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Fall 2019

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The Maine Autism Institute for Education and Research (MAIER) is a partnership between the University of Maine College of Education and Human Development and the Maine Department of Education.

MAIER is dedicated to building state-wide capacity to improve outcomes for individuals with autism spectrum disorder (ASD).

  • Leadership
  • Training
  • Professional Development
  • Technical Assistance
  • Consultation
  • Research

Donate to MAIERHelp support MAIER’s outreach to Maine families through our  educational and social events. It’s easy using our online donation page.

Upcoming Professional Development Workshops

February 13, 2020: Using Technology to Support Students with Disabilities. (University of Maine at Machias). Note: This workshop is a FREE session offered through a partnership of MAIER and the Washington County Consortium. Registration required.

March 11, 2020: Assistive Technology Mini-Maker Fair: Developing and Supporting Communication Skills for Individuals with ASD (Jeff’s Catering, Brewer)

April 16, 2020: Keeping it Simple: Easy Tier 2 Group Strategies to Increase Student Engagement (Jeff’s Catering, Brewer)

May 14, 2020: Developing Social Connectiveness: A Key Component to Successful Inclusion (Thomas College, Waterville)

June 4, 2020: From First Words to Written Expression! Building Communicative Competence in Learners with ASD and Intellectual Disability (Well’s Conference Center, Orono)

Online Registration

Workshops: $35/person (unless otherwise noted), with check-in at 8:30am and start time at 9am. Contact hours certificates are provided at each PD, with CEUs available by contacting MAIER two weeks prior to each event and a $20 processing fee. 

Lunch is responsibility of participants. FMI, visit our PD calendar.

Did you know MAIER’s 2016-17 PD series was available to view free online with educator contact hours available? FMI see our 2016-17 PD series.

Maine Family Partnership Events

Check our Community Calendar for events hosted by MAIER and by our Community Partners!

Happy Holidays graphic with evergreensHoliday greetings from the Maine Autism Institute for Education and Research

As the year winds down and we look forward to 2020, we bring you this issue of Pathways to share news about recent MAIER activities and our plans for the coming year. It is our goal to support individuals on the autism spectrum through our work with educators, professionals, researchers, families, and communities, which brings us to many places across the state of Maine, but also provides us with the opportunity to share our work with professionals around the country.

This past summer, MAIER staff participated in the University of Maine’s (UM) pilot program to assist High School students with autism prepare for college. The “Step-Up Program” was a partnership with the Maine Department of Labor, Division of Vocational Rehabilitation and several UM departments, and was designed to help prepare HS juniors and seniors gain the skills and experiences needed for post-secondary success. To read more about the program and its components, click here.

We have some exciting news to share with you about our children and teen social skills groups! We are now partnering with KidsPeace, a private charity dedicated to serving the behavioral and mental health needs of children, families, and communities.  MAIER staff will train and coach the KidsPeace staff to implement the Children’s Friendship Training and the PEERS for Adolescents’ social skills groups.  At this time, these groups will be open to those families who were to begin these groups this past fall before we lost our funding. The no-cost social skills groups will begin in mid-February, 2020, being held on Tuesdays from 4:30 pm-6 pm for the Children’s Friendship Training and 6:30pm-8pm for the PEERS for Adolescents. Sessions take place at the University of Maine, Memorial Union.

Check out this issue to learn about the PEERS project at UM, MAIER’s plans for presenting at national conferences in 2020, and recent changes coming to the Early Start Maine program. In addition, read about MAIER Family Partnership (MFP) activities and announcements of special interest to families in our Family Focus section below.

