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Texas: 3 SPED teachers see need, start autism school; enrollment at 12 kids, 2,000 with ASD in cty

Aug 3, 2018, Houston Chronicle: Woodlands school for children with autism looks to expand For the co-founders of the Texas Autism Academy — Cary Mollinedo, Jane Walls and Shelinta Perez — the school came about as a solution to the lack of suitable special education services in public schools. The three met as special education teachers at Cooper Elementary School in 2014 and developed the idea to bring specialized care for children with autism in South Montgomery County where some 2,000 children and parents whose only option up to that point was full-time intensive therapy, homeschooling or making the 45-minute one-way trips to specialized schools in West Houston…. The gap that the academy fills is a major one, Mollinedo said. For parents of non-verbal or low-functioning children, day care may not be an option, and they’re often faced with the choice of putting the children in full-time ABA therapy or homeschooling them, she said. Even the few schools that do offer similar academic and therapy services often lack longevity. Mollinedo, Walls and Perez modeled the academy’s program after a San Antonio-area charter school that has a long waiting list and doesn’t offer services past the second grade…. Autism spectrum disorder is a developmental delay condition that affects around 1 in 59 people in the United States, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. The condition impairs an individual’s ability to communicate and interact socially to varying degrees from less affect to more serious impairment. The private non-profit school offered places for children aged 4 to 10 in their first school year, with plans to expand the age range — in the 2018-2019 school year, Mollinedo said. The Texas Autism Academy plans to more than double its previous student population from 5 to 12, all the while maintaining the 2:7 teacher to student ratio that allows for personalized care. “We want to hire staff that are capable of working with children on the spectrum,” Mollinedo said. …


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