Autism is a developmental disability that significantly affects a child’s language skills—both verbal and nonverbal—as well as the child’s ability to socially interact with others. It generally becomes evident before age three, and can interfere with a child’s educational performance. Other characteristics often associated with autism are participating in repetitive activities and difficulty making changes in daily routines. It is estimated that one in one hundred and ten children have some form of autism. Last year, Area Education Agency 267 (AEA 267) staff members worked closely with local school personnel and families to support 580 children who have been diagnosed with autism or who display educationally significant characteristics of autism.
AEA 267 services for children with autism include direct services based on the child’s individual needs, consultation with families and educators and professional development. AEA 267 has an Autism Resource Team with special education professionals who have unique expertise and knowledge. These professionals have received extensive training in effective strategies for helping children with autism benefit from their educational programs. There are three regional teams in Clear Lake, Cedar Falls and Marshalltown who respond to referrals. Each year the resource team receives about 40 referrals for specialized consultation. In order for the Autism Resource Team members to stay current on the research and methodology within the field of autism, AEA 267 supports the team members in attending professional development opportunities. They have attended conferences and have heard well-known experts in the field including Temple Grandin whose own life story about living with autism has recently been featured on HBO.
AEA 267 Autism Resource Team members apply what they have learned by providing professional training for others. Three different trainings are offered every year including a three-day, four-day or a five-day training option. This training includes structured teaching strategies, communication systems and social skills training that have been shown to be effective for children with autism. Additional trainings are also provided throughout the year. Traditional research based practices and innovative approaches are incorporated into the trainings.
This year AEA 267 staff members are participating in a variety of statewide projects that address the needs of children with autism. Several staff members have been trained to use an autism-focused “assessment tool” for 18-36 month old toddlers and seven speech and language pathologists have been trained in Video Modeling which uses video clips to teach appropriate social skills.
For more information about autism or AEA 267 services to support children with autism, please contact Dr. Mary Stevens, AEA 267 Director of Special Education, Edie Penno, AEA 267 Administrative Liaison for the Autism Resource Team, or Kathy McCune, AEA 267 Marshalltown region contact for the Autism Resource Team.
Mary Stevens is the Director of Special Education with Area Education Agency 267 and can be reached at 319-273-8272. Area Education Agency 267 serves over 66,000 students. In addition, over 5,000 educators rely on AEA 267 for services in special education, school technology, media and instructional/curriculum support. The agency’s service area reaches 18 counties and nearly 9,000 square miles.