Improvement of the Catchment SOL Autism Program at Midlothian High School Elizabeth Baber The Catchment SOL Autism Program was set up at Midlothian High School for the 2014-2015 school year. Great success was found with the implementation of this program in to a high school setting but some needed improvements were noted. Purpose: The purpose of the SOL Autism Catchment program is to provide students with high functioning autism a center base in school. Teachers and staff are trained in research based autism strategies to help aide these students daily. The program provides a structural setting for students to learn and coping strategies to help students make it through their day. Current Program: Each of these students attends a general education classes, electives, one study skills class and one coping skills class. The coping skills class is provided during the 1st period of the day. Many of the students have one on one aides that attend each of their classes with them. There are two exceptional education teachers that manage the cases of all of the students involved in the Catchment SOL Autism Program. The current program was approved to house 20 students to 2 exceptional education teachers (10:1). Recommended Changes: English Fundamentals Class (Elective): This class would be offered as an elective choice to those students who are in risk of not passing the English SOL and/or not passing English 9 and/or 10 classes. The English teacher and teacher of this course would coordinate materials so that the English Fundamentals Class teacher would re-teach lessons during this course. This class would also allow extra time for the preparation of students for the SOL at the end of the 10th grade curriculum. This class would mirror the set-up of the Read 180 class. A computer station (to practice SOL questions), a reading station (to stay on top of the reading for English class and practice main idea concepts), a homework station (Aides would help and this station could be combined with the reading station if that is the only homework goal) and a writing station (teachers collaborate with students to review written concepts and expectations of the English curriculum). Each station would last 20 minutes with 10 minutes for warm-up and cool down. This is an ENGLISH only class not a homework class. If students chose this course, they would most likely need another study skills class to complete their other homework. Math Fundamentals Class (Elective): The majority of the Catchment SOL Autism students will be enrolled in Algebra I for the 2015-2016 school year and will struggle with the class. This class’s format would be the same as the English Fundamentals format with a goal of success in Algebra I. Transition Skills/Life Skills Class: This elective class would be offered to Exceptional Education Juniors. This class would offer assistance with students setting up their own bank accounts, learning to exercise properly and regularly, learning how to shop for themselves, be able to access public transportation, prepare them for interviews, learn how to create meals, locate resources after they graduate, among other things. In addition field trips and day trips would be set up to explore the transition to life outside of school. Coping/Study Skills for incoming 9th graders: Change the time of this class period from 1st period. The 9th grade students showed great difficulty with motivation at this time of the day and with a shortened period of only 50 minutes students were unable to delve deeply into their coping and study skills. By having the students attend at least one academic class and then attending coping/study skills, students will have already set the tone for their day in more enriching environments. Coping/Study Skills for 10th graders: This class would be split based on student achievement and work completion. The higher achieving sophomores could have their class during the 1st period but the lower level students would need a full period later in the day. Coping/Study Skills 11th graders: Most of these students are high achieving and could have study skills at any point in the day. Recommended Professional Development During the first year additions of the fundamental classes, in house professional development would be mandatory for all teachers and special education aides participating in the program. The professional development would also be open to teachers interested in serving in these roles in the future. In this professional development, the autism coordinators would collaborate with the special education aides and teachers to determine the types of information that would be covered in the fundamentals class. The format for how information and feedback should be shared throughout the year would also be determined. At the end of the school year all teachers, aides and autism coordinators involved in the fundamental classes would be asked to take a closeout survey to determine the effectiveness of the program and ways in which to improve in the future. Review of Research The implementation of any program such as the Catchment SOL Autism program requires the combined efforts of administrators, highly qualified exceptional education teachers, advocates, parents and students. Together a comprehensive education program can be designed to meet not only the curricular needs of the students but also their social, emotional and behavioral needs (Mesibov & Shea, 2006). By creating an environment in which high functioning autism students attended general education courses under the umbrella of an always available safe space, students with high functioning autism are granted access to an equal education to that of a student without autism (Simpson, 2005). When designing the program for the high function autism students, it is imperative that consideration be given to each student and their place on the autism spectrum. By doing such parents and teachers can help to design a schedule in which the student is provided the appropriate supports for success. Support may be provided in terms of emotional support, a coping class, an educational support, a study skills class, or in the form of an aide. Each students schedule should then be targeted to provide the best possible outcomes (Miles et al, 2007). The most critical issues for autism students do not stem from their curricular education but from their ability to interact with others in social situations, develop independence, and possess the skills to become gainfully employed (Wehman et al, 2014). A Catchment SOL Autism program allows students with high functioning autism the opportunity to learn in a general education classroom, have a support base with two highly qualified exceptional education teachers, and transition more easily into the world of employment and higher education. For many individuals with autism the transition to adulthood can be quite difficult. Implementation of a transition/life skills class helps to reduce anxiety and increases chances of a successful future (Wehman et al, 2014). Works Cited Mesibov, G. B., & Shea, V. (2006). Evidence-based practice, autism and the TEACCH program. Autism developmental disorder. 40 (5): 570-9. Myles, B., Grossman, B., Aspy, R., Henry, S. & A. Coffin. (2007). Planning a comprehensive program for students with autism spectrum disorders using evidence-based practices. Education and training in developmental disabilities. 42 (4): 398-409. Simpson, R. (2005). Evidence-based practices and students with autism spectrum disorders. Focus on autism and other developmental disabilities 20 (3): 140-149. Wehman, P., Schall, C., Carr, S. Targett, P., West, M., & G. Cifu.(2014) Transition from school to adulthood for youth with autism spectrum disorder: what we know and what we need to know. Journal of disability policy studies. 25: 30-40.