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Westminster College Education Students Attend National Autism Conference

Posted on Thursday, August 29, 2013

NEW WILMINGTON, Pa. - Five senior Westminster College early childhood/special education majors and their instructors attended the National Autism Conference July 29-Aug. 1 at the Pennsylvania State University Conference Center.

The students were able to attend presentations by nationally recognized experts on autism who spoke on a range of topics, including: applied behavior analysis, the new Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders V (DSM-5) definition of autism, early intervention programs for autism, the use of technology in the autistic support classroom, and mandatory training.

"Attending the National Autism Conference provided in-depth information about individuals with an autism diagnosis.  The students who attended the conference have expressed an interest in working with students who have an autism diagnosis. Four of the students are student teaching in the fall and found the information gained will benefit them in their student teaching and assist them in finding a job," said Dr. Amy Camardese, associate professor of education and chair of the department. She attended the conference with the students.

Camardese, who joined the faculty in 2001, earned an undergraduate degree from Ohio University, master's degree from the University of Pittsburgh, and Ph.D. from Kent State University.

Student Sheryl Wright said, "Attending this conference was a wonderful experience in which I feel that I grew as a teacher.  I was able to learn many teaching, management, and organization strategies from teachers who have had experience in the field of autistic support.  I learned many strategies to keep an autistic support classroom organized and running effectively." 

Wright continued, "As a pre-service teacher, the most important take-away I gained from this conference was confidence.  Each of the sessions taught me more techniques that helped me realize that I can take a job as a teacher in an autistic support classroom after this year and keep the room effective and efficient.  I am very grateful for the education department for allowing me to attend this conference." 

Wright is a daughter of Mark and Becky Ann Wright and a graduate of Ford City High School.

Amanda Turi said, "With autism being an umbrella term for a wide range of different disorders it is hard to cover them and all the other disorders during class. Attending this conference allowed me to learn a great deal more about autism. When I am student teaching I will have students with this disorder, so I wanted to learn more about it so I can make the most out of my student teaching experience. I gathered information, resources, and helpful strategies on how to teach signs, sign language, and social sexual safety; and how to set up an autistic support classroom."

Turi continued, "The Westminster education program has prepared me for life beyond college with all the classroom experience, extra-curricular educational opportunities, and support from the professors who push us students to excel to our highest potential. With these three major components I believe that upon graduation we will be able to have our own classrooms and our students will excel in our classrooms."

Turi is a daughter of Bryon and Sandra Turi of Monroeville and a graduate of Gateway High School.

The other students who attended the conference include:

  • Shannon Grimm, a daughter of Theresa Grimm of Pittsburgh and a graduate of Baldwin High School.
  • Kayla Oliver, a daughter of Donald and Marci Oliver of New Kensington and a graduate of Leechburg Area High School.
  • Emily Scharf, a daughter of Joseph and Cynthia Lay Scharf of Pittsburgh and a graduate of Mount Lebanon High School.

Also attending from Westminster was Jane Dean, adjunct education faculty. She has been with Westminster since 2010.

The mission of the Department of Education at Westminster College is to prepare early childhood/special education and secondary teachers who are distinguished by their subject matter knowledge, interpersonal capacities, pedagogical skills, and professional attitudes.

The Department of Education seeks to create a community of learners in which stimulating and challenging expectations are addressed in a positive, caring, and encouraging environment which is respectful of all individuals. The faculty seeks to model the personal attributes and pedagogical practices which distinguish the teaching profession at its best.

The early childhood/special education is the major of students seeking certification to teach in the PreK-8 public school system. Westminster College's program is approved for Instructional I Certification by the Pennsylvania Department of Education.

Contact Camardese at 724-946-7183 or email for additional information.

(L-R): Emily Scharf; Amanda Turi; Christine Guerrini, autistic support teacher; Shannon Grimm; Jane Dean, Westminster adjunct faculty; Kayla Oliver; Sheryl Wright; and Amy Camardese, Westminster associate professor of education.