General Questions

Below are some of our most frequently asked questions. Be sure to visit our Resource Finder for resources specific to your needs. Additionally, you can contact us if you have further questions.

We partner with No Wrong Door and have an extensive resource database.  We have an extensive online database. Call us at 804.355.0300 or toll free 800-649-8481 to speak with our Information and Resource Specialist.

Look for intervention options. While some interventions have been proven to be effective, others have little to no data to support their use.  We suggest that you carefully review this information when choosing interventions for your child.  This article The Road Less Traveled: Charting a Clear Course for Autism Treatment may help you navigate this process. Please look for the Newly Diagnosed resources in our resource database.

Children & Adult Programs

School divisions are obligated to provide a free, appropriate public education (FAPE) for your child.  The IEP team makes the decision of whether this can be provided within your division or whether it is necessary to seek the assistance of private providers.   Please refer to Virginia Department of Education’s Special Education Guide for more information on placement decisions.

Our educational and behavioral services programs utilize the Competent Learner Model, which is an ABA based curriculum. We utilize the principles of Applied Behavior Analysis in our approach with learners. This includes some Discrete Trial Teaching but also includes precision teaching, shaping, and other elements of ABA. Each program is overseen by a Board Certified Behavior Analyst and/or a Licensed Teacher. Services are customized based on whether they are Behavioral Services or Educational Services. This can impact the staffing ratios and service delivery (frequency, etc.) for each child.

For every 8 children, we have one lead teacher and 5-6 instructional assistants. A Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA or BCaBA) oversees each program.

While the ratios are very dense we do not staff our programs 1:1 nor do we offer individual 1:1 attendants for specific participants. Children receive frequent individualized instruction that is often delivered in a 1:1 setting but also participate in small group or dyad instruction.

No, they do not. While we primarily have served individuals with autism and this diagnosis is a requirement if we are billing insurance, a diagnosis of Autism is not a requirement. We do serve individuals with other developmental disabilities if the placement seems appropriate. For more information about how your insurance might cover the cost of program fees in one of our programs, click here.

Our early childhood programs are located within preschools with typically developing children. Participants start and end their day in our “home base” classroom. Based on the child’s needs and abilities, however, s/he may participate in the inclusion class with support from our staff throughout the course of the day.  This is highly individualized and determined by the program team.

Our school age students also participate in the community as they are able and as we are able to carve out opportunities. This may include both participation with typical peers and community based instruction.

This is dependent on the program. Admissions are accepted on a rolling basis and our census can fluctuate throughout the year. If a program is full, we do start a waiting list.

We do have an Autism Grant that can provide some assistance to families attending our program. The purpose is to assist with out of pocket costs for families with dire financial need. Applications are typically distributed on a semi-annual basis. Grants are made based on funds available as well as the financial need of the family and typically range between $2000-$6000 per child. Admission to the school is required before an application for financial assistance may be submitted.

Residential and Community Support Services

Currently, our adult programs only accept private forms of payment.

Yes, the residential facility is co-ed. However, each resident does have his/her own private room. Romantic relationships between residents are prohibited.

If there are no current vacancies, it is possible to be placed on our waiting list.

Although the residential facility offers transitional housing, length of stay is individualized to accommodate each resident’s needs.

Our Residential Program is open to young adults (ages 18-30) with Autism Spectrum Disorder. Our Community Support Services Program is open to adults of any age (18 years +).

Our Residential Program offers transitional housing for those interested in garnering the life skills necessary for living independently.

We offer Community Support Services for those transitioning into independent living settings.

Yes. We support adults by assisting them in setting up connections with local employment services, practicing interview skills, and conducting job searches.

Our residential facility has a six passenger van that is used to transport residents to work and activities. We also teach and encourage our residents to utilize alternative transportation options such as: learning to walk safely to nearby locations, using the bus stop conveniently located in our front yard, and riding the CAREvan (our local Americans with Disabilities Act paratransit service).

Community Support Services clients are responsible for their own transportation. Our staff can assist the client in mastering the appropriate skills needed to successfully plan and arrange transportation needs.

Our residents are encouraged to volunteer, attend social groups, community events, and are offered ample opportunities for outings to local businesses and attractions.

Yes, our Residential Program has staff on duty 24 hours a day.

Contact us! We will be happy to answer any further questions you might have.

For Professionals

For an inclusive list of our career postings, click here.

We offer supervision for:

  • Credential based supervision for BCBA or BCaBA
  • Registered Behavior Technician (RBT) Training and Supervision

For more information about supervision, contact us.

There are three levels of certification in ABA: Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA), Board Certified Assistant Behavior Analyst (BCaBA), and Registered Behavior Technician (RBT). Each level requires a specific amount of coursework and supervision to sit for the certification exam. To learn more about this process you can find information under the BECOME CERTIFIED tab on the Behavior Analyst Certification Board’s website ( For information on colleges and universities offering coursework in Virginia, including distance education programs, click here.

