The Autism Place at Illinois State University

The Autism Place at Illinois State University was established in 2007 as part of the statewide network of support provided under The Autism Program of Illinois. The Autism Place (TAP) offers evidenced based therapies to address the needs of children diagnosed with autism. The services are provided by a treatment team comprised of Illinois State faculty, graduate student clinicians, and undergraduate students.

At the beginning of 2015, The Autism Program of Illinois service network consisted of 17 partners and 19 locations. Due to the budget uncertainty, several have closed. Thanks to the generosity of ISU and the community The Autism Place at ISU has remained open. Please contact your state representative and donate today.

Services Offered

TAP offers the following services to families:

Sprouts is an early intervention preschool program which meets five days a week for 2.5 hours a day. The program focuses on school readiness and social skills intervention. Children receive both group and individual intervention during each meeting. The parents of children in Sprouts meet weekly for a facilitated support group as well.

Social Skills groups are offered for children ages 5-18. Children are grouped by age and skill level to provide them meaningful opportunities to engage in social interactions with peers. Each group meets once a week, and they each have different goals, allowing the children to receive the intervention that is most effective for them. Social Skills groups allow children to learn specific skills necessary for positive future interactions in an setting that makes the interactions as natural and successful as possible. The parents of children in the Social Skills group meet weekly for a facilitated support group.

Individual services are offered to continue working on pivotal skills, academic work, or other supportive skills that are necessary for successful interactions in the future. Participants meet at least once peer week with a trained clinician, while several others will meet even more frequently with their clinicians. Families are an integral component of the treatment team during individual services.

Home-based consultation services are offered to families who are having difficulties with behaviors, transitions, or even academic work at home. Often times this consists of observations, and behavioral plans being written and implemented by a graduate clinician for the home.

School-based consultation services are very similar to home-based, but are conducted in the school setting. Schools can request help with behavior plans, help creating visuals, or social stories. In addition, TAP clinicians will often attend IEP, 504, or domain meetings to support family members as an outside advocate when asked. It can be helpful to have an outside perspective to help collaborate with the school when creating behavioral plans or discussing the creation of reinforcement systems.

Summer Camps offer children the opportunity to have the typical summer camp experience that they may not have the chance to enjoy otherwise, while also providing the support to maintain and generalize their skills they have worked so hard on during the school year. Typically, TAP offers three different camps, running two weeks long each. Summer Camps will not be offered Summer 2016 due to lack of funding.

Community Training provides important information to community groups about working with children and families with autism. TAP has provided this essential training to first responders, social workers, school personnel, day care providers, school bus drivers, and others.

ISU Student Involvement

Approximately, 30 undergraduates and 35 graduate students are involved in TAP every semester. For undergraduate students, they have the opportunity to take class credit to work at TAP, and for the graduate clinicians, both the first year and second year school psychology students are required to work at TAP as part of their pre-practicum and practicum coursework respectively.

Undergraduate students typically work 9-10 hours per week. Most students end up being in two-three social skills groups and will also be in a mandatory class each Tuesday night. During the class, they review behavioral management principles that are helpful for being a successful clinician, discuss specific applied behavioral analysis principles, such as discrete trial training, share star moments, and also problem solve if there were any issues from the previous week.

First year graduate students attend their assigned groups each week and help with data collection, behavior management, and during March begin the process of learning how to take over and run the group for their second year experience. They also attend a group supervision on a bi-weekly basis with their supervisors.

Second year graduate students are assigned a social skills group towards the end of the summer before their second year begins. At this time they meet with parents to begin creating appropriate group goals, determine data collection procedures, and decide on the types of activities that will be utilized to target the specific goals. The second year graduate students are in charge of implementing the weekly interventions and leading a treatment team consisting of their assigned first year(s) and undergraduate clinician(s). They also receive weekly individual supervision with their supervisor, and attend a group supervision meeting with both their supervisor and Dr. Karla Doepke.

The second year graduate students have the opportunity to train and supervise their treatment team to ensure the integrity of the treatment each week, as well as evaluate the progress of each child. All second year students make data based decisions to determine if a change in intervention is necessary, and then determine what types of intervention(s) would be appropriate if/when the time comes for that.