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Fall 2020

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.

Fall 2020 Professional Development Workshops

This year, MAIER’s workshops will be offered online and are free upon registration, pre-recorded for your viewing convenience. Contact hours will be awarded upon completion of the post-viewing surveys.

“Our Journey Together: From a Mother and Son Perspective
Speakers: Jessica Archer & Connor Archer

“Supporting Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) and Language Skill Development at Home”
Speaker: Jennifer Seale, Ph.D., CCC-SLP

“Parent-Mediated Early Interventions for Children on the Autism Spectrum”
Speaker: Megan G. Kunze, Ph.D., BCBA-D  

“Supporting Students with ASD to Work Independently”
Speaker: Gretchen Scheibel, MS, OTR, BCBA  

Did you know many of MAIER’s past PD workshops are available to view online, at no cost, with educator contact hours available, upon registration? FMI visit our MAIER Professional Development Series page for these archived viewing options.

Maine Family Partnership Events

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

Seasons Greetings from Maine Autism Institute for Education and ResearchLine drawing of boy jumping in autumn leaves

When the work at MAIER first came to a sudden halt last March, many of us thought this would be a temporary inconvenience. Very quickly, we learned otherwise, and it has been a continually changing world ever since. Fortunately, our Spring 2020 professional development (PD) speakers stepped up to record their workshops as webinars, and we offered those free of charge to educators and professionals around the state of Maine. Over the spring and summer, we delivered more than 500 viewings of our spring and archived PD workshops! Kudos to all of you who carved out the time and energy to devote to your professional development during a time of unprecedented stress and change. 

We now recognize we are in a time of continuous adaptation, accommodation, and flexibility for the long haul. Here at MAIER, we are striving to support your professional development in meaningful ways during this time. In this issue of Pathways, we will share the latest information about our 2020-21 PD Workshops, direct you to COVID-related resources, and catch you up on MAIER research news. Be sure to check out and bookmark MAIER’s Event Calendar to learn about our colleagues and community partners’ additional educational opportunities.

Finally, we would like to introduce you to the UMaine students who joined the MAIER team this fall: Taylor Roos and Anna Soule are UMaine graduate students who will be working with us to support MAIER research, media, and other projects. Kaitlin Robinson, a senior undergraduate at UMaine, returns to MAIER this fall to support our professional development work. Visit MAIER’s staff page to learn more about the UMaine students who support the work at MAIER!

We wish you all a safe and peaceful holiday season. Please feel free to contact MAIER by phone or email with questions or assistance. We may not be together in person, but we continue our work and dedication to the autism community and those who educate and support them.

All the Best,
Deborah L. Rooks-Ellis, Ph.D., Director, MAIER
Donna Doherty, MAIER Family Partnership Director

Professional Development News

MAIER Professional Development has a new look for 2020-21!

This year MAIER is introducing new ways for educators and support staff to continue your professional development in ways that are convenient and easy to access. In these times, when our lives and workplaces ask more of us daily, we want to make something in your life as low stress as possible. Since we cannot be together in person, MAIER is offering our professional development in an online webinar-style manner. We will be launching individual workshops throughout the year in a format you can view conveniently upon registration. Sessions will be free to view and will award education contact hour certificates upon completing the post-workshop survey. See the list of currently available sessions in the PD Workshop listings (left). [Read full article]

Nature Links for Lifelong Learning

Young adults with intellectual disabilities in the Blue Hill Peninsula area now have the opportunity to participate in a nature-based post-secondary education thanks to the hard work and dedication of Gregory Bush, Ph.D. founder of Nature Links for Lifelong Learning. Working with the local community and state providers, Dr. Bush builds a community of learning for young adults ages 18-35 with intellectual disabilities, including autism, who often find it challenging to find post-secondary learning opportunities. Overall, the program aims to support students in “creating individualized pathways to volunteer and job opportunities.” [Read full article]

