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BUSD to participate in county autism pilot

Program aims at early intervention

Parents in Barstow Unified School District will soon have a new tool to help detect early signs of autism in their students, thanks to a pilot program that the county department of education will be running with school districts, including BUSD.

According to statistics from the California Department of Education, the number of autistic students has tripled over the past five years in BUSD and doubled across San Bernardino county. In response to the steady rise in autism cases, the San Bernardino County Special Education Local Plan Area Desert/Mountain Consortium will be working with several High Desert districts, including BUSD, to pool together resources to create an early intervention autism center, according to Steven Vaughn, area director for the county’s Student Services Division for the Desert/Mountain Region.

The pilot program will target children ages two to seven, said BUSD Superintendent Susan Levine who noted that there is currently no program in the district, or in the High Desert, that specifically targets autistic students.

“The sooner you get intervention with autism, the better progress the student makes,” Levine said. The pilot program, she noted, is still in its beginning stages and it has yet to be determined where the center will be located, though Levine noted that it will not be in Barstow. However, the center, which will both assess children for early signs of autism and provide treatment programs, may have a mobile component for county staff to visit Barstow school sites.

Currently BUSD students with autism usually have individual education plans, which specify whether they attend special education classes or mainstream programs. Autism can be particularly challenging, Levine noted, because some forms, like Asperger’s Syndrome, affect a student’s social and emotional behavior.

“There’s no one-size-fits-all plan for students with special needs,” she said.

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Rising number of autism cases

Barstow Unified School District
2008-09: 25 students.
2007-08: 21 students.
2006-07: 15 students.
2005-06: 12 students.
2004-05: 8 students.

San Bernardino County
2008-09: 2,275 students.
2007-08: 1,954 students.
2006-07: 1,602 students.
2005-06: 1,416 students.
2004-05: 1,149 students.

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