On September 2, 2008 Mr. Tom Caffrey presented the “Establishing and Maintaining Instructional Control with Children with Autism in Early Intervention” to my preschool staff. FATE provided this training free of charge. Paterson, the third largest city in NJ, is an Abbott district. It is difficult to obtain trainers with his knowledge to provide much needed training at no or little cost to the district.
Mr. Caffrey provided information and guidance to teachers, child study team members, and administrators so they can increase their repertoire of skills and work more effectively with preschoolers on the autistic spectrum. Last year a number of staff applied for the Project Pipeline training and were rejected. Mr. Caffrey, understanding the needs of our staff, encouraged them to apply again.
It was encouraging to walk into classrooms the first week of school and see the teachers beginning to use some of the strategies that Mr. Caffrey discussed. Teachers and assistants were establishing relationships with the children. Teachers reached out to parents to complete the Reinforcement Assessment Form. Therapists were getting additional information on the website. These are good beginning steps. My concern is that without additional training and in-class support the staff will not be able to continue or expand their knowledge and skills.
Our staff receives minimal assistance and support due to budget constraints and the overwhelming number of preschool children in our district. We currently serve 3500 preschoolers. Everyday we get referrals from parents, early intervention, DYFS, and hospitals requesting programming for children on the Autistic spectrum. Currently, approximately 2% of the children attending our programs are diagnosed with autism. Many others appear to have autistic characteristics but are not diagnosed. The children are placed in both general education and self-contained classes. Our dedicated teachers and therapists are desperate for training and guidance in implementing strategies appropriately in a variety of settings.
It is, therefore, extremely important that FATE continue its efforts to provide training and assistance to districts like ours.
Gloria L. Bodker