CIRCA Professional Development Programs: Background

In 2018, CIRCA received a 4-year funding grant from the BC Ministry of Children and Family Development (MCFD) to create equitable and efficient professional development opportunities to interdisciplinary professionals and caregivers across the province on autism.

Step One – Strategic Plan

In 2018/19 CIRCA completed a strategic plan using a co-design process that fostered active collaboration between a wide range of stakeholders in the autism community. The goal of the plan was to set meaningful priorities and decide which service sectors would benefit from the development of resources.

The strategic plan process included:

  • Completion of over 50 separate interviews with over 260 stakeholders
  • Examination of knowledge gaps through cross-jurisdictional scans of existing on-line autism-related resources and training materials in BC, Canada and key international sites
  • In-person discussions of priorities with the CIRCA Advisory Committee that included representatives from 14 community organizations and 4 government Ministries

Priorities Identified:

The strategic plan process prioritized four service sectors that would benefit from the development of professional development resources in autism:

  1. Employment Professionals (Human Resource Professionals, Employers, Co-Workers; Employment Counsellors, etc.)
  2. Medical Professionals (Primary Care Providers including Physicians and Pediatricians)
  3. Dental Professionals (Dentists; Dental Hygienists, Certified Dental Assistants, etc.)
  4. Child Care Providers (Early Childhood Educators; Aboriginal Infant Development Program (AIDP) and IDP Consultants; Aboriginal Supported Child Development (ASCD) and SCD Consultants; Public and Private Child Care Providers, etc.)

Step Two – Program Development

Partnerships: CIRCA solidified collaborative partnerships with key stakeholders in each targeted service sector including UBC Continuing Professional Development in the Faculty of Medicine; the BC Dental Association; the BC Dental Hygienists’ Association; UBC Dentistry; Chartered Professionals in Human Resources of BC and Yukon; BC Family Child Care Association; First Nations Health Authority; BC Aboriginal Child Care Society; and the Aboriginal Head Start Association of BC

Advisory Committees: Advisory Committees were established for each service area that included autistic individuals, families, post-secondary institutions and representatives from over 36 service organizations and 4 government Ministries

Needs Assessments: CIRCA then completed service sector needs assessments that included focus groups and/or surveys to identify the learning needs of the professionals in each sector.

Scans of Existing Resources: CIRCA completed in-depth, sector specific cross-jurisdictional scans of existing on-line ASD-related resources and professional development materials in BC, Canada and key international sites. All of the identified resources were then categorized and vetted by CIRCA for quality assurance. These vetted resources are included in the resource section of each module.

Step Three – Module Development

Through internal expertise, input from autistic individuals and their families, and partnerships with external experts in each of the service sectors, CIRCA developed and produced a series of free, self-paced on-line professional development modules for each service sector.

CIRCA ensures that autistic voices are actively involved in the development and creation of each professional development program at every step in the process.

  • Each advisory committee includes autistic individuals and family members. All advisory committee members play an active role in content development from start to finish and are compensated for their time.
  • Autistic individuals were interviewed on camera and shared their personal experiences and opinions. The experiences shared by autistic individuals and their families shaped the content of each professional development program and gave the content life and meaning. All interviewees were compensated for their time and involvement.
  • To develop the content for Autism and Neurodiversity in the Workplace CIRCA developed a work environment survey in partnership with an Autistic Self Advocate at the Sinneave Family Foundation. The survey was distributed across Canada and completed by over 170 autistic individuals from across the country. The survey responses became the core content of the strategies that are presented.