Autism Awareness: Inside today’s classroom and celebrating achievements

Each year, April 2nd  is a date that is widely recognized as Autism Awareness Day. This is an important date for many reasons and continues to highlight the important work being done by parents, caregivers and families and their respective school districts. At RCS, that continues to be applied with students and faculty as they deliver instructional outreach. Each year, RCS staff are trained and certified in providing in-depth instruction and counsel to students with disabilities. 

As part of this effort, the district continues to share stories and successes displayed by students seeking to achieve their goals – large or small. We welcome you to experience the level of commitment exhibited by RCS staff and faculty and the families who work tirelessly to advocate and deliver for their children with disabilities.

Meet Mrs. Franz. Mrs. Franz is a parent to two boys that currently attend the RCS District. At ages 13 and 12 years old they continue to pursue their goals, while working to make strides in the classroom. Both children were diagnosed with Autism when they were infants. The family has spent a lot of time working with early intervention providers particularly for speech, physical and occupational therapy.  Because of those interventions and all the efforts of their teachers throughout the years, both boys went from being completely non-verbal to finding their voices -  with the oldest child beginning to talk at age 6 and the youngest at age 8. 

“There is a saying in the autism community that goes if you've met one person with autism then you've met one person with autism,” said Mrs. Franz.  “Autism is a spectrum disorder that generally impacts a person's ability to organize the world in the same way that a neurotypical person might.  It often presents challenges in communication and processing the many sources of input that we all encounter in our day-to-day world.  April 2nd is known as "World Autism Day" and there are usually many efforts during the month to heighten autism awareness.  In our family, we believe that awareness is important, but that acceptance is what we should be striving for every day.”

At RCS, there’s a continued dedication to deliver quality educational opportunities to today’s students, while letting the community understand the importance of that instructional value. This is also done in coordination with their fellow peers to ensure that they understand that there’s a place for everyone in our district.

Over the past several years, the RCS Office of Student Support has focused on developing specialized programs for our students who are diagnosed with autism. At the elementary level, our autism continuum offers two levels of support. The first is a highly-specialized self-contained classroom that primarily focuses on social skills, communication skills and restrictive/repetitive behaviors. Students receive intensive support with a focus on developing skills and independence to allow students to be successful in a general education setting with support. Our second option is a consultant teacher service, which is designed to specifically support the needs of students with autism in the general education classroom setting. At the secondary level our students with autism transition into either a self-contained 12:1:1 classroom or continue in the general education classroom with specially designed services and support. 

“We recognize the wide range of strengths and challenges students who are on the autism spectrum bring to the classroom setting and we are committed to further developing our services to provide inclusive opportunities for our students,” said Assistant Director of Student Support Services Colleen Agostinoni. “Every person on the autism spectrum is unique and through collaboration and consistency among team members, and the family, we are committed to ensuring our students with autism receive a rigorous, quality education to reach their full potential - - both in school and in any post-secondary path they may take.”