Saturday, November 26, 2011

Lindsey Henry Scholarships, New Partnerships Lead to New School for Students with Autism

A new private school serving special needs children opened recently providing a new option to children in the Oklahoma City area.

According the Sooner Catholic, The Good Shepherd Catholic School may be “the only one of its kind in the United States.” 
The specialized school opened on the campus of Mercy Hospital in Northwest Oklahoma City in September. The Good Shepherd Catholic School at Mercy is a collaborative effort between the Archdiocese of Oklahoma City, the University of Central Oklahoma and Mercy Health. 
The school is designed for children, ages 3 to 9, with autism and “other similar neurological disorders.” The school started with six students and plans to expand to serve 20 students in the future. 
The Superintendent of Education for the Archdiocese of Oklahoma City, Sister Catherine Powers, said in the November 20 edition of Sooner Catholic
The three-way collaboration itself is unique. However, what is even more special is that, to my knowledge, there is no other Catholic school in the country that is geared toward meeting the individual needs of children on the autistic spectrum. I have no doubt that we are meeting a great need among our families in the Oklahoma City area.”
According to the story, the University of Central Oklahoma Behavioral Therapy program will provide teachers. Specialists will work with each child on a daily basis. 
Mercy CEO Di Smalley acknowledged that the Lindsey Nicole Henry Scholarships for Students with Disabilities Program Act was an important consideration in the creation of the new school.
Dr. Donna Kearns will serve as principal for the school. For more information on enrollment, contact Kearns at (405) 752-2264.

Partnership with UCO

Several years ago, a state pilot program provided thousands to parents of children with autism to obtain treatment in the private sector. Most of the money was returned unspent because there were simply no therapists available.

That led legislators, working with officials at the University of Central Oklahoma, to establish a training program for behavioral therapists. Students in that program soon needed venues for hands-on application, which led to efforts to create schools for children with autism.

One such school, run by the Easter Seals of Oklahoma, soon folded because of the significant cost of operation.

However, thanks to funding provided through the Lindsey Nicole Henry Scholarship Program, officials expect better results.

“If it were not for the Lindsay Nicole Henry Scholarship Program, the creation of this school could not have happened,” said Mary Sweet-Darter, director of UCO’s learning and behavioral clinic. “The scholarship program is everything. Were it not for that, the options available to parents of children on the autistic spectrum would be very limited.”

“If the Legislature had not taken the initiative to create a program to train therapists, and if they had not passed the scholarship program, none of this could have happened,” Sweet-Darter said.
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