Friday, April 13, 2018

UTSA researchers, center awarded grants to support autism training for parents, teachers

Midnight Light

Top-tier initiative will use online resources to teach autism treatment methods

(Aug. 31, 2016) — An interdepartmental team of UTSA researchers has been awarded nearly $1 million in funding from the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board to provide top-tier services and training to Texas teachers and military-affiliated parents who are caring for youth with autism.

The grant, awarded to the UTSA Teacher Education Autism Model (TEAM) Center in collaboration with the UTSA Department of Educational Psychology and the Center for the Well-Being of Military Children and Families, comes from an $8.1 million allotment to the Higher Education Coordinating Board by the 84th Texas Legislature to better serve children with autism through training and research.

UTSA faculty Lee Mason, Leslie Neely and Carmen Fies with help from faculty, staff and students in the UTSA College of Education and Human Development (COEHD), will implement two top-tier projects to fulfill the legislature’s mission of using online resources, training modules and in-person and teleconference counseling to improve services for individuals with autism.

The researchers will train more than 960 teachers and community providers and 550 military-affiliated parents across Texas in applied behavior analysis (ABA) methods. ABA is a form of therapy that involves modifying a child’s environment to encourage socially appropriate behaviors while reducing inappropriate ones. According to the researchers, ABA is one of the most effective treatments for children with autism.

“UTSA is one of the leading providers of ABA access locally and one of the leaders in training the next generation of top-tier ABA providers,” said Neely, assistant professor of educational psychology, board certified behavior analyst – doctoral level (BCBA-D®), and coordinator for UTSA’s ABA graduate certification program. “Thanks to this grant, we are hoping to get ABA services up and running in classrooms and homes across Texas.”

Mason and the UTSA TEAM Center, a teaching clinic and research center located on the UTSA Downtown Campus, will provide the online resources and training for the teacher and community provider-focused project. The curricula will be based on pre-existing training programs provided by the center.

“The ultimate goal of our research is to reach families and providers who may have a hard time finding ABA services in their areas,” said Mason, assistant professor of special education in the UTSA Department of Interdisciplinary Learning and Teaching, BCBA-D® and director of the UTSA TEAM Center. “Moving online gives us the flexibility to meet parents and teachers where they are – in their homes. The research knowledge we hope to gain from this initial project could help create more opportunities for online training in the future, across the country.”

Neely, in partnership with Fies and the UTSA Center for the Well-Being of Military Children and Families, will oversee the parent training project. The military-affiliated families will self-select social, educational or behavioral concern areas for their children, and the initiative will provide them with tools to assist them. The online aspect of the program is designed to remove disruptions in ABA services to children should they be relocated.

“There’s a big need for this type of training for military families,” said Fies, associate professor of Interdisciplinary Learning and Teaching, and the director of the UTSA Center for the Well-Being of Military Children and Families. “Military families are often on the move. They can move across city and state lines. This makes it even harder than usual for their children to receive the ABA services that could help them in the long run.”

The research gathered on the effectiveness of UTSA’s pilot program will be used to inform future online and technology-based ABA training efforts across the state.

- Jesus Chavez


UTSA is currently accepting applications for teachers and related service providers interested in becoming Registered Behavior Technicians. For more information, visit

Learn more about the UTSA College of Education and Human Development.

Learn more about the UTSA Applied Behavior Analysis graduate certificate program.

Learn more about the UTSA Teacher Education Autism Model (TEAM) Center.

Learn more about the UTSA Center for the Well-Being of Military Children and Families.

Learn how Leslie Neely and others are training researchers in Japan about ABA therapy.

Learn how UTSA is working with local organizations to provide low-cost ABA services to San Antonio community members.

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