Gretchen Schmidt Mertes is an Educational Specialist in Autism and a well-known presenter and consultant throughout the Pacific Northwest. She has over 20 years of experience teaching both general and special education students, and currently works as a TOSA (Teacher on Special Assignment) with students' preschool through high school. Gretchen is the Autism Specialist for the Bethel School District (estimated enrollment 18,000) in Washington State, where she developed and coordinates district wide programming for students with autism and Social Thinking deficits in both special and general education. She also provides quarterly training for staff members, both classified and certified, on a variety of topics related to autism, Social Thinking, and other topics in Special Education. She graduated from Concordia College in Elementary Education in 1988 and received her M.Ed. in Special Education, summa cum laude, in 1995.
Gretchen's greatest passion is teaching teachers and other educators how to use Social Thinking within their own classrooms and schools. She has worked with many schools to develop school-wide implementation of Social Thinking in a differentiated model for all students. Her experience as a general and special education teacher, and most recently as an Educational Specialist in Autism, have given her credibility in understanding and helping educators implement Social Thinking in a variety of settings and levels.
Gretchen designed and supports five Social Thinking classrooms within her own district as well as supporting students with Social Thinking deficits in resource programs, and general and gifted education classrooms throughout the district, preschool through transition. She works with students, teachers, administrators, and parents to identify social cognitive needs and develop programming to meet those needs.
Regional Autism Facilitator/Trainer for the Autism Outreach Project, a Special Needs Project through the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction in Washington State.
As a statewide trainer, Gretchen provides numerous trainings on issues related to Autism, such as supporting and programming for those with Asperger's/High Functioning Autism and Social Thinking, structured learning, sensory needs, behavior, academics, and IEP development for both educators and families.
Private practice, as part of Puget Sound Autism Asperger's Associates, providing technical support, training, and consultation for districts, schools, and families of those with Autism Spectrum Disorders and other Social Thinking challenges throughout the state. Most recently, she has been working with school districts to incorporate Social Thinking into districtwide models, integrating Social Thinking into the initiatives of RTI (Response to Intervention) and PBS (Positive Behavior Supports) for all students. A book on the subject is currently underway.
- Internship, University of Washington Autism Center, 2000-2001
- Professional Development in Autism, University of Kansas 2005
- Workshops attended include: Tony Attwood, Kari Dunn Buron, Dena Gassner, Temple Grandin, Carol Gray, Cathy Pratt, Ilene Schwartz, Stephen Shore, Brenda Smith Myles and many more.
- Social Thinking® Training and Speakers Collaborative, speaking engagements through US and Canada based on the work of Michelle Garcia Winner www.socialthinking.com 2011-Present.
- Autism Outreach Project, Washington State, 2000-Present, multiple trainings annually on Asperger's and Social Thinking; Structuring Learning; Sensory Needs; and other topics
- Summer Institute and quarterly staff development for the Bethel School District in Autism, Asperger's, Social Thinking and Special Education issues such as IEP development and compliance, 1999- Present
- Combined Summer Institute (Autism, Multiple Disabilities, Deaf/Hard of Hearing, Visual
Impairments, and Traumatic Brain Injury) for Washington State - presentations on Autism, Asperger's and Social Thinking, annually 2000-2010, 2012-Present
- Changes in the DSM 5: Autism Spectrum Disorders and Social Communication Disorders Implications and Qualification, Washington State Association of School Psychologists Annual Conference, 2013
- Autism and Educational Issues Current and Pending, Pacific Northwest Institute on Special Education and the Law, 2012 (Also presented for the LEA Directors at Puget Sound ESD 121 and various school districts)
- Social Thinking Meets RTI and PBS, Social Thinking Providers Conference, San Francisco, 2010 and 2011
- An Introduction to Social Thinking for Parents; Social Thinking Across the School Day; and Social Thinking Meets RTI and PBS, Kent School District, WA 2011 and Friday Harbor School District 2012
- An Introduction to Social Thinking, Logan River Academy Residential Treatment Center, Logan River, UT 2011
- Various Courses in Autism, Social Thinking and Special Education, Adjunct Instructor for Seattle Pacific University, 1999-2011
- Social Thinking Across the School Day, Snohomish School District, Snohomish, WA, 2009
- Panel Presentation: Social Thinking in Schools, 1st Annual Social Thinking Provider's Conference, San Jose 2008
- An Introduction to Social Thinking, Lutheran Church Missouri Synod Northwest Teacher's Conference, 2008
- Washington Autism Society, Annual Conferences 2001-2004
- Summer Institute on Significant Disabilities, Washington State - presentation on BLAST,
(Building Language and Social Skills Together), a "school within a school" designed to meet the needs of students with Social Thinking Deficits and Autism, 1999
Gretchen lives in Puyallup, Washington with her husband, two cats, and the variety of ducks, geese, birds, squirrels, and other critters that call their back yard pond "home." She and her husband love to spend time with friends and family and travel both near and far. If not at home spending time with friends, they are often on the road or at sea looking for adventure and local cuisine. Interests and hobbies include reading, sailing, theater, dance, cooking and gardening. Gretchen is also actively involved in her church where she serves as the Faith Formation Chairperson. She is an alumni of Up With People and Metropolitan Ballet of Tacoma and continues to stay actively engaged and involved in both organizations.
Financial: Speaker for Think Social Publishing, Inc. and receives speaking fees and royalty payments.
Non-financial: No relevant non-financial relationships exist.