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Posts tagged ‘Department of Education’

A Note to High School Teachers about Autism

It’s no big secret that high school can be a challenge for anyone, not just those on the spectrum, but for many of them, the struggle is greater than any other. They’re still growing up, many have yet to learn any true applicable life skills, and classes can be a challenge if the teacher is incapable of keeping the pace of their lessons at an acceptable level for all of their students. Many go through that phase where everything their parents say is wrong and they’re always right (don’t worry we all do it). These are just some of the many issues which can make high school so difficult. I know for me personally, high school had its ups sure, but on the whole I barely made it through at times, often only passing due to the intervention of my mom or dad chatting with my teachers and getting me back on the right track. Here, I want to discuss some issues facing students with autism in high school, and perhaps some solutions that can help resolve the main issues.

Nowadays, students with ASD participating in general education classrooms is trending. Many are beginning to feel that just because a kid has autism, doesn’t mean they can’t or shouldn’t receive the same knowledge as everyone else. For those who may not be “in-the-know” about what autism is, some of the most common characteristics are difficulty in social situations, an inability to spot sarcasm or tone of voice, repetitious actions, and a general aversion to change. According to Veronica Fleury of UNC’s Center on Secondary Education for Students with Autism Spectrum Disorders, “Many educators find that they’re not prepared to adapt their instruction methods to meet both state standards and the diverse needs of students with autism.” In a similar study, it was noted that students on the spectrum had a disproportionately high participation in the STEM fields compared to the general populace, regardless of gender or income. If that’s really the case, then it’s apparent that high schools need to prepare these students with the necessary skills for achieving their goals, as STEM fields are some of the most difficult to succeed in.

Another thing to keep in mind, especially if you are a teacher, is that a lot of individuals on the spectrum have unique (or at least different) learning styles. When planning for instruction, keep in mind that for the most part, students with ASD are visual learners, literal learners, and require consistency, according to this resource. For example, out-of-nowhere pop quizzes and numerous hands-on activities aren’t going to be very effective for most, as they’ll quickly lose interest and won’t absorb a single word coming out of your mouth. Be forthcoming and explicit with your expectations, don’t leave anything up for interpretation or else the student may not understand what they’re supposed to do in a given situation.

Additionally, try to keep the student engaged with other members of the classroom. If given the chance, many with autism will clam up and not want to socialize at all. This simply isn’t going to cut it in the real world, so try to prepare them by having them participate in group work. If you follow these tips, dealing with your student should be much easier.

> G. Sosso

Transition Planning


This is the fifth (and final) in a series of articles about transition planning. This article identifies some of the unwritten elements for a successful transition. Is your child learning and practicing these skills across grade levels and into adulthood? Prepare, strategize, implement, revise, evaluate, and enjoy your child’s journey on the yellow brick road to adulthood. (And remember to contact CARD if you are seeking additional guidance along the way.)

o Effectively communicate expressively and receptively. Communication is critical to learning and doing.
o Accurately interpret body language. Much of communication is non-verbal and can be easily misconstrued.
o Productively problem-solve. Analyze personal thoughts and actions and learn from mistakes.
o Prioritize, organize, sequence, and complete tasks. Every task and activity requires planning and follow-through.
o Maintain a high level self-esteem. A positive attitude is a foundational element for success.
o Respect others. Accept and celebrate diversity. Everyone has strengths and weaknesses, and brings something of value to the table. Learn to cooperate and collaborate within a team context.
o Set personal goals and self-monitor your progress. Gradually increase your independence over time.

Reward yourself. (You did it!!)

Transition Planning


This is the fourth in a series of articles about transition planning. This article focuses on the pending changes in the high school graduation requirements for students with disabilities. The proposed changes are expected to be finalized at the November 18th meeting of the State Board of Education.

If your child entered 9th grade prior to the 2014-2015 school year, he/she will continue on the same track towards earning a standard or special diploma. If your child entered 9th grade in the 2014-2015 school year, the pending changes are relevant to you. The first thing to know is that a course-of-study working towards a diploma must be chosen in the 9th grade. If your child is on an IEP, the course-of-study must be documented on the TIEP (transition individual education plan).

