CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (CBS19 NEWS) -- After receiving a $61,000 grant from the Jefferson Trust, a cutting-edge program will be bettering preschools in Virginia.

Preschool teachers will be trained to identify autism in young students so that they can be able to support the child and their family in a community preschool setting. 

Over the next year, professors and students in the special education department at the University of Virginia will be working with 10 teachers who work in community preschool settings. 

“In the year 2000, the prevalence rate was about one in 150 children and today it’s one in 44 children. So we have more and more children with this diagnosis who are benefiting from early education,” said Mandy Rispoli, Professor of Special Education at UVA.

Studies have shown experts that autism is usually diagnosed when a child is between three and five years of age, but this UVA program found that preschool teachers don’t have the tools to support these children and their families. 

“In fact, a paper just came out this month that shows that one in six children with autism are expelled from preschools in the U.S.,” Rispoli said.

Given these statistics, this program will focus on early intervention and inclusive educational support. 

“We know that preschool teachers want to do this they just don’t necessarily have the training and background, so that’s where this program comes in,” said Rispoli.

Over the last 20 years, experts have changed how they diagnose autism and even how broad the spectrum is. 

“What our hope with this program is to give teachers in the preschool settings the tools so that they can meet children where ever they are along that continuum or along that spectrum to make sure they’re benefiting from high-quality early childhood education,” said Rispoli.

Traditionally, the age of diagnoses depended on where a child lived and the number of resources in the area. It is hoped that this program can change that in rural areas and provide support to autistic children early on.