As of this semester, Taylor’s psychology department has established its first ever autism studies and interventions minor.
Diane Dungan, department chair and associate professor of psychology, hopes to prepare students to understand, work with and value the diversity within the autism community. She believes this minor can apply to a variety of fields.
According to the department’s informational brochure, the program will help meet the growing need for qualified, highly trained providers of autism services, certify students by allowing them to take the Registered Behavioral Technician (RBT) exam and prepare students to observe the uniqueness in those with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD).
“Really, we want to make places for ministry in a variety of forms, from psychological intervention to physical intervention to spiritual intervention,” Dungan said.
Sophomore Tori Trevorrow is one of the students eagerly awaiting the classes she will take to attain the minor. The course includes but is not limited to Introduction to Autism Spectrum Disorders, Abnormal Psychology and Applied Behavior Analysis and Autism Treatment.
Trevorrow received the opportunity to work at a camp over the summer that dealt specifically with the needs of kids suffering from autism spectrum disorders, Down syndrome and related disorders. Trevorrow hopes the minor will educate her on understanding the minds of those dealing with autism.
“I had always known God wanted me to work with (people with) special needs at some point, but I didn’t know to what capacity,” Trevorrow said. “The campers who arrived there were so bright, bubbly and elated to see all of the staff and their friends.”
Trevorrow believes the minor will help her better relate to those dealing with autism spectrum disorders. She also looks forward to the conferences she and others in the minor program will be attending because she thinks the speakers will put into words what others can’t.
Vance Maloney, professor of psychology, co-leads the Introduction to Autism Spectrum Disorders course with Dungan. He hopes to get students more involved in national conferences such as this one. He also wants to see more involvement in the community.
“The minor will produce a greater awareness of, appreciation for and understanding of the differences in the autistic community,” Maloney said. “We can then respond to others in a very healthy manner.”
Dungan said the program is intended to help maximize experiences and environments for those affected by autism spectrum disorders. Maloney added that the autism minor will help prepare students to work in the field since many Taylor graduates have pursued careers in related fields in the past.
He hopes additional emphasis will be placed on involvement in churches and helping support the struggling families. Maloney, who leads the In Search of Sacred Places summer trip to Ireland, desires to make things more participatory for those who struggle with sensory overload.
Trevorrow, who co-directs the Special Olympics in Marion, wants others to take the opportunity to work with autistic people if they have the chance because it has changed her life so much.
“(Autistic people) are seen as degraded and not loved, welcomed or cherished,” Trevorrow said. “They’re so full of joy and love. If you don’t get to know them, you won’t see that piece.”
There are many ways the Taylor community can get involved in the autistic world outside of the minor. The theatre department is performing “Falling” from Sept. 20 to 22. The play centers around a family whose 18-year-old son deals with a severe case of autism, and Maloney believes the play can provide perspective to those who know little about this disorder.
Trevorrow also encourages people to get involved in the Marion Special Olympics. The Olympics are hosted every Wednesday night at IWU and lasts from 4:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. Those who have an interest in getting involved can contact Trevorrow at email@example.com for more information.