Teachers and childcare providers often do not fully understanding the challenges some kids with autism face. This can lead to expulsion, which can be devastating for families. Last year, Autism Speaks funded a Community Grant to Abilities Network in Towson, MD called “Project ACT Autism Inclusion Project.” This program is addressing these issues by helping caregivers and professional staff members understand and implement inclusive practices in their classrooms and learning environments. Project ACT is working closely with the Maryland Out of School Time Network to provide training and technical assistance to programs, particularly those funded through The Family League in Baltimore City, to change attitudes and practices towards including children with an ASD.
Families who are just coming to terms with their child’s ASD diagnosis, or who are seeking assessment while hoping that an ASD will not be found, struggle with grief as well as an overwhelming amount of information. For families where English is not their first language, this is an even greater burden. This process has been eased by the help of a Project ACT Inclusion Specialist who can lend an ear as well as provide professional guidance on accessing resources and sorting through information. Project ACT staff have attended IEP meetings with the families to assist them in understanding the special education system and advocating for their child to ensure that appropriate services are made available.
During the past six months, 15 children, their families, and their program’s staff from Baltimore City, Baltimore County or Harford County have been served and several referrals are pending at this time. Of the 15 children and their families served, 100% have been retained in their child care or out of school time program. Family members of all 15 children have benefitted from supports and behavioral guidance on implementing strategies in the home as well as in the community program. Project ACT staff have also assisted parents with developing visual schedules and cue cards for use in the home and have coached parents on toilet training, home routines and ways to include sensory strategies for calming into their family routines.
Check out some great pictures of the program at work!
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