Students in The School for Asperger’s/HFA at Trident Academy showed an average improvement of 36 percent in the 12 core competencies during the School’s inaugural year (2013-14).
“Each student is working to improve different skills, so their progress was varied,” explains Nicole McLain, Program Director. “Their goals are determined individually through Formalized Education Plans, or FEPs.”
As a group, the largest gains were made in gross motor skills (+50 percent) and social interaction (+43 percent).
“We used a brain retraining program called Bal-A-Vis-X, which I think helped improve their gross motor skills while they were also working on other concepts,” Ms. McLain says.
Students also take frequent field trips into the community to work on social skills. Such trips are referred to as generalization, a key marker for whether a child has learned and mastered a skill.
“Our students master skills within Trident Academy, then we challenge them to use those skills in the community,” says Courtney Thames, BCBA at Trident Academy. “We learned how to be quiet and courteous in our library, then took a field trip to Charleston County Public Library to practice.”
Students also made strong academic progress, showing the largest increase in math (+41 percent), followed by writing (+32 percent), spelling (+29 percent), and reading (+28 percent).
Areas of Improvement
The areas that showed the least growth (+27 to 32 percent) were fine motor skills and imitation, which has become a focus of the 2014-2015 school year for Ms. McLain and her team.
Students in the School for Asperger’s/HFA are continuously learning strategies to improve ability in these areas such as using tweezers to pick things up as a way of developing their fine motor skills and the use of Model Me Kids program that utilizes video modeling to improve imitation.
“Most children watch and imitate others – that’s how kids learn as they are growing up,” McLain says. “Students with ASD watch others, but aren’t able to translate what they’ve seen into their own actions.”