MU Researchers Announce New Autistic Education Techniques

7 years 11 months 9 hours ago Thursday, November 18 2010 Nov 18, 2010 Thursday, November 18, 2010 8:24:19 PM CST November 18, 2010 in News
COLUMBIA - University of Missouri College of Education researchers announced Thursday a new autism curriculum being implemented in two Columbia schools. Researchers are conducting their curriculum in both Lange Middle School and West Junior High. The study is targeting both autistic boys and girls ages eleven to fourteen years old. Janine Stichter, special education professor at MU, said the new intervention curriculum will help autistic students because it focuses on a broad number of social issues that should appeal to kids with different abilities. "In the past people have said 'oh they have social deficits. We can just use a social skills program in general and hopefully a bunch of that will fit a bunch of kids. Our approach has been to really target the intervention for their specific needs," Stichter said. The new curriculum also features some computer programming that Stichter hopes will help students in rural areas get the special help they need. "So the kids log on, they have an avatar that is them and they're in groups of six just like when we do it face-to-face and there's a virtual environment that they work through and do all the same lessons and all the same activities," Stichter said. Stichter also says even though a student might be on target academically, social setbacks should be taken just as seriously as academic ones. "The social deficits, some people don't see them as equal, so they expect those kids 'oh they're really smart, really bright, so they should be able to do it or they should know better,' and so people are less patient," Stichter said. Karen Hines is a special education teacher at Lange Middle School. Most of her students spend the majority of their day in a general classroom, coming to her for class for only one hour a day. Hines has been teaching special education in this district for 13 years. She says she's seen a huge improvement in her students' behavior both academically and socially. "From turn-taking in conversation, being able to regulate their emotions better, being able to express themselves a lot better, we have a lot less discipline issues, a lot more learning time, a lot less time off task, it's been absolutely amazing," Hines said. Regardless of their abilities, Hines wants everyone to know that her students are just like everyone else. "There's not a better group of kids. They're just like everybody else, they just want to be loved and to learn at school," Hines said. The U.S. Department of Education is funding the research with two three-year grants.

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