 Research News

Telehealth Study and Sexuality Study

MAIER Research Highlights from Drs. Deborah Rooks-Ellis and Sarah Howorth include two recently published studies encompassing two distinct research projects. The first investigated the use of telehealth for providing early intervention (EI) services to rural families.  The second reported the effectiveness of a brief sexuality education intervention offered to parents attending a breakout session presented at a family disability conference. [Read more here]


Deborah Rooks-Ellis, assistant professor of special education in the College of Education and Human Development’s School of Learning and Teaching and Director of the Maine Autism Institute for Education and Research, will lead a Cross-disciplinary Online Training to promote Augmentative and Alternative Communication and Tele-Intervention for Maine (CONTAACT-ME). This project will train educators to support young children with intensive communication needs and their families, including using augmentative and alternative communication tools. Partners include Jennifer Seale, assistant professor in the UMaine Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders, and the Maine Department of Education. UMaine will receive $249,950 from the U.S. DOE during the first year of the grant, with continued funding expected for five years. [Read more here]

Family Focus

Fall Foliage close upFall Greetings to all our MAIER families and friends,

To say that our lives have been turned upside down by the events of this year would be an understatement; however, I am heartened by the adaptations and compassion I see around me as families adjust and schools, agencies, and communities find new ways to connect and support one another. Although we miss the MAIER events that brought us together in person, we have worked to develop new ways to connect and offer resources to support you in new challenges. In this issue of Pathways, we will share news you may find useful, direct you to new resources developed in response to the Pandemic by MAIER and our community partners, and offer you some opportunities for your family to engage in much-needed diversion and fun.

As we head into the end of this year, I would like to share these words of wisdom and encouragement from a MAIER Family Partnership Mom: Life is full of moments, and this is just one. Every child will be behind in something next school year, even without an IEP. I think the key to all this is good communication and flexibility. This is much harder for all of us during these stressful times. But we are all having our own struggles to deal with, and some have it harder than others.  Do what you can and communicate with the people that are expecting something from you (schools, work, or family). Schedules are very important to all of us, but during unknown times is where we should have the most flexibility. Things are continually changing and can be hard to keep up with, but special needs parents are some of the best equipped to do this.  (May 2020)

Wishing you good health and safety,     Donna, MAIER Family Partnership Director

Our Journey Together: From a Mother and Son Perspective

The journey from childhood to adulthood is unique for each child on the autism spectrum, but families can learn a great deal from one another. Thanks to our MFP friends and community partners, Jessica and Connor Archer, we are offering the FREE webinar “Our Journey Together: From a Mother and Son Perspective” to families, education professionals, and interested community members. In this one-hour webinar, Jessica and Connor share their personal journey as a mother and son dynamic duo facing the challenges and accomplishments of living life on the spectrum. Together, they offer information and strategies based on their lived experience and Jessica’s professional knowledge and expertise as a middle school teacher with an advanced degree in special education.

Our Journey Together with photo of young man and his motherConnor currently attends Husson College in Bangor and is the CEO of the “Courageous Steps Project,” a non-profit he founded in 2014. The Courageous Steps Project is dedicated to helping people of various abilities “to step courageously beyond obstacles and towards a fulfilling life.” Jessica is an educator teaching middle school science, math, and language arts while serving as Vice-President of the Courageous Steps Project. Read more about the mission and work of the Courageous Steps Project on the CS Project website.

Learn more about the “Our Journey Together” webinar here.  

News and Announcements

Free Webinars from MAIER

Supporting Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) and Language Skill Development at Home:  In this webinar, Dr. Jennifer Seale, Ph.D., CCC-SLP, addresses the ways in which individuals can support and promote the use of augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) in their daily routines. Access this webinar here.

Supporting Literacy Development, Access, and Communication for Home and School
Two new videos developed by Haley Usilton, a UMaine graduate student in Communication Sciences and Disorders, to support the use of augmentative and alternative communication at home and at school and to support literacy development, access, and communication.   DIY AAC Tools at Home       Supporting Literacy Development for Individuals with ASD

“Our Journey Together- From a Mother and Son Perspective” with Connor and Jessica Archer (see full article above)
This webinar is composed of three topics of discussion, focusing on suggestions, strategies, and guidance for those diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).  Access this webinar here.

