DeeAnna Oliveira

College Resource Officer
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Matthews Hall 117-U

Alumna Kristin Farmer honored by Heart of Autism

Kristin Farmer
(’95 M.Ed.), founder of ACES and benefactor of the UNT Kristin Farmer Autism Center, established in 2012, has received the 2016 Distinguished Service Award from Dallas-area nonprofit organization Heart of Autism. The award will be presented at the Heart of Autism Masquerade Ball Sept. 17 at the Eldorado Country Club in McKinney.

“I am thrilled to receive this honor from Heart of Autism, an organization that shares my passion for helping children and adults on the spectrum live fuller lives,” Farmer said.

Heart of Autism started as a small, grass-roots fundraising group organized by Dallas real estate professional and mom Nika Arastoupour, whose son, Mazy, was diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder at the age of 2 in 2012. Arastoupour quickly realized that therapy was expensive, and she wanted to do something to help underprivileged families that could not afford autism services. She also wanted to help fund research into ASD – like the research she saw firsthand when her son received treatment at the UNT Kristin Farmer Autism Center in Denton.

Since its inception in 2013, Heart of Autism has raised more than $70,000. Last year, the organization, which had been focused exclusively on children with ASD, added adult services as part of its mission, which includes therapy as well as job placement assistance.

Farmer graduated from UNT in 1995 and began working with children with ASD in the Virginia Beach public school system. She was soon recognized as an expert in the region for other teachers on how to work with children with autism. After relocating to San Diego, Farmer began her own company providing behavioral intervention services. Today her company, ACES, employs more than 1,000 people and offers multidisciplinary services to individuals with autism across the United States. Farmer is involved with the Young Presidents Organization (YPO), Chi Omega and Girl Scouts. She is a UNT Distinguished Alumna (2010), sponsor of the UNT Art+Autism events held in April, and a member of the UNT Founders Circle.

For more information about the UNT Kristin Farmer Autism Center, visit For more information about Heart of Autism, contact Nika Arastoupour at or visit

KHPR chair expanding global impact through leadership and research activities

John Nauright, chair and professor of the UNT Department of Kinesiology, Health Promotion and Recreation, has been appointed as inaugural vice president of the World Leisure Sports Association. He will also be the keynote speaker at the organization’s inaugural meetings and conference in Macao in March 2017.

The World Leisure Sports Association is a non-governmental international association established to spread the cultures of leisure sports and to build the leisure sports industry by strengthening international leisure cooperation, which promotes development of leisure sports and the sports tourism industry around the world. An international group of scholars and academic officials from the United States, China, United Kingdom, France, South Korea and beyond have been invited to lead the organization in its research on, and promotion of, leisure sports tourism activities around the world.

The appointment is just one of Nauright’s many international partnerships and speaking engagements.

He was recently named to the Scientific Committee for the World Conference on Science and Football, coming up this spring in Rennes, France. He will also be a featured speaker at the World Ice Hockey Forum in Moscow December 15-17, an event co-hosted by the International Ice Hockey Federation and the Russian Ice Hockey Federation. His talk will examine the growth of ice hockey in new environments with a focus on the Dallas Stars and the growth of hockey in Texas.

Nauright has also been named to the editorial board of the International Journal of Sport Policy and Politics and is in the process of producing a new academic journal, SportsWorld: The Journal of Global Sport. It will launch as a special issue of Sport in Society then as a stand-alone journal in 2017 and will be published by Taylor and Francis, the leading academic publisher globally, and co-edited by Nauright and new KHPR faculty member Steven W. Pope. The journal will be housed at UNT with a world-class global editorial board, Nauright said. 

He has also been named a collaborating research fellow of the Center for Responsible Travel in Washington, D.C., with whom he recently published a study on the impact of climate change on golf tourism in the Caribbean. 

Finally, Nauright has been invited to deliver a keynote address on “Sport and Fitness in the 21st Century City” at the third International Conference on Sports Medicine and Fitness to be held in Barcelona in May 2017.

UNT’s Adventures in Autism Conference unites professionals, parents

Guests and presenters at the conference included guest speaker Paul Collins (second from left); Keturi Beatty, director of development for the UNT College of Education (center in stripes); Smita Mehta, UNT professor of Educational Psychology (center in black and white); Kristin Farmer, UNT College of Education graduate, founder of ACES (Comprehensive Educational Services Inc.) and benefactor of the UNT Kristin Farmer Autism Center (back row, behind Mehta); Bertina Combes, interim dean of the UNT College of Education (third from right); Kevin Callahan, executive director of KFAC; and Miriam Boesch, UNT assistant professor of Educational Psychology.


By Raquel Talamantes

More than 200 teachers, parents and clinicians ready to learn about new developments and methods in the Autism Spectrum Disorder community gathered at UNT July 30 for the 2016 Adventures in Autism Intervention and Research Conference, organized by the UNT Kristin Farmer Autism Center.

Bertina Combes, the UNT College of Education’s interim dean, said the university has the expertise and passion needed to make the conference relevant and successful every year. Combes said UNT has also historically responded to the needs of the community.

