Monday, July 2, 2012

"Be prepared!"

(adapted from our Aug. 2010 newsletter)
We are indeed borrowing that famous motto of the Boy Scouts of America. Whereas they’re reminding their boys to be prepared for whatever wilderness adventure or lifesaving opportunity they might encounter, we are encouraging schools and families to be prepared for whatever classroom situation they might encounter.

When considering the research of Dr. Connie Kasari (UCLA, 2009), we realize that preparation is a critical intervention for students’ success. Kasari’s study of students with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) in inclusive classrooms led her to conclude that preparing the environment (the staff, the students, and the physical readiness of the space) to receive a student with ASD is perhaps more important than social skills training and a one-to-one aide for the impacted student. (See The Orange County Register article, Peers are key for autistic kids, researcher says.) This requires a more coordinated effort on behalf of the school and family, but has ultimately proven to result in better outcomes.

Many schools now are moving into a positive behavioral intervention and support (PBIS) approach to improve their campus climate.  Social emotional learning is gaining momentum as a paradigmatic shift in education.  As administrators invest in the relational atmosphere of their schools, they see decreased referrals, improved academic performance, and better unity among students.

This applies to Good Friend’s services as well.  Administrators of public schools in excess of 88 students can be statistically assured that there will be at minimum one child with ASD enrolled. That being the case, it is likely that the least restrictive environment for that student will be an inclusive classroom. And the way to prepare that environment is through education.

Good Friend offers staff in-services, which last from 60 to 90 minutes, at a fee of only $100* (*additional expenses are associated with travel beyond 75 miles of Waukesha, Wis.).  And for schools in southeast Wisconsin that book their staff training by October 30th and wish to participate in an independent University of Wisconsin-Whitewater research study, there is NO FEE.  The in-service is applicable for all staff, from speech therapists to physical education teachers.  The best part is the service is performed right at the school — no need for travel expenses or substitute teachers. The material covered ranges from the medical diagnostic criteria to some best practices in education.

Student services include general assemblies (K-9th grade, but best with no more than three consecutive grade levels per service), Peer Sensitivity Workshops (K-5th grade), and Individualized Classroom Presentations (6th-9th grade). Schools that are using systemic PBIS or similar pro-active interventions will find that the Awareness-Acceptance-Empathy® model is a natural programming extension and reinforces those principles. General assemblies are suitable for schools with a number of students on the autism spectrum or when information does not need to be student-specific. However, the PSW is a better format for presenting personal explanations of particular behaviors to a targeted age group.

If you need some guidance to determine what mix of services would best match your school’s needs, feel free to contact us. We want your school community to be prepared.

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