• Autism Programming for Positive Learning Experiences (APPLE)

    The Autism Programming for Positive Learning Experiences (APPLE) program is part of the continuum of services available to students with autism and to students with other disabilities who need the supports and services found in a highly structured learning environment. This program is specifically designed to meet the needs of students on the autism spectrum who require intensive behavior, academic, social and communication training. Additional supports, as identified by research in the field, which are typically not part of a generalized special education program, are included in the curriculum of the APPLE program.

    The APPLE program provides instructional services and supports to students with disabilities from age 3 through 21 and meets requirements identified in federal, state and school district guidelines. Classrooms at all instructional levels use evidence-based best practices that focus on:

    • intensive instruction
    • learning styles blended with principles of instruction
    • a communication-rich environment
    • attention to student-focus and motivation
    • attention, communication and social strategies
    • systematic generalization strategies  the use of symbols
    • on-going functional behavior assessments.

    Specialized materials and equipment are provided to the APPLE classrooms, along with staff training and consultation services. The parents of students in the APPLE program are offered training opportunities so that various supports used in the classroom may be generalized to other settings.

    In addition to behavior, communication and social skills, the APPLE program includes academic activities and skills, based on the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS), vocational skills, and independence across all settings (school, home and community).

    The APPLE classroom is a self-contained setting that is available to students on the autism spectrum or those who have related conditions that require a highly structured setting with a systems-based approach to learning. The classroom is appropriate for student needing visual strategies, such as visual schedules, visual directions, picture communication, visual structure, and visual individualized work systems. Students may require intensive instruction using Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) which teaches complex skills in a systematic sequence, implementing reinforcement strategies, and collecting/analyzing data to assess the efficacy of the strategies. APPLE classrooms provide access to the TEKS classroom through instruction in prerequisite skills with extensive modifications to the standard curriculum. Students in the APPLE program receive instruction in the APPLE classroom or in a combination of special education and inclusion classes, according to ARD/IEP committee decisions.

    In order for a student who has been diagnosed with autism or a related disorder to be considered for placement in an APPLE classroom, he/she must display a number of behavioral, communication, social, sensory and academic characteristics that will be best addressed in this highly structured environment. The placement of a student in an APPLE classroom must be determined by ARD/IEP action and the goals/objectives reflect the specific focus of the program.