DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) – Daylyn Bell sings and reads in a cozy nook in his Harllee Early Childhood Center classroom. The cuteness factor alone is enough to make onlookers smile. That Daylyn is autistic elevates the moment to magic.
“I emailed Ms. Brown, called her… in tears. I want my son to go here!” exclaimed his mom, Elaina Bell. She says she wouldn’t take ‘no’ for an answer. She’d heard about Harllee’s success with autistic students– teaching them in so called ‘collaborative classrooms’ where those with challenges learn right alongside their peers.
“He talks a lot now and I don’t want to tell him to be quiet because this is what I want,” says Bell.
A year ago, his teachers at Harllee say Daylyn wouldn’t speak or make eye contact. Now, he’s singing and reading… and he just turned 4. “It’s huge. It’s really good, he’s made a lot of progress,” says Bell.
So what’s next? Educators say it is critical that parents have a summer plan that doesn’t include hours spent in front of the TV or on technology– and that’s especially true for those students still learning social skills.
“We don’t get better at reading, by not reading. We don’t get better at socializing, by not socializing,” says Lori Griffin, DISD’s Director of Extended Learning Opportunities. A ‘Discover Summer’ resource fair this weekend will showcase the dozens of free or low cost camps intended to combat the summer learning slide for all students. And there will be additional summer support for those with autism.
“Really we couldn’t have this expansion without our partners– the ARC of NorthTexas, also the Parker Autism center… those are important partners because it helps to expand those opportunities for parents and for kids– because that socialization piece..as you know is a critical component.”
And Bell is so glad that she didn’t take no for an answer. “The teachers are awesome! I can always text or call, always available and that makes me feel really comfortable and I know that he’s in good hands. I love this school.”