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As we near the end of the year, we wanted to take the opportunity to share some highlights from the University of North Carolina TEACCH Autism Program.  There is no doubt that 2020 has been a challenge for our TEACCH team and the families that we serve. Our word of the year has been “pivot” as we’ve worked to transition our clinical services to telehealth and our professional development programs to virtual trainings.  These pivots have created some unexpected highlights in the midst of this crazy year, and we are excited to share them with you. 
Clinical Services: Telehealth 
TEACCH Pivots to Providing Services Virtually
During the pandemic, virtual care became an option for reaching families across the state as health care funding began to cover virtual services, and the UNC Virtual Care Center provided support to TEACCH. We joined a global group of autism clinic leaders who met weekly to create a model for best practices in virtual assessment and intervention. Our regional centers shifted to virtual services, serving 88% of our clients and families virtually with the remaining receiving services onsite in our clinics. Our reach included most North Carolina counties, and we continued our mission of reaching historically underserved families, with 18% of our families identifying as Black and 6% as Latinx. Through this amazing pivot, we are now serving as many families as we served pre-pandemic. 
Providing Support to NC Families
We remained committed to providing free services to families in our North Carolina community. Our clinic resource and referral specialists developed a blog The Caregiver/Client Corner to provide resources as they became available during the pandemic. 
The Wilmington TEACCH Center started a Virtual Mother’s Support Group in Spanish, providing access to a support group for Spanish speaking families. Not only have we reached Spanish speaking families across NC through this virtual platform, but parents from Spanish speaking countries have learned about the group and reached out to join. 
Adult Services
The Carolina Living and Learning Center (CLLC) and Employment Services Program have continued to serve our clients in person throughout the pandemic incorporating safety practices including daily wellness checks and masks.  Ensuring our CLLC residents are safe and also have opportunities to connect with friends and family has required creativity and commitment, and our CLLC team has shown both! Our Employment Services team has also continued to support our adults with autism in their workplaces, providing social narratives to explain many of the challenging events that have occurred during 2020.
Training and Dissemination
Virtual Fundamentals of Autism Training
When our week-long educator training programs were canceled last summer; our training team, under the leadership of Kathy Hearsey and Jenny Eigenrauch, jumped into action to create an online interactive Virtual Fundamentals of Autism Training. Through their herculean effort, between July and December, we have offered 26 different weeklong Fundamentals of Autism workshops to more than 1,000 educators worldwide from North Carolina to Chile. By way of these virtual trainings, we reached more educators and other professionals than we typically reach each year.
Remote Learning Webinar
We know that 2020 has been an especially challenging year for children with autism, their teachers, and their parents who have struggled to learn remotely. We created a free workshop focused on remote learning techniques to support teachers and parents – 500 participants signed up within 48 hours!  We will offer this program again in January as there is clearly a huge need for this type of support.
During COVID-19, our autism specialists created “TEACCH Tips” to support families in everything from remote learning, to managing anxiety about change, and ideas for how to prepare for the holiday. These tips can be found here.
TEACCH Research News
Adolescent and Adult Research Expertise
Our adolescent and adult research expertise continued to grow this past year.  We welcomed Dr. Brenna Maddox, Ph.D. as our new Implementation Scientist at TEACCH. Her expertise in mental health services for autistic adults will help us support community-based programs across the state. 
Our TEACCH research team published 5 articles on adolescents and adults with autism this past year as well as shared virtual conference presentations at the International Society for Autism Research and the Association for Behavioral and Cognitive Therapies. Click here to view recent publications
The American Psychological Association published an article about autism services across the lifespan and spotlighted TEACCH’s leadership in the field of autism in adulthood. Notably, the article included information about our program’s efforts to support adolescents transitioning to adulthood (thanks to the T-STEP team) and our research on autism in adulthood including older adults (thanks to the research team). READ ARTICLE
C. Felix Harvey Foundation Grant
Congratulations Dr. Laura Klinger. The Harvey Award recognizes exemplary faculty who reflect the University’s commitment to innovative engagement and outreach that addresses real-world challenges. In collaboration with our Employment Services director, Mike Chapman, and our research team, Dr. Brianne Tomaszewski and Dr. Nancy Bagatell; we are working with local and Fortune 500 companies, as well as autistic self-advocates, to create a “neurodiversity toolkit” to help companies support the successful employment of autistic employees.  
T-STEP Pivots to Virtual Program
Our amazing T-STEP clinical team led by Glenna Osborne has transformed the TEACCH School Transition to Employment and Postsecondary Education (T-STEP) into a virtual program now offered through 6 community colleges across the state of North Carolina. This Spring we will launch a randomized clinical trial of the T-STEP at Guilford Tech in Greensboro. Through the support of the Department of Defense, this grant allows us to examine the effectiveness of the program. For more information, click here.
TEACCH Annual Awards 
The 2020 Miggie Award was presented to Olive Hollinger from the Wilmington TEACCH Center in honor of her creativity, compassion, and commitment to persons with autism and their families.
The 2020 Gary Mesibov Award was presented to Sam Scott from the Charlotte TEACCH Center in recognition of her commitment to the core values of the TEACCH Program and her commitment to improving the lives of those we serve.
Make a Gift to TEACCH
Donations allow TEACCH to expand its clinical and training programs, pilot innovative research programs, and support TEACCH's mission of providing community-based autism services, professional training programs, and research dedicated to enhancing the quality of life for individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder and their families. Thank you for your support!
To learn more about how you can help support TEACCH, please contact Aron Johnson at or visit this website.
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