Dothan School Pioneers Program to Help Students with Autism


At Honeysuckle Middle School in Dothan, students in the autism unit are cooking up new ways to combat their conditions — literally. Every Friday, the students make breakfast and learn valuable life skills.Applied behavior analysis, or ABA, helps children between zero and 18 develop their social behaviors. With the addition of the breakfast program, the children are able to apply these learned behaviors.The program, supervised by special education teacher Carolyn Herring, helps students living with autism spectrum disorders, like Asperger’s or PDD-NOS (pervasive developmental disorder, not otherwise specified), become more independent and develop confidence in their abilities.The school’s staff, students, and other supporters pay a monthly fee for the weekly breakfasts, which Herring’s students make and deliver. The children have improved their communication skills by interacting with teachers and students when delivering the food, as well as cooperating with each other in the kitchen.

The proceeds from the meals go toward the special education department’s autism unit. With the money, the staff buys new sensory equipment to better treat the students and help them learn.

The Center for Disease Control says that one in every 68 children has a varying form of autism spectrum disorder, as of 2012. That number has more than doubled since the year 2000 and continues to increase today.

Autism is more prevalent in boys, but does affect girls as well, and also occurs among all races, ethnicities, and socioeconomic statuses.

Autism does not affect a child’s ability to think or learn, but it does affect their abilities to learn conventionally. In fact, studies show that children with autism spectrum disorders are often of above average intelligence. Programs like the one that Honeysuckle Middle School has developed allow children with autism, as well as their families, to adjust to the society around them and develop interests that will last a lifetime.


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