Faculty members developing autism communication program

Dr. William Bauer and Dr. Christopher Klein

Dr. William Bauer and Dr. Christopher Klein

By: Andrew Knauff
Publication: MC Office of College Relations
June, 2012

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The first weeks of school can be overwhelming for the average student, but for those with high functioning forms of autism, the difficulties are greatly multiplied.

Marietta College’s Dr. William Bauer, McCoy Associate Professor of Education, has partnered with Dr. Christopher Klein, Assistant Professor of Psychology, to create a program that helps improve the communication skills of people with high-functioning forms of autism as they make the transition from high school to college.
“Transition from high school is a very important part of a child’s life,” Bauer said. “Some students with high functioning autism do not have the appropriate transition and or social skills to make that switch occur.”

Autism is a brain disorder in which makes communication with other difficult. Often referred to as Asperger’s syndrome, these individuals have difficulty understanding the emotions of those around them, reading facial expressions and body language, thus have difficulty carrying normal conversation.

“If you can imagine waking up on a different planet where, in your mind, there are different rules and traditions about how we communicate,” Bauer said. “Some older students with autism need to learn some social courtesies that we take for granted. We try to teach things such as how to order food from a restaurant, how to carry on an active listening conversation, conversational turn taking, how to self-regulate ‘impulsive’ behaviors, just to name a few.”

During a recent sabbatical, Bauer was able to work with an Ohio State University transitional program.

Klein specializes in cognitive psychology, especially the differences in how the neurological process differs in those with autism.

“Generally there tends to be an abundance of local connections on several areas of the brain, but a lack of global connections across brain areas,” Klein said. “These global connections tend to be important for processes like interpreting nonverbal expressions and emotions.”

Bauer is pleased to be working with Klein on this new venture.

“His passion for improving the lives of people with autism on the spectrum matched mine,” Bauer said.

Before coming to Marietta in 2009, Klein was involved in a social skills development program at the University of Alabama.

The program is entering its second year of activity and will only be taking 10 participants, based on a first-come, first-serve basis. The program will also be using Marietta College students to serve as mentors.

“The mentors will be interns from the psychology program and education field
students,” Bauer said.

The mentors will be required to meet from 4:30-6:30 p.m. on Tuesdays for 14 weeks starting Sept. 4. They will “buddy” up with a participant for at least one hour during the week to reinforce the skills taught as well as provide a social avenue for them (e.g., movies, lunch, dinner, going to games, mini-golf, going to the mall).

For more information on the program contact Dr. Bill Bauer at bauerm@marietta.edu.

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