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Syracuse psychology professor lauded for local autism research, service
Syracuse psychology professor lauded for local autism research, serviceApril 15, 2008Rob Enslinrmenslin@syr.edu
Laura Lee McIntyre, assistant professor of psychology and a senior scientist in the Center of Health and Behavior in Syracuse University’s College of Arts and Sciences, is the recipient of the 2008 Professional Excellence Award from Families for Effective Autism Treatment in Central New York (FEAT of CNY). McIntyre earned the award for her service to supporting and improving the lives of children with autism and their families. She was recognized at a special ceremony in April, which is National Autism Awareness Month.
Since joining the SU faculty in 2003, McIntyre has been active in the local autism community. One of her activities is the federally funded SU Parent Project, investigating the impact of family-focused intervention on child behavior problems, parenting stress, and preschool children with autism and other developmental disorders. “Her research program elegantly demonstrates that when parents of young children with developmental disabilities are given effective strategies to cope with challenging behaviors, their children experience fewer adjustment difficulties. In turn, parent stress levels are reduced,” says Barbara H. Fiese, professor and chair of SU’s psychology department.
McIntyre also initiated the Early Autism Project, funded in part by the Burton Blatt Institute at SU, focusing on child, family and environmental variables that are predictive of the identification of autism in upstate New York. This project and others often incorporate undergraduate and graduate students at SU, as well as community stakeholders, who conduct research and disseminate findings.
A community advisory board member for FEAT of CNY, McIntyre recently created the Autism Respite Internship Program with SU’s psychology department. “The respite program matches talented and dedicated undergraduate psychology students with families in need of support for their children with autism. As a result, students receive invaluable training,” says McIntyre, who participates in FEAT of CNY training sessions and monthly family meetings. FEAT of CNY also holds sibling play groups, book club events and “Dad’s Night Out” events.
“Professor McIntyre is Scholarship in Action,” Fiese says. “She saw a need in the community, where parents of children with autism had few resources to relieve the many challenges that she observed in her research. She did all this without the expectation of recognition, making this award even more fitting.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one in 150 people is diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD), characterized by deficits in communication, social relatedness and the presence of restricted or repetitive behaviors and interests. ASD, which includes pervasive developmental disorder and Asperger’s Syndrome, is more common in boys than girls; symptoms range from mild to severe.
McIntyre says that while the cause of ASD is unknown, it is likely influenced by genetics and possibly environmental risks. “There is no blood test for autism, and a diagnosis is made solely on clinical indicators. Thus, increasing autism awareness might provide for earlier identification and access to valuable interventions.”
Many local events are scheduled for National Autism Awareness Month, including an awareness walk at Rosamond Gifford Zoo on April 27. For more information about FEAT of CNY and other autism-related resources, visit http://featofcny.org and http://ongov.net/Health/PSEP.html.