USM, Education Dept. to offer new Autism program

JACKSON, MS (WLOX) - The Mississippi Department of Education (MDE) has entered into a multi-year Interagency Agreement with The University of Southern Mississippi Gulf Coast to provide a new school based program for children with autism.

"The Gulf Coast Autism Project is preparing to offer a multitude of services.  The Department of Education is excited about the future of this collaboration," Bureau Director for Autism and Special Education Policy Danita Munday said.

"The Project will assess children on the autism spectrum; provide research-based services to students, train parents and support current and prospective school district personnel."

Southern Miss Gulf Coast has been developing an autism project for the past two years and has the capacity in place to continue building a model program to serve the children of Mississippi. Southern Miss submitted a proposal as a University Based program that can effectively address MDE's goals of pre-service and in-service training for teachers, paraprofessionals and related service personnel while providing services to students.

"The primary aim of the Gulf Coast Autism Project is to demonstrate how to design and implement appropriate public school programs for students with autism spectrum disorder," said Southern Miss Gulf Coast Associate Professor, in the College of Education and Psychology Dr. Tim Morse.

Southern Miss Gulf Coast will design a school program to provide a free appropriate public education for children with autism.  The university duties will include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Provide training on evidence-based practices for addressing the needs of children with autism to Local Education Agencies (LEA) 
  • Provide support and training to parents in behavioral management and educational interventions 
  • Provide assessments as needed 
  • Provide coordination of services between the child's school district, Southern Miss and the parents or guardians

Students who participate in this new program will be placed by the Individualized Education Plan Committee from their school, which includes the parent, an agency representative from the school district, the student's teachers and other knowledgeable and interested parties.

The new autism program will use federal funds at an estimated cost of $1.3 million over three years.

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