Sarah E. Smith, a doctoral student at the Gevirtz School at UC Santa Barbara, has been awarded a Philip & Aida Siff Educational Foundation Fellowship for the 2010-2011 academic year. In the letter announcing the $7500 award, the Foundation wrote, “You are to be commended for your academic achievements to date and your obvious dedication to the achievement of a higher education. We trust that the Fellowship awarded will allow you to pursue your graduate education with additional enthusiasm.”
The Siff Foundation, based in Santa Barbara, supports doctoral students researching the education of individuals with developmental disabilities.
Smith is currently a 3rd year doctoral student at UCSB in the Special Education, Disabilities and Risk Studies Emphasis. Smith also completed her special education teaching credential, moderate – severe level, at UCSB in 2008. To date, her research has focused on the implementation of peer awareness trainings, centered on autism spectrum disorders (ASD) in community-based settings. Specifically, she has compiled a 6-week multi-component, child-specific autism awareness training geared toward educating “typically developing” peers about the symptoms, characteristics and inclusion of peers with ASD. The training has been modified and used for elementary through high school aged students. Sarah has been invited to present her research at a number of national conferences including 2010’s annual Autism Society of America Conference, National Tash Conference, National Individuals with Autism and Other Developmental Disabilities Conference, as well as this year’s annual UC SPEDDR conference and Cal TASH conference.
Smith’s dissertation study will be looking at factors that may influence parent fidelity ratings in response to parent training methodologies across cultures. As a result of her firsthand work with families from various cultural backgrounds as a behavioral therapist and ABA supervisor, she has noticed differences in the way parents respond to in-home parent training. Sarah’s study will look at whether a collaborative versus a directive model of parent training will be more effective in 1st generation Mexican families compared to American families. Sarah hopes to carry out a larger study in the future, in which she incorporates parents of more diverse backgrounds. Sarah is confident that this research will aide in agencies and schools being able to better serve families from various cultural backgrounds in the future.
Raised in Perris, CA, Smith has a 13-year old sister with autism and generalized anxiety disorder. She dedicates all that she does to her sister.
“I am nothing short of deeply honored and truly humbled to have even been nominated among such impressive colleagues for this award,” Smith says. “I am so grateful and am looking forward to continuing on with my education and research in the next year. I hope that my work continues to inspire and help as many people as possible.”
[Sarah Smith is available for interviews; contact George Yatchisin at 805 893 5789]
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