Life of the Brain and Mind

Receiving another grant to continue the same research I began last summer, I feel grateful to have another opportunity to expand my research through different concepts. This time, we have conducted information through two aspects of individuals with autism spectrum disorders:

Biology of the Brain

Elasticity in the neuro-typical brain for people have who have suffered injuries, strokes, and brain damage, can be affected through training, physical therapy, and emotional counseling. The neuro-typical brain can be redirected so that other parts can take over some of the damaged areas. The autistic brain is different from the neuro-typical brain in the fact from childhood to adult hood, synapsis and neuro-connections in the brain are not removed but remain rigid and permanent. While we cannot train the autistic brain to redirect different behaviors and characteristics, we can educate and train behaviors through direct modeling, mentoring, academic coaching.

Brain map that shows the differences

Top Right: Neuro-typical Brain

Bottom Right: Autistic Brain

“Grandin has lateral ventricles that are significantly larger on the left side of her brain than on the right.”

Online Source: https://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-2218611/How-differences-brains-autistic-people-explain-difficulties–shed-light-unique-talents.html

Theory of Mind

Most students with high functioning autism have the potential to be academically successful by receiving comprehensive support. Working with their coaches, they develop new skills to comprehend readings that are intensely vague, and study habits to prepare for exams. Executive Functioning skills for assignments, time management, keeping appointments, making it class on time, being able to communicate with the professors. Nevertheless, comprehending theory of mind comes naturally for neuro-typical people, and is very complex for the people with ASD. Usually it is difficult for people with autism to process that others think differently than they do, especially when people have opinions they don’t concur with. Despite the challenges, there are possible strategies for people with ASD to practice skills to be more aware of others expressing their feelings. Not all, but some of these strategies in the diagram are easy for individuals with ASD to comprehend.

 

How Theory of Mind Applies to Autism

 Online Source: https://www.betterhelp.com/advice/autism/how-theory-of-mind-applies-to-autism/

Next month, I will be presenting my research at the 2018 College Inclusion Summit Conference in Burlington, Vermont. If I get footage while I am speaking, I will try to post some pictures. I am very excited for this opportunity and I cannot wait to share it.

 

Reflection of ASD Research (Summer)

According to our recent research, autism is the most prevalent of all neurodevelopmental disorders in existence today. It has been estimated that 1 in 37 boys and 1 in 151 girls are diagnosed with autism. We believe that the number for girls is low, because girls present differently from boys when they are on the autism spectrum. The importance of this research is to examine the challenges for all people with autism especially those who have the cognitive abilities to attend post secondary education. My research takes into account different levels of autism, the prevalence, and intervention strategies that are in existence today.

In order to examine the current successes and failure rates of students with autism attending colleges and universities, we have found scientific studies from the Center for Disease Control (CDC), the National Institute of Health (NIH) and others to determine the common rates of success and failures. Our study looks at probable reasons for the failures and attempt to compare it with programs that offer comprehensive support for success.

Our summary has discovered that understanding the challenges of students with ASD attending colleges and universities is essential in developing programs to meet the challenges for these students. We have examined the characteristics of ASD and applied them to the types of strategies that are necessary in order to meet the needs according to the individual differences and challenges. Our work has shown that providing comprehensive support on all levels of academic, social, emotional, and employment readiness, students can beat the odds reported by other studies and be successful, independent, and self-sustaining.

We have identified reasons for failure and some strategies necessary for students with ASD to meet success in post secondary education and in life. For the upcoming academic year, we will continue to examine the strategies that are in place in successful programs to see what improvements and enhancements can be made to meet the needs of the ever growing population of students with ASD entering post secondary education.

Applying and receiving a grant for this research program has been one of the best gifts of my undergraduate experience. Reflecting what I have mentioned in one of my blogs, this research is the guiding-light to my future and fits very neatly with my background in autism awareness. Being able to study more about the symptoms of autism and learn the logistics of how difficult it is people with ASD to be like mainstream adults has triggered me to think about the quality education I received before coming to Pace University.

Working with the director of the comprehensive support program here at Pace University, I am able to learn new research methods that I will have to take in when being employed to do research at other companies. Through collaboration and discussion, we are thinking about what we our next steps are in terms of expanding the research we have started. Eventually, we will be applying to conferences around the world to present the work we have done so far. Being able to work with a faculty member who participates autism conferences all over the country, I hope to attend some autism awareness conferences with her and present the work we have done so far.

