Autism in Jackson County Schools
1:30
Brian Wheeler: 
Good afternoon. Today, we will be discussing the issue of autism and public school classrooms. We have educators from the Jackson County Intermediate School District and a parent.
Wednesday May 2, 2012 1:30 Brian Wheeler
1:30
Brian Wheeler: 
Please feel free to offer your questions for the next hour.
Wednesday May 2, 2012 1:30 Brian Wheeler
1:33
Brian Wheeler: 
Let's start by asking our participants to offer a general definition of autism.
Wednesday May 2, 2012 1:33 Brian Wheeler
1:33
Brian Wheeler: 
Folks are typing their responses. Bear with us throughout the next hour. We have typers of varying speeds!
Wednesday May 2, 2012 1:33 Brian Wheeler
1:35
Dr. Richard Rendell: 
Autism is a developmental disorder of neurological origin that is defined on the basis of behavioral and developmental features. Initially, it was defined as a medical condition, but it is now part of the special education services offered by schools.
Wednesday May 2, 2012 1:35 Dr. Richard Rendell
1:38
Dr. Richard Rendell: 
The features of autism vary considerably, both between different children and at different times in an individual's life.
Wednesday May 2, 2012 1:38 Dr. Richard Rendell
1:39
Gail Trudell: 
Students display differences in social interactions, communications and repetitive behaviors.
Wednesday May 2, 2012 1:39 Gail Trudell
1:40
Dr. Richard Rendell: 
Initially, it was a highly-specific definition, but now is known as autism spectrum disorders as the definition has become more broad (Richard Rendell)
Wednesday May 2, 2012 1:40 Dr. Richard Rendell
1:40
Brian Wheeler: 
How many children with autism are in Jackson County schools? How and where are they educated? Do they get their own classrooms? (Brian Wheeler)
Wednesday May 2, 2012 1:40 Brian Wheeler
1:42
Dr. Richard Rendell: 
There are currently 348 students identified with ASD (autism spectrum disorder) within Jackson County. This represents 8.5% of all Special Education students in the County. (Richard Rendell)
Wednesday May 2, 2012 1:42 Dr. Richard Rendell
1:43
Dr. Richard Rendell: 
309 students are in K-12 public schools, and 39 students aged 0-5 are treated in their home.
Wednesday May 2, 2012 1:43 Dr. Richard Rendell
1:43
Brian Wheeler: 
We understand MLive is not being very cooperative with our reading audience this afternoon. Darn technical glitches! Thanks for your patience.
Wednesday May 2, 2012 1:43 Brian Wheeler
1:44
Dr. Richard Rendell: 
The growth in the indentifcation system has been remarkable. in 1989, there were 22 students indentified with ASD. Today, 25 years later, we have a 13-fold increase.
Wednesday May 2, 2012 1:44 Dr. Richard Rendell
1:47
[Comment From ShannonShannon: ] 
Hi this is Shannon with The Bay City Times and Saginaw News. I had a question: with such a broad spectrum of symptoms for autism how do you know if that is a correct diagnosis?
Wednesday May 2, 2012 1:47 Shannon
1:47
Bill Hofer: 
In Jackson County, we are proud to offer a full spectrum of services. These range from in home services to specialized classrooms in public schools. We also offer a wide range of mainstreaming and inclusion options.
Wednesday May 2, 2012 1:47 Bill Hofer
1:49
Gail Trudell: 
There is a very specific process of identification that involves a team approach to a comprehensive evaluation which includes a psychologist, social worker, speech therapist along with educators.
Wednesday May 2, 2012 1:49 Gail Trudell
1:50
Leanne Smith: 
Do teachers who work with children with autism receive specific training geared toward autism?
Wednesday May 2, 2012 1:50 Leanne Smith
1:53
Gail Trudell: 
Teachers who are in categorical classroom specific for students with autism must have specialized certification.
Wednesday May 2, 2012 1:53 Gail Trudell
1:54
Brian Wheeler: 
Of the 390 students in school classrooms, roughly what share are in their own, specific classrooms?
Wednesday May 2, 2012 1:54 Brian Wheeler
1:55
[Comment From ShannonShannon: ] 
A recent ruling from MHSAA barred students older than 19 from participating in sports, even if they have developmental disabilities. What are your thoughts in this and how does it impact an autistic child?
Wednesday May 2, 2012 1:55 Shannon
1:56
Dr. Richard Rendell: 
Between 50-60 students are in educated in 10 JCISD categorical classrooms. The majority are in general education or other special education classrooms.
Wednesday May 2, 2012 1:56 Dr. Richard Rendell
1:59
Brian Wheeler: 
Our participants are still typing. Hang in there with us!
