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CharterFolk Chat with Diana Diaz-Harrison
Episode 1923rd February 2023 • CharterFolk • CharterFolk
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Jed:

Hello Charter Folk.

Jed:

Delighted to have you here and delighted to have our guest today.

Jed:

We're very fortunate today to have a chance to talk to Diana Diaz-Harrison,

Jed:

who is the founder of Arizona Autism Charter Schools, which was the recent

Jed:

winner of the YASS Prize nationally.

Jed:

Diana, let's bring you on right now, and just delighted to have you here.

Jed:

Welcome to Charter Folk.

Jed:

Congratulations on the YA Prize.

Jed:

Congratulations on having made a school that is perceived by so many to be making

Jed:

such a great difference and inspiring a lot in our movement to do even more.

Jed:

There's all sorts of things I'd love to dive into, but just because of your

Jed:

knowledge around autism generally and just the questions that so many people

Jed:

society have about this, I wanted to start focusing on that I thought that

Jed:

I knew a fair deal about autism myself, but to visit the CDC and see that the

Jed:

incidents of autism identification in 2004 was one in every fifty-five kids

Jed:

or something, thereabouts, I'm sorry, one in like one hundred sixty-six kids.

Jed:

And now we see, it's at one in 54, and some folks are saying it may be

Jed:

even a, a smaller number than that.

Jed:

So we are seeing a large increase in the identification and most people

Jed:

are celebrating this absolutely as an indicator that we're doing a far greater

Jed:

job of just finding folks that have autism and being able to respond accordingly.

Jed:

But others are also identifying, perhaps we're seeing a higher

Jed:

incidence, that autism is actually happening more in society.

Jed:

Can you tell me how do we parse this information?

Jed:

What's your per personal opinion on these issues given your expertise?

Diana:

I definitely think that there's more awareness of autism as

Diana:

a neurodiversity, and as different communities get better access to

Diana:

healthcare and medical diagnoses as schools become more proficient

Diana:

in their school evaluations in identifying autism, that has contributed

Diana:

to a higher incidence of autism.

Diana:

In particular, for example, here in Arizona, we have a large Hispanic

Diana:

community, and I think eliminating or reducing the stigma associated

Diana:

with autism has helped many kids and families seek diagnosis sooner than

Diana:

later, and that is what we want because early intervention is very important

Diana:

in serving children with autism.

Diana:

So I think eliminating the stigma has contributed to teasing out autism

Diana:

from other developmental conditions and having more awareness has also

Diana:

led to higher rates of diagnosis.

Jed:

Yeah, I was fascinated to see that the delta between autism identification

Jed:

rates in caucasian students and in black students has basically evaporated

Jed:

over the 20 years that I was previously referencing, although it looks as though

Jed:

black students are identified with autism later than white students are.

Jed:

And when you're talking about, early intervention being so important,

Jed:

we can see how that disparity could have profound consequences.

Jed:

And I still see that, tell me what can you just explain what the

Jed:

consequences are for identifying later and, and why we should be so in

Jed:

focused on getting even better at this?

Diana:

Yeah.

Diana:

So early intervention for kids on the spectrum, on the autism

Diana:

spectrum is all about your learning to learn skills, right?

Diana:

How to attend to a person or a task, or acquiring functional communication,

Diana:

because a lot of kids on the spectrum have communication gaps, that's

Diana:

one of the core symptoms of autism.

Diana:

So they have a lot of catching up to do that doesn't happen

Diana:

through the natural environment.

Diana:

There are specific therapeutic interventions that are evidence-based

Diana:

that need to be worked on intensively during the early years, that's pre

Diana:

five years old, that's from when, as early as, two years old to when a

Diana:

child becomes school age at five old.

Diana:

So that's why early intervention really makes a difference.

Diana:

As when children are young, their grades are more moldable as well, they're

Diana:

making more neurological connections that can really make or break really

Diana:

a student successful start in school.

