Presently my mission of making fulfilling and productive lives for autistic people the rule rather than the exception involves the following four activities:
1. Teaching and Research
As a professor of special education at Adelphi University I primarily teach and research on issues related to the autism spectrum. In collaboration with my colleagues, I developed an autism certificate program as well as teach other courses in special education.
My latest research involved the completion of a $250,000 Patient Care Outcome Research Institute engagement grant as co-lead with Dr. Teal Benevides having two areas of focus. First, we developed a community council of mostly autistic people to guide our research by asking the autistic community. We found that accessing mental health care was the most challenging medical issue facing autistic individuals. Secondly, we developed an Engagement Guide promoting meaningful involvement of autistic people in all aspects of research from initial brainstorming to implementation and dissemination of results. Earlier research continues to inform my work on matching reasoned practice with individual needs when I consult, teaching, and give workshops where considering different methods is important. The approaches I have examined include:
I have written and co authored numerous books, chapters, articles, blogs and other forms of literature related to the autism spectrum. My books includeBeyond the wall: Personal experiences with autism and Asperger Syndrome, 2nd edition.Using an autobiographical structure Beyond the wall address areas such as educational strategies, teaching music to children on the autism spectrum, and describing what autism is like as well as successful navigation to adulthood in the areas of continuing education, employment, relationships and effective self advocacy.Beyond the wall has been translated into numerous languages such as Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Polish, and Russian. Other translations into Filopina, Bangla, and Spanish are on the way!
3. Consultation, Workshops, and Presentations
Having given over 1,000 presentations in 51 countries across 6 continents and in 48 of the United States, reaching out both nationally and internationally is an important part of my mission to make fulfilling and productive lives the rule rather than the exception for people on the autism spectrum. And… I’ll be happy to present for your organization as well. Topics can be mixed and matched to suit the needs of the participants.Workshops and presentations combine personal experiences and examples from lives of others on the autism spectrum to cover myriad topics with titles such as:
Autobiographical and Education
Academic and Scientific
Navigating Successful Transition to Adulthood
4. Using Music to Work with People on the Autism Spectrum
I give music sessions for people throughout the autism spectrum of all ages. If the person is nonspeaking, I may use music as the means of communication. For children having limited communication skills music commonly serves as a carrier signal for increasing communication. Those who communicate well, music continues to act as a carrier signal for helping organize interaction, be it through spoken language or via an assistive communication device. Additionally, music can be great for socialization and motor control. Several desire to further their skills and what started as more therapeutic sessions morphs into music lessons focused on learning to play that instrument. In doing so, the person now has something they can be good at and enjoy. Some of my students could become professional musicians should they so desires whereas others work harder at making music but still enjoy doing so –– just like everyone else!
Please note that I am not a music therapist, but rather an autistic person who combines their musical background, personal and practical experiences, along with academic study and research to teach individuals on the autism spectrum. Whereas my emphasis is teaching how to play a musical instrument with perhaps some therapeutic benefits, music therapists tend to focus on employing music for extra musical goals such as communication, social interactions, motor control, etc. However, both music therapists and I join forces when is comes to building stronger human connections through music.
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