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Cottonwood, AZ: New autism program aims to integrate students

Oct 10, 2019, Verde Valley (AZ) Journal: COCSD’s new Rise program teaches autistic kids http://www.journalaz.com/news/education/52835-cocsd-s-new-rise-program-teaches-autistic-kids.html …The realignment left the school district with an empty campus where CES used to be, which has since been renamed Cottonwood Educational Services, and serves as the home for numerous special education programs at the district, including Bright Bears, Menta and Bridgeway. The district hopes that a consolidated space for all of these programs will allow for greater integration among them and the district’s main schools. “It really allows greater flexibility to increase the supports that we needed for the children we serve,” COCSD Superintendent Steve King said. “We concentrate therapy services — occupational therapists, physical therapists, speech pathologists, school psychologists — they’re all housed there now. So there’s a concentration of those services as well as providing more efficiencies in how we provide those services.” In addition to bringing all these programs together, this year COCSD welcomed a whole new program focused on autistic students to the CES campus. … In its first year, Rise has 29 students aged 6 through 22, brought in from all the local school districts in the area, … Rise has nearly as many staff members as students, with two certified special education teachers [the program is seeking more] and 10 of the students assigned a 1-on-1 staff member to handle their high level of individual needs, and the remaining students assigned to a caregiver in groups of 2-to-1 or 3-to-1. … The individual support needs of students in Rise can vary greatly, with some of the students being almost completely nonverbal, and others that could pass for neuro-typical. For some of the students, staff have to work hard to keep them calm in moments of overstimulation, keeping lights off, helping with needs for physical contact, and sometimes providing earmuffs to limit sound overstimulation…. “With the physical location of CES, the goal of all that we’re doing here, the bigger picture, is the reintegration of these kids as much as possible into general population,” King said. The school district is working on ways that students can spend time within the other schools, instead of keeping them purely separate. “We want to integrate them as much as we can because that’s life. We have that ability more now because CES is connected to CCS.”…