BU prof to share research on autism in education in public talk

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A Brandon University professor who is an international speaker on disability and inclusion will share her research on autism in education during a public talk this Thursday evening at the Brandon Public Library.

Dr. Patty Douglas received more than a quarter-million dollars in federal research funding to conduct the research, which is both international in scope as well as deeply personal and local.

“Over the past 15 years, the number of children and youth in the Manitoba education system who have attracted the label of autism has increased significantly,” said Dr. Douglas, an Assistant Professor in Education at BU who is also a former special education teacher and is the mom of a son who attracted the label of autism.

“While school systems grapple with the increase in children diagnosed with autism and work towards inclusion, people with autism are still more likely than their peers to experience inferior education, bullying, marginal employment, mental health struggles, and even premature death,” she said. “Deeper understanding and attention is required.”

To explore this vital issue, Dr. Douglas is leading a multi-site multimedia storytelling project called “Re•storying Autism in Education: Advancing the Cultures and Practices of Inclusion” which will expand knowledge about autistic students’ experiences of inclusion in public schools.

With $287,576 in funding over four years, thanks to an Insight Grant from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada, the project is interviewing, holding storytelling workshops and providing professional development opportunities and public events in Brandon, Toronto, and Sheffield in the United Kingdom with autistic people, educators, family members and other educational stakeholders.

In her talk on Thursday, Dr. Douglas will share short, first-person videos made on the project and discuss digital storytelling as a vehicle to more deeply understand the experience of autism in schools.

“This isn’t about sharing problem-saturated stories of autism. Instead, first-person videos made on the project by people with autism and their supporters help us understand how to value difference and enhance belonging and inclusion in schools,” she said. “The project aims to positively impact and advance the cultures and practices of inclusion for students with autism and their teachers, families and supporters.”

The talk is part of the Brandon University at the Public Library series, and will take place on Thursday, Jan. 16, starting at 7 p.m., at the Brandon Public Library Program Room, at 710 Rosser Ave., in the Town Centre. The talk is free, and refreshments are provided by Benny’s Restaurant.

To learn more about the full research project and how you can get involved, whether you are a person with autism, educator or family member, contact Dr. Patty Douglas at douglasp@brandonu.ca or check out some of the digital stories made during the pilot phase of the project at restoryingautism.com.


About Dr. Patty Douglas

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Dr. Patty Douglas

Dr. Patty Douglas is an Assistant Professor in the Faculty of Education at Brandon University and Principal Investigator of the Re-Storying Autism in Education project.

She is an international speaker on disability and inclusion who brings new views of autism and ways of working to classroom teachers and school system leaders. Dr. Douglas is a former special education teacher and mom of a son who attracted the label of autism. She is passionate about inclusive education and inspiring those that work with and care about people with disabilities to value — even desire — the difference of disability.

Dr. Douglas has published widely on inclusive education, autism and disability and is currently working on two books: Disability Studies in Education in Canada: Critical Conversations; and Autism: Ethical Disruptions and Care Pedagogies.



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