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DPSCD Celebrates National Autism Awareness Month

Detroit Public Schools Community District (DPSCD) celebrates and recognizes Autism in April. Lohren Nzoma, Assistant Superintendent, District’s Office of Exceptional Student Education (ESE), provided and overview of the month’s activities and how the district serves its students with an Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). “Led by our office, we have a month of activities and events scheduled with students, staff, and families in mind. These events are geared towards promoting Peer to Peer (P2P) and Unified Special Olympics through activities that highlight one of DPSCD’s core principles of equity," said Nzoma.

Click here to view ESE’s April calendar for more information.

Nzoma took some time out her schedule to answer a few questions about ASD

Q: ASD is one of the 13 areas of eligibility that DPSCD services. How can parents/families seek support in this area?

A: Should a parent suspect their child has ASD; the first step is to share this information with your pediatrician. Share your concerns with your child’s classroom teacher and building administrator. Parents of children who are not of school age can contact Project Find to receive more information on next steps, ( Remember early intervention is the best response and a team approach with any medical provider(s) (if applicable), parents and the school teams, are necessary.

Q: What are some of the staff roles that DPSCD provides to support students with ASD? 

A: The ESE team is equipped with educational staff who have expertise and certification in Autism Spectrum Disorder. This team includes Supervisors, Behavior Specialists, and Coaches that work closely with building-level staff and parents across DPSCD, providing evidence-based best practices and supports.

Q: DPSCD continues to demonstrate strong leadership in its ESE programming. Can you share with the community some recent highlights? 

A: The Office of Exceptional Student Education continues to lead in our District, the County, and the State specific to ASD programming and supports by becoming a START District.  START stands for Statewide Autism Resource Training which is funded through a grant by Michigan Department of Education and Grand Valley State University. DPSCD received a five -year plan and three-year technical assistance grant.  This allows us to move through evidence-based best practices to support our students, staff, and families to increase inclusive opportunities for ALL students.  Additionally, DPSCD received international recognition for the expansion of our Special Olympics and Unified Champion programming. You can read more about that here.

“We also started the Essential Skill Transition Program (ESTP) for our learners who are Mildly Impaired ages 18-26 years which has brought county and state-wide accolades for students with developmental delays requiring options beyond completion of the four years of high school.  Finally, we recently launched a highly sought-after model of inclusion for students who are in our Deaf and Hard of Hearing (DHH) programs through our launch of the ASL Community @ Bunche. K-8 Students are in an immersive program where daily happenings such as “Drop Everything and Sign” and Whole Community DHH Awareness Month activities, that took place last fall, brought in nationally recognized Deaf Rapper, Sean Forbes,” said Nzoma. 

 "We are focused on setting the tone for equity and inclusion across all areas of eligibility. We recently launched a peer-led, whole-district inclusion assembly throughout April for each school building. Student Peers (disabled and non-disabled) will work collaboratively with staff facilitating to present during a school-day assembly. These presentations will give overview of varying ways that students/people may show up in the world with diverse needs and highlight multiple opportunities to minimize differences and highlight similarities such as; Unified Champions Public School Leagues, Peer to Peer Elective Courses that are available for students on diploma track to receive credit for shared experiences for Middle and High School students. We encourage students to consider starting a Youth Activation Committee at their school to help promote inclusive student leadership.”

Please call the Office of Exceptional Student Education (ESE) if you have additional questions at 313-873-7740. Or click to view the ESE homepage.

#DPSCD, the Future is Rising!