Smita Mehta, UNT professor of Educational Psychology, leaqds a seminar at the conference.

“I think the increasing number of individuals who have ASD creates a need to examine it more closely, and to investigate not only identification, assessment and intervention strategies, but also ways to support families of individuals with autism with the long-term goal of seamless integration into society,” Combes said. “I think as an institution, one of the oldest and largest in the stat

e founded to prepare teachers, we have a responsibility to the North Texas area to provide quality training for those working with individuals with autism, whether it be through education or through community services. It is our duty and responsibility to be sure that we provide quality training to the individuals and professionals who are going to be providing direct services to kids with autism.”

College professors, researchers and clinicians gathered from across the country to give presentations about what’s new in ASD research and intervention.

Conference speakers this year included Connie Kasari, professor of human development and psychiatry at the University of California; Smita Mehta, professor in the Department of Educational Psychology at UNT; CJ Conard, BCBA-D at Autism Comprehensive Education Services; Lauren Mathews, senior lecturer in Speech Language Pathology at UNT; Paul Collins, professor in the Department of English at Portland State University; and many others.

Kristin Farmer, a UNT College of Education graduate, founder of ACES (Comprehensive Educational Services Inc.) and benefactor of the UNT Kristin Farmer Autism Center, said she hopes conference attendees were reminded of the importance of research and of helping those affected by ASD — particularly the population that is more severely impacted by the disorder — lead fuller lives.

“I’m hoping that people will gain new knowledge of how to treat autism and gain new ideas or even be reminded of the i
mportance of serving the entire population of autism, from high-functioning to those who are more impacted,” she said.

Kevin Callahan, executive director of the UNT Kristin Farmer Autism Center, said the conference provides hope for changing lives and making a difference in the futures of families. And Mathews said it unites autism professionals in a meaningful way.

“Interdisciplinary work is so important in this field, and this conference brings together nearly every kind of professional who works with people with autism,” she said. “I just think that’s fantastic. It takes a group to really holistically work with someone with autism, and I feel like this conference embodies that.”

Robert H. Voelkel, Jr.

Assistant Professor, Teacher Education and Administration
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Matthews Hall 218-V

TE&A Doctoral Student Orientation

Saturday, August 27, 2016 - 5:00pm to 9:00pm

flyerBusiness Leadership Building 250/260

The faculty of Teacher Education and Administration welcomes doctoral students in Curriculum & Instruction and the Buchholz Doctoral Program in Education Leadership. Lunch will be served at 12pm.

COE experts receive $250,000 grant to expand autism services statewide

The University of North Texas Kristin Farmer Autism Center and the UNT-based Texas Home Instruction for Parents of Preschool Youngsters (HIPPY) program recently received a $250,000 grant from the state to provide in-home training and support to families that have a child with Autism Spectrum Disorder. The new A+HIPPY program, the first of its kind in Texas, will help bring UNT’s evidence-based autism intervention practices to low-income families across the state, including rural areas that often have limited or no access to autism services.

“Texas has one of the highest percentages of children with ASD in the nation, and there is a huge demand for services,” said Kevin Callahan, executive director of the UNT Kristin Farmer Autism Center. “When you look at the number of children the state has served in other autism programs, the numbers are relatively small. This new program will serve 100 families by the end of this first year. So it’s already rapidly advancing the number of children being served.”

HIPPY is an international program that sends trained home visitors, often parent-alumni of the HIPPY program themselves, into the community to meet with educationally underserved parents of 3- to 5-year-olds and empower them to become involved in all aspects of their children’s education. The home visitors are armed with a 30-week curriculum that focuses on school readiness and parent involvement.

Callahan said partnering autism services with the HIPPY program will be particularly advantageous to families with children on the spectrum, since early intervention is critical for helping these children live fuller lives.

“For children with autism, early in-home engagement can lead to greater success in school and less stress for parents and other family members,” he said.

Callahan said new and current HIPPY home visitors will train with professionals from KFAC both in person and via phone and Skype to learn techniques that will help them connect with children on the spectrum, including behavior analysis principles, structures, routines and prompting. KFAC’s professionals will also be available to confer with in-home visitors when they encounter challenges.

Carla Mowell, Texas’ HIPPY director, said the state’s program currently serves about 2,900 families at 11 sites across Texas. With this grant, she plans to grow the number of children with autism served from about 30 to 100. UNT’s A+HIPPY was modeled after a successful program at the University of South Florida in Tampa. Texas HIPPY will expand the scope of services by using technology for remote training of staff members on autism best practices. This will allow in-home visitors to reach a larger number of families in need of autism services, she said.

“We have seen a growing need in our sites for services helping children with autism, but were concerned because we felt a little out of our depth – we know early childhood education, but children with autism have special needs that our staff wasn’t trained to handle,” Mowell said. “We didn’t want to turn kids away, but at the same time we don’t want to provide services that aren’t helpful. That brought a sense of urgency and showed us how great the need is for these services.”

The next step, Mowell said, is to identify families across the state who qualify for the A+HIPPY program. The HIPPY model is grassroots, with coordinators at the 11 sites statewide recruiting door to door and visiting area schools, daycare centers, churches and parks to initially connect with parents.

