Two ASU students researching education strategies for students with autism

ASU students Shannon Cleary (left) and Tara Boyd (right) are combining their interest in autism with research projects guided by faculty expert, Juliet Hart Barnett. (Used with permission.)

ASU students Shannon Cleary (left) and Tara Boyd (right) are combining their interest in autism with research projects guided by faculty expert, Juliet Hart Barnett. (Used with permission.)

Profiles in Brief – Two students using their interests to make a difference in autism education.

“We can’t prepare teachers fast enough to work with students having autism in their classrooms,”

said associate professor Juliet Hart Barnett of ASU’s Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College

ASU senior Tara Boyd, journalism major, and Shannon Cleary, a sophomore majoring in secondary math education, are Barrett Honors College students who first met Hart Barnett through the class titled “Orientation to Educating the Exceptional Child.”

Boyd spent two months meeting with Hart Barnett before they finalized her research topic – developing five criteria for evaluating iPad apps designed for use with children with autism. Her literature review of past research showed that, typically, these students were using “icon cards” with pictures on them to communicate their needs to their teacher. Boyd and Hart Barnett teamed up to study replacing this decidedly low-tech approach with using the iPad as a more effective instructional tool.

“If you search the iTunes store, you’ll find more than a hundred apps designed for helping children having autism,” Boyd said. “We wanted to come up with reliable criteria that teachers can use to determine which app is best-suited for their students’ needs.”

As a future math educator, Cleary became interested in how students having autism may struggle with learning math while taking SPE 222 with Hart Barnett last year. She asked the professor if she could work with her, and together they developed the idea of researching mathematics intervention strategies for these students at the secondary level.

Hart Barnett is working with both students to have their findings published in education academic journals.

Excerpts reprinted with permission from Arizona State University.