TEA Awards RISD $1M Grant To Boost Services For Students With Autism
RISD received a $1 million grant from Texas Education Agency to establish a model to serve all students with autism, so that they connect, grow, learn, and succeed.
Kathy Hodge, RISD Director of Special Student Services for the Berkner High School learning community, expects to establish an innovative and comprehensive model designed to improve cognitive, language, behavioral, social and academic skills of younger students with autism. These children between the ages of three and nine strive to be included into the general education environment.
The TEA grant allows RISD to expand training for teachers, administrators, parents and coaches to help create high-quality inclusive learning environments through comprehensive professional development, real-time coaching, curriculum resources, and on-going technology-based support.
“We are one of 10 districts across the state who were offered the grant,” Hodge says. “It will enhance our effort to better serve our entire community and help instruct our teachers on how to bring students with autism more into the general education environment … to increase inclusionary opportunities and help each kid reach his or her full potential.”
Hodge said RISD has developed model training sites at 10 elementary campuses with workshops targeting evidenced-based practices with intensive modeling and coaching each month.
The district also now has autism coaches to support teachers guiding these students in regards to STAR curriculum and online resources.
Later this year, Hodge anticipates additional training for general education teachers with an overview of autism, understanding the principles of behavior, and tools for the elementary classroom with more support through access to online learning modules.
The administrators of the elementary training sites will develop skills to assess teachers’ fidelity of implementation of the strategies introduced earlier. Hodge also expects to begin a five-part training series for parents on social communication in the spring.
The Texas Education Agency says the purpose of the grant “is to provide startup funding for innovative school-level models of instruction that effectively address the educational needs of students with autism.”
For the 2018–19 school year, there are more than 1,000 RISD students living with autism, including almost 700 in elementary school, 140 in middle school and 220 in high school.