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Guilford Co. parents worry about possible autism classroom changes

GUILFORD COUNTY, N.C. — Parents of children with autism worry their kids could fall behind academically and socially with the potential to combine classes based on need rather than autistic disability.

Starting next school year, the number of autistic-only classrooms will reduce from 27 to 23.

Dr. Alicia Tate is the executive director of exceptional children and said the reduction is not a cut in programming but simply a reduction do to the number of exceptional needs children based on graduation, internal transfer and IEP decisions to move students to less restrictive environments.

Specifically at Alamance Elementary, there are four classrooms with exceptional needs, one of which is autistic-based only.

For the 2014-2015 school year, there will be two exceptional need classrooms at Alamance Elementary and one at a new school, Simkins Elementary.

“Several of those students are fifth graders who are rising on to sixth grade. So the numbers of students that needed a separate setting, a more restrictive environment to get those needs met, was declining at Alamance,” Tate said. “It is possible that the rooms at both schools could be cross categorical; it just depends on the individual needs of the students.”

Tuesday Brian Beasley and other parents spoke to the Guilford County School Board to encourage autistic-only classrooms to remain in Guilford County.

Beasley said there are so many factors that children with Autism Spectrum Disorder need to be successful, and change to their routine, classroom or teacher could jeopardize the success his son Jacob has made.

“It’s helped him academically its helped him socially, just being more confident,” Beasley said.

Beasley created an online petition through change.org. So far there are 710 signatures supporting parents with this mission, saying, “Stop the plan to put special need kids in a cross category class with any disability. Keep our autism program, developmentally delayed program and intellectual disability program. “

Parent Norell Johnston said that her daughter has also made academic strides because of the autism-only classroom. Johnston said her daughter may be less likely to speak up and ask questions in a setting that is different or a different teacher.

“If you have a teacher who’s already overworked, possibly underpaid and has a classroom with kindergarteners through fifth graders with a wide range of disabilities with less help in the classroom that speak for itself,” Johnston said. “Our children are finally succeeding academically and if they’re in an autism classroom, they have that educational label for a reason, they have medical diagnosis for a reason, we’re in a setting that works, don’t change it.”

Guilford County Schools addressed the online petition in an updates listed on the Alamance Elementary school website. In it the update states:

“Currently, GCS has approximately 116 separate classrooms, including 27 that serve only students identified with autism. For the 2014-2015 school year, 23 will remain autism-only based on current numbers. The decrease of four classrooms is based on natural transitions (graduations, internal transfers, IEP decisions to least restrictive environment, etc.) and is not part of any plan to change or reduce programs and services. We are working on a three-year improvement plan for exceptional children services in GCS, and will be sharing more information about this as we engage parents and others in our planning process.”

Friday night’s Q&A meeting at First Christian Church with Dr. Tate was a regular meeting previously scheduled with Autism Unbound.

There are 1,054 autistic children within the Guilford County School System.

27 comments

  • bella07

    These parents need to realize that these are public schools.They do not have to cater to children that need special accommodations.What they offer should be appreciated.They can always home school their children if they are going to complain.

    • Meredith

      Bella, with your attitude you shouldn’t be able to even pro-create. I pray that you never have a special needs child. If you do you will see the struggles you will face 24-7. Shame on you.

      • bella07

        I love all children and have raised several myself so it is a little late for your comment.There are struggles with all children,special needs or not.These parents simply need to appreciate the extra services they receive for free and quit complaining about it.

  • Dawn Brazee

    I I am very upset that the 2 of you would even say something like this. These cchildren have a right just like your Gen Ed students and if your child or cchildren was in the same situation as these children you would feel the same way and want them to have a education they deserve. My son goes to a public school has a IEP and there is only 19 children in his class and they all have needs on all different levels, just like kids in a private school or a gen ed class. So you need to get off your high horses and we all need to start looking out for the future of all children with autism or not.

    • bella07

      I am not on a high horse.Public education is free and not required to bow down for every child’s needs.It is not always perfect so if someone is not happy with it then they need to find another solution.Maybe these children with different needs should not go to public schools if it is not properly suited for them.

