Project Common Ground

Project Common Ground;was 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 were Drs. Betty Yu and Pamela Wolfberg. The grant began in January 2012 and the last cohort of scholars were admitted in 2017.

About Project Common Ground

The purpose of Project Common Ground was 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, conveyed several core values of the program.

  • The first was the focus on helping children on the autism spectrum and those who are important in their lives find the common ground upon which to connect, relate and communicate.
  • The second was the SLPs' formation of partnerships with families in accordance with family-centered and culturally competent care.
  • The third was the achievement of shared purpose among team members, including individuals on the autism spectrum, families, professionals, support personnel, peers, and other invested parties in order to provide contextually meaningful services.
  • The final commitment was 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 on the autism spectrum and their families.

After the successful completion of the program, trainees were expected to:

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

Program Requirements

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

  1. Coursework: Trainees took three courses (9 units) in addition to the coursework required for their graduate degree and credentialling. These included three courses focusing on autism.

    • 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 completed two levels of clinical training that are integrated into the existing CD graduate program practica.
    • Trainees must select the Autism Social-Communication 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 on the autism spectrum within an inclusive setting. (Offered Fall, Spring)
  3. Service Learning Projects: Trainees completed two service learning projects.
    • Family Partners Respite Service Learning Project : Trainees participated in a service learning project which matched them with a family of a child with ASD for whom they provided 40 hours of respite care services over the course of a year. The purpose of the project was to facilitate firsthand experiences and reflections about the everyday lives of families of children on the autism spectrum. This service learning experience was offered in partnership with Levana Autism Support Services
    • Transition Supports Service Learning Project: Trainees participated in a service learning project in which they provided a minimum of 6 hours of support for individuals on the autism spectrum above 18-years of age who were preparing for post-secondary transitions (e.g., employment, college, independent living, community living, and more).
  4. Seminars: Trainees in Project Common Ground participated 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."

Other Learning Opportunities

Observation at a diagnostic clinic: Many families of children on the autism spectrum 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 had the opportunity to 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 clinicProject Common Ground students had the opportunity to observe at the Social Thinking Clinics in San Jose.

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 speech-language-hearing 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 speech-language-hearing, special education, early intervention, or related services for children with disabilities. At least part of the services provided must benefit children on the autism spectrum. 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

View the Project Common Ground Service Agreement

View the Project Common Ground Stipend Payback Agreement

Stipend Support

The majority (65%) of the funds for Project Common Ground was devoted to trainee support in the form of stipends. Approximately 12 trainees were accepted into the program each project year. Each trainee received over $11,000 in stipends and funded activities over the course of their participation in the program.

Applying to Project Common Ground

Project Common Ground is no longer accepting new applicantions. Students in the SLHS Master's Program who are interested in obtaining an autism specialization should contact Betty Yu at to learn about Project ALLIES and the SF State Autism Graduate Certificate

Project Common Ground News

Note: The following PDFs are in the process of being made full accessible. If you have difficulty reading the PDFs, please contact the SLHS Department at or (415) 338-1001.

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