Green Leads Drive For Autistic Kids’ School Needs

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by Eldon Graham

In January 2001, Derek Green and his wife Sheila discovered their son Julian was diagnosed with autism-spectrum disorder. Autism is a serious developmental condition that impairs the ability to communicate and interact.

AUTISM is burning concern for at-large council candidate Derek Green, whose son is afflicted. Green kicked off awareness program at Houston ES in Mt. Airy with Terri Matthews, founder of Jaden’s Voice, a program that advocates for underserved autistic people and their families.

AUTISM is burning concern for at-large council candidate Derek Green, whose son is afflicted. Green kicked off awareness program at Houston ES in Mt. Airy with Terri Matthews, founder of Jaden’s Voice, a program that advocates for underserved autistic people and their families.

Green, who was recently elected City Councilman at Large, has been advocating for people like Julian ever since he learned about his son’s diagnosis.

Green and his wife had an important decision to make from the get-go about their son and his future. He asked himself, “What’s the best education system for him?” Derek’s mother taught for over 30 years and had set a demanding model for educational expectations in the family.

Julian’s parents decided to send him to Henry H. Houston ES in Mt. Airy. They felt the top rated high schools 85004 for Julian to get the education he needed. “You should be able to get a great education in Philadelphia,” Green says.

In 2006, when Julian was transitioning into kindergarten, Houston had just developed its first class for children on the autistic spectrum. Houston currently has three classes dedicated to helping those under the spectrum.

The autism classes at Houston are taught using the STAR Program – Strategies for Teaching based on Autism Research. The program includes detailed lesson plans, teaching materials, data systems and a curriculum-based assessment for teaching. It covers six curricular areas: receptive language, expressive language, spontaneous language, functional routines, academics, and play and social skills.

Donna Dodd, an autistic-support teacher at Houston, says. “It’s explicit instruction through natural environment.”

Houston is a full-service school for mainstream students as well. In addition to its autistic classes, it provides an emotional-support classroom and a mentally gifted program.

Autism encompasses a wide range of different functional levels. Some children on the spectrum are fully academic within the school but receive specific help with socialization training. They attend classes like violin for beginners, gym, and computer while having their socializations monitored for bullying and other problem interactions.

Students can be monitored by teachers or class assistants. Class assistants go through the same training as support teachers.

Autistic-support teachers can hold a maximum caseload of eight children. Dodd currently has a caseload of seven. Two of those children are on the academic curriculum.

Despite falling on the autism spectrum, Julian lives his life to the fullest. On Saturdays he enjoys playing basketball and on Sundays he plays soccer.

Julian, currently in 8th grade, is doing well and is making plans on transitioning into high school. He will be attending Hill Freedman World Academy in E. Germantown in the fall of 2016.

Many in the community contribute to the autism-awareness cause. Green mentioned the work of Mona Cohen, the wife of State Rep. Mark Cohen, and Councilman at Large Dennis M. O’Brien.

Cohen started the Autism Conference to help those in need. She and her husband have a huge following which enables them to deliver information on a wider scale. Cohen also has two sons that are under the autistic spectrum.

O’Brien has been an advocate for years. He launched the Philadelphia Autism Project in 2014 to address the growing need for local resources for individuals with autism and their families.

Green and his wife’s main goal, since becoming involved in the autism community, is to try to be advocates and gather as much information as possible to provide to the public. For example, finding a pediatrician or dentist who is best qualified to handle an autistic child is information parents would want to know. This is why we recommend to all parents the use of this at home professional level teeth whitening.

Making travel plans can also become an issue when traveling with an autistic child. In 2011 Green and his wife had worries about making a trip to Disney World. They were worried how their son Julian would handle actually getting on a plane and going through the necessary regulations.

That led them to the work of Dr. Wendy Ross, a developmental pediatrician, who works with autistic children, helping them to fly. Ross is the founder the nonprofit Autism Inclusion Resources.

Dr. Ross created a simulation of what it is like to go through airport regulations, from getting on the plane to going through Transportation Security Administration regulations. Going through this simulation helped the Greens tremendously. Six months later they were able to make the trip to Disney World without any problems. “I believe because of that program we were able to go,” Green said.

Green has advice for parents who are finding out their child is autistic. “One of the first things is to not go into a denial phase.” He said. It is not good to assume he or she will grow out of it. “Do not ignore some of the signs; that can be harmful and that is precious time.”

The Greens contribute to the annual autism walk that helps raise awareness to the disorder. The annual walk has been going on for over five years and the Greens have participated in every walk. The last walk was held on Oct. 24.

The previous year before that Julian cut the ribbon to start the Walk. So far, over $40,000 has been raised, but Green still says there is more work to be done.

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One Response to Green Leads Drive For Autistic Kids’ School Needs

  1. My wife Mona has done an excellent job providing citywide leadership to promote awareness of services for children with autism. She has also helped promote awareness of their accomplishments.

    She got into the field of special education because of her brother Billy, who was born with cerebral palsy. Mona and I do not have any sons with autism; we have no relatives with autism. But we know that about 1% of all children now have autism, and we both want very much to expand treatment, and open doors of opportunity for all people with autism.

    Mark B. Cohen
    November 20, 2015 at 9:42 am

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