Gretchen Schmidt Mertes is an Educational Specialist in Autism and Social Communication and a well-known presenter and consultant. Gretchen has over 25 years of experience teaching both general and special education students, and currently works as a Social Emotional Learning Specialist for students preschool through high school, developing and implementing social thinking concepts school-wide.
As a consultant in a private practice, Gretchen works with school districts to assess and develop programming for individual students and provide staff training on a variety of topics related to autism, social emotional learning, and other areas in Special Education.
Gretchen served as the Autism Specialist for the Bethel School District (estimated enrollment 18,000) for over 15 years, where she developed and coordinated district-wide programming for students with autism and social thinking deficits in both special and general education. In this capacity, she designed and supported seven social communication classrooms as well as supporting students with social challenges in resource programs, and general and gifted education classrooms throughout the district, preschool through transition. Gretchen also spoke throughout the U.S. and Canada as part of the Social Thinking Speakers and Trainers Collaborative with Michelle Garcia Winner.
Gretchen graduated from Concordia College in Elementary Education in 1988, and received a Master of Education degree in Special Education, summa cum laude, in 1995. Gretchen's greatest passion is teaching teachers and educators how to use social learning within their own classrooms and schools. She has worked with many schools to develop school-wide implementation of social learning in a differentiated, multi-tiered system of supports (MTSS) model for all students. Gretchen's experience as a general and special education teacher, Autism Specialist, and Social Emotional Learning Specialist has given her credibility in understanding and helping educators implement social learning in a variety of settings and levels. She works with students, teachers, administrators, and parents to identify social cognitive needs and to develop programming to meet those needs.