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Alumni adventures with NASA and in Africa

Cheryl Fredericks at Mission Control
Cheryl Fredericks at Mission Control

Two of our 2011 graduates returned to the WSU Pullman campus recently to talk with Assistant Professor Jo Olson’s students about their experiences at the NASA Pre-service Teacher Institute.  Cheryl Fredericks of Missoula and Kristin White of Pullman both attended the week-long summer workshop at Johnson Space Center in Houston. NASA’s goal is to expose the future teachers  to science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) enrichment activities for their classroom.

“We spent the week talking to scientists, engineers, and education specialists from NASA about how to better incorporate STEM fields into our future classrooms,” said Cheryl, who graduated in December and is now substitute teaching. “We also got our own private tour of the space center and had the opportunity to explore and work with elementary-age children at Space Center Houston, the visitor’s center there.  We spent a few of our days participating in hands-on activities and networking with other pre-service teachers.  It was one of the most amazing opportunities and I received a full suitcase of lesson plans and materials throughout the program to use in a future classroom.”

Future teachers with their eyes on a stellar math- and science-related career might want to check out the program’s website.

A second journey to South Sudan

Janet Finke (’75) could relate to those young alums’ zeal for adventure.

Now an associate professor at Central Washington University, Janet Finke has joined two other CWU faculty members, Judy and Phil Backlund, on a second trip to South Sudan. They visited the country last year to train teachers, and left this week to work with more teachers. They will visit an orphanage in Juba to distribute the books and clothing donated by Ellensburg Rotarians, and train teachers at a girls school in Akon.

WSU alum Janet Finke
Janet Finke talks about South Sudan

South Sudan gained its independence in July 2011 after a long-running civil war. The adult literacy rate is 27 percent, and 63 percent of the population above the age of 6 has never attended school, according to a U.S. State Department fact sheet.

Finke said the people of South Sudan are hungry for education.

“The teachers we worked with last year cared so much about children in the villages, and they have a heart to make a difference,” Finke told the Ellensburg Daily Record. “They want so much for the children, and they’ve lacked it because they’ve been so focused on survival.” The trio was also interviewed by KAPP TV.

In a note to the college, Janet wrote that “It is an amazing privilege and incredible challenge to be making a difference in the lives of teachers and children here in Washington State and in South Sudan.”  She also expressed thanks for all she earned from her WSU professors and the support she received during her student teaching experience in a Richland first grade classroom, where she was supervised by Deanne McCullough.

This news about Janet is also posted on the Washington State Magazine’s alumni blog, where recent education news includes Timothy Yeomans’ appointment as superintendent of Puyallup public schools and Jeanett Castellanos’ receipt of the Outstanding Support of Hispanic Issues in Higher Education Award.





A special education seminar and the sisters who made it possible

Michael Dunn knew about “special needs” long before he began his career in education. His dad couldn’t hear. Family members learned to cope with that on their own. They had to; they lived in a rural Canadian town far from health services.

First as a school teacher and then a researcher, Michael turned his focus to written words. The associate professor at WSU Vancouver, part of the College of Education’s special education program faculty, studies ways to help kids — with or without an obvious disability — who struggle with writing. He shared his expertise last week at the first graduate seminar supported by the Wilma Kamerrer Special Needs and Special Education Endowment.

WSU Associate Professor Michael Dunn
Michael Dunn

“Writing can be so taxing on students that they have little mental energy left for composing,” Michael said at the Pullman event.

His solution is a three-step teaching method in which students are asked to draw a picture that tells a story. Then they’re told to think about the story. Only then do they actually write the story down.

That approach syncs with Michael’s interest in response to intervention, or RTI. In a nutshell, RTI means not giving up on a student who is struggling. It involves screening for problems, providing help, and monitoring to make sure the student progresses.

“It’s not the traditional ‘wait to fail’ approach, where a student gets to grade three and only then do you decide what kind of help he needs,” said Michael, who is certified to teach RTI methods.

RTI can be expensive. It takes time and the involvement of specialists. But there are things teachers can do on their own to help students, and that’s part of what Michael discussed at the seminar. Soaking up his advice were master’s and doctoral students, including ones who will take their knowledge back to communities as far away as Ghana and Saudi Arabia.

The seminar also featured a presentation by Connie Beecher, a recent WSU doctoral graduate who gave advice on how to communicate research and scholarship agendas.

Sisterly support for education

Kamerrer sisters Wilma and Helen in Italy, 1958
Kamerrer sisters Wilma and Helen in Italy, 1958

The Wilma Kamerrer Special Needs and Special Education Endowment, like so much philanthropy, has roots in a personal connection.

