Southwest Guilford autistic student faces assault charges

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GUILFORD COUNTY, N.C.--A Southwest Guilford High School student with autism is facing adult misdemeanor assault charges after confrontation with a teacher in February.

17-year-old Isiah Berg is accused of grabbing his teachers arms after he became frustrated with an English assignment.

His mother, Lisa Berg, said while she does not blame the school for the charges, she questions the school's Autism Inclusion Program, that has facilitators to help exceptional needs children become immersed in a normal school environment.

Southwest Guilford is one of 12 schools in the county that offer an inclusion program. The others include, Southwest Elementary, Southwest Middle, Southwest High, Alamance Elementary, Joyner Elementary, Pilot Elementary, Northern Elementary, Northern Middle, Kiser Middle, Sternberger Elementary, Jamestown Middle and Grimsley High.

The program provides training to teachers and teaching assistants of students with autism. Training is also available for all classroom teachers, bus drivers and safety assistants. Individual training is provided to schools based on the needs of their particular students and staff.

The training includes overall understanding of autism as a disability, as well as both social and educational tools to use with students who are participating in the inclusion program. The training focuses on positive behavior intervention and support, crisis prevention, training on dealing with challenging behaviors, de-escalation techniques, accommodations to use in the classroom, reinforcement of appropriate behaviors and ways to help students learn social skills and understand social cues.

Berg said the facilitators did not follow the proper steps to diffuse her son before the situation escalated.

Southwest Guilford's Autism Inclusion Program includes 15 students, five facilitators and one inclusion teacher.

Berg said the program helps him reach his educational goals, but feels there should be more discussion to protect the students.

"The school determined that his behavior was a manifestation of the disability, then how do we stop it from it then having to go to the court," Berg said.

"We need to be aware. We need to talk about what an autism inclusion program really looks like, an effective autism inclusion program and then at what point do the police need to get involved," she continued.

Berg's case will be heard on June 25.

Southwest Guilford autistic student faces assault charges