Diana:

Of course some of our students have never had access to these, to early

Diana:

intervention or official diagnoses, but their parents know, they need a

Diana:

specialty program because what they were doing in typical school wasn't working

Diana:

out and we do everything that we can to catch them up, in terms of their

Diana:

basic learning to learn skills, shape behavior, so that they're able to access

Diana:

learning through a school environment, and that's a huge part of what we do.

Diana:

. Jed: Yeah.

Diana:

My experience is primarily anecdotal here and having a couple teenagers in the

Diana:

household with a lot of friends, several of whom have been identified, but to be

Diana:

able to see the difference between those that were identified earlier in their

Diana:

lives versus some of our friends that have been identified just in the last

Diana:

year or two, it's a very different overall profile for that kids' experience in

Diana:

school, that kids' experience growing up.

Diana:

So early identification is obviously very important.

Diana:

And it's something that also relates to how our overall public

Diana:

education world is doing relative to identification and support.

Diana:

I wonder, so we see that the identification rates

Diana:

have increased over time.

Diana:

How would you assess like our K-12 readiness?

Diana:

Are we doing a decent job?

Diana:

Are we getting better at this?

Diana:

Where are the very big problems that still remain?

Diana:

And maybe where do you see opportunities for the charter world to provide

Diana:

some critically needed leadership in terms of improving autism support

Diana:

across the entire K-12 establishment?

Diana:

I would say I'm super grateful that here in Arizona we were able to

Diana:

start a charter school, using best practices that are typically only seen

Diana:

in clinical settings or private schools.

Diana:

Schools like mine do exist, but they're 40 to $50,000 a year, and that's just

Diana:

not accessible for most families.

Diana:

I paid that for a couple of years and couldn't keep going in that trajectory.

Diana:

So I learned that in other states like Florida, there was a successful tuition

Diana:

free autism charter, and I thought, our state with the high incidence of

Diana:

autism and parents seeking solutions that were just not being listened to

Diana:

in typical mainstream district schools.

Diana:

It was about time that Arizona had a model that was best practice and tuition free

Diana:

and completely prioritizing the smaller, more personalized learning environments

Diana:

that are needed by children with autism.

Diana:

So I think we are really blazing the trail to show what school for kids

Diana:

with autism should look like to help the students become as fulfilled,

Diana:

independent, and creative and community contributors of post-secondary.

Diana:

I think most districts do have a SPED program, but these programs, as

Diana:

a mom, I experienced, they were all about what the kid couldn't do and

Diana:

what the school was not going to do.

Diana:

And it was all about what is free and appropriate, because that's the law

Diana:

to have to be an appropriate public education, but what's appropriate

Diana:

to an education bureaucrat is completely different than what's

Diana:

appropriate for an autism mom.

Diana:

So there were many directions that I could have gone, like many parents,

Diana:

I hired advocates, attorneys, and all of this thing, and at the end of the

Diana:

day I realize that, even if I win, this program is going to be forced.

Diana:

It's not going to be a program that's done with the intentionality and love

Diana:

that I want for my kid, like a parent paying 50 to $100,000 a year at the most

Diana:

prestigious autism private programs.

Diana:

So I researched what a charter school could look like, what the fund funding

Diana:

formula was and it became very feasible that if our state approved our charter,

Diana:

that we could make better use of the funds, by having it in a charter

Diana:

model that was driven by parents than by bureaucrats who were just about

Diana:

telling us what our kids couldn't do and what they were not going to do.

Jed:

So it's reminding me, I'm just coming back from a visit with my

Jed:

parents, and they have a group of friends that know that their son

Jed:

is obsessed with charter schools.

Jed:

And so those friends will send articles to them, and so when I got to see mom this

Jed:

weekend, she had these articles there.

Jed:

The top article was about how well charter schools are doing with foster youth.

Jed:

And it was a story of a particular school and a particular, I happen to know that

Jed:

school and leader very well, but I also know the background of that school, which

Jed:

was the entry point, was we don't wanna do this in the context of a charter, we are

Jed:

going to do it within the broader system and just spinning wheels for eight, ten,

Jed:

I think it was longer than 10 years before this incredible school got started, but

Jed:

once people realized, that running at the problem they're most passionate with

Jed:

about within the charter school context was what they were focused on, wow, why

Jed:

are you may able to make more progress?

