When Braeden arrived at the High Road School of Anne Arundel County as a kindergartener in 2014, the staff knew it had a challenge ahead. Braeden, who is on the autism spectrum, immediately demonstrated self-injurious behaviors, tantrums, aggression toward others, and destruction of property. This behavior obviously had a major impact on Braeden’s family, to the point where it became “hard to eat and hard to socialize,” according to Braeden’s mother, Brittani. His communication skills were extremely limited, and if anything was out of place, he would melt down. Everyone knew something had to change.
Trial and Error
The first year Braeden was with the High Road School of Anne Arundel County, the staff focused on getting to know him and how he functioned. They attempted nearly every solution – token boards, preferential seating, incorporating his interests into lessons, frequent sensory breaks, work in the sensory room instead of the classroom. Some attempts succeeded, some failed. But throughout the process, the school’s staff diligently tracked what worked and what didn’t and were able to modify their teaching techniques accordingly to better get through to Braeden.
Figuring Things Out
By Braeden’s second year, a solid relationship had been forged, though the staff was still determining what provoked Braeden into exhibiting maladaptive behaviors, as he remained aggressive and prone to meltdowns. By analyzing his behaviors and their consequences at school and at home, the staff created a modified classroom behavior management system, with a visual chart that was sent home every day. Based on this chart, Braeden earned rewards for demonstrating the right behaviors at home and at school. The staff also formed a behavior plan specifically for Braeden and altered it when it became less effective.
Communication and Teamwork are Key
Throughout Braeden’s nine years with the High Road School of Anne Arundel County, and especially during his first years, the school was in constant communication with Brittani and worked with her to find the right approach for Braeden. “I would say the biggest benefit is completely working as a team,” said Brittani. “We are always communicating and helping each other on what works best for Braeden.” And through this teamwork and communication, Brittani knew that the school truly cared about Braeden and his well-being.
“Mrs. Tara and many other staff members have helped Braeden tremendously,” Brittani explained. “They looked at all the ways Braeden did things and worked with him at his own pace. They showed him that they understand and completely gained his full trust. They have worked step by step to see what helps Braeden… not just what helps autism, but what helps Braeden himself.”
A New Braeden
By working as a team, the school’s staff and Brittani have witnessed a stunning transformation. Braeden is now generally an A/B student and has far fewer meltdowns. Brittani also notes that his communication has dramatically improved, he shows more interest in certain things, and his socialization has increased.
The staff at High Road School of Anne Arundel County attributes Braeden’s success to four factors:
- The relationship the staff has built with Braeden and Brittani
- Better knowing and understanding Braeden and paying close attention to his needs and how he functions
- Individualizing and frequently adapting Braeden’s behavior plan and instruction as needed
- The team approach between Braeden, his teachers, teachers’ assistants, social workers, Brittani, and school administrators
Brittani couldn’t be happier with Braeden’s progress at the High Road School of Anne Arundel County and thinks other parents in similar situations should take the same approach as she and Braeden did.
“This is the best thing that has ever happened to us. The staff here goes above and beyond to give you any help you may need and fully make sure your child is getting what they need.”