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Board certified behavior analyst to discuss education strategies for autistic children at Kiwanis…

Board certified behavior analyst to discuss education strategies for autistic children at Kiwanis Dinner

Maria Gassner

The Kiwanis Club of Greater Woodbury invites the public to attend a talk about education for children with autism by Board Certified Behavior Analyst Maria Gassner on Feb. 15.

Gassner teaches kindergarten and first grade multiply disabled students at West End Memorial Elementary School, a position she has held since 2006. Based on extensive work with children with autism, Gassner identified the lack of communication as an area of opportunity to assist these students. The presentation will address Functional Communication Training (FCT) and Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) as these pertain to education in a classroom for children with autism.

Using evidence-based ABA principles of learning and reinforcement, Functional Communication Training replaces problem behavior, the result of poor communication skills, by teaching a child an alternate way to communicate his or her needs.

“For example, an autistic student who hits because he does not know how to ask others to play must learn to say, ‘play with me,’” Gassner explained. “This can replace the problem behavior because the desired result of playing reinforces the use of these words in the future.”

This is significant for students with autism who must overcome challenges that impede their ability to communicate. Gassner has found that Functional Communication Training and the use of Applied Behavior Analysis have successfully improved the lives of many children with autism and their families.

Gassner earned a Bachelors degree in Special Education in 1984 from Millersville University. Subsequently, in 2015, she earned a Masters Degree in Applied Behavior Analysis from Rowan University. Her experience includes working in a self-contained school for students with emotional and behavioral problems in Carlisle, Penn. Later, she has worked in a resource room in the school district of East Windsor. Subsequently, she provided educational services to homebound students until 2006 when West End Memorial Elementary School hired her for the position she currently occupies.

“Our Kiwanis club recognizes outstanding West End Memorial Elementary School students every month through our Terrific Kids Program,” explained Michael Smolensky, President of the Greater Woodbury Kiwanis. “Recently I met Mrs. Gassner while assisting in her classroom, and I immediately recognized the challenges she helps students overcome. Therefore, I wanted to give her the opportunity to share her work and knowledge with the public.”

The meeting starts at 6:30 p.m. on Feb. 15, at Charlie Brown’s, 111 N Broad Street. An optional dinner is available for $17.00, including the Unlimited Farmer’s Market Salad Bar™.

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