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  • Autism education specialists to host conference for parents and educators
    Third annual “Autism: Unlocking the Mystery” conference will be held Friday, Oct. 16.

    Rajesh KanaUniversity of Alabama at Birmingham faculty and alumni will present at the third annual “Autism: Unlocking the Mystery” conference Friday, Oct. 16, at the Worship Center Christian Church, 100 Derby Parkway. The conference will be held from 8 a.m.-3:15 p.m.

    Organized by the Autism Society of Alabama and Special Education Consultants and Conference Organizers, in collaboration with the Birmingham City Schools Special Education Department, the conference is designed for parents, general and special educators, para-educators, college students, and anyone else with a desire to learn about autism.

    “We are working to improve the collaborative relationship between parents and educators,” said Special Education Consultants and Conference Organizers member Cindy Nelson. “We want people to know there are resources and highly qualified autism spectrum disorder specialists right here in Alabama. With each conference, our hope is that we’re developing a network of parents, professionals and educators to address the unique needs of everyone who works or lives with children with ASD.”

    In 2013, the UAB School of Education offered the first education specialist degree in collaborative special education with a concentration in autism spectrum disorders in the state of Alabama. The program’s first cohort of students, including Nelson, went on to organize the inaugural “Autism: Unlocking the Mystery” conference in 2014. The Special Education Consultants and Conference Organizers group was founded by Nelson, and other School of Education alumni, with the day-to-day needs of parents and educators in mind. This year, the conference has expanded to Mobile, Alabama.

    Among this year’s presenters is Rajesh Kana, Ph.D., associate professor of psychology in the UAB College of Arts and Sciences and director of the Department of Psychology’s Cognition, Brain and Autism Laboratory. Kana will discuss targeting brain plasticity using intervention in children with ASD, the subject of a recent study where he found that 10 weeks of intensive reading intervention for children with autism spectrum disorder was enough to strengthen the activity of loosely connected areas of their brains that work together to comprehend reading.

    Other topics include practical interventions for home and school, how to identify giftedness in students with ASD, smart parenting for children with behavioral difficulties related to ASD, and litigation pitfalls for special and general education teachers.

  • UAB Center for Community OutReach Development takes summer science learning camp to Jamaica
    Instructors provide science enrichment for more than 170 students in Jamaica during three-week summer camp.

    Graduate student and CORD instructor Katie Busch with middle school students.A yearlong dream became a reality this summer for faculty and staff of UAB’s Center for Community OutReach Development. After 12 years of successful implementation of summer science camps and institutes in Birmingham, the group traveled to Jamaica in August to implement similar programs. The three-week summer science camp was the first of its kind for students and teachers in the island’s St. Lucea and Montego Bay areas.

    The team spent three weeks on the island, sharing science activities with more than 170 Jamaican students and teachers, marking the first time CORD programs have been implemented outside of the United States.

    “Both children and teachers were very receptive and eager to learn,” said Shirley Sanders-Ginwright, administrator and program director. “During the first week, we focused on teacher training to ensure that the programs will be sustainable. We also found that the educators were eager to learn new teaching strategies. We spent time discussing inquiry-based learning, claims, evidence, reasoning and other topics that would increase the professional development of the teachers.”

    With the theme “Partnering To Develop Promising Young Scientists Globally,” the camp targeted children ages 10-13, who attended at no cost. Students explored the roles of DNA, molecules and chemistry in everyday life.

    Students, teachers and camp instructors pose for a group photo on the last day of camp. The camp was hosted in partnership with Guna Muppuri, a medical doctor who relocated from Birmingham to Jamaica to expand his business in 2014. Muppuri’s son was a fifth-grade participant in one of CORD’s science camps. Following the family’s relocation, Sanders-Ginwright and Muppuri began having conversations about the need for science education in Jamaica and how they could implement similar science camps there.

    “In presenting these CORD camps, we hope to have inspired teachers and students by teaching modern science in a very hands-on and cost-effective way, using everyday materials, techniques and strategies,” said Sanders-Ginwright. “We hope to continue this work and look forward to returning.”

    The Center for Community OutReach Development was established in 1998 to advance UAB’s outreach efforts in the Birmingham community. CORD’s primary focus is advancing K-12 science education in the area and throughout the state and nation. The center develops programs to decrease the regional, racial and gender disparity in science, math and engineering. CORD offers hands-on, inquiry-based science experiences both during the school year and in more intensive summer programs. Students experience these programs at Birmingham-area schools, at CORD’s GENEius and LabWorks classrooms at the McWane Science Center, and in CORD’s laboratory classrooms at UAB.

  • UAB Holds Transgender Conference
    The University of Alabama at Birmingham recently conducted a conference designed to help their counseling and health staff better address the needs of transgender students.
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