"We try to teach the parents and the teachers how to effectively manage the kid's behaviors," says Shamsi Sadeghzadeh, the director of outreach services at Grafton Integrated Health Network. "What we have learned is that the number one reason that the kids on the spectrum of autism are excluded from the community, or from regular education, is because of their challenging behaviors."
The Grafton staff finds that, often times, autistic children who misbehave are punished. So, they are training teachers and parents to teach appropriate behaviors to replace bad ones, rather than simply giving a punishment.
"There is a tendency to label that behavior as a bad behavior and label the child as bad child," says Sadeghzadeh. "Usually, what is prescribed for a bad child with bad behavior is punishment. We believe strongly that punishment is not the answer."
Many of the teachers are learning to identify autism in the early developmental stages. The organizers point out that autism does not end or go away. It continues to affect students well into high school and adulthood.
"High school is definitely
different," says Chuck Ashby, the autism teacher at
"Academically they are doing very well. But, socially they are failing. They are failing miserably," Sadeghzadeh says. "Not being accepted by the group, by your peers, can really have a very devastating impact on how you feel about yourself."
The common theme is that autism is nothing to be ashamed of.
"We don't want to stigmatize someone," Sadeghzadeh says. "We don't want to put a label on someone, but it's good to teach the little kids how to more effectively support this child. Kids can be a huge support when they know how to interact."
training is being offered to teachers throughout the