So, like many of you, I check on the latest news about autism on a daily basis. I also love to get news about my home town, Jackson, Michigan (that is my high school on the right - Jackson High!). I grew up there and spent 19 years of my life there - it is a smaller town and a really great community,the majority of my family still resides there.
Today, there was a news story about autism on Google Alerts which captured my attention because it was Jackson and because it is a story that we hear often about how there is an increasing prevalence of autism and parents and schools are fighting hard to come up with solutions. I also found another story from Jackson through leads from this posting about a study that was done by Ursula Bailey-May on social stories.
Here is the story from the Jackson Citizen Patriot:
Class helps parents, autistic kids communicate
Wednesday, June 28, 2006
By Chad Livengood
firstname.lastname@example.org — 768-4918
A year ago, Brooke Royal could not communicate with her 4-year-old son Jeffrey. Today, the autistic child turning 5 next month is speaking to his mom instead of screaming.
Royal, a 28-year-old mother of three from Brooklyn, credits a special autistic-impaired class for 4- to 6-year-olds at the Lyle Torrant Center for Jeffrey’s progress.
“It was this class that has allowed us to start communicating with our son,” Royal told the Jackson County Intermediate School District Board.
Starting this fall, the ISD plans to cut Jeffrey’s class time in half from five hours to 21/2 hours a day.
Royal and other parents of autistic children attended the board meeting Tuesday to voice opposition to the plan designed to accommodate a growing autistic population and save money.
Royal told the board that creating two sections for instructor Becky Wilcox to teach will ruin the structure that’s vital to acclimating children to a general education classroom.
“These cuts will send him into regression,” the tearful mother said. “Do whatever you have to do to give our children the education they deserve.”
ISD officials did not respond directly to the parents of the Jackson Autism Support Network who spoke out against the cuts.
“It’s not our practice to make a decision tonight,” Superintendent John Graves said.
Graves said a response would likely be discussed at a July 11 meeting.
The exact cause of autism is the center of debate as the number of cases rises.
In 2000, there were 127 autistic-impaired children in Jackson County.
ISD figures show there were 256 children countywide in 2005.
“It’s an epidemic,” said parent Tracy Snow, who shared her 5-year-old daughter Kaitlyn’s success in Wilcox’s class.
“She finally said, ‘I love you mommy,’ ” Snow said.
Wilcox did not attend the meeting. The Citizen Patriot could not reach her this morning for comment.
The ISD split Wilcox’s class into two morning and afternoon sections to accommodate five more children who are autistic-impaired or have early childhood developmental disabilities children, Special Education Director Richard Rendell said.
ECDD is a less severe designation from AI, requiring just 21/2 hours a day of instruction, per state Board of Education policies.
Carol Miner, president of the autism support network, proposed a volunteer teachers assistant program where parents would give their time to assist teachers and save the ISD money.
On top of $3,000 spent this year to help teachers with supplies budgets, the 63-family group has volunteered to pay for background checks and training for parent volunteers.
Some board members thanked the parents for making their voices heard.
“To hear from all of you is very valuable,” said Robert Moles, ISD vice president.