December 19, 2014  

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Southern Miss Gulf Coast Autism Project Addresses State’s Educational Needs

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The University of Southern Mississippi Gulf Coast Autism Project’s lead teacher Jennifer von Eberstein, far right, demonstrates teaching materials during the program’s open house event. (Office of University Communications photo by Charmaine Williams Schmermund)

The University of Southern Mississippi Gulf Coast Autism Project, a $1.3 million program developed through a partnership between the university and the Mississippi Department of Education (MDE), opened its doors on Friday, Dec. 10 allowing the public to view what educational opportunities are available to those affected by autism.

The open house, held at the Autism Project’s Demonstration School in Long Beach, featured a guided tour through the university-based program’s facilities. Within the Demonstration School are classrooms specifically designed for pre-school aged children with autism.

“Our open house served as a major milestone for the Autism Project,” said Dr. Tim Morse, the project’s director and associate professor in the Department of Curriculum, Instruction and Special Education at Southern Miss. “It allowed us the opportunity to inform the community about the project and to highlight the outstanding facility provided by the Long Beach School District.”

Serving as a demonstration facility for school personnel and caregivers, the mission of the Southern Miss Gulf Coast Autism Project is to design and implement appropriate school-based programs for students with autism who qualify for special education services in Mississippi.The program provides activities available to students, caregivers, school personnel, and citizens throughout Mississippi.

“The Autism Project is a tremendous resource for teachers, parents and students,” said Carrolyn Hamilton, superintendent for the Long Beach School District. “There was a void that needed to be filled so children with autism can reach their full potential and may one day attend public school.”

The Autism Project began in October 2009 when MDE and Southern Miss Gulf Coast entered into a multi-year Interagency Agreement to provide the program. Through the agreement, Southern Miss Gulf Coast, partnered with MDE and the Mississippi Council on Developmental Disabilities, plans to effectively address MDE’s goals of pre-service and in-service training for teachers, paraprofessionals and related service personnel while providing services to students.

For more information about the Autism Project at The University of Southern Mississippi, call 228.863.1755 or e-mail autism@usm.edu.