SJCOE Specialty Program for Students with Autism


Connecting Through Education
SJCOE’s Connection! program serves students with autism
 By Nora Heston Tarte
Some kids need a little extra help. Regardless of the specific diagnosis or need, general education simply isn’t the best fit for every child. Noticing, and accepting, that is what led the San Joaquin County Office of Education to create Connections!, a preschool program aimed at helping kids who need a little (or a lot of) extra support in the classroom.
Students are referred to Connections!, which operates at three campuses across San Joaquin County, after district assessments and as part of the IEP (individualized education plan) process. They are then enrolled and begin their educational journey with Connections!, which emphasizes communication, social, and adaptive living skills. Once students graduate, they transition to district programs or remain in county operated programs as appropriate for their kindergarten year.
“Our primary goal with the Connections! program is to provide students with autism a typical preschool experience… with support layered in to meet their unique learning styles,” says Kristi Baysinger, the autism and behavior coordinator at SJCOE. The program uses evidence-based practices, an umbrella of strategies to increase learning rates for students with autism. Teachers focus on building pre-academic, social, communication, and language skills. Connections! preschool classrooms also operate 30 hours per week to maximize benefits and best outcomes.
Attending a Connections! program also opens the door for other supports. Based on the IEP, students may also access board-certified behavioral analysts, occupational therapists, and speech and language pathologists. “When [my son, Ezra] first began attending [a Connections! preschool], he only had a handful of words to communicate with and by the time he left he was able to communicate effectively and using sentences,” says Paige Rendon. “You can see how much thought goes into what would benefit each child by the way they suggest different ways to approach strengths and weaknesses.”
If you have any concerns about your preschool age child’s development, contact your school district for guidance.





San Joaquin County
Office of Education
2922 Transworld Dr., Stockton
(209) 468-4800