We wish you all a peaceful holiday season. Please do not hesitate to reach out to us if we can be of assistance. Contact us by email or phone (207-581-2352)

Best regards,
Deborah L. Rooks-Ellis, Ph.D. Director, Maine Autism Institute for Education and Research
Donna Doherty, M.S., Editor, MAIER Family Partnership Director

Update on the Early Start Maine Program

Group photo of ESM teamSince January 2015, the Maine Autism Institute for Education and Research (MAIER) and Maine Child Development Services (CDS) have collaborated to provide the Early Start Denver Model (ESDM) intervention to young children with autism, birth to age three, and their families.  Known as Early Start Maine, this statewide program has served 374 young children with autism and their families. As of December 31, 2019, MAIER will transition oversight of the Early Start Maine program to Maine CDS.    [Read full article]

Please join us in thanking MAIER’s Early Start team of nine research assistants for their dedication and commitment to the families, children and early intervention providers that they have served these last five years.  We value their accomplishments and contributions to the field of early intervention and wish them well as they begin new adventures.

 MAIER Faculty Now Nationally Certified to Deliver PEERS Social Skills Intervention

The Program for the Education and Enrichment of Relationship Skills (PEERS) was developed at the UCLA Semel Institute by Dr. Elizabeth Laugeson.  As of today, it is the only evidence-based social skills intervention for teens and young adults with autism that is supported by more than 30 research studies conducted worldwide. PEERS is a manualized, social skills training intervention for adolescents and young adults. It has a strong evidence-base for use with teens and young adults with autism spectrum disorders, but is also appropriate for teens and young adults with ADHD, anxiety, depression, and other socioemotional problems. Drs. Deborah Rooks Ellis and Sarah Howorth of MAIER have been certified by the Semel Institute to deliver this intervention and to train others to also deliver this intervention here in Maine. To learn more about PEERS Research at UMaine and the PEERS for Young Adults training held this fall, read more here.

We are currently recruiting for our Spring sessions to begin in mid-February 2020. If you are interested in participating or would like more information about this study, please contact the researchers by Email: ( or phone: 207-581-2352

MAIER Faculty Share their Research and Expertise with International Audiences

In 2020, MAIER faculty will be presenting at two upcoming conferences!  In January, Dr. Sarah Howorth and Dr. Deborah Rooks-Ellis will share their research findings at the 21st International Conference on Autism, Intellectual Disability and Developmental Disabilities in Sarasota, Florida.  In February, they will present at the Council for Exceptional Children Convention in Portland, Oregon. Presentation topics include “Breaking Down Classroom Barriers for Students with Autism in College,” “Telehealth Parent Training Using the Early Start Denver Model,” “Autism Leader Teams and Professional Development,” “Sexuality and Autism,” and a “Meta-Analysis of Reading Interventions for Students with Severe Disabilities.”  Are you attending either of these conferences?  Be sure to stop by and say hello! 

Family Focus

Season’s Greetings to all our families and friends of MAIER,

The fall has flown by for us this year as we connected with many of you at our family events, the fall ASM conference, or at smaller community meetings. I am always grateful for your willingness to share your stories and families with us as we work together to support your needs and enrich your lives.

Recent MAIER family partnership events included our summer event co-hosted with the Adaptive Outdoor Education Center (AOEC) in Carrabassett Valley for a day of outdoor activities and nature-based play. Despite the rain, spirits remained high and our staff, volunteers and those families attending enjoyed our time together. This fall, MAIER partnered again with the AOEC and the MaineBound Adventure Center at UMaine to offer an afternoon of Adaptive climbing and activities. Check out the news and see photos from these MFP events here. And be sure to read about our annual holiday celebration at the Maine Discovery Museum in a feature story below.

We continue to build our resources to support Maine families impacted by autism, so be sure to check our Family Resource pages regularly for updates. We added a new page to our Places and Places Directory highlighting National Autism-friendly opportunities beyond the Maine borders, and thanks to our MFP friends Marilyn and Dan Gott, we developed a new handout “Adaptive Sports and Recreational Opportunities in Maine.”

I hope you will take a few moments to read and share this edition of Pathways, and perhaps drop me an email or make a call to share what you have been up to or your ideas for family events.

Hope to see you in the coming year!
Donna Doherty, MAIER Family Partnership Director

MAIER Family Partnership Survey

Thanks to all of you who took the time to respond to our invitation to participate in our MAIER Family Partnership survey last spring! Your responses helped us examine our effectiveness and guide future planning for our outreach to Maine families and your communities. The research report provided evidence of the impact and importance of our family and community outreach activities, projects, and resources to our funding agency (MDOE).

