NJLEND Fellows Visit Douglass Developmental Disabilities Center at Rutgers University

February 20, 2020

Robert H. Larue
Robert H. Larue

On December 13, 2019, The Boggs Center on Developmental Disabilities 2019-2020 NJ-LEND cohort visited the Douglass Developmental Disabilities Center (DDDC) * at Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey in New Brunswick, NJ.  As part of The Boggs Center's NJLEND curriculum, there were many didactic seminar sessions on the topic of autism, such as part of the introduction to developmental disabilities, screening, autism research, autism registries, genetics, Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule (ADOS-2), and ABA. Visiting DDDC and getting a tour of many of the classrooms at the Douglass School on two campuses at Ryders Lane and Gibbons Circle gave the fellows a glimpse of ABA.  As Patricia Shelton, an interdisciplinary trainee at The Boggs Center, explained, "During NJLEND didactic seminars, we had learned about ABA, but seeing it in action at the DDDC helped me more fully understand ABA and the reasoning behind it. I know it will be valuable to me in the future to know what ABA programs look like and to have seen how the DDDC supports their students."

The cohort split into groups led by four tour guides. Robert H. LaRue, Ph.D., BCBA-D. and Director of Behavioral and Research Services at DDDC and one of the cohorts, Jacqueline Shinall, studying for her Doctorate of Clinical Psychology, were two of the tour guides. They explained what happens in the classroom by implementing each student's Individualized Education Plan (IEP), described the population of the students which range from having different levels of behavior and medical challenges, and answered questions that the fellows had. One program that stands out because of the inclusion component was the pre-school classroom called Small Wonders. The student with autism worked alongside typically developing preschool children.

The cohort represents the disciplines of family, genetic counseling, medicine, nursing, psychology, and social work. Dr. LaRue commented, "We are always thrilled to have the LEND fellows tour the DDDC. As a training site, we feel it is a part of our mission to contribute to the professional development of people from a variety of disciplines."

Aimee Ascolese, who will graduate with her MSW in May 2020, provided her insight, "While walking through The Center, I was glad to see that every staff member seemed to be providing the same level of care, attention, and service to the students. It was unlike other environments I have seen in the past, where one aide or para seems to have a much better understanding of the populations' needs than another. All staff at DDDC receives a very thorough and comprehensive training before beginning to work, as was explained by Dr. LaRue. A high level of professionalism seemed apparent across the board and in every classroom."

Angie Hernandez, studying for her Bachelor's degree in Psychology and Cognitive Science, commented that "it was very obvious that the staff have the enthusiasm, motivation, skills, patience and many more qualities to work with the students."

The Boggs Center on Developmental Disabilities 2019-2020 NJ-LEND cohort

The Boggs Center on Developmental Disabilities
2019-2020 NJ-LEND cohort

Dr. LaRue also feels that "Having worked at the DDDC for over 16 years now, I can honestly say that it is an amazing place to work. It is unique to find a facility that is so committed to evidence-based practice. To adapt with advances in the literature, it requires the staff to be flexible and receptive to training - even if it sometimes requires people to "unlearn" things they have been trained to do in the past. This ability to adapt to changes has allowed us to remain a state-of-the-art program with an excellent reputation for decades."

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  • The DDDC serves the needs of individuals with autism spectrum disorders, their families and their schools. It is a university-based program committed to the education of undergraduate and graduate students, uses Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA) to deliver services and disseminates information about the treatment and education of individuals with autism spectrum disorders to the professional community and the general public. The Douglass School currently enrolls 63 students from 23 school districts. There are 19 adults in the Adult Services program. DDDC also performs 50 assessments annually and has 26 home-based service contracts in place.