By Anthony KaDarrell Thigpen
Many families raising children with Autism often get stuck in the struggle of securing the necessary support. Parents invest countless hours advocating for individualized education plans, support therapies, and quality schools. The Autism Academy for Education and Development is raising awareness about their comprehensive curriculum as an Autism-only school. In addition to raising awareness, AAED understands the struggles of students with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). Our ongoing weekly blog series contains 8 critical growth components. This second week features Autism Academic Awareness with Kimberly Baltzley.
Critical Growth Components in Autism Education Blog Series:
- Independent Living with Jennifer Sevier
- Autism Academic Awareness with Kimberly Baltzley
- Living Your Best Life with Katie Nieder
- Positive Behavior Support with Darnell Cherry
- Curriculum, Coaching and Culture with Shawn Davis
- Character Building and Development with Derrick Jamerson
- Fostering A Fun Atmosphere with Carrie Hatanaka
- Speech, Occupational and Animal Therapies with Kalona Newcomb
Kimberly Baltzley is the new district-wide enrollment specialist for AAED.
“I’ll be using my knowledge and experience to provide personalized assistance to families interested in learning more about our school,” she said.
Now she’s educating parents about a successful program that’s proven to work.
AUTISM BY THE NUMBERS
According to the Center for Disease and Control, as of 2018, about every 1 in 59 children is diagnosed with ASD. This number includes 1 in 37 boys and 1 in 151 girls. Boys are four times more likely to be diagnosed with Autism than girls. Currently, there is no known cause for Autism. However, research supports that early intervention can improve learning, communication and social skills. While Autism affects all ethnic and socioeconomic groups, unfortunately minorities tend to be diagnosed later and less often.
“My combined experience as both a parent and professional gives me a unique perspective on supporting families,” Baltzley explained. “My journey to learn about resources and interventions was born out of my desire to give my boys the best possible future.”
She gained first-hand experience on the front-lines of the Autism battlefield, equipping her to help encourage, educate and empower others. Baltzley does so by raising awareness throughout the Autism community, and placing strong emphasis on the importance of quality education.
This kind of education must provide a comprehensive curriculum. Applied behavior analysis (ABA), along with speech, occupational and animal therapies are used at AAED. These are the most researched and commonly used behavioral interventions for students with Autism. This is because about one-third of all individuals with Autism are nonverbal. It is estimated that two-thirds of these children are bullied between the ages of 6-15. Self-injurious behavior, including head banging, arm biting and skin scratching, effects nearly 28 percent of 8-year-old with ASD.
“When our oldest son was diagnosed there were no services available,” Kimberly Baltzley said.“I find great joy in passing on what I’ve learned.”
As the enrollment specialist, she’s able to connect, relate and inform parents about best practices used at Autism Academy for Education and Development.
PLANNING FOR THE FUTURE WITH AUTISM
Over the next decade, about 50,000 teenagers with Autism will enter adulthood. These students will age out of school based Autism services. This is why AAED equips students with the most resources possible to function in society. Career Technology Education (CTE) programs afford students the opportunity to explore various options with hopes of sparking interests. At the Autism Academy, CTE classes include coding, culinary arts, teacher aids, and janitorial, just to name a few. A transitional plan at the Autism Academy is written in the 8th grade, most often 2 years prior to the state standard. Every parent wants to see their children grow up, go to college, get married, and have children. Autism introduces special challenges to the relationship, and not every couple can cope with it. The Baltzley family transitioned through a roller-coaster of experiences:
- Learning how to identify with a sense of self,
- Maintaining a healthy marriage,
- Focusing on family, and
- Finding the right school.
Enrollment conversations with Baltzley allow parents to gain a wealth of knowledge needed for school and home.
AUTISM ASSOCIATED HEALTH PROBLEMS
“If one child is sick, all your attention will shift toward that child,” she said. It is important to keep in mind that Autism can affect the whole body. Many children with Autism suffer from Autism associated health problems:
- Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)
- Chronic Sleep Problems
- Anxiety Disorders
- Chronic Gastrointestinal Disorders
- Epilepsy and/or Seizure Disorders
Parents can contact Kim Baltzley at 480-525-6197 ext. 120 for enrollment information and guidance. Learn more about funding methods and the Empowerment Scholarship Account (ESA) – a state-based scholarship allowing for school choice. Securing an educational option is the first step toward easing the struggles and securing the support needed to thrive.
ABOUT KIMBERLY BALTZLEY
Baltzley’s background is in early childhood education, with an emphasis on working within the Autism community since 2001. Her experience includes coordinating non-profit family resource programs, strategic planning, implementing events, parent training and mentoring. Baltzley has worked with the Autism Academy for Education and Development since 2015.