JSU Center for Autism Studies

Center for Autism Studies Logo

CAS Vision

The vision of the JSU Center for Autism Studies (CAS) is to provide leadership, research, and advocacy in the area of Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD). Leadership, research, and advocacy, includes professional learning for P-12 education professionals and education for parents and children impacted by ASD.  The CAS will promote research opportunities, professional learning sessions, and community education teams that capitalize on collaborative approaches to ASD through a person-centered model of support, and prepare the next generation of education professionals to provide a commitment to ethical and professional interactions with individuals with ASD.

CAS Mission 

The Center for Autism Studies (CAS) provides an avenue for research and education in Autism Spectrum Disorders, including early identification, intervention, behavior management, differentiation of instruction, and family dynamics. CAS will facilitate collaborative relationships across disciplines at Jacksonville State University, community colleges in Northeast Alabama, and P-12 partners in local education agencies. CAS represents a way to contribute to the state and national information on ASD and build an infrastructure of research and support for individuals with ASD.

CAS Organization

The CAS is composed of a group of early childhood, elementary, and special educators in collaboration with Psychology Professors and Student Disability Services. The CAS team includes both professors and instructors dedicated to research and advocacy for individuals with ASD. The organization is headed Director, Dr. Janet L. Bavonese and Assistant Director, Mrs. Valerie Wheat. 

The CAS is in operation throughout the year. Published research activities, community outreach, and curricular information will be maintained and disseminated through the center’s website. The center’s annual report will also be published on the same site. 

CAS Projects

JSU Autism Conference  

Annual Conference chaired by Mrs. Valerie Wheat 

  • Advocacy and support for those working with individuals with ASD
  • Classroom strategies for instruction and behavior management
  • Community Resources

Curriculum Development

Embedded ASD strategies in educator preparation

  • Workshops for general education teachers (early childhood, elementary, reading, secondary)
  • Methods courses for preservice special education teachers
  • Universal Design for Learning 
  • Functional Behavior Assessment
  • Positive Behavior Intervention Plans
  • Visual Support
  • Effective Prompting and Cueing
  • Identification and Early Intervention 
  • Digital Media Applications 


Social Stories

  • Collaboration with local PK classroom teacher
  • Preservice early, elementary, and special education teachers design and carry out social stories in the PK classroom

Community and University Service

Student Council for Exceptional Children (SCEC)

  • JSU student group for advocacy and service for individuals with disabilities
  • Collaboration with the ARC, a United Way nonprofit organization dedicated to providing services to individuals with developmental disabilities across the lifespan
  • Facilitate on-campus activities for Autism Awareness Month (April)
  • Participate in Light It Up Blue Campaign
  • Collaboration with Alpha Z Sorority for the Autism Walk
  • Participate in professional learning through JSU CORE and JSU Autism Conference 

CAS Funding 

The CAS evolved using the available resources in personnel and equipment. The CAS was designed to support ongoing research and education efforts in the Curriculum and Instruction Department at JSU.  The CAS Director, Assistant Director and Associates will seek grant funding, University support, and private donations to improve and expand our efforts to understand Autism Spectrum Disorders, provide learning opportunities for future teachers in early childhood, elementary, special, and secondary education, design and implement professional development for practicing teachers PK-12, and conduct community education efforts to improve understanding of individuals impacted by ASD.

Center for Autism Studies Small Logo

Furthermore, the CAS will coordinate expansion of the annual JSU Autism Conference. The annual conference is dedicated to providing a voice for those with ASD and their families. Furthermore, the conference highlights efforts in professional education and advocacy for those working with individuals with ASD. Community resources and support services are also featured prominently at the JSU Autism Conference. 

Future CAS Plans 

Future plans include the creation of ASD Professional Learning Teams (ASD PLT). These ASD PLT groups will include the CAS Director, Assistant Director and Associates and preservice teachers in partnership with PK-12 education agencies for research, professional learning, and advocacy efforts designed to increase the use of classroom strategies and positive behavioral experiences for teachers, administrators, families, and PK-12 students with ASD.