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Autism Delaware awarded the Daniel and Lois Gray Memorial Scholarship to three UD students, to help them become a professional in the autism community. Each recipient will receive a $1,000 scholarship for the 2012–13 academic year:

Allison Heimler, Class of 2014, is majoring in elementary teacher education. She discovered during one of her first student-teaching sessions that she wants to combine her education with research to find more effective ways to communicate with students with disabilities. “I hope to find novel ways of teaching [students with disabilities] so that they learn the appropriate statewide curriculum to the same degree as students [without disabilities].”  Heimler is working with Stepping Stones Independent Study Research, focusing on the use of a computerized tool as a means of enhanced communication between teacher and student.

Stephen Kanefsky, Class of 2015, is majoring in elementary teacher education with a concentration in special education. Kanefsky has two older brothers with autism. “Throughout my entire life, I have helped teach [my brothers] conversational skills, life skills, and proper behaviors. . . . I understand that education for people with autism needs to be individually planned, specialized, intensive, goal-directed, research-based, and guided by student performance. The right kind of teacher must have a big heart, a strong desire to help people achieve, and a lot of determination. I feel as though I am more than ready to be that teacher.”

Elizabeth Watson, Class of 2013, is majoring in cognitive science and psychology and minoring in disability studies as well as working to put herself through college and graduate school. “My experience working as a part-time assistant preschool teacher while studying at UD has increased my knowledge about this age group and showed me the importance of early intervention for children with disabilities or developmental delays. For children with autism, early diagnosis and treatment are critical to providing the best opportunity for the child to reach his or her full potential. As a speech language pathologist, I plan to help young children develop their language abilities to maximize their ability to communicate.”

About the Gray Memorial Scholarship

The scholarship was created in memory of Daniel and Lois Gray, to support the aspirations of talented UD students who plan a career in teaching or other professional service to children with autism spectrum disorders (ASDs), such as psychologist or speech pathologist.

To be eligible for the scholarship, a student must be matriculated full time at UD as an undergraduate or graduate student; major in special education, psychology, linguistics, or speech pathology; plan on becoming a teacher or other professional in the autism community; and maintain a cumulative grade point average of at least 3.0.

Autism Delaware is a nonprofit organization made up of individuals with autism spectrum disorders, their family members, the professionals who serve them, and friends of people with ASDs.