Monday, January 07, 2008

Autism 2008 - Are You Qualified to be an Educator? Then Who Is?

As I begin my fourth year studying, researching and continual application working with autistic students from ages 6 – 24 I wonder why is it necessary for one to have an advanced degree or undergrad with a special endorsement to teach autistic children.

I’ve looked at over 20 university programs throughout the United States and they all have the basic requirements with the objective/goal to teach educators how to communicate better with autistic spectrum disorder students.

It’s just not about communication; many universities are trying to figure out best how to train teachers to educate autistic students.

The point that I don’t understand is Universities “are trying” to spread information and understanding about autism but who at the Universities are doing the teaching?

Let me explain, we have an abundance of autistic children being currently mainstreamed (K-12) as well as many more entering and waiting to gain access to elementary programs in contained rooms or other facilities identified by school districts. This trend will continue to grow much faster than one can get a graduate degree or endorsement in autism.

How do Special Education teachers who do not teach in a mainstreamed class who get endorsement help the general education teacher instruct and manage and autistic student in their class.

Who are the experts that will be instructing these classes at our universities? What are their qualifications? In my opinion the best teachers and most experienced people working and teaching with autistic children are Parents and One on One aides or paraprofessionals. Now let us ask a question, how many of these people have degrees in education, let alone special education? Not many because if they did they would be making more money as a teacher than a so-called babysitter in a classroom.

Perhaps we should ask teachers who have aides or Para pros in their classroom if they are qualified? The ones I know and many of those I don’t all say they would be in trouble if there were not an aide working with the children.

Does this mean the aides are just babysitters or do they “really” teach and educate the child based on their understanding, experience, and identification of the triggers and solutions required to keep an autistic child in the classroom

It is commonly known that each autistic student is different and needs different techniques to function continuously in a day-to-day setting of the general education classroom.

Within many school districts teachers are already dealing with over crowded classrooms and “other” needs children from the special education department.

Without knowing the cause how will we keep up with the education of the autistic student when it takes and advanced degree or special endorsement certificates with a degree to be ‘qualified” to teach autistic children.

Like everything else we tend to categorize a situation and deal with it in some sub standard standardized way when we approach education. This WILL NOT work with autistic students.

Has anyone done a correlation study that compares the number of autistic children that are already in schools and those who will be attending schools to see if there are enough “highly qualified” special endorsed teachers to handle the load. Of course not, in order to do that we would need the assistance of uneducated parents and babysitting aides (as labeled by many educated and highly skilled academics that have no experience in autism) to even make a dent in the caseload that is upon us.

It’s always about money and prestige. Will let me tell you that money or being a college graduate does not equal knowledge/intelligence. If we put such lengthy requirements and high costs to obtain these qualifications then we have already lost.

Data + Information + Application = Knowledge

Knowledge + Listening and Observation = Wisdom

Educating our autistic children requires the people who make these types of standards and qualifications to open their minds to what is really needed. Seek out the parents and aides and para pros that have been working with autistic students for years and develop a professional program that allow them to teach and work with college students (not just guest speakers) and already established general education teachers.

When researchers or college internships or practicums take place the educated person deemed so by college years seeks out the most knowledgeable person available for help and to gain an understanding within the work setting. If they know best they seek out the worker, the one in the front lines, the ones who earned their stripes by being in the war. Universities must create an avenue to tap into the knowledgeable resources already available (conduct on-site observations, meetings, tests, behavior logs, etc) and give them the credentials to be recognized and heard.
College Administrators - please don't let the Academic bureaucracy stagnate this effort. If you believe what is best then do what is best and not just the standard quo.

We don’t need more super college trained teachers (that takes years) to fight this battle we also need to people on the front line who don’t have the time or resources to go to college for years before they can be labeled to do the work they have already been doing for sometime.

It’s not just the colleges it is also the Special Education Departments that will not recognize the importance of the talent they already have under their noses.

When will we wake up to the fact that we have lost sight of knowledge and wisdom? It does not come guaranteed and wrapped in a college diploma. Time and dollars do not equal knowledge or wisdom.

Our society only recognizes college-trained people as experts that can only know how to work and what is best for others. If this were true then companies would not be sub contracting or opening plants in foreign countries with uneducated workers who work for peanuts.

Wise up to this problem, it may already be too late.

NOTE: - please don’t accuse me of being lazy and not wanting to obtain a degree, I have three degrees and finished a fourth (decided not to do practicum for early childhood). I also have over 10 professional certifications in business and education.

In addition I also have been a part-time college instructor.

To read my other posts on autism please click on the ASD Label below this post to bring up all the posts – Thank You.

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