Patricia O’Connor has had a lifelong interest in assisting individuals with exceptionalities. From her 35 years as an Educator in Special Education, to her volunteerism with Toronto street youth, to her involvement as Coordinator and the Director of Churches and Agencies on the board of Barrie Out Of the Cold, Patricia has demonstrated her commitment to the betterment of the life experience of people with special needs. In her professional life this has been focused on providing solutions for the needs of people with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).
A desire to teach, along with her brother’s diagnosis of Autism, helped her develop a keen interest and awareness in the field of Special Education leading to a Master’s in Education in Special Education. She has a wide spectrum of exposure in education. This includes in-class teaching in all four divisions involving regular and special education classrooms, resource teacher and consultant roles. The last 16 years of her education career were focused on developing and providing innovative approaches for the provision of ASD services for various school boards throughout Ontario. Activities involved intervention individuals with ASD in crisis, instituting demonstration ASD classrooms, writing and presenting workshops as well as university courses.
Throughout the years there has been an ongoing emphasis on integration into the broader school population and advocating for systemic implementation of exemplary practices in ASD education. Her experience and interests have generated a history of development and implementation of special education/ASD programs and in-service professional development training in Canada and the developing world.
In recognition of the expanding needs of the ASD population as they progress into late teens and adulthood, Patricia has recently begun to focus on the socialization and transitional challenges of this population. Providing direct support for individuals with Asperger’s Syndrome as they try to negotiate completing postsecondary education as well as finding and retaining meaningful employment and accommodations has become a focused area of concern. Advocating and developing programs and services that foster acceptance and integration of individuals with ASD, to ensure that they become fully functioning and contributing members of society, is the ultimate goal.
Integrated Autism Consulting, 2002- Present
- Developed to provide support for the increasing numbers and challenges of the ASD population
- Primary focus has been on training, consultation, program development and advocacy
- Presently involved in supporting families and individuals with Asperger Syndrome in the transition to postsecondary or the workplace
- Developing ASD transitional services and programs for postsecondary institutions
- Working with Autism Ontario to advocate for the implementation of ASD training for all pre-service teacher (Bachelor Of Education) programs in the province, develop a provincial educational advocacy network, develop and deliver workshops and a webinar on educational issues and obtain funding to increase programs and supports for young adults with ASD
- Developing advocacy articles and workshops for regional and provincial delivery and distribution
- Designed, developed and taught a 12 week course for young adults (aged 18-28) with ASD (Asperger Syndrome). Transition to Life is now being offered in other locations around the province.
York Region District School Board, 2008-2011
- Developed and delivered in-service training for teachers, educational assistants and regional special education staff
- Established and supported six demonstration classroom for students with ASD
- Developed four resource binders and trained new teachers using this material
- Designed and co-developed an Additional Qualifications Course – Special Education-
- Communication – Autism with a focus on Applied Behaviour Analysis. This course was approved by the College of Teacher’s and is currently being taught in York Region
Summer Training, Geneva Centre for Autism, 2008
- Developed and delivered provincial training sessions on incorporating ABA into the Individual Education Plan
Autism Education Consultant, Geneva Centre for Autism, 2007-2008
- Developed and delivered training sessions in ABA across the province
- Provided specialized consultation to school boards across the province to students with complex and challenging needs
- Worked with a specialized team from IMPAC (Interministerial Provincial Advisory Committee) to provide consultation and direct coaching for an aboriginal student in north western Ontario
Project Manager, Geneva Centre for Autism, 2006-2007
- Provincial Teachers’ Assistant Training Project
- Developed curriculum, hired staff, coordinated service delivery with school
- Boards and delivered training throughout the province
Administrator Summer Training, Geneva Centre for Autism, 2007
- Developed and delivered regional, provincial training sessions to principals and administrators on PPM no.140 “Incorporating Methods of Applied Behaviour Analysis (ABA) into Programs for Students with Autism Spectrum Disorders.”
Training Institute, Geneva Centre for Autism, 2003-2009
- Coordinated individual and school consultations, developed programs, coached, supported autism teams and did training throughout the province and elsewhere.
Designed, developed and instructed numerous courses for teachers, educational assistants and principals throughout the province.
Course and Workshop Design
- Designed, developed and instructed the first university “Additional Qualifications Course” in Ontario for teachers on Autism Spectrum Disorders. (Offered by Nipissing University)
- Designed, developed and instructed a 5-day training course for SCDSB educational assistants.
- Developed and delivered a 3-day Individual Educational Plan workshop for teachers of students with Autism.
Special Program Design
- Conceptualized, designed and implemented two pilot classrooms for students with severe autism in the Simcoe County District School Board.
- Developed and instructed special education programs for teachers in Trinidad and Tobago through the Canadian Teacher’s Federation – Project Overseas.