Early Childhood Education program to cover educating children with autism

February 7, 2018
Story and photo by Brandon Steinert

CTE Month 2018: This feature is the third of four stories to be released by Barton Community College in February in celebration of Career Technical Education (CTE) Month.

CTE Month® is an annual celebration held in February of CTE community members’ achievements and accomplishments nationwide. CTE Month 2018, with its tagline of "Celebrate Today, Own Tomorrow!" gives colleges the chance to inform others of the innovation and excellence that exists within our local CTE programs and raise awareness of the crucial role that CTE plays in readying our students for careers and our nation for economic success.

Kim Specht’s career as an educator took an unexpected and compassion-driven turn about ten years ago. As an early childhood education (preschool) instructor, Specht had not yet taught a child on the autism spectrum. Her first experience came when a friend asked if she could watch their little boy, who they suspected had some degree of autism.

“I watched him and the entire day he sat in the dirt and played without saying a word,” she said. “He was later diagnosed and I continued to babysit him. Then he was in my class as a preschooler. I read and read and researched autism; however, a lot of my learning came from the experience of working with children with autism.”

Specht watched him grow and develop over the past decade, advancing from nonverbal to initiating greetings and showing sympathy to those around him, offering words of comfort to Specht when she was sad and reminiscent about her son’s senior year in high school.

She is building curriculum to train early education teachers to provide quality care for children with autism. The class will cover the autism spectrum disorder, behavior expectations, social and emotional aspects and early intervention.

“It’s been an amazing journey, and I want to help others unlock those special moments you can have with kiddos who are on the spectrum,” she said. “I had no idea what that meant back then.

“This class is not just for early childhood education majors,” she added, saying her courses are open to the community at large. “This is for anyone who wants to know more about spectrum disorders or whose lives have been touched by them. It’s a very open and welcoming class.”

Specht also teaches a course on parenting, which she said has the same welcoming approach and is available to anyone looking to learn more about the history of parenting and modern techniques. The class will start in the fall.

Instructor and coordinator of the Early Childhood Education program Roni Wertz said she is proud to add the coursework to the program’s curriculum. She said it’s easy coming to work every day knowing how critical early education is to the community and a functional society.

“Research shows good quality childcare by educated professionals generates a lifetime of benefits,” she said. “Our students have invested in the future by joining one of Barton’s Early Childhood Education classes and programs. The community is welcome to take advantage of these offerings and make time to learn, laugh and play each and every day.”

For more information visit earlychildhood.bartonccc.edu or contact Wertz at wertzr@bartonccc.edu or (620) 786-1130.

Barton Career Fair

CTE month will culminate with a Career Technical Education Fair open to the public from noon-2:30 p.m. February 28 in the Case New Holland Shop in the Northeast side of the Technical building. Registration opens at noon. The fair will feature demonstrations, hands-on-activities, refreshments, prizes and photo ops with the Barton mascot.  To sign up, contact Denise Schreiber at (620) 792-9324 or schreiberd@bartonccc.edu.

Students in eighth grade through seniors in high school are invited to attend a keynote address and tours beginning at 9:30 a.m. in the auditorium lobby in the Fine Arts Building on campus.

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