Autism Treatment for Pre-schoolers in Saint John, New Brunswick, Canada
I interviewed Sharon Gainforth, director of the Fundy Learning Centre which teaches Autism Treatment in their Autism 101 Course. She has a Bachelor of Science in Communication Disorders as well as a Masters Degree in Speech Language Pathology.
Q: What prompted you to create the Fundy Learning Centre?
A: The need! Autism is so prevalent and I realized that there is not a forum where people could learn how to help children, adolescents and adults with autism – a place where everyone from Sunday school teachers to scout leaders to first responders, anyone who could come in contact with people with autism, could understand and know about autism. I wanted to create a forum to teach with a hands-on approach as to what will work effectively when interacting and teaching people with autism. The Fundy Learning Centre teaches an all-inclusive approach; including strategies from sensory to visuals, communication to applied behavioural analysis, from social-emotional to motor skill development. As the director of the Stepping Stones Agency for preschoolers with autism as well, I see so much knowledge under its roof that I wanted to share it.
Q: Who teaches at the Fundy Learning Centre? How are the instructors chosen?
A: I hire professionals who work at Stepping Stones. The instructors are chosen based on their background, education and training, their current demonstrated skill set, their experience and, most importantly, their passion for the topic they are teaching.
Q: What is your vision for the Fundy Learning Centre two years, five years and 10 years from now?
A: In two years I would like the Fundy Learning Centre Autism 101 course to be commonly known in the Maritime provinces. I want people who are interested to realize we offer it, attend and, most importantly, value it. We now have a place to learn skills effectively that will help people work with people with autism.
In five years, I would like the Fundy Learning Centre to be offering many more courses. And in 10 years, I would like us to be established internationally and to offer an online component that is easily accessible.
Q: What was the most surprising aspect of the inaugural training session (fall 2011) at the Fundy Learning Centre?
A: This may sound silly, but it did surprise me, given it was our first offering, at how incredibly effective it was. People came to the course with no background in autism but with such a strong hands-on component, we hired some of the graduates. What I saw were individuals who learned how to look at the full picture of persons with autism, who were able to entertain a variety of thoughts about the most effective way to work, intervene or teach the person with autism and then were able to carry out any number of different effective strategies.
Q:Who can attend the Fundy Learning Centre?
A: Everyone! Anyone from anywhere who would like to learn how to work with children, adolescents or adults with autism.
Q: What else do you want people to know?
A:People have said it is too bad that we don’t host evening courses. But our daytime course enables us to include hands-on practicum on a daily basis. That makes us unique and the course most effective. There is teaching, coaching and mentoring but then every day students of Autism 101 first practice amongst themselves and then with children with autism immediately after learning each new skill. The next 12-week, full-time Autism 101 course starts at the end of January 2012. For more information, call Karen Belliveau at 693-9858 or visit Fundy Speech Pathology.
This Blog post was first published in my KV Style Magazine Children’s Column.