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Texoma Autism & Behavioral Intervention school winds down the first year of class and look forward to the years to come

The Daily Ardmoreite - 5/2/2019

May 01-- May 1--It's been a successful first year at Texoma Autism and Behavioral Intervention School in Marietta. This year they have served almost a dozen children, and because of the skills they learned at TABI, four students have been able to return to public school classrooms.

The secret to TABI's success is the personalized learning and behavioral programs each child receives. Executive Director Rowlena Duncan shared an old saying about autism.

"If you've met one person with autism, then you've met one person with autism," Duncan said. That's because they are all so different."

Because every autistic child has different needs and responds to different reinforcements, the school offers numerous kinds of therapy. They use the kind that seems to be working the best, but switch it up when needed.

"We do response training, floor time, cognitive behavioral therapy, just to name a few," Duncan said. "There are so many kinds of therapy out there we just pick and choose what's working best with each particular child."

Duncan said the school does not want to destroy the things that make a child unique. Instead, their goal is to work on the things that will allow the child to fit in better with the rest of society.

She then shared the story of a child that has returned to public school.

"(Before coming to TABI) he would aggress on his teachers and would not be able to sit in class, which is kind of typical for our students," Duncan said. "He would also not do his school work."

After a few months of working at TABI he went back to public school. TABI, the public school and his mother all worked together on a plan to insure his success. When he went back, the aggression was gone and he was doing a much better job of sitting in class. Unfortunately he still wasn't completing his school work.

"So we all got together and tried a new plan," Duncan said. "Many of the schools take away recess as a punishment, but our kids need that outlet for their energy. So now, as long as he gets all of his work done in school, then it's a party! His mom will take him to Sonic or for another treat at the end of the day. If he has not done all his school work, then he goes straight home and gets to work on his school work from the day."

Duncan said this has really made a difference with the child, and he is now able to spend the entire school day with his peers.

This summer, TABI will offer summer school to help their students maintain the skills they developed over the course of the year. Duncan said summer school will also help the students maintain a schedule.

"Free time is not a friend to our students. Sometimes they don't realize it, but they actually crave structure," Duncan said. "When they have it they are so much happier and relaxed."

Duncan said the summer school course will last 10 weeks and there will also be some neurotypical children who will be attending the summer school as well.

"Our children need the peer modeling," Duncan said. "Positive peer pressure is good, and it helps the students learn by example."

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