ESCANABA — April is Autism Awareness Month.
For individuals with autism, early intervention can be key to success.
“If they’re not getting any services until they’re five,” said Early Childhood Special Education Teacher Carolyn Bellingar, “they’ve lost two or three years where they could have had some intensive intervention and skill building.”
At the Learning Center in Escanaba, teachers focus on the socialization and independence of their students on the autism spectrum.
“We’re obviously working on the academics, the letters, sounds, colors, and shapes” said Speech Language Pathologist and Autism Specialist Alisha Plescher, “and everything else that we want to see them grow in. At the same time, we’re working on what they call the hidden curriculum: the social skills, the pragmatics, the ability to interact with peers, the ability to follow a direction in a group.”
Many of those skills are developed using visual schedules. The students begin identifying their wants and needs through pictures.
“So that they learn how to let an adult know when they need help,” added Bellingar, “and when they need something. A lot of times that will alleviate some of the behaviors that parents and teachers really struggle with.”
Plescher added that many parents prefer to wait and see how their child develops and progresses before calling for extra support.
“We get that,” added Plescher, “we’re parents as well. But with that said, it can be frustrating on the other end because we see that child struggling in different ways and know that there is so much that we could do to help support those parents, those families to help their child succeed.”
For more information about early intervention for autism click here.