Vanderbilt Kennedy Center (TN UCEDD): Addressing the Needs of Individuals with Autism and Families

May 31, 2013

The Vanderbilt Kennedy Center (TN UCEDD) addresses the needs of individuals with autism and their families through education, training, research, intervention, and public policy. Below are some of the programs and activities in which the Center's faculty and staff are engaged.

TRIAD-Treatment and Research Institute for Autism Spectrum Disorders: TRIAD is dedicated to improving assessment and treatment services for children with autism spectrum disorders and their families while advancing knowledge and training. TRIAD offers:

  • Diagnostic and evaluation services. Services are offered through Clinics located within the Center for Child Development (Division of Developmental Medicine, Department of Pediatrics at Vanderbilt), and often within TRIAD-affiliated research studies.
  • Families First monthly workshops. Workshops are focused on providing parents and caregivers with strategies to use at home, school, and in the community. Strategies are based on the principles of Applied Behavior Analysis and examples of topics address challenging behaviors, sleep, feeding, and play and social skills. All workshops are free of charge.
  • Training services and educational consultation. Workshops and on-line training in collaboration with the Tennessee Department of Education are offered to early childhood educators, special education and general education teachers, principals and school system administrators, school psychologists, paraprofessionals, families, religious leaders and educators, librarians, and camp directors.
  • Training for community pediatricians. The STAT- MD trainings, in collaboration with Tennessee Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics, are designed to teach enhanced diagnostic consultation and screening procedures to pediatric medical providers serving young children. These two-day workshops provide training in conducting autism-focused assessments with children between 18 and 36 months of age.
  • Training workshops for screening/diagnostic procedures and interventions. Trainings include ADOS, Early Start Denver Model curriculum, STAT-Screening Tool for Autism Spectrum Disorders in Toddlers and Young Children.
  • Vanderbilt Autism Resource Line. A toll-free telephone helpline staffed by a family specialist makes it easier for families and professionals to find information about autism-related clinical, research, and outreach services at Vanderbilt University.
  • Autism research. Currently, there are 19 open research studies on broad array of topics, including early detection, intervention practices, genetics, neuroimaging, pharmacology, sleep, and innovative technologies.

SENSE Theatre

SENSE Theatre is a 2-week day camp for youth, 7-18 years of age, with and without autism spectrum disorders. The goal of the camp is to improve the social and emotional functioning and reduce stress in children with autism through using behavioral and theatre techniques. The children with autism are paired with trained typically developing youth actors that serve as expert models of social interaction as well as co-actors on the stage. The campers' efforts culminate in two performances at the end of the two weeks.

Vanderbilt LEND (Leadership Education in Neurodevelopmental Disabilities) Training Program

For pre-service professionals, LEND provides specialized training in ASD. Faculty and staff develop autism-related educational materials and visual supports for health care professionals and families written in collaboration with Vanderbilt developmental pediatricians, psychologists, and LEND trainees.

Tennessee Disability Pathfinder

Tennessee Disability Pathfinder, in collaboration with the Tennessee Council on Developmental Disabilities, is a free, statewide, clearinghouse of disability-related resources and services for persons with disabilities, their family members, service providers, and advocates. Pathfinder maintains an online database of autism resources in Tennessee, and coordinates a helpline to connect callers with services. The Multicultural Program facilitates Middle Tennessee support groups for Spanish-speaking parents of children with autism.

National Research Networks

The Vanderbilt Kennedy Center is a part of the Autism Treatment Network (ATN) and ATN Research Repository, Baby Sibs Network, and Autism Centers for Excellence.

Tennessee Autism Summit Team

Vanderbilt LEND and UCEDD faculty and staff coordinate this statewide effort with the UT Boling Center to improve coordinated services for children and youth with autism. The Tennessee Disability Coalition leads a 2-year federally funded project to develop a statewide plan, in conjunction with the Team. Two of three work groups are being led by VKC TRIAD and UCEDD faculty/staff. VKC UCEDD conducted statewide survey of needs.



For more information on any of these activities and products, contact Courtney.