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Scecina marks Autism Awareness Month with special announcement

Scecina students took part in a special assembly on April 29 when the school announced a new pilot program that expands services and classes for students who are high functioning on the autism spectrum.

By Beth Murphy

Scecina Memorial High School staff and students gathered for a special event on Friday April 29 as the school announced the expansion of a program to serve more of the diverse and gifted students in our community.

For the 2016-17 school year, Scecina will introduce a new pilot program for students who are high functioning on the autism spectrum. For the first year, about five to 10 students will be accepted into the program.

Scecina students on April 29 dressed in blue to mark Autism Awareness Month and gathered in the gym for an assembly.  Teachers and staff wore ribbons with the puzzle design to support autism awareness, and students held signs that said: “Together we can make a better world for those with autism.”

When Principal John Hegarty asked how many students knew someone with autism, most of the hands went up. “I was really blown away by the fact that so many knew people who are on the autism spectrum,” he said.

Scecina's pilot program is called CREST, which stands for Crusaders Reaching Educational and Social Success Together.

CREST will fill a need for autism education as more children are being diagnosed with autism. Scecina administrators believe several children within the Archdiocesan community could benefit from this new program.

Students in this program will be able to receive the same quality education that all Scecina students receive, leading to their high school diploma in preparation for career and college. This program initially will serve a class of no more than 10 students in ninth and 10th grades who have been diagnosed on the autism spectrum.

“This opportunity is one that will help us fulfill our mission as a Catholic preparatory school for college and for life,” said Scecina President Joe Therber. “We look forward to welcoming new students who want to grow even further in their academic abilities and life skills.”

“We accept students with autism and we need to have people and practices in place to best serve them,” said Mr. Hegarty. “I believe there are families who are not choosing Catholic schools as they feel we do not have programs or the resources to serve them.”

The students with autism who have attended Scecina for four years have all graduated, and more than 80 percent have gone on to attend a four-year university, Mr. Hegarty said. “We predict even greater four-year college attendance for graduates of the CREST program,” he added.

For many years, Scecina already has been serving students with autism through the Learning Differences program and in general classes. While that will continue, CREST will allow Scecina to better focus on the different learning styles and needs of these children, as well as their socialization skills.

With Scecina’s CREST program, these young people will be able to receive additional attention to their accommodations, specific after-school tutoring and after-school meeting time with parents. Each student would receive a computer equipped to serve their unique needs.

The CREST social skills class will include peer-to-peer interaction as well as life skills that autistic students or students with Asperger’s syndrome often struggle with. This would include things such as shopping, driving, putting gas in a car and many other daily activities in which the individual student may need help. The students also will have extra support in their general education classes, especially math and English.

Scecina is committed to adapting our programs to serve the community and also to adhere to our mission of serving our diverse and gifted community. In recent years Scecina also has increased the number of Advanced Placement courses; added dual-credit classes; partnered with a student foreign exchange program; and offered online courses as well as classes for students to whom English is a second language.

4 comments (Add your own)

1. Dan Bruno wrote:
Proud of Scecina for growing in this very important area.

Sat, April 30, 2016 @ 8:48 PM

2. Dawn Till Fitzgerald wrote:
As the parent of a special needs child, one who is classified with Asperger's along with several other "alphabet-soup label" diagnoses, this touches me to see that Scecina realizes the importance of the full-education of students who are challenged in some way. I remember the special need students while I was a student there, and the love and positive attitude they brought to school each day. It's good that SMHS is expanding on this need.

Mon, May 9, 2016 @ 5:08 PM

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