Wilma was a farm girl born on the Palouse in 1927. She grew up to be the first female president of the Seattle First Bank branch in Pullman, according to Kate Kamerrer, who is married to Wilma’s nephew and is director of accounting at WSU Facilities Operations.

Wilma, who never married, died of cancer in 1981. Both she and her sister Helen Kamerrer Schmidt, a high school home economics teacher, were big supporters of education in general and WSU in particular.

It was through the estate of WSU alumna Helen – who also died of cancer – that an endowment was established in Wilma’s name. The endowment originally helped support Camp Roger Larson, a camp for children with disabilities that was run for many years by the College of Education. It was founded by Larson, a physical education faculty member.

“The Kamerrer family was friends with the Larson family, and Wilma lived just down the street from Roger and his wife,” Kate recalled. “As a result of their friendship, both Helen and Wilma supported Camp Roger Larson before they died and with their estates.”

Another reason for the sisters’ interest in the camp at Lake Coeur d’Alene was their passion for outdoor adventure. Helen and Wilma travelled, fished, camped, and skied extensively throughout the United States, Canada and Europe.

“We have some great slides of their various trips (several large tubs full in fact) and other fun ‘artifacts’ including skis, tackle boxes, ice skates, and other vintage camping gear.” Kate said.

Teacher alumna lauds brain science, collaboration and WSU

Say you’re a teacher. And you have this popular, mind-expanding lesson plan that gets your seventh graders to explore how people around the world celebrate winter holidays. Only this winter, one of your students is a Jehovah’s Witness. His family doesn’t believe in celebrating holidays.

Do you design a separate curriculum for that young man and risk making him feel left out?

Cram Middle School students in Civil War 'battle'
Barb Godby's lesson planning led to Civil War 'battle'

Not if you’re Barb Godby. In that case, you work with a colleague to come up with the massively engaging and educational Civil War re-enactment described in SpongeBomb SmartyPants: Re-enactment teaches history.

In the WSU News story, the 2005 graduate explains how she learned the importance of teacher collaboration when she studied secondary education at WSU. In an interview, she also praised our faculty for emphasizing that students need different ways to process and make sense of information. “WSU also had a lot of cutting-edge teaching about the brain, about teaching to every child in their own way,” she said of her undergraduate lessons. “That wasn’t the mainstream idea that it is now.”

Barb has worked at Cram Middle School in Las Vegas for five years. She loves teaching seventh and eighth graders, she says, despite “the hormones and the craziness and the angst. It’s my favorite age.” And despite struggling through a case of pneumonia and her grandmother’s death during planning for the first Civil War project, she’s looking forward to working with her colleagues on an even bigger re-enactment in May. “We’re a family here.”

Kinesiology alumnus coordinates student research publication

Justin Ulbright works with students in a Whitworth lab

Justin Ulbright has a lot of things to think about, including cadavers, biceps, and the Paralympics.

The WSU alum (’08) teaches anatomy at Whitworth University, where he oversees dissection in the laboratory. Justin is also a manager and personal trainer at Snap Fitness in Cheney. And he is strength and conditioning coach for Team St. Luke’s, a Spokane wheelchair sports team that has members headed for an international competition in London.

Now he has something else to think about: the Peavy Papers, for which he’s been named coordinator.

“The Peavy Papers is a student portion of a larger journal, the Journal of Kinesiology and Wellness. Undergraduate students submit review and original work to the journal, where it is evaluated by reviewers based on criteria we’ve established,” he said. “Students whose work is accepted may choose to present their papers at the annual Western Society for Kinesiology & Wellness conference.”

WSKW and Washington State have tight connections.

The society’s conference was opened to students in 1999, when WSU’s Professor Larry Bruya introduced the “R.D. Peavy Student Symposium”  in honor of now-retired Associate Professor Bob Peavy. Larry was the first editor of the Peavy Papers. The second was Matthew Silvers (’01) who was Justin’s mentor when Justin went on for his master’s degree at Eastern Washington University. Matt is now an assistant professor at Whitworth and is WSKW’s president-elect.

The society’s western regional representative is Associate Professor Jennifer Beller, another WSU faculty member who is gung-ho for undergraduate research.

While he was at WSU, Justin had two articles published in the Peavy Papers. One of them, aimed at undergraduates, was about how to overcome presentation anxiety within the kinesiology profession. It’s advice that will come in handy for students whose papers he approves.

