UMaine, Maine DOE inclusive education collaboration changing name, expanding focus

A project that has served individuals with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and their families for nearly a decade at the University of Maine is getting a new name and taking on a broader mission.

The Maine Autism Institute for Education and Research will now be Maine Access to Inclusive Education Resources (MAIER).

Established in 2014 with financial support from the Maine Department of Education, MAIER has sought to improve outcomes for individuals with autism in Maine throughout the spectrum and lifecycle by building statewide capacity for leadership, training, professional development, technical assistance, collaborative consultation, technology and research.

That work will continue as MAIER’s mission expands. The project will now serve as an information and resource clearinghouse that will assist professionals and families in accessing and navigating programs and services related to inclusive education of all students with disabilities. It will aim to ensure that educators and other service providers, as well as families and individuals with disabilities, receive information about practices to promote inclusion that are grounded in research.

Maine DOE’s Office of Special Services and Inclusive Education is providing MAIER with grant funding of nearly $632,000 over the next three years to carry out this mission.

“We’re excited that our partnership with Maine DOE will continue, and that MAIER will be able to touch the lives of more people in Maine by improving inclusive education and services throughout the state,” says Sarah Howorth, MAIER director and assistant professor of special education at the UMaine College of Education and Human Development.

“MAIER is one of many programs in our college that support positive inclusive outcomes for schools and students across Maine,” Howorth adds. “As part of the flagship university in the University of Maine System, we are continually looking to maximize the impact of our research, collaborations and engagement with educators, families and other service providers.”

Howorth says MAIER’s service to the state will be guided by four aspects of high-leverage practices to promote inclusion and equity in education for people with disabilities: collaboration, assessment, social/emotional/behavioral, and instruction. Future MAIER training and professional development topics will include improving access to inclusive post-school opportunities and employment for individuals with disabilities, inclusive teaching practices, and multi-tiered behavioral supports to serve those who are at-risk or have identified disabilities.

“Inclusion is vital to the development of all students from preschool through high school and beyond,” says Tracy Whitlock, special projects coordinator with the Maine Department of Education Office of Special Services and Inclusive Education. “We are proud to collaborate with the University of Maine on this work that will lead to stronger Maine communities.”

Among MAIER’s accomplishments during its first eight years was the establishment of an Early Start Maine program that provided early intervention services to nearly 400 toddlers and preschoolers with autism throughout the state. Based on the Early Start Denver Model, MAIER staff also trained 34 early intervention providers with Maine Child Development Services, which assumed oversight of the program in 2020.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, MAIER saw an increase in the number of educators and other professionals utilizing its professional development offerings. In 2019–20, there were 354 total participants in MAIER’s online training modules. That number went up to more than 1,000 participants from around the country in 202–21.

“As both a parent and an educator, I have been fortunate enough to utilize many of MAIER’s program offerings,” says Angela Lundy, a special education teacher at Mary Snow School in Bangor. “From professional development to PEERS social skills training with my son, MAIER is an invaluable resource for Maine families.”

In addition to the name change, MAIER recently transitioned to new leadership. Howorth took over as director after Deborah Rooks-Ellis, who started the project and led it for eight years, accepted a position at Coastal Carolina University. Longtime MAIER research associate Donna Doherty retired last year as well. Anica Miller-Rushing is MAIER’s new research associate and family partnership director. Miller-Rushing, who earned her Ph.D. in STEM Education from UMaine in 2022, will lead collaborations, manage programming and professional development, and support MAIER’s research agenda.

More information about MAIER can be found on the project website, umaine.edu/maier.

October is Dyslexia Awareness Month

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) describes dyslexia as a brain-based learning disability that specifically impairs a person’s ability to read. Other definitions (e.g., First Step Act – § 3635International Dyslexia AssociationMayo Clinic) describe dyslexia in a similar way. The reading impairments associated with dyslexia are also unexpected in that individuals with dyslexia typically demonstrate otherwise typical intellectual functioning and developmental growth.

