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February 2011



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Schoolhouse, New Jersey

Gov. Chris Christie has proposed creating additional specialized public schools for educating children with autism in New Jersey, a departure from the current practice in many communities of integrating those children into neighborhood schools.

The governor proposed creating “centers for excellence” in every county, suggesting that such schools could save money for districts and ensure a higher quality of instruction. He told the audience at a town-hall-style meeting in Paramus on Thursday night that “the start-up costs of these programs, if you do it district-by-district, are mind-blowing and the quality is variable.”

Parents and advocates are split over the idea of creating specialized schools for children with autism, reflecting a larger debate nationally over whether those children are best served in separate programs or in general-education classes.

Critics of the idea say that children with disabilities gain valuable academic and social skills from interacting with their peers without disabilities, and also develop closer ties to their communities.

“We’re horrified at this suggestion to have another segregated setting for children with autism in every county in New Jersey,” said Diana Autin, executive co-director of the Statewide Parent Advocacy Network, a nonprofit group that assists families. “It would also send a message to parents that children with autism can’t be included.”

But Linda Meyer, executive director of Autism New Jersey, a nonprofit advocacy and educational group, said Mr. Christie’s proposal for specialized autism schools would provide a much-needed alternative for some families. Many districts, she said, lack the staff, training and resources to educate children with autism.

“What I see is the governor has a vision to expand the continuum of options for our students,” Dr. Meyer said. “There are currently not enough high-quality school options for children with autism. Not every child is being educated in an effective program.”

The number of New Jersey students classified as having autism has grown rapidly, to 13,358 in 2010 from 8,490 in 2006, according to state education statistics.

Read in Full: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/01/17/nyregion/17njautism.html?_r=2

Adding More Schools for Autism Just Might Defeat the Purpose

  • January 17th, 2011 12:26 pm ET

Robin Hausman Morris

It is the quintessential dilemma for parents of autistic children. Public or private. Governor Chris  Christie of New Jersey has made an auspicious proposal to create additional schools specifically for children with autism, as reported in the New York Times.

This notion is music to the ears of parents who demand more speech, more occupational, and more behavioral therapies for their children. To be fair, the parents demand services because their children are in dire need of direct instruction and invaluable and intense intervention that is lacking in a typical public school setting. Nevertheless, the nagging question remains; is isolation the answer?

Read in Full: http://www.examiner.com/autism-parenting-in-national/adding-more-schools-for-autism-just-might-defeat-the-purpose

Tough Teacher Powers Under School Reforms

Thursday, January 27 02:06 pm

SkyNews (c) Sky News 2011
Power is to be handed back to teachers as part of a drive to crack down on bad behaviour in the English schools system.

The new Education Bill sets out Michael Gove’s plans to drive up standards and behaviour.

Schools will get the final say on expulsions – making it easier to expel pupils who consistently misbehave.

The Education Secretary believes his plans will restore discipline and reduce bureaucracy.

He told Sky News: “It seems to me that the most important thing is to say to the teacher is that you’ve got the authority. I think we all want our teachers to get stuck into not just maintaining order but also to raising standards.”

His proposals will allow teachers to search children for things that can disrupt lessons – like mobile phones and video cameras.

Sky News understands that staff will also be able to delete any files or images that they feel are inappropriate.

The government also wants to protect teachers from false allegations made by pupils, by allowing them to remain anonymous until charged with an offence.

Headteachers will be asked not to suspend staff immediately and police officers encouraged to speed up any subsequent investigation so careers aren’t unnecessarily ruined.

Headteachers will also be able to discipline pupils who misbehave on their way to and from school.

But rules forcing teachers to give parents 24 hours notice of a detention will be scrapped – the thinking is that parents may be inconvenienced, but will also be prompted to ask what more they can do to improve their children’s behaviour in school.

Mr Gove added: “This Government backs teachers. All the evidence from those countries with great education systems tells us that nothing is more important than attracting great people into teaching and supporting them in the classroom.

“Teachers will be free to impose the penalties they need to keep order and free from the red tape which swallows up teaching time, so they can get on with their first duty – raising standards.”

Schools rated ‘outstanding’ by Ofsted will be freed from regular inspections in order to focus on the worst performers.

Ofsted will no longer rate schools on areas like community cohesion – instead focusing on just four core elements – pupil achievement, teaching, leadership and behaviour and safety.

With many of the new free schools being set up by faith groups the Education Secretary also revealed to Sky News a new unit will be set up within his department to prevent segregation in communities and combat extremism.

But the bill also includes an unexpected additional clause to make university students pay higher rates of interest on tuition fee loans.

The Government says this has to be included before the new university funding regime begins in 2012.

The General secretary of the University and College Union, Sally Hunt, has accused the coalition of “sneaking” the rate changes out in the bill.

She said: “The general public can see this for what it is – a stealth tax on learning and achievement – and it doesn’t matter what piece of legislation the Government tries to hide it in.”

The bill is likely to include further measures such as plans to overhaul the teacher training process, sweeping reforms of qualifications and the introduction of a reading test for six-year-olds.

Labour says it gives Mr Gove “50 new powers to meddle in education in your area” with Shadow Secretary Andy Burnham tweeting that it “strips councils of any real power and gives it all to the Secretary of State”.

It is part of the Education Secretary’s wider drive to give power and respect back to teachers while returning to more traditional values but could also leaves pupils and parents with a lot less clout.

Source: http://uk.news.yahoo.com/5/20110127/tuk-tough-teacher-powers-under-school-re-45dbed5.html

Granville woman pursuing dream of school for autistic youth

Jan 18, 2011
Written by ANNA SUDAR

NEWARK — Barbara Lechner knows the world can be a complicated, overwhelming place for preteens with autism.

Not only do they struggle with sensory issues and anxiety, but many feel isolated and are picked on because of their social skills and communication difficulties.

Lechner, of Granville, is working to give Licking County children with autism a place where they can feel safe to be themselves.

For more than 30 years, Lechner has been the executive director of the Language Experience Center, a preschool for children with autism or communication issues.

She has applied for a $250,000 Pepsi Refresh Grant to expand the center’s mission and open a school for fourth-, fifth- and sixth-graders with autism.

“We want to create a learning environment that is conducive with their learning style,” she said.

A speech and language pathologist, Lechner started the Language Experience Center in 1979 at Licking Memorial Hospital with support from the Heath Sertoma. The school moved to St. Edward’s Catholic Church in Granville in 2004.

The program was designed to help young children develop language skills. Teachers work with a small group of 2-year-olds twice a week, Lechner said.

In December 2009, Lechner volunteered to do speech therapy with a 11-year-old boy with autism.

To prepare for the experience, she started reading books on the autism spectrum, taking classes and speaking with parents.

She said she realized preteens who have autism have a difficult time in school.

“They have inner anxiety plus the fact that their sensory input is either muted or highly accentuated,” she said. “They can have extreme loneliness and (face) bullying.”

Lechner began thinking about starting a school for that age group. When several members of the Language Experience Center board helped the Davis-Shai House win a $250,000 Pepsi grant, Lechner saw a way to possibly fund her new project.

Read in Full: http://www.newarkadvocate.com/article/20110118/NEWS01/101180305/1002/Granville-woman-pursuing-dream-school-autistic-youth

Grant Funding Helps Educators Think Outside the Box

Indian Prairie Special Needs PTA provides $5,000 in grant funding to 11 schools and 18 individuals.

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