These days, Justin’s academic interest is improving athletic performance in people with spinal cord injuries. So, he’s making plans to pursue a Ph.D. in exercise physiology. Which gives him something else to think about.

MLK Service Awards honor two of our finest

Congratulations to our faculty member Paul Mencke and doctoral candidate Joan.Osa Oviawe, who are among recipients of the 2012 Martin Luther King Jr. Distinguished Service Awards. They’re being honored at the Washington State University MLK Community Celebration today in Pullman.

Paul and Joan embody the College of Education’s commitment to diversity — a commitment that, in Paul’s words, “is fulfilling and exhausting.” The following information about them is from WSU News.

Clinical Assistant Professor Paul Mencke
Paul Mencke

Mencke is a clinical assistant professor in the Department of Teaching and Learning, has a passion for promoting social justice.

Graduate student Bryan Wiggins recalls attending one of Mencke’s classes where students were asked to give a short presentation about someone who had an impact on their field of study. Much to Wiggins’ surprise, Mencke instructed the students to only consider people from underrepresented backgrounds.

“When I asked him why he limited the class to focusing on diverse populations, he responded by saying our students learn about people who look like them every day, and it is important for them to learn how other people have made positive contributions to society too,” said Wiggins.

Mencke is actively involved in WSU’s student recruitment efforts, often serving as a keynote speaker or workshop presenter for events such as Visionaries Inspiring Black Empowered Students (VIBES), Shaping High School Asian and Pacific Islanders for the next Generation (SHAPING), and the Multicultural Student Services banquet.

The former Cougar quarterback said receiving the MLK award helps motivate him to continue this challenging work. “Having a commitment to social justice is fulfilling but often exhausting,” he said. “This award demonstrates that the march is long, but worth every difficult step.”


A reminder of great people, great ideals

Doctoral candidate Joan.Osa Oviawe
Joan.Osa Oviawe

Oviawe is a doctoral candidate in the College of Education whose involvement in social justice extends far beyond Pullman and the Northwest. She established the Grace Foundation in Nigeria, which promotes education and human rights – especially for women and children.

She also organizes cultural conferences, such as one that took place last summer when participants visited the Martin Luther King Jr. Center in Atlanta. While working in WSU’s Dean of Students Office, she organized a trip to hurricane-ravaged Galveston Island, Texas, where students helped renovate homes of low-income residents and volunteered at a homeless shelter.

As coordinator of V-Day WSU, Oviawe introduced a new program during the 2011 Week Without Violence called the “V-Day Until the Violence Stops Festival.” More than 500 students participated in the activities, along with faculty, staff and community members.

“This award makes me feel like my little contributions to the betterment of my local and global communities matter and are worthwhile,” Oviawe said. “It will be a constant reminder for me to continue to imbibe the ideals and principals of MLK and all the other great men and women who have impacted our world in extraordinary ways.”

Master teacher Sam Adams shows ropes to classroom newcomers

Sam Adams and Stephen Dale help students
Sam Adams, front, and Stephen Dale help algebra students

CLARKSTON, Wash.—Sam Adams prompts, guides, prods and applauds his audience as he scrawls equations on a white board at Clarkston High.

“Can anybody remember? … How would I know from the start? … That’s the exact right step, Bradley … Did everyone hear Rob’s question? … Eyes up here … You might want to write that in your notes.”

Adams is teaching more than his algebra students. He’s also showing the ropes to Stephen Dale, an eager newcomer to his profession.

Adams is the latest winner of the Miller-Manchester Mentor Teacher Award, bestowed this fall by the Washington State University College of Education. Guy Pitzer, a supervisor of WSU student teachers, describes Adams as positive, flexible and sensitive.

“Over the many semesters I’ve worked with Sam, he’s exacted the highest level of performance from our student teachers,” Pitzer said. One of Adams’s greatest strengths, he said, is how well he gets to know his students.

“He talks with them, not to them. He expresses sincere interest in their activities and interests outside the classroom and incorporates that inside the classroom. Students feel a sense of freedom to ask, risk, and not feel the least bit inhibited or ashamed.”

Finding life’s passions

Adams is a 1979 graduate of WSU, where his father, also Sam Adams, taught physical education. A crimson Cougar T-shirt hangs front and center in his classroom. It’s one of many shirts decorating the room, each representing a college or university that former students have attended. Adams hopes the display will inspire his current students—maybe those struggling the most—to think about their future, and think big.

