ECSU training session prepares educators to serve Autistic students

Dr. Shelia Williams
July 26, 2011

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The Office of Teacher Education and Partnerships collaborated with UNC-Chapel Hill to offer Professional Development in Autism for educators through its Treatment and Education of Autistic and Related Communication-Handicapped Children (TEACCH) program on June 21, 2011.

The presenter Dr. John Dougherty is the Clinical Director at the Greenville TEACCH Center in Greenville, NC.  He is also a Clinical Professor in the School of Medicine at UNC- Chapel Hill.  He engaged the audience with group and hands-on activities.

Dr. Shelia Williams, Director of Teacher Education and Partnerships said, "the responses from the surrounding counties were astounding.  Teachers asked to be placed on a waiting list".  The training was limited to 45 participants.  Dr. Williams' idea to host this workshop resulted from inquiring about how many student teachers were working with autistic children in their classrooms.  She said, " that surprisingly three-fourths out of the 55 students had an Autistic student in the regular classroom setting."  She felt that teachers as well as student teachers needed training to address the needs of Autistic children to assure they are given the best instruction in a least restrictive environment.

This Professional Development was designed to offer training to school personnel in providing identification, evaluation and education of children and adults with autistic and related communication handicaps.  According to the Autism Society of North Carolina, the N.C. Public School Statistical profile reported that the number of students on the autism spectrum in public schools outpaced the overall student population growth by 14 percent.  Autism affects 1 in every 110 children, making it the second most common developmental disability, which includes Autism, Asperger's Syndrome, and Pervasive Developmental Disorder, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2010).

Forty-five participants from seven surrounding counties including assistant principals, regular classroom teachers, teacher assistants, exceptional classroom teachers and directors, ECSU student teachers and ECSU faculty took advantage of this invaluable training.  Evaluations completed by participants were indicative of the need.  Participants requested future workshops in this area. 

Dr. Williams stated, "that providing training for area educators is one of the goals of the University-School Teacher Education Partnership program.  It is pivotal that we train not just our future teachers, but our current teachers as well.  These teachers serve as classroom models.  We want our students to see and experience best practices."