AFIRM reaches 200,000 users around the world
Just one year after reaching 100,000 users, the Autism Focused Intervention Resources and Modules (AFIRM) project at the UNC Frank Porter Graham Child Development Institute has reached another milestone―200,000 users now rely on AFIRM for evidence-based practices that can help learners with autism.
Originally funded by the Office of Special Education Programs and extensions supported by the Institute of Education Sciences, AFIRM provides free, user-friendly online learning modules, which are used all over the world by teachers, paraprofessionals, related service providers, families, and anyone who works with learners with autism. This kind of expert guidance lifts burdens from those who are trying to find effective and high-quality ways to support their learners. Implementation checklists, user guides, lesson plans, data collection forms, and family support packages are just some of the free resources AFIRM offers.
"Through AFIRM, we are bridging the gap between research and practice by providing resources to professionals that are not only high quality but are also online and free," says Ann Sam, PhD, who led the development of AFIRM and is an advanced research scientist at FPG.
The incredible increase from 100,000 to 200,000 users over the last 12 months is, in large part, attributable to AFIRM's professional development materials and rapid development of resources during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Now more than ever, professionals, educators, and parents have questions about how to best support their students or children with autism, and AFIRM continues to be a go-to resource for them.
Due to AFIRM's visibility as an excellent source of professional development, AFIRM was able to respond rapidly to needs experienced globally as a result of COVID. The COVID-19 toolkit for parents and practitioners serving children with autism, released last March at the beginning of the pandemic, and additional COVID-related resources have been downloaded more than 265,000 times from FPG's AFIRM website, and translated and/or adapted into nine languages.
AFIRM continues to be a key resource for professional development, this year adding new modules specifically for paraprofessionals. These resources were even more critical for teachers, schools, staff, and practitioners during the pandemic as there were limited in-person professional development opportunities.
"As the Project Coordinator for the California Autism Professional Training And Information Network (CAPTAIN), we regard the AFIRM modules foundational to our scaling up efforts of evidence-based practices for ASD in California. We recommend the AFIRM modules as the foundation of knowledge development for our educators, families/caregivers, state and federally funded family support agencies, and our California Department of Developmental Services (Regional Centers). We are committed to using evidence-based practices for students with autism and the AFIRM modules ensure that our educators and service providers are implementing the EBPs with fidelity to improve academic, social, and vocational outcomes," says Ann England. "This past year as the result of school closures due to COVID-19, there has been a need to rely on virtual methods for professional development and learning and AFIRM has provided the research-based resources to help teachers, service providers, and families navigate this challenging time."