At Autism Symposium, Steinhardt and NYU Polytechnic Faculty Share Research Findings

Faculty members from Steinhardt and NYU Polytechnic School of Engineering discussed how applied research can help enrich the lives of children and young adults with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) at “Beyond the Spectrum:  Equipping Students and Adults in their Daily Lives.”  The event was the second installation of NYU’s three-part symposium, “Autism Spectrum Disorder Research and Action” which brings together faculty from NYU’s colleges to share autism research with the community.

“When we look at issues related to autism it is crucial to have many voices and points of view contributing both to research and action,” said Steinhardt Dean Dominic Brewer remarking on the value of cross-school research and conversation.  “This collaboration holds great promise for enabling us to use every tool we have and every great mind at NYU, to find solutions to the puzzle of autism.”

The Center for Disease Control recently announced that 1 in 68 children in the United States are diagnosed with autism; a 30% increase from 1 in 88 two years ago. Though statistics are overwhelming, NYU researchers emphasized how solutions that draw from an individual’s distinctive abilities can ultimately be used to enhance their lives and ameliorate some of the hardship associated with living with ASD.

Associate Professor Luke DuBois and School of Engineering adjunct faculty member, Beth Rosenberg, spoke about Tech Kids Unlimited, an after-school technology program that has been designed to empower and inspire the next generation of young people with autism to develop and share the tools of technology.

Rosenberg founded Tech Kids Unlimited in 2009, after realizing that her son, a “different learner,” loved technology but wasn’t being exposed to it during the school day.  The program, which is conducted at NYU’s ABILITY Lab in Downtown Brooklyn,  teaches participants 21st century technology skills and engages the talents of NYU students who work one-on-one with children in the program.

Strengthening social communication behavior in children with autism was the topic of a presentation by Christina Reuterskiöld, associate professor and chair of the Department of Communicative Sciences and Disorders at NYU Steinhardt.

In a presentation titled, “Going Beyond Deficits,” Steinhardt Associate Professor Kristie Koenig, described how students thrive when “strength-based” principles are integrated into their education and leisure time activities.

She advised professionals to “push past stigma and symptoms to see the person underneath,” noting that it is essential to use what might be considered an “obsessive interest,” to foster learning and social connectedness.

Koenig is chair of Steinhardt’s Department of Occupational Therapy, and principal investigator of its ASD Nest Program.

(Photo, left to right:  Steinhardt Dean Dominic Brewer, Luke DuBois, Beth Rosenberg, Christina Reuterskiöld, and Kristie Koenig.  Credit:  Christie Leece.)