Spartanburg Teacher Program For Autism

Education program hopes to go statewide

South Carolina Radio Network
May 21, 2018 - 2:49 pm

Organizers of a first-of-its-kind program that teaches Spartanburg County public school teachers how to work with students who have autism hope to eventually offer it tatewide.

Autism Certificate Graduates 2018 (Source: Converse College)

Converse College offered the courses to educators in the Spartanburg County School districts. 35 teachers completed the program earlier this month. The inaugural program was designed to give educators the information they need to work with students who have autism spectrum disorder.

“They were finding that teachers were unprepared for students with autism,” said Kylie McKinney, Autism Specialist at Spartanburg County School District Seven and program participant.

“Going back into my classroom and working with my students who were on the spectrum and absolutely seeing what benefit that class was going to have on those children and, to me, to know how to better help them and how to incorporate learning into their environment that specifically addressed their ASD,” she said.

The program began in 2014 with teachers taking courses after their school days had ended. The class was funded by the school districts.

“They really gave up a lot of their time to be able to do this,” McKinney said. Organizers hope is the South Carolina Department of Education will get involved and expand the program to offer to teachers statewide.

According to Centers for Disease Control statistics, one in every 59 children has autism spectrum disorder, which is a 150 percent increase in diagnoses from 2000.

“We know that it’s growing,” McKinney said. “It’s very rapidly growing at that, so we want to be able to best support these students coming into the classroom. “We are able to go into classrooms and best support those teachers and help them understand, well, this maybe works better for a child on the spectrum vs. a child who has, maybe a learning disability or ADHD or an emotional disability. We treat students based on their needs, not necessarily their labels.”

The program was developed and taught by Spartanburg County Schools Lead Autism Specialist Elena Ghionis.

“There are a lot of components to autism,” McKinney said. “There are a lot characteristics and once you start peeling back the layers you can get really great things out of children . . . now we’re equipped to handle that challenge.”

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