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Classroom Teacher in charge of the ARC Program (Autism Resource Centre) at Sir Winston Churchill Secondary School (from September 2008 - June 2009).  The program provides support for up to 12 students with autism in regular classes as well as direct instruction in social skills, handling emotions and organization.

 

Introduction

I am a Special Education Teacher by choice.  My focus is teaching students with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) and Asperger Syndrome. In 2001, I completed a two-year Bachelor of Education program with a specialization in Middle Years.  In 2004, I received my Diploma in Special Education followed in 2008 by a Master of Education in Special Education with a concentration in Autism and Developmental Disabilities.  In 2008 I also completed the requirements for and became a Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA).  Outside of teaching, I am an Autism Consultant to a number of families in Metro Vancouver.

 

In addition to having taught Special Education students in four school districts, I am familiar with numerous other Special Education programs that I have visited or taught in, both private and public, in British Columbia, extra-provincially, and internationally.

 

I have knowledge and training in Applied Behaviour Analysis (ABA) principles and other intervention programs such as Relationship Development Intervention (RDI), and Social Thinking which lead to a dynamic, structured and successful classroom using data-driven decision making and teaching methods based on individual needs.

 

I am a strong advocate for students and parents, and follow a philosophy of “Students First!”.  I support the principles of an inclusive public education system but believe that inclusion is no substitute for a good education.  Furthermore, I see inclusion as a service, not a place.

 

Churchill ARC Program 

When the Churchill ARC program (Autism Resource Centre) began with twelve Grade 8 students in 2005, staffing was set at one classroom teacher and four Support Workers (SSSWs).  Severe student behaviour issues led to the addition of one more support worker.  The program in the 2008-2009 school year had eleven students from Grade 8 to Grade 11, served by a teacher and five Support Workers. 

 

The original intent of the ARC program was a transition program for students with Asperger Syndrome or high-functioning Autism who needed extra support and skills when moving to high school.  The focus of the program was to provide direct instruction and support for social and organizational skills for students who were academically capable of completing regular curriculum, although one student was accepted who required fully modified curriculum. The program criteria for entrance was that students would not require full-time academic or behaviour support to succeed in regular classrooms.

 

In reality, of the twelve students who entered the program three years ago, only one student has transferred out as a success.  This was the fourth year in the program for six of the eleven students currently in the program.  For the senior students (six in Grade 11), academic needs were currently being met by classroom teachers, peer tutors, and volunteers who have specific course content knowledge.  Support Workers are able only to provide minimal academic support to students beyond Grade 10.  Behavioural needs are generally met by classroom teachers as Support Workers have not committed to remaining in any particular class.  Based on staff abilities versus student needs, the program was overstaffed.

 

2008-2009 Program Successes

 

1.  Assigning peer tutors and classroom volunteers to ARC Skills and Tutorial Blocks allowed students to develop relationships and explore social interaction in a natural setting; provided academic assistance; and gave others the opportunity to work with peers with a disability.

 

2.  Distance learning courses through the Vancouver Learning Network (VLN) have allowed students to be successful in academic courses.  These students were unsuccessful in an integrated setting due to the rapid pace, gaps in knowledge, or anxiety.  Through VLN these students had an opportunity to work with the ARC program teacher and peer tutor support during an assigned academic block at school. 

 

3.  ARC program senior students have become peer tutors/mentors for younger ARC program students.  This has increased their self-confidence, organizing abilities, and allowed them to take a leadership role.

 

4.  The Best Buddies program has increased student awareness and provided a weekly opportunity for social interaction in a safe setting for ARC program students without a social network.

 

5.   Incorporating games and reinforcement into social skills blocks has encouraged ARC program students to attend class and practice difficult behaviours.  Furthermore, the need for adult prompting for appropriate interactions between students has decreased.

 

6.  Increased written documentation in the form of visual schedules, written contracts and agreements between ARC program students, teachers and support staff have reduced inappropriate behaviours.

 

7.  Written communication between the ARC program teacher and parents on a frequent basis (daily to begin with – fading to a minimum of weekly) documenting academics, behaviour issues, and student successes has been appreciated by parents.

 

8.  Involvement of the Friend 2 Friend program in the classroom.