Hi! I am Hafsah Tauseef, I am a senior here at UNC Chapel Hill majoring in Psychology with double minors in Arabic Cultures and Neuroscience. I have been so grateful to the Gil Internship program for providing me the opportunity to work for TEACCH. TEACCH is a community center that provides clinical, training and research needs to individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). I have the pleasure to working on research under the esteemed Dr. Mark Klinger, who is the director of research at TEACCH, on the LOST study. TEACCH began in the 1960’s, where some of the individuals with ASD came to seek support, TEACCH is still active today with seven centers across North Carolina. Over the years there has been a tremendous amount of research gathered on children with ASD, however very little is known about adults with ASD. What happened to them? How does the disorder progress? How is their quality of life? What kind of jobs do they hold? These questions remain largely unanswered. The LOST study hopes to find the individuals who were diagnosed with ASD in the 1960s, 70s, 80s and 90s and see where they are in their lives now. The study comes in two phases, in phase 1 participants will fill out a survey regarding aspects of their life (ie quality of life, vocational and recreational activities, family/friend relationships etc), in phase 2 a subset of these participants will be asked to come in for testing to assess the progression their disorder. Just recently, we have finished phase 1 of this study and now are moving into phase 2. The goal and mission of this study is to identify overall outcome of adults with ASD and eventually create appropriate services and support for these individuals.
As a Giller, I have thus far been working on collecting data from phase 1, specifically I am trying to see if there is a difference between individuals who completed the survey, who did no consent to participate and those who left it incomplete. This is to ensure that there is no underlying differences between these populations. Now as we move into phase 2, I just recently started working with a post-doc student Whitney Brooks on assessments. I have just started learning about the Adapted Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule (AADOS), which is a semi-structured observation scales used to assess social interaction, communication and play in people who might have ASD. Whitney ran the AADOS on me as practice, so that I can better understand why she uses some of the assessment she uses. I will now begin watching tapes of individuals who have ASD while the AADOS is being administered to compare the difference of an individual with ASD and one without.
Being part of the Gil internship program has been a huge opportunity, not only in terms of academic growth but also professional and personal growth as well. While textbooks and professors offer invaluable education, working hands on in a facility is a completely different experience. I have had the opportunity to see what it is really like to conduct research, the difficulty of getting participants, the grueling hours of data entry work, and above the joy of completing a huge part of the study. At TEACCH I feel like a lab member, where I contribute in conversations and ask questions when I do not understand. When I first started I felt a bit overwhelmed, I thought everyone was way more educated than me, seeing as everyone either has a PhD or working towards a PhD. Working on the AADOS has been my favorite part, especially because I love diagnostics and assessments. I hope to one day become a Clinical Psychologist and this experience tailors in perfectly. But its not only TEACCH that is providing me with opportunities. It is also my mentor Dr. Buzinski, the director of the Gil internship program. I am learning how to develop professionally, ie building my CV, networking, and communicating. Finally, personally I feel like this experience just further validates my feelings that I belong in this field. I believe that the Gil Internship took all the potential that I have and is refurbishing it so that I can be the best that I can be, and for that I am forever grateful.
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