Local schools team up to help students living with autism

New computers are teaching these kids real-world skills

By Lindsey Kennett - Reporter

ROANOKE, Va. - Wednesday, students from the Burton Center for Arts and Technology installed about 20 refurbished computers at the Blue Ridge Autism and Achievement Center in Roanoke.

Students at Burton, a career and technical education center, cleaned and updated all the computers to donate to Blue Ridge.

"They're a great upgrade from what they had. They're a lot faster," said Bradley Frye, a junior at Burton.

Students at Blue Ridge all have intellectual or developmental disabilities and rely on the computer lab, but not just for classes.

"We have students who may have communication delays. So, having access to the computers and iPads and any type of technology allows our students an opportunity to really open the world to them," said Christina Giuliano, the executive director of Blue Ridge.

Teachers say the computer lab is the busiest room at the center. The last time they got upgraded computers was four years ago. So, the $1,500 donation will go a long way.

"To have, overnight, an opportunity to replace some very old technology that we had in the building with this new up-to-date technology from the Burton Center is just a phenomenal feeling," Giuliano said. "I can't wait to see the students use it."

Burton students donate computers to local nonprofits every year. However, this donation hits home for Frye, whose cousin also lives with autism.

"I think it's great. I've seen a lot of one-on-one with teachers walking around with students and I think it's a great opportunity for them to get help and learn," Frye said.

Students and teachers at both schools say the new computers will help students at Blue Ridge learn the skills they'll need both in - and out - of the classroom.

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