Autism Speaks Introduces School Community Tool Kit To Assist Educators and School Staff in Understanding and Supporting Students with Autism

New Online Resource Helps Foster Inclusive School Environments

NEW YORK, NY (August 7, 2008) – Autism Speaks today launched an online School Community Tool Kit designed to help school administrators talk with their staff about how students with autism can best be supported and included in the school community – and recognized as important contributors – for the betterment of all. The School Community Tool Kit is available for free download at http://www.autismspeaks.org/school and includes content about the features and challenges associated with autism, the strengths possessed by students with autism, and a host of tools and strategies teachers, administrators and other staff can use to foster an accepting learning environment.

The home page of the Tool Kit includes two short video clips, featuring public school principal Kris Bergstrom and autism consultant and author Paula Kluth speaking about including learners with autism. The kit itself is broken down into modules that provide an overview of autism, information about inclusion of students with autism in the school community, strategies for intervention, information targeted to specific members of the school community – administrators, teachers, bus drivers, school nurses, custodians, security and office staff. In addition, there is a list of autism information resources and an appendix with additional background and educational tools.

“As the rate of autism diagnosis increases, many more public and private schools are including students with autism,” said Lisa Goring, Autism Speaks director of Family Services, who spearheaded the creation of the Tool Kit. “Learners with autism may have some additional challenges in school, but with the support of the entire school community they can make incredible strides and become valued and participating members of a student body.”

“If given the opportunity, students with autism and other disabilities will enrich any school community,” said Kluth, an expert in the areas of autism education and inclusive learning environments. “The key is to ensure that our schools offer positive, welcoming learning environments that value and celebrate the unique contributions of every child.”

The information in the School Community Tool Kit was compiled by autism professionals in conjunction with public school teachers and administrators. A parent advisory committee reviewed the Tool Kit and provided further input.

Features of the School Community Tool Kit include:

What is autism? An explanation of the symptoms of autism, the unique abilities that often accompany autism, features of Asperger's Syndrome, and challenges that may be associated with an individual's autism.

How might a child with special needs be a part of our school?– Information about a child's right to public education, a definition of special education services and a description of instructional methods used in teaching students with autism.

General strategies for intervention– An exploration of the benefits of a team approach, supporting communication, means of improving social interaction and development, and strategies for promoting socially-appropriate behavior.

For specific members of the school community– A guide tailored to various school administrators and staff – from bus drivers and lunch aides to teachers, security staff and school nurses – based on the likely nature of their interaction with students who have autism.

Resources– A guide to recommended books, web sites and videos that can be consulted for more in-depth information.

Appendix– A compilation of articles, peer support information, teaching tools and assessment information.

About Autism
Autism is a complex brain disorder that inhibits a person's ability to communicate and develop social relationships, and is often accompanied by extreme behavioral challenges. Autism spectrum disorders are diagnosed in one in 150 children in the United States, affecting four times as many boys as girls. The diagnosis of autism has increased tenfold in the last decade. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have called autism a national public health crisis whose cause and cure remain unknown.

About Autism Speaks
Autism Speaks is the world's largest autism advocacy organization, dedicated to increasing awareness of autism spectrum disorders, to funding research into the causes, prevention and treatments for autism, and to advocating for the needs of individuals with autism and their families. It was founded in February 2005 by Suzanne and Bob Wright, the grandparents of a child with autism. Autism Speaks merged with the Autism Coalition for Research and Education (ACRE), the National Alliance for Autism Research (NAAR) and Cure Autism Now (CAN), bringing together the nation's leading autism advocacy organizations. For more information about autism and Autism Speaks, please visit www.autismspeaks.org.