This guest Q&A is with Dr. Kate Cerino-Britton who is the Principal of the education program at the Alpine Learning Group in Paramus, NJ. Kate is a Board Certified Behavior Analyst and a certified teacher of the handicapped, and has worked with individuals with autism since 1997. She holds master’s degrees in Educational Administration and Special Education and a doctoral degree in Educational Leadership, Management, and Policy. She serves on the New Jersey Association for Behavior Analysis Board of Directors as the Secretary and Continuing Education Chair and has presented at national and international conferences.

kate-cerino-brittonHi Principal Britton! Can you share with us a bit about how Alpine Learning Group came about? We are blown away by your work.

Back in 1988, there were very few behaviorally-based school programs for children with autism. Alpine Learning Group was the dream, vision and answer at that time for a small group of families who connected with autism specialists to open our doors in 1989.

How did you first learn about ALG as an educator?

Fresh out of college with a degree in elementary education and enrolling in a master’s program for special education, I began to interview at both public and private schools with a goal of starting a career in special education. Interview after interview, there were no sparks, no “perfect fit”, until I walked into Alpine. Meeting Dr. Bridget Taylor, hearing about the mission of the Alpine Learning Group, and working hands-on in the classroom during the interview process sealed my desire and commitment. For the first time, I could not wait until I heard back with Dr. Taylor’s decision. When the call came in, I was just thrilled! Accepting that position was one of the best decisions I ever made.

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Jodi and Kate

We absolutely adore the multitalented Jodi DiPiazza and love the picture of her on ALG’s homepage! How has her work impacted ALG today?

I too absolutely adore Jodi! She has taught me so much. Jodi continues to demonstrate how much potential individuals with autism possess. With Jodi’s hard work, intensive intervention, and a strong family-school collaboration, there is no limit to her success. Her achievements encourage us to work even harder to ensure all of our learners make continued gains towards their personal growth.

A popular image of autism in our community is often focused on children. When I was reading more about your program one of the things (among many) that stood out to me was your adult programs. Can you share about the importance of these programs for our community?

You are right. Our school program has been in operation since 1989 and provides highly individualized, scientifically-validated educational and behavioral services for learners ages 3-21. But learning does not stop there. This became a need for our agency as our oldest learner was approaching the age of 21. Again, very few programs were available for adults with autism. So Alpine met the challenge and has continued to help our adult participants meet their full potential with ongoing career training and continuing education. We strive to create a model that can be replicated in order to increase services and support available to the adult population in New Jersey to meet this critical need in our community.

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Jonathan working at Dunkin Donuts

How can those who read this interview get involved to help support your team?

Alpine relies on the contributions of others in many ways, from volunteering in our classrooms, attending events, and helping to raise the funds needed to continue to provide state-of-the-art services to individuals with autism across the lifespan. Please contact us through our website.

What’s next for you and your team? Anything fun coming up?

We recently completed a strategic planning process which set several new initiatives in motion for Alpine Learning Group. Two of the most significant include an expansion of clinical services (such as behavioral interventions and assessments) for individuals who may not already be part of our existing programs and diagnostic services to ensure that families in Bergen and surrounding counties need not leave their local area to obtain a diagnosis. Both areas of growth are representative of Alpine’s commitment to become the preeminent autism center in New Jersey.

Anything else you’d like to share with our readers?

Please visit us at our website www.alpinelearninggroup.org, follow us on Twitter and like us on Facebook for up to date information!