For me, participation in the C.G.S. in Autism Education program was what I like to refer to as “a forever life changing experience.” Little did I know that this program would change me for the better both professionally and personally.
With the prevalence of autism estimated to be 1 in 88 (CDC, 2012), I have seen an increased need for enhanced training to effectively educate and provide support to children diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) within the school environment. Educating others regarding autism and providing support to this population is not easy, but necessary. In 15 years of clinical practice as a school social worker, I have attended helpful workshops and conferences regarding autism, but always walked away wanting to learn more. I saw the Certificate of Graduate Studies in Autism Education at Rhode Island College as the perfect opportunity to enhance my knowledge and skills and to take my direct clinical practice with children diagnosed with ASD to an advanced professional level.
The C.G.S. in Autism Education program provided me with a comprehensive understanding of autism and its impact on individuals of all ages. The scope of our studies focused on assessment, comprehensive planning, positive behavioral supports and evidence-based strategies that increase the opportunity for social, behavioral and academic success for this population. The leadership practicums provided me with the necessary knowledge, skills and training to effectively lead my district in making a difference on how we plan, educate and provide support to children diagnosed with autism and their families. The learning climate was one that fostered acceptance, support and encouragement. It offered us a unique opportunity to question, examine and critique information presented in each class and gain a better understanding of autism and its impact on individuals. Faculty was mindful of making each project directly relate to current work practice which resulted in a truly rewarding, meaningful and enjoyable learning experience.
I consider myself most fortunate to have taken part in this program. I am truly honored to be part of a professional network as passionate as I am about improving the quality of life for those diagnosed with autism and for their families.