Teacher Sam Adams reads to his students
Adams starts class with an inspiring book

He sometimes starts class by reading from an inspiring book, such as Mitch Albom’s “Tuesdays with Morrie: An Old Man, a Young Man, and Life’s Greatest Lesson.”

“We talk about finding passions in life and, hopefully, having your future occupation stem from your passions,” Adams said. “Also, I can discuss the connection between mathematics and different careers.”

Adams went to WSU intent on a science career. Along the way he decided he was a “people person” and earned a teaching certificate in addition to a biology degree.

Dale, who is student teaching in Adams’ classroom this year, had a similar change of heart. He studied kinesiology at WSU, planning to go into physical therapy. After graduation, he had an unexpected chance to substitute-teach in his hometown of Federal Way.

“I thought I wouldn’t like it,” he said, grinning. He returned to Pullman last summer to enroll in WSU’s one-year Master in Teaching Program.

The masters students spend two days a week in their teacher mentors’ classroom. The next semester, for 12 weeks, they are there full time. Students in the undergraduate teaching program have a similar schedule.

Ideally, the student teachers are more like teammates than observers, said Pitzer. “When it works well, it’s like listening to a good concert.”

Learning from each other

Dale makes the 34-mile commute to Clarkston along with other student teachers. At Clarkston High, he and Adams take turns in front of the classroom. Between lessons, both roam among the desks, offering help to students who work in pairs to solve the latest equation.

One trick Dale said he’s learned from Adams is to give a short lesson, then allow students time to absorb it. “He calls it chunking. He wants the students to look at the board – ‘watch me first’ – then he gives them a couple of minutes to take effective notes.”

“The chunks can’t be too long,” Adams added, “and you have to give them a second chunk of time to ask questions.”

Adams has mentored 18 or 19 student teachers over the years. The last three have been from  WSU and have been phenomenal, he said.  “We learn from each other.”

Adams has coached several Clarkston high sports—he’s still leading the tennis team—and clearly enjoys helping a new teacher like Dale develop his strengths.

“We talk about classroom management, teaching style, how you deal with kids,” Adams said. “He will be his own kind of teacher, as I am mine.”

Sam Adams’ students at Clarkston High include his sons Drew, a senior; and Ryan, a sophomore. His wife is  pharmacist Kristen Auer Adams, also a graduate of WSU. See more photos from his classroom.

College standard bearer carries on family teaching tradition

WSU graduate Kayla Hutton with her parents Dan and Kathy
Kayla Hutton with her parents, Dan and Kathy

Dan Hutton’s success as a teacher and role model was on display at Saturday’s Fall 2011 commencement celebration. His daughter Kayla, who was also his student for six years, was the standard bearer for the WSU College of Education. She earned that honor with her 3.93 grade point average–the highest among graduates from the Department of Teaching and Learning.

Kayla was among 41 graduates picking up College of Education bachelor’s degrees. Eight education masters and seven education doctorates were also conferred. There was plenty of tradition and holiday sparkle in Beasley Coliseum and one giant new ornament– the digital scoreboard that gave everyone a closeup view.

Kayla’s personal cheering section included Dan, who teaches at Tekoa High School and is one of several teachers in the family; her mom, Kathy; and her fiance, Ryan Burchett. Ryan is a 2009 WSU graduate and agriculture educator in Cle Elum.

Kayla Hutton carries college banner
Kayla Hutton, teacher and standard bearer

Come spring, Kayla will be doing her student teaching at Woodard Elementary in Spokane. Besides landing a teaching job, she looks forward to more studies in her interest areas of human development and reading. And she’ll always look back fondly on her days learning and laughing with other students in her “block” or cohort of education majors in Pullman.

“The things I will remember most about the College of Education are the relationships I’ve established with my ‘block mates’ and teachers,” she said. “We’ve spent a lot of time together and gotten to know each other really well.”

As educators, Kayla and her classmates are well positioned to heed commencement speaker Brig. Gen. Julie Bentz, who encouraged them to “do what is right, love what is good and leave the world a better place than you found it.”

Alumni researcher delves into Alaskan culture, education

Caitlin Montague-Winebarger lives in a cold place but has a warm spot in her heart for kids. So when the WSU alum went to teach elementary school in  Manokotak, Alaska, she paid special attention to the large number of students who seemed uninterested or were just plain quiet. She’d been told to expect that, and some of her teaching colleagues were troubled by it.

She learned that non-verbal communication was a big part of the local Yup’ik culture, and she adapted.

