Grant to benefit TISD's autistic kids
This artist’s rendering provides a look at a Sensory Motor Lab that will be built at Jefferson Elementary with a $422,500 grant from the Texas Education Agency. The lab and a classroom that will be converted into a simulated home environment will be used to teach daily living skills to students with autism. Up to 120 students will benefit from the facilities.
By DAVID STONE, Our Town Temple
Jefferson Elementary School will soon be home to a one-of-a-kind learning experience for students with autism.
A two-year, $422,500 grant from the Texas Education Agency will allow Jefferson to create a state-of-the-art sensory motor lab and redesign a classroom into a simulated home environment to teach daily living skills.
“We were very excited to find out that we received the grant,” said Pamela Demny, Jefferson principal. “It’s been a big day here. We look at this grant as a way to support the community as well as our students. The more we can develop our student’s skills, the more likely they are to become a part of the community.
The grant also provides money to purchase sensory equipment for use outside. The additions will allow the school to implement an innovative model of autism programming.
The new programming will serve nearly 120 Temple students.
According to Temple ISD spokesman Jon Wallin, the multisensory lab will be the first of its kind in the US and will allow students to independently control their sensory experience.
According to Wallin, teachers would also be able to include classroom learning in the multisensory room to allow students with autism to use all of their senses while learning educational content.
The simulated home environment classroom would include a simulated kitchen, bedroom, laundry room and living area with visual supports to help students complete tasks. The home environment room will also be used to host parent meetings, so parents can use similar visual supports in their own homes to help build a school-to-home connection.
“I am very proud of our administrators and staff for searching out ways to fund innovative programs and learning opportunities for our students,” said Dr. Bobby Ott, TISD superintendent. “TISD works hard to identify ways to educate and serve the students in all of our special programs and receiving this grant is another example of the way our people come together to make those opportunities happen.”
In addition, Jefferson will partner with Baylor University to host professional development for staff members and training for parents of students with disabilities. The school also plans to host monthly sensory nights to help educate parents on techniques to develop each student’s sensory and social interactions.
“As this program grows, we hope the community sees the importance of making sure everyone is included and there is a place for everybody, Demny said. “Schools and parents also need to work closely together, and this will give our parents another way to ask some questions and ask for some support.”
The grant will fund the design, development and equipping of the multisensory room and the simulated home environment classroom. It will also help pay for professional development of staff, paraprofessionals and administrators working with the program.
That additional training will allow Jefferson’s program to collaborate with students and programs at the middle schools and high school.
MONDAY | MAY 9, 2022
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