Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Autism Education Instructors - Quality and Integrity of Training Are Critical

I recently had the privilege of attending the 2007 graduation ceremonies of the UNB-CEL Autism Intervention Training program. The graduating class this year was a mixed class with some moving on to work with pre-school children with autism in New Brunswick's autism agencies and others destined to work as Teacher Assistants and Resource Teacher/Mentors with autistic students in our schools. This summer will see a program for pre-schoolers with a second program (K-12) for graduates who will work in the schools with autistic students. This latter program had more applicants than spaces and the demand is very high by parents for UNB-CEL Autism Intervention trained Teacher Assistants to work with their autistic children. The UNB-AIT has already received national recognition but there are other more basic indicators of the quality and integrity of this program apart from national recognition. Excellent professional instructors who enjoy the confidence of the Autism Society New Brunswick and a program which includes mandatory, evidence based, theory and practicum completion are two significant factors.

One of the most significant indicators of the quality and integrity of the UNB-CEL Autism Intervention Training program is that not everybody graduates from the program. If the course candidates don't acquire the knowledge, and demonstrate the ability to apply the skills acquired, during their participation in the program they don't graduate and they don't get a certificate. That fact, along with entrance standards for program applicants, has caused some negative reaction from executive officers and some members of CUPE Local 2745 which represents all teacher assistants in New Brunswick, whether they have autism training or not, and from members of the Education Department bureaucracy.

The latter, notwithstanding an express, clear and specific commitment from Premier Shawn Graham to train 100 TA's and Resource teachers a year for 4 years at UNB-CEL tried to develop alternative "in house" training arrangements for TA's and teachers working with autistic children. The Department tried to represent this alternative in house proposal as fulfilling the Premier's commitment to autism training which was specific to UNB-CEL. The Department even went to great lengths to keep me personally, as a known critic of their in house training proposal , from attending a meeting with ASNB at which the Department's final version of the alternative proposal was discussed. The alternative proposal offered by the Department did not require that candidates complete the in house training on any specific schedule, it was work at your own pace with no testing required of candidates. Nor did the Department proposal require any entrance standards for assistants who were seeking to work with autistic students.

The UNB-CEL program does require standards, completion time lines, theory and practicum completion and testing. These elements also require something else of the candidates - commitment. As a parent I very much appreciate the commitment, sacrifice and efforts made by the participants in the UNB-CEL Autism Intervention Training program.

I believe that Premier Shawn Graham also appreciates these qualities in the graduates of UNB-CEL AIT. In opposition Mr. Graham stood with us as we demonstrated outside the legislature and called for funding for pre-school intervention for autistic children and for trained TA's for autistic students. As Premier Mr. Graham has met autistic children and attended the opening of a new Autism Connexions Resource Centre in Fredericton, a centre which is part of a new wave in New Brunswick of child and family focused resource centres working hand in hand with the agencies that provide treatment and with the provincial Autism Society New Brunswick. As Premier Mr. Graham has acted decisively to ensure that the first year of his four year commitment to UNB-CEL Autism Intervention Training is honored.

Quality and integrity count. In training autism workers for our schools. And in political leadership.

Thank you Premier Graham.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Now if we could get the oficials at the Department of Education to stop trying to stall autism training at UNB-CEL, that would be helpful.