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Head Start Staff Earn Autism Specialist Certification


ESC Region 19 Head Start disabilities staff recently earned Autism Certificates from the International Board of Credentialing and Continuing Education Standards (IBCCES) to enhance services for children with autism and other developmental disabilities. This certification recognizes professionals who receive additional training and are dedicated to promoting quality care in the field of Autism.

Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), a complex and often misunderstood developmental disability that affects one's ability to communicate and interact with others, afflicts 1 in 68 children nationwide. With the increase of ASD comes the awareness of the unique needs of children diagnosed with an ASD. Having staff who receive training on ASD evidence-based practices and interventions makes a difference in the classroom.

“Our certified staff have helped children with autism learn to socialize, have less aggressive behaviors, use communication to express themselves, and work confidently with other children,” said Karina Hernandez, Head Start Disabilities and Mental Heath Program Manager. “This is all a part of Head Start’s commitment to make all children successful and school ready.”

The IBCCES offers certification programs to educators and licensed professionals who work with individuals with autism.

Hernandez points out that symptoms of autism normally appear before a child reaches three years of age, and range from mild to severe making it imperative to track and monitor children’s development to detect early signs and to provide early intervention.

“Autism is a wide spectrum disorder, and no two children experience the same symptoms,” said Hernandez. “Head Start teachers and disabilities staff use developmentally appropriate practices, track developmental milestones and work closely with parents. This ensures the best services and support are available to meet the needs of children identified with special needs.”

Children with autism are best served in the least restrictive environment as prescribed in their Individual Education Plan (IEP). Head Start children with autism share the same classroom as their peers where they have opportunities to learn and socialize with others.

“Children with autism have feelings and abilities just like anyone else and that’s why it is important to not only include them into the general classroom environment but also teach other children to understand and interact with children with disabilities,” says Hernandez. “For children with autism to thrive and fully benefit from their early childhood experience, it’s essential that our Head Start staff receive training in autism interventions and strategies.”

To learn more about Autism visit www.autismspeaks.org.





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