BALTIMORE, Sept. 18 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Today, the Kennedy Krieger Institute, in partnership with Montgomery County, officially opens a new school for students ages 10-21 with moderate-to-severe cases of Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) and other developmental disabilities. The Kennedy Krieger School will be the only specialty autism school of its kind in the county. This opening comes at a critical time, with more autistic students in Montgomery County than any other county in Maryland and as autism rates are on the rise nationwide. Kennedy Krieger Institute was selected to open the school through a competitive bidding process conducted by Montgomery County Public Schools, one of the top public school systems in the country. The school will feature individualized programs with a high staff to student ratio. The school also offers a new multi-sensory room that uses lights, sounds, aromas and textures to promote learning for autistic students, as well as a new, interactive, technology-driven teaching tool used to provide specialized accommodations and modifications for learning. A key academic and curriculum goal is to apply the skills students learn in the classroom in a community setting, as research has shown that teaching skills in context is more effective than in isolation. To meet this goal, regularly scheduled opportunities for community and work- based learning experiences will be incorporated into each student's weekly routines to prepare them for transition to post-graduation life. "The opening of the new school represents Kennedy Krieger's dedication and commitment to expanding our highly specialized, interdisciplinary autism services to students in the greater DC metropolitan area," said Linda Brandenburg, Director of School Autism Services at the Kennedy Krieger Institute. "Our goal is to provide needed autism education for children as close to home as possible and to help them transition smoothly into their teenage and adult years." In order to meet and exceed the educational needs of the children it serves in all locations across the state, Kennedy Krieger draws upon highly qualified, trained and dedicated specialists. Kennedy Krieger recently announced the promotion of Linda Brandenburg, formerly the Director of Kennedy Krieger's LEAP Program (Lifeskills and Education for Students with Autism and other Pervasive Behavioral Challenges), to Director of School Autism Services for all school programs. This new position is charged with ensuring consistency across all Kennedy Krieger programs and along the full continuum of autism-related services so that interventions are aligned to state and national standards. Ms. Brandenburg's 15 years of experience and post- graduate work in the area of autism make her uniquely qualified to assist program directors in developing and implementing the best possible services for Kennedy Krieger's students. In recent years, Kennedy Krieger has seen a dramatic increase in the number of autism students enrolled in their school programs. Ten years ago, twenty-five percent of the students attending their school programs were on the autism spectrum. That number has more than doubled, and today approximately sixty-five percent of their students have autism. While the Montgomery County School is currently at capacity, future class size will expand, with a maximum of 45 students expected in the next three years. To comply with current regulations, all student referrals must come through the student's public school administrator. In addition to the Montgomery County School, Kennedy Krieger is in the process of launching a new hands-on autism training program for public school teachers. Professionals participating in the Model Demonstration Program will be immersed in an autism classroom for six hours a day, observing and actively engaging in intervention, and receiving systematic guidance in all aspects of the intervention delivery and evaluation from autism intervention experts. Beginning in the summer of 2008, applications for teacher candidates to the Model Demonstration Program will be available, with the first cohort of trainees to begin in September 2008. Kennedy Krieger's Montgomery County School and new Model Demonstration Program underscore the Institute's commitment to helping schools meet the requirements of current federal education legislation (the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, or IDEA), which mandates that schools must provide options to meet the educational needs of mild-to-severe ASD children. About Autism Autism spectrum disorders (ASD) is the nation's fastest growing developmental disorder, with current incidence rates estimated at 1 in 150 children. This year more children will be diagnosed with autism than AIDS, diabetes and cancer combined, yet profound gaps remain in our understanding of both the causes and cures of the disorder. Continued research and education about developmental disruptions in individuals with ASD is crucial, as early detection and intervention can lead to improved outcomes in individuals with ASD. About the Kennedy Krieger Institute Internationally recognized for improving the lives of children and adolescents with disorders and injuries of the brain and spinal cord, the Kennedy Krieger Institute in Baltimore, MD serves more than 13,000 individuals each year through inpatient and outpatient clinics, home and community services and school-based programs. Kennedy Krieger provides a wide range of services for children with developmental concerns mild to severe, and is home to a team of investigators who are contributing to the understanding of how disorders develop while pioneering new interventions and earlier diagnosis. For more information on Kennedy Krieger Institute, visit http://www.kennedykrieger.org.
SOURCE Kennedy Krieger Institute