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Lewes, Delaware
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April 21, 2000     Cape Gazette
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April 21, 2000

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46 - CAPE GAZETTE, Friday, April 21 - April 27, 2000 SCHOOL & EDUCATION Sussex Consortium marks National Autism Awareness Month The following article was sub- mitted by Karen Shaud of Rehoboth Beach, the mother of a student at the Sussex Consortium, to explain her impressions of the school during April, which is National Autism Awareness Month. We adopted our daughter, Ginger, from an orphanage in China in 1998. She's a wonderful child, but was not progressing exactly along the traditional stages of development used as guidelines here in the United States. When I first mentioned to some friends that we were think- ing of placing her at the Sussex Consortium, I was met with mixed reactions. So in the spring "of 1999, we began investigating the program there and trying to separate fact from rumor." The consortium is a public school tucked away behind Blockhouse Pond in Lewes - even the location is a bit off the beaten path. It was once the main school in Lewes, and the town has sim- ply grown in all directions around it. It is one of three schools in Delaware involved in the Delaware Autistic Program and serves a total of 170 children - 66 in the autistic program as well as 104 students with other learning and physical disabilities. At the inception of the autism program at the consortium in 1978, there were three students classified as autistic and there are several reasons for the dramatic increase. Pediatricians are more familiar with the disability and are thus diagnosing it more often. Also, more children are being cared for outside the home where caregivers may be more tuned into identifying the symptoms. Autism itself may be on the rise as well. There is one additional rea- son for the population explosion at the consortium - it is the victim of its own success. It's reputation within the autistic community is so good that parents will move into the district just so their child can be served there. Autism is described by Dr. Michael Powers in his book, "Children with Autism," as a physical condition of the brain that results in many different symptoms of developmental dis- abilities. The major symptoms are: failure to socialize normally; abnormal relationships to objects and events; disturbances in speech and communications; abnormal responses to sensory stimulation; and developmental delays and dif- ferences. It is the fourth most common developmental disability after retardation, epilepsy and cerebral palsy. Although most children with autism will need supervision throughout their lives, progress is being made. The following steps are contributing to a more favor- able future for the autistic child: improving educational services; parent involvement; early identi- fication and intervention; commu- nity integration; and systematic teaching methods. AS with most health problems, the earlier the treatment and the stronger the support offered by families and friends, the better the prognosis. The consortium staff are some of the Cape Region's most unsung heroes - hard-working, well- trained and dedicated to their jobs. Their task is first and fore- most to educate the children, not necessarily to be liked by them. Paradoxically, this strategy often backfires and the children really love their teachers and learn many skills in the process. There are many reasons for the quiet success stories that are cre- ated every day at the consortium, such as the dedication and profes- sionalism of the staff, the in- depth knowledge needed to deal with a variety of behavior issues and the structured environment provided to foster learning. The children need and like consisten- cy and reassurance of knowing that their behaviors will have pre- dictable consequences and that they can be rewarded all day long with their favorite th!ngs if they behave appropriately. This strategy of positive rein- forcement is just one of the behavior modification techniques being used. The staff is trained to respond Continued on page 48 Submitted photo Ginger Shaud of Rehoboth Beach came to this country from a Chinese orphanage in 1997 and was later diagnosed with autism. She is now thriving at the Sussex Consortium in Lewes. TEARS aimed at teen driving safety By Kerry Kester In an attempt to reduce the number of Delaware teens who die or are injured because of unsafe driv- ing practices, Delaware State Police troopers are working with high school driver's education and Prom Promise programs to increase student aware- ness of the dangers of drinking and driving, not wearing seat belts and driving too fast. Fatal Accident Investigation and Reconstruction (FAIR) team members Cpl. George Heberling of Troop 3 and Cpl. Mike Nelson of Troop 7 developed TEARS (Troopers Educating About Roadway Safety), a power-point presentation that graphically portrays tragedies involving Delaware teens. Each of the cases presented in the program is based on actual crashes that occurred in Delaware. Names were changed, but in each case, a young person's Continued on page 47 Rehoboth restaurant serves beer to Cape High teenager By Kerry Kester A Cape Henlopen High School teenager had no trouble purchasing alcohol from a Rehoboth Beach restaurant April 1. Neither did she have trouble getting it from a Maryland bar April 15. She is 18 years old, and despite the fact she looks no older than her age, no one asked to see her identification. "B" went to the restaurant with her 21-year-old boyfriend. "We sat down and ordered our food," said B. "We ate for a little while, and the waitress Continued on page "47 Students getting firsthand look at Delaware history In the springtime, smiling fourth graders can be seen on big yellow school buses traveling up and down the state to study Delaware history firsthand. From Sussex County, they head north witff stops in Dover and in New Caste. These field trips are packed with information and fun. Don't wait until your children are in fourth grade to travel and learn Delaware history! Spring break is the perfect time to take a ride and visit some of the fascinating places that helped shape our state and our nation. Students discover how boys and girls in early America spent their days when they visit the John Read House in old New Castle. They will find out exactly what children did when they were not in school. It may be an eye-open- SCHOOL JOURNAL DIANE ALBANESE er to find out what kinds of chores they had to do and toys they played with. What was life really like before cars or electricity? What, no Nintendo! The George Read House offers a summer camp for children ages 10 tol2 in July. Many crafts and hands-on activities will be explored. Call 302-322-8411 or visit them on-line at m. Travel north to Wilmington and visit the Delaware History Museum at 504 Market Street. The Historical Society of Delaware has a developed a dis- covery center for children called Grandma's Attic where it is OK to touch. Grandma's Attic provides a rich educational environment for children where they can try on vintage clothes, play with historic games and toys or sit in an over- stuffed lounge chair and read old books and magazines. Adjoining Grandma's Attic is a market and a 1940s kitchen, where children can pretend like they're running an old-fashioned corner store and take their pur- chases to the kitchen. The discov- ery rooms are designed as a learn- and-play center for children 12 and younger. Playing leads to a greater understanding of history, and culture. Other parts of the Delaware History Museum offer real insight into the colonial and Civil War periods. Students listen to William Penn and Peter Stuyvesant to find out about life and problems in early Delaware. Caesar Rodney explains how Delaware became the First State. Thomas Garrett and Harriet Tubman tell stories about the Underground Railroad and the Civil War. Davey Crockett recounts his trip on the New Castle and Frenchtown Railroad. Learn about the work of Delawareans P.S. DuPont, Florence Bayard Hilles and Lois Redding.. The museum shops offer books and pamphlets explaining history from the Native Americans to the DuPonts. Reading about real life legends certainly promotes our understanding of the past, and hopefully our wisdom for the future. Isn't it time you were a fourth grader again? Get a clear picture of our state's rich and diverse his- tory. Take a spring field trip to dis- cover the wonders of Delaware. Diane Albanese is a parent and teacher in the Cape Henlopen School District.