The IDEA Program
A Whole School Approach to Education of students with ASD
Moomba Park Primary School and Autism Partnership (and previously CISCA) have come together to develop a new approach to the education of children with autism in a school setting. Titled "Innovative Developments in the Education of children with Autism" (IDEA), this program was launched in 2010 at Moomba Park Primary School in Fawkner, Victoria. It provides quality, individualised, support for children with ASD enrolled at the mainstream government school, using the evidence-based practices of Applied Behaviour Analysis. The IDEA program is a whole-school approach, which provides training, consultation and support to all school staff, parents and students.
What is the IDEA Program?
The IDEA program brings together industry leading professionals and Victorian government mainstream schools to offer a comprehensive education option for children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and their families. Committed to providing world class, evidence based intervention to children in the government school system, the IDEA Program launched in 2010. Underpinned by the principles of Applied Behaviour Analysis, this ground-breaking program excels in maximizing the students outcomes academically, behaviourally and socially; irrespective of age or presenting ability.
The IDEA Program has a universal function, not only of providing support and learning for each individual students but also builds capacity of school staff through structured professional development, consultation, and ongoing support and practical training. The I.D.E.A. program is designed to incorporate the whole school community and to build the capacity of the existing school staff.
What makes us unique?
Truly Individualised Programs.
Each student involved in the I.D.E.A. Program has an individualised program created in collaboration between school staff and an Autism Partnership Psychologist. The program is developed based on that student’s unique profile of skills and deficits. There is no rote set of programs to work through, no book that must be followed. Every program, every goal, every strategy is specifically designed for the individual student. For one student, that may mean a program that includes tolerance, toileting, following instructions and eating new foods. For another student it may mean literacy, numeracy and social goals.
Frequent Updating of Goals and the Use of Quantitative Data.
The intensive data collection that happens on a daily basis allows staff to know how a student is progressing with any goal at anytime. Goals are updated as frequently as required and are under a constant process of review. Monthly team meetings provide an opportunity for team collaboration and goal setting. In between these times the Foundation Room teacher consults closely with the Autism Partnership consultant Psychologist and classroom teachers to ensure goals are keeping up with the fluid classroom learning environment.
Habilitate and Not Accommodate.
Our philosophy on autism is that all children have the potential to learn and grow. The behaviours and deficits we see in a student at a given time are not indicative of his future abilities. And so, we aim to “habilitate” a student, by teaching him the things he needs to know to survive in the world, learn new things, and get along with others. Accepting that a student will always have to avoid assembly because it is overwhelming to the senses is an example of “accommodation”. Gradually exposing him to the sensory demands of assembly, and teaching him how to stay calm, is an example of “habilitation”
Continuum of Inclusion.
In the classroom, in the playground, one-on-one, and in small groups - these are all options within the I.D.E.A. Program. A key element to the I.D.E.A. Program is the ability to provide students with completely individualised options for inclusion. A student’s position on the continuum of inclusion is based on answering the question “Which environment is the most suitable for this student, at this time?”. The focus is always on teaching the student the skills he needs to enable him to learn in the least restrictive, and most effective setting.
Whole School Approach.
This is not a program that happens at a school, this is part of Moomba Park Primary School. Every teacher in the school is part of the I.D.E.A. program. All staff, from the senior administration right through to the school cleaner, are invested in the success of the program and the students who participate in it.
Adaptability and Responsiveness.
The I.D.E.A. program is fluid by necessity. The needs of the students within the program change constantly. The I.D.E.A. program is structured to allow for rapid changes in the student’s goals, programs, and inclusion support. For example, a student may initially require support from behavioural therapists in the classroom, after some time it may be possible for this student to learn unassisted in the classroom and his funding may be redirected to a more intensive social skills program. This level of responsiveness is key to a students’ success.
We believe that parent involvement, consultation and training is critical to a students’ outcome. Parent feedback, collaboration and participation is actively encouraged.
Dynamic Ongoing Teacher Training.
We strive to provide teachers with the highest level of training and support. Training is a dynamic process – a single professional development session, or even a series of sessions simply isn't enough. Training must be ongoing, responsive, and linked to the specific needs of the teaching staff.
From our families
As part of our data collection process and program evaluation we provide parents with an opportunity to anonymously provide feedback on how they feel about the program.
The comments below are taken from these anonymous feedback forms.
“The social skills and Chillax program are improving his anger management and anxiety levels, and are gradually giving him a greater understanding of non-verbal cues, forming friendships and social rules”.
“A year and a half of private therapies have not been nearly as successful as 6 months of the IDEA program in the school setting”.
“For the first time in a long while we feel some hope for our children’s future and their ability to access the curriculum”.
“School has normally been such a huge stressor and finally there is a program breaking down barriers and giving them a chance.”
“The IDEA program has been a dream come true for Nash and us as parents. It has given us hope for his future. To see Nash happy and wanting to go to school is a miracle”.
“I first found the IDEA program at a time when I was in total despair about Sam’s future. My local mainstream school told me not to expect too much academically. My local Special School told me that an SDS would probably be better fit because of toileting issues. (Now) he is writing, reading, making friends, asking questions, learning another language. The progress Sam has made in 4 months is nothing short of amazing. For the first time ever Sam is using the toilet independently. We started toilet training in 2004. Sam is happy, safe, settled, confident, included and so excited about learning”.
“The gains made within the I.D.E.A. program in the last 5 months far exceed and are a remarkable improvement over the lack of progress and indeed deteriorating behaviours we experienced and observed on for the previous 2 years. We have seen tremendous improvement in Kyle’s behaviour in the last 5 months. Many of his extreme behaviours have gone. He is now able to sit in a class of ‘normal’ kids and listen to a story. On observing him in the Foundation Room we have watched him read quietly, listen to his teachers requests and do them without any resistance or extreme behaviours which were constant responses previously”.
“His writing skills are improving and he is now starting to do work set out for normal students at school; he has learned limited road sense and can successfully cross at the school crossing with the assistance of the road monitor. His understanding and his speech has greatly improved and his general demure is one (generally) of a happy and vibrant child whereas before it was simply frightening.”
The continuum of inclusion
The Foundation Room at Moomba Park Primary school provides students with the opportunity for both individualised and small group teaching. This teaching may occur in the classroom, playground or Foundation Room. The content of this teaching will be solely dependent on the individual goals of the student. Other programs may include targeted social skills programs and teaching; lunch clubs; high school readiness programs; prep readiness programs and intensive behavioural intervention. The I.D.E.A. Program at Moomba Park Primary School supports both funded and unfunded children with an ASD diagnosis.
The goal is always to have the student in their classroom accessing their curriculum through their classroom teacher. This will happen at different rates for different students. We act with a continuum of inclusion ensuring the student is provided with the most effective teaching environment. Student will move along this continuum dependent on the target skill and the student’s current abilities. Some students for example may be able to effectively access the mathematics component of the curriculum in the class environment but required one-to-one teaching for literacy. Some students will be in their mainstream classroom for the majority of the week, only coming to the Foundation Room for short periods of targeted teaching. Other students will spend more time engaged in one-to-one and small group instruction, entering the classroom for short successful periods.