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Kristen Cyr
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Two-part noncredit course addresses
autism spectrum disorder

Aug. 7, 2015

Photo of Alicia Ead. Alicia Ead, a 2014 CCRI graduate now working at The Autism Project, completed the noncredit “ASD: Making the Connections” course to complement her special education skills.

The Center for Workforce and Community Education at the Community College of Rhode Island again will offer “ASD: Making the Connections,” its noncredit professional development course in autism spectrum disorders (ASD).

Part I will be offered from 4 to 6:30 p.m. on Thursdays, Sept. 10 to Dec. 17, at the Knight Campus in Warwick. Part II will take place in spring 2016.

First offered in 2013, the class, which is taught in partnership with The Autism Project, is a thorough training for individuals interested in developing specialized knowledge and skills to work with children with ASDs. With evidence-based practices in key areas such as structured teaching, communication systems, sensory processing, positive behavior supports, cognitive strategies and relationship-based approaches, the course aims to give participants practical tools that they can implement immediately in their classrooms.

“People have told us it’s really changed their approach to teaching or supporting,” said Joanne G. Quinn, executive director of The Autism Project. “Students end up liking their jobs better because they have more confidence that what they’re doing is actually making an impact. Our training is strategy-based and hands-on; it’s almost like a lab for the classrooms. Students can come back with immediate feedback and information from their life.”

While many of the class participants are teachers and paraprofessionals, the course is actually open to all – not just educators, but community members and even parents. “Our classes have been a parent and professional mix,” she said. “We think that’s helpful. Each side can ask those hard questions. Parents can give teachers a little more insight into the home life.”

One graduate of the ASD course understands all too well the overlap between those two worlds. Alicia Ead, a 2014 CCRI graduate now pursuing her bachelor’s degree in education at the University of Rhode Island, took the course to complement her training in special education. Things hit even closer to home when, while she was in the process of earning her associate degree, her son was diagnosed as being on the autism spectrum.

“When my son was first diagnosed, I walked away from the doctor’s office with nothing. Not a paper, not a brochure. I know what it was like to have that diagnosis and to feel all alone,” said Ead, who now works part-time for The Autism Project as its parent resource specialist.

That all changed as Ead learned more about ASDs and was able to apply what she learned in the course not only in the classrooms where she taught as a substitute teacher, but at home with her husband and son, as well. “Every week after the course was done, I’d come home and spend the next hour going over strategies with my husband that made our house completely different, said Ead.

“Before I took that class, I felt like my house was a war zone – full of stress and anxiety. We realized that when you have a child on the autism spectrum, you have to parent according to the child, not according to what you’ve always thought parenting should be.”

Her work in the ASD course led her to pursue volunteer opportunities through The Autism Project in the months after graduation, and in September she was offered a position at the organization. She now works to educate parents on strategies for coping as well as building a community for themselves among other parents who are struggling with the same issues.

“I feel like I’m making a difference,” she said. “I’m able to use what I learned from the ‘ASD: Making the Connections’ course in and out of the classroom every day. And even though the course is obviously geared toward children with autism, it’s valuable for the general education world as well.”

The cost of the course is $295 plus a $5 registration fee.

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Last Updated: 9/28/18