Familes with autistic children have many available resources

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By Cindy DiFazio

Staff Writer/Photographer

Henry County Schools Director of Special Education Tricia Hosey said there are many programs in place for the district’s autistic children. Hosey said the district generally will receive documentation from a student’s physician regarding a diagnosis.

“We have students who are identified and some who have the traits,” she said. “A diagnostician does assessments for placement in the district.”

Hosey said placement is individual based on the child’s needs.

“It depends on cognitive functioning,” she said. “Not all are in the same classrooms. Some can be in general classrooms.”

Regina Wallace, Director of Special Education at Eminence Independent Schools, said special needs children, including those who are autistic are mainstreamed at EIS. “They spend a significant portion of the day in the general population,” she said.  Wallace said either an instructor or teacher’s assistant certified in special education works with the students within the framework of the regular class.

“We feel like we have had success with these students,” she said. “They have improved their socialization skills and their ability to navigate their environment.”

Hosey said staff trains extensively for their work with autistic children. “Any intervention we do is highly individualized,” she said.

An alphabet soup of acronyms for agency names followed. Hosey said their assistance is invaluable.

The Kentucky Autism Training Center, or KATC, helps families and provides summer training. Morehead said KATC sent a crew to potty train a couple of the children.

Systemic Treatment of Autism Related Disorders or STAR, a University of Louisville service, also works with teachers and families.

STAR collaborates with families as well as educational and community service providers.

According to its website, the agency offers behavior management, evaluation of dietary, sleep or other medical issues, parent-child interaction training, family counseling and occupational therapy for families.

Educators can receive program evaluation, staff training and supervision, child-specific as well as classroom consultation and program planning.

“If I have issues, I contact U of L,” Hosey said.

Enabling Technologies of Kentuckiana, or ENTech, is a mission of Spalding University offering assistive technology. and provides occupational therapy via computer technology.

Occupational Therapist Clarissa Whitaker provides a shared resource for HCPS and EIS.

“She puts together a sensory diet (for students),” Hosey said.

She said for instance, one might perform a specific daily task at 9 a.m. such as pushing or pulling an object. Another may need to refocus by listening to music through headphones in half-hour increments.

“Sensory diets are very pinpointed,” Hosey said. “What soothes one may make another really hyper.”


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