      • news2me

        Oh my bella…no..no…you are incorrect…very incorrect..

        These children DO have a RIGHT to public education in the USA.

        That is because we are a country that believes that everyone should be educated!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

        Education is not for a select group of people.

        IT IS FOR ALL CHILDREN!!

        All of these children have something to offer the world.

        I know that Forsyth County has one of the very best exceptional children programs in this State. People need to look at this county’s model.

  • SGJUDY

    We were thinking of moving to Guiford County because of the special education opportunities for Autistic children compared to the county we are in now which doesn’t have any schools in our area that can accommodate my two children with severe autism. So we home school.
    I hope they can come to a solution that is acceptable to everybody.

  • Forrest

    So called normal children can be home schooled also.These autistic children deserve the same as everyone else.The egnorance that comes from finger tips to type such, is probably the same when they open their mouths.

  • Yolanda

    Let’s remember that government run schools are not “free”. Our tax dollars pay for this. Once gain, government has screwed up everything it runs. Can’t wait to see how our healthcare goes. Oh wait, we already know….just look at what they’ve done for our veteran’s healthcare.

  • Dawn Brazee

    Public education is NOT FREE look at your taxes. So much goes to the so called free public schools. Or maybe you don’t pay property or real estate taxes.

    • bella07

      You pay taxes whether you have kids going to school or not.There is no special tax that you pay for education.

  • Dana Pinnix

    Oh how I wish you would you would have come to the AU parent meeting tonight and said such ignorant things! You have NO idea what we go through to make sure our kids have everything they need, especially in education. You obviously are not affected by autism so be thankful and show some respect when making comments about our kids!!

    • bella07

      Most parents want what is best for their children whether they have special needs or not.Obviously you misunderstood my views,

  • whatdidIread

    I don’t have anything to say about the autistic students, as I have not had to deal with that, so can’t speak from experience. I do with all of the parents and students the best. However, I will say that this article is horribly written, and I am in a perpetual quandary about where on earth Fox8 finds these “journalists”.

    • whatdidIread

      I made the comment above after reading the article… however, after watching the video, it occurs to me that the problem with this piece may lie which whomever was responsible for the transcription of the video. Maybe they need to find better transcriptionists.

  • news2me

    The biggest mistake the entire country has made to date is the millions of TESTS the children have to take every year and I mean it is …in this country..millions..

    So much testing that the teachers do not want the exceptional students in their room for fear the scores will be low. That is the truth.

    So much testing that the joy of learning via field trips etc and the lack of physical activity has turned the schools into ROBOTIC “One Size Fits All” and it has got to STOP!!!!!

    Individuality in the Public Schools….(which are funded by the tax payer dollars) has been thrown out of the door..What a shame..

    Autistic children are awesome just like all of the rest.

    *All children are born with special needs….ALL…and those needs are rather simple….The child must be nurtured, loved, and educated…ALL not just a few…ALL”

  • Melissa Blum

    You are wrong. Public schools do, in fact, have to “cater” to our special needs children. Have you ever heard of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act? I bet not. My child is in this classroom, and they are legally obligated to provide him with a free and APPROPRIATE public education. I will continue to advocate for that, because that is my right, and my job, as his mother.

  • rebecca2222

    This problem is only going to get worse with the number of autistic children growing leaps and bounds. One cannot fault any parent for wanting the best for their child. But how do we balance the limited dollars amongst our regular kids and special needs children?

    It seems that we have reached a point where the disadvantaged are the regular kids. No one can doubt that that cannot have a bad outcome.

  • Glynnis

    Guilford County has been making progress and providing good services for children with autism and other special needs. The parents, not only of children with Autism but of children with disabilities across the board, want to see GCS continue to improve their services to all children. Dropping specialized classrooms and inclusion programs would be a step backward for our schools and our children. Parents of children with special needs are advocates and will challenge any plan or vision that serves children less ably. The GCS EC Dept. has done a poor job of communicating about their plans. If they have withheld communication because they dread backlash, they ought to be ashamed (as should anyone who trolls parents trying to do their best for their children).

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