Autism challenge met by Ontario district

Over the last year, Thunder Bay Catholic District School Board (TBCDSB) in Ontario, Canada, has seen a 17 percent increase in students with autism among its more than 8,000 students, and predicts a total of 80 students to be identified in the upcoming school year. For the 2009-2010 school year, TBCDSB was tasked with finding a way to manage its growing number of students with autism.

"We had a mandate to find alternative ways to build district-wide capacity for these incoming students," said Joel Godecki, ASD project consultant for Thunder Bay. "The district also had to consider a cost-effective way to train our teachers and staff. AutismPro's web-based solution saved the district thousands of dollars by using a method different from our traditional training."

Autism Pro Workshops offers Thunder Bay educators online access to a variety of training and communications resources to help save and manage development data for each student's case file. They include video and illustrated case examples that demonstrate behaviors and relevant interventions, as identified by experts in the field of autism intervention.

"After our first year of using AutismPro, the education staff is more knowledgeable and has a greater understanding of the variety of methodologies and teaching strategies for students with ASD and other developmental needs, allowing staff members to collaborate with parents confidently," continued Godecki. "This year, we are ensuring that AutismPro Workshops is available to all educators and assistants district-wide. We also can set training goals for each educator and monitor their progress to establish if continued learning is needed."

In addition to training, the program enables TBCDSB's educators and parents to collaborate daily, track student progress and generate progress reports for individual students. Intervention team members have anytime/anywhere access to a centralized communication portal to monitor a student's progress.

"Encouraging collaboration among educators, administrators and parents ensures everyone is on the same page about the student's progress," Godecki concluded."This is a huge step forward and away from the traditional method of managing cases in a three-ring binder."

"Students with autism require individualized attention, continuity and stability," said Kevin Custer, CEO of AutismPro. "With more than 80 percent of children with autism spending part of their day in general education classrooms, it is critical these frontline educators are well trained and prepared to teach students with autism."