W.Va. Takes Steps to Aid Autistic Children and Their Parents

October 06, 2010

CHARLESTON, W.Va. – The West Virginia Department of Education is taking steps to address the needs of a growing number of public school students diagnosed with autism spectrum disorders.

West Virginia schools now have about 1,230 students between the ages of three and 21 years old who have been diagnosed with autism and are being served under an Individualized Education Program, the state Board of Education learned Wednesday.

"An increasing number of West Virginia children are being diagnosed with autism,” said state Superintendent of Schools Steve Paine. “The West Virginia Department of Education is committed to providing all West Virginia children, including those with special needs, with the best education possible."

Autism is a complex developmental disability that typically appears during the first three months of life. It is caused by a neurological disorder that affects the functioning of the brain in the areas of social interaction and communication skills. Over half a million people in the United State have autism or some form of the developmental disorder. Some children with autism are completely nonverbal, while others with milder forms, such as Asperger's syndrome, may be very talkative. The variety of symptoms makes it particularly challenging for parents to recognize the problem, and for schools to help these kids learn.

“West Virginia schools are addressing student needs through educational programs that provide predictability and structure,” said Pat Homberg, director of the West Virginia Department of Education’s Office of Special Programs. “Such programs include one-on-one teaching, customized plans for individual students, and breaking down learning tasks into small steps and teaching them over and over in a reinforcing way until they are mastered.”

The West Virginia Department of Education (WVDE) is committed to ensuring all students in the state are college and career ready when they graduate from a public school. What West Virginia students are learning in school exceeds national and international standards. Through the WVDE’s 21st century learning plan called Global21: Students deserve it. The world demands it, West Virginia is seeing better student performance on the West Virginia Educational Standards Test 2 (WESTEST2); the SAT and the ACT, college entrance exams; the job skills assessment called Work Keys given to career and technical education students; and in a high school graduation rate that exceeds the national average. For more information contact the Office of Communications at 304-558-2699.

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