Project PREP Students Engage In Interdisciplinary Research
- Wednesday, December 2nd, 2020
Project PREP participants Shelby Jo Cecil and Emma Taylor have partnered to research the use of visual supports for individuals with autism. Together, they study the interdisciplinary use of the evidence-based practice from the perspectives of a speech language pathologist and a special education teacher, respectively. While the PREP program has welcomed only one cohort since its inception in January 2020, Taylor and Cecil are veteran professionals who have experienced many rewarding years engaging with students of all abilities.
Cecil is a graduate student in the speech language pathology program who specializes in working with populations who have disabilities. She currently conducts a virtual skills workshop with adults in the Kelly Autism Program in Bowling Green, Kentucky where she’s worked for the last 4 years. “My hope is that these social skills carry over into their [adult participants’] everyday lives,” Cecil said. “This also allows for a chance for them to practice social skills virtually and gives them a chance to see their friends.” She also serves the Best Buddies Program as the Clinical Education Complex Host Site Coordinator. “These two programs [KAP and Best Buddies] have shaped me into who I am today and have made me realize how much I truly enjoy helping people reach their full potential,” Cecil said.
Taylor is a graduate student in the MSD program who will specialize in working with individuals autism. Currently, Taylor is conducting virtual learning with special education students at North Jackson Elementary in Barren County. “Teaching has always been my passion, but words can't describe the rewarding feeling of seeing a student with special needs shine with excitement when they have accomplished a goal or learned something new.” While virtual learning has been well-accepted among her students, Taylor addresses the added stress and ongoing maintenance that comes with virtual learning and how they meet those challenges. “Most importantly, we are patient, realistic, and flexible. Virtual education is tough for everyone, especially students with special needs. If something isn't working, we change it,” Taylor said.
Due to the individualized interactions with their participants and students, Taylor and Cecil joined forces to research visual activity schedules among those with Autism Spectrum Disorder.
“Visual activity schedules are environmental supports (printed, videos, or electronic) that create predictability and allow abstract concepts to become more concrete,” Taylor said. “Findings show that the use of visual activity schedules lead to increased independence, on-task behaviors, and on-schedule behaviors.” The two will present their study at the American Council on Rural Special Education (ACRES) annual conference starting March 18.
Both Taylor and Cecil will graduate in 2022 and look forward to advancing their careers to continue helping those with exceptionalities live fuller lives. “I enjoy embracing the differences of others and learning new things about each individual student,” Cecil said. “Everyone is unique, and I believe everyone has a special purpose on this earth – I hope to help each student find theirs.”
For more information on a career in special education, or to learn more about Project PREP, please contact Dr. Christina Noel at email@example.com.