Campbell graduate course addresses autism

March 25, 2009 | Leave a Comment


Buies Creek, N.C.- After spending a semester in a graduate course devoted to the study of autism, Treatment Methods for Children with Autism 501, a group of Campbell University seniors are about to present their findings to the community. On April 16, from 6-8 p.m. in Turner Auditorium, Sarah Buck, Faith Crockett, Sarah Burgin, Dusty Jahna and Caitlin Baker will host a special program on autism to discuss their research. Two expert guest speakers, Dr. Steve Kroupa, director of TEACCH in Fayetteville, N.C., and Cynthia Crocket, a speech/language pathologist will share their perspectives on one of the world's most mysterious neurological disorders.

"Treatment Methods for Children with Autism 501 began as an independent study," said Sarah Buck, a psychology major who works with autistic children at Small Miracles in Fayetteville. "There was so much interest in it, the study became a graduate level course."

Developed by Dr. Jutta Street, associate professor of education, the course objective is to study different treatment methods for autism and the practical application of these methods in the teaching field. Students must also document current research and speculation on the disorder.

"Autism is one of the most misunderstood mental disorders," said Faith Crockett, who is working toward an Applied Behavior Analysis Certification in autism. "Unlike many believe, people with autism are highly intelligent. Many people think that Einstein had autism."

With one out of every 150 children expected to develop the disorder, autism is a serious mental health challenge.

"The future is very scary," said Caitlin Baker, who is planning to get a master's degree in school counseling. There are so few group homes where autistic children can live when they become adults. We don't have many options for them. In one of the video presentations we had in class, a mother asks, ‘What kind of mother wants to see her children die before she does?'"

Treatment methodologies vary greatly and sometimes several different interventions are required to treat one patient. One of the goals of the class was to catalogue and explain the different treatment interventions, explained Dusty Jahna. They include behavior modification, sensory approaches like massage therapy, biomedical treatments such as medication and diet and communication interventions such as speech therapy.

"There's a lot more to these children than meets the eye," Crockett said. "They often have superior abilities. Once I taught a girl to recite the alphabet backwards and the next day she was able to spew it out perfectly!"

"It's really sad, but these kids are amazing," Baker added. "I would hate to see them go into mental institutions because we don't have the proper provisions for them. I think the government at some point will be forced to take action like putting funding in place and providing more group homes for the autistic population."

Photo Copy: Members of Dr. Jutta Street's treatment methodologies for autism class meet to discuss an upcoming presentation on the mental disorder. From left, Caitlin Baker, Dusty Jahna, Faith Crockett, Sarah Buck, Sarah Burgin and Dr. Street.