If a room is filled with 30 children with autism, Theresa Shattuck, Dallas ISD autism program supervisor, is quick to point out that the room is filled with 30 unique individuals who have their own personalities and talents.
With April being National Autism Awareness Month, Shattuck said the conversation is moving from understanding the research and basics on autism to increasing appreciation for the skills that people with autism bring to the community.
“You can’t just pigeonhole people with autism,” she said. “Each person has so much to offer, no matter the diagnosis.”
Dallas ISD has more than 1,000 students diagnosed with autism. That number doesn’t include students with high-functioning autism who do not need special education.
As part of National Autism Awareness Month, Dallas ISD is holding events that encourage parents of children with autism to network with each other, informational sessions for parents of children recently diagnosed with autism, and sensory awareness activities that show family members what it might be like to be a person with autism.
“A lot of our events, even outside of National Autism Awareness Month, are to get families with a child with autism to network and meet each other,” Shattuck said. “It’s helpful for families to know they are not alone and that an autism prognosis is not so bleak, as autism has such a broad spectrum of characteristics.
Of the Dallas ISD students diagnosed with autism, approximately 400 are in 55 self-contained classrooms designed for children with autism. The other students are in general education classrooms.
Shattuck and her team hold training for special education and general education teachers on how to best teach students with autism. As required by the Texas State Board of Education, Dallas ISD also offers in-home training for families with a child with autism.
“We are always working to support our students with autism,” Shattuck said.
Below is a calendar of National Autism Awareness Month activities happening in Dallas ISD: