Star Program Helping Autistic Children

Star Program Helping Autistic Children

Austistic Students Thriving in New Program

April is Autism Awareness Month and according to the Centers for Disease Control the number of children diagnosed with autism over the last six years, has increased from 1 in 150 to 1 in 50.

But one Arkansas school is modeling a program that is helping students get ready for the next step.

Laurie Mergenschroer watches across the fence at Syvlan Hillls Elementary School in Sherwood, she's amazed how much her son Caleb has progressed.

"He didn't interact with children really that much before," said Mergenschroer.

That is, until he became a part of the Star Program, which prepares autistic children for the transition into Kindergarten.

"The Star Program is really structured and they follow a schedule, the symbol communication is wonderful it's what he thrives on," added Mergenschroer.

Speech Language Pathologist, Teresa Wood, works closely with Caleb in the Star Program.

"His behavior and socialization have increased dramatically, his academic skills have improved," said Wood.

Sylvan Hills is the only school in Arkansas with a class specifically geared to get autistic children ready for Kindergarten.

"It”s a research based program based on applied behavior analysis, which is the key according to the research, right now for teaching children on the autism spectrum."

The program was first developed in Oregon, then brought to the Natural State by Easter Seals of Arkansas, about six years ago.

"Students come in that were completely non verbal and using picture symbols as their form of communication.  Now their answering questions and speaking in complete sentences," added Mergenschroer.

Lessons Laurie is grateful Caleb has the opportunity to learn.

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