History & Philosophy

Our philosophy

The HANDS in Autism® Interdisciplinary Training and Resource Center is an integrated program focused on comprehensive and individualized interventions for individuals with ASD and related disorders. Our behavioral assessment and intervention strategies are all derived from an applied behavior analysis (ABA) model with use of data-driven practices that are evidence-based, individualized, and culturally responsive.

The specific combination of strategies represented below all emerge from that ABA and data-driven framework. All interventions are applied in an integrated and individualized manner to achieve the goal of formulating the safest, least restrictive, and most effective intervention for each individual.

Our approach focuses on:

  • the individual strengths of each student
  • comprehensive training (i.e., assessment through goal development)
  • hands-on learning with children of various levels of functioning and challenge
  • training in a model of didactics combined with modeling, practice, and feedback in a supportive coaching environment
  • training for multiple caregivers, working hands-on with individuals with autism in various environments
  • provision of training based on a “best practices” approach to assessment and intervention
  • development of curriculum and behavioral planning based on data-driven decision making
  • a focus on positive partnering between caregivers
  • an intent to build local capacity across teams

HANDS in Autism® diamond

9 colored boxes pointing to different areas of a partially filled in diamond, with these topics, starting from the top, going clockwise: Applied Behavior Analysis (Data Driven Strategies), TEACCH, Incidental Teaching, Verbal Behavior Analysis, Pivotal Response Training, Functional Communication Training, Discrete Trial Training, Picture Communication Exchange System, and Positive Behavioral Interventions & Supports

ABA is the core empirically-supported approach guiding the choice of specific evidence-based strategies used by HANDS. Our philosophy involves the blending of methodologies that are consistent with ABA and are tailored to meet the unique needs of each individual. The HANDS in Autism® diamond demonstrates our approach. ABA is shown as the top of the diamond as it guides our overall approach and choice of strategies. Specific behavioral strategies are shown as the various facets of the diamond. The way in which the strategies are applied is individualized for each individual. While there are other evidence-based strategies not reflected in our diamond, those shown represent some of the primary approaches used in our program and or those commonly used around the state.

ABA is a research-based philosophy of working with individuals (not just individuals with autism). ABA is an umbrella term that applies to a range of strategies. Some people equate ABA to specific methods (discrete trial training, intensive behavioral intervention, ABA therapy) rather than the broad-based meaning of the term. ABA relies on standard behavioral principles to address reduction of behavior as well as alternatives to the environment and teaching of appropriate skills to support reduction of behaviors. It also focuses on data-driven decision-making in planning and implementation of treatment plans.

Historical timeline

Founded in 2004, our center has grown though several major milestones thanks to the dedicated team and collaborative partners.

HANDS in Autsim® acquired a CDC earmark, recruited personnel, developed analogue classroom, traveled and consulted with experts (e.g., UCLA, UCSD, LEAP, PCDI, Walden, TEACCH, Douglass DDC). We also developed our website, newsletter, and various outreach events.

Conducted pilot and first full summer training session, continued team development, established ongoing events (e.g., CSATC Annual Conference), began Annual Awareness Fair, Make It Take It workshop, and revised Next Steps seminar. We also acquired more funding (i.e., CDC, NMPT).

HANDS continued popular events (e.g., MITI, Next Steps, Awareness Fair, Annual Conference) and team development, expanding summer training to 3 sessions. We also founded innovative outreach efforts (e.g., HANDS made, Autism Trailer), began IPS Collaboration, presentable at international meetings (e.g., ABA), and acquired additional support (e.g., IN DOE, NMPT, FOE).

  • 2007: Continued outreach events, expanded outreach materials, developed first IPS collaborative classroom, began second community classroom collaboration, presented at the ABA symposium, and continued support mechanisms (e.g., INDOE, FOE)
  • 2008: Refined outreach events and materials, summer training and community collaborations, extended liaising efforts (medical and educational), and further integrated into special education and research communities (e.g., IMFAR, ABA, NATTAP, book chapters/articles). We also extended our support mechanisms (e.g., INDOE, FOE, endowment, other).
  • 2009: Refined training/outreach (e.g., web design and modules), explored multiple potential collaboration opportunities, increased focus and capacity with community medical professionals (e.g., toolkits, presentations), and continued to increase financial support.

  • 2010: Expanded training/outreach opportunities and web presence (e.g., modules, webinars, webcasts), developed multiple collaboration opportunities, increasing focus and capacity within the community (families, educational and medical professionals, and other members of the community). Received IUH Values grant to expand education and training to medical professionals, continued financial support. Held a summit for Local Community Cadre (LCC ) development.
  • 2011: Initial development and successes of LCC chapters.
  • 2012: Recruited for representation in the media, advisory boards, community committees, etc.; train the trainer summit towards a new level of implementation and local capacity
  • 2013: HANDS in Autism® became an IU School of Medicine Auxiliary that continued to receive small grants as it diversified services and products.

  • 2014: HANDS became a Family and Social Services Administration/Bureau of Developmental Disabilities Services (FSSA/BDDS)-sponsored facilitator of the Indiana Interagency Autism Coordinating Council (IIACC); chaired session at ABAI Autism; HANDS became a Research Core for Clinical and Translational Sciences Institute (CTSI) with student project teams.
  • 2015: Expanded HANDSmade™-supported employment programming, VR service provision and development of intensive trainings for VR providers with support from FSSA/Bureau for Rehabilitative Services.
  • 2016: Began international consultation for St. Andrew’s Autism Centre in Singapore.
  • 2017-2018: Expanded to become PreETS provider for FSSA/Bureau for Rehabilitation Services.

  • Expanded and diversified intensive training opportunities
  • Expanded virtual training programs
  • Actively grew online training programs through IU Expand
  • Developed partnership with IUSM and Damar to maintain the Neurodiagnostic Institute. HANDS in Autism® now provides services related to pre-hospitalization needs assessment; on-site support of unit employees and patients; family, school, and community training, and post-hospitalization support for sustainability.