Vermont district benefits from special education program

Rutland City Public Schools, a Vermont district of six schools, strives to do the best for "every student, every day," as its mission statement avers. But how does a small district with a restricted budget do its best for those students who need additional or special attention?

In 2000, the district had fewer than five students with autism. Today, they educate more than 44 students with autism, spanning all grade levels and across the autism spectrum.

"In the last ten years, we have seen a significant increase in the number of students with autism entering our school district," said Eloise McGarry, director of support services for Rutland City Public Schools. "As these students spend most of each day in a general education classroom, it is imperative that our staff has access to appropriate programming and effective professional development."

Rutland schools administrators have addressed this teaching challenge by incorporating a flexible online resource and communications program for district teachers. They turned to AutismPro, a 21st century response to educating students with autism from Virtual Expert Clinics, Inc., to support their overall autism and special needs intervention program.

Using AutismPro Workshops and AutismPro Resources, teachers throughout the district can access a flexible, Web-based professional development program that allows them to understand the range of autism conditions and apply a variety of evidence-based strategies to atypical school situations. Teachers and administrators can refer to a database of more than 5,000 lesson plans, teaching strategies and behavioral supports to help them address individual student needs.

"AutismPro provides an enhanced communication solution for teachers, special education staff, parents, and other stakeholders to collaborate easily and effectively," said Jenna Chamberlain, third grade special education teacher. "With our students, it is critical that we set goals and be able to show how we are meeting those goals throughout the year. With AutismPro, we all can access the data we need to show where each student's progress lies."

AutismPro Resource Manager allows educators and administrators to track and report on the progress of individual students with autism, providing summary reports to parents and other team members. Collaborative tools give all team members the opportunity to discuss specifics related to each student, including what needs to be done, by whom and when. In Rutland City Public Schools, teachers and parents update AutismPro on a weekly basis, and once per month all service providers update case files, ensuring everyone is on the same page for IEP planning and ongoing team meetings.

"Districts nationwide are faced by an enormous challenge: how do we cost-effectively build capacity for the huge influx of students with autism entering our school system?" said Kevin Custer, CEO of Virtual Expert Clinics, Inc. "One way to ensure that a district's autism intervention program can support this growth is by investing in the right solutions now that will help train and equip teachers with effective evidence-based practices so they can begin to curb future costs."