Parents of Gaston Co. students with autism concerned over county-wide change

GASTON COUNTY, NC (WBTV) - Some parents of Gaston County students with autism say their children could take steps backward with county-wide changes.

"It really was a shock, because nobody was told anything about it," parent Kelsey Nudo says.

Nudo was one of 65 parents who got a letter over spring break, saying her son Rowan, who has autism, will change schools and join a different class program.

"For that original transition there could be major regression with a lot of the kids," she says. "And that's what a lot of us are afraid of."

Rowan is in first grade, and his current class is tailored for students on the spectrum, and in his age range. Nudo says her son has made progress.

"Our kids are set in their ways and we don't want to see them lose what they've gotten so far," she says.

Gaston County Schools spokesperson Todd Hagans says the 65 kids like Rowan will move to something called "cluster classrooms," with students K-5 together.

"Parents should not see a difference in the level of service provided and the level of instruction," he says.

These "cluster classrooms" already exist in five county schools and will now expand to 13. They teach students with what Hagans says are "cognitive delays," and they will not have more than 12 to a class.

He says parents should look forward to the county moving these children to schools closer to where they live.

"It gives them the opportunity to be in their neighborhood schools," he says.

Nudo is still not sure this is the best move for her son, and says she wishes the county would have consulted parents beforehand.

"We want to be transparent with them for our kids, but we need that from them in return," she says.

Hagans says these changes are in part prompted by the recent statewide call to decrease overall class sizes in grades K-3.

There will be meetings for parents to bring their concerns, as follows:

  • Monday, April 30 – Hunter Huss High School Media Center
  • Tuesday, May 1 – Tryon Elementary Cafeteria
  • Monday, May 7 – Mount Holly Middle School Media Center
  • Monday, May 14 – Cramerton Middle School Media Center

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