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Sunday, June 26, 2022

A graduate student’s devotion to fight autism

By Cynthia Lee Howard

Special to CSMS Magazine

Two years ago, I graduated with a MS degree in Social Work, and now I have decided to pursue a career in Applied Behavior Analysis. I am a devoted professional with a passion for working with the disenfranchised and the mentally disabled individuals. Before I graduated from Barry University, I have already completed a Bachelor’s degree program at Florida Atlantic University. I went on to work for DCF (Department of Children and Families). There, I discovered working with individuals with developmental disabilities can sometimes be rewarding.

             After my graduation from Barry, I had the privilege to work with some autistic children. My interest in autism grew, and I began to research this striking disease. I found out that autism and the other disorders in the autism spectrum are behaviorally defined syndromes that are now generally regarded to be of neurobiological origin.

            I also found out that autism is not caused by inappropriate parenting or other psychosocial variables in the home life of the developing child. According to some studies, the specific underlying psychological or neuro-physiological mechanisms are simply not known. Although a number of different theories have been put forward, none has withstood closer scrutiny. Probably several causes and etiological pathways lead to disorders in the autism spectrum. There is no reason to believe there is only one pathway. The search must continue, and I want to be part of this continuum.

            I have high hope that a solution will be found in near term if well coordinated efforts are done within the scientific community. Being a board-certified behavior analysis, I believe, will empower my passion with the knowledge, the wherewithal and the tools necessary to take an active part in the search to find a cure for what is becoming a fast growing social and behavioral crisis.

            Parents longing for deliverance need to be comforted with the assurance that their plights are not just being heard, but also concrete actions are being taken to find a cure. It’s wrong to believe that if a condition is biological in origin, there is nothing that can be done.

            Countless of studies have demonstrated that persons with biological differences need specially-designed opportunities to maximize their potentials. The worst effects of autism can be prevented in many cases. It is now known that early, intensive behavioral programs can eliminate completely the symptoms of autism in some children and greatly improve the lives of many others.

                People who do not actively interact with other people are deprived of learning from social experiences. People who focus all of their attention on the same things and activities are not optimizing their chances for development and learning. People who do these things most of the time are called “autistic.” Therefore, they need specially prepared programs that will teach them to learn from their parents, siblings, peers and others. These are the initial aims of behavioral interventions.

            I strongly believe that neurological disorders can be treated by behavioral techniques.

Note: Cynthia Lee Howard is now a student at Nova Southeastern University. She wrote this piece especially for CSMS Magazine.

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