Gast and Deanna Luscre, who coordinated the ASD program for Gwinnett County Public Schools from 1996-2003, developed the COPPA program with a grant of $894,000 from the U.S. Department of the Education in 2003. The program received a second grant of $793,000 in 2007 for four more years.
The second grant allowed UGA to offer additional training in ASD to interested teachers in Clarke, Cobb and Forsyth county schools. Teachers from other school districts have also participated in one or more of the courses being offered.
"Comprehensive public school programs for students with autism must provide high quality, evidence-based intervention from birth to age 21 and to achieve this goal, schools need highly qualified teachers," said Ayres.
"Preparation and specialization in teaching secondary-age students is distinct from that of elementary-age students and this expansion is significant because it provides for the development of three new courses and two new practica addressing the unique needs of adolescents related to transition planning, community-based instruction and academic content," he said.
The new program will help put more qualified teachers into Georgia schools, which like other schools across the nation face increasing numbers of students with ASD. One Georgia school system reported eight classrooms for students with autism in 1994, today they have 180 classrooms serving those students, said Ayres.
ASD occurs in all racial, ethnic and social groups and is four times more likely to strike boys than girls. It is defined by significant impairments in social interaction and communication and the presence of unusual behaviors and interests.
The number of children diagnosed with autism has grown about 17 percent a year across the country, and could reach 4 million in
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University of Georgia