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Collaborating with experts to support schools and deliver professional development, ensuring the success of all students.

VT-HEC Preview – Building Reading Brains

The Science of Reading: Language, Print and the Brain

The VT-HEC is very excited to be bringing Donna Coch Ed.D from Dartmouth College to Montpelier, VT on December 9 to talk about reading and the brain. In this interactive workshop, we will explore the reading brain from the perspectives of education, psychology, and neuroscience. We will examine scientific evidence related to developing a brain that can read, from visual processing of letters to making meaningful connections to what the reader already knows. As Donna describes the day:

My overarching goal is to help the audience think differently about reading, and I borrow from all kinds of research about reading to tell an evidence-based story that I hope will be both familiar and new – familiar enough to build on a common foundation, and new enough to support deeper reflection on practice. I don’t believe that neuroscience studies can tell teachers what to do in their classrooms, but I do believe that neuroscience studies can provoke teachers to think about what they do in their classrooms, and what their students are doing,  in new ways.

Learning to read is an amazingly complex task that requires the development, interconnection, and coordination of multiple skills and neural systems. A theme throughout the day will be the remarkable plasticity of the human brain: educators and students together are literally building brains that can read. We will also consider children who are struggling to develop these skills and systems.

Donna Coch, EdD, is an Associate Professor in the Education Department at Dartmouth College. In her research, she uses a noninvasive brain wave recording technique, in combination with standardized behavioral measures, to explore both what happens in the brain as children learn how to read and how the fluently reading brain works. She teaches classes on the reading brain and atypical developmental pathways. A goal of both her research and her teaching is to make meaningful connections among mind, brain and education.

If you are involved in teaching literacy from pre-k through grade 5, are parents  of young or elementary-aged children or working with students who are struggling to master literacy skills, you won’t want to miss this informative and exciting learning opportunity.

For more information and to register go to:

VT-HEC Announces 2015 Series on Autism

Chris Knippenberg, Teresa Bolick & Julie Taylor Highlight Fall Line-up

Now in its 15th year, the VT-HEC will once again present an exciting, informative and practical series of workshops focused on Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD).  New to the line-up is Teresa Bolick Ph.D who will address the high incidence of co-existing disabilities in students with ASD and Julie Taylor SLP who will discuss using high technology core language systems with these students and others with complex communications needs.

High Technology Core Language Systems and Autism –  October 16, 2015: Julie Taylor SLP – Discover why using high technology core language systems can benefit students with ASD and others with complex communication needs and explore receptive language and behavioral visual supports for these students in this up-to-date review of how technology can support your students in the critical language area.

ASD & all the Other Ds! Autism and Co-existing Challenges – December 6, 2015: Teresa Bolick Ph.D – A remarkable number of individuals with ASD are diagnosed with other disorders but it can be difficult to recognize and treat them. This workshop will describe the co-existence of ASD and other disorders as well as challenges that may not be recognized as separate diagnoses (such as anxiety). This workshop will describe a systematic approach to understanding the cognitive, emotional, social, and behavioral challenges of individuals with co-existing disorders and identify evidence-based educational, psychosocial, and behavioral interventions.

This will be the third year that the VT-HEC sponsors the highly successful series of WORKshops that are planned around participants being able to make and take materials that are developed to match the needs of their own students.  Chris Knippenberg will again lead this series partnering with Elena Frimerman, Patty Thomas and Patti Piotrowski. This year the topics will include socialization and play, using photo and video supports for learning and transitions, and designing visual systems to support early learners.  Past participants have left these workshops with not only ideas to put into practice right away but actual learning materials they can use with their students. This series includes:

A Systematic Approach to Teaching Socialization and Play for Young Learners – October 2, 2015: Chris Knippenberg/Elena Frimerman – Many children with developmental issues need specific, directed support in learning the basics of solo play and the foundations to notice and play with others. Learn how to reduce barriers to participation for children who struggle to engage in solitary and social play.

