Students at the Neosho Center for Interventions and Support’s autism program gather around a table for snack time. While one student asks for a drink, another uses a picture of Cheetos to indicate his snack choice.
Communication and social interaction are difficult for children with autism, but that doesn’t mean they don’t have things to say. While 25% to 30% of children with autism learn some words at 12 to 18 months of age, they later lose them as a result of the disorder. About 40% of children with autism do not speak at all.
This is what makes programs like this one so important. “The foundation thing is that our program is laser-focused on building communication,” says Stacy Tracy, director of special services for the Neosho School District.
Children with autism have different ways of learning and paying attention, and it’s important to take these differences into account in a learning environment, which is why autistic children do not thrive in a regular classroom environment.
The program’s new space in the Crowder College Behavior Support Center opened in July, kicking off the new school year. The new space allows them extra room to work with students one-on-one, and the added resources to teach them skills they can use at home.
The building houses seven therapy rooms and a handful of classrooms, where trained behavior interventionists work with individual students. There is a mock living room area, which provides a place to teach life skills to students struggling at home. There is also a kitchen area, where children can practice skills to use at home, like sitting at the table, loading and unloading the dishwasher, and sorting silverware.
“This is so exciting for kids to learn these self-help skills,” said Jamie Emery, director of the Crowder College Behavior Support Center.
While there is no known cure for autism, intensive therapy can help a child learn a wide variety of skills they will need to thrive in the real world. In individual approach to treatment helps to treat each child’s different behaviors and abilities. The autism program focuses on meeting individualized needs and improving communication skills.