Teaching Social Nuances and Social Skills in the Home: This 45-minute webinar with Sarah Howorth, Ph.D., UMaine faculty member, and BCBA-D, is intended to help individuals on the Autism Spectrum Level 1 but can be adapted for others on the spectrum or individuals experiencing social awkwardness or social anxiety.     View here        Resource List  

New Online Resources

Family Resources During COVID-19: This MAIER webpage includes links to resources for back-to-school and work, daily life with a family member on the autism spectrum, and state and federal agencies with COVID-19 information and updates.

MDOE/Office of Special Services: Resource page for Families and Caregivers  Extensive webpage to support families and caregivers as you become teaching partners with schools during this health crisis. 

PreK-12 Resources for Educators and Families: Website developed by the UMaine College of Education and Human Development to help address the demand for reliable resources related to remote learning and other issues related to educating and supporting students during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Visiting from Home: MAIER webpage developed to direct families to the many recreational, cultural, and educational organizations that have jumped into this unprecedented opportunity to bring you virtual “visits” to museums, national parks, zoos, learning spaces, music, and performances.

Opportunities for Learning with our Community Partners

SMILE Boxes Earlier this fall, MAIER’s Family Partnership joined with our friends at the Adaptive Outdoor Education Center in Carrabassett Valley in offering monthly SMILE Boxes to the autism community. SMILE boxes are designed with children with ASD in mind to promote physical activity, social skills, and sensory exploration. One parent wrote to share her son’s experience, writing, “I was really impressed with the … [picture symbol cards] … that came with it, we used those right away. He loved it. Everything was put together with a lot of thought put into it, it really showed!”  More than 25 families participated in this fall’s SMILE boxes, so stay tuned for future SMILE Box opportunities to be announced in 2021!

Maine Discovery Museum “Discovery Kits” Our community partners at the MDM in Bangor have developed science-filled boredom-blaster “Discovery Kits” to engage creative and curious kids while waiting for the time when the Museum will be able to reopen safely. Each kit is filled with science and sensory activities, all materials and tools needed, easy instructions, and science facts and resources. Discovery kits are purchased online and picked up at the Museum, with the option to be shipped to your home for an additional charge. The Discovery Kits for November and December are SOLD OUT, however, folks can visit the MDM website to pre-order the 2021 Discovery Kits!  You can also visit some special animal residents of the MDM on the Maine Discovery Museum’s Youtube Station while we wait for them to re-open!  

Research News: Invitation to Participate in PEERS® Study for Teens

Do you have a teen on the autism spectrum? Dr. Sarah Howorth, Assistant Professor of Special Education at the University of Maine, is conducting a research study to investigate the delivery of the PEERS® interpersonal skills curriculum delivered to participants via Zoom. Check out this flyer for more information about this invitation to participate.

Messages from Home- an invitation to share your family stories, photos, and wisdom

How are you spending your time with family during these past months? Want to share a fun family story, photo, or some words of encouragement with other MAIER families? Send along your photo and message (50 words or less) for us to consider posting to our website “Visiting from Home” page and help us create messages of hope and connection during these challenging times. Send to Donna at MAIER:

Holiday Fun!  G.E.A.R.  Parent Network Webinars in DecemberSanta and reindeer

Looking for some holiday cheer with some at-home activities? Register for some FREE Holiday Fun! G.E.A.R Parent Network Webinars in December!

December 5 @ 10 am – 12 pm, FREE, G.E.A.R. Webinar: Holiday Fun! Creating a Cookie Jar Mix Gift, Registration»

December 10 @ 5:30 – 7:30 pm, FREE, G.E.A.R. Webinar: Holiday Fun: Creating Salt Dough Ornaments!!, Registration»

December 18 @ 6 – 8 pm, FREE, G.E.A.R. Webinar: Ho-Ho-Ho! Holiday Activities! G.E.A.R. Webinar, Registration»

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

Have you seen the Maine Parent Guide to Autism Spectrum Disorders?

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.