John Hay Elementary is proud to offer an autism inclusion program, which has many benefits for the entire school community.
John Hay's commitment to inclusive education means that all students are full members of their classrooms and the wider school community. Each child at Hay is provided with varied, meaningful opportunities to learn at their level and make progress academically, socially and behaviorally while achieving the highest possible level of independence. For students on the autism spectrum, the inclusion program at Hay provides a variety of individualized supports designed to meet each child's needs on his or her own "pathway to the stars."
There are two inclusion programs at John Hay. Each program serves 8 students (16 total), grades K-5, who are diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome, high-functioning autism or other disorders with characteristics on the autism spectrum (not all students necessarily have "Autism"). For information on Autism, visit the Autism Society of America or the Council for Exceptional Children.
Our special education teachers for the inclusion program at Hay oversee instructional assistants (4 full-time and 1 part-time) who provide support in the general education classroom.
Inclusion students spend as much time in the general education environment as possible. Depending on individual need, some students are pulled out for specialized academic instruction, speech services and/or occupational/physical therapy. When possible and appropriate, this specialized instruction is given in the general education classroom.
The special education room serves as a place for pull-out academic instruction, a place to take breaks and interact socially, and a cool-down place for escalated students. In the general education classrooms, students are provided with individualized supports, accommodations, and modifications to help them succeed. These supports can include schedules, checklists, incentive systems, social stories, peer buddies, organizer notebooks, AlphaSmarts, scribes, instructional assistant prompting, and modified assignments.
Students work on social skills as natural opportunities occur and in more formalized social groups run by the Speech Language Pathologist. Inclusion staff also run "Recess Club" every afternoon, in which they lead organized indoor and outdoor activities during recess to help students with autism practice their social skills. All students on the playground are welcome to participate in Recess Club.
Inclusion at Hay means:
- Individualized service
- Promoting students to be independent and cue to their general education teacher
- Providing specially designed instruction, modifications and accommodations to support student learning in all areas in the general education environment
- Collaboration between general educators, special educators and parents who respect each other's expertise and differences
- Full participation and membership in general education classrooms
- Teaching students with autism to "fit in" while also teaching other students to accept differences
Inclusion at Hay is not: "One-size-fits-all"
Benefits of inclusion:
All-day, one-on-one assistant attached to a student or classroom
Expecting that all students learn exactly the same thing exactly the same way at exactly the same pace
Telling anyone how to teach or what to do
Self-contained classroom with "visits" to general education classrooms
Allowing students to be inappropriate because of their disability, nor forcing them to be exactly like everyone else
For children with special needs:
For typically developing students:
- affords a sense of belonging and membership
- provides a diverse, stimulating environment in which to learn
- enables friendship development with typical peers
- enhances self-esteem
- students not stigmatized by labels or being in a special class
- provides peer models
- natural opportunities to practice social andlanguage skills
- access to general education curriculum
- provides opportunities to experience the diversity of society on a small scale
- greater acceptance of differences andsensitivity towards others
- understanding of the strengths and weaknesses we all have
- increases abilities to help and teach all classmates
- develops empathy
- provides a diverse pool of classmates from which to make friends
- furthers appreciation of diversity
- increases ways of creatively addressing challenges
- develops collaborative problem- solving skills and teamwork
- allows general and special education teachers to better understand each others' curriculum and methods
- increases communication between teachers and builds community
- presence of special education staff benefits all children in the class
- combats monotony
Common characteristics of Autism
Autism is a complex developmental disability that typically appears during the first three years of life. The result of a neurological disorder that affects the functioning of the brain, autism impacts the normal development of the brain in the areas of social interaction and communication skills. Children and adults with autism typically have difficulties in verbal and non-verbal communication, social interactions, and leisure or play activities.
Autism is a spectrum disorder. The symptoms and characteristics of autism can present themselves in a wide variety of combinations, from mild to severe. Although autism is defined by a certain set of behaviors, children and adults can exhibit any combination of the behaviors in any degree of severity. Two children, both with the same diagnosis, can act very differently from one another and have varying skills.
Parents may hear different terms used to describe children within this spectrum, such as autistic-like, autistic tendencies, autism spectrum, high- or low-functioning autism, or Asperger's Syndrome. More important than the term used is to understand that, whatever the diagnosis, children with autism can learn and show gains with appropriate education and treatment. They do not "outgrow" autism, but with so many gains being made in behavioral intervention and societal understanding and acceptance of autism, people with autism can lead productive, successful lives.People with autism process and respond to information in unique ways. They may exhibit combinations of the following traits:
- Insistence on sameness, resistance to changes in routine
- Difficulty expressing needs and emotions, language deficits (even if the person if verbal)
- Do not understand facial expressions, body language or social cues
- Repeat words or phrases in place of normal, responsive language
- Perseverate on topic or objects
- Laugh, cry, or show distress for reasons not apparent to others
- Prefer to be alone
- Difficulties with social interaction, reciprocal play, having conversation
- May not like to be touched
- Little or no eye contact
- Spin objects, flap hands, pace back and forth, other self-stimulatory behavior
- Poor organizational skills
- May speak in monotone with little affect
- Noticeable physical over-activity or extreme under-activity
- Uneven motor skills (running, throwing, handwriting, etc.)
- Not responsive to verbal cues, respond best to visual cues and modeling of behavior
- Take things literally, understand concrete better than abstract
- Difficulty processing sensory information; may have sensitivities to sound, touch, smells
- Difficulties shifting attention and making transitions
- Poor coping strategies, low frustration tolerance
- Perfectionism and high anxiety