Terisa P Gabrielsen, PhD, NCSP, Department of Counseling, Psychology, and Special Education
This project was designed to give mentoring experience to students across disciplines who were seeking additional knowledge and training in autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Participation in the project was intended to benefit students by giving them more knowledge within their field and across disciplines, helping future patients and clients with ASD and to enhance applications to specialty and graduate programs in related fields. Students produced a large (attendance=150) interdisciplinary training workshop for the community and developed a website collection of autism resources for clinicians and families.
Evaluation of Academic Objectives/Results and Findings
The project addressed the following research questions:
(1) Is an electronic (online, video-based) version of an autism training or education experience significantly different in measures of effectiveness compared to in- person training?
Online participants (n=15) were a small group to compare with the in-person participants (n=87), so results must be interpreted with caution. Only 6% of online participants preferred to participate online, 47% indicated that they chose this method of delivery for scheduling reasons and/or their distance from BYU. In-person participants overwhelming preferred in-person participation (72%) as their primary reason for selecting this method. Participants from outside Utah were in both groups—online and in person. Because this was the first trial for online streaming of a workshop from BYU Conferences and Workshops, some significant technical difficulties were encountered which may have skewed participants’ perceptions of the experience. Difficulties were resolved as soon as possible throughout the day (participants had access to workshop staff via text and email) and all participants were offered free access to archived versions of the presentations at no charge to cover any presentation that was missed.
In all areas –value of interdisciplinary approach, comfort with referrals, agreement that new information was presented, interest in further training, and social validity (worth the time, would recommend to others)–both in-person and online participants gave very similar responses. No significant differences were found.
(2) Does an interdisciplinary autism parent education workshop result in increased access to services for families?
At follow up, participants indicated they felt more confident working with children with ASD (65% in person and 85% of online participants). Changes were reported in practice by 70% of in-person and 86% of online participants.
(3) Does an interdisciplinary autism training professional workshop result in increased referrals to services for families?
Participants reported modest increases in referrals to other disciplines (28% for in-person and 43% of online participants) after the workshop.
(4) Does interdisciplinary autism education and training experience influence graduate/professional program acceptance rates?
Of the students mentored, one was accepted to medical school, one was accepted to BYU’s nursing program after a previously unsuccessful application. Three have accepted full-time internships in Utah school districts, and one is currently applying to graduate programs in Speech and Language Pathology. One student is preparing for graduate school applications in the coming year. In each case, admissions committee members expressed specific interest in the mentored learning project and the students’ experiences. Although it cannot be shown that mentoring improved acceptance rates, the level of interest shown by admission committees indicates that participation in the mentoring project was at least a factor in decision making. One student left the university to live in another country, so discontinued participation in mentoring.
(5) How does exposure to interdisciplinary autism education and training influence career plans?
One student changed her career plans and intends to become a Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA) as she pursues her graduate career in Special Education or School Psychology. This decision was reported as being influenced by the mentored experience. Others continued in existing career plans, all within service fields.
The environment was richly rewarding for me as a mentor and for the students. The group met every other week for an intense period (February through May) and completed assignments weekly. The culmination of that period was in the workshop that was held May 30, 2014. Mentoring for several students continued until the second workshop Jan. 30, 2015 (May through January). I have been asked to write letters of recommendation for 4 students.
Each student was introduced to a mentor from their own field in conjunction with the project. In most cases, the mentor was also an autism specialist who was presenting at the workshops. For example, a pre-med student was paired with a pediatrician, a prospective nursing student was paired with a nursing professor, school psychology students were paired with school psychology and psychiatry professors, communication disorders students were paired with licensed speech and language pathologists, and psychology and special education students were paired with special education professors. Mentoring relationships included some research activities, career exploration sessions, and escorting and assisting the mentors on the day of the workshop.
- All contributed to the production of the Resources section of the BYUAutismConnect website — autism.byu.edu
- Students researched national and local resources within their disciplines.
- Links and documents were prepared for upload to autism.byu.edu.
- Students created “first ever” resource lists (e.g, all autism specialists in Utah school districts). n
- All students facilitated workshop participation with presenters, online participants, and fielded questions (by text and email) from all participants throughout the workshop.
- Students corresponded with presenters from their disciplines for several months prior to workshops.
- Research and career exploration activities were available to students with their discipline mentor.
- Each student introduced their mentor as a presenter at the workshop and escorted them for the day at BYU.
- 4 students continued throughout the year with a second workshop, taking on more planning, preparation, and continuing education credit coordination responsibilities for the workshop. Two participants also took part in the family panels during each of the workshops.
- One student met independently with conference planners to coordinate the second workshop and coordinated all continuing education applications.
- Two students entered Nursing and Medical School programs respectively by Fall, 2014, and were no longer participating in the project. One student left the University after brief participation.
- One student participated in mentoring through becoming a student mentor in Anatomy Academy, a program in which principles of healthy living were taught to students at Spectrum Academy, a charter school for students with autism spectrum disorder.
- One student completed research, contacting top special education programs in the country regarding autism specific training within their undergraduate and graduate programs. Not all programs were contacted, and the manuscript is still in preparation.
- One student successfully defended her thesis based on research conducted with workshop participants (given implied consent). She presented a poster on the research at the National Association of School Psychologists annual convention in Orlando, Florida in Feb., 2015. She is currently preparing an article for publication.
- One student completed some research (coding) as part of a behavioral intervention with Special Education and School Psychology professors.
- One student has continues to be mentored in autism assessment and is managing the autism resources on the website.
- Ashlee Heward (Communication Disorders)
- Kim Weed (School Psychology)
- Hayley Haws (Special Education)
- Kerry Farr (Psychology)
- Scott Whitecar (Public Health)
- Elizabeth Kerr (Public Health)
- Mary Rasmussen (Communication Disorders — short term—left the University)
- Rachel Trayner (School Psychology)
- Hadlie Dom (Psychology)
(rounded to nearest dollar)
|Grant funds received||$20,000|
|Continuing Education Credits, Workshop||$(2,075)|
|Research Participation Incentives and Honoraria||$(2,656)|
|Travel and Conference Registrations||$(3,128)|