With the number of students with autism and Asperger’s syndrome growing by leaps and bounds in her school district, Betty Singleton, ASD Certificate and MEd ’13, was determined to do something. “I knew I had to find a way to work more effectively with this population and their families,” said Betty, a special education teacher at Wood Hill Middle School in Andover, Massachusetts.
Her work at AUNE not only helped her do that, but it also helped her spread the word about people on the autism spectrum. Betty, who has more than twenty-five years of experience as a special educator in both private and public schools, decided to get an MEd from the Experienced Educators program of Antioch University New England (AUNE), after obtaining a certificate in Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) the spring before at AUNE. AUNE was the only university to which she applied.
“Antioch University has had the best reputation for ASD and ABA (Applied Behavioral Analysis) certificate programs for several years, in New England and beyond, and came highly recommended to me by several alumni of both programs,” she said. “Antioch has high-caliber and comprehensive courses taught by the best professors and professionals in their fields. Many of the professors are celebrated book and peer-article authors, and are highly qualified specialists in their fields. It has been an incredible experience to learn from them.”
For a fall practicum, Betty produced and hosted a television show, called On the Spectrum, for Andover Public Television, a community TV station that airs in several communities. It received an overwhelmingly positive response from viewers. “On the Spectrum began as just one segment to fulfill a practicum final project requirement, and was soon followed by more segments highlighting specialists, parents, teachers, and professionals in the autism field. I have enjoyed and appreciated the learning experience in meeting and interviewing these individuals and learning about their stories, insights, and expertise in autism,” she said. The show airs each week, and segments can be seen online. Betty has several guests lined up for the summer to interview about the awareness and education of working and living with people on the autism spectrum.
Relevant and Life-Changing Courses
Betty found AUNE’s ASD courses relevant, interesting, and applicable to her work. Her Experienced Educators Program courses also helped guide her work with students on the autism spectrum, especially those in Mindfulness Practice and her spring practicum on Equity and Change, which, she said, “completely changed her teaching philosophy.” She created surveys for general education, special education, and instructional assistants on the equity of education and changes to educational practices for all students at Wood Hill Middle. In her classroom, she is now more considerate and aware of the lessons she learned in her practicum work, and practices mindfulness exercises, breathing, and relaxation daily with all of her social thinking groups. “The children at each grade level use this wonderful skill to calm their anxieties, center themselves, create positive self-talk, deflect aggressive behavior, and feel good about themselves,” she said.
Before receiving her ASD certificate in fall 2012, Betty spent several years as a Life Map Coach for the Asperger’s Association of New England, working with three young adults on the autism spectrum. She met with each of them once a week to work on their individual goals in work, home life, communication, relationships, and independent living skills. It proved to be a rewarding experience.
The ASD certificate from AUNE led directly to her current job as Social Thinking Teacher at Wood Hill Middle School, where she teaches classes in social communication, social cognition, executive functions, and emotional regulation to students on the autism spectrum. Andover public schools require their teachers to have advanced degrees, but her AUNE education helped in her teaching, too. The advanced degree at AUNE helped me learn so much to support these students in school and at home. ”
It has been an incredible experience and an educational journey working with these students every day.”
A Career Inspired Around the Dinner Table
Growing up in a family of educators, including her father, two brothers and a sister, Betty loved the lively dinner table conversations that often revolved around educational topics and issues. “I learned early on to appreciate and understand teaching as a unique and noble profession, with a means to making a difference in the lives of children,” she said. She majored in special education at Keene State College, and upon graduation landed her first job teaching a fourth-grade class at Little Harbor School in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. “I fell in love with my students and never looked back,” she said. “I was hooked at the moment I entered my first classroom, and have continued to flourish in this wonderful profession for the past twenty-five-plus years.”
“I am a proud graduate of the ASD certificate program and the Experienced Educators master’s program at Antioch University New England. The coursework enhanced and broadened my teaching ability, my educational philosophy, and my passion for working with students on the autism spectrum.”