Dianne Fulwider '90 Shares Autism Approach, Considers Work with CU SLPA a Privilege!

Through our SLHS/CDSS Alumni Facebook group, we learned of Dianne Fulwider’s work with children on the autism spectrum in Douglas County. Dianne is a member of the Autism Assessment and Training Team there, a new group that is working to train and support teachers who work with students on the spectrum. She generously shared news of her work and wrote about some of the approaches they use. Dianne received her BA from CU in 1990 and went on to get her MA from UNC/Greeley in 1992. She has spent her entire career in public schools, mostly with children aged 3 to 12. She says she looks forward to many more years. 

“I work at Trailblazer Elementary School in Doug CO. We have about 11 kids on my caseload who have autism OR anxiety. Not all have been diagnosed but all have classic symptoms that we manage in a unique way. I am at the building 4 days a week. I have a full time SLPA who works with me. Her name is Emily Ridgley and she is a product of your CU under-grad program. Emily has a Bachelor's degree in Communication Disorders from CU-Boulder and an additional 100 hours of study in order to be a certified Speech-Language Assistant. She is my right hand lady and I could not do it without her. We have an amazing principal who sees the good in these kids and supports us and allows us to do what we need to do." 

"Our #1 goal is to reduce anxiety about academics (and sometimes social). When we do this, our students do better academically have fewer autistic-like behaviors and our autistic kids are less anxious and seem much easier to manage. Some of the added features of our approach include the following: (continued)

  • We provide a day long support for a quiet place to get work done and get support with academics.
  • We provide a day long support for breaks: usually 5 minutes at a time for our older kids who we have taught how "to get out of classes" So many kids in inclusion are put in classes because that is considered "least restrictive"  but we don't teach them how to "get out" so when they become frustrated or are non-compliant behavior knowing someone will come get them. We eliminate these occurances by having scheduled breaks to accommodate their needs. It works like a charm and so easy.
  • We provide support with modifications and adaptations on an on-going basis most especially with long-term projects.
  • We provide ongoing support to teachers by training and sometimes letting them air their frustrations at us to avoid stress in working with students.
  • We have a great deal of email and face to face or phone contact with parents. This helps us all work together and build relationships.
  • We run social  groups for most every grade (3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th) in a variety of ways: circle of friends-like groups or smaller lunch time groups. Our lunch times are the most successful because our kids struggle so much at lunch and at recess and they are so much happier for it."

​Organization, special activities and special regard for anxiety and individual needs are priorities for Dianne and her team. Here are a few photos showing how they organize some students activities.  

Dianne's Photos

Photo 1: lots and lots of origami. This has proven to be a very relaxing and stress-less way to move forward when things are bad .We have this huge box of lillies b/c one of our kids is the origami master and makes 90 of them for 6th grade graduation. He is currently training and apprentice!

Photo 2: organization board: anything we don't want to lose (i.e. go in the backpack) we hang here

Photo 3: more organizational boxes: Magazine file

Photo 4: break time clipboards: if they take a break, they sign in and out. Great for data. We work very hard with them at first to get them independent.

Dianne welcomes inquiries about their program. You can contact her via HER EMAIL. For more information & Video on Trailblazer Elementary School go HERE