The Vanderbilt Kennedy Center's (TN UCEDD, IDDRC, LEND) Treatment and Research Institute for Autism Spectrum Disorders (TRIAD) has been awarded a five-year, $10 million training grant from the Tennessee Department of Education (TDOE) to continue a 16-year partnership providing education and training opportunities for school personnel throughout the state.

This ongoing TDOE support allows TRIAD to continue to provide services to educators serving kindergarten through high school at no direct cost to those educators, their schools or school systems. Further, it allows TRIAD to dramatically increase the number of educational opportunities available to educators.

"This award, the largest in this unique partnership, quadruples the budget of our professional development, education and behavior analysis team," said Pablo Juárez, associate director of TRIAD and principal investigator of this grant contract. "It allows us to continue to create innovative programming to support educators across Tennessee as they serve students of varying needs, including those with autism."

Through this grant, TRIAD anticipates being able to deliver approximately 100 professional development and training opportunities annually to educators through statewide workshops, trainings and partnerships as well as online education.

"Together with the Tennessee Department of Education, we are able to lead the nation in statewide initiatives aimed directly at understanding what ASD means within our own borders, how that compares nationally and how to best approach early intervention and school-based educational and behavioral support for students from Memphis to Mountain City," said Zachary Warren, Ph.D., associate professor of Pediatrics, Psychiatry and Special Education and TRIAD director. "We're very proud to be playing this role within Tennessee."

 "Evidence-based practices for teaching students with autism are fundamental to TRIAD's professional development and training approaches," said Sarah Blumberg, Ed.D., TRIAD's school-age program coordinator. "The wonderful thing about the evidence-based practices we teach and model is that they work really well for all students regardless of diagnostic status. In fact, they also work really well when applied to adult educators, which is why these same evidence-based practices provide the structure for all of the opportunities presented by TRIAD."

TRIAD also has announced changes to its leadership structure that will allow the program to keep pace with its rapidly expanding portfolio of autism training, services, and research.

Zachary Warren, Ph.D., has taken on the role of executive director for TRIAD while Pablo Juarez, M.Ed., BCBA, will move into the role of director. All of the leadership changes within TRIAD are effective immediately.

"Our programs are growing with tremendous speed," said Warren. "There has been an exponential increase in terms of our understanding of how common autism is, and in turn, our Center and University are responding by saying we need to designate leadership to ensure that our programs are keeping pace with that need." 

Warren says the new leadership structure will enable TRIAD to continue its high impact programs around teacher, administrator, and para-educator trainings, and also will create opportunities for exploring new methods for delivering those trainings.

"We will be working toward aligning what are oftentimes siloed programs at other institutions to manage a synergistic array of training, clinical, and research activities," Warren said. "Pablo has been a tremendous leader in terms of shaping our relationship with educational, community, and other service partners for the past several years. In his new role, he is gearing up to bolster those partnerships and to work to align them with programs across our University and other institutions across our state and region."

"We could not be more thrilled to have such an effective leadership team in place for TRIAD," said VKC director Elisabeth Dykens, Ph.D, Annette Schaffer Eskind Chair. "Having talented and skilled individuals to lead the charge during a period of rapid change in the field of autism makes the Vanderbilt Kennedy Center well-suited to meet the growing needs of individuals with disabilities and families across our state. I congratulate Zack and Pablo for quadrupling the program reach, and thank them for their tireless efforts in making TRIAD a leader in training, services, and research."