Jed:

Right.

Jed:

So I see you in a very comparable situation, there's

Jed:

a clear problem in the world.

Jed:

There's a clear problem in our education world to respond to that broader

Jed:

societal problem and now we need to unleash people to come up with the

Jed:

solutions that are desperately needed.

Jed:

It sounds to me as like you, it's very similar to what you had.

Jed:

Tell me a little bit about what was it like to become a charter folk?

Jed:

Did you resist it in the beginning?

Jed:

Did you have other ways that you wanted to do it?

Jed:

Or did it wasn't natural for you to think about it really early in the process?

Jed:

No, I mean, it wasn't my first thought, I was basically just a mom

Jed:

needing a better education solution for my kid who was highly impacted by

Jed:

autism, but I was a little bit spoiled because I did get him into early

Jed:

intervention of the best type early on.

Jed:

And, while I saw how he was in a typical principal, which was a disaster just

Jed:

sensory overload, large class size teacher who had no idea what to do with him.

Jed:

He was very bouncy, more so than typical preschoolers.

Jed:

Then he went into small group and one-on-one early intervention that was

Jed:

based on applied behavior analysis, which is backed by more than 50 years

Jed:

of research to produce best outcomes for kids like my son with autism.

Jed:

And I thought, bingo, we're gonna keep doing that.

Jed:

We're going to do that until he doesn't need as much deliberate support.

Jed:

And so we did, a few years of early intervention, then when he became school

Jed:

age, they weren't doing that, even though the district had an autism program,

Jed:

they said that all of the therapeutic practices were above and beyond pretty

Jed:

inappropriate, and I'm like, that's silly.

Jed:

We know this is what works for kids.

Jed:

Like my son, there's a class full of kids that learn the same way he does.

Jed:

And so then it all became, it's that horrible feeling of becoming

Jed:

adversary, you're, you become that mom that is a nag and not settling.

Jed:

So, again, I did the drill hired Agba kit and attorneys.

Jed:

He got put in a private placement.

Jed:

And that also just wasn't the way I wanted school to go for

Jed:

myself as a mom and for my son.

Jed:

So it was actually very refreshing to learn that other states had gone on a

Jed:

path to open charter schools that were based on applied behavior analysis

Jed:

and had all of the curriculum and instruction, the small groupings, the

Jed:

embedded therapies that were needed.

Jed:

And I pitched it to a lot of seasoned, educators or clinical people that

Jed:

worked with kids with autism, but nobody wanted to touch how

Jed:

litigious special education can be.

Jed:

And so after a lot of going around and closed doors, I decided, well if I really

Jed:

care about this, which I do, I'm going to have to form a team myself and I can.

Jed:

That is the charter folk story.

Jed:

And it's also, it's something that I think it's frustrating for our world

Jed:

to have to remember, but when we're sometimes accosted in the supermarket.

Jed:

You're a charter school supporter and I hear all this stuff, right?

Jed:

When you're able to go back and say what the problem was and your willingness

Jed:

to try to make it work in so many other different ways, and it's not working

Jed:

and then coming to this way, and it's in fact, working is a really great entry

Jed:

point for a redefined discussion with whomever it is that you're talking about.

Jed:

And it seems to be, and it seems to me like coming to see your school is

Jed:

probably a very important thing too.

Jed:

I know where the Governor of Arizona comes and many others come.

Jed:

But for those that haven't been able to make a personal visit to your school,

Jed:

and by the way, I'm coming to Arizona shortly and your school is absolutely the

Jed:

top of list, I can't wait to get there.

Jed:

But just equate our listeners or our viewers with how would you give

Jed:

the backstage path to how Arizona autism really works given that some

Jed:

of our folks are really educators and really understand how a lot of these

Jed:

kinds of programs are put together.

Diana:

Yeah, so I think the tricky thing with autism is

Diana:

that it is a spectrum, right?

Diana:

There are some folks who have very intensive behavioral and communication

Diana:

challenges and then there are kids who are on the autism spectrum, who are highly

Diana:

verbal and have no scattered skills.

