Some autistic teens are very outgoing.
Photo by: Stock.xchng
An Autistic student who has achieved classroom mainstreaming success. That’s how most people would describe recent high school graduate, Travis Covert. A brief conversation with Travis rarely touches on his autism, although he was diagnosed in elementary school. Instead he talks enthusiastically about his frequent success in Forensics or Legislative Debate through the Michigan Interscholastic Forensics Association public speaking contests.
As a high school junior, Travis chose to talk about his love of NASCAR, which led to his senior year Oratory speech: The importance of supporting autistic students in schools. Travis’ persuasive speech promoted the establishment of LINKS programs in MIchigan schools and suggested joining support groups like Autism Speaks.
Travis is just one of a growing number of students helped by the LINKS program, initiated several years ago by high school special education teacher, Paul Miller. Paul learned about the LINKS concept on a school visitation day to Clarkston High School. As Paul observed this groundbreaking program, he envisioned bringing it to his own autistic students at Grand Ledge High School.
A LINK assists their autistic buddy in the classroom Photo by: Stock.xchng
The program pairs a strong academic and usually outgoing student (LINK) with an autistic buddy. The LINK attends one class with their buddy every day. There they provide help interpreting regular classroom teacher’s expectations, but most importantly the LINK assists their autistic buddy in improving social interactions with their classmates.
“The student LINK seeks to bridge the gap between their autistic buddy and their regular education classmates, especially during discussions or group projects,” said Links Program director, Paul Miller.
However, the autistic students are not the only ones benefiting from their participation in the LINKS Program. Close to 50 regular education students have been linked to students with Autistic Spectrum Disorder in the short duration of the program. As Miller elaborates, “Many of these students have discovered their career path lies in Special Education. They’ve realized how deeply these dedicated teachers are invested in lives; kids’ lives, and they want to follow their examples.”
Checkout this Examiner website weekly for more tips that help families of autistic children. The latest information on autism can also be found at The Autism News, a monthly newsletter that reports on ways to help autistic children find success in school and beyond.
A LINK often becomes a friend to their autistic buddy outside of school. Photo by: Stock.xchng