“Many of my students were using facial cues rather than spoken responses to acknowledge their understanding, or to let me know that they didn’t understand a concept,” she recalls. “It took me awhile to key in on this style, and it required me to be in close proximity to the students, which I wasn’t used to. But soon it became habit. I find myself using still using those cues even though I live in a completely different part of the state.”

Caitlin Montague-Winebarger bundled up on an Alaska hike
Caitlin Montague-Winebarger

Caitlin is now a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Alaska Fairbanks. Her dissertation research focuses on how pre-service teachers describe culture and cross-culture, and then apply those understandings. The subject is vitally important in Alaska, where there are many distinct native cultures and at least 20 native languages.

Caitlin, originally from Cheney, Wash., headed to Alaska after earning her education degree at the WSU Tri-Cities in 2006. She met Eric Johnson, assistant professor in the Tri-Cities since 2008, at the recent American Anthropological Association conference in Montreal.

“As I told Eric, I really do appreciate the foundation that I received there,” Caitlin said in an email. “It has served me well (so far!).”

Eric and Caitlin have strong common — and interdisciplinary — interests. Her Ph.D. program is based in the School of Education at UAF, but includes coursework in anthropology, cross-cultural studies and English. He has taught in departments of anthropology, foreign language, and education and helps future teachers learn how to succeed in multilingual, multicultural classrooms.

Caitlin’s master’s degree research focused on teacher isolation and technology in a rural Alaskan school district. She also worked as a research assistant for the Alaska Native Teacher Preparation Project, which supported Alaska Native and American Indian students pursuing teaching degrees.

Speaking of another kind of degree … Caitlin says it was minus 25 Fahrenheit when she took a hike the other day and a friend snapped the picture posted here. “But it was sunny!”

SMARTKIDS curriculum links minds, bodies

Associate Professor Jennifer Beller is known for her expertise in physical/moral connections, particularly ethical issues relating to sports. But she’s also keenly interested in physical/intellectual links, as the Moscow-Pullman Daily News explains in this recent article about one of Jennifer’s projects, headlined “St. Mary’s students learn outside the box.”

By Holly Bowen
Daily News staff writer

Pam Wimer teaches a geography lesson using an outdoor map
Pam Wimer teaches geography using an outdoor map (Geoff Crimmins photo)

Children in Pam Wimer’s third-grade class at St. Mary’s School in Moscow enthusiastically ran to, then jumped on, a multicolored map of the 50 United States painted on the playground courtyard.

The map didn’t list the names of the states, but the students had no trouble determining where they were standing or which directions they needed to walk and hop to go further north, south, east and west across the map.

“We’ve never learned the states this early (in the school year),” said Wimer, who has taught at St. Mary’s School for 18 years.

However, the students are participating in the school’s new “SMARTKIDS” curriculum developed with the help of Jennifer Beller, an associate professor in the Department of Educational Leadership and Counseling Psychology at Washington State University.

The teachers and professor developed the Smart Kids concept last year when thinking of a favorite game from their own childhoods – jacks – which they said children aren’t familiar with anymore.

Unlike most school curricula today, SMARTKIDS integrates physical activity with cognitive tasks, a philosophy that goes back thousands of years, Beller said.

Jennifer Beller
Jennifer Beller

“Plato never sat,” Beller said. “He always walked.”

Every grade at St. Mary’s School participates in Smart Kids activities for about 15 minutes two or three times per week, in addition to their regular physical education classes.

During SMARTKIDS sessions, students complete academic drills – like multiplication tables, spelling or memorization – while performing physical tasks like juggling, jump-roping, balancing on a beam or inflatable workout ball or jumping on a map.

Beller and Wimer said the third-graders spent four weeks jumping onto and naming the states on the map. When the students took a quiz to gauge their knowledge, all but one student passed with flying colors. Wimer said it usually takes much longer for all the students to demonstrate proficiency.

Better than flash cards

Beller said the idea is to open up more neural pathways in the brain that enable students to recall more information than if they had simply sat at a desk and memorized flash cards.

She said learning to ride a bicycle is an example of using those additional neural pathways. People tend to fall a lot when they first begin riding, but eventually their brains remember how to stay balanced, even if they take a break from cycling for several years.

Wimer said sometimes the students are a bit fuzzy-headed when trying to recall things they’ve learned weeks ago, but once they begin performing the associated physical tasks, that fuzziness disappears.

The strategy seems to be paying off – Beller said the children easily memorized the names of 22 different bones, which usually takes several weeks.

“They all got it in five days,” she said, adding that the physical activity opens up more areas of the brain from which to recall information.

