Thursday, April 7, 2011

TeachTown for Autism

Special Education Teacher Describes Fun Classroom Technology Learning Environment to Teach Curriculum and Social Skills to Autistic Children

Video interview showcases Rebecca Byers, a veteran teacher of children with autism. Ms. Byers uses TeachTown Basics, computer-aided instruction with rigorous curriculum and fun, animated characters to teach children early fundamental skills.

TeachTown, Inc., an innovative software developer of early learning curriculum and social skills for children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD), kicks off World Autism Awareness Month featuring a video interview with Education Specialist Rebecca Byers. Ms. Byers, a 20-year veteran teacher in special education for the William Winchester Elementary School in Maryland, describes what a successful classroom technology learning environment can be like for children with autism who require consistent instruction and structured teaching strategies.

Each morning, children, at a developmental age of 2 to 7 years, begin their day at a computer station in the Library Media Center learning basic math, language and behavior skills. The children are taught the required skills directly from a computer aided instruction software (CAI) called TeachTown®: Basics with the support of teachers and aides.

“The kids love it and are very motivated to learn,” said Byers. “The technology enables teachers, parents and specialists to work together to provide consistent instruction. Student data reports guide us to develop more effective IEPs (Individual Education Plans). Consistent instruction and progress data are two primary benefits of computer aided instruction to help all children learn.”

TeachTown®: Basics incorporates the latest artificial intelligence and best practices in Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) and Discrete Trial Performance to prescribe individual lessons based on learning styles and student progress. As one child learns to tell time, another will add numbers, speak vocabulary words, identify colors or interpret facial expressions. Students like the colorful world of TeachTown where four engaging and animated characters take students on a personalized learning journey; Jelly, an over achiever; Pico, a shy guy; Mochi, a great friend but absent-minded; and Ginger, a fun adventurer.

In 2010, the Carroll County Maryland School purchased TeachTown®: Basics with a portion of stimulus funds from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) so children with exceptional needs could use the software to practice required curriculum at school and home.

“I’m aware of the hard economic times that schools face,” said Byers. “Yet I feel this technology was well worth the financial commitment. I also think this program would work well for English Language Learners.”

TeachTown®: Basics was designed by a team of autism researchers led by Dr. Christina Whalen, PhD, BCBA-D, Chief Science Officer, who co-founded the company while working at the University of Washington Autism Center. The intervention curriculum addresses early childhood learning standards, and uses prescriptive and adaptive intelligence to deliver direct instruction. At appropriate intervals, children are motivated with games and rewards. Teachers can view progress reports online and receive a monthly email report to track accountability. The program contains over 800 On Computer Lessons and Off Computer Activities, and delivers thousands of concepts in six essential learning domains: Mathematics, Language Development, Language Arts, Adaptive Skills, Cognitive Skills, and Social and Emotion Skills.

“Developing this amount of curriculum would take a substantial amount of time that could be better spent working directly with children,” said Byers. “I like the verbal, leveled prompts and skill sequencing. We review the student data at parent conferences and regularly use the Off Computer Activities that are well organized and complement instruction. TeachTown®: Basics is smartly designed to guide and support a community of people who work with children with autism; whether at school, home or private practice. We’ve seen what this educational technology can do to increase learning opportunities for children with autism. Together, we are making good academic progress.”

Watch Rebecca Byers’ full video interview and sign up for the TeachTown enewsletter that will feature more educators’ best practice classroom models and tips from autism experts.

TeachTown®: Basics will run on Mac OS 10.4.1+ and Windows XP and 7. The program requires Internet access and is Touch Screen compatible. An annual single license starts at $325 with discounts for multiple licenses and years. Call 1-800-283-0165 to request a quote.

About TeachTown, Inc.

TeachTown, Inc. develops world-class computer aided instruction to address the needs of schools, families, and clinicians serving students with autism and other special needs. The company has developed two educational programs for children with ASD and special needs: TeachTown®: Basics and TeachTown®: Social Skills. In addition to Dr. Christina Whelan, the team of experts include: Dr. Shannon Cernich, Ph.D., BCBA-D, Dr. Lauren Franke, PsyD,CCC/SLP and Melinda Docter, Ed.D. They are joined by Dan Feshbach, creator of Animated Speech Corporation who has a son with autism and Terry Thoren, CEO and a gifted animation storyteller who helped to bring the Rugrats to global blockbuster prominence. Research supporting the TeachTown curriculum was funded by grants from the National Center for Technology Innovation of the U.S. Department of Education.

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