Wilson to expand special education support team

Courtesy of Creative Commons - COPS

Meredith Simon

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Wilson will add two staff members to the special education department for the 2019-20 school year. They will specialize in working with students on the autism spectrum. DCPS mandated the new positions due to increasing number of students with autism at Wilson.

The Wilson special education program currently has no staff members specifically focused on students with autism, though it has around 15 teachers and aides to help students with various learning difficulties.

For next school year, there will be one full-time and one part-time staff member hired to work solely with autistic students. The full time staff member will be a Communication Education Support teacher (CES) and the part-time staff member will be a Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA).

The CES will help students improve their communication skills, assist with Individual Education Plans, and advance their general life skills. The BCBA will help students with autism who have issues with behavior to develop strategies to cope with them, as well as craft learning plans suited to students’ individual needs.

“The idea is that [the CES] will do some inclusion classes,” said Principal Kimberly Martin. “We’ll teach some self-contained classes and also will work with teachers on providing support to students with autism.”

There is currently no program specifically for students with autism, so it is difficult to say precisely how many students would benefit from this program. Right now, most students with autism are lumped in with the rest of the special education department and many take a mix of special education and non-special education classes. “It just depends on the individual students. Some students don’t have any special education classes at all and they might be in all AP classes,” explained Martin.

The effect these additional staff members will have on the overall budget is relatively small, with the part-time BCBA costing the school between $50,000-$75,000, and the full-time CES costing around $115,000.

The new program will also help decrease the workload for some of the other special education case managers, who will no longer be teaching students with autism.