Supporting Students with Autism

Northwest AEA has an autism team dedicated to providing support for students on the autism spectrum. For the most part, the members of the team do this in addition to their regular job assignment. The reason for this? Their devotion to making life better for students who have autism and to supporting administrators, teachers, students, and families. The team is composed of individuals across different disciplines (special education strategists, occupational therapists, speech pathologists). Support is provided in a variety of ways such as providing professional development, individual autism collaborations, and resources.  

Each year, Northwest AEA provides classes which are designed for a wide audience (special education teachers, general education teachers, paraprofessionals, AEA staff, administrators, and parents). Classroom Strategies is a two-day course designed to support the success of students with autism in the general education classroom. This year, Classroom Strategies has been offered in a two-day virtual format. For the first time, Structured TEACCHing will be offered in a virtual format. This spring training consists of five virtual sessions—lasting four hours each—that will address the fundamentals of structured teaching for students on the autism spectrum. It will provide insight into the different learning styles of individuals with ASD and the components necessary for structured teaching. The foundations of this training will help foster an understanding of the need for visual supports to provide meaning, promote independence, and capitalize on the strengths of individuals with autism spectrum disorders. Group discussions, guided break-out sessions, and the use of case-scenarios with videos will offer unique learning opportunities in this virtual format. 

Our early childhood autism team members are willing to “take the show on the road” and come to schools to provide a two- to three-day hands-on training for “structuring it up” for preschoolers as well as information on characteristics, communication, and social skills.  

Individual autism consultations (for teachers who need assistance with evidence-based practices to support their students with autism) are also available. Some ways the autism team members can support teachers include structuring up their classroom physically, putting visual supports in place (such as a visual schedule and a work system), and providing resources.

In order to access the individual autism consultations, the teacher needing the assistance works through their special education strategist.  The  team may also provide recommendations of evidence-based practices for social/communication strategies and curriculums. 

The team dedicated to make life better for children with autism includes: Ann Hardy, Becky Hendrickson, Beth Tisher, Jan Turbes, Jessica Niles, Karen Miller, Laura Ocker, Lindy Hornby, Lynzie Reisz, Nicole Bacan, Onna Bartlett, Patty Kann, Sara Klingensmith, and Stephanie Robinson.

“Don’t think that there’s a different, better child ‘hiding’ behind the autism. This is your child. Love the child in front of you. Encourage his strengths, celebrate his quirks, and improve his weaknesses, the way you would with any child. You may have to work harder on some of this, but that’s the goal.” – Claire Scovell LaZebnik