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Old May 23rd, 2017, 12:31 PM   #691
Visionary7903 Male
Autism Awareness
  
 
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Default 'Agricultural specialisterne': rural employment revolution for those with Autism

The subject of recent posts has mainly been on Autism-related events and organisations in the state of Virginia.

The Blue Ridge Autism and Achievement Center (BRAAC), a program of SVH Services, is Southwest Virginia-based nonprofit center that provides education and services for individuals affected by various challenges. This includes children with Autism Spectrum Disorders...
Quote:
Smith wants the best education for her seven-year-old son, Liam.

"This is a child who stands at the front door, waiting and asking for the bus," Smith said. "He loves school so much."

..."People don't understand that these children have value," Smith said. "They basically think that they're not going to amount to anything. It makes it hard for them to want to spend money on them."

Liam attends the Blue Ridge Autism and Achievement Center (BRAAC)... BRAAC is a nonprofit private education system licensed by the Virginia Department of Education that offers a highly structured program for students with learning disabilities and autism. Private schools for children with special needs, such as BRAAC, have received state funding under the Children's Services Act (CSA) since 1993.

BRAAC serves 100 students [from the age of 2]...

The CSA does not define a specific spending limit for the amount of money the state should use toward funding private special education. If a student is placed in a private special-education school, the state and local governments are responsible for the student's tuition if the parents cannot afford to pay on their own.

...Tuition at BRAAC can cost $3,500 to $62,000 a year. Giuliano said the cost depends on the level of expertise and staff support each student requires -- from the preschool program to specialized, one-on-one instruction.

An individual work station used by students at BRAAC Lexington.
"We work with some amazing school systems," Giuliano said. "However, there is a certain point where we're able to offer an individualized education that can rarely be done in a public school setting -- simply due to staffing."

BRAAC Lexington currently serves 10 students from Buena Vista, Rockbridge County and Augusta County. The center has four classrooms, where two to three students are placed at individual work stations for one-on-one instruction with a behavior technician. Each student follows an individualized plan -- whether life skills, such as eating and brushing teeth, or communication skills.

Giuliano said BRAAC does its best to cover costs on its own -- with fundraising events and grant writing -- but is still reliant on CSA-mandated funding.

...Andrea Smith, however, is still fearful of possible state budget cuts. She knows firsthand what can happen if a child with autism does not receive the proper education and care that private schools such as BRAAC offer.

In 2014, Smith and her family briefly moved to Howard County, Maryland.

...Two years later, Smith moved her family back to Lynchburg just so Liam could return to BRAAC.

"We're so happy to be back," she said. "He can function. He can be a person. BRAAC has been life-changing."

The General Assembly's work group is to submit a report to the chairmen of the House Appropriations and Senate Finance committees by Nov. 1, in advance of the next regular General Assembly session. Meanwhile, educators and parents alike are contacting state representatives and sharing their stories.

"I am grateful that [the amendments] did not pass, but our work is not done," Smith said. "These kids' lives are very much on the line."
Here is a link to a short video from the BRAAC preschool from last year: https://www.facebook.com/braacva/vid...4612189284381/


Last edited by Visionary7903; May 26th, 2017 at 12:41 PM.
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Old May 29th, 2017, 12:36 PM   #692
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Default 'Agricultural specialisterne': rural employment revolution for those with Autism

The subject of recent posts has mainly been on Autism-related events and organisations in the state of Virginia.

The Virginia Institute of Autism (VIA) is a Charlotteville, Virginia-based nonprofit providing a day-school and other resources for families, educators and health professionals seeking services, training or information about autism and evidence based interventions. In addition to a year-round school for children ages two to twenty-one, VIA's services include customised training and consulting for schools and home-based programs for young children...
Quote:
When Patricia Taylor's 2-year-old son Charlie started losing his language skills, developing a shorter attention span and making odd movements with his hands and body, she typed some of the behaviors into Google.

The search results were clear: he had autism.

The doctors confirmed the online diagnosis a few months later, but by that time Taylor already knew what Charlie had and what it would mean for their family.

"I had been through the feeling of devastation and crying," said Taylor. "You are kind of thrown into the fire right away--You have to kind of figure things out as you go along."

Autism is a brain disorder that can vary in degree and result in difficulties with social interaction and verbal and non-verbal communications.

...According to Albemarle schools spokesman Phil Giaramita, the County has added special education classrooms, recently hired two extra behavior specialists and sent some of their 125 special education teachers to an autism-training program in North Carolina. Charlottesville also sends teachers to the program.

