Students in the Special and Alternative Education program recognized National Autism Awareness Month in April in different ways.
WSWHE BOCES offers four BOCES Educating Autistic and Related Disorders Students or BEARS classrooms for students.
A total of 16 students in the BEARS program and other Special and Alternative Education programs at the F. Donald Myers Education Center and Geyser Road Elementary School displayed their artwork at the 4th Annual Autism Information Fair at the Saratoga City Center in Saratoga Springs.
Coordinated by the Autism Society of the Greater Capital Region, the art exhibit provided artists with Autism Spectrum Disorder and other developmental disabilities an opportunity to exhibit their artwork.
Art teacher Melissa DelSignore explained that students used painter's tape to create a flower or spring landscape and then sponged on pastel colored tempera paint. After the paint dried, they peeled off the tape. In addition to creating the artwork, Ms. DelSignore said students also had the benefit and experience of displaying their artwork as a professional artist would in an art gallery. She added, "This is a rare and nice opportunity that shows everyone is able to create art and appreciate it.”
At the Southern Adirondack Education Center (SAEC), students participated in the 3rd Annual Autism Walk, a one-mile walk on the track behind the campus. Students in the Life Skills and BEARS programs created puzzle pins, and t-shirts that featured an original design by cosmetology student Tiffany Perkins, from HOME SCHOOL. Proceeds from the sale of these items benefitted the Greenwich Chapter for Autism Awareness.
Linda Cook, a BEARS teacher at SAEC, explained that the longevity of the BEARS program combined with the integrated services offered makes this program for students with autism very unique and strong.
“In our BEARS 12:1:4 program, we integrate speech, occupational and physical therapy, assistive technology, and social workers/counselors,” said Mrs. Cook. “Our assistive technology providers, for example, give us immediate solutions to current learning and behavior challenges.”
Every year, the BEARS teachers attend training through The Center for Autism and Related Disabilities at the University at Albany (CARD Albany).
“I always find myself saying ‘We do that!’ when I attend the CARD conference. We always keep up. I think the fact that the BEARS program has been around for more than 20 years has given us the cutting edge advantage.”
In addition to teaching positive behaviors, social skills, communication and vocational skills, the BEARS curriculum is aligned with the Common Core State Standards and New York State Alternative Performance Indicators.
Mrs. Cook said, “We use the TEACCH methodology which uses visual supports and a consistent daily routine. We prepare students to enter the School to Work program so ultimately they will be able to work in the community. We are also trained in Applied Behavior Analytics (ABA) instruction. Using a combined methodological approach has resulted in a reduction of behaviors and an increase in student learning.”
For more information on the BEARS program, click here.