Achieving Independence and Mastery in School (AIMS) is a school-based program developed to help middle school students with social-communication challenges (such as autism spectrum disorder) achieve academic success. AIMS also includes an outpatient counterpart, AIMS-O, that addresses the same goals outside of the school setting.
Who Can Benefit?
AIMS was developed for children who:
Are in middle school (6th-8th grade)
Attend a majority of classes within the general education setting
Have social communication challenges (e.g., diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder)
Have executive functioning challenges (e.g., diagnosis of ADHD)
Struggle academically due to issues with organization, planning, and time management
The purpose of AIMS is to improve the executive functions (EFs) that are key to achieving academic success in middle school for students who struggle with social communication skills. These adolescents typically have EF deficits that impact their skill to start assignments, organize their materials, plan and prioritize upcoming assignments and tests, and study effectively for tests.
The key EFs that are targeted in AIMS include:
AIMS increases academic independence and fosters learning by teaching students to learn and master the following strategies that target EFs:
Understanding profile of EF strengths and challenges
ABCs of Problem Solving
Organizing a backpack, binder, locker, and computer files
Using a planner to keep track of and prioritize assignments, tests, and projects
Setting up an effective homework system
Acronyms, acrostics, and songs
Written and visual summary strategies
Leanne Tamm, Ph.D.
Dr. Tamm is a clinical psychologist with expertise in executive functioning and treatment development. She has worked primarily with children diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and more recently with autism spectrum disorders. She received her Ph.D. from the University of Texas at Austin and completed a post-doctoral fellowship at Stanford University. She has been on the faculty at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center since 2010.
Amie Duncan, Ph.D.
Dr. Duncan is a clinical psychologist with expertise in developing executive functioning and daily living skills in youth with autism spectrum disorders. She received her Ph.D. from the University of Alabama and completed a post‐doctoral fellowship at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center. She has been on the faculty at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center since 2009.
The development of the Achieving Academic Independence in Middle School (AIMS) outpatient and school programs was supported by the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) award R21HD090334-01A1 and by the Institute of Education Sciences, U.S. Department of Education Grant R324A180053 to Drs. Amie Duncan and Leanne Tamm at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center. The content on this website does not necessarily represent the official views of the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH), IES, or the U.S. Department of Education.
Tamm, L., Risley, S.M., Hamik, E., Combs, A., Jones, L.B., Patronick, J., Yeung, T.S., Zoromski, A.K., & Duncan, A. (2022). Improving academic performance through a school-based intervention targeting academic executive functions – A pilot study. International Journal of Developmental Disabilities. doi: 10.1080/20473869.2022.2095690
Duncan, A., Risley, S., Combs, A., Lacey, H.M., Hamik, E., Fershtman, C., Kneeskern, E., Patel, M., Crosby, L., Hood, A., Zoromski, A.K., Tamm, L. (2022). School challenges and services related to executive functioning for fully included middle schoolers with autism. Focus on Autism and Other Developmental Disabilities. doi: 10.1177/10883576221110167
Tamm, L., Zoromski, A.K., Kneeskern, E.E., Patel, M.D., Lacey, H.M., Vaughn, A.J., Ciesielski, H.A., Weadick, H.K., & Duncan, A. (2020). Achieving Independence and Mastery in School: An open trial in the outpatient setting. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 51(5), 1705-1718. doi: 10.1007/s10803-020-04652-8
Tamm, L. & Duncan, A. M. (2020). Achieving Academic Independence in Middle School-Outpatient (AIMS-O). Encyclopedia of Autism Spectrum Disorders (F.R. Volkmar, Ed.). New York: Springer. doi: 10.1007/978-1-4614-6435-8_102477-1
Tamm, L., Duncan, A., Vaughn, A.J., McDade, R., Estell, N., Birnschein, A., & Crosby, L. (2020). Academic needs in middle school: Perspectives of parents and youth with Autism. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 50(9), 3126-3139. doi:10.1007/s10803-019-03995-1