Bend autism program designated as training site for Oregon educators

REDMOND, Ore. (KTVZ) — The High Desert Education Service District’s Bridges program has been designated as an autism training site for educators statewide.

In partnership with Bend-La Pine Schools, Bridges is a specialized classroom, housed at Lava Ridge Elementary School, that provides intensive instruction for K-3 students on the Autism Spectrum.

Bridges was selected as a training site by the Oregon Program Autism Training Sites and Supports project, which brings evidence-based practices to Oregon schools statewide.

Bridges is the only elementary level training site in central Oregon and now one of more than 40 across the state. Other early childhood special education training sites are currently being created under the HDESD program which cater to children from birth to 5 years old.

“The Bridges program at Lava Ridge is a wonderful model of supporting learners with autism and other developmental disabilities,” said Alicia Balfrey, autism consultant for OrPATS. “First and foremost, it is clear that the teaching team in the class sincerely respects and cares about each of its students. They make an effort to get to know each student and their unique qualities and needs, and these strong relationships help students thrive!

“The program seamlessly integrates a variety of best and evidence-based practices for students receiving special education, and they strive to implement these high-caliber teaching strategies. They are always ready to learn or to try something new with students to help them reach their full potential and also seem to strive to connect with families to include caregivers as an essential part of the team educational.

According to Balfrey, the level of organization in the Bridges class is a key factor in the success of the program. With a consistent daily schedule and strong team engagement and communication, Balfrey explained that each team member knows what they need to do at each moment of the day, which maximizes teaching time for students. students. She adds that student independence is another important factor in Bridges’ success.

“Students are encouraged to be as independent as possible throughout the day and to receive instruction in multiple formats including group learning, direct instruction and independent work. Every time I have the pleasure of visiting the Bridges program, I think, “This classroom runs like a well-oiled machine,” Balfrey said, adding that the student artwork and messages positives on the walls also create welcoming learning. environment.

Although Bridges is a stand-alone program, staff strive to create meaningful inclusion opportunities for each student to ensure they have the chance to learn alongside their neurotypical peers. Bridges’ staff includes a teacher and nine specialists who bring additional expertise in autism, occupational therapy, enhanced communication and speech therapy.

“It’s truly amazing to watch children grow into learners while developing their skills and connecting with their peers in a general education environment,” said Sara Ausman, Special Programs Administrator for HDESD. “The team’s dedication and attention to detail while helping children thrive is remarkable and inspiring.

“They work incredibly hard to meet the individual needs of students while looking at the bigger picture and the long-term goal of helping them become part of their own school and community. We couldn’t do what we do without that all staff work together to create this unique learning environment.As a training site, we are able to share our experience and expertise to help build national and local capacity to serve more students with autism spectrum disorders in a way that enables individualized services for students.

OrPATS project coordinator/training supervisor Darby Lasley explained that training sites are selected based on the team’s willingness to learn and consistently implement evidence-based practices to students with autism in their public school classrooms.

“What really sets the Bridges program apart is the level of dedication from everyone on the education team,” Balfrey said. “Not just the classroom staff, but also their service providers and administrators. It makes a huge difference when administrators are involved in programs like these, helping to ensure staff are well supported, identifying areas of need, providing resources and training, and learning how to know the students themselves. The Bridges program feels like a supportive community for students, and I’m so honored to be a part of it,” Balfrey said.


About the HDESD

The High Desert Education Service District is a publicly funded agency that partners with local school districts to provide high quality, cost effective, locally relevant educational services to 4 school districts, 58 schools, over 29,000 students in Bend , La Pine, Prineville, Redmond and Sisters. Services range from business, legal, and administrative support to school improvement efforts and special education programs, including early intervention and early childhood special education. HDESD’s Regional Support System connects school districts in central Oregon and beyond to national and state educational resources. HDESD programs help districts minimize duplication of services, preserve their local budgets, and receive special programs that might otherwise not be available to them.

About OrPats

The Oregon Program Autism Training Sites and Supports (OrPATS) project brings evidence-based practices to Oregon schools across the state. More than 40 training sites have been established in Oregon public schools in every region of the state and at all grade levels.

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