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College of Education professionals receive $250,000 for autism research

College of Education professionals receive $250,000 for autism research

College of Education professionals receive $250,000 for autism research
March 22
18:20 2017

College of Education professionals received $250,000 for statewide autism research services that includes money for in-home training for parents of kids with autism spectrum disorder.

The grant plans to help over 100 families in the first year by providing the money to the Kristin Farmer Autism Center and the Texas Home Instruction for Parents of Preschool Youngsters program where professionals do their work. The money will provide school readiness and preparedness for parents of those living with autism, according to the press release.

Difficulties in the spectrum 

“The autism spectrum can range in many ways,”said Christopher Browns, Denton Bright Mosaic behavioral therapist. “That is why it is called a spectrum.”

Browns said that autism above all else is a sensory disorder. It can range from eye contact with people or light that could turn itself into physical or mental aggression. It deals with little things like the sound of a fan that most people can tune out, Browns said. But sometimes people with autism can’t tune that out, and it makes it impossible for them to focus on anything but the sound. With constant stimuli, some people in the autism spectrum may experience frustration, anger and even violence when not treated for their sensitivity.

“The hardest part is dealing with the physical aggression,” Browns said.

Browns said it is important that the therapy continue outside the center and into the home. He said that it is important parents not just ignore the issue with giving a child an iPad. However, Browns said that to the parents’ defense it can be exhausting working through some of the difficulties that may present itself with autism. And that’s why he’s made parent training a top priority of his work.

Brown added that with autism there are often maladaptive behaviors. These are behaviors that may normally seem wrong to a person outside the spectrum that do not appear wrong to the person with autism. It is the way that people with autism have a sense of control with the world. He said the maladaptive behaviors are done knowing it will trigger a certain response.

Reinforcing good behavior 

Bright Mosaic uses positive reinforcement to teach children what is wrong. By showing what is right with positivity, people with autism begin to see what is wrong. Behavioral analysis is what Browns does.

Browns said behavioral analysis is the study of the science behind behavior. It looks for methods to help deal with bad behavior. Much of the methods they use at the center is based off of the ideas of B.F. Skinner, a founding father of applied behavioral analysis.

Autism can affect things like delayed speaking, writing or reading, as well as things like eye contact issues with people and body language and certain textures.

Helping out 

For three years, photojournalism senior Paulina DeAlva was a nanny for a seven-year-old who has autism.

“His biggest difficulty was eating and having a well-balanced diet,” DeAlva said. “He just ate peas warmed in a bowl.”

DeAlva said he would eat only the marshmallows out the lucky charms. She said three therapists tried to help him with his eating habits.

DeAlva said he was non-verbal and the therapists would try to help with that. Basically the child would struggle with asking to go to the bathroom or saying when he was hungry. The therapists worked on trying to get him to ask for his wants.

Math and integrative studies junior Gabrielle Segal is an employee at the Kristin Farmer Autism Center.

“People with autism receive, feel, hear, all the stimuli in their environment making it extremely difficult to listen to a teachers direction, pay attention in class,” Segal said “Lights and sounds can also be more intense for a person with Autism Spectrum Disorder.”

Segal said that hypersensitivity and inhibited communication are the two biggest difficulties faced by people with autism. She described the importance of therapy with people with autism by an experience with one of her own patients.

“Through autism behavioral analysis therapy at the Kristin Farmer Autism Center, we have been working with him (the client) to communicate more effectively and gain independence with daily living skills,” she said.

Featured Image: Office of Disability Accommodation Monday, March 20, 2017 in Sage Hall. Robert Warren

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Robert Warren

Robert Warren

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