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Top ways schools provide autism inclusion

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Learning can be difficult, especially for those with disabilities, but autism memoir author Monica Holloway, of Cowboy & Wills [Simon & Schuster], overcame this adversity with her son with the help of autism-friendly schools, programs and educators.

My family and I have witnessed how schools have evolved over time, offering much more teacher-specific autism education and training, presenting learning materials in ways that our kids can process information and attending to sensory needs of our kids. It is very encouraging to see inclusion for our kids continue to emerge over time, says Holloway.

Qualities that Holloway has found in autism-friendly schools include:

Enthusiasm about autism: Trained, professional educators and staff understand the characteristics of autism and enjoy pursuing strategies to help kids reach the best success.

Inclusion: Inclusion and socialization of those with special needs can promote good understanding and acceptance for all involved. All children in the academic setting acquire new and desired qualities through inclusion, not just the child with special needs.

Personalization: No two children are the same. Schools with special education programs know that each child learns differently, with his or her own individual needs, strengths and challenges.

Team approach: Parents and professionals work together towards goals and have open lines of communication, including collaboratively sharing progress at home and in school.

Routine: Knowing that many children with autism need or like to follow a routine, many special education programs establish clear timelines for students’ activities and transitions.

Visuals: Visuals can be essential for those with autism, for understanding, learning and expression. Autism-friendly classrooms often use many visuals for schedules, labeling of items, and for learning words and letters.

Reinforcement: Those with autism benefit from positive reinforcement to encourage the desired behaviors. When in a classroom setting, reward with praise or prizes, or delayed gratification with star or sticker charts provide motivation and increase chances of the behavior or action happening again in the future.

Empowering: Autism-friendly schools empower our children to learn, express themselves, to be independent and lead fulfilling lives.

Holloway invites readers to share an autism-friendly school, special education program or school-experience to the Cowboy & Wills Facebook page.

Monica Holloway is the bestselling author of Cowboy & Wills, a Mother's Choice Award's Gold recipient, and the critically-acclaimed author of the memoir Driving With Dead People. Holloway lives with her son and husband in California.

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