Special education services available to ASD students

What is autism ? Autism is a developmental disability that affects verbal and nonverbal communication and social interactions. It is often referred to as a triad impairment because it affects how an individual is able to socialize and communicate, as well as their interests and activities.

The degree to which individuals are impacted by autism varies greatly. Those diagnosed with autism may or may not have a cognitive disability. Some individuals with autism can be verbal while others are non-verbal and require some type of communication device to communicate effectively.

Often those with autism have obsessive or repetitive interests and activities. In addition, they may have interests in unique things such as vacuums or steam engines.

Today there are two major patterns seen when identifying an individual with autism.

The first pattern is early onset where symptoms are present from early infancy. Parents are often the ones who identify the pattern of early onset autism because they know something about their child is “different” or they are not developing as expected.

The second pattern seen when identifying an individual with autism is regressive. In the regressive pattern, students are developing typically until they reach 13 to 36 months of age. During this time, they begin to regress in their development and lose skills.

Autism is generally evident before the age of 3. About 1 in 68 children has been identified with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). ASD is found to occur in all racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic groups. ASD is almost 5 times more common among boys (1 in 42) than girls (1 in 189). The cause of autism has not yet been determined even though many theories regarding the cause have been developed. Autism affects each individual differently and the supports and services needed vary greatly.

Students with ASD are eligible to receive special education services because it can impact their education. Most students with autism receive special education services within the local school district. The Copper Country Intermediate School District supports the local districts by providing an autism consultant and instructional coach.

The CCISD offers services any local districts with students who have autism, providing both consulting and coaching services. The autism consultant and instructional coach provides assistance with developing predictable schedules and routines and creating visual supports needed for the student to be able to function in their school environment, for example: visual schedules for academics and classroom procedures, behavior expectation cues, video modeling, designated learning areas and choice boards).

The autism consultant and coach also spends time modeling for teachers and paraprofessionals such things as how to implement these visuals supports into the school environment, use a calm voice, give clear directions and use visuals before giving verbal or physical prompts. The coach also provides support in making accommodations to the general education curriculum, so students with autism are in the regular classroom as much as possible. The amount of support each student receives is individualized and specific to their learning needs.

Besides providing autism consultants and coaches, the CCISD has also provided many professional development opportunities for local schools on the topic of autism.

The Copper Country ISD is committed to helping our local schools work with and educate all students, including those with ASD.

George Stockero Jr. is superintendent of the Copper Country Intermediate School District.