I just finished my two-week POPARD course. My teacher, a bearded man with an elephant in Africa, is a dealer who got me hooked, and my classmates and I all got tattoos on our respective posteriors. It was one of the best courses I’ve ever taken.
POPARD, the Provincial Outreach Program for Autism and Related Disorders, is a course designed to prepare education assistants for the privilege of working with students on the autism spectrum. Our aforementioned instructor, Dr. Kenneth Cole, engaged us with his passion for students on the spectrum. With his extensive history as a school psychologist, elementary school teacher, university instructor, Dr. Ken (as he came to be affectionately known in our class) gave us an immersive experience in the world of autism.
I mentioned that Dr. Ken is a dealer. Though it may seem a sensational statement, it’s true: he’s a self-professed dealer in success, and boy, were we hooked.
Dr. Ken modeled what he taught us in every way: he took every possible opportunity to practice errorless learning with us by giving us appropriate prompts, and he practiced the “golden bookend” rule: start on a high note and end on a high note.
Through his constant verbal feedback and his relevant and detailed stories of his personal experiences, we were infused with Dr. Ken’s excitement for learning, and our confidence in ourselves grew exponentially.
STRUCTURE AND ROUTINE. This is what my new tattoo says. Even though we didn’t actually go under the needle, this imaginary reminder is permanently seared into my mind.
STRUCTURE AND ROUTINE. This is what our students on the spectrum need us to give them. Over my new tattoo I wear a tool belt from Dr. Ken: my relationship with the child. He taught us that our relationship with the child is what holds everything else together. Without the tool belt, we can’t accomplish anything.
Dr. Ken did an incredible job of breaking down difficult concepts into everyday terms that we would be able to easily put into practice.
For example, when teaching us the concept of differential reinforcement, he told us that we should water the flowers, ignore the weeds, and the weeds will die out on their own. In other words, if we focus on the good behaviours, the challenging behaviours will naturally die out.
I’ve got an imaginary tattoo, I’m hooked on success, and I’ve never been so excited to start working with students on the autism spectrum.