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School district to add position to aid special education instruction

By Staff | Mar 8, 2011

The Lee County School District approved an additional position, that of a helping teacher, social communication technician to be hired for the exceptional student education program Tuesday night. In the last four years, the state of Florida has seen an increase of 104 percent in the number of students who meet the eligibility of Autism Spectrum Disorder. The disorder affects an estimated 1 in 110 children in the United States, according to the Center for Disease Control.

Exceptional Student Education Coordinator Jessica Duncan said they are increasing the classrooms in Lee County by 10, which amounts to 80 social community classrooms next year ,to continue to address the increase. Those 80 classrooms will support the social and communication deficits that are often associated with autism spectrum disorders.

To meet the social and communication deficits, Assistant Director for Exceptional Student Education Michael Bursztyn said they are proposing that the number of helping teachers hired should be in the area of 20. He explained that number can change based on growth in student population.

The starting salary for this position is $13.03 an hour. The cost of creating the new position is $17,000.

The helping teacher will work under the direct supervision of an exceptional student education teacher.

The position will be implemented next year because 60 training hours in topics that correspond to Autism Spectrum Disorder are required. The helping teachers will have ongoing training throughout the year so they can detect specific characteristics of autism.

Bursztyn said they are placing the helping teachers where the greater need exists in the district. The need will differ in each zone for elementary, middle and high school.

The social communication classrooms are self contained classrooms where students may have access for either part or the entire day.

Duncan said that they are currently serving 600 students through the program, due to students coming up through pre-kindergarten, along with those coming from other counties.

She explained the students may work on academics, along with social, communication, organization and independent functioning skills.

“Specifically what they work on is driven by their individualized educational plan,” she said.

Bursztyn said each student with a disability has a plan set specifically for them.