In their surveys, parents and caregivers shared the value of our resources, such as the Maine Parent Guide to Autism Spectrum Disorders and those who attended our family events reported positive experiences for their entire family, noting how difficult it often is to participate in community events. [Read more, including parent comments and photos]

MAIER Families Visit with Santa at the Maine Discovery Museum

Young girl sitting next to SantaIt was a special day at the Maine Discovery Museum MDM) in Bangor as Santa’s Village came alive for children attending the sensory-friendly “My Day to Play” on Sunday December 8th. Thanks to an on-going partnership between the MDM and the Maine Autism Institute for Education and Research (MAIER) at the University of Maine, more than 30 families experienced the excitement and joy of visiting with Santa in an environment designed to support children on the autism spectrum on their own terms.  [Read full story and see more photos from the day]

Thanks to all our friends and volunteers who helped make this afternoon a very special event for all!

Parent’s Bookshelf

The Parent’s Bookshelf is a service to families who would like to share this information with other families in our family partnership. MAIER does not specifically endorse or advocate these offerings.  This issue’s reviews are submitted by Cheryl Stalilonis, mother to 21-year-old son, Eric. Books are available through your favorite bookseller.

look me in the eye: my life with asperger’s  By John Elder Robison. Three Rivers Press (2008)[click here to read review]

The Science of Making Friends: Helping Socially Challenged Teens and Young Adults By Elizabeth A. Laugeson, PSY.D. Jossey Bass (2013) [click here to read review]

Upcoming Events

Relaxed Performance” of Roald Dahl’s Matilda at the Penobscot Theater in Bangor: December 26, 2019, 1pm show :
Penobscot Theater is offering one “relaxed performance” designed for audience members who may be sensitive to sound and light, or have difficulty sitting/being quiet for long periods of time. Tickets are going fast, so check online or call the theater for ticket availability. 207-942-333.

Horizons ski program:
The Adaptive Outdoor Education Center (AOEC) is now partnering with both Sugarloaf and the New Hermon Mountain ski areas to offer ski lessons for people of all abilities, including those on the autism spectrum. Programs open right after the holidays, so visit their website for additional information and to register for the program.

Maine Red Claws Autism Awareness Night: Friday, January 31st, 2020 at 7pm:
This game is sponsored by Volk Packaging Corp at the Portland Expo. Red Claws will wear especially themed jerseys and create a sensory-reduced environment. Tickets ($10-$30) come with a Maine Claws cap and supports Spurwink Service.

Wings for Autism event at Bangor International airport: February 1, 2020 :
The Arc’s Wings for Autism®/Wings for All® (Wings) program gives families and aviation professionals the confidence to take to the skies with ease by providing an airport “rehearsal,” as well as a presentation on the aircraft features and in-flight safety protocols. Chapters of The Arc, local partners, and airport/airline/TSA personnel work collaboratively to design and carry out each Wings event. For more information and to sign up, visit the website listed above.

Bookmark our Events Calendar to be sure to learn about upcoming events for families and professionals in the coming year!

Have you seen the 2nd Edition of the Maine Parent Guide?

Cover of Maine Parent Guide to ASM- family outdoors

The Maine Parent Guide to Autism Spectrum Disorders (2nd ed.) is now a four-volume set, having undergone review and revisions in 2018. We have updated the content and added new information addressing adults living life on the spectrum, personal safety, family issues, and augmentative and alternative communication. To learn more about the new edition, including how to order your own copy, click here. 

Contact Us

Maine Autism Institute for Education and Research
5766 Shibles Hall Orono, ME 04469
Tel: 207.581.2352 Fax: 207.581.2428

Maine Department of Education logoLogo for US Office of Special Education Programs

The Maine Department of Education provides significant support and funding for the activities and outreach of the Maine Autism Institute for Education and Research.