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Towson set to launch doctoral program in autism studies to further autism research

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BALTIMORE - Towson University is leading the way in the field of autism research with a new interdisciplinary doctoral program in autism studies.

This program is the first of its kind in Maryland and one of very few in the country.

It's designed to approach autism from a variety of different angles, so students with backgrounds ranging from sociology to speech pathology to education are welcome to apply. 

Dr. Kaitlyn Wilson, Department Chair of Speech Language Pathology and Audiology at Towson developed the new interdisciplinary doctoral program.

Students will be able to learn from experts in a variety of fields and conduct world-class research on autism and neurodiversity.

"To answer questions, to develop supports and to help people contribute to the field in ways that they think are meaningful," Dr. Wilson said.

Students in the program will have access to Towson's Hussman Center for Adults with Autism, which provides programming, education and resources for adults with autism. 

 "What better way to learn about autism than to interact with autistic individuals themselves," said Doug DeHaan, Director of the Hussman Center.

Dr. Wilson said the program has a lot of interest so far.

She's looking to start with at least seven students for the first year.

Emma Shipley, a speech language pathologist at Towson's Speech and Language Center as well as an adjunct instructor on campus, said she already applied for the program. 

"There's a lot still to discover about autism and I think that the nature of this program, being collaborative with the autistic individuals, is extremely important to me as a clinician and to the autistic community as well," Shipley said, 

The program allows students to conduct research based on their own interests and faculty expertise. 

Shipley specializes in communication and says she wants to see how improv and theater could help people on the spectrum with communication skills. 

DeHaan said the research that will come out of this program will be invaluable to people on the spectrum and society as a whole. 

"I hope it touches clinics," DeHaan said. "I hope it touches school systems. I hope it touches families."

Any student with a Master's Degree in a relevant field can apply for the program starting this Fall.

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