Driftwood

Student Spotlight: Meredith Knauer helps autistic children

Working+with+disabled+children+is+Meredith+Knauer%27s+passion.
Working with disabled children is Meredith Knauer's passion.

Working with disabled children is Meredith Knauer's passion.

Working with disabled children is Meredith Knauer's passion.

Sofia Gilmore-Montero, News Editor

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Meredith Knauer, a “super-senior” studying psychology and English, wears many hats. She is also the treasurer and the academic chair for the Delta Nu Chapter of Zeta Tau Alpha.  To gain psychology experience for her practicum, Knauer signed on to be a volunteer practicing applied behavior analysis (ABA) therapy for children with autism under the supervision of Dr. Erin Perry. This week, she sat for an interview with the Driftwood.

 

SGM – Sofía Gilmore-Montero, News Editor for the Driftwood

MK – Meredith Knauer, student and interviewee.

 

SGM: What is a practicum? What are you doing for yours?

MK: Basically, you do work in your field. For my practicum, I get to go out and help a licensed ABA therapist provide ABA therapy to autistic children.

 

SGM: Can you explain the basics of ABA therapy?

MK: It’s a way of forming habits with rewards to create positive associations with particular actions. It is used a lot in school settings to correct behavior, like disrupting class.  

 

SGM: Why is this method useful for therapy for autistic children?

MK: It’s useful to teach them that if they do something, they can get what they want.  For example, if I say, “Movie, please?” someone will put on a movie.  

 

SGM: Why did you choose this for your practicum?

MK: I have a brother with Down syndrome. While that’s not the same, through him and his school mates, I’ve had the chance to work with disabled children, and I find it very rewarding. As a psychology student, though, it’s really great being able to put some of the stuff we’ve learned to actual use before I graduate. Plus, I get to add this as experience when I apply to graduate schools.

 

SGM: Can you tell me the process of this project/study? What is the mission or point?

MK: The point is to help these children grow in ways that they otherwise couldn’t. Basically, we get a baseline for the behavior; in this case, [it’s] not communicating.  We try to figure out why the behavior is happening and then bring about a change to encourage the desired behavior.  For example, one of the kids we’ve helped in the past was a little boy who was nonverbal. He now speaks in two-word sentences, and we are currently working with him to speak in more complete sentences.

 

SGM: Do you have any advice for students who want to get involved in something like this?

MK: Take a look around your department and talk to the department head. UNO has tons of labs that take undergraduate students as volunteer research assistants, and you can even get class credit or get paid through P.U.R.S.U.E. Even if you just talk to your professors, there are tons of internship opportunities your department can connect you to. All you have to do is ask.

 

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Student Spotlight: Meredith Knauer helps autistic children