High-tech help is coming to Windward Oahu classrooms. It will connect experts and teachers so they can help autistic students connect with the world.
Some students struggle in school, but those "on the autism spectrum" face additional challenges in the classroom.
That is why special needs students coming into an intensive training center at Ahuimanu Elementary School aren't the only ones who come in for learning.
"Our vision is to get every teacher in our training center to take back skills to their classroom, so we can reach all the students in the spectrum - in our district," said Dr. Aletha Sutton, the Windward Oahu Autism education specialist.
The windward district has seen a huge increase in autistic students. The numbers have increased 33% in just the last 5 years.
Many autistic student have a difficult time withlanguage, communication and social interaction.
In a typical classroom setting, those students may struggle. So in the learning center, teachers are taught to take lessons to a different level.
"It is all child-directed. Rather than making them sit down and do what you want them to do, we will let them pick what they want to do. Say they pick up Legos, then I will then try to use them to build onlanguage," said Meg Murphy, a special education teacher at Maunawili Elementary.
When teachers take the learned skills back to their own classrooms, they won't go back alone.
iPads on swivels, will also go with them. The devices can constantly monitor interaction with the students. The teachers will also be connected by Bluetooth communication. Experts listening and watching live from a different location can then offer advice.
Not only will the iPads and swivels be used in the classroom, parents will be able to take them home and also get help from experts.
In the past, some parents of autistic students felt disconnected from this learning process.
"If you don't feel like you have an open line to the school, teacher, and educators you automatically have this sense of mistrust and you wonder what is happening there," said Dee Asuncion, a parent of a second-grade autistic student.
The new training program along with the extra emphasis on autism education will connect parents and teachers. They, in turn, can help autistic students not only learn but also connect with the real world.
"In this program the students are given opportunities to interact with their peers, for a parent that's a big deal. To see your kid make friends -- that's really huge!" stated Asuncion.
The virtual coaching program will begin this fall for Windward Oahu. Already 20 teachers have taken part in some of the training courses, but it will take years before the hundreds of special education teachers complete the training and the program spreads statewide.