Diane Pouliot, ASD Certificate '10

Autism Spectrum Disorders
“Instead of feeling overwhelmed and frustrated, I now have skills, resources, and renewed energy to help our students.”

Diane Pouliot, left, shares a laugh with Diane Hardy, ’92, guidance counselor at Cutler Elementary School in West Swanzey, New Hampshire, and also an AUNE alumna.

Training Brings Skills, Energy, Resources

Diane Pouliot had an MEd and had been working with children with autism spectrum disorder for thirty years, but never felt that her training had been adequate. Throughout my career I had often felt quite helpless,” she said. “I needed more information in order to help these students enjoy success in school, and be happier as well.”

At the time, she was working with a speech and language pathologist who had recently completed the certificate program in Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) at Antioch University New England (AUNE). “I wanted the same skills and resources, because our students at that time had made so much more progress—and were happier—because of the skills she had garnered at Antioch,” Diane said.

So Pouliot entered AUNE’s ASD program in 2009. After graduating, she was hired as a consultant by the Monadnock School District, a position she credits to her ASD certificate and her subsequent enrollment in AUNE’s Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) program. Pouliot completed her ABA coursework in August 2012 and plans to sit for the Board Certified Behavior Analyst exam this May. “Without the skills I learned and support of Antioch staff, I would not be qualified or remotely able to consult in public schools,” Diane said.

Her job with this district is varied and interesting. She travels among five elementary schools, a middle school, a high school, and a charter school, working with both students and staff. She helps guide decisions about programming and behavioral and educational interventions. She encourages and supports the staff, and often provides on-the-spot training. “I do many functional behavior assessments and create behavior plans for students, then work with parents and staff to positively teach and maintain more pro-social behaviors,” she said. “I work directly with the kids, in social skills groups and during my visits to their classrooms. I really enjoy the staff, students, and parents, and admire their willingness to help our students succeed.”

Early interest

Diane grew up in Attleboro, Massachusetts, and then attended Notre Dame College in Manchester, New Hampshire, for two years, studying early childhood education. She then continued in special education at Keene State College. She took courses in counseling and linguistics, seeking certifications as a Teacher of English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL) as well as a Teacher of Emotionally Handicapped/Behaviorally Disordered. She earned a master’s in special education/learning disabilities at Rivier College as well.

Her interest in students with disabilities is long standing. As a young student, she worked for a family with a young child who had cerebral palsy. “I was also always drawn to the children who behaved differently,” she said. “I honestly found straightforward compliance to be a bit drab.”

Over the last ten years, Diane said, the field of applied behavior analysis has greatly improved positive practices and effectiveness in teaching students with ASD and, indeed, all students. For instance, she said, “default tactics such as time-out or detentions can make no positive difference and even create more behavioral difficulties. If those are the only tactics known to staff, they continually get used. Using the principles of ABA allows for truly effective teaching and successful behavioral interventions, replacing ineffectiveness and frustration on all sides.”

And her AUNE certificate has brought her more than a new job as a consultant. “Instead of feeling overwhelmed and frustrated, I now have skills, resources, and renewed energy to help our students,” she said. “I will continue learning through the many contacts, associations, and research initiated here at Antioch.”

February 2013