In preparation of Dyslexia Awareness Month, The Maine Department of Education Office of Special Services hosted a webinar with Dr. Nadine Gaab, an Associate Professor of Education at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. Dr. Gaab’s work focuses on developmental cognitive neuroscience, particularly in language-based learning disabilities. Her research in the GaabLab examines the development of typical and atypical language and literacy skills in the pediatric brain and pre-markers of learning disabilities and the development of screening tools for screening literacy milestones and dyslexia. The Webinar was titled “Screening for Early Literacy Milestones, Dyslexia, & other Reading Disabilities: The WHY, WHEN, WHO, HOW and WHERE,” the recording is available here on the Maine DOE Office of Special Services Professional Learning Page.

Be watching for additional information and resources throughout the month of October.

For additional information please contact, Anne-Marie Adamson (anne-marie.adamson@maine.gov), Dee Saucier (danielle.m.saucier@maine.gov), or Tracy Whitlock (tracy.w.whitlock@maine.gov).

Entry Level Job Safety Skills for People with Intellectual or Developmental Disabilities (I/DD)

The Institute on Disability at the University of New Hampshire is offering free training this fall (2022) focusing on Entry Level Job Safety Skills for people with intellectual or developmental disabilities (I/DD). The training offered through Zoom is interactive, accessible, and collaborative. It is tailored to support all stakeholders who assist students in the transition to employment, including high school students with I/DD, as well as employers, Vocational Rehabilitation Counselors, Special Education Teachers, and Educational Technicians.

Get more information and register here.

Download the PDF Flyer.

For More Information Contact Caitlyn Fulton Caitlyn.Fulton@unh.edu

IN-PERSON TRAINING: Amplifying Students’ Voices in the Transition Process: Outcome-Oriented Planning using Person-Centered Approaches

We can promote success for our students by partnering with them to understand their visions for the future and amplify their voices in the transition planning process. But how can we provide a structure for students to articulate their visions? How can we make time for students to engage in the experiences they need to achieve their future goals among other instructional priorities?

This training will provide strategies for assessing and promoting career pathways through education, work experiences, and other predictors of post-school success. You will engage in community resource mapping with other training participants using case studies to identify and plot resources within your communities. The session will culminate in each participant’s creation of an individualized action plan to bring back to your school, agency, or community with support from the trainers and other participants.

Date and Time: Thursday, September 22, 2022, 10:00am-2:00pm ET

Location: University of Maine at Augusta campus

Presenters: Josh Taylor (UMaine), Janet May (UMaine- Center for Community Inclusion and Disability Studies), and Gina Oswald (UMaine-Farmington)
Cost: $75.00

Register today! Once you register, you will receive an automated email confirming your registration, with directions to the training site.

Questions: Contact Lara Enein by email at lara.enein@umb.edu

WEBINAR: Outcome-Oriented Planning for Transition-age Youth

Transition planning is critical to ensuring that students’ educational experiences result in success after graduation. But transition planning can also be a daunting task for educators and other practitioners. What are the right pathways to get our students where they need to be? Where do we begin? This session will discuss how we can use person-centered and backwards planning to anchor transition to the outcomes students want for themselves. You will learn practical strategies for engaging students and families through reframing the transition planning process to develop students’ career potential. In this webinar, you can connect and share ideas with other practitioners through small group discussions in breakout rooms. Presenters will also host interactive Q&A discussions.

Date and Time: Tuesday, August 30, 2022, 2-3:00pm ET Location: Online (Zoom)

Presenters: Josh Taylor (UMaine), Janet May (UMaine- Center for Community Inclusion and Disability Studies), and Gina Oswald (UMaine-Farmington)

Cost: $25.00

Register today!  Once you register, you will receive an automated email confirming your registration. We will send reminders closer to the event date with the webinar URL link.

Questions: Contact Lara Enein by email at lara.enein@umb.edu.