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NAVIGATING NEW NORMS – Autism Academy Hires Recent Graduates

By Anthony KaDarrell Thigpen

AUTISM – The Autism Academy for Education and Development (AAED) is trailblazing uncharted territory to increase successful post-graduate outcomes. Two of the school’s newest employees assisting in classrooms are recent AAED graduates.

Transition coordinator Karen Durst is helping the school to navigate new pilot programs that best prepare students with autism for life after school. A core team of 10 members strategically focuses on academics, work-based learning, essential skills, vocational services, speech therapy and transition.

Durst said, “The program focuses on the Arizona Work-based Learning levels with 4 pathways embedded within each level focusing on 7 domain areas and 6 career clusters.”

Educators at AAED place added emphasis on maneuvering pathways from school to work – and their beliefs are supported by their actions. Successfully steering students in work-based learning requires career awareness, exploration, preparation and application.

The AAED transition curriculum is unique in that is challenges students starting at the 5th grade level. Durst understands that students with autism will take different paths to achieve their highest potential – all students are on different levels of the autism spectrum. The transition options include academic, vocational, functional vocational, and essential skills.

AAED owner Laura Newcomb, executive director Shannon Mitchell, and Durst worked together to create a matchless master plan with checkpoints and career clusters. AAED transition plan covers a large range of territory.

Students benefit from self-awareness, interpersonal, self-advocacy, independence, financial literacy, employment skills, daily living skills, technology skills, college and career options.

Parents of children with autism who are interested in the most elite education and transition program should contact AAED for more curriculum details. AAED is preparing students to set sail into the future with all the resources needed to maximize their fullest potential.

New transition strategies are revealing hope on the horizon for life after high school at AAED.