Recent Child, Family, and School Psychology program graduate Brittany Greiert focused her academic research and dissertation on sex and relationship education for individuals with autism, a topic that has seen little research or development of guidelines until recently.

Prior to enrolling at the Morgridge College of Education (MCE), Greiert worked with a nonprofit reproductive health organization and noticed the lack of resources available for individuals with disabilities. This inspired Greiert to continue her education in order to address the resource gap, and she chose MCE because of the college’s support of her research interests. Greiert says that historically there have been extremely limited resources for comprehensive sexual education for those with autism, and that while there has been progress in the past few years, there are few guidelines on the topic.

Her work has led to a variety of opportunities for collaboration and sharing in the community and on a national level; in 2015, she collaborated with a colleague at Emerge: Professionals in Autism, Behavior, and Personal Growth to present a workshop at the Autism Society of Colorado titled “What happens in Vegas…Autism Style! Sex, dating, and intimacy.” Nationally, Greiert presented her findings on data, resources, and gaps in research at the 2016 National Association of School Psychologists (NASP) annual conference.

Greiert’s dissertation research resulted in the development of the Guidelines for the Development of Sexuality Education Curricula for High Functioning Adolescent Students with Autism Spectrum Disorder. The guidelines are intended to be used as a tool to guide future sex education curriculum development, address the unique needs of students with autism, and provide suggestions to modify existing curricula so that their needs are met. Furthermore, the guidelines function as an advocacy tool to increase awareness of the unique needs of high-functioning students with autism.  Greiert says that being proactive in creating a structured approach and presentation of information would be of huge benefit to individuals with autism as well as to school psychologists and parents of children with autism.

A morning advocating for additional support for children with autism, to an evening dinner networking with some of the great thinkers in the field of School Psychology. This was a day in the life of Brittany Sovran and Jessica S. Reinhardt at the National Association of School Psychologists (NASP) Annual Convention.  The highlight, however, was the two students’ attendance at the Woodcock-Muñoz Foundation’s Dinner. For the first time in the history of the Woodcock-Muñoz Foundation’s Dinner event at the NASP Annual Convention, students were nominated by faculty to attend.

The Woodcock-Muñoz Foundation (WMF) is a private, nonprofit, operating foundation that supports the advancement of contemporary cognitive assessment. The WMF engages in programs of instructional support to professional preparation programs, research concerning the abilities of individuals with diagnosed exceptionalities, and closely-related educational and research projects and applications.

Child, Family and School Psychology faculty members, Dr. Karen Dittrick-Nathan and Dr. Cynthia Hazel, who were invited to the dinner event, nominated Brittany Sovran and Jessica Reinhardt for the honor of attendance. The two University of Denver students were then selected by the event’s planning committee to attend.

Both Jessica and Brittany took the conference as an opportunity to network and advocate for their agenda.  Earlier in the conference they visited Colorado Senator Mark Udall (D) to advocate for additional funding for mental health in school. Jessica shared that the event, “was a great opportunity to meet a variety of professionals in the field, including faculty from other universities, and those highly regarded in the area of test development.” Both students stressed that the opportunity to form relationships with potential mentors from other institutions, could prove beneficial for learning additional techniques for educating and training school psychologists.

Jessica emphasized that it is life changing to meet the frontrunners in test development at various moments of the conference. “This event [WMF dinner], specifically at this conference inspired me to pursue a career in academia.” Jessica describes herself as both an academic and practitioner, and although she wants to continue working at the grassroots level, her appreciation for having a more systemic impact by training school psychologists is even greater. She shares that “in the future, I can now see myself in a faculty position at a university, where having a greater impact is possible.”

The Faculty in the Child, Family and School Psychology Program encouraged all Morgridge College of Education students attending the conference to speak with legislators who can influence change on a variety of issues affecting child, family, and school psychologists in Colorado. The CFSP program provides students the foundation to not only be Change Agents and advocates in the field but also highly competent, collaborative, ethical and self-reflective scientist-practitioners.  To learn more about the program and the Morgridge College of Education, visit www.du.edu/education.


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