One of the things that children with autism struggle with is communication. Autistic individuals often exist in a private world and are often self-absorbed, factors that contribute
These hurdles make school and learning challenging for autistic
children. Educators have devised strategies and interventions in the
classroom to help these kids achieve their academic and IEP, or
Individualized Education Program, goals. This is the case in Putnam
County in Cookeville, Tennessee.
In Putnam County, there are around 140 pre-kindergarten through 12th-grade students diagnosed with autism, Cookeville Herald-Citizen reported.
Autism affects one in 68 American children, according to the U.S.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The disorder is more common
in boys than in girls and in Caucasians than Asian-Americans and
Tonia Wheeler, an autism consultant in schools in Putnam County, helped
develop a special three-week summer camp called Social Skills Academy
for autistic children in the area. The camp is held every June and
provides social skills instruction to kids with autism.
The camp also allows children to enjoy fun activities that encourage
them to practice the social skills they learned not just to their peers
who are also in the autism spectrum, but to kids who are normal.
According to Wheeler, using peers or normal children to interact with
autistic kids helps the camp build "leaders."
Why? It's because these children would one day become adults "who are
going to be the people making policies for individuals with
disabilities as far as insurance and availability of services,"
Cookeville Herald-Citizen further reported. Thanks to the camp, these
kids would be aware of the struggles of children with developmental
disabilities and would be inspired to improve their quality of life.
Many people believe that autistic kids are averse to engaging and
interactions. In reality, they want to participate in conversations but
are discouraged from doing so because they have experienced recurring
failures, so they stop trying. The camp addresses this problem.
Wheeler has commended the leaders of Putnam County for their
willingness to provide training and support for autistic children and
their teachers. Wheeler said that Putnam County officials believe that
"there is more to school success than what is measured on a state test."
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