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ORONO — The University of Maine College of Education and Human Development has named Cathy Pratt, director of the Indiana Resource Center for Autism at Indiana University’s Indiana Institute on Disability and Community, as the Mark R. Shibles Distinguished Visiting Professor for the spring and fall semesters of 2011.
A board-certified behavior analyst, past board chair of the Autism Society of America (ASA), and co-author of teacher preparation standards for the Council for Exceptional Children, Pratt will work with the special education faculty from the University of Maine and with faculty from other University of Maine System universities who prepare teachers to work with students with autism. She will provide training on infusing autism content into their curriculum and on identifying evidence-based strategies and solutions to the growing number of students identified with autistic spectrum disorders.
Recipients of the annual appointment, which is named for Mark R. Shibles, dean of the college from 1947-1971, are recognized experts in various fields of education and serve as consultants to the college in its statewide work to provide professional teaching and leadership training, applicable research and direct services to Maine schools and communities. Renowned for their scholarship and research, Shibles professors bring intellectual and professional stimulation to students and faculty and provide a national perspective and expertise. They have contributed to the college’s efforts in areas such as aspirations, educational leadership, human intelligence and motivation, and the implication of school restructuring for teacher preparation and professional development.
“I am honored to have been selected as the Shibles Professor and to be among the incredibly talented group of individuals from various disciplines who have previously been given the award,” Pratt says.
Currently serving on numerous advisory boards, Pratt has been honored by the Autism Society of America with the Individual Achievement Award. She received the Distinguished Service Award from the Indiana Council of Administrators of Special Education in 2008 and the Princeton Fellowship Award in 2005, as well as other awards through NYFAC (New York Families for Autistic Children, Inc.), including recognition from the U.S. House of Representatives, the New York State Senate, and the New York City Council. Professor Pratt has written articles and gives presentations on topics including autism spectrum disorders, behavior assessments, instructional approaches, systems change, and policy. With a doctoral degree in special education from Indiana University, Pratt has a master’s degree in special education from the University of Illinois and a bachelor’s degree in special education from Indiana University. She has worked as a classroom teacher for students across the autism spectrum and with other disabilities.
College of Education and Human Development Professor of Special Education Walter Harris, who helped facilitate Professor Pratt’s appointment, says the university was interested in learning how to better prepare special education personnel to work effectively with children with autism, especially since the rate of autism has increased 111 percent since 2004.
“We’re looking at an increased need for trained personnel who can apply a variety of evidence-based practices to the unique needs of children with autistic spectrum disorders. With Prof. Pratt’s experience and national perspective we will assess what we’re doing and how we can improve,” he says.
Pratt also will serve as a guest speaker at numerous events, including at the June meeting of the Maine Association of Administrators of Special Education, he said.