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UNB offers autism support training to the public

Autistic children could benefit from consistent care if parents and other caregivers get training in evidence-based practices.


Parents and caregivers of children with autism spectrum disorder may soon have access to a new training program. The University of New Brunswick’s college of extended learning plans to offer later this year its award-winning autism support training program to the public.

The college developed the program in 2004 for the New Brunswick government to train the province’s resource teachers and autism support workers who have jobs in daycare centres and in the K-12 system. More than 900 people have graduated from the program. For various reasons, the government now is doing more of its training in-house, explained Lloyd Henderson, CEL executive director.

“Because we had the curriculum and all of the expertise we decided we were going to offer [the course] in an open enrolment format,” he said. The program is believed to be the only one of its kind in Canada open to the public.

The course is designed to appeal to parents, caregivers, family doctors and those interested in training to become autism support workers. The non-credit certificate program consists of two parts: 40 hours of pre-recorded online lectures over 12 weeks, followed by 12 days of hands-on practical training at the UNB campus. During the practical portion, which is spread out over several months, participants work closely with autism professionals and instructors. Among other things, they will learn applied behaviour analysis and other proven ASD treatment practices and techniques.

One of the program’s goals is to train teachers, parents and caregivers who live and work with autistic children to use the same evidence-based practices and intervention techniques at school and at home to provide a consistent experience for the child.

“Autistic children are resistant to change in many cases, so to do one thing at home and something very different in the preschool or the school setting can be very disturbing,” Mr. Henderson said. An estimated one in 165 Canadian children has autism spectrum disorder.

He said the college has received almost 50 inquires about the program. It expects to accept about a dozen applicants in its first cohort. The online theory portion should begin in November, with the practicum getting under way in February. The course takes eight months to complete and is designed to meet the needs of working adult learners.

The program costs $4,600 and some bursaries are available. Most programs offered by CEL are profit-generating, but not this one. Its goal is “about community support and being able to make a difference in the life of a child and in the life of a family,” explained Mr. Henderson. “Our goal is to make well-researched and well-documented information for intervention training available to as broad an audience as possible.”

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