TU’s Holman awarded grant for work with students with disabilities

By Kyle Hobstetter on November 14, 2016

COE professor will partner with the Hussman Institute for Autism to design online video training program for educators.

John Hussman, executive director and president of the Hussman Institute for Autism, presents on Towson University's campus on Saturday, Nov. 12, as part of Autism Education Series.
John Hussman, executive director and president of the Hussman Institute for Autism, presents on Towson University's campus on Saturday, Nov. 12, as part of Autism Education Series.

Towson University’s College of Education continues to be recognized by the state of Maryland for its work in preparing future educators.

Kay Holman, associate professor in the Department of Special Education, was awarded a grant from the Maryland State Department of Education for her study: “Building Capacity for School-Based Professionals who Support Students with Disabilities.”

The study originated from Holman’s research involving students with disabilities receiving one-on-one support in their school setting. Unfortunately, most of the professionals providing support have limited to no training.

So Holman has teamed with co-investigator John Hussman and the Hussman Institute for Autism to help those professionals. They will develop a comprehensive online video series and follow-up training program for school-based professionals who work with students with disabilities.

The goal of the program is to ensure students with disabilities are provided with effective instructional, communicative, behavioral and social support so they are successfully engaged in school and better prepared for their future.

"There is a great need for more training and support for professionals who are working one-on one with students with disabilities in our schools,” Holman said. “Through this partnership we are creating a sustainable training program that will improve the skills and dispositions of professionals in this role and have a far-reaching impact across our state.”

Upon conclusion of this grant, the video training modules will be made available for professional development and accessible to anyone across the state.

Along with the grant, Towson University also welcomed Hussman to campus this weekend as the keynote speaker of the annual Autism Education Series. He was joined by Grant Blasko, a 14-year old non-verbal self-advocate with autism, who types independently to communicate and has presented at many events regarding autism spectrum education.

During his presentation, titled “Presuming Competence,” Hussman reviewed emerging research in autism and emphasized that presuming the competence of people with autism is not just a “nice” philosophy but has important effects on the frequency, level and quality of teaching and social interactions.

The series also featured discussions on strategies for increasing motivation, encouraging communication, providing positive behavior support and presuming your own competence (“self-efficacy”) when teaching or relating to those with autism.

“People with autism may experience the world in ways that are unfamiliar to us, but they need us to understand that what we see on the outside may not be an accurate reflection of what exists within,” Hussman said about his presentation. “The ability to communicate or regulate social interaction should not be confused with the ability to think or the capacity to love. Rather than labeling individuals as ‘low-functioning’ or ‘high-functioning,’ we should recognize that people with autism might differ in their ability to demonstrate their competence.

“Our responsibility is then to presume, find, and strengthen that competence.”