With no space to accommodate 100 people, staff at a school in Machado, Brazil, have been sitting outside to hear presentations via WebEx by two Anoka-Hennepin School District autism resource specialists.
It’s winter in Brazil so the instructors bundle up and sit close.
Thanks to a grant from the U.S. State Department, Anoka-Hennepin teachers Diane Gallagher and Angela Haffner have presented information about autism spectrum disorders to school staff in Machado and Bela Vista de Gois, Brazil.
The grant was made possible thanks to the work of Dr. Jennifer Babiracki, a District 11 special education supervisor, who was one of nine educators in the nation to take part in the U.S. State Department’s Educational Seminar: 2011-12 Brazil Administrator Exchange Program.
Three education administrators from Brazil visited Anoka-Hennepin for three weeks in mid-October/early November; Babiracki will travel to Brazil in July.
Gallagher and Haffner will make four, two-hour presentations as well as take part in follow-up activities.
In the presentations they are discussing an overview of autism spectrum disorder and researched-based practices, structured training and related services.
This information is very valuable to educators in a country that did not mandate education of all students, regardless of ability level, until 2008.
“With this mandate, students with a range of needs entered the schools,” Babiracki wrote in her grant application.
“School staff welcomes each student, but struggle knowing how to effectively meet the students’ diverse learning needs.
“Staff have received minimal training to build their knowledge of disabilities and skills in using research based instructional practices.”
Gallagher and Haffner met with the three administrators from Brazil during their fall visit.
Prior to the meeting, the women developed a binder for each administrator that included a variety of visual supports that have been found to be effective with students on the autism spectrum.
“The information was very well received and the principals expressed an interest in obtaining further information for their staff,” Gallagher and Haffner said.
“After the enthusiastic interest of the principals last fall, we were eager to share further information and resources for their staff and students with special needs.
“Jen approached us about developing a grant proposal to do some further training and we were very interested in pursuing this.”
Each session includes a question-answer period and Gallagher and Haffner communicate via e-mail to additional questions or needs.
They said it appears that the resources for teachers in Brazil are quite limited by comparison to the U.S. and they will continue to gather information regarding the Brazil instructors’ programming and needs.
“We are very excited to participate in these exchanges,” Gallagher and Haffner said.