For Mattie Seamans ’18, autism and autism spectrum disorders (ASD) have long been topics that hit close to home. "I have a family member with ASD, and have always been interested in learning more. This summer, I wanted to explore potential career options that would give me an opportunity to learn more about autism and help people struggling with this disorder,” she said.
This summer, Seamans is interning at two organizations, the New England Center for Children (NECC) and the Lurie Center for Autism. Through her work at these institutions, she is experiencing autism from both an educational and clinical perspective. “I have done a lot of community service for people with disabilities, specifically autism, and I am considering a career in the field, whether it be through special education, or a different avenue,” Seamans said.
At the NECC, a nonprofit autism research and education center, Seamans works as a teacher for girls ages 16-21 who live in a residence provided by the NECC. By using Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) techniques, she creates an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) for each student. ABA is a teaching style developed at the NECC used specifically to help students with autism.
Seamans records her students’ performance in various programs, if they should move to higher or lower levels of difficulty, what forms of reinforcement they receive for positive behaviors, and more. To ensure that all students’ IEPs are accurately addressing their needs, Seamans teaches lessons that include reading, writing and math as well as everyday tasks such as shopping trips, and gym and swimming routines.
Concentration: biology and Hispanic studies
Hometown: Windham, N.Y.
High School: Windham High School
At the Lurie Center, Seamans is conducting research on Phelan McDermid Syndrome, a syndrome caused by a genetic abnormality that has not yet been studied very extensively. Seamans is working with a doctor to see patients and collect data relating to patients’ symptoms. She and the other members of the team are working on a paper which focuses specifically on electroencephalogram (EEG) test results of people with this syndrome, and clinical approaches to treatment.
Through her work at the NECC and the Lurie center, Seamans is connecting one-on-one with patients to support their emotional and physical health. Whether she ultimately ends up pursuing a career in either the neurological or clinical side of ASD, the work she has done at both organizations this summer have steered her to a promising start.