Friday, September 4, 2009

2007-2009 Introduction to Autism

In September of 2007 Alvarado began the first of the autistic classes. We had two full time autistic teachers, Mani Allen and Danielle Cruz. These were fully trained special education teachers. We also began getting students who were at the higher end of the autistic spectrum. Those students were called inclusion students because they were mainstreamed or included into regular classes. Some of these had already been mainstreamed previously at other schools and fit well into the regular classes. The inclusion students had a variety of learning styles much the same as the rest of the students. Most of the time they did not need an aide. Usually if there were more than one inclusion student in a class then an aide was assigned to the class.

The Alvarado prep teachers, music, PE, media/library, and science had for the first time autistic students from Ms. Allen's and Mrs. Cruz's classes. Students came with about 1 aide for every 2 students and were integrated into one standard class. All these students were 1st, 2nd, and 3rd graders. The prep teachers knew they needed some autism training. However, when school started there was no autism training for the staff and little training throughout the school year. We had a series of three different inclusion specialists assigned to monitor these students, but due to all the changes it was often difficult for them to find the time to meet with teachers.

In the past those students at the lower end of the autistic spectrum were sent to non-public school placement for which the district payed the cost. In a February 9th, 2008 Board of Education meeting, the Director of Special Education, Carol Rohde, identified $200,000 of savings by not having students in non-public school placements. By adding a behaviorist and an occupational therapist the district would improve in-house placements for these students. Chief Business Officer, Carol Gregorich, reported that by 2008-2009 such changes would make a $1.5 million reduction in costs to the district and improvement in services to these students. However, at this board meeting there was no mention of exactly how in-house classes improved services to these students.

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