As the number of American children with autism spectrum disorder continues to escalate, two Arizona State University undergraduates are combining their interest in autism with research projects guided by a faculty expert.
“We can’t prepare teachers fast enough to work with students with autism in their classrooms,” said Associate Professor Juliet Hart Barnett of ASU’s Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College.
Her research and teaching interests include instructional/behavioral strategies that promote access to the general education curriculum for students with disabilities, including autism spectrum disorders.
Early in 2013, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that one in 50 school-aged kids in the U.S. has autism. Data from a national phone survey of parents revealed that number has risen significantly in only five years, with one in 88 children from 6 to 17 years old identified as autistic in 2007. The CDC attributed the increase to improved diagnoses of autism spectrum disorders, particularly in older children.
ASU senior Tara Boyd, journalism major from Olathe, Kan., and Shannon Cleary, a sophomore majoring in secondary math education from Naperville, Ill., are Barrett Honors College students. They first met Hart Barnett through the class titled “Orientation to Educating the Exceptional Child.”
Required of all education majors, SPE 222 also is open to ASU students of any major as a means of exposing them to disability topics they may later explore working with mentor experts. Teachers College offered TEL 494 “Supervised Educational Research Experience” for the first time this fall.
“What’s magical is when the research that education faculty are conducting in local schools is brought into our classroom and ASU students get involved,” Hart Barnett said. “Two things happen: the students benefit from practical research experience working alongside knowledgeable faculty and they also get a head start preparing for graduate study.”
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