By David Chilton
Special to The Sun
Many colleges offer studies in developmental services, but a new certificate program at Humber College beginning this September is a first in the field for Ontario.
Jo Anne Nugent, co-ordinator of the developmental services worker program at Humber College, says enrollees must have a developmental services diploma or equivalent or a degree in a related subject. They must also work or volunteer in the developmental field.
Offered through Humber's Continuing Education division, the behaviour technology program is designed for those who either work with those with challenging behaviours or members of families where there is a child, a sibling or someone close with the same sort of difficulties.
Jo Anne Nugent, co-ordinator of the developmental services worker program at Humber, says the course is skill-based and hands-on. She says there were a variety of reasons for starting it. One of them was feedback from the agencies that help those with challenging behaviours. A second was -- and is -- cuts in government services, says Nugent. A good number of people who are now in institutions will be returning to the broader community and will need to be looked after.
"It's important for staff to gain the skills that will allow them to work effectively with those individuals," she says.
The kinds of behaviours students in the program will learn to deal with more fully include aggression and self-injury, which are prompted by complex factors both physical and psychological; for example, an environment could be too noisy, overstimulating or understimulating, Nugent says.
There's a theoretical component to the program, Nugent continues, beginning with learning the history of behaviour management and studying the different types of behaviour, but the majority of the course will be based on applied behavioural analysis.
"They (students) will learn the theory of that and actually how to use it," Nugent says. "There will be a field practice component as well. They will be going to specialized field sites where there's a number of individuals with challenging behaviours. There's also a heavy emphasis on professional ethics."
Don Walker, executive director of New Visions Toronto, which provides 24-hour a day living support for people with medical and psychological problems, says the program will allow students already knowing the behavioural basics to move to higher levels. They will learn to speak the same language as behavioural therapists, he says, and complement them in their work.
The behaviour technology program at Humber College is new this fall.
The certificate is offered through Humber's Continuing Education division.
The first class will accept 35 students.
Applicants, whether professionals or family members, must meet the program's educational requirements.
As part of the program students must complete a 120-hour work placement.
The program begins in the fall and Nugent says Humber can accept up to 35 students. Because the six-course certificate is new, there isn't a wait list and anyone interested can enrol up to the first week of September. She says most of the students -- as in the developmental services field generally -- will be women ranging from 20-something new graduates to others twice that age.
The program will be taught at Humber's Lakeshore campus. Enrollees must have a developmental services diploma or equivalent or a degree in a related subject. They must also work or volunteer in the developmental field. Even family members who want to take the program aren't exempt from the program's requirements, Nugent cautions. Students can pay as they learn. The first courses cost about $350 each.
Next year, anyone who wants to take the program full time can do so at Humber's Summer Institute. Nugent says students will be in class Monday to Friday all day, earning one course credit in five days.
As for the completion of the program improving someone's employment prospects, Nugent says that's entirely likely. Although salaries in this field are generally dismal, the certificate will qualify them to move into a supervisory position, or get hired by a school board, where pay ranges tend to be higher.
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