Creating Fast, Effective Photo/Video Supports for Participation, Transition & Learning – November 13, 2015: Chris Knippenberg/ Patty Thomas – Creating supports such as choice boards, task routines, social stories, and visual journals to support individuals with ASD and other developmental and learning differences that can be incorporated into a Universal Design for Learning approach.

Designing Visual Systems to Support Independence for Early Learners –  January 15, 2016: Chris Knippenberg/Patti Piotrowski (Registration opens December, 2015) – Schedules, work systems, and task directions are all important visual tools that enable children with ASD and other developmental disabilities to move independently through their day. This session will focus on starting systems for preschool and early elementary learners. We will explore a framework of choices to design individualized supports matched to a child’s cognitive, developmental, and motivational needs.

For more information or to download flyers see here:

ASAP: VT-HEC’s Comprehensive Training Program on Autism Spectrum Disorders

ASAP  – Approaching the Solution to the Autism Puzzle

The Vermont Interagency White Paper on Autism Spectrum Disorders of 2006 confirmed what all school districts in Vermont have been experiencing: a dramatic increase in students with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) over an extended period of time.  Among the things the White Paper identified as being critical to address this growth was a significant increase in professional development to expand the capacity of case managers and staff to meet the needs of these students. Unfortunately, research has shown that most inservice training never results in the new skills and knowledge being consistently applied to benefit students.

VT-HEC’s new program, ASAP, aims to change that by developing a sustained, comprehensive and coordinated professional learning program on ASD that includes graduate courses, embedded professional development and workshop series that provide multiple year-round options for effective professional learning on ASD.  ASAP graduate courses can lead to VT-HEC’s Autism Specialist Certificate and include two courses to be offered this spring, ABA I starting in January, and ASD: Issues in Assessment & Intervention taught by the distinguished Dr. Particia Prelock of UVM. (If you have not taken a course from Patty you are missing a great opportunity to learn from an extremely knowledgeable and accomplished educator)

To help ensure professional development actually results in changes for students ASAP is providing a coordinated program of sustained and embedded inter-disciplinary professional development and supports for schools working with children with Autism Spectrum Disorders. The ASAP team of experts takes the best interventions and assessments from multiple perspectives and delivers training and coaching to the school team to help them work together to apply the new skills to the students they are working with. Ultimately, it is the goal that these local school teams will be able to act as supports for other members of their school community in addressing the needs of all their students with ASD. ASAP has been piloting this program in Barre City and is now ready to accept new school districts in the program.

To compliment this work, the ASAP program is also offering a series of three workshops this spring focused on increasing learning opportunities for young children with ASD as well as a special workshop focusing on using iPads with students with ASD.  Chris Knippenberg, OT, will be the lead presenter for the series of workshops that will have participants actively engaged in developing the kind of appropriate tasks and materials for pre-school and early elementary-aged students with ASD that will result in increasing their engagement, independence and learning.

Kathryn Whitaker will be leading the workshop that will show how iPads can be used effectively and creatively for students with SLD in a morning session and ASD in the afternoon.   To find out more about these exciting learning opportunities see:  and

If you are particularly interested in how technology can be used with students who have challenges to their learning, the VT-HEC is offering another interesting option: two workshops with Chris CichoskiKelly that will explore this topic in depth and give you the opportunity to try out programs with students in between the two workshops

For more information on ASAP and VT-HEC’s other related offerings contact Joy Wilcox, ASAP Coordinator  ([email protected])


Early Childhood Education: An Economist’s View

Is High Quality Early Education a Good Investment?

We have often heard educators say that it pays to invest in early childhood development, but what would an economist say about  early childhood education as a public investment? In his article, “The Economics of Inequality”, economist James Heckman explores that question, not just from the moral equal opportunity viewpoint, but also from the perspective of investment return and the factors that will be most effective in increasing the productivity of the American economy. (more…)