Carthage Schools Renovates Medical Building to Become Autism Cen - KOAM TV 7

Carthage Schools Renovates Medical Building to Become Autism Center


Multiple school districts will get services needed for students with autism closer to home. This as an old medical building in Carthage is renovated into an autism center for the next school year.

School district  construction worker Mike Sullivan is handling the renovations at the lower level of  Medical Building on Hazel street. He has removed sections of walls and will construct a few other walls to create appropriate spaces at the new autism center.

The district
s Director of Special Services, Beth James explained why some rooms will be made smaller. "Two therapy rooms. (out of one) You really want them small just enough room for the teacher and the student working in it."

Renovations will include creating a sensory room. It is all to meet the needs of students with extreme cases of autism who can
t be served in the regular classroom.
James said, "Students that need that really discreet trial and ABA (applied behavior analysis) therapies to make advancements and having the personnel here and the staff to support them is what we are accomplishing by having it all in one place."

Such staff can be hard to find. The program will be created in conjunction with Crowder College and modeled after an autism center it is operating in Neosho with that school district. The new center is bringing services closer to home and serving more students. 
James said, "So our students that are having to be transported will have a very short  drive  from their home to the center here  located in the Carthage district."
Carthage Superintendent Sean Smith added that a bigger benefit is serving more students. He said, "Any autism center only has so much space, so many slots. This will expand  those  services that are in that Beacon  Consortium which is very, very positive."
The Beacon Consortium includes fourteen school districts, so students from Carl Junction, Sarcoxie, Webb City and those schools north of Neosho will be served there. Each district sending a student absorbs the cost of their students who come here. Not only is that a financial help but a coordinated effort is needed because of the difficulty in getting the highly trained staff.

The end goal is to get those students  back to the regular classroom.
James said, "The primary  purpose is to increase that language ability for the students. Their ability to communicate with their family, the community and with the school itself."

The former medical office building still has a few tenants including a dentist. Once they relocate after leases are up in 2018,  the program will be able to grow.

Smith said, "We have twelve slots available at this time and already have nine of those slots filled.
So more space will be welcome in the future to fill the need.  

The McCune Brooks Healthcare Foundation sold the building to the school district for just one dollar. 
It sits adjacent to the old McCune Brooks Hospital on Hazel Street.

The school district will eventually renovate the upper level of the structure to serve as new administrative offices. The old administrative building will then be used as a welcome center where new students can take tests and enroll.

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