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Published as a Public Service by REM, Convenor of Collaborative Community Enterprises Fall 2007

Excel in Education

KVCC To Launch New Autism Certificate Program

By Martha Naber

Kennebec Valley Community College

KVCC's General Advisory Council has approved the addition of a Certificate in Autism Spectrum Disorders Studies. This new program will prepare graduates for positions as Education Technician III's, developmental therapy aides, or special needs assistants.

The increasing incidence of Autism Spectrum Disorders has created a growing demand for qualified individuals to work in a variety of settings, including public schools, early intervention programs, early childhood programs, and in homes. With specific training and education in autism spectrum disorders, it is hoped the children and adults can be better served by more highly skilled support persons and the turnover rates of employees in these programs will be reduced.

The number of children in Maine ages 3-21 with autism has grown from 800+ to 1400+ between 2002 and 2005. The Centers for Disease Control released a fact sheet on Feb. 9, 2007, stating that the prevalence of autism has risen to 1 in 150 children in the six states studied.

Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD's) are developmental disabilities that typically last throughout a person's lifetime. People with ASD's have significant impairments in social skills and communication. Specific skills are needed by staff working with persons with an ASD.

Currently in Maine, staff working with people with ASD have to learn the specific skills they need while on the job. This is not adequate to best meet the demands of each student with ASD. Programs have a constant need for trained individuals, as there is a high job turnover rate in this occupation.

KVCC has had an Associate's Degree in Education Program with options in Special Education and Speech Language Pathology assistance since 1990. The college added an Early Childhood degree option in 2000.

A certificate program post-associates degree at KVCC will provide the specific skills and knowledge needed to work with ASD persons. This certificate will require a degree in special education or a closely related field to prepare people for this additional college work. It would be an opportunity for them to move up a level in schools or other programs with programming for ASD individuals. Private programs in KVCC's service area support this certificate as a method to reduce staff turnover and better serve their clients.

Editor's Note: Martha Naber is the coordinator of KVCC's Education Program.