Personalized Special Ed Program for Autism Spectrum Students

Autism Spectrum 

Previous records involving evaluations from the public school, medical professionals, and Acacia Academy are used to develop a program personalized for the autism spectrum student. The student receives modified instruction and materials to ensure maximum learning. They receive services that are identified as needed and stated in the IEP. Many of these students have co-existing learning, attention, and social communication differences. Academic instruction is presented and modified accordingly. Individual and small group social skills training, as well as, conflict resolution training is constantly implemented to improve social awareness and communication. Socially, the child is helped to develop awareness of the existence or feelings of others, to learn how to seek comfort at times of distress and to socially interact or participate in activities involving other children. Every social interaction is seen as an opportunity for learning utilizing the student's strengths and modifying areas of difficulty.

In addition to the comprehension of one’s surroundings, oral and written comprehension is often impaired. A specific program of instruction to further develop these skills, as well as others, is offered.


Autism Spectrum Student Services

Academic:

Acacia’s autism programming is highly individualized because each child with autism presents with different strengths and needs.  Rather than having a specific program that molds the child, we let the child’s strengths and needs mold their specific program.  We think of our various programs as a set of tools that may be used to value strengths and help with needs.

The Acacia Toolbox:

Highly individualized case management and coordination:

           1.  Collaboration with additional service providers
           2.  Intensive post secondary transition planning
           3.  Intensive and differentiated reading, writing, and math instruction and interventions
           4.  Individual and small group social skills coaching from a team of social workers and psychologist
           5.  Community integration through educational field trips including, but not exclusively: 

  • The Chicago Symphony 
  • The Museum of Science and Industry
  • The Shedd Aquarium 
  • The Chicago Field Museum 
  • The Art Institute, Contemporary Museum, and Art Galleries 
  • Brookfield Zoo 
  • One act plays 
  • Lyric Opera  House 
  • Rock Climbing 
  • Fossil Hunting 
  • Sporting Events 
  • Community Businesses (Banks, Health Providers, Hospitals, Grocery Stores, etc.)

                                           


As an independent test and measurement center, we provide cognitive/intelligence, processing, academics, speech/language, social assessments, and occupational therapy evaluations.  Examples of evaluations:

            a.  Academic Testing:  Determines individual skills, achievement and grade/age levels for each academic subject.

            b.  Psychoeducational Evaluations:  All academic skills, levels of achievement, processing skills, intellectual abilities and                                    learning styles are determined. 

            c.  Speech and Language Evaluations: Analyzes expressive and receptive language skills as well as articulation.

            d.  Evaluations for Occupational Therapy: Evaluates basic motor functions, visual-motor integration, sensory                                                processing, visual perception, plus coordination and strength.

            e.  Social Skills Assessments: Analyzes levels of social interactions, social communications and awareness.


Behavioral Interventions and Functional Skills

Acacia Academy uses a wide ranging eclectic approach that is both culturally responsive and relevant to the academic environment.  Our positive behavioral supports and interventions are helpful for all students and adaptive to the individual student’s behavioral needs.  Our positive behavioral interventions have a wide body of research (Sugai et al.2000; Lewis and Sugai, 1999; see http://www.pbis.org/) that illustrates the strength of these approaches.

Examples of Interventions:

Context:

Tim is a fifth grade student.  He has a difficult time focusing on his math work and cannot read text for more than five minutes at a  time.

Interventions:

Tim’s teacher creates a calm working environment with cool lighting and a quiet work environment.

Tim’s teacher develops project based lessons, experiential learning, and hands-on activities that incorporate the 2 ½ acre Acacia Nature Center into each subject the student is learning. This incorporates a natural reason to be outside in the Nature Center providing an additional environment to soothe and calm the student.

Tim’s teacher provides Tim and a group of peers with additional academic accommodations including listening to textbooks and multi-media presentations of material through the use of up-to-date software and educational enhancing programs.

Tim’s teacher would provide indoor and outdoor sensory breaks when he appears agitated that address his specific sensory related behaviors. 

The vital difference in positive behavioral intervention is the proactive and positive approach to behavioral interventions.  As opposed to a punishment approach, positive behavioral intervention reinforces “appropriate” behavior rather than punishing “bad” behavior.  The  student then acquires  a set of appropriate behaviors that they have learned  through reinforcement rather than a behavioral repertoire that they are punished for and do not have behaviors that are acceptable replacements.


Academic Behavioral Facilitations

Visual Schedules:  Students may be provided with visual scheduling for their daily routines and academic tasks.  These schedules are specific, tailored for the students that need them.

Time Timers:  Some students struggle with a sense of time or become anxious during transitions.  By using the highly visual time timer (Time Timer), students have additional tools for anticipating transitions and independently monitoring the timing of activities and assignments.

Proactive Sensory Breaks: Students often have hypo or hyper sensitivities to a variety of sensory inputs.  Acacia collaborates with occupational therapists and classroom teachers/aides, to provide proactive sensory breaks before they become over stimulated.

Social Skills Coaching

Generally, students with autism/aspergers struggle with social interactions and appropriate behaviors in social settings.  Through collaboration with the social work team and teachers, students are provided with instruction and opportunities to practice social skills in a variety of contexts and settings.  The variety of tools may include:

  •            Social stories
  •            Group/team building activities
  •            Small group sessions for conflict resolution
  •            Individual therapy, as required
  •            Field trips
  •            Cooperative learning activities
  •            Positive support and redirection
  •            Hands-on, experiential learning
  •            Nature Center projects and lessons outdoors

Vocational/Post Secondary Preparation and Transition Planning

Acacia has a work placement, vocational training, post-secondary program for older students to ensure successful transition into the adult world of further education and occupation (click here for more information regarding vocational/transition planning).

 Sensory Facilitations

  •            Full spectrum lighting
  •            Quiet classrooms
  •            Proactive sensory breaks
  •            Occupational Therapy
  •            Outdoor educational environments

 Additionally

  •            Behavioral consulting
  •            Speech/Language services
  •            Occupational Therapy services
  •            Social work
  •            Psychological support 








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