Blog Entry by Dr. Samuel N. Mathew, Executive Director
With 5000 delegates, 800+ sessions, 200+ special education organizations exhibiting their wares, CEC is a huge conference. Then there are the interest groups for specific purposes – Autism, Communication Disorders and Deafness, Multiple Disabilities, Technology etc. etc. It is a daunting task to have a taste of everything. One has to be selective in attending sessions, going to caucus meetings etc. etc. Although majority participants are from schools and Universities in the US, there is considerable international participation also. I met international delegates from Portugal, Nigeria and Saudi Arabia. I am sure there are more from other far off countries too.
San Diego Convention Center in downtown San Diego is a landmark place. It is such a big convention center that two other conventions/exhibitions were going on at the same as CEC. Walking from one end to the other itself is tiring. The exhibit halls, the meeting rooms all sprawled out in one multi-storied complex. To put it mildly, my legs are aching and my ankles are hurting.
I just surveyed the booths on 9th April to understand what is going on in the industry in terms of education, equipment, software, strategies, publications, assessments and a host of other things. What surprised me most was the number of Universities offering online courses at Masters level in Special Education, Disability Studies, Behaviour Analysis, Assistive Technology etc. Without coming to campuses even for once, students who are far away can obtain their degree. The fees were reasonable and ranged from $400 to $700 per credit hour for post-graduate level course. Most require 30 to 33 credits. When group of students enrol, several Universities offered huge discounts. All of them had accreditations.
Among other exhibitors, several companies offered “Behavioural intervention training”, and some of them offered online training too. It was surprising to me to see several school districts having booths and trying to recruit teachers for their districts. Good strategy! One person at a University booth openly invited me to apply for faculty position if I am interested, as they are looking for faculty in special education! That is unheard of! Then there were book publishers, advocacy organizations, and technology companies displaying their wares. Compared to other disability conferences such as C-SUN, ATIA and M-Enable, here at CEC there are a lot more focus on educational tools for the pre-school and school curriculum.
I was not hoping to see anybody whom I know. Well, what do I know? Dr. Teresa Taber, Assoc. Dean, College of Education, Purdue University was managing the “Division of Autism” counter. I had taken her classes during my days at Purdue and was involved in a project, I think. Then there was Dr. Miriam Bosch from UNT and Dr. Alex Da Fonte from Peebody College of Education, Vanderbilt University and several others. They were doctoral students at that time when I was at Purdue. They have moved on to academic settings. It was very much a surprise to meet these folks after so many years.
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