MSW Students Accepted to Autism Spectrum Disorders Interdisciplinary Training Program

Booy with Down Syndrome plays with therapist during a play therapy session.
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Nine UConn master’s students were accepted into a federally funded multidisciplinary training program on serving young children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and high intensity needs. The students represent Social Work, Speech and Language, and Special Education.

Preparing our future professionals: Interdisciplinary training to serve young children with Autism and high intensity needs is funded through the US Department of Education Office of Special Education Programs. The program prepares students to enter professional practice in a variety of inclusive early childhood settings, children and family’s homes, and community settings.

Alisha Sanders
Alisha Sanders
Caroline Karabeinikoff
Caroline Karabeinikoff
Julia Fitzpatrick
Julia Fitzpatrick

Cristina Wilson, Associate Professor of Social Work and Research Director at UConn Health, University Center for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities is the co-PI and “I am excited to have the opportunity to train MSW students alongside other disciplines allowing them to refine their skills and be prepared to go out and work in the best interests of families and children with Autism.  As social workers we often interface with other disciplines but have not trained formally with them.  This gives these students that opportunity over the course of a year.” Three social work students have been accepted to this training grant; Julia Fitzpatrick, Caroline Karabeinikoff, and Alisha Sanders.

Julia Fitzpatrick is excited to learn more about younger children on the Autism Spectrum. As part of her Bachelor’s degree, she interned at an after school program for children with disabilities and in an elementary school alongside the school social worker. Julia is hoping to “make an impact by advocating and creating opportunities for underserved populations to obtain needed services.”

Caroline Karabeinikoff is an advanced year student in the Individuals, Families and Groups concentration. She completed her first field placement in the Hartford Public Schools working with children from disadvantaged communities with and without diagnoses. Caroline hopes that the Interdisciplinary Master’s program will provide her with the “means to reflect upon her own practice while acquiring skills and knowledge needed to implement best practices in the field.”

Alisha Sanders is excited to join the training program to help achieve her professional goals of working with young children with special needs.  She hopes to work with young children diagnosed with high needs or ASD in programs similar to birth to 3 or within a school based setting.  Alisha strives to be a “positive support and guide for families as they navigate their service options while correctly identifying and connecting as many infants, toddlers and families to services that are best suited for them.”

Student scholars meet their own discipline’s master’s degree requirements and participate in interdisciplinary coursework, assignments and practicum. Each student has a ten hour Graduate Assistantship funded through UConn Health, will complete three classes: (1) family centered and culturally competent practice for young children with Autism, (2)assessment and intervention of infants and young children with Autism and evidence based practice, (3) teaming and collaboration across disciplines for infants and young children with Autism. Additionally, there is a two-year post-graduation service requirement that trainees work with infants, young children with disabilities, through the US Department of Education Office of Special Education Programs upon completion of the program.

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