Education grant will fund autism research

The Graduate School of Education and Human Development will provide 32 students studying autism in early childhood education tuition money, after the Department of Education gave GW a $1.2 million grant in October.

The program will provide students in the Early Childhood Special Education master’s program with training in assessment and intervention for young children with significant delays in communication, social interaction, self-regulation and cognition. Clinical learning opportunities will teach the scholarship recipients how to make progress toward early learning standards and individual goals for children at risk for, or those diagnosed with, disabilities.

The program’s focus on early intervention and research of autism spectrum disorders is a response to the high number of incidents of children diagnosed with autism. The University is also focusing on autism research in its move to become a top-tier research institution.

Dr. Jay Shotel, principal investigator for the grant and a professor of special education and disabilities, said the program will look for ways to include children with disabilities in regular education classrooms where appropriate, based on research that suggests isolating students is not the best solution.

“It goes back to Brown v. Board of Education and the idea that separate is not equal,” Shotel said. “If we can’t prove self-contained classrooms are helping, we should try to integrate. It’s a social justice issue.”

A mentorship program for the first year after completion of the program will help guide new teachers through the challenges they face in implementing the project’s strategies. Using videos, professors will be able to watch and critique their students’ teaching.

“Even if they’re in Colorado, we can see them teaching and give our students feedback,” Shotel said. “We can support them for a year after they graduate. That’s something new and exciting for us.”

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