I am beyond thrilled to have received a grant for the academic year and I am excited to see where the research will lead me. With hope to ensuring comprehensive support for students who have special needs I am very sure that there are more possible strategies available for individuals with autism to become productive members of society through their learning differences. Quality education for individuals who have learning differences is still a current issue that can be resolved worldwide. Parents who have children with autism work very hard to ensure that their kids are have the resources to help them break through the walls to become successful.

 

Hope for safe and sustainable education

As we have explained the challenges students with ASD face nationally in our first blog, we are continuing to establish a comparative analysis on the difference that Pace University’s comprehensive college support program can make. Through collection of data from 2014 to the present, we are finding a vast difference between the national experiences of students with ASD in colleges generally and in Pace University’s comprehensive support program. We are finding statistical analysis for students with ASD concerning transition from the high school protected environment to the more opened concept of college. Our focus is on improvement of executive functioning skills, self-responsibility, and the capability of finding internships and employment. We hope to show that through our comprehensive support program, 90% of students who attend Pace University’s college support program consistently will become independent and self-sustaining adults. We used statistics on retention, academic success, and finding an internship. Yearly, we use a measurement through a five point Likert scale to evaluate a students’ progress in the areas of transition, executive functioning skills, social/emotional development, and employment readiness. The measurements are conducted at the end of each semester to chart a path of improvement.

I feel very proud to say that this research grant is the guiding light to my career path for autism awareness. Reading the current statistics of individuals with ASD going to college, and obtaining jobs, I am very stunned to see how low the percentage is nationwide, considering how much it affects people with high functioning autism who strive to become independent. Doing this research is clarifying how difficult it has been for individuals with autism to have a chance of succeeding in higher education before being employed full time. The research I have done this summer also demonstrates the type of change maker I want to be for my future. As we continue our research for the next academic year, we can hopefully elaborate on possible solutions to expand comprehensive support programs around the world for college students who have learning differences.

As I continue to advocate for Global Awareness about the autism spectrum, this research will be one of my best resources with the hope of constructing safe education environments for students who have learning challenges worldwide. With quality education becoming a sustainable development goal by the Department of Economic and Social Affairs at the UN, I am sure that there is an opportunity ahead for me to assist a UN body on this one specific factor that can work to their advantage.

Challenges of students with ASD in Higher Education and Beyond

Doing research on the Challenges and Success of students with Autism in Post-Secondary Education and beyond, I begin with a brief discussion about the characteristics of individuals on the Autism Spectrum, which cover the difficulties they have in social communication with others:

  • Low to High Cognitive Potential
  • Rigidity and Repetitive Movements
  • Intense interests on one or two areas
  • Tonal Prosody of Speech
  • Difficulty Interacting and Poor Eye Contact
  • General Inflexibility
  • Theory of Mind
  • Sensitivity to sound, crowds, touch or taste

Individuals with ASD will develop at their own pace by, breaking the barriers they face with their communication skills. Parents who have children with ASD are striving to help their kids become independent as they grow. Diving into the purpose of my research, I have discovered the challenges they face during their undergraduate career:

  • Transition from High School to college
  • Moving into a larger environment that is less structured
  • Classes not being scheduled daily
  • Follow a syllabus
  • Self-Advocacy
  • Executive Functioning Difficulties
  • Time Management
  • Organization
  • Communication with Professors
  • Living away from home
  • Self-Responsibility
  • Difficulty in accessing accommodations

Overall, the main objective is to apply possible strategies that will enable ASD students to reach their full potential as they go to college, get hired into the work place, and become productive members of society.

As far as expectations, I want to find out what supports are necessary in Post Secondary Education for students with ASD to overcome the difficulties they have nation wide. In addition, I aim to create Post-Secondary Education is a safe learning environment all over the world for students with learning differences. Moving forward into the process, I will be learning how different programs operate in helping students succeed in Post-Secondary Education.

The next step of the project is to do to a comparative analysis of the national averages of students with ASD in colleges and universities as opposed to the students with ASD or learning differences at Pace University who receive comprehensive support. My biggest hope is that the statistics I present will encourage educators and administrators to think about how they can assist students with learning differences to succeed during their college career and provide some necessary tools that will help them overcome their weaknesses.