McKay School in the News
With his hands covered in pudding, Brigham Young University President Kevin J Worthen turned to the preschooler next to him and asked, “Are you having fun?”
Along with McKay School of Education Dean Mary Anne Prater and BYU Teacher Education Department Chair Michael Tunnell, Worthen participated in a statewide finger painting challenge as part of the Week of the Young Child, an annual celebration of young learners. They painted side by side with preschoolers from the BYU Child and Family Studies Laboratory Tuesday morning.
“It was a lot of fun,” Worthen said. “It isn’t often I get to finger paint and have it be part of the job.”
Before the finger painting began, Worthen read White Rabbit’s Color Book to the preschool class. He engaged the children by having them guess what color the rabbit would become.
“I love that story,” one preschooler said.
The children rotated through five finger painting activities: painting with pudding, painting with gel paint, light painting, painting on an easel, and painting with paint-filled ice cubes. The ice cubes were a favorite for many.
“It was cold,” Worthen said. “It was fun because you could see how the colors would mix together as the ice cubes melted.”
Mixing colors together was one of the reasons Worthen took some time to come finger painting, but the the chance to recognize the work of the BYU Child and Family Studies Lab and the importance of education for young children was the bigger reason.
“It’s important to teach children while they are very young,” said Worthen. “Teaching teachers to know how to work with young children is an important part of BYU’s mission. Having a program where our students are actually teaching kids makes it much more meaningful for our students. Then they will be prepared as they go out and teach in the community.”
Before Worthen, Prater and Tunnell left, the preschoolers thanked them for coming.
“We had a lot of fun doing that,” one preschooler said.
The Week of the Young Child is sponsored by the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC). This year the Utah System of Higher Education Early Childhood Committee and the Utah division of NAEYC have collaborated to raise awareness of the importance of “celebrating our youngest learners,” which is the theme for this year’s Week of the Young Child.
“I enjoy those kinds of activities because they provide a learning opportunity,” Prater said. “I talked to the kids about what colors they were using and what shapes they were making. I asked them if they could write the first letter of their name. One girl at the end said, ‘This was so fun,’ and that made it all worthwhile.”
The challenge kicked off on March 28, 2015 at the annual Utah Early Childhood Conference, when author Richard Paul Evans challenged Utah Governor Gary Herbert and the president of Weber State University, Charles A. Wight, to finger paint with a young child. Wight then challenged all university presidents across the state of Utah as well as deans of the colleges of the education to accept the challenge.
University presidents statewide have accepted the finger painting challenge. David W. Pershing, president of the University of Utah, specifically challenged Worthen on Monday, April 13.
The Utah Association for the Education of Young Children hopes to have more than 25,000 leaders and citizens join the finger painting challenge to call attention to the importance of educating young children.
To see more pictures from the event, see our gallery.
Writer: Lindsey Williams
Contact: Cynthia Glad (801) 422-1922
Congratulations to Richard Sudweeks, director of the McKay School of Education’s Educational Inquiry, Measurement, and Evaluation PhD program. He was recognized with the Distinguished Service Award from the Utah Academy of Sciences, Arts, & Letters at their annual conference Friday, March 27, 2015.
Sudweeks is the first BYU professor to win the award since 2008. According to the academy, the award honors individuals for their exceptional service to education in Utah. Recipients are typically academics whose efforts and contributions are beyond the normal expectations of their positions.
As the rate of children with autism in the U.S. continues to grow, a new study published today in top-ranked journal Pediatrics shows that medical professionals can’t rely solely on their clinical judgment to detect autism risk.
The study finds that 10-20-minute observations, such as a pediatric exam, don’t provide enough information about symptoms associated with autism. Within that short window, many children with autism display mostly typical behavior and may fail to receive a referral for further autism testing, even if a few autism symptoms are noticed.
“One of the biggest problems with early identification of autism is that many children aren’t identified until they reach the school system,” said the study’s lead author and BYU assistant professor Terisa Gabrielsen. “This means that they have missed out on some prime years for intervention that can change a child’s outcome.”
Last year the CDC released a report stating that 1 in 68 U.S. children has an autism spectrum disorder (ASD). That’s a 30 percent increase from 1 in 88 from two years earlier. These increases mean an increased demand for autism referral decisions.
The study in Pediatrics looked at children 15-33 months old, with autism experts analyzing 10-minute videos of the children’s behaviors during evaluation in a clinical setting. Children with autism, speech delays and typical children were included. The researchers wanted to document the ratio of typical behaviors vs. atypical behaviors exhibited and the corresponding referral decisions based on the observations. They found that within the brief timeframe of 10 minutes, children with autism exhibited much more typical behavior than atypical behavior overall, making it easy for clinicians to miss detecting autism risk. In the study, even the experts who reviewed the videos missed referrals for 39 percent of the children with autism, based on the brief observation alone.
“It’s often not the pediatrician’s fault that referrals are missed,” Gabrielsen said. “Even autism experts missed a high percentage of referrals within that short timeframe.
