Toms River School District Hosts First-Ever Autism Summit

More than 50 educators representing 13 districts throughout Ocean County and the region participated in a hands-on Autism Summit organized by Toms River Regional Schools. (Photo courtesy of Toms River Regional Schools)

TOMS RIVER – Toms River Regional Schools hosted the first Autism Summit workshop on March 2, bringing together 58 teachers, child study team (CST) members, and board-certified behavioral analysts (BCBAs) from 13 different school districts throughout Ocean County. This workshop was meant to discuss and review the best practices in programming for students with autism.

Held at the administrative offices of the TRRS, the workshop was led by Supervisor of Preschool and Autism Anna Kasper and Director of Special Education Joy Forrest. Kasper and teacher at Toms River High School East Chris Polhemus came up with the idea to host this workshop after noticing a startling need for support and discussion among autism educators.

“Autism education is a rapidly growing and evolving field, and there currently are not many opportunities and resources that are readily available,” said Polhemus. “Anna and I wanted to reach out to districts throughout the county and region and find out what folks are doing, and where they’re finding success and challenges with the populations we all serve.”

Autism education poses some challenges to educators as a rapidly developing and evolving area that doesn’t necessarily have set practices or standards among educators. And in some areas, there are so few autism educators that there are no opportunities for discussion about ideas and methods.

Photo courtesy of Toms River Regional Schools

The Autism Summit created a space that was meant to facilitate this kind of productive discussion, where educators could share ideas and methods about how to better autism education regarding curriculum, behavior, programming and finance.

“Today’s summit provided an amazing opportunity for districts to come together and share ideas and resources, to network and problem solve, as well as forge partnerships moving forward,” said Barnegat Township School District Director of Special Education Dr. Brian Latwis. “As a district, my staff and colleagues really appreciated the opportunity Joy and her staff provided for us today, and we look forward to partnering again in future summits.”

Each participant received a certificate of attendance along with an Autism Awareness rubber wristband.

“The first annual Autism Summit hosted by TRRS was informative, relevant, and timely,” said Dr. Michael B. Maschi, director of special services for Lacey Township School District. “Autism professionals in Ocean County will be well served by future sessions.”

For more information about Toms River Regional Schools autism and special education programs, contact Director of Special Education Joy Forrest, [email protected].

Photo courtesy of Toms River Regional Schools