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Dubuque schools succeeding in new autism effort

February 11, 2014
By ERIK HOGSTROM , The Telegraph Herald

DUBUQUE - Ana Cayro Kapparos saw a difference in her son as soon as the fifth-grader with autism started receiving education based upon a specially tailored approach.

"Garret started doing better at home. He's definitely calmer," Cayro Kapparos said.

Garret's instruction at Eisenhower Elementary School is guided by Strategies for Teaching based on Autism Research Curriculum. The evidence-based approach to teaching students with autism was introduced to Dubuque Community Schools this fall. Also known as STAR Curriculum, the approach is locally provided through a collaboration between the school district and Mercy Autism Center.

Article Photos

AP PHOTO
Paraprofessional Paul Wiedemann works with fifth-grader Garret Kapparos at Eisenhower Elementary School Jan. 31, 2014, in Dubuque, Iowa. Garret's instruction at the school is guided by Strategies for Teaching based on Autism Research Curriculum, also known as STAR Curriculum.

"It's providing our teachers the professional development and resources that our students need for success," said Rozy Warder, the district's director of special education.

The Telegraph Herald reports Warder came to the district from Iowa City, where she had experience with the curriculum.

"A year ago, I started meeting with the Autism Center folks - when I came here, I was excited to bring the STAR Curriculum here," she said.

The curriculum incorporates applied behavior analysis, a research-based approach to assisting people with autism that increases the understanding of behavior and how environment affects it. Mercy Autism Center staff provides teachers and other educational professionals with detailed lesson plans, data systems and assessment tools that help determine a student's progress in development areas such as receptive language, expressive language and play.

"It gets the foundational learning skills in place, so a person can proceed with their education with the minimal assistance necessary," said Alyson Beytien, of the center.

Mercy Autism Center incorporates applied behavior analysis into its therapies, so Garret receives a similar approach when he receives speech therapy at the center.

"Everybody being on the same page is so important," Cayro Kapparos said.

Cayro Kapparos said she sees the importance of the consistency in Garret's language development since this fall.

"The biggest jump has been in putting words together," Cayro Kapparos said.

Garret is advancing from making one-word requests for the things he would like to forming complete sentences such as asking for salt to season his meals.

He is more receptive to his parents' communications, too.

"Every day, I can ask him another thing, and he can follow that direction appropriately," Cayro Kapparos said.

 
 

 

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