The proposed new rule (6A-1.09963 Florida Administrative Code) outlines new requirements that students with disabilities (including those with cognitive disability who take the alternate assessment) may follow to earn a standard diploma. An explanation of the requirements is too complex for this short article. You will find the proposed new rule at https://app1.fldoe.org/rules/default.aspx. You still have the opportunity to provide comments regarding the proposed new rule to the Department of Education prior to the November 18th meeting of the State Board of Education.

The decision to accept or defer the standard high school diploma must be made during the school year in which your child is expected to meet all the requirements for the standard diploma, and the decision is to be noted on the IEP. The IEP team must review the benefits of deferring the standard diploma to enable continuation of education and related services (through age 21), and must document the rationale in writing.

As defined in the new high school graduation requirements, if your child does not achieve the required grade point average, or does not achieve proficiency on required assessments, he/she will receive a “certificate of completion” rather than the standard diploma. The special diploma option has been eliminated.

The person most knowledgeable about the new high school graduation requirements for students with disabilities is the Guidance Counselor. Be sure to invite him/her to your child’s 9th grade IEP meeting.

CARD & HIPPY Program To Be Featured on News Channel 8

The Center for Autism and Related Disabilities at USF partners with the Florida HIPPY program (Home Instruction for Parents of Preschool Youngsters)

The HIPPY program offers a structured home based model focusing on parent-child centered learning. This international parent involvement school readiness program uses an evidence based curriculum for children 3-5 years old. Parents, as the first teachers, are provided with the developmentally appropriate materials and books to help teach and strengthen their child’s cognitive, literacy and social/emotional skills.

Four years ago, CARD approached HIPPY about the idea of expanding the use of their curriculum to children with disabilities, specifically children diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder. This had not been tried before and we felt that CARD constituents would greatly benefit from this opportunity. After HIPPY successfully received a grant from the Children’s Board in Hillsborough County, we were off and running to find 16 children for our pilot group. We have been tracking the data on the enhancements that CARD has offered to the HIPPY curriculum as well as child outcomes. Our goal is to have our participants school ready to attend the least restrictive classroom environment.

We had the honor of having Gayle Guyardo from Channel 8 news join us for a session with a local family that CARD and HIPPY serves. This story will be featured on September 23 on the evening news. I hope you can take a moment to watch and if you know a family in Hillsborough County with a child aged 3 or 4 who can benefit from this program, please have them contact Beverly King at beverlyking@usf.edu.

Jossie3                             (Jossie, a HIPPY graduate, with Gayle Guyardo)

Rehabilitation Services Administration Commissioner Visits the Learning Academy!

On July 9, 2014, Janet LaBreck, Commissioner of the Rehabilitation Services Administration (RSA), visited the University of South Florida, along with RSA Program Specialist Christyne Cavataio and Department of Education Chief of Staff Kathy Hebda. Accompanying Commissioner LaBreck were Aleisa McKinlay, Director of the Division of Vocational Rehabilitation, Robert Doyle, Director of the Division of Blind Services, and John Howell, Area Director, Division of Vocational Rehabilitation. Three programs were showcased for their work in training and research for vocational rehabilitation. Among these were two College of Behavioral and Community Sciences programs: the Department of Rehabilitation and Mental Health Counseling and the Learning Academy and Employment Services, Department of Child and Family Studies.

The visit focused on programs that support the RSA’s mission to establish a job-driven vocational rehabilitation technical assistance center to offer training and technical assistance to those with disabilities. The overarching goal to help provide skills and competencies to those with disabilities fits with these CBCS programs, as well as USF’s Rehabilitation Engineering Program and its Center for Assistive, Rehabilitation & Robotics Technologies (CARRT), which was also showcased for Commissioner LaBreck.

The Learning Academy and Employment Services program helps provide individuals diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder with the skills needed to engage in competitive employment.
The academy offers a customized transition program that assists in preparing young adults diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder for employment. The Learning Academy provides services, supports and experiential opportunities that develop and enhance each student’s independence in meeting personal career goals. You can see student success stories at the center’s main website.
“Our students engage in self-discovery and career exploration through classroom activities and real-life experiences such as internships and peer mentoring,” said Dr. Karen Berkman, Director of Learning Academy Services at USF. “We were proud to share that we have over a 60% success rate helping individuals meet their benchmarks for placement in their career choice, well above the Florida average of 28%.”

The Learning academy will welcome its 6th class in late August. The employment services component accepts participants on an ongoing basis.


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