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New program for students with autism offers hope after high school
Date:3/5/2014

An innovative program from UNC's Frank Porter Graham Child Development Institute (FPG) and 6 partner universities is preparing students with autism for life after high school.

"Public high schools may be one of the last best hopes for adolescents with autismand for their families," said FPG director Samuel L. Odom. "Many of these students will face unemployment and few social ties after school ends."

According to Odom, teachers and other professionals in the schools work hard to achieve beneficial results for students with autism spectrum disorders (ASD). But positive outcomes remain elusive, given the scarcity of specific programs in high schools designed to help adolescents with ASD.

To fill this gap, Odom and other scientists formed the Center on Secondary Education for Students with Autism Spectrum Disorders (CSESA).

"We developed our approach from research in several fields," said Odom, CSESA's principal investigator. "Because of the complex educational needs of many students with ASD, it was important to develop a comprehensive program for high schools."

CSESA focuses on understanding emotions, developing friendships, and social problem-solving. Early results at a high school in the Raleigh-Durham, N.C. area show that student groups designed to bring together adolescents with and without ASD have helped them engage with one other more often.

"Even a simple hallway 'hello' between students with autism and their peers is more likely now," said Kara Hume, CSESA's project director and co-principal investigator.

CSESA also addresses literacy skills, which can be limited in many students with ASD. At Myers Park High School (MPHS) in Charlotte, N.C., the program helped with Christopher Stickell's inclusion in an English class.

"Not only did my son have access to a wider world than his self-contained classroom, but the students in the English class had some of their pre-conceived notion
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Contact: Dave Shaw
Dave@unc.edu
919-621-3933
Frank Porter Graham Child Development Institute
Source:Eurekalert  

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