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BOCES to Study Benefit of Challenge Courses

YORKTOWN, N.Y.-- Students throughout Northern Westchester and Putnam have already used the challenge courses offered at the Board of Cooperative Educational Services (BOCES), and now with a grant, the effects that these courses have on the students' communication will be studied.

The courses are offered through the Center for Environmental Education at BOCES, and the Association for Challenge Course Technology will work in conjunction with the staff at BOCES to study whether or not these courses can improve communication skills in students on the autism spectrum. The courses include activities such as climbing an 8-foot wall, getting over a wooded wheel suspended between trees, and balancing several students on a large seesaw.

The courses teach the students the benefits of effective group work, promote problem-solving, leadership and team-building in the students. The grant is specifically to study the effectiveness of using challenge courses to improve communication and socialization in students on the autism spectrum.

“This is an exciting opportunity to study whether challenge courses can help students with pervasive developmental disorders,” said Mike Sowul, Principal of the Walden School at PNW BOCES. “We already use many different approaches to help students on the spectrum but there has been little to no research on challenge courses as an intervention. This could be another avenue to help them.”

Donna Abemayor, a challenge course facilitator for the Center for Environmental Education, with a background in social work will oversee the research in collaboration with Sowul and JoAnn Del Brocco and Dorna Schroeter of the Center for Environmental Education.

The parents of students participating in the program will be asked to complete a questionnaire prior to their student’s introduction to the challenge course. After they visit it a number of times, the parents will then ask to complete a questionnaire to determine if there has been any improvement in their sociability.

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