Sunday, March 07, 2010

A Survey for Parents of Kids with Autism to Help Design Parenting Courses

At Lesley University in Cambridge, Mass., educators are planning a set of courses specifically designed to help parents of children with autism spectrum disorders. Elizabeth Stringer Keefe, the coordinator of the Severe Disabilities Graduation Special Education Program at Lesley, has posted a survey for parents to fill out online. It's anonymous, takes about 10 minutes to answer 10 questions, and the responses collected about the kinds of services children are receiving, and what concerns parents have, will guide the course designers.

Click on this link to take the survey.

I learned about this survey after writing to Elizabeth to ask about a day-long program on April 10, 2010, at the university, Realizing the Full Potential of Students with Asperger's Syndrome. The program is for special education administrators, teachers, occupational therapists, speech and language pathologists, psychologists, other educators as well as parents. The fee for the event is $65 and proceeds go to benefit the Asperger's Association of New England, an important advocacy and education group based in the Boston area.

The program includes four speakers, including Ellen Korin, a special educator and author of Asperger's Syndrome An Owner's Manual; Stephen Shore, a professor at Adelphi University and author of Beyond the Wall: Personal Experiences with Autism and Asperger's Syndrome, among other works; Karen Levine, a developmental psychologist and instructor at Harvard Medical School who co-founded the Boston Children's Hospital Autism program; and Ross Greene, associate clinical professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School and author of The Explosive Child.

This Asperger's program is the third annual speakers event Lesley has organized. Here is what Elizabeth explained to me in an e-mail:
Having been a classroom teacher, a consultant (I still consult to schools in the area of ASD) and now a university professor, I realize more than ever that training for those who work with children with ASD must go beyond standard teacher licensure. This is an area of specialty that cannot be covered to the extent necessary in teacher licensure programs, unfortunately, and requires a specific skill set and understanding. So, calling for specialized training for those working with kids with ASD is one initiative of my program.
In recognition that the cost of training is sometimes an impediment to teachers, parents and other professionals, I made a second initiative of the program the commitment to provide low-cost professional development for anyone working with this population.
And lastly, a third initiative of my program is to support our non-profit community partners, who support families and professionals outside of school settings. In my view this sets a good example for both the teachers that leave my program and for other colleges and universities. So, the last 3 events I have hosted for the series are charity events for a non-profit, with 100% of proceeds going to support the organization (my time is donated as well). This year I also asked Ellen Korin, and Drs. Levine, Greene and Shore to donate their time and they graciously obliged.

One consequence of the rising incident of autism spectrum disorders is an increase in the number of parent education opportunities. Finding the time to attend one of these events can be difficult—but it's essential to check out the opportunities near you, if only to understand what's going on. Especially in challenging seasons as the parent of someone with autism, it helps to see that these events are happening because it demonstrates that you are not alone, that there are people working to provide information, ideas, approaches to help.

One last point about educational events: if it costs money to attend, make sure to check out the source who is providing the information, to see if it is reputable. Or, simply seek out an event that's free of charge to attend (for it's possible you will have to pay for child care, already).

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