CUMBERLAND — As the autism specialist for the Allegany County Board of Education, Corrie Humbertson spends her days traveling from classroom to classroom helping teachers implement research-based strategies to enhance the learning experience for students with autism.

Recently, Humbertson, who has more than 30 years of teaching experience, completed the Professional Immersion Training Program at the Center of Autism and Related Disorders at the Kennedy Krieger Institute in Baltimore.

“It confirmed that a lot of what we are doing is right on target,” said Humbertson, who is in her third year as the first autism specialist hired by the board.

On a daily basis, Humbertson assists with building communication strategies, social dynamics and visual strategies.

“Children with autism are visual learners, so it helps for teachers to include visuals, like showing a picture on the overhead,” said Humbertson. “They also like to have a sense of their day, so it’s good for them to have a schedule in front of them, maybe with some pictures on it.

“My favorite part is being in the classroom with the kids and when I see a teacher get it and take a strategy and build upon it,” said Humbertson. “The teaching staff is so accepting and eager to learn — it really takes a team.”

“With the significant increase of autism, we are very lucky to have someone like Corrie,” said Sheree Witt, special education and student services director for the board.

“The more specialized the autism services are at an early age, the more likely children will be to demonstrate age-appropriate skills later.”

In 1998, approximately four to five children out of 10,000 were diagnosed with autism, and now it is one out of 150 to 160, according to Humbertson.

Most children are diagnosed with autism between the ages of 2 and 3, and four boys to one girl are diagnosed with autism, Humbertson said.

As of Oct. 30, the Allegany County school system had 47 autistic children, 39 boys and eight girls, with one between 16 and 21, 10 between 12 and 17, 30 from 6 to 11, and six from 3 to 5 years old. However, the number of children between the ages of 3 and 5 with autism is probably more like 30, said Witt. Many of the children in the autism spectrum may be classified as developmentally delayed, a classification that can carry until the age of 6.

Autism is a developmental disability that affects verbal and nonverbal communication and social interaction significantly.

Contact Jennifer Raley at

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