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Graduate student lauded for her work with autism

December 10, 2010

Named a Channel 12 Hero Central for her community work with autism, Shantel Meek is on a quest to improve the quality of life for children with autism and their families.

The number of children with autism is growing and it is increasingly common for them to be included in general education classrooms, says Meek. As she strives to learn how children with autism can be more successful in school and improve their social skills, Meek has employed both research and practical experience in the community.

“I have studied parent-child interactions and how these can foster skills important for peer relations,” she says. “I have also implemented a number of interventions targeting social development, language growth and behavior modification in local elementary schools as well as in home environments.”  

Although Meek had always been interested in the field of childhood development, she began to focus on autism in particular while working at the Southwest Autism and Research and Resource Center (SARRC).

“We need further research in how to improve language and social development for these children so as to meet their needs and optimize their learning experiences and life,” says Meek.

A concern for all children developing outside the mainstream led Meek to begin a child literacy project for homeless youth in a local family center. She established a teen library and incorporated an incentive program for teens to earn points and prizes for reading and improving their school grades.

Meek was the recipient of the Graduate College Reach for the Stars Fellowship during her first year as a graduate student. As Meek receives her Master of Science in Family and Human Development, she will continue at ASU on her path to a doctorate degree. She has special thanks to her mentor Laudan Jahromi at the School of Social and Family Dynamics in ASU's College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. “She has supported and guided me through this process thus far.”

Meek is the first member of her family to receive an advanced degree. “I am celebrating today for my family who has been my support every step of the way,” says Meek. “It’s been a challenging first two years, full of stress and long hours, but there was never a doubt in my mind that this goal was attainable.”

Michele St. George
Graduate College
(480) 965-5995