Decisions for referral need to be based on more information, including autism screening and information from parents. We’re hoping that this information can really empower parents to talk with pediatric care providers about their concerns.”
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends formal screening for autism at 18 and 24 months, but universal screening has not been fully adopted in pediatric primary care. The screening tools are also available for parents. These simple, standard tools for autism screening, such as the M-CHAT-R checklist and the CDC’s Learn the Signs. Act Early campaign, are not perfect, but they are freely available, and can help parents learn what to look for as their child develops.
“Certainly, some young children with autism are clearly impaired and easy to recognize,” said one of the other authors on the study Judith Miller. “However, this study looked at the entire range of children who present to the pediatrician’s office, and we found that many children’s impairments are not immediately obvious. For those children, formalized screening instruments and more time with a specialist may be critical.”
Gabrielsen, an assistant professor in BYU’s Counseling Psychology & Special Education department, and Miller, who is now at the Center for Autism Research at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, worked on the study with four other researchers. There were both school and clinical psychologists on the research team, and they worked in partnership with a large, independent community pediatrics clinic. The research began as a core group of autism experts at the University of Utah. The researchers are now affiliated with BYU; the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia; the University of Wisconson-Madison’s Waisman Center; Cleveland Clinic Children’s; University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, Asheville; and Tulane University.
The University of Utah Department of Pediatrics and the Centers for Disease Control contributed funding for the research. Granger Medical Pediatrics and Wee Care Pediatrics were two clinics who assisted in the study.
Although there are still many unknowns about autism, one thing researchers do know is that early intervention makes a difference. If autism can be identified in the toddler years, intervention can begin while the brain is still rapidly developing and outcomes can change. A more comprehensive screening process, with parents and care providers working together, can have a great impact.
“Parents see their children at their very best and very worst,” Gabrielsen said. “They’re the experts for their children. They can be educated about signs and symptoms, and need to help their care providers by speaking up if there’s a problem and being involved in referral decisions.”
In the United States, child sexual abuse is reported almost 90,000 times a year, but the numbers of unreported incidents of abuse is far greater because so many of the children are afraid to tell anyone what has happened, according to the 2000 Bureau of Justice Statistics. Dr. Lane Fischer, faculty member in the Department of Counseling Psychology & Special Education of the McKay School, and his Affinity research team are researching ways to prevent sex offenders from working with children in schools.
Fischer began researching the psychometric properties of existing tests of sexual interests in 1997. He and the students on his research team have conducted seven studies using a new instrument, the Affinity, which may have utility in the screening and selection of elementary school teachers. The current Affinity team consists of doctoral students, Joy Wiechmann, Heather Stephenson, Rod Veas, and Sierra Baird with undergraduates Zach Featherstone and Nick Norman.
Some research suggests that between kindergarten and high school graduation 25 percent of students experience a hands-on sexual offense by a teacher, coach, or administrator in schools. A more conservative estimate from research is 7 percent.
“That is still 7 out of 100,” said Fischer. “That’s a lot.” According to Fischer, Many sex offenders have multiple victims, so it is difficult to know how many teachers, coaches, or administrators in the schools are actually offending against children.
" We are trying to help. We are not on a witch hunt." The goal of Fischer’s team is to develop techniques to screen those applying for employment in elementary and residential schools for the potential to offend against children. If research can validate the patterns that indicate that a prospective employee is, or has the potential to become a sex offender, school districts may be able to prevent that person from having access to children in schools. “We are trying to help — we are not on a witch hunt,” said Fischer.
The team may shortly conduct research in the Colorado and Utah Departments of Corrections to test known sex offenders and pedophiles. This may validate Fischer’s norm-referenced approach to screening and diagnosis of sex offenders.
“We face a significant challenge to protect the civil rights of prospective employees while at the same time protecting the safety of children in the schools,” said Fischer. “It is undetermined at this point whether we can actually accomplish our goal, but when we consider the amount of suffering incurred by sexual offenses, we are motivated to continue our work.”
The following facts about sexual abuse of children are given by The National Center for Victims of Crime:
A sex offender can be described as having unrestrained sexuality that is not about relationships.
In contrast, pedophiles, have an exclusive attraction to little children and build a relationship with them.
It is estimated that 1 in 4 girls and 1 in 6 boys will have experienced sexual abuse while younger than 18 years.
Most children are abused by someone they know and trust; 50 percent of offenders were acquaintances or friends.
Considering all sexual assaults reported, 67 percent of victims are under the age of 18 years.
A simple college tailgate party honoring alumni from the McKay School of Education has grown into a homecoming pre-game tradition for some families.
The lunch took place on Saturday afternoon, outside the BYU conference center. The McKay School awarded raffle prizes to alumni and their families, and to document the event, a photographer was available at the lunch to take portraits of the guests.
McKay School faculty member Barbara Cullata released a free reading app in the spring to help children learn to read. The app recently received a very positive review from Early Reading and was named Early Reading's Good App of the Day.
Read the review at SmartAppsForKids.com.