Psychology class plans Autism awareness events

Posted by Mariel Kennedy National Autism awareness organization Autism Speaks says that doctors estimate that one in every 110 children is diagnosed with autism, making it more common than childhood cancer, juvenile diabetes and pediatric AIDS combined.

Rachel Mann Rosan, professor of psychology, and the students in her course "Developmental Disabilities and Autism" are currently planning Autism awareness events on campus for this April, Autism Awareness Month.

The course focuses on a clinical overview of developmental disabilities and Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASDs).

Mann Rosan said that students not only gain an understanding of disorders but also learn the roles of assessment and treatment for behavioral issues related to the disorders. Students "get an opportunity to learn about and develop skills in functional assessment and behavior support planning," Mann Rosan said.

"We will have a variety of speaker presentations on a range of topics from the parents' perspective, to research in the area of cause and epidemiology to local clinicians who will talk about various treatment methods. There will also be a showing of a documentary that was released last year called ‘The Horse Boy,'" Mann Rosan said.

The students have also prepared information posters that will be hung around campus and will be presenting these posters in Case on April 14.

Speakers are associated with organizations Saratoga Bridges, ASPIRE NY and the Parent Network.

The speakers were selected and contacted by students in the course and relate to the topics addressed on each informational poster, Mann Rosan said.

Saratoga Bridges is a local resource aimed at serving people with disabilities and their families. ASPIRE NY is a recreational and activity group for teens and young adults with ASDs. The Parent Network is self-described as a community resource for families of individuals with special needs and for professionals who work with these families.

Mann Rosan began organizing Autism awareness events on campus last year. She describes the events as "a way to build upon students' enthusiasm for the topic," adding that she has found that many of her students have personal connections to ASDs. "It seemed that the Skidmore community could benefit from learning more about it," Mann Rosan said.

Last year Mann Rosan and her students were pleased and proud of both the work they achieved and the response from the Skidmore and Saratoga Springs communities.

Last year's events included several lecturers, such as New York State Senator and advocate of autism awareness Roy McDonald, and an Autism Informational Fair.

The Informational Fair consisted of both on-campus and community organizations that provided information about ASDs and community resources, as well as about available volunteer opportunities at Skidmore and in the Saratoga Springs community.

In addition, the fair featured a sale of craft and art items created by local artisans diagnosed with development disabilities and a bake sale that benefited the Autism Society of America.

Above all else, the focus of the events being planned is to raise awareness in the community.

Hannah Miller '14, one of Mann Rosan's students in "Developmental Disabilities and Autism," said, "Autism is a growing issue in our society, but a lot of people don't understand what it is, how it is caused or how they can help. "

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