UTB researchers studying autism and higher education

While autistic children celebrate autism awareness month, University of Texas at Brownsville students are researching the disorder in anticipation of their arrival to college.

"People might that think just because they're autistic, they won't be able to seek a higher education, said graduate student Sela Gomez, and it's amazing to learn that yes they can."

In one part of their research, the students are studying blogs of autistic college students.

Despite autism being a disorder that hinders social interaction, the grad students are finding the Internet allows autistic students to open up.

"They give inferences, said Gomez. They give examples; they give advice."

In a second section, the researchers are interacting with local autistic adults.

They are using a technique called social story to address specific problems with each person.

Social stories are written in the first person.

The social story for an autistic person, having trouble looking a person in the eye when speaking with them, would read When I talk to people, I should look at them in the face.

And they're saying it when they're reading it, and they're saying it in the first person, so they're internalizing the behavior, said graduate student Maribel Sanchez.

The third section of research includes a teacher survey for local school districts.

The survey asks teachers how confident they feel when dealing with autistic students. What we believe is that teachers with a sense of high self-efficacy will be more willing or more likely to implement interventions when they have kids with problem behaviors, said graduate student David Delgado.

In turn, feedback will be given to local schools.

The university will also keep the research for its own use, in preparation for the growing autistic population.