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Originally planned for 25 participating classroom teachers at the George Town Public Library, the workshop was heavily oversubscribed.

Published 10th November 2010, 6:48pm

Nearly 100 public and private school teachers recently turned out for a seven-hour autism awareness training workshop.

Originally planned for 25 participating classroom teachers at the George Town Public Library, the workshop was heavily oversubscribed.

But thanks to a generous donation from The Special Needs Foundation of Cayman, a new venue, the Grand Cayman Marriott Beach Resort, and refreshments were both made possible. All other workshop costs were covered by the Ministry of Education, Training and Employment.

"We exceeded our registration target by nearly 300 percent," Wellness Centre Director and Workshop Facilitator Shannon Seymour explained.

"This response is a clear indication that teachers want this information. They want support and resources so they can do what's best for their students."

She continued, "Their overwhelming response also tells our government that they are on the right track in terms of funding this kind of training. And it tells our schools, parents and guardians that everyone needs and wants to work together to try to improve the educational success of autistic children."

The workshop was specifically developed to meet the needs of teachers who currently number autistic students among their pupils.

Topics included the unique needs of students with autism spectrum disorders; an introduction to behavioural management strategies; and methods to address social skills and sensory issues in the classroom.

"Participants learned a lot about students with autism," Ms. Seymour continued.

"Hopefully they now have a renewed sense of the challenges so typical for an autistic child and recognise that there is much they can do to help manage these students. They should now be better equipped to address some of the disruptive behaviours that are typical."

Some teachers, particularly those who had already been trained to manage special needs students, found the workshop refreshing.

One Lighthouse School teacher noted, "There are definitely some key points that I will take back and use in my classroom. However I already use many of these techniques so this course was more of a reminder for me. Reinforcement is always great though."

Others, for whom the material was new, found the workshop especially helpful: "We do get kids with different behaviours and I want to be able to identify what those behaviours are, what they might mean and what I can do to help those children cope," a First Baptist School teacher commented.

"This has been tremendously helpful and I've learned some great techniques that can be applied to all kids in the classroom." For helpful tips on managing children with autism spectrum disorders, email the Early Intervention Programme at cabennett@cayman.edu.ky, or visit www.autismspeaks.org and www.firstsigns.org. Teachers can find additional training resources at www.do2learn.com.

Principals interested in scheduling training for other staff members who interact daily with autistic students (e.g. librarians, bus drivers, cafeteria staff) may contact the Wellness Centre by emailing info@wellnesscentre.ky or calling 949-9355.

Special Needs Foundation of Cayman (SNFC)

The Special Needs Foundation of Cayman (SNFC) is a non-profit organisation of parents, educators and professionals, committed to supporting children with a range of special needs across the Cayman Islands.

The foundation's primary focus is advocacy for individuals and families and ongoing public education about what the special needs community requires. They meet every third Thursday at Hope Academy in Grand Harbour. Call 916-6367 or email CaymanFoundation@gmail.comSource: Special Needs Foundation of Cayman.