What is the SLC Program?
The SLC, or Structured Learning Center, is a program in the Lake Stevens School District that helps students with either a diagnosed Autism Spectrum Disorder, or suspected Autism Spectrum Disorder, with academic, social, emotional, adaptive and communication needs in a self-contained classroom setting. The program originally began in the fall of 1999 at Skyline Elementary to assist students in grades K-5. Now, in 2022, the program has extended to all levels, preschool through 12th grade. SLC classrooms are located at the Early Learning Center, Skyline, Highland, Lake Stevens Middle School, Cavelero and Lake Stevens High School. The SLC at Highland started 4 years ago, when the program at Skyline became too large. The elementary SLC program consists of 63 students in 6 classrooms across the 2 schools. Many of our students attend a general education classroom for some or all of their day, with and without extra support from a paraeducator. Other students spend the majority of their day within the SLC classroom but attend recess with their general education peers. Highland families, teachers and students have been incredibly welcoming as well as curious about our program, so here is a little more information for you!
Autism, or Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), refers to a broad range of conditions characterized by challenges with social skills, repetitive behaviors, sensory processing disorders, speech, and communication difficulties. According to the Centers for Disease Control, autism affects an estimated 1 in 59 children in the United States today.
We know that there is not one form of ASD but many subtypes, most influenced by a combination of genetic and environmental factors. Because Autism is a spectrum disorder, each person with autism has a distinct set of strengths and challenges. There is a saying, “If you have met one person on the Autism Spectrum, you have met ONE person on the Autism Spectrum.” The ways in which people with autism learn, think and problem-solve can range from highly skilled to severely challenged. Some people with ASD may require significant support in their daily lives, while others may need less support and, in some cases, live entirely independently. Research has made clear that high quality early intervention can improve learning, communication and social skills, as well as underlying brain development.
Processing sensory input (touch, taste, smell, sound, etc) can be a challenge for people with ASD. Our SLC program takes sensory needs into consideration when planning each day. A good analogy for sensory processing variation is to imagine processing power as a cup. Some people have a small cup and only need a little sensory input to reach their capacity and anything above that can be overwhelming. People who have a bigger cup need more sensory input and may look for various ways to receive that input (spin, jump, crawl, roll, sing, etc). In order to meet sensory needs, a variety of activities and levels of stimuli are beneficial to children with ASD, such as access to music, various tactile toys/textures, and equipment that lets them move their bodies in a variety of ways.
Our amazing PTA recently fundraised for new playground equipment and we, as SLC teachers, were very excited to be asked for our input, as many students, with or without ASD, benefit from movement and sensory activities. Gross motor skills are important to enable children to perform everyday functions, such as walking and running, playground skills (e.g. climbing) and sporting skills (e.g. catching, throwing and hitting a ball with a bat). However, these are also crucial for everyday self-care skills like dressing (where you need to be able to stand on one leg to put your leg into a pant leg without falling over) and climbing into and out of a car or even getting into and out of bed.
Gross motor abilities also have an influence on other everyday functions. For example, a child’s ability to maintain an appropriate table top posture (upper body support) will affect their ability to participate in fine motor skills (e.g. writing, drawing and cutting) and sitting upright to attend to class instruction, which then impacts their academic learning. Gross motor skills impact a child’s endurance to cope with a full day of school (sitting upright at a desk, moving between classrooms, carrying a backpack). They also impact the ability to navigate an environment (e.g. walking around classroom items such as a desk, up a sloped playground hill or to climb stairs). And, finally, movement activities help ALL students work off energy, have fun with their peers and enables them to return to the classroom setting able to focus on individual and group tasks.
If you have any questions about our SLC program or any of the Special Education Programs at Highland or in the Lake Stevens School District in general, please don’t hesitate to contact any of us. We’d be more than happy to talk with you!