Training Early Intervention Life-Changers
Stefanie Solyom and Nicole Bautista each wanted to help young children with physical, cognitive, or language challenges overcome those obstacles. Santa Monica College’s Early Intervention Assistant Program set the two of them on their professional paths.
SMC’s Early Childhood Intervention Assistant program—offered through the Early Childhood Education (ECE) Department—combines coursework with hands-on fieldwork and professional development to train topflight early intervention providers in how to aid children who have autism spectrum disorders, cerebral palsy, and other disabilities, as well as children who have hearing impairments, speech impediments, and other conditions—or who just need a little extra help.
“Early childhood education is a unique profession that helps support and nurture future generations and their families,” ECE Department Chair Laura Manson says. The program strives to stay current on emerging trends and challenges related to ECE. “We always prepare students with the latest information and ideas, so they know what to expect,” she says. “The advanced training enables SMC students to start contributing at their practicum sites—even as they’re still learning.“
The early intervention program offers SMC students a range of opportunities within the specialty. Stefanie, who had a Bachelor degree in psychology from the University of British Columbia, turned to SMC to enhance her skillset. “I had theoretical knowledge,” she says, “but SMC gave me more specific skills to work in a preschool setting and in a special education preschool setting.” Now armed with her Associate degree, Stefanie puts her SMC experience to work as a preschool teacher at New School-West.
“I had theoretical knowledge, but SMC gave me more specific skills to work in a preschool and special education setting.”
– Stefanie Solyom, University of British Columbia & SMC Alum
Nicole—who was a student teacher at UCLA when her advisor recommended attending SMC to learn about child development—always had “a preference for working with kids,” she says, “so I want to become an occupational therapist in a pediatric setting.” She recently graduated from SMC and expects to begin a Master degree program in occupational therapy.
Adjunct faculty member Olivia Karaolis, an expert in early intervention, not only teaches, but also places students at actual preschools and other locations serving children, often leading to the students’ first jobs as professionals in the field. “Students have to complete 90 hours of fieldwork,” she says of the rigorous program. “They are placed at a site with a mentoring teacher, and work with a child who is diagnosed or suspected of having a developmental delay or disability.”
The program also attracts working educators. “I have a lot of teachers who are coming back for that knowledge, because now it’s pretty typical to have a child in every classroom that requires those special education services.” She adds that “there are a lot of myths about disability and what children with disabilities can do,” she adds. “Unfortunately, when we think that way, we set a bar—and a low one—when we should help them reach for the stars.”
SMC offers a variety of Associate degrees in ECE—including the Associate in Science for Transfer—as well as Certificates of Achievement in several areas. A Department Certificate in ECE (Core) is also available and prepares students to obtain an Associate Teacher permit.
The ECE department is presently undergoing the accreditation process for the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC), the field’s leading professional association.
For more information, visit www.smc.edu/ece or call (310) 434-8109.