School official addresses topic of education of autistic students
by Larry Chowning
During public comment at a Middlesex County School Board meeting on Monday, May 6, Rev. Tyrone Young, president of the Middlesex Chapter of the NAACP asked school officials to “do whatever they can” to help parents who have children with autism.
“I know you are doing the best you can, but I hope you will strive to do even more for these children and their parents,” said Rev. Young.
The school system’s director of exceptional education and federal programs, Lora Glass, was providing a special education report on funding when school board member Jim Goforth asked her to “reflect” on the current program being used to educate children with autism in the school system.
Glass said that statistically the number of autistic children in Middlesex schools system is “so tiny, so, so tiny. I think the community is getting the impression that we are loading up buses and shipping them away and that’s simply not true.”
She said the school system cannot offer services “based on cost,” but can look at where and how to best serve these students. The county drives at least one child with autism to the Richmond area for classes, and others go to special programs in Gloucester County.
She noted that if the school system had to provide a classroom for these students that some would be the only students in the class. When sent to classrooms outside the county, “they also get a better qualified and experienced staff,” she said.
Glass said the decision as to how and where students are taught is decided in conjunction with parents. “I’m a little bit surprised that I’m hearing some people want them served elsewhere,” she said. “We are quite responsible.”
Goforth thanked Glass for her comments.