2015 GSA Annual Meeting in Baltimore, Maryland, USA (1-4 November 2015)

Paper No. 11-14
Presentation Time: 11:15 AM


MCGARRY, Brad and WIELANDT, Paulina, Autism Initiative at Mercyhurst, Mercyhurst University, 501 E. 38th Street, Erie, PA 16546, bmcgarry@mercyhurst.edu

This presentation focuses on integrating students with learning differences into geoscience curriculum and focuses on proven strategies and lessons learned from an innovative program implemented at Mercyhurst University. This presentation will explain autism, challenges these students face and effective strategies that can benefit faculty working with these students. These strategies focus specifically on students on the autism spectrum that are applying to higher education institutions in record numbers that are being characterized as “epidemic”. Many of these students are majoring in geosciences and other STEM majors. If an instructor has not had experiences with these students, it is a guarantee that they will in the near future. These simple yet effective strategies have been formed from years of experience and cover areas from how to establish a conducive learning environment, to controlling social order, supporting other students in the class, to a simple explanation of discrete trial instruction, how to use mentoring, breaks and alternative testing environments and the clear distinction between enabling and empowering. This presentation will assist educators in understanding and assisting students with learning differences and how to support them in being successful in academic and social situations. With minimal support these students can transition from being a problem in classroom to a leader and model student.