|
|
|
Morning Sun
  • PCMS remodel targets autism program needs

  • A focus on the future of special needs program led USD 250 Superintendent Destry Brown to ask teacher Shirley Williams what would be a part of her dream facility for the autism program she teaches for SEK Interlocal #637.

    • email print
  • A focus on the future of special needs program led USD 250 Superintendent Destry Brown to ask teacher Shirley Williams what would be a part of her dream facility for the autism program she teaches for SEK Interlocal #637.
    This summer, many of Williams’ ideas are being implemented.
    “They’re just really focusing on some of the special needs programs,” she said, adding that special needs are just that - special and individualized by the person.
    “We really just focus on what is best for the kid,” Williams said. “Each one is so different.”
    She said there is a saying about autism that “if you’ve met one person with autism, you’ve met one person with autism,” because each individual is so different.
    Each individual requires his or her own plan, and many cannot learn in a traditional classroom.
    “Typically the kids I work with are not appropriate for inclusion,” Williams said.
    She said her program does teach reading, math, social studies and science, but not in the same way as in a traditional classroom. Much of what is learned is experiential.
    As more children are identified as autistic, the need for programs grows.
    “Any type of research you read says that there is a growing number of kids with autism,” Brown said. “We need more space because we needed a second classroom.”
    Brown said the Interlocal’s secondary autism program is seeing numbers increase along with national statistics.
    “It has grown,” Brown said. “We have more kids who have been identified in the entire Interlocal.”
    The Interlocal includes Arma, Baxter, Cherokee, Chetopa/St. Paul, Columbus Frontenac, Galena, Girard, Labette County, Oswego, Pittsburg, Riverton and Uniontown.
    Williams said a second teacher, Rob Cummings, has been hired for the program.
    “He’s going to be a true asset to the program,” Williams said.
    She expressed excitement at the combination of a second teacher and expanded space that will address more of the program’s needs.
    “Before the renovations, I had to work around other teachers’ schedules to get my students in the kitchen,” Williams said as one example of the challenges of running her program through existing classrooms.
    Williams said renovations address some of the many needs across the spectrum of autism, with new facilities in which to teach students how to cook and handle food safely, how to do laundry, how to practice personal hygiene and more.
    “I asked, ‘If you had a perfect program what would it look like?’” Brown said.
    Williams said a fully equipped kitchen, laundry area and shower facilities were some of the items on her dream list that are coming true.
    “We’re going to have a fully equipped kitchen,” Williams said. “We’ll let them eat in the kitchen instead of at their desks.”
    Page 2 of 2 - She said this is a major benefit, because some of her students find the audio stimulation in the cafeteria to be overwhelming.
    Williams said the students she works with likely will require lifelong support, but she works on essential skills, many of which are identified by parents.
    Williams said the parents are equally excited.
    “They’re excited about it too, and just the opportunities it brings for their kids,” Williams said. “It’s going to be good.”
    She said she greatly appreciates the district’s investment in and support of the program.
    “They’re giving us a lot of really nice stuff,” Williams said. “I think the district is really seeing the numbers are here. I just feel really lucky to have the district’s support.”
      • calendar