TEXARKANA, Texas (KTAL) – The Texas Education Agency has awarded the Texarkana Independent School District with a $5.7 million autism education grant.

Special education coordinators for the district, Becky Graham and Kacey Jenkins, applied for the grant and say it will provide innovative services for students with autism and their teachers.

“We’re seeing an increase in the number of children who are diagnosed with an autism disability, so it’s just something that is needed,” said Graham. “We also wanted to be able to implement some more training and some coaching and help our teachers become experts in working with students with autism.”

The funding will be used on extensive training for both special education and general education staff, the development and implementation of instructional practices in the school, home, and community, and increased training and engagement opportunities for parents and family members to learn how to support their students.

“This is going to change families’ lives; this is going to change our staff’s sustainability to provide innovative services in evidence-based practices to our students,” said Jenkins. “We’re going to be able to carry that over into other districts that we’ve partnered with so that families outside of the Texarkana area can access the same amazing resources.”

“We also wanted to improve our services to help students be out in the community and learn how to function in the communities,” said Graham.

The grant will be used across all TISD campuses as well as on establishing a shared service arrangement with 18 school districts within the region. This will affect more than 200 educators. The grant will be spent over the next two years and TISD will begin using funds from this grant this summer by sponsoring a summer camp for any student with autism enrolled in any of the 18 districts joining TISD.