Diana:

They might be very gifted in math, for example, but still struggle with language

Diana:

and communication and understanding social nuances, which become very

Diana:

important in middle and high school.

Diana:

So because we serve the whole spectrum, the way we group kids by abilities

Diana:

and needs, helps us be successful.

Diana:

We have programs for very intensive needs for high functioning students,

Diana:

and we have special programs for students falling somewhere in between,

Diana:

and we can only do that because our whole school serves kids with autism.

Diana:

In a typical district school, for example, you might have five kids on the spectrum.

Diana:

One of 'em is a high functioning math genius, another one is still

Diana:

needing toilet training and is very impacted, but they may be placed

Diana:

in the same autism classroom.

Diana:

It's almost not fair, it's very feasible for us to group students liabilities

Diana:

and needs and staff accordingly.

Diana:

Students that have a lot of needs, you'll see a two to one or even a

Diana:

one-on-one ratio because you're working on communication and functional skills.

Diana:

For our classes of kids who are higher functioning, it might look

Diana:

more like a typical classroom, but you really won't see more than twelve

Diana:

to thirteen kids, a lead teacher and two behavior support staff.

Diana:

In some cases, you might see therapists pushing in as well.

Diana:

And then every kid has a personalized learning program because there are

Diana:

a range of strengths and challenges that need to be worked on very

Diana:

deliberately with kids with autism.

Diana:

So in addition to obviously tracking how they're doing in language arts,

Diana:

math, science, we're also tracking their behavior, social skills, and their ability

Diana:

to navigate a group environment, which is a little harder for our kids, and so that

Diana:

all needs to be taught very deliberately.

Jed:

So that's a great backstage pass to the program.

Jed:

I would love to go further into this.

Jed:

Just being an old teacher myself and the only pushback I ever got from

Jed:

my parents was my father saying to me, I hear the charter schools don't

Jed:

serve special ed kids, and I was just assuring him, are you kidding me, dad?

Jed:

No.

Jed:

Every kid and every problem we think that we can run out

Jed:

with greater effectiveness.

Jed:

So I'd love to dive further into the details, but I have to recognize we

Jed:

only have so much time with you and there's so many other backstage passes

Jed:

you can equate our listeners with.

Jed:

Give me the backstage pass for the YASS Prize, I mean, congratulations again.

Jed:

All the applicants across the entire country and Arizona Autism is supported.

Jed:

Can you tell us, I mean, what was the most exciting moment and what

Jed:

has the experience been generally to have been recognized like this?

Diana:

Oh, it's been amazing and I'm so grateful that, I really love that

Diana:

the YASS Prize and other, other private funders as well are starting to recognize

Diana:

that there are various paths to success.

Diana:

While some students may go to college, other students may be entrepreneurial.

Diana:

We could equip them with the ability to start a business which is better

Diana:

suited to their personality and trait.

Diana:

And then other kids, that we serve might be in a facilited working

Diana:

environment because that's the support they need to be productive.

Diana:

And so just because a child is highly impacted or has different

Diana:

social skills, doesn't mean that they shouldn't be invested in.

Diana:

And so I was so grateful to be able to tell the stories of how our kids go

Diana:

from feeling defeated and the parents as well, because the whole education

Diana:

previous to us was all about their challenges and what they couldn't do.

Diana:

Whereas here we build up from their strengths and help them catch up on

Diana:

all those gap skills to be feel like fulfilled, productive students that

Diana:

leads to build productive citizens.

Diana:

We really, even though autism does have real challenges, we like to

Diana:

think of it as a neurodiversity.

Diana:

Over time there were likely a lot of people autism but they were just

Diana:

seen as eccentric or if you think about it in a scary way, they were in

Diana:

institutions if they had a lot of meaning.

Diana:

Nevertheless, it is an out of the box way of learning and seeing the world

Diana:

that if funnels appropriately, can help us solve a lot of challenge, and I think

Diana:

our kids can be amazing contributors.

