News Release

Rancho Santiago Community College District Hosts Autism Care Industry Roundtable on June 22

​Faculty and Industry Join Together to Respond to Workforce Needs

(Santa Ana, CA)—When Kathy Gallardo’s daughter Savannah, who is now 17, was six months old, Kathy had a hunch that something wasn’t quite right. Savannah wasn’t making eye contact with her and wasn’t responding as if she wanted to be held.

“She just wasn’t that happy,” said Kathy. “In fact, she was apathetic and it got worse. It was horrible not understanding what was going on with my daughter. At the time, there was just not that much information out there about autism.”

Nevertheless, Kathy found her way to the Regional Center of Orange County. Savannah saw a psychologist who diagnosed her on the autism spectrum and she began receiving home care. Kathy recalls the home visits of behavior technicians who were ill equipped to help her daughter. Without the necessary training, these technicians’ visits often resulted in Savannah having a huge temper tantrum.

Kathy feared her daughter might never be able to talk to her. From age two to three years, she attended a private school because home care was not working. She was in school all day and got assistance from a full staff of speech pathologists, teachers, and aids.

“The school made a huge difference as far as Savannah’s behavior,” said Kathy. “She screamed daily for two weeks and then calmed down and was able to pay attention. She loves to learn and has had applied behavior analysis for years. As a whole, the behavior technicians are really good, but they are hard to come by.”

From there, Savannah enrolled in the Tustin Unified School District where she received regular ABA. Kathy remembered a year when Savannah’s therapist got ill and the school was very challenged to replace her.

According to Andrew Patterson, executive director for the Autism Business Association, the need for behavior technicians in Southern California far surpasses the availability.

“The shortage correlates to the epidemic levels of autism being diagnosed. In Orange County, in one quarter alone, there were over 3,400 children with autism authorized for treatment from only one care funding source,” said Patterson.

Annually, there are approximately 12,000 openings for behavior technicians in Southern California and 2,000 openings in Orange County alone.

Patterson said that the most critical service required by children with autism is applied behavior analysis (ABA). ABA is the key research-based treatment for children with autism. Intensive ABA treatment offers a 50 percent success rate for a child with autism to be indistinguishable from their peers.

To help address the growing need for educated behavior technicians, Rancho Santiago Community College District (RSCCD) is hosting an Autism Care Industry Roundtable. The discussion will address industry hiring needs, industry workforce training and development needs, internship opportunities, college training opportunities, and potential areas of collaboration.

“Behavior technicians must be motivated to positively change the lives of young children, teens or adults and have the heart to help the community,” said Patterson. “Certification is becoming required by funding sources; however an associate degree in child development is not necessary. When young children get ABA treatment, many can become indistinguishable from their peers. It is an incredible job with immense rewards.”

The event is by invitation only and will include:

Who: ABEDI, Autism Behavior Services, Autism Business Association, Autism Learning Partners, Autism Spectrum Interventions, Behavior Support Partners, Bloom Behavioral Health, California Psychcare, Creative Behavior Interventions, Love2Learn, Regional Center of Orange County, STAR of CA, TASKids, Rancho Santiago Community College District (RSCCD) Adult Education Consortium, RSCCD Child Development Services, RSCCD Educational Services, RSCCD Institute for Workforce Development, Santa Ana College (SAC) Administrative Services, SAC Child Development Program, SAC College of Continuing Education, SAC Division of Career Technical Education, SAC Occupational Therapy Assistant Program, SAC Speech Language Pathology Assistant Program, Santiago Canyon College (SCC) Child Development Program, SCC Division of Business and Career Education, SCC Division of Continuing Education, Sector Navigator – Health & Statewide Director of Health Workforce Initiative

When: Friday, June 22 from 10:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m.

Where: Rancho Santiago Community College District Offices, 2323 N. Broadway, Room 107, Santa Ana, CA 92706

Monica Zarske, professor/coordinator of the SAC speech language pathology assistant program and president of the SAC Academic Senate, is enthusiastic about the college district supporting and facilitating communication between industry and faculty partners.

“What drives our decision-making at the college level is what industry needs and how we can fulfill those needs,” said Zarske. “Without that information, we are working in a vacuum. We want to make sure our students have the skill sets that employers are looking for and want. Autism is an area of great need. Working with children with autism has been a huge part of my work as a speech language pathologist.

“RSCCD is being proactive and reaching out to the autism industry to see how we can collaborate and better meet their needs. It’s a win/win for our students, the community and the colleges. We need faculty to be part of this conversation and others like it.”

About Rancho Santiago Community College District
Santa Ana College and Santiago Canyon College are public community colleges of the Rancho Santiago Community College District, which serves the residents of Anaheim Hills, Orange, Santa Ana, Villa Park, and portions of Anaheim, Costa Mesa, Irvine, Fountain Valley, Garden Grove, and Tustin.. Both colleges provide education for academic transfer and careers, courses for personal and professional development, and customized training for business and industry.

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Contact: Judy Iannaccone

Phone: (714) 480-7503