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Autism Education Options Changing In Minneapolis Public Schools

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) -- Minneapolis Public Schools is changing the way it provides instruction for children with autism.

The district will shift resources so students classified as Level 1 or 2 can get the instruction they need in community schools rather than specialized programs.

"My son has been in the preschool program for three years and he's really grown tremendously," said Heidi Klukas.

Klukas has nothing but good things to say about Minneapolis Public schools and its approach to teaching children with autism. Her son, William, thrived under the city wide program.

"We were told in the Fall, 'Yes, your child can go to a program school. Go tour them, make your selection and you're done.' So I did all that when I was supposed to," Klukas said.

Klukas was shocked when she learned the school she picked out for William wouldn't accept him. MPS discontinued its program that allowed level 1 or 2 children, like her son William, to use the citywide program.

Instead, William will have to go to a school in his neighborhood. The school Klukas wanted her son to attend is out of her area.

"In order to get in, I would have to live in the neighborhood so I moved," Klukas said.

MPS Director of Special Education Rochelle Cox says she believes changing where children with autism are taught gives parents more options.

"Now in our district, we have 60-plus teachers who have their autism license," Cox said. "So we were able to provide that service -- that stellar service we were providing in the city wide schools -- to students in their neighborhood schools."

Cox says children with autism that are considered level 3 will continue to be served by the city-wide program, where classrooms are smaller and there is more support. She says changes fall in line with national standards that allow children with autism to move into mainstream classrooms.

"I understand their goals and making the programs available at the neighborhood schools but it seems like it was done quickly at least we weren't aware as parents," Klukas said.

Cox says where a child is placed depends on the individual education program parents and teachers develop for the child. If a student is not thriving, changes can be made to send them to the city wide program.

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