EDUCATIONAL PROGRAM COMPONENTS

Select a topic for more information.
 

Curriculum

  • Students have access to general education curriculum (Arizona College and Career Ready Standards) with modified task performance and communication.

 

  • General education academics classes are taught at grade level focusing on the following areas: language arts, math, science, and social studies.

 

  • Students have the opportunity to participate in a variety of electives throughout the school year including creative arts (piano lab, composition, music and art history), foreign languages, Recreational Sports, and Yoga/BodyWorks.

 

  • A transition/life skills curriculum is provided, as applicable, throughout the natural environment. Students participate in career and life exploration opportunities, snack/food preparation, laundry, volunteer opportunities, leisure skill development, and community outings.

 

Instructional Method

  • Students are presented with a literacy-based environment.

 

  • Educators provide whole group instruction with differentiated learning as needed (based on ongoing individual pre- and post-testing per subject/lesson). 

 

Evidence-Based Methodology  |  National Autism Center's National Standards Report, 2009

  • Methods and supports are provided within an Antecedent Package.

 

Communication Methodology

  • A total communication approach is used with all students.

 

  • Staff members are highly trained in the implementation of competency-based communication methods including phrase boards, word cards, literacy-based augmentative communication devices, rapid prompting, touch supported typing, and the elicitation of speech/verbalizations.

 

Sensory Strategies

  • Staff members are highly trained in the methodology and effective implementation of sensory input and supports.

 

  • Students are provided with access to continuous sensory input and supports throughout the day (sensory buffet) based on individual needs.

 

  • Instructional assistants partner with students to assist them in identifying and requesting their sensory needs, accessing accommodations, and learning to monitor their own needs through self-regulation methods independent self-regulation.

 

Behavior Strategies

  • Behaviors are addressed using communication and sensory accommodations as well as a variety of positive behavioral supports.

 

  • Extrinsic reinforcers are never used; self-esteem strategies are used and students are encouraged to develop internal motivation to self-regulate.

 

  • Individual Behavior Support Plans (Diana Browning Wright) are developed for students if behavior significantly impedes function in the classroom and interferes with his/her learning or the learning of others.  The student is actively engaged as a partner in the development of the plan, which is continuously monitored for effectiveness.  Supports and accommodations are modified as needed.

 

Embedded Therapies

  • Neurologic Music Therapy

 

  • Occupational Therapy

 

  • Speech Therapy

 

  • Vision Therapy

 

Staff Training

  • Instructional Assistants are provided with 30-60 hours of initial training and coaching followed by 7 hours a month of ongoing training as well as daily team meetings.

 

  • Trainings focused on competency-based communication and related accommodations are provided on a quarterly basis, with opportunities for additional education occurring throughout each month.

 

  • All staff members participate in weekly team meetings or trainings where individual student needs are discussed, current research is shared, and continuing education opportunities are provided (in regard to communication, sensory accommodations, related therapies and services, etc).

 

  • Additional training is provided as needed.

 

Consultation

Staff support training is provided 20-30 hours a week directly in the classroom.  Lead by classroom support staff, related service providers, and program administrators, this training focuses on individual student needs and effective methods for providing support in order to promote individual student independence and academic performance.

Parent/Family Support and Training

 
  • NMTSA offers a variety of parent trainings in the areas of sensory support, communication support and practical strategies developed from the most current research related to autism and brain connectivity, typically on a quarterly basis.  Parents of ACT students are encouraged to attend.

 

  • Family Cross-Training opportunities are provided in the fall and spring semesters to provide parents with education on autism, sensory accommodations, communication supports, emotional supports, and other areas of need in order to encourage understanding of the classroom philosophy and to facilitate consistency and carry over between school and home environments.  This training includes group lecture/discussion, observation opportunities, hands on training in the classroom with their student, and individual meetings with ACT education and administrative staff members. 

Open and Transparent Communication System

 
  • Communication between parents and ACT educational staff is extremely important.  ACT School teachers provide parents with student updates on a weekly basis, with more specific and individualized communication on a student specific basis.  Teachers can be contacted via email, phone, or through scheduled meetings.

 

  • Individual parent/teacher conferences are scheduled two times a year.  Additional meetings can be scheduled as needed.

 

  • Parents, related service providers, and district staff members are able to schedule observation time in ACT School classrooms.  This provides observers with the opportunity to learn about all aspects of the program.

Transition Plan to Return Students to District Placement

 

The ACT Independence Continuum and corresponding exit criteria reports are utilized to assist with adequately identifying student progress toward the goal of returning to a home district placement (a general education curriculum setting within the student’s district).  ACT staff members utilize this continuum throughout a student’s placement with ACT, and work cooperatively with the student, family, and district personnel in rating the skills necessary to reach the transition goal.  The continuum identifies seven exit criteria skill areas and rates the skills from most support to least support.  Each student’s unique needs, and the district program into which he or she will return, will determine what level of support is necessary for successful completion of exit criteria.  This document is a working document that will be progressive throughout its implementation, and may change or be modified on an ongoing basis. The seven exit criteria areas identified within the Independence Continuum are as follows:

 

  • Academic Access:  The student’s ability to access and participate in the educational environment

 

  • Academic Placement:  The student’s ability to access the general education curriculum   

           

  • Behavior:  The student’s ability to manage his/her own behavior in the general education environment

 

  • Community Involvement/Success:  The student’s ability to be successful in school-wide events and community outings

 

  • Communication:  The student’s ability to communicate with peers and staff within the educational setting

 

  • Self-Help:  The student’s ability to independently manage personal living skills on campus

 

  • Sensory:  The student’s ability to identify and manage sensory needs during the academic day   

 

Staff Rotation

An inherent issue in the education of individuals with autism, as reported by many district and private programs, is the reliance by the student with autism on external program factors, particularly specific staff.  When these staff members leave the program, students with autism often regress in terms of classroom performance and overall academic participation and skill demonstration.

 

  • ACT teachers and instructional assistants frequently rotate between students (and classrooms when applicable) in order to promote student reliance on internal motivation versus reliance on specific staff. 

 

  • Students are exposed to varied teaching styles and instructional assistant personality types while promoting internal controls for self-regulation and skill demonstration.

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