by ADN

November 9, 2014

 school childrenCastro Valley CA – Castro Valley Unified is short on Special Education teachers, leaving some students on the spectrum with substitute teachers still in training. The growing demand for more special education teachers is due to not only having better tools to diagnose autism, but a rise in autism over all. Proctor special education teacher Molly Burley told Contra Costa Times that when she started teaching 15 years ago, one child in 1,000 was on the autism spectrum.

Now autism is diagnosed in one in 88 children. This reality concerns Castro Valley Unified parent Helen Esquivel who has two sons on the spectrum Jeffery, 6, and Jesse, 8. Jesse was fortunate enough to have had a steady and attentive teacher. Before he went to school he had trouble speaking and often stripped off his clothes. Now, Jesse dresses himself and puts his clothes away.

He’s been doing so well that he may transfer to another classroom with other students who have milder learning differences. But he only achieved this wonderful feat because of the great teachers before now. When it comes to students on the spectrum, the education they get early on could easily help them, or hinder them, as it seems to be with Jeffery.

In a PTA sponsored carnival that was thankfully opened one hour early for students on the spectrum, Jesse enjoyed a bounce house obstacle course while Jeffery held his mother’s hand and watched from the sidelines, something he and many others on the spectrum could end up doing for life if the right teachers aren’t found. Oakland Unified spokesman Troy Flint told Contra Costa Times:

“It’s challenging to find teachers with credentials in special education, science, math and foreign language. It’s a very competitive market for those teachers,”

San Lorenzo Unified Supernatant Fred Brill added that finding special ed teachers that focus on autism is even harder. Thankfully though, the district was able to hire a credentialed special-education teacher with autism experience. Yet the need for more autism experienced teachers is still great. The original article by Rebecca Parr  on the Contra Costa Times website can be read here

Contributed by Audrey L. Hollingshead

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