction to Social Skills
  3. The HOW and WHEN of Intervention: Plan, Practice, and Use!
  4. Specific Social Skill Strategies
  5. Specific Communication Skill Strategies
  6. Augmentative and Alternative Communication

Module Five: Behavioral Support

  1. Case Study Introduction
  2. The Four Rs of Behavior Intervention
  3. What is a Functional Approach to Behavior?
  4. How Does an Interfering Behavior Develop?
  5. A Proactive Approach to Interfering Behavior
  6. Teaching Replacement Behavior
  7. What are the Steps of Behavior Intervention?
  8. How Do I Respond When an Interfering Behavior Occurs?

Course Requirements

The modules are comprised of narrated presentations. Participants are to listen to each presentation in its entirety. Each narrated presentation has a transcript that can be used to follow along with the speaker. Once all content is reviewed for the module, participants are to complete a module quiz. Please begin with Module One and do each presentation in the order that it is listed in the module. You will also be required to complete three discussion board postings throughout the course.

Even though this is a self-paced course, participants have one month to complete the course. All components of the course must be completed during this month. Access will be denied at the completion date of the course. All requirements must be completed prior to a certificate of completion being issued.

Content Review: The course will include narrated presentations providing course content designed to facilitate learning. There will be specific content for each of the five modules. Integrated into each presentation are activities intended to enhance the learning of the participant:

  • Apply it! – Activities designed to help the participant apply course content with the students with whom they work.
  • Think about it! – Activities designed to help the participant apply course content through a case example of a student with an autism spectrum disorder.

You do NOThave to submit the Apply it! and Think about it! book to the VCU-ACE course instructors.

It is strongly recommended that you discuss the Think about it! and Apply it! activities with your supervising teacher at your school. Your supervising teacher at your school will have insight into why decisions have been made for particular students and how he or she has used some of the strategies you will be learning about. Your supervising teacher may also appreciate the ability to talk with you, the paraprofessional, about important considerations regarding the student with ASD.

The book is in color but you may print this in grayscale by selecting this option on your printer.


There will be one quiz per module for a total of five quizzes. The quizzes will be multiple choice and true/false and are provided to determine acquisition of course content. An average score of 80% or better is needed on each quiz to successfully complete the course. Those who do not successfully pass the quiz will not be able to receive course credit and a certificate of completion. If you do not pass the quiz for a specific module, you have the opportunity to take an alternate quiz. Please e-mail your course instructor for the password to take the alternate quiz. They are here to assist you!


In addition to passing the quiz for each module or an alternative quiz (if needed) the participant is also required to post on the Group Discussion Board a minimum of two times for each of the three course discussion boards. The Discussion Board is an interactive class activity where the course instructor provides a guiding question and participants respond. You will earn five points for posting in each of the three discussion boards for a total of 15 points.

First: You need to answer the guiding question posted at the top of the discussion board. Your course instructor will respond back to you with comments and helpful suggestions. These comments are intended to assist you with learning more about supporting students with ASD.

Second: After your course instructor responds to your post, please read his/her feedback. Answer any questions and comment on whether the information provided was helpful. In other words, you need to indicate that you have read what the course instructor has written and respond back to her or him.

Note: Course instructors will respond to your posts within 48 hours if at all possible. Sometimes this is not possible, since they all have other work responsibilities besides this course. If you have concerns, you can always send your instructor an e-mail. E-mail addresses are posted in several areas of the course.

Those who do not successfully post to the Group Discussion Boardsduring the course will not receive course credit. Participants may post to the board 24 hours a day once the board is available.

The first discussion board question will be available at the beginning of the course. The second will become available with Modules 3 and 4, and the third will become available with Module 5. You will have one final week in the course after they are open to complete all the discussion boards. You may want to view others’ posts in order to gain insight. You are welcome to use this area to respond to each other as well but this isoptional. Your course instructor will also be involved with the discussion board and be able to answer your questions.

It is important to thoroughly answer question on the discussion board. One of the major benefits of this course can be the instructor and participant interaction. If all you do is post your reply and never read any other responses, you are missing some of the content for the course. You can e-mail your group instructor at any time to ask additional questions. You can make this a rewarding experience and learn from each other if you will really "talk" to each other.

Certificate of Completion from Virginia Commonwealth University Autism Center for Excellence

Participants can earn a Certificate of Completion if the following is successfully completed:

  1. View all of the modules in their entirety.
  2. Score a minimum of 80% on each of the five quizzes to receive a passing grade for each lesson.
  3. Participate in all three discussion boards as outlined previously in this syllabus.

Certificates of Completion will be available for download to participants who have completed the course successfully.

IMPORTANT: This is a self-paced course, and you may finish the content at any time during the month. However, the link to download a certificate will NOT be available until the end of the course. The link will be sent out no later than one week after the end date of the course section. This means that everyone who completes the course will receive their certificates at the same time. Thanks for your understanding.

Course Standards

This course was developed to meet the requirements of H.B. 325 and the Training Standards for Paraprofessionals Assigned to Work with a Teacher Who Has Primary Oversight of Students with Autism Spectrum Disorderfrom the Virginia Department of Education. To see a full list of the Training Standards, please see the course site or visit the VCU-ACE website.