General Program Description
The Council Rock Autistic Support program consist of an array of educational supports to address the needs of students educationally classified with Autism as well as other students who present with needs consistent with people with Autism spectrum diagnoses. Specifically, this program, while teaching within the standard academic areas, addresses issues related and impacted by the core deficit areas that result in a classification of Autism, namely social, communication and behavior challenges. These areas of concern are addressed across different levels of educational support.
Not all students diagnosed with Autism meet eligibility requirements for an educational classification of Autism. Additionally, students who are educationally classified with Autism do not present with the same intensity of symptoms and needs across all areas of functioning. Therefore, Autistic Support educational services typically differ across students with respect to the number, variety, and intensity of programming, but within the least restrictive environment. The following is a description of some of the educational programming for individuals labeled with an Autism Spectrum Diagnosis.
Students without Individual Education Plans
Some students attending the Council Rock School District may have been previously diagnosed with Autism or another Pervasive Developmental Disorder by an outside agency or diagnostician. However, some of these students may not require specially designed instruction (SDI’s) in order to receive an appropriate education. Therefore, these students, although possessing an Autism Spectrum diagnosis, may not qualify for special education and do not participate within Autistic Support. These students participate with the general student population without the support of special education services.
Student with Individuals Educations Plans (Not in Autistic Support)
Some students receive an educational classification of Autism, but due to their specific and mild needs, they may be provided services within Learning Support or possibly Speech and Language Support. These students generally do not present with significant social or behavior challenges and require minimal specially designed instruction. These students typically remain in their home schools.
Student Participating with Autistic Support
Other students may be demonstrating specific needs with respect to social behavior, communication and behavior, and those challenges impact their ability to fully access their education. These individuals, as determined via an educational assessment by a school psychologist, meet criteria for an educational exceptionality (i.e., they require specially designed instruction to access their education) and may participate in Autistic Support, with varying degree of support. Autistic Support is provided in several of the schools within the school district. In order to maintain a high degree of consistency and intensity, Autistic Support is not offered in every building. These supports can be generally divided into 5 different levels of intensity, although variation does exists within these levels as special education is highly individualized. (These levels are intended to be descriptive and are not officially recognized by the Pennsylvania Department of Education.) These levels are described below.
Level 1 - AS Itinerant
Some students may present with mild symptoms of Autism (or other condition) that result in a need for support with respect to social behavior, communication and behavior. These students are fully included in general education and receive support in general education settings with minor adaptations or modification of curricula. Support may include the support of related services such as speech for pragmatic/social language, behavior consultation and counseling.
Level 2 - AS Resource
Students may have more intense symptoms of Autism and require additional support. These students are mostly included in general educational classrooms, and may receive pull-out services to smaller classroom settings for specific academic areas. These students are provided with support in all settings for social and behavior needs.
Level 3 - AS Support
These students may be included in general educational classrooms for specials, and possibly 1 or 2 other academic areas. Given their specific needs, they are able to access their education by participating in classrooms with smaller student to teacher ratios and receive more significant modifications to the general education curricula that cannot be effectively conducted in the general education settings. Typically, these students demonstrate greater communicative, social and behavior challenges that impact their ability to make meaningful progress without significant support and individualization of academic instruction. These students require more intensive support for behavior, communication and social functioning as well as academic participation. These students may be instructed with a combination of general education and alternative curricula.
Level 4 - AS Intensive
These students demonstrate significant symptoms of Autism that impact their ability to participate in their education and require the most intensive level of specially designed instruction. These individuals are challenged by their ability to communicate and understand language, understand social rules, and may experience great distress during change and interruption of routines. They may demonstrate significant behavior challenges such as self-injury, frequent and intense self-stimulatory behavior and acting out behavior. These individuals benefit from instruction in self-contained classrooms and require intensive support for behavior, language/communication and social interaction. These students have limited participation in inclusive classroom situations, and are supported with alternative curricula. However, these individuals are supported within alternative inclusive opportunities within the school and within the local community.
Level 5 – Autistic Support Transition (AST)
AST is an education program for young adults with moderate to severe Autism between the ages of 17 to 21 who will remain in the educational system after completing their twelfth year of schooling. This program is a continuation of prior Autistic Support programming that has focused on addressing core deficit areas of Autism as well as independent living, community-based, and vocational skills. This natural progression of programming seeks to prepare students during their final years of public education to be productive members of the adult world.
For the 2014-2015 school-year, Autistic Support in the Council Rock School District is provided primarily in two elementary schools, one Middle School and one high school. The program employs 16 full-time teachers, 48 instructional assistants, 2 behavior analysts and 5 Speech and Language Pathologists. Ten school psychologists across the Council Rock School District participate in providing student evaluations. The program utilizes related services staff from the Bucks County IU including, 4 Occupational Therapists, and 2 Physical Therapists. In addition, the program contracts additional support in the form psychological services.
 Consistent with federal and state law, Autistic Support is provided in the least restrictive environment (LRE) through a continuum of services and placement options. Special education and related services are provided in a setting that promotes interaction with the general school population, to a degree appropriate to the needs of both. The concept of LRE includes a variety of options designed and available to meet the diverse and changing needs of students. The least restrictive environment is determined by the IEP team on an individual student basis. The principle of LRE is intended to ensure that a child with a disability is served in a setting where the child can be educated successfully, sometimes this will be in a general education classroom, other times this will mean a self-contained setting. Almost always, students in self-contained classrooms participate at least a portion of the day with same-age peers in typical settings.