Individualized Learning for Students with Autism

Individualized Learning Key to Success for Students With Autism at Coyote Creek Elementary
Posted on 04/06/2022

Individualized Learning Key to Success for Students With Autism at Coyote Creek Elementary

April is Autism Acceptance Month, a simple declaration for a not-so-simple topic.

The Colorado Department of Education offers this definition for children with autism: “A child with an Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a child with a developmental disability significantly affecting verbal and non-verbal social communication and social interaction, generally evidenced by the age of three.”

Students with ASD can struggle to interact and communicate with others both verbally and nonverbally socially. Students may also experience repetitive behaviors, resistance to environmental changes or changes in daily routines, and unusual responses to sensory experiences. As a spectrum disorder, autism affects each individual differently. The symptoms can range from mild to severe.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, autism affects an estimated 1 in 44 children in the United States today.

Student with Special Education teacherNo two children with autism are alike, so teachers like Chelsea Krier of Coyote Creek Elementary are taking an individualized approach to learning.

Krier’s interest in Special Education started in high school, where she volunteered in the Significant Support Needs (SSN) classroom as an assistant teacher. She also participated on the Special Olympics basketball team. After teaching high school for six years in another school district, Krier joined the Douglas County School District (DCSD) as an elementary school teacher.

This year, most of the students in Krier’s classroom are on the autism spectrum.

“They’re full of life!” exclaimed Krier. “You never know what they’re going to say. You never know what they’re going to do. Day by day is always different. But they always pull on my heartstrings.”

Educational Assistant Leslei Davis knows the differences between each day with students, the ups and downs. There are challenges, but also celebrations. For example, Ronin Spurgeon and Harland Saiz have progressed in their reading skills.

“Those are huge successes for us,” says Davis. “Ronin has also really started talking a lot this year. He is saying sentences, making comments. His sense of humor is starting to come through. One of the things he loves is Yogi Bear. So now he brings a picnic basket to school for lunch!”

During the afternoons, Krier and her team spend one-on-one time with students at different learning stations. Each station is customized to each student’s abilities and needs in reading, writing, math, and communication.Student with Special Education SSN Educational Assistant

In the middle of the room and surrounded by a yellow fabric wall, Davis’ station is all about the alphabet. Students create their own Alphabet Books and place stickers or pictures in their books that correspond to each letter of the alphabet.

“For Harland, for instance, he is reading,” says Davis. “He likes to use pictures, which he’s very proficient at picking the letter and the sound that goes with it. Now for the girls, theirs is a little more guided.”

Individualized learning is key.

“Each student with autism has his or her own personal strengths and needs,” said Jennifer Tilley, DCSD Autism Team Lead. “It is important for school teams to assess and develop individualized goals and teaching strategies that meet those needs. School teams in DCSD have access to autism specialists to help them individualize programming and interventions for students with autism.”

Deputy Superintendent, and former Special Education teacher, Danelle Hiatt, understands that supporting the individual student is at the heart of the mission of DCSD.

Student with Special Education SSN Educational Assistant“Our students with autism inspire us as educators to be responsive, understanding, creative, adaptable and dedicated to ensuring their individual needs are met,” said Hiatt. “We need to ensure they receive the support they need to learn and flourish as part of our community.”

At the end of the day, teachers and educational assistants want students with autism to be recognized as individuals who have the opportunity to learn and grow in their own way.

“They’re people just like us, trapped in their minds and their bodies,” said Davis. “I just want others to know what great kids they are and how much fun they are to be around, how lovable and wonderful they are.”

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In compliance with Titles VI & VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967, the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act of 2008, and Colorado law, the Douglas County School District RE-1 does not unlawfully discriminate against otherwise qualified students, employees, applicants for employment, or members of the public on the basis of disability, race, creed, color, sex, sexual orientation, marital status, national origin, religion, ancestry, or need for special education services. Discrimination against employees and applicants for employment based on age, genetic information, and conditions related to pregnancy or childbirth is also prohibited in accordance with state and/or federal law. Complaint procedures have been established for students, parents, employees, and members of the public. The School District's Compliance Officer and Title IX Coordinator to address complaints alleging sexual harassment under Title IX is Aaron Henderson, 620 Wilcox Street, Castle Rock, Colorado, [email protected], 720-433-1083.

Outside Agencies

Complaints regarding violations of Title VI, (race, national origin), Title IX (sex, gender), Section 504/ADA (handicap or disability), may be filed directly with the Office for Civil Rights, U.S. Department of Education, 1244 North Speer Blvd., Suite 310, Denver, CO 80204. Complaints regarding violations of Title VII (employment) and the ADEA (prohibiting age discrimination in employment) may be filed directly with the Federal Office of Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, 303 E. 17th Ave., Suite 510, Denver, CO 80202, or the Colorado Civil Rights Commission, 1560 Broadway, Suite 1050, Denver, CO 80202.


Special Education records which have been collected by Douglas County School District related to the identification, evaluation, educational placement, or the provision of special education in the district, must be maintained under state and federal laws for the period of five (5) years after special education services have ended for the student. Special education services end when the student is no longer eligible for services, graduates, or completes his/her educational program at age 21, or moves from the district. This notification is to inform parents/guardians and former students of Douglas County School District's intent to destroy the special education records of students who exited special education services as of June 30, 2016. These records will be destroyed in accordance with state law unless the parent/guardian or eligible (adult) student notifies the school district otherwise. After five years, the records are no longer useful to the district, but may be useful to the parent/guardian or former student in applying for social security benefits, rehabilitation services, college entrance, etc. The parent/guardian or eligible (adult) student may request a copy of the records by requesting the records at this link ( Douglas County School District Transcripts and Records Requests ).