Student Benefits From Strong Partnership Between School and Family

DashBoard, April 29, 2015

Submitted by Kaitlin Shawgo, START Writer

As he sits down to finish a science project after lunch, St. Johns Middle School sixth grader Josey Kingsbury begins telling a friend about his sister’s three babies.

The teacher walks by to check on his progress and Josey can no longer contain his glee. He remembers what day it is.

“April fools!” he says.

His teacher, Colleen Howard, laughs heartily. Josey, who has autism spectrum disorder, has recently started making jokes, and Howard is delighted that he continues to step outside of his comfort zone.

Josey’s school and family have worked hard to support the 12-year-old’s effort to get to where he is today. With help from Statewide Autism Resources and Training and a strong partnership between Josey’s family and school staff, Josey has been able to grow and gain independence while still getting the support he needs.

With the exception of math and reading, Josey spends most of the school day in general education classes. He is doing well in the general education curriculum, says Abby Brewer, Josey’s caseload manager. Josey dislikes reading, but his vocabulary and reading score improve with every test, she says.

When Josey was first diagnosed at age four, his parents, Louella and Mark Kingsbury, weren’t sure what to do. Then they heard about START, which provides evidence-based training and guidance for educators and families of students who have ASD.

Throughout the years, Louella has invited Josey’s support team members to participate in START trainings, which support school teams that work with a specific student who has ASD. The trainings also build a foundation of support for all students with ASD in a school building. Topics range from behavioral and educational supports to developing an effective individualized education program.

After attending the trainings, teams use what they’ve learned to enhance support for students with ASD.

At first, Josey’s parents were nervous about sending him to middle school. Fortunately, St. Johns Middle School offers robust supports, including two ASD coaches, Abby Brewer and Missy Vitek, who collaborate with their fellow teachers to implement effective supports for students who have ASD. Brewer is certified in special education, and Vitek provides a general education perspective. The two coaches attend START trainings, help their school team implement new strategies and provide guidance to general education teachers who have students with disabilities in class.

At home, Josey’s parents make sure to provide support that is consistent with what he receives at school. When he was younger, his parents began explicitly teaching him how to act appropriately in social situations. Even now, says Howard, Josey will start talking to someone, stop and start over because he forgot to look at the person.

Ask anyone who knows Josey about what they think he can achieve in the future and you’ll get the same type of response: The sky’s the limit.

“He has an awesome, supportive family that is going to make sure he gets every possible opportunity he can get,” says Brewer. “He’s so outgoing and a hard worker. I think whatever he ends up doing, he’ll be successful.”

More information is available on the Statewide Autism Resources and Training website.

Kaitlin Shawgo is a Multimedia Writer/Editor for the Center for Educational Networking and can be reached at

Read More DashBoard Articles