Arlington school parents rallying to prevent proposed cuts to au - DC News FOX 5 DC WTTG

Arlington school parents rallying to prevent proposed cuts to autism program

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ARLINGTON, Va. -

Dozens of parents are rallying in Arlington to stop proposed budget cuts to a model autism program for students at Arlington Public Schools.

The program makes it possible for middle and high school students with Asperger's, a disorder in the autism spectrum, to learn in mainstream classrooms with the help of special assistants.

The Arlington School Board is proposing making $271,000 in cuts to the program. The cuts would mean the elimination of seven of the 12 assistant positions.

Parents say it would be devastating to their children's education and future.

"Autistic kids cannot live without this program,” Maria Barreda says. “They need these special trained teachers and aids to help them navigate through general education in order to learn the skill they need to be great independent young adults."

The program was created in 2009. According to parents, it has been a model for other school districts.

On Thursday night, dozens gathered at a school board meeting to voice their opposition to the cuts.

School board officials say they understand the concerns, but that the overall plan is to teach all staff how to work with children with autism. They say they recognize that there is a growing number of children with autism.

Arlington Public Schools Assistant Superintendent Brenda Wilks is promising parents positive results.

"While the staffing model will change, it will remain IEP driven and that is key,” she says. “We will continue to provide updates to the ward and the community as we progress through the year. And if at any time additional support is needed, they will be put into place."

The school board says they will work with parents to address their specific concerns before the final budget is approved on May 22.

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