Kristi Morin is passionate about autism research. When asked what drew her to the field, she repeats a well-known quote from advocate Stephen Shore: “If you’ve met one person with autism, you’ve met one person with autism.”
People with autism often have problems with social interaction, may exhibit restricted or repetitive behaviors or interests and have different ways of learning. But it’s the unique presentations that make it such a challenge for new educators to meet the specific needs of individuals with autism, said Morin, an assistant professor of special education.
That’s why Morin and her colleagues developed Project STAY, Supporting Teachers of Autism in Years 1-3. The four-year project will develop an induction program designed to meet the needs of new teachers working with autistic students in high-needs schools or districts.
In its first year, Morin and her assistants met with focus groups from four school districts and an education service agency that included new teachers, mentor teachers and district administrators. They talked about the support educators already receive and the additional support and training they need.
Now in its second year, Morin and her assistants are developing online modules to connect young teachers with mentors who can help with skills such as how to communicate appropriately, give feedback, develop independence and set goals.
In 2023, Morin hopes to launch a pilot program for a small group of new teachers and administrators to get feedback. By the fourth year, she hopes to roll it out to a larger group of school districts.