Wednesday May 2, 2012 1:59 Brian Wheeler
2:03
Bill Hofer: 
Regarding this case, I think that common sense did not win out. Many states have rules that allow special needs students who don't benefit from a competitive edge based on age to continue to participate beyond the age of 19. We understand that this is a difficult situation and hope that the MHSAA will continue to consider the issue.
Wednesday May 2, 2012 2:03 Bill Hofer
2:04
Gail Trudell: 
I think that one is out of our league....Bill
Wednesday May 2, 2012 2:04 Gail Trudell
2:04
Leanne Smith: 
From a reader earlier in the week, what therapies are available in the Jackson area for children with autism?
Wednesday May 2, 2012 2:04 Leanne Smith
2:07
Bill Hofer: 
When we consider this, we need to consider the differences between therapies and interventions. Therapies offered in the schools are speech therapy, occupational and physical therapy provided by professionals in these areas. Then there are interventions that are specific to students with autism.
Wednesday May 2, 2012 2:07 Bill Hofer
2:08
Brian Wheeler: 
What interventions are specific to students with autism? What can teachers do?
Wednesday May 2, 2012 2:08 Brian Wheeler
2:08
Leanne Smith: 
Jenee Woodard, the parent we have asked to join this conversation is having computer problems, so I'm going to help voice her comments. First, in response to the item about training for teachers who work with children with autism, Jenee said in her experiences with her son, who has autism, it's just as important to her that people be willing to build a relationship with him, even though it's difficult.
Wednesday May 2, 2012 2:08 Leanne Smith
2:08
Gail Trudell: 
Our specialized classrooms rely on the START trainings and the evidence based practices such as visual strategies, peer to peer supports, positive behavior strategies, and a whole team approach to working with students.
Wednesday May 2, 2012 2:08 Gail Trudell
2:08
Brian Wheeler: 
What is example of what a teacher might do to help a child?
Wednesday May 2, 2012 2:08 Brian Wheeler
2:09
[Comment From ShannonShannon: ] 
What are some common misconceptions people have about those with autism?
Wednesday May 2, 2012 2:09 Shannon
2:09
Gail Trudell: 
I encourage teachers to maintain the focus of building peer interactions, communication skills and independence.
Wednesday May 2, 2012 2:09 Gail Trudell
2:09
Leanne Smith: 
Jenee also says the Jackson County ISD does a great job of understanding differences between children with autistic spectrum disorders and helping parents and families respond to their situation.
Wednesday May 2, 2012 2:09 Leanne Smith
2:11
Dr. Richard Rendell: 
One common misconception is that they cannot make progress. Early childhood interventions is critically important!
Wednesday May 2, 2012 2:11 Dr. Richard Rendell
2:11
Gail Trudell: 
I think people underestimate students true abilities
Wednesday May 2, 2012 2:11 Gail Trudell
2:11
Bill Hofer: 
An example might be visual schedules. Visual schedules and visual supports can make a big impact on a student's behavior by helping them to know what to expect.
Wednesday May 2, 2012 2:11 Bill Hofer
2:11
Leanne Smith: 
Jenee says the No. 1 misconception is that people with autism are not social. Some are very social; it's just in a different way. People underestimate my son's abilities because he's not very verbal. They think he's not smart. People often think he's stupid and he's actually very bright.
Wednesday May 2, 2012 2:11 Leanne Smith
2:12
Dr. Richard Rendell: 
Another misconception is that children with autism are cognitively impaired. That is not the case.
Wednesday May 2, 2012 2:12 Dr. Richard Rendell
2:13
Dr. Richard Rendell: 
Some people think that there is only one approach to treating autism. There is no single behavior that is always typical of autism.
Wednesday May 2, 2012 2:13 Dr. Richard Rendell
2:13
Leanne Smith: 
Another misconception, Jenee says, is that everything about autism is negative and needs to be cured or fixed. This is not true. There is no cure. People with autism have strengths. Her son, she says, is excellent with computers and he's been trained to have job and communication skills and appropriate behavior skills so he can be employed in the general population. The ISD facilitated that growth.
Wednesday May 2, 2012 2:13 Leanne Smith
2:13
Brian Wheeler: 
How would parents decide which interventions are appropriate, if they have a child with autism?
Wednesday May 2, 2012 2:13 Brian Wheeler
2:16
Gail Trudell: 
I would encourage parents to research any proposed intervention- look for evidence of impact. Reachautism.net
Wednesday May 2, 2012 2:16 Gail Trudell
2:16
Dr. Richard Rendell: 
I think they need to research the various interventions. A number of interventions may not be successful for their child. Work with you school specialists.
Wednesday May 2, 2012 2:16 Dr. Richard Rendell
2:18
Leanne Smith: 
Jenee encourages people to go to the Jackson County ISD if they have any questions about their young children specifically. She said, "We went to doctors, we went to experts, we went to everybody and no one could help. It was the ISD who identified it. And that gave our family strategies for learning to live as a family that includes an autistic person."
