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Local families, educators learn about Back to School Strategies for those dealing with ASD

By Staff | Aug 10, 2018

SHEPHERDSTOWN — One in 59 children are on the autism spectrum, according to an April 26, 2018 report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The number of students diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder has risen about 30 percent in two years, making it necessary for more autism-related educational opportunities to be offered to educators and families with autistic children.

On Saturday, Shepherd University banded together with the West Virginia Autism Training Center at Marshall University and Eastern Panhandle Indigo Children to offer a two-hour Back to School Strategies workshop, to help prepare autistic children, their families and their educators to have a successful school year.

“It’s all about the students — that’s the main thing,” said Shepherd University Assistant Provost for Academic Community Outreach Virginia Hicks. Hicks said the seven stations at the workshop were designed to teach effective strategies to reduce stress and help with autistic students’ transitions back to school.

Manning the “All About Me” station with two of her interns, WVU Medicine’s Assistant Professor of Behavior Medicine Jocelyn Stokes said she hoped parents would take advantage of the resources and strategies offered at the event.

“All of these stations here can be really helpful, because they’re helping parents figure out what their children like and need help with,” Stokes said, mentioning she often conducts evaluations to diagnose those with ASD.

According to Hicks, many people misunderstand the educational limitations of those with ASD.

“With the autism spectrum, many people don’t think autistic students can handle college, but these students are amazing what they can study when they enter college,” Hicks said, mentioning Shepherd University is trying to educate local educators and the community about ASD.

Although “Back to School Strategies” was the first community workshop of its kind offered in the Eastern Panhandle, this was the third WVATC-led workshop on Shepherd campus. Two workshops were held last fall — one for Shepherd staff and faculty and the other for student leaders — to help support Shepherd students on the autism spectrum.

According to WVATC Eastern Panhandle director and event coordinator Tara Davis, those with ASD often exhibit quirks, resulting from their neurodevelopmental disorder. The public sometimes assume autistic students are incapable of successfully handling higher education because of their quirks, but higher-functioning students on the spectrum are often extremely intelligent and capable of having successful careers, with the right guidance from parents and educators.

“A lot of times, we think that everybody should be the same, and people on the spectrum are not. Their little quirks are necessary for them, and we need to be mindful and respectful of that,” Davis said, mentioning “Back to School Strategies” was specifically focused on children ages five to 12, although anyone was welcome to attend the free event, held at the Shepherd University Amphitheater.

To learn more about WVATC, visit www.marshall.edu/atc or call 304-696-2332.