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Teacher Ed students study at Yale
By Lisa J. Azure, Teacher Education Chair, Child Development Center Administrator

29 September 2010

BISMARCK (UTN) - Over the summer, five United Tribes Teacher Education students participated in a two-week educational experience at the Yale Child Study Center on the Yale University campus, New Haven, CT.

      The host was Dr. Fred Volkmar, a leading researcher on Asperger’s Syndrome, generally considered to be a form of autism characterized by deficits in social interaction and non-verbal communication. In the early 1990s, Volkmar led the team that helped develop the definition of autism currently used by the American Psychiatric Association.

UTTC Teacher Education students attended the Yale Child Study Center Seminar during the summer, from left: Shyanne Schmalz, Billi Jo Gravseth, Memoree Skinner, Nevada Allen, Kara Four Bear, and Dr. Fred Volkmar.

      The future educators from United Tribes were the first group to participate in a partnership of this kind between a tribal college and Yale University. Included were Shyanne Schmalz (Standing Rock), Kara Four Bear (Cheyenne River), Nevada Allen (Three Affiliated), Memoree Skinner (Cheyenne River), and Billi Jo Gravseth (Standing Rock).

      During the first week they observed Dr. Michael Crowley perform an electroencephalogram (EEG) on an 8 year old male. They also observed various evaluation and assessment procedures conducted on infants and young children with autism at the Autism Center of Excellence.

      In addition to Dr. Crowley, they were mentored by other skilled and experienced doctors and researchers during the first week, including: Dr. Fay Brown, Comer Process/Developmental Pathways; Dr. Steven Marans, Child Development Program; Dr. Jean Adnopoz, Director of In-home Clinic Services; Dr. Brian Reichow, research scientist; Dr. Leah Booth, speech pathologist; Mary Gunsalus, Yale Children’s Psychiatric Inpatient Clinic; and Jeanne W. Lepper, director of the Bing Nursery School at Stanford University in California.

      One student observed: “As a future educator, you can only imagine my disbelief that we were sitting in a room with the same people who conduct the actual studies we are learning about in our courses!”

      The second week, the teacher candidates attended the Yale Child Study Center Autism Program's 9th Annual Summer Institute on Autism Spectrum Disorders.

      The entire experience was not all work. The group was treated by the trip’s sponsor, a retired psychiatric doctor from the Yale School of Medicine, at a French restaurant. Some traveled by train to visit New York City and others investigated the shores of the New England coast. They travelled as a group to Martha’s Vineyard to Dr. Volkmar’s home and had dinner with his family, and walked many miles sight-seeing on the Yale Campus, as well as the surrounding city of New Haven.

      Based on the success of the pilot, we are planning to participate again next year with another group of students. All five agreed it was a “once in a lifetime experience” and as one student said: “I will never forget the hospitality and kindness that was shown to my colleagues and me by the people at the Yale Child Study Center.”

      To show their appreciation, Dr. Volkmar was presented with a painted gourd by United Tribes Tribal Arts Instructor and respected artist Butch Thunder Hawk.


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