Mark Mautone envisions a day when all children in special education classes have access to the technology they need to enhance their education and every educator is properly trained in that technology. He is doing whatever he can to make that happen in his piece of the world.
A recent graduate of Caldwell University’s Master of Arts in applied behavior analysis (ABA) program, and a special education teacher in Hoboken, Mautone is in demand these days, presenting workshops in North Jersey to teachers, administrators and parents on how iPads and iPods help children learn. He sees how educators and parents of children on the autism spectrum are hungry for valuable information to help their children succeed. “As an educator, I love to see the different ways technology is effectively integrated into a classroom or with an individual student,” he says.
A designer of several apps, Mautone is excited about the possibilities that apps can offer teachers and students. Always forward-thinking, he is currently designing an app with a curriculum that includes fine motor skills, data collection and academics. His master’s thesis focused on the use of iPads to help preschool children with autism follow an “activity schedule,” a set of pictures or words that cues a child to engage in a sequence of activities.
But beware of those prophets who boast of quick answers and solutions with technology, Mautone warns, because an app is only as good as the foundation that supports it, and that foundation is the professionals—the teachers and the trainers who understand autism and applied behavior analysis.
“These are great devices when used properly,” he says. The content for the apps should be individualized for each child because what works for one child might not work for another. “A district or parent should seek out professionals in the field who have the vast knowledge in education and technology,” he says. Those professionals can help parents or educators find the right app, and how to obtain the most effective training. It is frustrating to him that districts don’t fund training beyond an initial workshop or do not spend money to have iPads in the classroom. “Without proper and ongoing training, technology is useless to so many children. We need to get the technology to the students and the teachers.”
Mautone hosts his own online radio show where he and a co-host address topics like the shortage of special education teachers, how the iPad can help children with visual impairments, how to make communication between parents and educators a two-way street, and the needs of adults with autism.
He was also recently appointed to the National Catholic Partnership on Disability Autism Task Force (ATF). He is designing an app that will help catechists enhance and support the teachings needed for children with autism who will receive the sacraments of reconciliation, communion, and confirmation.
Mautone started working in ABA several years ago, but realized he needed more training after attending a workshop conducted by Caldwell University faculty member Dr. Sharon Reeve. “My advice to teachers who have only had ‘on the job training’ in ABA is to enroll in a formal higher education ABA program,” Mautone says. “Caldwell University’s comprehensive graduate ABA program has taught me more than any school district, workshop or conference could offer in terms of training. Caldwell has some of the most respected professionals in the field.”
Mautone is honored to be working in a field where families have given him the opportunity to teach skills to their children who have autism and “observe their children use those skills appropriately across many settings.” But the best part is when he can step aside and let the kids do it all on their own. “It is a great feeling to see children learn and use what they know with their parents, in the absence of their teacher,” he says.