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This is Bill Safos’s article from WKYC online, on 5/15/08:
World famous for it’s heart and cancer hospitals, the Cleveland Clinic has opened a new autism school.
Statistics show that every 20 minutes somewhere in the United States, a child is diagnosed with autism.
The world of autism is still a mystery. It’s a complex disorder being researched and studied by doctors at the Clinic and researchers around the globe. While they learn more about its causes and its biology, teachers and therapists at the new school are treating it.
It’s the new frontier in the fight to end autism which affects one in 150 kids. The new school is full of all the latest computer technology and amenities thanks to private donors. It is not just a building full of interesting toys.
“We’re not fitting children into a program. We’re building a program around them,” said Leslie Sinclair.
Sinclair is the Director of the Center for Autism. She has worked with autistic kids for almost three decades. Her knowledge and passion for helping kids with the disorder is apparent not just in the programs taught at the school but in the design and architecture of the building.
“Over all those years there were a lot of wishes in my head saying ‘boy I wish I had this’ or ‘I wish it wasn’t so noisy,'” said Sinclair.
She shared her wishes with the designers and architects who
made them a reality.
That’s why buzzing fluorescent lights have been silenced.
Everyday surroundings that many of us never notice can become a tremendous distraction for those with autism.
Sinclair’s design ideas help eliminate so many of those distractions so children can focus on their teachers.
Sinclair’s designs, for example hiding bathroom mirrors, are helping kids stay focused on finishing a simple task like washing their hands. Ceiling lights which are normally placed in patterns are random here. It’s all about eliminating the stimulation that can hinder learning for autistic children.
It’s a whole different way of thinking about educating our kids. “It’s a miracle,” said Sinclair.
“This is a brand new building. It isn’t the closet. It isn’t a basement. It’s all dedicated to the enrichment of our kids,” said Maureen Belinson.
Belinson has a 22 year old autistic son who is a huge success story.
“We’ve been waiting for a new school and they finally got money,” said Raman Belinson.
Students like Raman and parents like his mom are excited. Huge donations from philanthropists like Norma Lerner as well as Iris and Mort November and a list of generous others made the school possible.
“The one thing I remember about my daughter and this building is in her memory, she loved children. So that’s why we do it. It has to be for children,” said Mort November.
Instead of using different modified rooms that were scattered throughout the hospital they now have their own place.
Teachers say along with it, comes a better chance to help students achieve their full potential.
The staff says Raman is a stellar example of someone who gives back. His success also gives hope to other parents.
“We got a new school and it helps everyone,” said Raman.
The autism spectrum includes many forms of the disorder. Raman has one of them along with cerebral palsy. He calls it his double whammy but it doesn’t stop him from achieving his goals.
“I don’t know a more motivated young person,” said his mom Maureen.
Along with praising her son, she credits Raman’s school. Her son continues to prove his ability to do what he sets his sights on.
“He want’s to be heard. He want’s to contribute,” said Belinson.
At the Center for Autism, Raman hasn’t just learned how to succeed in life but in the workforce. He thinks his peers which will attend the new school will have a better chance to follow in his footsteps.
“I’m very independent. I learn skills very fast. I stay on task more. I stay focused,” said Raman.
He’s a graduate of this school and a high school graduate. Now he’s looking for a job and and urging employers to learn how people with autism can contribute not only to their businesses bottom line but their community and the world.
“I think it takes a lot of courage and a lot of thinking at first. Because you don’t know how that person will be if they have a job,” said Raman.
Raman said given the opportunity anyone with autism like him can quickly ease any reservations of potential employers.
“His colleagues, his peers want a chance to prove themselves. They want a chance and I want them to get it and this school tells them you have skills and you are marketable,” said Maureen Belinson.
source: This was written by Bill Safos, from WKYC online www.wkyc.com
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