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Training Staff in Community Programs

As a result of increased awareness about autism and strong family advocacy many more people with autism are attending community-based summer programs.  An important ingredient to a successful experience is the staff at the community program, their understanding of autism spectrum disorders, and the unique strengths and challenges of your family member with autism.  How have you shared this information with agencies  or  community program staff?  Do you use a formal training program?  A written document?  One-on-one time with the staff?  Share your experience and make it easier for others going into new community settings this summer.

  1. Susan Bland
    July 18, 2011 at 4:21 pm

    After reading about a teen with Asperger’s being shot and killed in Largo, FL, a couple of weeks ago, I felt compelled to ask our mayor and police cheif what, if any, training our local police had when it comes to autism. I’ve had my hand on the phone, ready to dial 911 before during a meltdown by my very large 16-year-old son – and I’d hate to think I’d hesitate fir fear of the situation escalating unnecessarily. Within a week, our city scheduled nationally known first-responder training expert Dennis Debbaudt. He will be training our police/law enforcement first responders in Frisco, Texas, and the surrounding areas on Aug. 18. There’s also an evening session for educators, parents and professionals. I love Frisco’s commitment to excellence!

  2. July 19, 2011 at 11:27 am

    I call or email in advance and describe my daughter’s needs. If it is a long term activity, then I usually plan on staying and doing 1:1 training with her buddy. This was her first year playing tee ball so all of her therapists worked on the different skills. I introduced her to the batting helmet & glove early & worked on sensory issues surrounding those, made a picture card of the different things we practice for tee ball, checked out kids’ tee ball books at the library to read at home, and run through batting and wearing the glove before we go to the game. It’s been a lot of work, but has been worth it!

  3. July 21, 2011 at 11:14 am

    Since 2000, the Barber National Institute has been offering Connections Camp, a daily summer therapeutic experience designed to meet the individual and social needs of children ages 5-18 with Asperger Syndrome, PDD-NOS, and High-Functioning Autism. Over the past 10 years ago, the program has grown from its original location on our main campus in Erie, PA to three additional sites in Northwestern Pennsylvania.
    To best serve every child, we first assess each child’s strengths and problem areas. Individual treatment goals are established to address the unique needs of each camper. We have found that grouping like children together creates the best overall environment because they are working toward similar goals.
    While we maintain structure in a classroom setting for the most part, we vary our daily activities so that children will be exposed to several social situations and not become frustrated with lengthy exercises. Community outings are also organized, which help children practice their acquired skills. Each activity is carefully planned out; they are educational, social, and fun. While at Camp, children learn and practice social skills in a safe, supportive environment that challenges them and establishes groundbreaking milestones in their social development. Oftentimes, they are not even aware that they are participating in a lesson because it is enjoyable and less stressful.
    Groups have no more than 9 children, with at least one staff member to every three children. This allows for optimal support and instruction. The lead staff has a bachelor’s or master’s degree in education/psychology. Additional staff are trained to work with children on the spectrum and are working toward or have earned college degrees. Master’s level clinical support staff plan and direct therapeutic activities in every classroom.
    At Connections, we believe in social coaching—helping the child work through tough social situations and teaching them how to react positively to these challenges. By using positive reinforcement and continued encouragement, personal goals are reached. The curriculum covers six areas of social skills development and is presented in six week-long segments appropriate for the age of each group.
    The history of Connections Camp has proven that children with Autism Spectrum Disorders can be successful in building communication skills and fostering social interaction with effective supports. For more information about this program, call Camp director Renee Jerge at 814-874-5528 or email rjerge@barberinstitute.org. Information also available at BarberInstitute.org.

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