Oakland Schools marks Autism Awareness Month

Chances are, you know someone with autism or know of someone whose life includes someone with autism. Almost every week, some sort of news story about autism reaches us while researchers devote countless hours and millions of dollars into studying the cause(s) of this complex disability.

April is National Autism Awareness Month, a great opportunity to share some facts (from Autism Speaks) about a once low-incidence disability:

  • The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates autism’s prevalence as 1 in 68 children in the United States. This includes 1 in 42 boys and 1 in 189 girls. That’s approximately 20,000 students with autism in Michigan and approximately 2,500 in Oakland County.
  • An estimated 50,000 teens with autism become adults – and lose school-based autism services – each year.

These statistics demonstrate why Oakland Schools supports Oakland County educators who teach students with autism.

As part of our efforts to build in-district capacity for supporting and educating students with autism, Oakland Schools offers intensive training and resources to district teams through the Statewide Autism Resources and Training (START) grant, a funded project through the Michigan Department of Education Office of Special Education. This year, the focus was Early Childhood Intensive Training, including seven days of professional learning here at Oakland Schools. Early Childhood  Intensive Training is geared toward educators of the earliest learners with an eligibility of autism. The training is a team-based approach in which a “target student” is chosen and action plans are developed around evidence-based practices in the field.

AutismIn recent years, Oakland Schools has also been the host site for the K-12 Intensive Training (2014-15) and the Building Your Future (Transition) Intensive Training (2015-16). Oakland Schools supports representatives from these teams in their implementation efforts during monthly after-school Regional Collaborative Network (RCN) meetings.

This year, Oakland Schools also offered a one-day training for General Education teachers who have students with autism in their classrooms. The professional learning was well received and plans are in the making to offer it again next year.

Two consultants in the Special Populations Capacity Building unit allocate time to support educators who are new (within three years) to the the disability of autism. This was initiated by two kickoff dates in the fall, as well as followup support upon request.

Want to learn more?
The AFIRM Modules are Autism Focused Intervention Resources and Modules that are designed to help you learn the step-by-step process of planning for, using and monitoring an evidence-based practice with learners with autism from birth to 22 years of age. Supplemental materials and handouts are available for download and, best of all, they are free!

The Autism Internet Modules  are designed to provide high-quality information and professional development for anyone who supports, instructs, works with or lives with someone with autism. 

Colleen Meszler is a special education consultant with the Department of Special Populations at Oakland Schools.

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