Diana:

At our school we also have adopted the was ed curriculum for the STEAM

Diana:

learning projects, and our kids, once they have those learning to the learn

Diana:

skills and are engaged in hands-on projects with very interesting text

Diana:

materials, they thrive and sometimes they surprise their teachers because

Diana:

they come up with things that a typical brain would have a hard time doing.

Diana:

So I think when you see the kids as Neurodiverse even gifted and change

Diana:

the narrative about how they feel about themselves, how their family

Diana:

see them, how the community sees them.

Diana:

Then it's a whole different ballgame in terms of the possibility.

Jed:

So then, tell me about next chapters.

Jed:

So we have this exciting prize and I've heard a little bit, but I don't

Jed:

know too much about your vision for the future, how you might use these new

Jed:

resources to catalyze even more impact in Arizona and across the country.

Jed:

Tell me what you're thinking about for next chapters for Arizona Autism.

Diana:

Yes.

Diana:

So we do have a few more campuses planned for Arizona, our home state, and part

Diana:

of the gas price is going to help us launch the National Accelerator of Autism

Diana:

Charter schools because we believe this should be a choice no matter where you

Diana:

live or what state you're in, parents shouldn't be subjected to just mediocre

Diana:

to low performing programs because that's the only choice at their district.

Diana:

Or paying 50 to 60 to more thousand a year to go to private school, not sustainable

Diana:

for a lot of families or most families.

Diana:

So having a school choice charter solution that is focused on best

Diana:

practices for autismis in demand.

Diana:

We have students move from out-of-state to access our school.

Diana:

Last count, we had students from more than 30 states that had relocated

Diana:

to be able to attend our school.

Diana:

We've had parents accept jobs or decline jobs based on whether their

Diana:

child could attend our school.

Diana:

And we really feel that families shouldn't have to uproot and move

Diana:

to get a high quality specialty program for their children.

Diana:

In many cases, families have more than one child on the spectrum.

Diana:

We have families of three and four, and your kids are at different levels of

Diana:

the spectrum and we are grateful and blessed that we can serve them off.

Diana:

So this is something that the charter school movement can help us fast track

Diana:

and make available so that no family gets left behind just having to accept

Diana:

subpar programming for their kids.

Jed:

So I would imagine you're being somewhat selective about

Jed:

what states you want to go to.

Jed:

And it seems as though this effort, its success will hinge on whether

Jed:

or not the advocacy conditions permitted to happen and I'm sure there

Jed:

are many states where the existing status quo wouldn't make it work.

Jed:

Have you already been able to identify your subset of states that you would be

Jed:

prioritized for building the national accelerator of autism charter schools?

Diana:

So, Arizona and Florida have done this successfully because the funding

Diana:

formula for autism is pretty favorable.

Diana:

But we have had partners in other states who are working with less funding

Diana:

and adding funding through Medicaid billing for schools to make it work.

Diana:

So, of course we're going to go into charter friendly states first,

Diana:

we've identified Nevada and Texas.

Diana:

We know what it takes to educate to successfully, so there could be a

Diana:

number of funding screens from federal IDEA using title funds strategically

Diana:

using interns from universities to help elevate the staffing ratio.

Diana:

I mean, we parents will do whatever it takes and then slowly but surely

Diana:

work on getting the funding formula where it leads to be by serving as

Diana:

a proof point for what's possible when the right funding is in place.

Diana:

And also by when we have longer term data showing that our kids can be

Diana:

more self-sufficient when they've been through our educational program

Diana:

and they won't have to rely on the state for their entire adult life.

Diana:

They could also be contributing members of society.

Diana:

So yes, we will definitely go after states that are more favorable funding wise,

Diana:

but we're not going to give up there because students with autism families,

Diana:

kids with autism are everywhere and it would be amazing for families to have

Diana:

this option no matter where they live.

Jed:

A Lot of the advocacy challenge would pertain to any kind of school.

Jed:

What is the funding mechanism for autism and special needs kids generally, then we

Jed:

have the uniqueness of charter schools.

Jed:

What would your message be to the charter school advocates?

Jed:

X State, just greenfield.