Yes! Visit our VLI page to learn about our current trainings available. Our annual conference also provides continuing education units.

Questions About Autism

Autism is a complex developmental disability, most often characterized by impairments in social communication and by restricted or repetitive behavior.

Also referred to as autism spectrum disorder, this developmental disorder appears early in a person’s life.

The current version of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM-5) includes a single diagnosis, autism spectrum disorder, for all of autism. This diagnosis emphasizes “deficits in social communication and social interaction” and “restricted, repetitive patterns of behavior, interests, or activities.” Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) replaces the DSM-IV category of pervasive developmental disorders (PDDs) and the specific diagnoses of autistic disorder, Asperger’s disorder, and pervasive developmental disorder not otherwise specified (PDD-NOS).

There has been some concern that some individuals previously given one of those diagnoses might not meet DSM-5 criteria for autism spectrum disorder and might experience a loss of supports. However, the DSM-5 definition includes the statement:

“Individuals with a well-established DSM-IV diagnosis of autistic disorder, Asperger’s disorder, or pervasive developmental disorder not otherwise specified should be given the diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder. Individuals who have marked deficits in social communication, but whose symptoms do not otherwise meet criteria for autism spectrum disorder, should be evaluated for social (pragmatic) communication disorder.”

To see the DSM-5 definitions of autism spectrum disorder and social (pragmatic) communication disorder, please click here.

Get evaluated! Determining whether an Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is present is helpful in that it can help guide the process of determining appropriate interventions.  We recommend that you seek an evaluation from your local school division at the same time you are pursuing an evaluation from other medical professionals.

Just because a child has a medical diagnosis of autism doesn’t mean that they will receive an educational diagnosis.  To receive special education and related services, a child must first be found eligible through the process used by the local education agency (LEA).  If there is any concern that a child may have autism, you should immediately contact the special education department of your local school division so that they can begin their assessment process.  Please access the Virginia Department of Education’s (VDOE) website for more information.

A medical diagnosis of autism should be performed by a team of professionals who specialize in the assessment. Team members may include professionals from the following disciplines: psychology, psychiatry, speech pathology, occupational therapy, behavior analysis and education. Look for diagnosis/assessment centers near you in our resource finder.

There are some early indicators of Autism Spectrum Disorder. It’s important to monitor your child’s development and discuss any concerns you may have with your physician. The only way to know for sure if your child is on the autism spectrum is to have them officially assessed and diagnosed.

Become familiar with the Virginia Department of Education Special Education Guide for parents. This guide explains special education law, the special education process and outlines steps you may take for resolving disagreements.

If you haven’t already done so, contact your local school division to see if your child qualifies for special education services. Visit our resource directory for more information.

Because of the core areas that are impacted for individuals with autism, it is not surprising that behavioral issues emerge.  Often times, these behaviors are occurring because the individual has no other way to communicate. Talk to your child’s educational team about your concerns.  It may be appropriate to conduct a functional behavior assessment (FBA) to determine how best to support your child through a behavior intervention plan (BIP). You may also wish to contact a board-certified behavior analyst (BCBA®) or a positive behavior support facilitator (PBS facilitator) to assist you.

Applied Behavior Analysis or ABA is a scientific approach to understanding socially significant behavior, how behavior works, and how learning takes place. By analyzing the environment, trained professionals are able to determine certain triggers or events that may be causing the behavior to occur. With this information, it’s more likely that an intervention can be designed to help change that behavior. ABA is the use of techniques and principles, such as reinforcement, to address socially important problems and to bring about meaningful behavior change. Research documents that many ABA techniques are effective for building skills of all kinds of children, adolescents, and adults with autism. ABA methods are useful for helping individuals and families manage some of the difficult behaviors. You can search our resource directory for ABA providers in your area.

School divisions are obligated to provide a free, appropriate public education (FAPE) for your child.  The IEP team makes the decision of whether this can be provided within your division or whether it is necessary to seek the assistance of private providers.   Please refer to Virginia Department of Education’s Special Education Guide for more information on placement decisions.

There are three levels of certification in ABA: Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA), Board Certified Assistant Behavior Analyst (BCaBA), and Registered Behavior Technician (RBT). Each level requires a specific amount of coursework and supervision to sit for the certification exam. To learn more about this process you can find information under the BECOME CERTIFIED tab on the Behavior Analyst Certification Board’s website ( For information on colleges and universities offering coursework in Virginia, including distance education programs, go here.

In Virginia services for children with autism can be paid for through private insurance, Medicaid, Medicaid waiver, grants or out of pocket. Please search for Funding Resources in our resource directory for information on each of these options and what they involve.