"We have become more specialized in how we train and have our teachers deal with our kids," Giaramita said. "We have increased our resources for staff to be able to manage these cases and work with these cases and work with these kids so they recognize their full academic potential."

...Charlottesville has an evaluation process that identifies any disabilities among referred students. Early detection has been helpful in identifying what resources autistic students will need.

One of the approaches that both school systems have strived for is the inclusion of autistic students with students in general education classes. Stephanie Morris's autistic child, Jacob, is in a program at Cale Elementary School that often uses inclusion.

"He has done beautifully," Morris said. "We couldn't be more happy that Jake has had the opportunity to be able to model himself after typically developing children. He has established lovely little friendships with kids in the regular ed program."

Giaramita said the majority of Albemarle's autistic students are in full inclusion classrooms.

However, there is another group of students that both divisions have sent to an out-of-district school that has also experienced substantial growth.

...The Individuals with Disability Education Act assures that each child with a disability is given an Individual Education Program by the school system.

IEP's are written statements that present the student's level of academic achievement and functional performance, give measurable annual goals and present any necessary accommodations needed to measure their success.

"Some schools when they address individual needs discover they need to have very specific educational programming," said John Lloyd, the coordinator for the program in special education at UVa's Curry School of Education. "There has really been one basic approach that has garnered regular support in the research on educational programs for children with autism and it's a challenging effort to implement and it is sometimes known as--Applied Behavior Analysis training."

One organization that has used this approach is the Virginia Institute of Autism. Founded in 1996, the private, nonprofit school serves autistic students with a variety of disabilities from school districts that can't provide the services necessary for them to succeed.

According to Lloyd, Applied Behavior Analysis is often practiced with positive reinforcement.

When a child displays good behavior or does something that they may have been working on, like starting to talk or sitting up straight, the child will be rewarded with positive reinforcement from the teacher. This could include praise, laughter, food or a hug. The reinforcement is supposed to encourage the child to replicate the good behavior and hopefully learn the skill.

The school educates students [from the age of 2] who have diagnoses including [Autism Spectrum Disorders.]

"We have definitely seen an increase in referrals from school districts," said Rorie Hutter, the director of education at VIA. "A few years back we were serving typically 3-4 schools districts. Right now we have students from 13 different localities."

...VIA is different from Charlottesville-Albemarle's programs because it offers one-to-one services, has staff trained specifically for educating autistic students and it operates year-round in order to have continuity and avoid regression among students.

According to Taylor, who moved to the area so Charlie could go to VIA, the school encourages parents to come into school and see how the staff is helping their children.

"Its very daunting for parents to figure out what to do for their child," said Taylor. "[Charlie] needs one-to-one instruction [and] well trained staff that know what they're doing, that know how to work with kids on the far end of the spectrum--We are just so blessed to have him in a place like VIA."

But the cost for a student to go to VIA can have a major impact on a school system's finances. The cost to attend VIA is $80,000 per year and currently all of the students are paid for by their home school district.

The Comprehensive Services Act (CSA) for Students with Disabilities requires states to provide a certain amount of the funding depending on the jurisdiction, but localities must still pay the remaining tuition and the full transportation costs for the students. This can be expensive because students come from as far away as Fauquier and Rappahannock counties to go to VIA.

According to Giaramita, Albemarle currently spends $750,000 a year from local funding sources for 26 students at VIA. Charlottesville sends seven students to VIA for a total cost of approximately $560,000, which includes state funding support. The city also spends $200,000 on its two autism classrooms.

...parent Stephanie Morris said increased funding for early detection will be critical, and that greater education of the services available to families will be important.

"I know a lot of families that don't want their children to be labeled," said Morris. "I kind of take the opposite approach, because if you want to label my child that's fine, because it affords them all sorts of doors and windows to be open in terms of services that the County then can provide."

Charlottesville parent Jessica Primm, whose child is in general education classes in high school and has been assigned a teaching aide, said the school system could help parents prepare for the challenges that come with putting an autistic student through school.

"It would be really good if they kind of gave you a roadmap of how the system works and kind of a list of names and contacts within your school that you should know," Primm said.

Morris said if students can be given the services they are needed they can excel.

"Nine times out of 10 these children are brilliant," said Morris. "It's just a matter of unlocking that."

