An Interdisciplinary Approach to Autism Studies

Kaitlyn Wilson understands the broad nature of autism studies and has helped develop a new PhD program at TU to study the topic from a range of perspectives.

Kaitlyn Wilson talks with a student

TU’s recognized expertise in autism, including the Hussman Center for Adults with Autism, makes the university a natural fit to house the only doctoral program specifically focused on autism studies in Maryland and one of only a handful of such programs in the country. 

“There is growing acknowledgment in the field that you cannot constrain autism studies to one discipline,” explains program director Kaitlyn Wilson, associate professor and chair of the Department of Speech-Language-Pathology and Audiology. “The interdisciplinary nature of TU’s doctoral program in autism studies allows students to approach autism from many different angles, an opportunity they may not typically receive in a program specific to one college or department.”

“ There is endless interest from students in participating in autism education and research opportunities. ”

Kaitlyn Wilson

Housed in the College of Health Professions, the Ph.D. program includes faculty from various health professions (speech language pathology, occupational therapy, occupational science and health science), as well as special education and psychology. “We hope to bring the autistic voice and various disciplinary perspectives to the conversation to produce thoughtful and informed scholars who will make significant contributions to the field through their research,” says Wilson, who expects students will represent a variety of backgrounds, such as educators, clinicians and new and seasoned practitioners. “We hope this type of interdisciplinary program will optimally prepare leaders in collaboration across disciplines and evidence-based practices,” she adds.

“With greater awareness of neurodiversity and the strengths of neurodivergent individuals, we are witnessing a shift in thinking about autism,” notes Wilson, who says she has spoken to Ph.D. program applicants who are also neurodivergent.

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