GRAND PRAIRIE (CBSDFW.COM) – Going back to school can be awkward and uncomfortable for any child, but the parents of special needs children are particularly aware of that discomfort. One family and schools in the Grand Prairie Independent School District are working to assist special education kids in feeling more relaxed while they learn.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that an average of one in 110 children in the United States has autism.

Alan and Alex Flores have two boys, Sam and Nicholas, both with autism. “Nicholas is 11, will be 12 next month, and he will be going into middle school for the first time,” said mom Alex. “I’m wanting to follow the bus the first day, like we did back in first grade.”

This will be the first year that Sam and Nicholas will not attend the same school.

The Flores family understands the concerns of parents with special needs students. That is why Alex is the president of the Special Needs PTA for schools in the Grand Prairie ISD. “I’m concerned,” Alex explained, “because the kids start, usually in middle school or high school, where they get mean.”

Children with autism attend the same campuses as general education students.

“We have our own communication, and barriers,” said Alan. “We do our best to reinforce their own individuality, try to get them to just be nice, to be courteous, because certainly how they come across to kids will hopefully be reciprocated.”

And this year, the Grand Prairie ISD has decided to teach children with autism differently than in the past. The kids will be separated based on their abilities. Educators will be able to customize their lessons to benefit children with autism who share the same abilities.

“We felt like, as a district, it was great, as far as having teachers specialize and being able to allocate resources,” explained Amanda Forman with the Grand Prairie ISD. “It wasn’t research-based to have the whole autism spectrum in one classroom, because there are different areas of interest, and it’s such a large spectrum.”

“I love it,” added Alex Flores.

The new way of teaching means that some students in Grand Prairie will not attend their neighborhood schools. So, the district has given parents books that are intended to help acquaint families with the new campuses.

The Flores family hopes that other students and their parents will take time to learn more about special needs kids. “Our kids have feelings. They have emotions,” said Alex. “But it is kind of like the TV. If the cable is loose, their brain just doesn’t connect, so some of their socialness is awkward.”

There are steps that parents can take to help make children feel more comfortable about heading back to school. Teach kids about diversity, including those students with special needs. Teach children to never bully others. Educate yourself about various disabilities and pass that knowledge onto your children. Also, encourage your kids to be friends with special education students.

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