Chapman University’s Thompson Policy Institute on Disability (TPI) has hired a new director to spearhead the Families and Schools Together (FAST) program at CHOC Children’s Thompson Autism Center. Elissa Green Kaustinen, who has worked within the public school system for the last 17 years, previously served seven years as a school psychologist and 10 years as an administrator within special education.
In spring 2020, TPI signed a five-year agreement with the Thompson Autism Center at CHOC Children’s to license the FAST program. Customized versions of the FAST program have also been implemented in partnership with the UCI Health’s Center for Autism & Neurodevelopmental Disorders and the Regional Center of Orange County (RCOC).
Originally developed in 2012 by faculty within the Chapman’s Attallah College of Educational Studies and TPI, the FAST program was designed to assist schools and families of children with disabilities as they navigate the school system, from preschool through college. Often embedded within neurodevelopmental centers, the program helps families, schools, and community service providers collaborate with one another in order to build an effective, high-quality learning plan for school-age children.
Services for families and youth include informational workshops and both individual and small group consultations. FAST also offers professional development opportunities and personalized consultation for school districts and community service providers.
FAST services, which are available at no cost to districts or families, are designed to create a positive environment for schools and families. By fostering communication and collaboration, FAST enables families and schools to determine an optimal learning environment for students with disabilities.
FAST Model Expansion
The newest member of the Thompson Policy Institute, Elissa Green Kaustinen has promoted a culture of inclusivity and advocated to support all students throughout her career. Prior to joining TPI, Elissa served the community of Newport Mesa Unified School district in the role of Special Education Coordinator. She has experience in many areas including special education assessments, inclusive practices, developing Individual Education Plans, counseling, developing and implementing behavioral programs, autism, and other neurodevelopmental disabilities.
“TPI is honored to have Elissa join us. Her extensive experience in special education settings will ensure the FAST@CHOC program thrives,” said TPI Director Meghan Cosier, Ph.D. “With her background in K-12 schools, she has special insight into the roles of school districts and community providers as well as the needs of the youth and families they serve.”
Now with FAST program sites at UCI Health’s Center for Autism & Neurodevelopmental Disorders, the Regional Center of Orange County (RCOC), and CHOC Children’s, TPI is able to serve more children and ensure coordinated and collaborative care for families throughout Orange County.
Display Image at Top: Reception area of CHOC Children’s Thompson Autism Center