Autism Speaks Partnership Creates Innovative Course for Caregivers

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Online curriculum offers new approaches to autism care throughout the life span.

As the school year begins, Autism Speaks and its partners are offering an innovative curriculum for direct care providers and family caregivers who support the daily needs of people on the autism spectrum. Building Independence for Life Training (BILT™) is an online course providing practical skills and tools that can be used in any setting: a private home, group residence, university or workplace. BILT provides a strong foundation in strategies that improve the quality of life for adults with autism.

Students will gain an appreciation for the complexities of autism spectrum disorder and learn to facilitate independence. The 12-module course includes videos, lectures, moderated discussions and interactive tools based upon best practices. The course, which students complete at their own pace, was developed by specialists in education, housing, nutrition, employment, and the transition from adolescence to adulthood. Some members of that expert panel are themselves on the autism spectrum.

Each year, about 50,000 young people with autism will transition into adulthood and may require jobs, transportation, housing options or residential supports. Among caregivers and support personnel, however, the turnover rate is more than 50 percent a year.

BILT seeks to decrease turnover and set the stage for better outcomes. Colleges and universities can embed BILT into the education of those pursuing health care careers. BILT provides an entry point to a growth industry.

The curriculum was developed through Autism Speaks’ partnership with two of the nation’s leading educational and autism research institutions: the Autistic Global Initiative (AGI) of the Autism Research Institute (ARI) and the online education company Houlton Institute.

“This course will improve the quality of life for adults with autism by emphasizing individualized support that incorporates their strengths, skills and interests,” said curriculum specialist Valerie Paradiz, Ph.D., BILT project director and executive director of ARI’s Autistic Global Initiative, based in Boulder, Colorado.

Led by renowned faculty specializing in autism and adult services, students will learn to identify challenges and support independence by focusing on sensory regulation, communication, community living, safety, transportation, and health and wellness. The cost of the BILT course is $299.

“Autism Speaks understands the critical need for pioneering a gold standard for training,” said Leslie Long, the organization’s vice president of adult services. “This course exceeds any current standards by using the valuable insights of people on the spectrum who are our partners in bringing AGI’s curriculum to caregivers.”

To learn more about BILT, go to

About Autism
Autism is a general term used to describe a group of complex developmental brain disorders – autism spectrum disorders – caused by a combination of genes and environmental influences. These disorders are characterized, in varying degrees, by communication difficulties, social and behavioral challenges, and repetitive behaviors. An estimated 1 in 68 children in the U.S. is on the autism spectrum.

About Autism Speaks
Autism Speaks is the world’s leading autism science and advocacy organization. It is dedicated to funding research into the causes, prevention, treatments and a cure for autism; increasing awareness of autism spectrum disorders; and advocating for the needs of individuals with autism and their families. Since its inception, Autism Speaks has committed $560 million to its mission, the majority in science and medical research. Each year, Walk Now for Autism Speaks events are held in nearly 100 cities across North America. Autism Speaks has partnerships in more than 70 countries on five continents to foster international research, services and awareness.

About Houlton Institute

Houlton Institute is a brand new idea in online education. Houlton partners with the world’s leading non-profit organizations (including think tanks, research organizations, museums and institutes) to develop innovative online courses and programs. Through its partnerships with universities, Houlton brings cutting-edge education, practical skills, and world-class content to learners around the world. Houlton helps non-profit organizations and institutions to realize the value of existing knowledge, experience, expertise and the unique opportunity to further their mission by re-envisioning their education programs toward the post-secondary sector.

About the Autistic Global Initiative (AGI)

The mission of AGI is to foster the development of adults on the autism spectrum and those who work with and for them. A program of the Autism Research Institute, AGI is comprised of a committee of adults diagnosed with autism spectrum conditions. Our members hail from all regions of the United States, representing the broad life span of autistic experience and expression. We are active as professionals and consultants in many fields within the autism community, including education, research, medicine and employment. Families, professionals and individuals with autism face significant challenges in the upcoming decade as our community anticipates an exponential rise in the need for adult programs, living options, and employment across the spectrum. AGI members feel that solutions to some of these challenges can be found within the adult autistic community itself. The Autistic Global Initiative aims to be a part of the solution to the demand that lies before us.

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Aurelia Grayson
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