Wednesday May 2, 2012 2:18 Leanne Smith
2:18
Brian Wheeler: 
How well do you feel educators understand autism? Do you need to build awareness within the teaching community?
Wednesday May 2, 2012 2:18 Brian Wheeler
2:18
Dr. Richard Rendell: 
Good programs for students with autism provide individualized approaches to academic, communication, socialization and behavior interventions. Another hallmark of a good program is that they have a staff and family support system so that there is a consistent program between home and school.
Wednesday May 2, 2012 2:18 Dr. Richard Rendell
2:20
Dr. Richard Rendell: 
Another hallmark of a quality program is that it provides ongoing support for teachers and administrators, as well as family members.
Wednesday May 2, 2012 2:20 Dr. Richard Rendell
2:21
Gail Trudell: 
Currently the ISD is in our 4th year of providing specialized (START) training with our goal being to build capacity within each school building in our county.
Wednesday May 2, 2012 2:21 Gail Trudell
2:22
Leanne Smith: 
Jenee says her son is extremely cool. "Every day he teaches me to see things differently and to question any preconceived notions I have about any situation he and I face. And he's done that his whole life,".
Wednesday May 2, 2012 2:22 Leanne Smith
2:22
Bill Hofer: 
The past few years we have really been working on increasing the awareness of autism in the teaching community. We have been providing specific training called START training, this is increasing the number of people in schools that are aware of best practices used for students with autism.
Wednesday May 2, 2012 2:22 Bill Hofer
2:22
Dr. Richard Rendell: 
The more knowledgeable general education teachers and administrators are about the condition the more accepting they are of supporting these students in school. The public in general also needs to become more aware and knowledgeable about ASD.
Wednesday May 2, 2012 2:22 Dr. Richard Rendell
2:23
Leanne Smith: 
What is State Autism Resource Training, also known as START?
Wednesday May 2, 2012 2:23 Leanne Smith
2:23
Jenee Woodard: 
Another misconception about my son is that he is being "bad" when often incidents are caused by violent panic attacks. He is learning how to handle them, but it is a long process.
Wednesday May 2, 2012 2:23 Jenee Woodard
2:24
Brian Wheeler: 
Jenee broke through!
Wednesday May 2, 2012 2:24 Brian Wheeler
2:25
Gail Trudell: 
START is STatewide Autism Resources and Training. It is a project that is state-funded and designed to provide training and technical assistance to educators in Michigan that serve students with Autism Spectrum Disorders- Jenee hates the word "Disorders".
Wednesday May 2, 2012 2:25 Gail Trudell
2:25
Brian Wheeler: 
My last question: Does anyone have an idea why rates of autism have increased so dramatically the last few decades? Is it a matter of more children with the condition, or just that we have a better name for it?
Wednesday May 2, 2012 2:25 Brian Wheeler
2:26
Jenee Woodard: 
To me, it is just as important that the community is educated about autism and willing to make relationships with persons with autism (who are all different from each other) as it is that my son is "helped." He doesn't need a "cure." He needs to be integrated into a society that he understands and that understands him, so that he can contribute his gifts just like everyone else.
Wednesday May 2, 2012 2:26 Jenee Woodard
2:26
Dr. Richard Rendell: 
Various ideas have been advanced as to why the rates for autism have been increasing. One notion is that the broadening of the definition of autism enabled more students to be classifed as autistic. Another idea is that autism has an environmental trigger, and thus, more cases are appearing.
Wednesday May 2, 2012 2:26 Dr. Richard Rendell
2:27
Brian Wheeler: 
I've heard that, Richard, about an environmental trigger. Has there been any research that has led to any conclusion? I know vaccines have been debunked as a cause.
Wednesday May 2, 2012 2:27 Brian Wheeler
2:27
Dr. Richard Rendell: 
Research to this point in time is inconclusive
Wednesday May 2, 2012 2:27 Dr. Richard Rendell
2:29
Dr. Richard Rendell: 
Some of the most intriging research I have read is looking at the effect of plastics. The genetic component also has some interesting research behind it.
Wednesday May 2, 2012 2:29 Dr. Richard Rendell
2:32
Bill Hofer: 
There are changes coming to the new DSM which is the diagnotistic critera used to diagnosis autism. There are different opinions by experts on how this is going to impact the diagnosis of autism. The new DSM comes out in January, so we will have to wait and see what changes will occur as a result.
Wednesday May 2, 2012 2:32 Bill Hofer
2:33
Brian Wheeler: 
It's 2:30, so we're going to call it quits. Our thanks to our participants, and to those who were able to watch this discussion. If you have additional questions that we didn't discuss, please email me at bwheele1@mlive.com or Leanne at lsmith12@mlive.com. Thanks again!
Wednesday May 2, 2012 2:33 Brian Wheeler
 
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