Children With Autism Receive Support From Special Education Grad Students March 15, 2013
Thanks to The University of Texas at Austin’s College of Education, families of children with autism in the Round Rock area now have an additional support system available to them.
A partnership between the college’s Department of Special Education and Bluebonnet Trails Community Services Center in Williamson County is pairing doctoral students in special education with the center to offer individualized support services to children with autism.
The program, which launched last year and is headed by special education assistant professor Terry Falcomata, funds two doctoral students per semester to conduct research and clinical practice through the Bluebonnet Trails Center.
“Bluebonnet Trails Community Center focuses on research-based strategies to assist children who are three and older and provide support for their families,” said Falcomata, who specializes in the assessment and treatment of autism spectrum disorders. “The center develops treatment options for challenging behavior, social skills acquisition, language acquisition and life skills, and it’s very accessible to local families in need of assistance.”
Working with staff at the center, the special education doctoral students implement an applied behavior analysis approach in order to assess and develop treatment for patients.
“The doctoral students devote 10 hours each week to clinical practice and providing clinical applied services to kids with autism and developmental disabilities,” said Falcomata. “The services include assessment and treatment of challenging behavior as well as skill acquisition programming that includes things like communication and language development. They also work on self-help skills like toilet training and offer parent training.”
Each doctoral student is matched through Bluebonnet Trails Community Center with a child who would benefit most from that doctoral student’s area of expertise and level of ability. In addition to their clinical practice, the doctoral students also conduct research at the center in order to explore and develop fresh ideas for the treatment of autism and other developmental disabilities.
“The graduate students’ research allows us to evaluate potential assessment and treatment practices in the community, working with those children who can benefit most from these practices,” said Falcomata.
Although academic research sometimes can take a long time to filter into communities and yield positive results, the work being done at Bluebonnet Trails Center is giving immediate assistance to Central Texas families and already fundamentally changing their lives.
“I love to be able to work with kids and families that are my neighbors, right in the community, and I get the opportunity to do that with this program,” said Falcomata. “It’s rewarding for me to see our work and practice helping individuals who live in our community.”