"People on the spectrum who have a fulfilling life now often had four important assets earlier in their life: early education and treatment; medication or other treatment for severe anxiety, depression, or sensory sensitivities; development of their talents; and mentors and teachers to help them."
Thinking in Pictures
Children on the autism spectrum process information differently than children without an ASD--which means that a child with autism learns differently than a child without autism. These learning differences can, at times, create educational challenges that may seem impossible to overcome.
At Spectrum Academy we meet these challenges using our research-based curriculum as teachers seek to blend the requirements of the Utah State Core Curriculum, social skills instruction, and sensory integration with identified behavior-based instructional practices for children with autism. To further meet these challenges, teachers, staff and parents at Spectrum Academy plan educational goals for each student while observing five distinct guidelines.
We believe it is our job to:
- Assess all of our students' needs.
- Plan instruction and intervention to meet those needs.
- Provide ongoing progress-monitoring.
- Support our community with parent training.
- Teach all of our students.
Utah State Core Curriculum and Leveled Placement
To meet the unique needs of our student population and to satisfy the requirements of the Utah State Core Curriculum, Spectrum Academy employs a differentiated instruction method on grade-level core subjects. Each of our students is assessed in the areas of reading and math prior to the first day of classes in order for the student to be assigned to classes that are on their academic performance level. Other factors that are considered when determining these leveled placements include age, grade, developmental level, social needs, class size, and appropriate student-teacher match.
By utilizing a differentiated instruction method, or leveled placement, a student who may be by age in seventh grade, but is performing on a fifth grade level in reading, will receive reading instruction presented on a fifth grade learning level. Additionally, a student who may be by age in seventh grade but is performing on a tenth grade level in math is placed in a class commensurate with his academic abilities.
Students at Spectrum Academy receive daily social skills instruction using curriculum developed by professionals at the school. Social Scene Investigations: A Social Skills Curriculum is divided into weekly topics that break intricate social concepts into individual lessons that address the unique social needs of children with autism and other developmental disorders. Lessons are designed to address a variety of learners on the following instructional components:
- Functional vocabulary instruction
- Stories and literature that reinforce the concept
- Reinforcing activities, such as role-playing, tailored to each social concept
Each student's social skill level is assessed on a weekly, monthly and yearly basis as needed to determine program effectiveness and to aid in instructional decision-making for the student.
Spectrum Academy employs three occupational therapists to provide services for students with Individual Education Program (IEP) goals. In addition to individual services outlined in IEPs, all students receive one half hour every other week of whole group occupational therapy instruction. Whole group lessons provide our therapists with opportunities to observe students in the classroom and help students gain new skills to implement outside occupational therapy sessions.
The ultimate goal of behavior instruction for students at Spectrum Academy is independent self-regulation so that our students can function successfully across a variety of settings. As such, we believe that behavior management is the critical foundation of an effective educational setting for all students. To help our students establish this foundation, we maintain school-wide behavior expectations that our staff teaches and reinforces throughout the school day.
Behavior support is provided through:
- Direct Instruction
- Other means necessary to help our students understand and demonstrate appropriate behaviors conducive to learning.
Other behavior-based instructional practices employed by Spectrum staff include:
- Behavior analysis
- Token systems
- Social stories
- Task analysis
- Positive behavior supports.
To maximize student gains, behavior management is tailored to students' needs and cognitive abilities and is monitored to determine instructional effectiveness.