WHITE HALL – Interacting with an individual with autism may be a new experience for some.
Pierpont Community and Technical College is once again offering a course for autism mentorship training, seeing that the class was so popular the last time it was offered at the school.
“We did run it from June to August – we had a tremendous amount of response,” said Kimberly Cale, director of operations for continuing education. “Parents, grandparents, care professionals asking when it would be recurring again, so we decided to run it again now and in January.”
Through a partnership with the Autism Training Center and Marshall University, Pierpont Community and Technical College is giving people statewide the option to take the course online. Cale said students will receive training on methods on how to interact with individuals who are at different points on the autism spectrum.
“It helps to teach people how to interact with those with autism and to be able to teach them different ways that would help them,” Cale said. “The wonderful thing about this being 100 percent online is we are able to now reach areas of West Virginia that we’re not able to travel for this type of training.”
To offer the course completely online Andrew Nelson, the instructor of the course at the Autism Training Center at Marshall University, has recorded videos of his in-person lessons. Students watch the videos and turn in assignments.
According to the syllabus for the course, different lessons throughout the class include topics such as an overview of autism spectrum disorder, sensory integration, understanding behavior, functional communication, developing social skills and teaching effectively. Each lesson also has a corresponding assignment.
“Students watch the lesson with him,” Cale said. “Then there is also some reading to be done as well as tests and quizzes to make sure they’re properly understanding the information.”
Cale said the opportunity to offer the class to so many could help provide these specialized educators to schools statewide, which is a need that has to be filled in Marion County.
“If they’re on the aid sub list, when an autism mentor job comes open they apply for that,” said Rockie DeLorenzo, Marion County Schools administrative assistant for human resources. “They don’t become an autism mentor until they have met some qualifications... They have to have an autistic child in their class and the teacher has to have autism certification.”
Cale said the course has in the past received attention from mentors working in autism mentorship, to further their knowledge to improve in their field.
“The professionals are folks who are teacher assistants in the school systems,” Cale said. “So to have them have the training to learn how a person with autism interacts, how they process information to help them have more one-on-one learning structures is definitely a plus for the education system.”
However, Cale said she believes the course could be valuable to anyone, because the methods offered in its content have useful applications.
“If anyone in the community wanted to take it, they could take it just for their knowledge of interacting with those with autism,” Cale said. “The more general public that understands how the autistic person learns, then the better all of their experiences will be as well.”
According to Cale, it is still possible to enroll in the autism mentorship training this semester, and she is putting together a wait list as well. She said those interested should visit pierpont.edu/ce, or call her at (304) 534-7887 or email at firstname.lastname@example.org.