A teacher who helps preside over a program for students with autism, Carrie Jones knows full well some aspects the general public might not understand.
First and foremost is the uniqueness of each child.
“If you have met one child with autism, then you have only met one child with autism,” Jones said.
Jones is a teacher at Clawson Public Schools in suburban Detroit, which, for 18 years has had a program specifically designed and dedicated for students with autism.
In addition to the uniqueness of each child, Jones said there are other points about teaching autistic students that many don’t know about.
For example, she said:
- Their abilities outweigh any disabilities.
- Competence is presumed with the students.
- Most students with autism do not have a cognitive impairment.
- Students with autism are students first.
The program has classes for autistic students at an elementary school, a middle school and at Clawson High School, where Jones teaches.
The basic objectives of the program include:
- Teaching communication and independence.
- Teaching social skills.
- Connecting to peers who are the same age through a link program.
- Working with the community for job opportunities.
- Using statewide resources to continue education and training for parents and staff.
Ultimately, the purpose is for students to develop social skills, interaction and friendship, and have school experiences like any other students -- and a feeling they are a part of the community.
But just as the students get educated, the program that runs throughout the year also is educating the community on the uniqueness of each student in the program and working within best teaching practices.
“We continue to enrich the experience that our students have and build a culture that is driven by kindness, positivity and friendship,” Jones said.
This story was first published in 2021. It has since been updated.