Autism, a developmental disability, impacts the normal development of the brain in the areas of social interaction and communication skills. According to Will Swann, special education teacher at Leesville, twelve percent of Leesville’s students have a disability, one percent of those students have autism.
This illness is defined by a certain set of behaviors and is classified as spectrum disorder. A spectrum disorder is a group of disorders that affects individuals differently and to varying degrees.
One person with autism may display completely different symptoms from another person. Some have very mild symptoms; these people can live a normal life, while others with more severe symptoms need help at times.
That is often the misconception, that all autistic people are mentally handicapped and incapable of doing anything on their own. “We label people as being handicapped and once you’re labeled you’re labeled for life, even if you can handle your disability and it does not really affect you,” said Sanford Johnson, Leesville substitute and retired special education teacher.
Often students with autism have one common interest that they tend to relate every conversation they have back to this one thing. This interest can be anything from Dinosaurs to Afghanistan.
Autism is diagnosed by multiple symptoms: difficulty communicating, both verbal and nonverbal, difficulty making and maintaining eye contact, short attention span, limited social skills, repetitive behaviors like repeating words or arranging objects in specific ways.
The disease can range in intensity so some students at Leesville live with this disorder and you probably do not notice. According to Swann, students with autism could take AP and honors classes, some are college bound while others prepare to go into the work force after high school.
“All of our students have a course of study and all of them will be able to go into society and succeed, Leesville prepares them for this,” said Swann.
Leesville is one of the best schools in the Wake County School System for special education. In fact, people from all over the United States move to Raleigh just to put their children with special needs into this program.
The exodus to Leesville is due to our school’s one-on-one personal aid for students. About 50 percent of special education teachers at other schools resign each year; this is not the case at LRHS.
Our special education teachers have a reputation for being amazing at what they do, all of our teachers are certified in special education and half of the department has master’s degrees in the subject.
Leesville is also different because the teachers are picked due to a student’s needs. “The department will not just stick a student in a certain program just for them to have a place and there is never a lack of support for these students,” said Swann.