Often educational interventions for children on the autism spectrum focus on remediation, that is learning to behave like their neurotypical peers. However, as Kristie Patten, the IDEAS co-PI from New York University, states, “no one builds their lives on remediated weaknesses.” Autistic youth, like everyone else, thrive when they are accepted for who they are, encouraged to build on their strengths, and follow their interests.
EDC has partnered with New York University, New York Hall of Science, and educators and students in autism inclusion schools in New York City to co-create the IDEAS Maker Program. IDEAS provides resources for educators to implement interest-driven tinkering, crafting, design, and production with physical and digital tools in their schools and to adapt the programs to meet their students’ needs.
EDC and its partners are doing the following:
- Co-creating two Maker Program curricula, one for middle-school and high-school students, which will include 3D printing, and one for elementary learners
- Developing a facilitator guide, slideshow, and support materials for both curricula
- Training educators and occupational therapists to use the curriculum in informal and formal settings, depending on their needs and/or context
- Training New York City Department of Education coaches to train others on how to implement the curricula and creating materials for coaches to use and adapt
- Working with the New York City Department of Education to integrate IDEAS into their normal summer programs and professional development offerings
- Gathering data about how different educators adapt and implement the program and how students experience it
- Disseminating information about the impact of the program on students and educators
- Working with autistic college and high school students to design a mentorship component to the program
To date, the project team has published its findings in the Journal of Autism and Developmental Disabilities and Frontiers in Education. The project has been spotlighted in the No Such Thing: Education in the Digital Age podcast. In 2018 and 2021, the team’s videos received Facilitator Choice Awards at the National Science Foundation’s STEM For All Video Showcase.
By the end of the project, the program will be:
- Fully integrated into 12 autism inclusion elementary, middle, and high schools in New York City
- Available to all elementary, middle, and high schools in NYC that teaches autistic students
- Provided as a standard offering during the New York City Department of Education’s professional development days
- Accessible to any New York City educator to run as a four-week summer program
- Made available to educators worldwide through the websites of the three partner organizations
ASD Nest Support Project at NYU Steinhardt School of Culture, Education and Human Development; New York Hall of Science, SRI International