Eighth-grade students Quentin Dowler, Gregory Thomas, Tamarco Smith, Sidney Neilsen, and Aleyah Washington were the stars of their own show recently at Isaac Gourdine Middle School, helping Prince George’s County Public Schools (PGCPS) produce a short video presentation that will be used to ease any fears younger students with autism may have about the transition to middle school.
“The students from Isaac J. Gourdine Middle School are shining examples of high-achievement and mutual respect for all of us to follow,” said Dr. William R. Hite, Jr., Interim Superintendent. “If we appreciate the strengths that make us all different and if we support one another, every child will succeed.”
The students deal with serious issues that include name-calling, the fear of being different, anger, and other struggles that pre-teens and teenagers face in their Social Skills class. Incoming seventh-graders will find encouragement, helpful information, and comfort when watching the video as they start middle school next year.
The Isaac Gourdine MS students share thoughtful and helpful messages as they welcome viewers to the eighth-grade social skills program, including: “There is no reason to be scared of autism,” “People with autism are smart,” “You can learn a lot about yourself,” “Have fun,” and “It’s going to be OK, you know?”
Jeffrey Garcia, an autism teacher at Isaac Gourdine MS, produced the video. The idea of a video came about after Autism Specialist Julie Watson saw the progress being made by the students over their two years at Isaac Gourdine MS. The video aligns with the requests from parents and members of the PGCPS Special Education Citizens Advisory Committee (SECAC) who asked for a way to showcase the progress being made by students with disabilities. The video can be viewed online at www.pgcps.org. It can be used this school year and during seventh-grade orientation at Isaac Gourdine MS and Kenmoor MS in the fall. The video is a culminating activity that gave the students a chance to evaluate their own successes and share them with others.
PGCPS has a growing population of students with autism, and offers transition programs for elementary and middle school students through its Special Education Department. The programs are located within the comprehensive school setting and offer a unique educational opportunity for students with autism.
Transition programs provide academic and social support for students with autism who are able to access the general educational curriculum at, near, or above grade level. The Voluntary State Curriculum continues to be utilized for instruction.
Instructional options are individualized and may include: autism classrooms, intensive support, co-taught classrooms with a special educator, general education with support, and honors classes if appropriate. These programs also provide ongoing direct social skills instruction, curriculum adaptations and modifications, behavioral supports, and highly trained staff.