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Autism Program
Program Description

The Autism program is designed to serve students who have been identified as having autism spectrum disorders.  Program components include highly structured, individualized programming, intensive communication and language training, social skills training, utilization of natural environments for instruction, positive behavioral programming, educationally-based sensory activities, as appropriate, and inclusion with mainstream peers and activities when appropriate.  Related services including speech/language, occupational therapy, and adaptive physical education are also provided based on individual need.  

Characteristics of Students

The Southwest High School Autism Program serves Minneapolis Public Schools students from grade 9 to grade 12 with significant educational needs related to an autism spectrum disorder.  Individuals appropriate for this special program are those who require significant interventions beyond the resource room setting.   Referral to the district autism office begins the process for placement.

Typical characteristics demonstrated by students with autism spectrum disorders may include:

•    Significant impairment in reciprocal social interaction (for developmental level).
•    Significant impairment in verbal and nonverbal communication (for developmental level).
•    Restricted repertoire of activities and interests.
•    Apparent sensory dysfunction as evidenced by under-or-over-responsiveness to touch, light, sound, or pain.
•    Uneven acquisition of skills and difficulty integrating and generalizing acquired skills.
•    Repetitive, self-stimulatory behaviors including obsessive-compulsive behaviors and ritualistic behaviors.


Special education teachers have access and are trained in a variety of research-based curricula.  Curricula will be selected based on individual student need and IEP team discussion with consideration of curriculum being utilized in general education.  Citywide ASD Service staff/Special Education Department provide teachers information and training on a variety of curricula that have been found to be appropriate for students with ASD.  Ultimately, continuous progress monitoring of individual goals and objectives will guide educational and curricular decisions.