Teaching Students with Autism Spectrum Disorder

More Pictures from the ASD in the Classroom Strategy Fair

Posted in Events by Stephanie on April 8, 2010

Thanks again to all those who stopped by to gather some information about integrating students living with ASD into the classroom.   We will be adding new information and resources as we find them, so check back.

If you have some resources, or strategies you have used in the classroom, and you would like to share them with us, please leave us a comment.


HST may apply to autism therapy

Posted in ASD in the News by Stephanie on April 4, 2010
The Canadian Press

The NDP is warning Ontario parents the new harmonized sales tax may be applied to a crucial but costly therapy for autistic children.

NDP Leader Andrea Horwath is demanding the government come clean about whether it will apply the tax on intensive behavioural intervention, a therapy known as IBI.

Horwath said at a news conference Tuesday that the government is anticipating the HST will apply in some cases where the treatment is used.

She said tax may not apply if the psychologist providing the therapy is exempt and included in a national registry of psychologists. But the government removed that requirement for patients who want to obtain IBI for their kids.

Horwath says the HST move rubs salt in the wound for parents who are already dealing with long wait lists for the treatment.

Last Updated: Tuesday, March 16, 2010 | 12:47 PM ET

Read more: http://www.cbc.ca/canada/toronto/story/2010/03/16/ont-autistic.html#ixzz0k5WDGutq

Pictures from the “ASD in the Classroom Strategy Fair”

Posted in Events by Stephanie on March 14, 2010

We had a really successful day on February 24, 2010 with our “ASD in the Classroom: A Strategy Fair.”  We had displays and information of many strategies that educators can use in their classroom to integrate students living with Autism Spectrum Disorder.  The resources that were available at the fair are now available on this site.

We appreciate all the people who came out to learn more about ASD and the resources available to teachers.

‘I just live my life’

Posted in ASD in the News by Stephanie on March 12, 2010

from: MyKawartha.com
By: Paul Rellinger
Feb 25, 2010 – 1:34 PM

Phil Stephenson’s take on his existence may seem trivial but make no mistake — whether performing or working with autistic youths, life is pretty damn good
Phil Stephenson. Phil Stephenson keeps his friends close and his guitar closer, often singing and playing the instrument for the autistic youths he supervises and teaches at Holy Cross Secondary School. He’s currently writing songs for a second CD
(PETERBOROUGH) On the liner notes for his debut CD, Phil Stephenson dedicated the work to Dr. Martin Stephenson, “Who was not only a loving father but also a super nice guy.”

Well, like father, like son.

It’s pretty hard not to like Stephenson. It’s damn near impossible, actually, as he takes easygoing to a whole new level.

The 40 year old’s paying gig sees him toil as an Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) worker at Holy Cross Secondary School but the acoustic guitar that has taken up permanent residence in his classroom speaks to his lifelong passion — music.

“I was obsessed when I got my first guitar…I just couldn’t put the stupid thing down,” recalls Stephenson of his initial introduction to the instrument at about age 20 after initially taking piano as a youngster.

Two decades later, the Adam Scott and Fleming College grad has yet to “put the stupid thing down,” playing whenever and wherever he can, including gigs at the Historic Red Dog, Dobro and, more recently, a monthly Friday evening turn at Bernie’s Tap and Grill at the Holiday Inn. His next appearance there is March 19, 7 to 11 p.m.

Livin’ In A VW Bus, a six-track collection of original songs, is Stephenson’s only recorded work to date but he’s writing new songs with an eye on a return to the studio.

“There’s always the dream,” says Stephenson, referencing almost every part-time musician’s hope — that his or her music one day supports him or her full-time. But as quick as Stephenson expresses that wish, a sparkle in his eye belies his love for his daily interaction with the youths that rely so much on his patience, guidance and compassion.

“A good day here is when nothing happens but you do see progress,” he says of his supervision and teaching of autistic students.

“There’s a great support system here at Holy Cross. The program works. They’re with their peers and that’s so important to their development.”

Stephenson’s road to the here and now started at Fleming College, where he graduated in social work. From there, he worked in a Peterborough group home, an experience he recalls as “tough, mentally and physically.” It was then onto St. Peter’s Secondary School, where he served as an educational assistant, paving the way for his joining the Holy Cross staff.

Stephenson’s forte was working with autistic youths; young people with varying degrees of communication, social and behavioural impairment. Challenge would be an understatement.

“You have to put yourself in their heads,” says Stephenson of his approach, noting that perceptions of autism run the gamut. The popular film Rainman, for example, while bringing awareness of the affliction to a huge audience, “didn’t do much for autism in general.

“The problem with it was it focused on a very particular kind of autism (savant syndrome). People would ask me, ‘What’s this guy’s special talent?’ Well, these kids don’t have one. Typically, they just struggle to get through the day. We’re here to help them do that but their parents are their biggest advocates. We’re only here with them a few hours a day.”

