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PENNSYLVANIA: Schools chief opposes charter school for autistic children

special academic needsA Lehigh County group outlined a plan to put a charter school for children with autism in the former Longswamp Elementary School at a recent public hearing in Brandywine Heights High School.

The Pennsylvania Autism Charter School, which would have about 50 students, would be in operation for the 2014-15 school year, organizers said.

Annette Hickey of Bethlehem, founder, said the school’s curriculum would be based on the principles of Maria Montessori, the Italian educator who pioneered early childhood education.

“Ours would be the only school in the United States to use the Montessori method in educating children with autism,” said Hickey, who teaches in an Allentown arts academy.

Dr. Thomas Lubben, a Northampton County educational consultant, testified in favor of establishing the charter school.

It would draw its students, he said, from eastern Berks and western Lehigh County school districts. In three years, he predicted, the school would have about 80 students.

Under state law, charter schools have to be approved by a local school board.

Brandywine Solicitor John M. Stott said the school board has 45 days to act on the charter school application. If it’s turned down, the applicants can appeal the decision with the state Department Of Education.

Superintendent Andrew Potteiger questioned the advisability of establishing a charter school in the Longswamp building.

“There is little evidence of success in using the Montessori method to teach children with autism,” he said. “We oppose the application.”

Board members questioned whether Longswamp could pass current building code standards.

An engineering study conducted in 2011 showed the building needed an estimated $2.6 million in repairs.

Not wanting to incur the expense, the school board voted to close Longswamp. Subsequently, it was sold for $121,000 to a Lehigh County developer.

Source: ReadingEagle.com – by Ron Devlin

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One comment on “PENNSYLVANIA: Schools chief opposes charter school for autistic children

  1. Lori
    September 10, 2013

    I have a son who is autistic and he went to a Montessori school for 1 year. I can say without a doubt this is the kind of school Autistic children need! Autistic children learn differently, they are tactile and have the need to touch things and understand learning through prop’s and individualized attention. Autistic children have a tendency to become easily overwhelmed in large class situations. Montessori provides small class and individualized attention and a learning pace based on the students ability. I could not afford the tuition for the following year and had to place him in a public school.

    So on to a public school we went…I met with the IEP team including the principal and expressed my concerns about starting my son in a regular class with 26 students and 1 teach. They stated he needed a new IEP which could take a lond as 3 month! I gave them his detailed medical reports that I had from all previous documents from hospitals, all kinds of various doctors, including speech), they said school policy is this… “They themselves have to do there own IEP and that it could take up to 3 months and while attending school he would be put in a regular class with 26 other children and 1 teacher! I said why don’t you place him in a contained class to start since all of these present and past documents included and IEP’s from the past states stated he did qualify for services a he was placed accordingly. This would save 3 months of catch up for him not being in the right classes. And if there IEP (the new school) said differently (which I knew It wouldn’t) BUT NOPE they said school policy states they need to do their own testing which could take up to 3 MONTHS.

    So, they put him in a class of 26 students, 1 teacher no lunch accommodations for his sensory issues and no alternative for recess. SO, What do you think happened? Well, on the the 5 day of his regular class he lost it. By the time he got home he was suicidal, angry, wanting to hurt something or someone. He was uncontrollable. He held is anger until he got home, the tears starting, cursing throwing threatening. I could do nothing now, I need to keep him safe and my daughter. By the way this happened every time he came home the five days he did attend. He would say I am so overwhelmed I cant do this anymore, I WANT TO DIE!

    With the growing number of students diagnosed on a daily basis we better do something quick to help their creative minds and accommodate their needs. This disorder is a growing near epidemic proportions. We are already drastically behind and teachers are for the most part not educated in the Autism spectrum.

    We need teachers that understand autism! I asked a teacher once, ” can you tell my son is autistic?” She flatly stated, he looks my into my eyes when we are talking, so no, he does not have Autism. Autism comes in many forms it is a “spectrum” not eye contact or no eye contact! She failed to mention anything about his social skills etiquette and his speech is barely audible. My son is 10 and acts like a 4 1/2 year old.
    Lets get together and start some affordable or state run schools for
    AMAZING AUTISTIC STUDENTS TODAY!”
    1in 88 and growing exponentially

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This entry was posted on September 5, 2013 by in Charter Schools, Pennsylvania and tagged , .

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