Shared Service Alliance

The challenges of operating a high-quality child care program are not unique to the Richmond community; however, some environmental factors have exacerbated the already fragile business model. A fiscal mapping project conducted recently found that the lack of child care subsidy, the preponderance of investments focused on 4 year olds, and the high percentage of 4 year olds served in public school settings, have had an unintended negative impact on private child care providers in the East End of Richmond and other low income communities. Prompted by financial crises in multiple child care programs (including several closures in 2016), community-based funders have expressed an interest in supporting strategies that seek to address the systemic problems in the sector. One promising strategy is Shared Services.

An Alliance Hub is an entity that provides one or more Shared Services to the Alliance members. Hubs generally charge fees and/or receive grant support to cover the cost of services. Alliance Hubs can offer a range of shared services and purchasing options to their members, such as billing and fee collection, enrollment management, professional development, and much more. CA is the Hub agency for RASA. At present (until 7/1/19), the cost of its services to the Alliance members is covered by philanthropic investors; beginning 7/1/19, CA will begin charging a fee based on the scope of shared services to participating Alliance members.

Shared Services Alliances is a membership organization, or a multi-site ECE organization, through which Shared Services are provided. Alliance members are center- and/or home-based ECE providers who access services through their membership, or as part of a multi-site ECE organization. The design of each Shared Services Alliance is unique to its participants, but all share the goal of strengthening business and pedagogical (teaching and learning) leadership across participating sites by creating structures that enable sharing of staff, information and resources to gain economies and efficiencies of scale.

Business leadership refers to how programs manage the most important determinants of ECE business sustainability: full enrollment, full and on-time fee collection, and revenues that cover costs (see The Iron Triangle: A Simple Formula for Financial Policy in ECE Programs). A Shared Services framework with a centralized, dedicated staff and shared data can result in reduced purchasing costs, reduced time and errors and greater expertise on fiscal management; greater attention to keeping seats filled; and greater focus on fundraising to fill gaps. Additionally, centralized business leadership enables Shared Services Alliances to use business metrics to identify gaps, address challenges and strengthen sustainability in all participating centers and homes.

The word Pedagogy means the theory and practice of education. Pedagogical Leadership refers to how we lead teaching and learning in early care and education programs. A Shared Services framework can free up site directors from administrative tasks to serve as instructional leaders; enable shared, embedded quality improvement staff to support teachers; provide teachers will time “off the floor” to think, plan and reflect on their work; and more.  The typical view of this is narrowly focused on training and the attainment of degrees and credentials for teachers. While content (training and education) matters, new research has underscored that process (how teachers apply what they know) is equally – or perhaps even more – important to improving child outcomes.

Alliance participation is open to legally operating licensed (or licensing-exempted) child care programs in the greater Richmond community that share a commitment to the mission and vision of RASA and have the capacity to meet the requirements of Alliance membership. RASA has placed a priority on first engaging programs that serve some proportion of at-risk children (those from Richmond’s neighborhoods of concentrated poverty including the East End of Richmond). Ultimately, having a mix of programs of various types (home-, center-, faith institution-based; for profit and non-profit; and those serving children of different socioeconomic backgrounds) strengthens the Alliance and its potential impact on Richmond’s children, families, and neighborhoods.

There is no typical member “fee.” Members must eventually be able to cover the costs of an Alliance, but these costs should be less than the member sites are spending on these services without an Alliance. Therefore, a sustainable Shared Service Alliance will reduce administrative and overhead expenses for members. In RASA, participating sites’ participation is currently underwritten by philanthropy; Alliance members will be responsible for paying member fees beginning 7/1/19.

RASA supports its member’s ability to be financially sustainable. This work begins with understanding the true cost of care. In some cases, where parents can afford to pay more of the true cost, they may be asked to do so. In most cases, programs will work toward sustainable operations by lowering the cost of administration, collecting more available revenue, and keeping their programs fully enrolled. Decisions about raising tuition are entirely in the hands of individual program leadership.

RASA members negotiate an annual Memorandum of Understanding in which they define the roles and responsibilities of the Hub and member agencies. All shared services are discussed and agreed to by all members of the partnership. Members of RASA receive support services from CA, including detailed fiscal and operational information that is used to guide decision-making. The Board and Senior Staff of the member agencies maintain all legal and fiduciary responsibility for their respective organizations.

Expected benefits from Pedagogical supports include:

  • Participation in a learning community where the emphasis is on “applying knowledge and skills”
  • Increased “off-the-floor” time for planning, preparation, and reflection for classroom teachers
  • Access to shared “online knowledge hub” giving staff 24/7 access to best practices resources

Expected benefits from business supports include:

  • Improved revenue collection through stronger fiscal management, better data, and the use of business automation tools
  • Lower vacancy rates due to stronger enrollment management and collaborative marketing services
  • Access to fundraising support focused on identifying every available resource
  • Reduced paperwork for staff – freeing up time to focus on teaching and learning

Stay connected to CA