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Piecing Together the Autism Education Puzzle
Families whose children are diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder typically have a wide range of reactions: sadness, fear, and, for some, relief at having a name for their child's challenges. While they all have drastically different experiences, almost all agree on one thing: there aren’t enough educational professionals trained to help their children.
In fact, in a study in 2002, the Autism Society of America documented that one of the greatest sources of stress for these families was this lack of trained professionals. That's why the Center for Autism and Related Disorders at Kennedy Krieger Institute is working to train educators around the state of Maryland.
Through their Technical Assistance Program, the Center provides guidance for educators on designing and delivering the most effective, evidence-based educational programming for students with autism. This program, a collaboration between the Center for Autism Related Disorders and the Maryland State Department of Education, provides consultation to administrators, technical assistance personnel, special educators, autism support teachers, classroom assigned therapists, and paraprofessionals.
The program is an important resource for educators around the state, particularly those in rural areas where access to training and services is often limited. Debra Pierce, the supervisor of special education in St. Mary's County, says that the program has proven invaluable in classrooms.
"We can look at those best practices and know that Kennedy Krieger recommended it and that they draw on national resources," says Pierce. "They have translated some of those clinical practices down to realistic classroom-based strategies that teachers can implement for all children."
"The technical assistance," she adds "has allowed our program staff to have meaningful discussions with the Kennedy Krieger staff. This is critical for the school systems that are farther away from Washington and Baltimore."