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Autism program serves students in district

Students with autism in the Tea Area district now have a better learning experience.

Rather than sending students to other facilities outside of the district, many autistic students will be able to stay in Tea thanks to a new program that started in January. Special education director Jody Taylor and six others participated in a three-day training over Christmas break.

Luke Comeau, an autism consultant, came to Tea to train staff. He has provided them with materials and ideas and has stopped in to check on the program’s progress.

“He’s just been wonderful to work with. We’ve had a good relationship with him as well and we’re lucky to have him on board,” Taylor said.

Taylor came to the district five years ago. At that time, the district was much smaller. As the district grew, she began to plan for servicing autistic students within the district rather than sending them to facilities in the Sioux Falls area. They also looked at their life skills program and have improved that in the last couple of years.

“As we grow we’re going to need an autism program just with the number of kids with autism seems to be growing and then to be financially responsible as well, just thinking that we need to keep these kids within our district not only to save money, but the whole idea behind least restrictive environment,” Taylor said. “It’s less restrictive to have the students within the district rather than having them in a day school or even a residential program out of district. We want to make sure that we’re doing all that we can to service those kids with autism and with those needs.”

With the construction of Frontier Elementary, the district had more room to service the children.

The two students they currently have in the program have adapted well to their new surroundings at Frontier. They have independent work stations, a visual schedule, incentive centers and sensory centers.

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