In the simplest terms, autism is a disorder of neural development characterized by impaired social interaction and communication, and by restricted and repetitive behavior. These signs all begin before a child is three years old. It affects information processing in the brain by altering how nerve cells and their synapses connect and organize. How that occurs is not well understood.

If Stephenson punched his time card each weekday and didn’t give his kids a second thought until the next morning, well, no one could blame him. But his after-hours work with The Dream Players is as much as part of his resume as his music. Comprised of people with varying degrees of intellectual and physical disabilities who share a passion for the performing arts, The Dream Players rehearse weekly and put on a variety show in the late May/early June each year.

“We don’t tell them what they can do or can’t do…we’re just there for them,” says Stephenson, noting the troupe was started by a Trent U student. When she moved backed to Toronto, Stephenson was asked to be the troupe’s director.

“It’s huge for them…to be able to do things they wouldn’t otherwise have the opportunity to do. Once their guard comes down, the enthusiasm is overwhelming.

“It (Dream Players) was a good fit for me. It was like, ‘Hey, I could really do a lot with these kids.'”

So there’s his music. There’s his work at Holy Cross. There’s The Dream Players. Anything else we should know about? Well, Stephenson is having an ongoing love affair with…the Volkswagen Bus, perhaps best known as the hippie van as a result of its immense popularity during the 1960s and early 1970s counterculture movement. Stephenson’s sixth VW bus, lime green in colour, is parked for the winter but come the spring, he’ll have it on the road again.

“I just live my life…it’s pretty simple. Everybody knows me as the VW bus guy. It’s kind of cool.”

ASD in the Classroom Strategy Fair- Wednesday February 24 2010, 2:00pm

Posted in Resources by Stephanie on February 24, 2010

This fair will provide information on “How to make and use PECS and Visual Schedules in the Classroom,” “Using Social Stories for all Students,” “Explaining IEPs to Parents/ Advocacy for Students with ASD”, “Incorporating Occupational Therapy and Progressive Muscle Relaxation Techniques into Classroom Activities”, and more. Each of the displays will have instructional materials on each topic, as well as short presentations and opportunities to ask questions about the strategies. Additionally, the displays will include examples of tools that have been used in the classroom by the presenters, including social stories, red choice/green choice behavior lists, and visual schedules.

Date: Wednesday February 24, 2010 from 2:00pm-5:00pm

Location: Room 2-211 (2nd floor) Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, University of Toronto; 252 Bloor Street West Toronto, Ontario M5S 1V6 CANADA

The fair is free and open to anyone interested in more inclusive classrooms.

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Special education funding falls short, Toronto board says

Posted in ASD in the News by Stephanie on February 24, 2010

February 16, 2010

Kristin Rushowy, Parentcentral.ca


Despite a drop in enrolment, Toronto’s public school board says it has more special education students than ever — and inadequate funding from the province to provide programming for them.

In fact, the $20 million gap between what the board spends and what it receives is more than its expected $17 million deficit for the entire 2010-11 school year, says Chair Bruce Davis.

While there’s been a decline in overall enrolment since the 2005, the board has 16 per cent — or 5,200 more — special needs students, says a report going to Wednesday’s meeting of the Toronto District School Board’s budget committee.

“You would think the overall special needs population would decline as well, but that’s not happening,” said Davis.

Right now, the board uses money intended for English as a second language, French (both core and immersion) and transportation to cover the $20 million gap.

However, the Ministry of Education says from 2002 to this school year, the school board has received about 17.5 per cent more in special education funding, or roughly $43 million. Across the entire province, it spends about $2.25 billion on special ed.

While Davis acknowledged the province has provided more money in some areas like autism services, he says overall funding is lacking.

“If (special needs) students don’t get the support they need, that impacts on an entire class or an entire school,” said Davis. “Virtually every class in this city has a child with special needs, in every school.”

He said children suffering from depression or ADHD are not considered special needs, “but we are providing supports for them.”

Davis also said there’s a backlog for assessments, and that affluent parents can simply pay to have their child assessed, “but if they’re poor, they wait in line. It’s all part of the equity issue.”

Karen Forbes, senior superintendent of special education for the Toronto board, said there are several theories as to why the number of special needs cases is on the rise, including better identification and that people feel more comfortable in asking for support.

About 10 per cent of special needs students have more than one exceptionality and are considered “complex high needs,” the report says.

In 2005, the Toronto public board served 31,600 special needs students; today, 36,800.

“We certainly aren’t the only board that is struggling,” said Forbes. “It’s not just Toronto, it’s across the GTA and probably the province.

“The ministry is struggling to come up with funding” in a way that captures the actual incidence of special needs. “We don’t think they are there yet. Essentially the message is that we need an increase in funding.”

The Peel District School Board says it too is shortchanged in special education funding, which only exacerbates its position as one of the lowest funded boards in Ontario, despite being one of the fastest growing.

Board Chair Janet McDougald has blamed the ministry’s reliance on old census data.

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