Discover Texas Tech: Burkhart Center For Autism Education And Research

>> Allison Hirth, Reporting: IN THE US

, AUTISM AFFECTS 1-IN-68 KIDS IN TEXAS, ABOUT 60,000 PUBLIC SCHOOL STUDENTS HAVE BEEN DIAGNOSED THAT'S WHY THE BURKHART CENTER FOR AUTISM EDUCATION AND RESEARCH MATTERS >> Wes Dotson, Director: In this one building, we really integrate all three of the University and Center missions, which are teaching, research and services >> Allison Hirth: THE BURKHART CENTER OPENED IN OCTOBER 2005

TODAY, MORE THAN 100 CLIENTS WALK THROUGH THESE DOORS EVERY MONTH, TAKING ADVANTAGE OF SERVICES BASED ON THE PRINCIPLES OF APPLIED BEHAVIOR ANALYSIS >> Wes Dotson: It's a field of psychology dedicated to understanding the environmental influences on behavior, and what we can do to create supportive and positive environments for the people we serve Our outpatient clinic is the ABA-focused wing of what we do, and we have a number of different services there that we offer Most important is our focused ABA services– that's up to 30 hours a month of intensive one-on-one therapy for children with autism, aged 3 to 15 >> Allison Hirth: THERE ARE ALSO SOCIAL SKILLS CLASSES AVAILABLE TO ELEMENTARY, MIDDLE AND HIGH SCHOOL STUDENTS

>> Wes Dotson: Over 75% of clients we serve are from rural, low-income or minority families So, we're touching the lives of people who often don't have the financial means or resources to help their kids in other ways >> Allison Hirth: AND FOR THOSE WITH AUTISM, AGES 18 TO 30, FINDING EMPLOYMENT IS POSSIBLE THAT'S WHERE THE BURKHART TRANSITION ACADEMY COMES IN >> Janice Magness, Transition Academy Director: Our students typically, when they come to us, need things beyond academics

>> Allison Hirth: JANICE MAGNESS OVERSEES THE PROGRAM, WHICH TEACHES YOUNG ADULTS VALUABLE LIFE SKILLS LIKE HOW TO USE A DEBIT CARD OR EVEN SCHEDULE A DOCTOR'S APPOINTMENT THE FOCUS, THOUGH, IS ON FINDING THEM A PERMANENT PAYCHECK >> Janice Magness: We try to match them up with a job they would like, and we have at least three internships in their time here >> Allison Hirth: WHAT THE TRANSITION ACADEMY TEAM IS DOING WORKS 93% OF STUDENTS IN THE PROGRAM NOT ONLY GET JOBS BUT KEEP THEM

THE CASE PROGRAM SEES SIMILAR SUCCESS CONNECTIONS FOR ACADEMIC SUCCESS AND EMPLOYMENT IS FEDERALLY FUNDED– HELPING COLLEGE STUDENTS GET PLUGGED IN WHILE ON CAMPUS >> DeAnn Lechtenberger, CASE: They really want to be here but they know they need extra help, and they're nervous or anxious that mom and dad are going to drive off and then, 'Who do I ask for help?' >> Allison Hirth: WITH A HIGH RETENTION RATE AND AN AVERAGE GPA

OF 30, CASE PROVIDES AN INDIVIDUALIZED APPROACH TO HELPING ITS STUDENTS >> DeAnn Lechtenberger: We may think they need to work on calculus and they may say to us, 'No, I don't have any friends, and I really came to college to have a do-over and be able to learn to make friends, learn to be able to talk and express myself and get to know who I am and not what people tell me I am' >> Allison Hirth: DIRECTOR DEANN LECHTENBERGER SAYS SEEING HER STAFF BECOME THAT SAFETY NET FOR STUDENTS IS SATISFYING >> DeAnn Lechtenberger: You change people's lives and you change their family's life, and we get to see that every day

And that's the best part >> Allison Hirth: PART OF THE BURKHART CENTER'S MISSION IS EDUCATION AND TRAINING TAKE THE TEACHER TRAINING INSTITUTE, FOR EXAMPLE IT TEACHES EDUCATORS IN RURAL AND UNDERSERVED DISTRICTS HOW TO BEST WORK WITH AUTISTIC STUDENTS THE BURKHART CENTER IS ALSO HOME TO ONE OF THE ONLY GRADUATE PROGRAMS IN THE COUNTRY (THAT'S) SOLELY FOCUSED ON PREPARING EDUCATIONAL PROFESSIONALS TO WORK WITH STUDENTS ON THE SPECTRUM

>> Wes Dotson: We have over a dozen different clinical services in the building, and the overwhelming majority of them are staffed by either graduate or undergraduate students who are learning to work successfully in autism >> Allison Hirth: RESEARCH IS REQUIRED TO IMPROVE THE LIVES OF THOSE WITH AUTISM AND TO DETERMINE HOW TO BEST TRAIN TEACHERS >> Wes Dotson: We maintain partnerships with a number of folks across the university, in nearly every College including the Health Sciences Center, to help us do that >> Allison Hirth: FROM THERAPY DOGS TO EYE-TRACKING (AND) EVEN THEATER AND DANCE, THE BURKHART CENTER IS PART OF SEVERAL CUTTING-EDGE STUDIES ON HOW TO TREAT AND IDENTIFY THE DEVELOPMENTAL DISORDER AND BECAUSE OF THE SHARED COMMITMENT TO ITS MISSION– SERVICES, TRAINING AND RESEARCH– TEXAS TECH'S BURKHART CENTER IS MAKING A REAL IMPACT

>> Allison Hirth: How many lives do you think the Burkhart Center has touched since it's opened? >> Wes Dotson: Oh, what a hard question but a wonderful one to think about I like to believe it's in the thousands, and I know the community turnout and support that we enjoy sure indicates for having a difference

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