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Leading Authority on Autism Brings Awareness to Albright College

Dr. Brown

by Shanna Salmon ’13

About 150 students and faculty attended an engaging presentation on the challenges and accomplishments of college students on the Autism Spectrum in early November. The presenter, Jane Thierfeld Brown, Ed. D., is a leading authority on Autism and director of student services at the University of Connecticut. She presents at national conferences and universities and has co-authored three books on autism for parents, students, professors and professionals.

Her presentation, “Autism Awareness: Understanding Your Classmates, Friends and Roommates,” focused on how to better understand people living with Autism and Asperger’s Syndrome. Brown began with an impactful YouTube video titled “Being Green” that displayed the social difficulties faced by those with Autism, and continued by presenting the qualities of those in the Autism spectrum and the struggles they face on a college campus.

“The student on the spectrum is not the only locus of change,” Brown said. She continued to explain that we need to embrace the differences we have with people who are Autistic. After the presentation she led a question and answer session that focused on the differences between Autism and Asperger’s Syndrome, the genetics involved in Autism and the tests that prove Autism.  

The event was sponsored by the Academic Learning Center (ALC). Erin Evans, assistant dean of academic affairs and director of the ALC, said, “At Albright, it only makes sense to include this [event] because it impacts students, faculty and alumni.” Evans also noted that it showed “important ways for people to be more kind toward those with Autism.”

Economics and Spanish major Yvonne Okafor ’15 said the event was interesting. “I don’t know how to tell the difference between Autism and Asperger’s Syndrome,” Okafor said. “It gave me insight on how to handle those with Autism.”   

Brown held a similar event for faculty earlier in the day that focused on how to communicate with students with Autism. One of the faculty members in attendance was Theresa Smith, Ph.D., professor of political science. Smith found out that her son had Autism when he was 2; he is now 17. Smith said she was “very impressed [with Brown]. She is well read and has a great background with speech pathology.”

Smith also said that it’s important for professors to understand how to adapt to students with Autism. Brown showed professors “how to adapt assignments that don’t change the course goals but makes it easier for those with Autism,” Smith said.