For a 6-year-old boy with autism, communication for him and his family presents unique challenges. But thanks to Core Vocabulary at the Macomb Intermediate School District, that same 6-year-old boy can now successfully convey and share his thoughts – just like any other boy his age.
Through the use of Core Vocabulary, this boy clicks a picture of a spider, then a picture of a man – followed by clicking a picture of a bat and a picture of a man. It all helps mom decipher her son’s interest in learning more about Spider-Man, Batman and other superheroes.
“We have trained over 224 classroom teachers in the county, and it’s helping students that have difficulty communicating their thoughts,” says Justin Michalak, the assistant superintendent for special education and student services at the Macomb Intermediate School District. “This a great example of the hard work of the education professionals in Macomb working with our students and families.”
These Core Vocabulary Boards are just a piece of the puzzle when it comes to helping kids with autism – and their families – succeed. And, in Macomb County, each student’s success is a countywide commitment, Michalak adds.
Through collaborations among school districts, the county and local organizations, children on the autism spectrum are getting the support they need to thrive well into adulthood.
Read on for more about Macomb County’s autism effort.
One in 59 children have been diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In Macomb County, there are 2,158 children who have an “eligibility category” of autism spectrum disorder, Michalak says.
And within the county’s 21 school districts and public school academies, there are 19,800 individuals with physical, cognitive, emotional, learning, and other disabilities who have individualized education programs, or IEPs, he adds.
For parents of children with autism, it can be tough to know where to turn for help and how to locate key resources like speech and occupational therapy. But they don’t have to struggle in Macomb County.
“Macomb County has a strong continuum of services,” Michalak says. “There are several different resources that are offered throughout the county. We have teacher consultants for autism spectrum disorder, and they work with all of our locals, where they consult on cases of students who have autism.”
These consultants meet with the child’s team, conduct observations, come up with strategies and collaborate with the local teams in brainstorming different things they can do for children with autism.
Special classrooms, resource rooms, smaller class sizes and more intense support – such as connecting families with Michigan Rehabilitation Service and other services providers – are also special features for these students and families.
Plus, there are classroom programs and center programs for students and that range in age from preschool all the way through to age 26. MISD also provides countywide transportation for students that attend center programs.
The MISD is the lead agency on Early on and provides early intervention services to over 700 infants and toddlers birth to 3 years of age annually.
In addition, the MISD provides occupational and physical therapists, along with therapists that develop sensory diets to help students with autism and other disabilities.
Collaborations with the Macomb County Community for Mental Health, the Lakeside Regional Collaborative Network and the START Project at Grand Valley State University allow the county to provide even more resources for families and training for educators.
Through the START Project, Michalak says training is provided multiple days each year. During training, instructors pick a student (think of this like a case study) and work with START on different strategies and ideas for local students with autism.
In START, instructors also learn about things like peer-to-peer interaction, where general education students interact and work with kids on the spectrum.
Parent Advisory Committee (PAC)
Comprised of parents of children with special needs, volunteers and educators, PAC of Macomb County helps parents in local school districts obtain services for their children with autism or various other special needs.
The group provides support to the local districts and even helps with development and updates to the Macomb County Mandatory Plan for Special Education.
Parents who are looking to get answers from other parents who have children with autism, for example, can also find those resources here.
For more information, visit the Macomb Intermediate School District website.