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Burlington Elementary recognized for its work with autistic students

Published 12:00am Sunday, April 14, 2013

BURLINGTON —Burlington Elementary School staff were honored Thursday for their work with students with disabilities, specifically those with autism.

The Ohio Coalition for the Education of Children With Disabilities recognized the work of Principal Mylissa Bentley, teachers and staff during a small ceremony. Kim Dennison, parent advocate for the coalition, said what the school has done is truly amazing.

“They have gone above and beyond,” Dennison said. “Some of the families I’ve had the opportunity to work with this school year have shown tremendous growth academically and socially.”

One of the things Dennison credits to Burlington’s success was the creation of the “A-Team,” a group for those diagnosed with autism to get together and learn in a way that works best for them.

Bentley said she began the group because all of these students are capable of learning, and deserve to be taught in a way that works for them.

“When you go to college to be an educator they teach you about kids with special needs,” Bentley said. “They teach you different practices, but the best teacher is the actual child. We have learned our own best practices by working with them.”

Bentley said the A-Team socializes by playing games and participating in various activities. She said they sometimes go outside during recess to give the children the opportunity to socialize with others in a more controlled outdoor environment. Lack of social skills, or lessened ability to pick up on social cues, is a symptom of autism, and Bentley said it is important for the kids to be as comfortable as they can be in social situations.

The A-Team also helps the students by instilling a sense of pride, Bentley said. Devon Stanley, member of the A-Team and who was honored during Thursday’s event, had no trouble backing Bentley up.

“It’s this thing with kids with disabilities, we have a lot of fun,” Devon, who is diagnosed with Asperger syndrome, said. “We do so much stuff I can’t remember it all.”

Devon has not always had the easiest time in school, but things have turned around the past couple of years, Mitch Stanley, Devon’s father said. Once Bentley took control, Stanley said she set the attitude for the whole school and he is so grateful for all they have done for his son.

Mitch Stanley said raising awareness is important, and Burlington has done a great job in doing that. Autism is not a matter of intelligence, and the community needs to know that.

“Devon is on the high end of the spectrum, and that’s actually been a problem in the past,” Stanley said. “The teachers see how intelligent he is, but don’t understand there are little tasks he can’t do. Mrs. Bentley has been on top of this from the start, but I think it is finally hitting home now that they really understand what we have been dealt and are working hard to make it easier.”

Devon moves to middle school next year, and while Stanley said he is worried, he has seen how much the school is trying to make the transition easier. He said Devon’s teachers have gone to South Point Middle School to meet with his future teaches to let them know what to expect, and what they have learned works with helping Devon learn.

The Centers for Disease Control estimates one in 88 children in the United States have been identified as having an autism spectrum disorder. Bentley said Burlington falls within that ratio. She said she and her faculty and staff recognize students with autism are part of the school and they will always strive to meet the challenge.


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