Callahan said once the program is up and running, the in-home visitors will not only provide invaluable autism services, but also inform families about other services available to them that they might not be aware of. The ultimate goal is to create training models and resources that can be used by HIPPY programs nationwide, and also raise awareness among all families about the disorder, Mowell said.

“We’ll have parent meetings and field trips where parents of kids with autism will be right there with parents of kids who are not on the spectrum. So it will be great for the parents of neurotypical children and children on the spectrum to interact and reach a greater mutual understanding,” she said. “Education has come a long way in incorporating children with special needs into the general population, but in the greater community, parents with a child with autism are often judged, with people thinking, ‘You need to control your child or discipline your child,’ and that’s just not the case.”

Nationally known autism experts to converge at UNT center

A panel of internationally recognized autism experts will be in Denton Sept. 12-13 to meet with the University of North Texas’ cross-disciplinary autism research team to offer insight into new, groundbreaking research and steps UNT can take to elevate its work in the field.

UNT has long been a leader in autism research and services in the North Texas region, with the UNT Kristin Farmer Autism Center opening in 2012, plus strong programs in Special Education, Audiology and Speech-Language Pathology, Disability and Addiction Rehabilitation, Learning Technologies, and Behavior Analysis. This panel will bring together faculty from those divisions and more, including music, engineering and kinesiology. UNT President Neal Smatresk and Kristin Farmer, a UNT College of Education graduate and patron of the UNT autism center, will also attend.

“The president would love to see UNT faculty come together with some groundbreaking research that changes the future of autism intervention,” said Kevin Callahan, executive director of KFAC. “To do that, we have to work across disciplines as a unified team. And if we can involve departments that aren’t traditionally involved with autism research, like engineering and music, we could see even better results.”

The panel comprises Eric Courchesne, professor of neuroscience at the University of California San Diego School of Medicine and co-director of the UCSD Autism Center of Excellence; Samuel Odom, professor and director of the Frank Porter Graham Child Development Institute at the University of North Caroline; Lynn Kern Koegel, clinical director of the UC Santa Barbara Koegel Autism Center; Tristram Smith, associate professor of pediatrics at the University of Rochester Medical Center; and, Paul Wehman, professor of counseling and special education at Virginia Commonwealth University.

“These are great researchers who are going to look at what we’re doing and tell us how to reach even greater eminence,” Callahan said. “In many cases, autism research and services at UNT are in the early stages of development, and that’s why this is the right time to do this panel.”

For more information about the UNT Kristin Farmer Autism Center, visit


Above, Kevin Callahan, executive director of the UNT Kristin Farmer Autism Center.

Tonja Selman

Administrative Coordinator II, Student Advising Office
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Matthews Hall 105-A

COE doctoral student one of two U.S. educators chosen for grant

Cecelia Joyce Price, doctoral candidate and teaching fellow in the UNT College of Education's Department of Teacher Education and Administration, is one of only two educators in the United States to receive the 2016 Geneva Smitherman Cultural Diversity Grant from the Conference on English Education of the National Council of Teachers of English. The award goes to teachers and teacher educators from historically underrepresented groups who contribute to the full realization of the organization’s professional goals.

The grant will provide support for Price when she goes to the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) Convention in Atlanta this November to present her research and participate in conference activities.

“I am thrilled to learn that I have won this grant, but mostly I am humbled, knowing especially that only two people were selected to receive it,” Price said. “I think that NCTE is a most appropriate organization for me. I was a high school English teacher before becoming an administrator and then a doctoral student in the Curriculum and Instruction program here at UNT. Now, my research focuses on multimodalities in the teaching of English, something that has always interested me not only as a lifelong educator, but also as a visual artist.”

Price’s conference presentation, “Secondary Teachers’ Experiences with Multimodal Literacy Design,” is based on research for her in-progress dissertation.  For that study, she has used the research approach known as “portraiture” to investigate the varying ways in which English teachers employ multiple modes of literacy in their classrooms.

“Portraiture” is an arts-based research approach developed by Dr. Sara Lawrence-Lightfoot in the 1980s.

“The approach excites me quite a bit,” Price said. “I suspect that this is because I am an artist. I love to paint in my free time, and capturing a person's essence is what is important to me when I paint. I don't go for exact replicas, but the viewers, the subjects, and I should be able to say, ‘That is so-and-so without a doubt!’ I believe that this is exactly what Dr. Lawrence-Lightfoot says about research. The inquiry is legitimized when participants view the report and can say, ‘I recognized myself. That’s me.’ It is legitimized when readers read the report and can say, ‘This really makes sense. I can identify with this.’ It is legitimized when the researcher (artist) can look at his or her own report and say, ‘There is great value in this work.’ So I connected with this approach significantly.”

The Cultural Diversity Grant is named for Geneva Smitherman, professor emerita of English and former director of the African American Language and Literacy Program at Michigan State University. She is well known for her important work at the intersection of race, culture and language.

“I am fortunate that my research connects with my own life, both professionally and personally," Price said. "I embrace this opportunity to share my work with other professionals at the Atlanta conference this November.”