Today, we are meeting with Dr. Naomi Swiezy, the director for HANDS in Autism® Interdisciplinary Training and Resource Center and Dr. Tiffany Neal, the assistant director for the HANDS in Autism® Center to learn more about the School-Home Collaborative Network – a new initiative started by the HANDS in Autism® to address the needs of a community in a more holistic and comprehensive way.

Q: Dr. Neal, I’ll start with you. What was the intent behind the School-Home Collaborative Network?

Tiffany Neal: The intent and that is really tapped like a dual implementation where due to COVID, we saw that families and other caregivers were stepping into more of the teaching role. And we know that it’s important to bridge or work from that common foundational language and use common foundational strategies with in working with students that have disabilities or have a range of skills and abilities.

And so really being able to speak a common language or to better train and foster that continuity for students, but also a feeling of competency and assuredness on the side of the home and the families and caregivers that are supporting students was a really primary intent and something that we try to foster with the school being the main liaison that’s conveyed that information to families. But in this effort is really trying to work with a pilot group that will really help establish and help us learn more about what topics are central to that continuity and delivery of elearning or virtual learning or continuous learning materials, and then training the teams to really not only use a common language but also inform what delivery mode that should be in and what package that should be in. Or what’s most accessible for those that have less access to technology and materials? What are the bare minimums? And how can we get those out to individuals so that everybody’s able to implement learning and skills training with a consistent philosophy and a consistent approach to the extent that’s possible to best setup for our learners not only during this time of COVID and the pandemic but then moving forward in skills training. And then just determining and really giving them the tools to use more of a behavioral skills training approach where they’re able to share the information or discuss it or model it and put tools in their hands and then foster the coaching and implementation again to reduce the gaps that are occurring for our learners and improve outcomes in their virtual and home, learning and school and home collaboration overall.

Q: Dr. Swiezy, this question is for you. How does this initiative align with other work performed by HANDS in Autism®?

Naomi Swiezy: It does carry over from the other work that we do and working closely with the schools, really helping them to have the tools that they need to be able to implement effectively on site. But part of what we want to install with folks that were training, school providers and such, is that we want them to not only know what they’re doing and be able to implement it, but be able to teach others and serve as a model and support themselves. And that is a big part that is missed between the school providers and home providers or home hip caregivers – really being able to coach the caregivers in how to you know best help their student to be most effective at home.

A lot of times we hear families say you know homework, we couldn’t get the homework done or we don’t even try to do homework because of all the behaviors or all the concerns or just not feeling adequately prepared to be a teacher. So as Dr. Neal indicated, you know, especially in this time of COVID when the onus is on the family to really be able to provide the education, with the support of the school versus the other way around. It’s really essential that the school personnel be able to really be able to train the, the home providers as well.

Q: In your training, will you be following your HOUSE model curriculum framework? Can you tell a little bit more about it?

Naomi Swiezy: The house framework is where we, we call it a house, the framework – the HOUSE – because it’s shaped somewhat like this and we generally start our training with the foundational components, which have to do with really being proactive and making sure that folks have some basic skills to be able to support, putting those practice pieces in place. But then also move on very quickly to a very data-driven approach to determining what goals would be most appropriate, determine what teaching style would be most appropriate, implementing that teaching implementing the behavioral intervention. And then ultimately, as we move around the house and around the sides and the roof over to the other side is really to be able to teach skills that are appropriate and generalizable out into the community so that the skills that we’re teaching are actually something that’s functional for the particular students and their caregivers at home.

So in terms of this curriculum, as Dr. Neal indicated, we will be piloting various aspects of the curriculum, but really focusing a great deal on some of those foundational concepts – foundational pieces and implementation support that really have to do with again how to implement most effectively using positive attention and ignoring using collaborative and team like efforts in really programming for success in general,

Tiffany Neal: Yes, I think the building on the house model, we were looking to call out and again that’ll be part of what we do with the pilot group is our thought was to present those foundational strategies from the implementation support component. And not only get the parents perception of how that could be implemented or transferred into their setting, but the parent caregiver and home setting but then also from the school’s perspective, how can they better train or support families and caregivers in the implementation of that in their setting to better work on both sides and so giving a range of tools and helping them see different means of delivery. And what would be better received and different modalities? what tools need to be sent out? And really just getting some of that first-person perspective, to help form that overall component is the intent. So giving some tools he seen a sample of training and hearing the different terminology that could be used or ways it could be trained that we’ve used with different audiences and allowing them to not only experience but also have some dialogue about that to inform that final set or the drafted set that we would roll out at a broader scale.

Q: Can you tell more about the application process? Do you have minimum requirements for teams?

Naomi Swiezy: Yes. So currently, it’s open for application. And so folks need to already have in mind a team, or hopefully have the team already generated even. We definitely need to have an administrator on board and the administrator kind of being the lead of that team to provide some accountability, but also having teacher, family member. And we can have up to six or eight folks on the team. But definitely those components need to be a part of the team.


Q: Have you seen similar examples of an implementation model in the States? Have they shown positive results?

Tiffany Neal: I think the model of delivery is not novel, meaning that there that we know that user behavior skills training approach or coach or giving instruction coaching to deliver, or modeling and then coaching are successful in parents picking up skills or providers implementing skills with greater fidelity. But the more community engaged approach in its development is, I’m sure there are similar approaches, but it’s really building on that community based participatory kind of engagement model, where we’re really looking to get more first person perspective and have them engaged in the development process. So really facilitating that conversation is important. But then again, establishing the foundations is something that I think a lot of people seek to do and we’re trying to be much more systematic in that and then to derive kind of a manual or materials that that way it could be utilized with greater numbers and within systems that they would be able to support the continuity of that and to develop more buy-in for implementation of those.

Naomi Swiezy: I think also an important piece is that although you know all the federal guidelines and state guidelines, really.. don’t mandate but they guide us to make sure that families are engaged and very much a central part to the education of their their students. Families don’t always feel a large part of that and are not as integrated as purposefully. So I think that is something that is a bit unique here is to make sure that there is a very systematic and purposeful means of engaging, everyone together as equal partners and essential partners to this process.


Q: what supports are available to schools and community once the teams go through the initial training and engagement?

Tiffany Neal: Our intent is to continue to foster more and more communities of practice so that that way as people are going through a payoff or a benefit. While not monetary, it’s a free program that we’re hoping to deliver as a community service. But it’s really just to become part of that network or community that as the one team is and delivering or finding the successful means for meaningful parent engagement that they’re able to share, or network, or collaborate with others that might be in a very similar situation, whether that’s in regards to, you know, just getting some parents engaged. Or maybe on the flip side, the parents are really wanting to get engaged more and feeling some resistance that that just develops a broader network that that they can really build on and we can continue to facilitate but that they have other go-tos, as well as staying abreast of it and being able to continue to access and engage with the HANDS Center.

Naomi Swiezy: I think of it as an overall to another you know benefit is really, you know, again, working on that collaborative piece. Aside from even training on the mechanics, if you will, or the curriculum is again getting in a different kind of philosophical space in terms of what that homeschool engagement, and collaboration can look like. There are many due-process hearings and litigation that that come out of not being able to do that well. And so, it is definitely teaching a broader based skill, I think that will help in the long term.

Thank you for your time. For more information about the initiative, please visit