This short film (16:39) focuses on Axel Cortes and the staff at Idelhurst Elementary School in Somersworth, NH. Axel is a fifth grader with autism who is non-verbal and exhibited significant behavioral challenges when he arrived at school. Axel came to Idelhurst during his 5th grade year from another school where he was exclusively in self-contained settings and was being taught preschool/kindergarten level. Through effective implementation of supports – including AAC, UDL, RtI, social stories, visual schedules and positive behavioral supports – Axel was able to learn 5th grade general education curriculum in a general education classroom within a few months. His challenging behaviors also decreased, and he thrived through interaction and engagement with ‘typical’ peers. Once Axel had an effective means of communication, the staff found that Axel was was bilingual and bi-literate (his family speaks Spanish at home).
This film illustrates the potential for students with significant cognitive disabilities to achieve high academic outcomes. The film has received support from the National Center and State Collaborative (NCSC).
• Danger of low expectations
• Power of presuming competence
• Effective implementation of MTSS/RtI and UDL is critical
• Importance of school leadership and vision at the school and district level
• Prioritizing inclusive education for social/emotional development and access to high level academic instruction
• Parent partnership and engagement are essential
• Interrelationship between communication and behavior
• Critical importance of effective AAC supports
• All students at the school are considered general education students
• Potential to manage complex sensory needs in a general education environment.
• Potential for accurately assessing students with complex communication and cognitive disabilities through effective accommodations and universally designed assessments.