Jed:

We don't know all of the rules yet.

Jed:

What are the things that the advocates should be thinking about to make sure that

Jed:

organizations like yours can thrive there?

Jed:

Obviously getting a generally favorable environment such that charters can get

Jed:

approved and we have a facility to be able to operate the program in something

Jed:

that alters schools have to look at.

Jed:

But then there are the specifics around funding mechanisms, and it sounds to

Jed:

me as though in Arizona and in Florida, there are funding mechanisms specific

Jed:

to children identified with autism that seems to be a key enabler and I know that

Jed:

there are many other states that don't have such funding specific to autism or

Jed:

anything like that, but where there's this like general funding that's available and

Jed:

somehow you're supposed to make it work.

Jed:

Whomever the kids are that show up at your front door.

Jed:

Tell me what's the right way for our advocates, from a charter school

Jed:

perspective, to be thinking about this so that we can make sure schools like

Jed:

yours can grow in many other states?

Diana:

I think there's a case to be made for special population schools for sure,

Diana:

because when we are serving, for example in our case, most of our population is

Diana:

on the autism spectrum, the economies of scales that can happen and the

Diana:

bruisings that are specific to children's abilities and needs are more successful

Diana:

and therefore more cost effective.

Diana:

So, while some of our detractors may say students on the spectrum would

Diana:

be better off in a typical mainstream environment, isn't that what you want?

Diana:

Most parents like me have tried that and our kids, even though they

Diana:

may be in a class of 25 typical kids, they're more isolated than

Diana:

ever and in some cases even unsafe.

Diana:

So having these smaller specialty environments, is more successful,

Diana:

more cost effective, in terms of what it costs the state for a person with

Diana:

autism across the lifespan, doing this investment during K-12 can be less

Diana:

reliance on the space in the future.

Diana:

I think that's definitely getting more of our kids on the spectrum in the workforce

Diana:

is part of a of the biggest driver for us.

Diana:

Again, whether it's independent employment facilitated employment, no matter what

Diana:

it is we are all working towards having our kids not be re relying on safe

Diana:

services for the rest of their life and I think that cost analysis, investment

Diana:

and cost analysis should be a driver for making a case for specialty charters like

Diana:

ours that are going to prioritize best practice for a very high needs population.

Jed:

I'm not gonna get middle in the middle of this, of the disagreement

Jed:

or the discussion that's ongoing about whether full inclusion is

Jed:

the right way or whether or not specialty schools are the right way.

Jed:

What I love is Charter Folk passionate about their issues, being able to

Jed:

pursue their view with the freedom and the funding necessary to get it done.

Jed:

And it seems to me.

Diana:

At the end of the day, it's parents' choice.

Diana:

They should be able to pick, if they really want to make it work in a

Diana:

mainstream environment, go for it.

Diana:

If that's not work for you.

Diana:

Then most parents seek out a private option, but then they

Diana:

realize they can't afford it.

Diana:

So that's where we come in to be that smaller specialty option that is

Diana:

accessible cause it's tuition free.

Jed:

And so it seems to me as though one of the problems that we have is that we

Jed:

simply don't Identify kids early enough and provide the resources to the parents

Jed:

regardless of where they choose to enroll their kids, and if we would get that done

Jed:

well, then it would enable both those parents that want to see their kids served

Jed:

within a full inclusion environment, provide the resources to properly

Jed:

test whether it's the right place.

Jed:

And also if they'd like to have their kids in enrolled in a place

Jed:

like Arizona autism, they would be able to have that choice as well.

Jed:

And we advocates, I think we need to be doing a better job of keeping

Jed:

both front and center for us.

Jed:

We are about going to put our thumbs on the scale either way.

Jed:

We want parents that were in the situation that you were in not so long ago with

Jed:

your son to be in a fundamentally better place and for schools to have been

Jed:

freed up to do exciting new things.

Jed:

I'll end with us what last question for you, because we can get involved in like

Jed:

funding and advocacy and political fights and all that stuff, but in the end it's

Jed:

just what is the positive difference that we're making in kids' lives?

