April marks Autism Awareness Month. The Autism Program (TAP) at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign works tirelessly to expand autism resources and student learning experiences.
1. Can you tell us about the work you do at FRC?
I have had the privilege of being the Coordinator of The Autism Program since its inception 12 years ago. I am passionate about the work I do and grateful for the opportunity to help people in a meaningful way every day. Much of the work I do involves providing consultation and education for families and professionals who live and work with people on the autism spectrum. I provide education and training through frequent lectures on campus and in the community. I provide much needed support, system navigation and education to families managing the many challenges that living with a person with autism can present. I also have the opportunity to engage with student interns in our program, helping to excite the next generation of young professionals about careers in the field of autism. I often collaborate with professors and graduate students who are interested in doing research in the field of autism.
2. What do you wish the community knew more about when it comes to TAP and it’s resources?
We serve about 200 people a quarter – or about 800 people a year. This is either through our resource center, consultations, programs, or trainings. While many people utilize our resources, there are many more who do not know that this free resource exists in our community. Continuously getting the word out and advertising our services and programs is always a challenge.
3. Your internship program is training a new era of behavior health professionals. Can you tell us a little bit about it?
We accept 10 students every semester into our TAP internship program who work for course credit. Students work in our resource room 7 hours a week, providing services to our community while gaining valuable autism experience. In addition, they attend class once a week where they learn about autism interventions and receive training in the field of Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) to be Registered Behavior Technicians (RBTs). By the end of each semester, they are ready to take the exam that certifies them as RBTs which enables them to be employed in the field of ABA at the entry level. The internship provides them in-depth exposure to the field as a possible career path.
4. What is your favorite food or meal?
My favorite meal would consist of fabulous red wine, steak, Kalamata olives and dark chocolate…..and a green salad tossed in for good measure.
5. What are your favorite hobbies?
I work out every day with my best friend – I would lose my mind if I didn’t! I putter in the garden a little – but advocating for disability issues is my occupation and my avocation.