Watkins Mill High School Expands Autism Resources

Watkins Mill High School in Gaithersburg is one of three county high schools to expand classroom autism resources this year.

Montgomery County Public Schools will amp up services for autistic students in several county high schools this year.
Watkins Mill High School in Gaithersburg, Potomac's Winston Churchill High School and John F. Kennedy High School in Silver Spring are on track to open specialized autism classrooms for the 2012/2013 school year. Students on the autism spectrum enrolled in the schools will mix specialist-assisted time in regular classes with personal classroom instruction.

"There will be a time during the day, a separate class, where there will be a focus on social skills and organizational skills," said Dana Tofig, MCPS spokesman. "It will depend on student needs."

The high school autism resource services program expands current opportunities at Gaithersburg Middle School, Potomac's  and Silver Spring International Middle School, and is designed for students on the autism spectrum who are on track to receive a diploma, Tofig said.

The number of autistic students enrolled in MCPS has increased nearly fivefold in 10 years, and schools only expect that growth to continue.

"In the 2000-2001 school year, 266 students on the autism spectrum enrolled in MCPS. By 2010-2011, that number had jumped to 1,642, as autism became better diagnosed thanks to its federal classification as a disability and more awareness of the disorder's symptoms," the Washington Examiner reported Tuesday.

Depending on the success of the programs, Tofig said MCPS would look into branching out the program into other schools.


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