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Georgian Court University to Launch Autism Institute

Lakewood, N.J., Sept. 28, 2009—A new initiative from Georgian Court University aims to help educators and professionals become more effective in their work with students who have autism.

Education experts at Georgian Court are launching the Autism Institute for Training and Applied Research, a series of training sessions, lectures, and discussions for classroom educators, teaching assistants, and therapists working with youngsters who have autism spectrum disorders (ASD).

A new $188,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services will fund the program, which begins in December. Participants will meet in eight training sessions held during the academic year and four consecutive sessions during the summer. There is no cost to participants and all sessions align with New Jersey Professional Development Context and Content Standards.

“Specialized training for educators of students with ASD and specialized training addressing the instructional needs of adolescents with ASD are major areas of need,” says Lisa Dille, Ed.D., a GCU assistant professor of education.

Figures from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that about 1 in 150 children have autism nationwide. In New Jersey, the disorders affect about 1 in 94. The prevalence of the disability in this state has led to an increased need for teachers who have the special skills needed to reach children on the autism spectrum. For children affected by the disorder, their symptoms can run the gamut, including limited speech, a preference for objects rather than people, and difficulty with making eye contact.

GCU educators are looking beyond the numbers and textbook definitions to ways they can help. Results from surveys and interviews conducted in 2008 by the GCU School of Education reinforced what college-level professors suspected—that there is a definite need and demand for specialized teacher training, especially as classroom educators work with students who are transitioning into adolescence and adulthood.

“Many of the students who were diagnosed early on are now aging up,” says Dr. Dille. “How will we meet their needs as they grow into adolescents and adults? Ultimately, if you help teachers, you help families,” she adds.

GCU School of Education professors are helping classroom teachers meet the needs of their students in two ways—through the Selected Strand in Autism Spectrum Disorders, a set of five graduate courses that act as a concentration within the Master of Arts in Education, and through workshops developed just for special education instructors.

Equipping teachers to reach students and their families is critical, according to GCU educators who want to help instructors bolster students’ social skills and social communication.

“There’s a need for continuous services at school, at home, and in other settings,” Dr. Dille says.

For more information about the Autism Institute for Training and Applied Research, visit, e-mail, or call the Georgian Court University School of Education at 732.987.2753.

Founded in 1908 and sponsored by the Sisters of Mercy, Georgian Court University is a comprehensive university with a strong liberal arts core and a special concern for women. A forward-thinking university that supports diversity and academic excellence, Georgian Court serves over 3,100 students of all faiths and backgrounds in a residential Women's College and a coeducational University College with undergraduate and graduate programs. Georgian Court's main campus is located at 900 Lakewood Avenue, Lakewood, N.J., on the picturesque former George Jay Gould estate, now named a National Historic Landmark. Georgian Court also offers classes at its site at 90 Woodbridge Center Drive in Woodbridge, at Coastal Communiversity in Wall, and at Cumberland County College in Vineland.

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