Jed:

Obviously, as a mom, you made a huge difference in the life of your own

Jed:

son, but now you've made a difference in the life of so many other children.

Jed:

So many different experiences are different.

Jed:

And you're staying, the autism spectrum is very wide, there's no one best thing.

Jed:

But is there any general viewpoint, is there any rule of thumb that

Jed:

you would just wish was more understood among the educator world?

Jed:

About how we can more effectively, serve autism kids and autism and families

Jed:

where autism kids are within it?

Diana:

I think the smaller and personalized learning programs that are

Diana:

data driven for each student and the project based learning that allows kids

Diana:

to have agency in how they apply their foundational skills and something that

Diana:

is of high interest to them has been truly magical for us because kids with

Diana:

autism are known to have very thick.

Diana:

Right?

Diana:

We have kids, for example, that memorize every license plate in the parking lot.

Diana:

So you don't have to learn some foundational skills where they can also

Diana:

track data on license plates would be.

Diana:

Yes, that would make them wanna go to school every day because they get to

Diana:

have a project that's based on their interest, but they're also applying some

Diana:

foundational skills that are critical for navigating the school, growing in their

Diana:

academics and at some point applying what they know to an employment opportunity

Diana:

or an entrepreneurship opportunity.

Diana:

But I think all of the things that we know are good for kids on the spectrum are the

Diana:

smaller sizes, the embedded behavioral supports that are all positive behavior

Diana:

supports, are things that we're starting to notice are beneficial for kids.

Diana:

A lot of kids now have gaps in learning loss and have traumas of many sorts.

Diana:

And so, whereas now, social emotional learning is kind of the fun, we've been

Diana:

doing behavioral and social emotional of learning all along because it's required,

Diana:

for kids on the autism group spectrum to work on behavior, while you're also

Diana:

working on academic skill aquisition.

Diana:

So I think the pendulum is swing swinging for sure, where parents are opting out of

Diana:

big giant programs and doing micro school.

Diana:

Why?

Diana:

Because their kids get more attention if they really get to know their peers.

Diana:

And a teacher that's serving 10 kids versus a teacher serving 28 kids,

Diana:

their emotional needs as well as their learning will be tracked better.

Diana:

And I think there is a lot of value to that personalized support

Diana:

that really all kids are craving.

Diana:

Many of us grew up in big classrooms and didn't have this available

Diana:

and, we tolerated that, right?

Diana:

Perhaps we tolerated not doing projects that were not interested

Diana:

or being in a big group and kind of figuring stuff out on your own.

Diana:

Kids on the spectrum are a little bit more truthful in that if something is

Diana:

not reaching them or not interesting to them, they'll tell you or they'll

Diana:

let you know with their behavior.

Diana:

So I think that as educators, we should really see that as cues for evolving

Diana:

how we reach students, and really giving them foundational skills and then

Diana:

agency and how they apply those skills.

Diana:

That's really what worked well for us, and it's something that we want to replicate

Diana:

so that other kids on the spectrum and families can just feel better about

Diana:

what their kids are doing in school.

Jed:

Absolutely.

Jed:

It reminds me of the language we used at High Tech High where we realized that some

Jed:

of the language around special education and other supports for kids with unique

Jed:

needs sometimes focuses on deficit.

Jed:

And we forget that, that IEP, which can often be deficit associated

Jed:

individual education plan.

Jed:

Are you kidding me?

Jed:

We want every kid to receive an individualized education plan.

Jed:

We want every student to receive special education and there are some leaders,

Jed:

who take advantage of the charter school landscape to help advance an awareness

Jed:

tthat's what we want for all kids.

Jed:

And you're helping us do that, Diana.

Jed:

So thank you so much for the time you spent with us.

Jed:

Thank you so much for the progress that you're making on behalf of all the

Jed:

kids that you're serving in Arizona.

Jed:

But I'll leave a special thank you for just changing the discussion nationally.

Jed:

Cause I think through your work we're going to see just a huge

Jed:

number of kids more effectively served in the decades to come.

Jed:

Thank you so much.

Jed:

Thank you