Recently we caught up with Kaitlynn Penner, a doctoral student in the Department of Education with an emphasis in Special Education, Disability, and Risk studies. She earned a B.S. in Special Education from South Carolina State University in 2014 and a M.S. in Special Education with an emphasis in Autism Spectrum Disorders from Florida International University in 2016.
GGSE: What motivated you to pursue a doctorate and specifically in Special Education and Disability/Risk Studies?
Penner: I've always been one of those weird nerds who likes school so it made sense to continue my education as far as I could. Initially, I pursued a Ph.D. in Special Education, Disability, and Risk Studies to eventually work in international disability policy, increasing access to interventions for children with autism and other developmental disabilities in developing nations.
GGSE: From the description in your bio, your research interests include "the cultural relevance of interventions for children with [ASD], specifically in the area of parent education and treatment acceptability." Could you explain more about a parent's role in their child's treatment?
Penner: Interventions for children with autism relate to teaching behaviors that will increase their ability to get their wants and needs met, communicate and interact with others, and increase their overall independence. Parent participation and parent ability to implement these interventions with their children play a big role in the effectiveness of these interventions and their child's progress. If an intervention is not feasible for a family to use or is not accepted by the family, the results will be less significant, and underserved populations will continue to receive less effective interventions or none at all. Investigating the cultural relevance of these evidence-based treatments, modifying them as needed, and increasing treatment acceptability is a huge area of need in the field.
GGSE: I'm curious about the day-to-day life of a doctoral student in ED! Enlighten us!
Penner: My life is very busy during the school year. I spend a lot of my time in class, at work, writing (or procrastinating writing). I currently work at STAR of CA [which provides Psychological and ABA Services to children and families in home and community settings] and the Koegel Autism Center. Most of my time is spent providing interventions to children with autism and teaching these to parents and caregivers.
GGSE: Any hobbies or interests?
Penner: My hobbies include playing soccer and taking my puppy to the beach.