Project Common Ground

Students who have been accepted into the Master's Program in the Communicative Disorders (CD) department can apply to participate in Project Common Ground, a program for students to gain specialized knowledge and skills to work with children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD).

About Project Common Ground

Project Common Ground is a personnel preparation project supported by the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Special Education Programs (Grant # H325K110326). The co-directors of the project are Drs. Betty Yu and Pamela Wolfberg. The grant began in January 2012.

The purpose of Project Common Ground is to prepare speech-language pathologists (SLPs) to work effectively with diverse children on the autism spectrum from birth to 21 years across home, school and community settings. The project name, Common Ground, conveys several core values of the program.

  • The first is the focus on helping children with ASD and those who are important in their lives find the common ground upon which to connect, relate and communicate.
  • The second is the SLPs' formation of partnerships with families in accordance with family-centered and culturally competent care.
  • The third is the achievement of shared purpose among team members, including individuals with ASD, families, professionals, support personnel, peers, and other invested parties in order to provide contextually meaningful services.
  • The final commitment is to bring together participants from diverse backgrounds, including those with differing abilities, cultural affiliations, linguistic heritage, and socioeconomic status.

The philosophic foundations of Project Common Ground are consistent with the American Speech-Language Hearing Association's position that the critical role of the SLP is to decrease isolation and to support increased engagement, social integration, and quality of life for individuals with ASD and their families.

After the successful completion of the program, trainees will be able to:

  • Understand and identify the core characteristics and challenges of ASD
  • Collaborate with families and other team members for assessment and intervention
  • Prioritize naturalistic, ecologically-valid and developmentally-appropriate learning
  • Use evidence-based practice

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Program Requirements

Project Common Ground is designed to be completed by students within the time frame of the Master's program. Students who participate in the training program will be required to complete project-specific activities in the following five areas:

  1. Coursework: Trainees will take three courses (9 units) in addition to the coursework required for their graduate degree and credentialling. These include two courses focusing on ASD and one on augmentative and alternative communication (AAC).
    • SPED 791: Nature of Autism Spectrum Disorders (Offered Fall & Spring)
    • SPED 825: Communication, Behavior and Instructional Supports: Autism (Offered Fall))
    • SPED 794: Communication, Socialization and Imagination (Offered Spring)
  2. Clinical Training: Trainees must complete two levels of clinical training that are integrated into the existing CD graduate program practica.
    • Trainees must select the ASD Clinic as one of their on-campus child clinics. (Offered Fall, Spring, Summer)
    • Trainees will also be placed in a school internship with a focus on service delivery to students with ASD within an inclusive setting. (Offered Fall, Spring)
  3. Service Learning Projects: Trainees must complete two service learning projects.
    • Family Partners Respite Service Learning Project : Trainees will participate in a service learning project which matches them with a family of a child with ASD for whom they will provide 40 hours of respite care services over the course of a year. The purpose of the project is to facilitate firsthand experiences and reflections about the everyday lives of families of children with ASD. This service learning experience is offered in partnership with Levana Autism Support Services
    • Transition Supports Service Learning Project: Trainees will participate in a service learning project in which they will provide a minimum of 6 hours of support for individuals on the autism spectrum above 18-years of age who are preparing for post-secondary transitions (e.g., employment, college, independent living, community living, and more).
  4. Seminars: Trainees in Project Common Ground will participate in seminars focusing on 1) the Friend 2 Friend (F2F) model, 2)Social Thinking®, and 3) a panel presentation by AASCEND, "What I wish my parents and teachers knew about autism."

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Other Learning Opportunities

Observation at a diagnostic clinic: Many families of children with ASD consider the diagnostic process to be a major event in their lives. SLPs are often among the first intervention professionals to work with a family after a child receives a diagnosis. It's important to understand the process in order to be helpful to families at this crucial time. Each trainee will make one visit to observe the assessment of a child at a local diagnostic clinic. Trainees have the opportunity to observe the Neurodevelopmtnal Assessment Clinic at JumpStart Learning to Learn.

Observation at the Social Thinking clinic: Project Common Ground students have the opportunity to observe at the Social Thinking Clinics in San Jose.

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Post-Graduation Service Obligation

Within five years after graduation, trainees are required to satisfy a service obligation in return for the scholarship assistance they received. Graduates must work on a full-time or a full-time equivalent basis as a speech-language pathologist (SLP), an SLP supervisor, a postsecondary instructor or researcher in Communicative Disorders or related services for three years. A majority of the work (at least 51%) that graduates perform must be related to the training that they received in the field of communicative disorders, special education, early intervention, or related services for children with disabilities. At least part of the services provided must benefit children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD). Part-time employment may be used to satisfy the obligation (for example, working half-time for four years to fulfill the equivalent of a two year obligation). At least once a year, graduates will submit a report of the following to the directors of Project Common Ground, including:

  • Contact information
  • Description of any employment that counts toward fulfilling their service obligation
  • Employer information
  • If needed, any requests for an exception or deferral from the service obligation

Click here to download a copy of the Project Common Ground Service Agreement

Clck here to download a copy of the Project Common Ground Stipend Payback Agreement

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Stipend Support

The majority (65%) of the funds for Project Common Ground is devoted to trainee support in the form of stipends. It is expected that 12 trainees will be accepted into the program each project year. Each trainee will receive over $11,000 in stipends and funded activities over the course of their participation in the program.

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Applying to Project Common Ground

Students in the CD Master's Program who are interested in applying for Project Common Ground should contact Betty Yu at Only students who have been accepted into the SFSU CD department are eligible to participate.

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Project Common Ground News

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