"The earlier age we can do that and understand that yes they need additional support, and yes they are on the spectrum--the better chance of them being able to contribute to our community and our society versus them not," said Morris.
Here is a link to a video from the Virginia Institute of Autism from last year:


Last edited by Visionary7903; May 30th, 2017 at 01:36 PM.
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Old May 30th, 2017, 01:46 PM   #693
Visionary7903 Male
Autism Awareness
  
 
Join Date: Oct 2005
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Default 'Agricultural specialisterne': rural employment revolution for those with Autism

The subject of recent posts has mainly been on Autism-related events and organisations in the state of Virginia.

The Inter-Professional Autism Clinic (IPAC) is a Harrisonburg, Virginia-based nonprofit that is part of the James Madison University Institute for Innovation in Health and Human Services. IPAC offers autism services to the community and at the same time provides an experiential learning environment for students who will eventually work with children with Autism including occupational therapists, speech and language pathologists, and psychologists...
Quote:
When Laurie ...and Robert Weese retired ...they expected to move. But having two sons diagnosed with autism made them consider their options carefully.

Passing through the Shenandoah Valley one day, the family stopped at Rockingham County Public Schools' central office. They met Scott Hand ...director of pupil personnel services, who introduced them to the area and took them to visit two county schools. What the Weeses found was a community supportive of individuals with autism and a university replete with services and opportunities to help their sons.

...While the ...causes [of Autism] remain elusive, parents like the Weeses seek help.

Garrett Weese, who is profoundly impacted by autism, makes weekly visits to JMU's Inter-Professional Autism Clinic. Progress is measured slowly but steadily. Six years ago, Garrett arrived as a non-verbal 7-year-old. Today, he makes solid eye contact, Laurie says, and has an increasing vocabulary. He also dresses himself and does family chores.

"It bothers me when people kind of pity me: 'Oh, I'm so sorry you have an autistic son,'" Laurie says. "But I say, 'he's great. He's just different.'"

...IPAC offers a hands-on, real-world experience for students, says Trevor Stokes, professor of graduate psychology and a licensed applied behavioral analyst who works with the clinic. "IPAC is very innovative because we've brought together people from different disciplines -- to merge our different treatments so we can deliver one treatment which incorporates the three disciplines -- which is not a traditional approach, but this is the creative part of what we do."

While the benefits to children are indisputable, parents benefit as well. "When they [parents] come in for an appointment, they don't just drop the child off," Stokes says. "There's an expectation they'll be involved in some way. As a result, parents learn strategies and therapies to help their children that might otherwise take years of trial and error."

In addition to IPAC, the university has an Applied Behavioral Analysis Clinic and a Speech-Language-Hearing Laboratory, all part of JMU's Alvin V. Baird Attention and Learning Disabilities Center.

The clinics are part of a large network of services available to the autism community. One of those services is a summer camp for children ages 3 to 7 with autism. Run by JMU occupational therapist Liz Richardson and Marsha Longerbeam, a speech and language pathologist, the camp mirrors the collaborative practice of IPAC by bringing together occupational therapy, speech and language pathology, and applied behavioral analysis.

A year ago, the College of Education began offering a one-year course sequence leading to a certificate in Autism Spectrum Studies -- in essence, an extension of the university's traditionally strong program in exceptional education. Right now there's a waiting list to enroll.

"No child with autism is like another child with autism," says Keri Bethune, coordinator of the certificate program. "It is very much a disability where educational plans, behavior plans, and strategies all have to be individualised."

Scott Hand represents the hundreds of educational professionals coming out of JMU who are making an impact in public schools. Robert Weese is especially appreciative of this impact. Before coming to the valley, he says, he would drop by Garrett's school and find his son isolated in a classroom by himself. "Educationally, he was being left behind because the teachers were not required to learn." Now, he is in a school environment that meets his needs.

...Often overlooked by the media is that children with autism grow up to become adults with autism -- a fact of which parents and families are unflinchingly aware.

"The supports for adults look very different than the supports for children," Bethune says. "We still have to have transition services to figure out what's going to be next for that student. "There's no mandate for us to continue."

At JMU, students with autism receive support from people like Brett Tjaden, professor of computer science. Each year, he advises a dozen or so students on the spectrum who are directed his way by the Office of Disability Services. "Often we tend to focus on the weakness that come with a particular disability and not enough on the strengths," Tjaden says. "There are some obstacles that come with [autism] that are not ideal, but there are also some amazing blessings that come with it as well."...
Here is a link to a video from James Madison University:

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