Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

First State students with autism receive more supports

Some Delaware students with autism are now getting additional school-based supports.

Philadelphia-based behavioral healthcare company Devereux is expanding use of a new model for kids with autism into some Delaware schools.


Devereux’s Executive Director of Autism Services Todd Harris says the program will added this year to five classrooms at Dover’s Charlton School and Brennen School in Newark.  Five classrooms in the Brandywine School district will also join - at  Mount Pleasant and Harlan Elementary schools.  

The program is in its second year at Delaware Autism in Dover.


He says it normally takes about five years for an entire school to be fully trained in the model, and adds the program is intended to grow slowly, with about one or two additional sites added each year.


The schools are implementing modifications to the PBIS (Positive Behavior Intervention and Supports) program. The changes are based on studies of the traditional model - as well as other evidence-based approaches - and what they’ve shown about how individuals with autism learn.


“Now it’s a matter of: with identification, how does that translate into the classroom? What does that look like?" Harris said. "And what do we need to do as professionals to make sure those procedures are being used consistently and with fidelity?”


The modifications include additional focus on communication and social skills, as well as more visual supports like visual schedules and “choice time.”


“So maybe after morning circle, there’s just a blue square that says ‘your choice’ and they go to a blue choice board right next to the schedule and they pick out what they want to do, "Harris said. "There’s a lot of research on allowing individuals to make choice, and I think we all like to have choices throughout our day, and individuals with autism are no different.”


Devereux also advocates that by the time students are 18, most of their time is spent in community settings and not the classroom.

Delaware is also one of only four states receiving a federal grant to improve statewide services for children with autism and their families.

The three-year Building Bridges grant aims to create stronger care coordination for families of children with autism, improve screening practices and promote stronger early intervention programs statewide.


Brian Freedman, Associate Director for University of Delaware’s Center for Disability Studies, says plans include a strong focus assisting Latino families in Sussex County.


“Under this grant, we will be working with Nemours to develop telemedicine services for families of children with autism so that they don’t have to drive long distances to come and receive evaluation and intervention services," Freedman said.


Other partners for the grant include Autism Delaware and Child Development Watch among others.


Freedman adds year one will be dedicated to better understanding the needs of families of children with autism and developing the frameworks to better serve them.  


He notes efforts here have a head start thanks to a statewide comprehensive strategic plan developed with previous a federal planning grant.


Related Content