Beller said she and a colleague at WSU recently worked on a study of 200 preschoolers that found strong ties between balance activities and perceptual awareness, quantitative ability and other cognitive skills.

She said it’s not exactly cause-and-effect, but the students’ higher academic performance is correlated to the combination of cognitive and physical tasks.

“The kids can do pretty complex tasks in the process of it, and the more they do, the better they get,” she said.

WSU students collect, assess data

She said she and her own students at WSU are collecting data and assessing the children’s progress in fundamental motor skills and test scores. Tracking that progress will enable the older students to develop more complex activities for when the current crop of children grows older.

Another major bonus of the SMARTKIDS curriculum is the students seem to really enjoy it even when they’re performing memorization drills. Beller and Wimer recalled how one parent said her two boys came home and started playing “Smart Kids” on their own by reading flash cards while balancing on a workout ball.

“They’re willing to practice these flashcards and things excitedly,” Wimer said.

Kid-approved approach

Third-graders Jessica Smith, Megan Cornish, Brigid O’Sullivan, Kirstin Wambeke, Thomas Curet and Eliza O’Murphy were all excited to talk about SMARTKIDS on Wednesday afternoon. They described the curriculum as fun but sometimes challenging – in a good way.

“You get to learn while doing something fun,” Wambeke said.

Curet said he likes to turn SMARTKIDS activities into competitions against his classmates.

O’Murphy, Smith and Cornish said they especially enjoyed learning the states by jumping around on the map.

“I only knew like four states, but now I know all 50,” Smith said with a look of pride on her face.

For those who are interested in learning more about the mind-body connection, Beller recommended a TED Talk lecture by neuroscientist Daniel Wolpert, which is available online.

Reprinted with permission. Article originally published Nov. 10, 2011.

Temple Grandin’s wisdom stems from science, experience

Temple Grandin speaks at the "Family Is Important" autism conference
Temple Grandin speaks at the "Family Is Important" autism conference in Pullman

One of the world’s most influential people is bullish on breakfast sausages and laments that kids don’t have paper routes anymore. She is NOT in favor of coddling. And as for people who conduct inadequate experiments with medication on 5-year-olds … well, don’t get her started.

“I don’t have enough swear words for what I’d like to do to them,” autism expert Temple Grandin told Washington State University faculty this month.

Moments later, she told a story that would make a 10-year-old double over with laughter. She admits to cracking herself up regularly. “My emotions aren’t complex.”

But when it comes to intellectual complexity, Grandin’s audiences are well-advised to buckle their seat belts and turn on their tape recorders. In Pullman, she spoke to nearly 500 people at the autism conference sponsored by Families Together and the WSU College of Education. The night before, a campus crowd of more than 1,000 heard her lecture.

Grandin impresses with plain talk and a mind that works like Google, pulling together related ideas from vast stores of data. At the conference, she shared information on learning challenges, nutrition, medication, career choices, parenting, teaching and animal behavior. She acknowledged the wide range of abilities represented by people on the autism spectrum. On one end are children and adults who need constant care; on the other end are high-functioning people with Asperger’s syndrome, such as Grandin.

She was full of advice, based on experience and science, for educators, counselors, students and parents. Much of it came from observing what she calls “old Aspies like me” who have worked all of their lives. Some tidbits from her torrent of wisdom about kids:

  • Make sure they get protein for breakfast to fuel their brains. “Nuke a couple of those frozen sausage links.” Oh, and “cut out the 20-ounce Cokes!”
  • Get them doing jobs that people want done, which teach responsibility, at an early age. Some examples: walking dogs  or managing a church website.  “Any job on a computer you can start teaching at age 10.”
  • If they need medication, start out with the tried-and-true drugs that have been scientifically proven and have limited side effects. Consider anti-depressants, like the one she takes, to dampen anxiety. “Fear is the main emotion of autism.” Use very small doses. “Doctors are raising doses when they should be lowering them.”
  • Teach them social skills and survival skills. “Johnny’s got to learn how to order food. Get him a debit card. He’s got to learn that when the money’s gone, the card won’t swipe anymore.”
  • Tap into their fixations. If a child draws nothing but horse heads, get her to draw a person on a horse. Then the house the person lives in. “Get them to draw pictures of people’s pets.”

Grandin urged everyone to accept the tears of people with autism, be they children or grownups.

“I had to replace anger with crying,” she said. “The geeks that cry keep their jobs. They’re not going to get by with throwing tools in the equipment room.”

For more information about Temple Grandin, see her website. For photos from the conference and her breakfast with College of Education faculty, click here.