SOESD / Newsletters / The Source / November 2004 Source: Ron Enger / Reg Autism
The Newsletter of Southern Oregon Education Service District
Regional Autism Services
By Blanche McKenna
The good news about the Regional Autism Program is that we exist again this year, complete with some new staff with great skills and lots of enthusiasm!
Blanche McKenna is the Program Leader for the Regional Autism Program and serves in Eagle Point SD, Grants Pass SD, Central Point SD, Phoenix-Talent SD, and Jackson County STEPs classrooms. She has worked as a SOESD Autism Consultant for the past 10 years. Prior to that she was a case manager for Jackson County Developmental Disability Services. She has worked in the field of Developmental Disabilities for over 30 years including work as a Recreational Therapist and Vocational Evaluator.
While Blanche holds an M.S. degree, she believes that her most intensive “degree” is being a ‘Mama’ to two young adults with special needs including one with autism. She likes working in the field of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) because it is so dynamic. There is something new everyday whether it is a book, a curriculum, a methodology, a medication, a paper, or a speaker. You never arrive at expertise in this field, just new knowledge and experience that constantly needs to be weeded.
Susan McNamara has worked with the SOESD for over 20 years and currently serves autistic students in Jackson County STEPs and Ashland SD. Although recently retired, she wanted to return to work part time as an Autism Consultant this year.
After years of being in classrooms, Susan is enjoying bringing some of those experiences to consulting with an awareness of what teachers can and are willing to do, as well as new ideas for folks to try. Susan is enjoying the uniqueness of each student’s individual needs and personalities. Although ASD students share some qualities, learning styles and areas of difficulty, each student brings to school his/her own needs, desires, and motivations - trying to identify and assist with this is what rocks!
Kirby Erickson has worked for Josephine County Early Intervention Services for the past 13 years and serves in Medford SD, Three Rivers SD, and Josephine County Early Intervention. For the first 5 years she was an Early Intervention Specialist working with infants and toddlers, and the last 8 years as Autism Specialist for EI and ECSE eligible children. Kirby is a Registered Nurse, Certified in Developmental Disabilities Nurse (CDDN). She has a Bachelor’s degree in Physiology from UC Berkeley and an MS from University of Oregon in ECSE. In addition to two sons, Kirby has a daughter 19, who experiences autism and Down syndrome.
Ever since Kirby attended an EI conference about autism taught by Gary Mezibov many years ago, she has been intrigued with learning more and more about autism. She remembers asking Gary if one could have both Down syndrome and Autism and he said YES. That changed her world. There are specific teaching strategies that students with ASD learn best. Her goal has been to learn all possible strategies, keep abreast of new learning and teaching for these students, and share that information with teachers and parents. These students are so individually unique yet have similar underlying characteristics.
Kirby is exited to learn about older children with higher functioning skills and help create ways that they can participate in life more socially. She is concerned about how these children will function in the adult world, as they are so socially isolated and given that than 80 % of persons with developmental disabilities have no employment after special education. Kirby will be supporting teachers, families, and schools in providing more appropriate social skills learning during their school years to prepare them for adult life.
Geni Moots-Plotnick is a familiar person at SOESD where she has been a Speech Therapist for many years. Geni currently serves as an ASD specialist in Ashland SD, Grants Pass SD, and Rogue River SD. She began her professional life teaching a self-contained communicatively handicapped classroom in the early 1970’s. Since then she has performed many roles including speech/language pathologist, elementary teacher, early childhood specialist, grant writer, SOU adjunct instructor, workshop presenter, and parent and paraprofessional trainer. She has worked closely with dozens of ASD families through the schools, as well as in private practice.
Geni considers herself a life-long learner and continually builds her professional library. She has focused on championing development of social communication in fragile children for the past 17 years. She is among a small group of professionals who are certified in Relationship Development Intervention. Geni is realistic about the mushrooming growth of ASD but remains optimistic that powerful strategies are available and continually being developed for promoting greater happiness, motivation, success and cross-domain development. She looks forward to developing supports for ASD children, their staffs and families and working with a diversified team of colleagues.
In addition to the ASD Consultants that serve school age children in Jackson and Josephine counties, a number of Regionally funded consultants serve ASD students in other areas. In Jackson county, Misten Daniels serves ASD students at Jackson County Early Childhood Education Services. April Depuy and Ellen Argall serve students in Klamath County SD while Sharon Crabbe serves ASD students in the Klamath County Early Intervention Program and Klamath City SD. In Douglas county, four ASD Consultants are deployed to serve the local school districts and Early Childhood Education Services: Patricia Work, Sonja Freitas, Sheri Mican, and Diana Pierce. Finally, Robert Key provides ASD consultation in Lake County.