Autism school rounds out life skills and academics

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) –  April is Autism Awareness Month and chances are you know or will know someone with the disorder here in the Valley.

The Centers for Disease Control announced last week that one in 68 children now has autism, a 30 percent increase from two years ago.

WKBN First News reporter Julie Bercik spent some time with a student who is getting a lot from a local, specialized high school that addresses the special needs of a student with autism.

Ninth grader John Hahn prefers math over Spanish at Potential Development’s School for autism. Tuesday the class was tackling verbs in Spanish.

“It is pretty easy compared to others,” said Hahn. “They’ve been getting easier for me.”

John is one of almost 30 students at the new high school on Market Street in Youngstown. He said the classes help him with autism and a learning disability.

The number of children diagnosed with autism continues to rise. Executive Director Paul Garchar said there isn’t any hard evidence as to why those numbers are growing.

“There is no medical evidence for why the number continues to increase, but even 14 years ago when I first started the number was as high as 1 in 1,000,” said Garchar.

While researchers still can’t pinpoint a cause for the disorder, there have been advances in areas such as awareness.

“The most important thing that we stress to the parents is the early identification, know what you are dealing with and go out and get help,” said Garchar.

The high school has a new model apartment where students will learn how to do everyday tasks such as make a simple meal, laundry and how to make a bed.

Back in Spanish class, students are also learning the days of the week. While it’s not John’s favorite subject, he’s knows it’s important just like the others.

For more information about Potential Development and the new high school, click here.

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