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.”

KHPR Fall 2016 New Student Orientation

Thursday, August 25, 2016 - 3:00pm

flyerKen Bahnsen Gym, room 110

Join us to meet your Chair, Assistant Chair, Program Coordinators, Faculty, TA/TFs, fellow KHPR students, KHPROs, tour of our building and learn everything you need to know to be successful in KHPR!

Michael Schmit

Assistant Professor, Counseling and Higher Education
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UNT Counseling program ranked in top 10 by

By Raquel Talamantes

The UNT College of Education’s graduate counseling program has gathered a prestigious title, earning a top-10 nationwide ranking from uses methodology based on National Center for Education Statistics data and student reviews from the specific school or major. At least five students associated with the major must send in feedback about the program in order for the institution to be eligible for the Top Programs List.

NCES’ data was gathered in 2015-16 by calculating thousands of student reviews together with internal recommended data.

“I was delighted, but not surprised, to learn about the ranking,” said Janice Holden, chair of the UNT Department of Counseling and Higher Education. “The UNT Counseling program has frequently ranked among the top 20 nationwide and first in Texas by U.S. News & World Report, so this most recent ranking by another organization is in line with previous rankings.”

“Students are pleased with our graduate degree programs accredited by the Council for the Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs because they get outstanding preparation at the master’s level to work as licensed or certified counselors in clinical mental health or school settings and at the doctoral level to work as advanced counseling practitioners or counselor educators,” Holden said.  

Holden describes the Center for Play Therapy in the College of Education as being the world’s largest training and research-generating program in play therapy. The center counsels children ages 2 to 10, and the 12-member Counseling Program faculty also includes specialists in transpersonal counseling, animal assisted therapy, addiction counseling and child-parent relationship therapy.

In the past five years, the faculty in this program has collectively received more than 30 professional awards and recognitions. Several faculty have also taken on key professional leadership roles.

Also, within the past five years, Counseling students have received more than 35 awards and fellowships from professional counseling associations.

“There is much for program faculty and students to be proud of, and much to recommend the program to prospective students,” Holden said.

The Advances in Research Designs Symposium (TARDIS) 2016

Friday, September 9, 2016 - 1:30pm to 9:30pm

University Union 382
University of North Texas (UNT)

The Office of Research Consulting is pleased to announce the third annual meeting of TARDIS - The Advances in Research Design Symposium. Our theme this year is Foundations of Bayesian Methods and Software for Data Analysis. The purpose of the symposium is to expose students and researchers to advances in research methods and analysis.  The presentation is centered on discussing the state-of-the-art in research methods to a wide audience.

Registration is free, but space is limited! See the event website for further details.

UNT to host alumni mixers across North Texas

UNT College of Education alumni in Tarrant, Collin, Dallas and Denton counties are invited to attend the UNT Alumni Association's Regional Summer Mixers in late July and early August. Each mixer is free and will include appetizers and a cash bar. You can register online

COE faculty members will be on hand to meet with alumni and give updates on the college. Alumni Association staff members will also be on hand to talk about the latest news from the university.

Dates and locations are:

Tarrant County

Tuesday, July 19
5:30 to 7:30 p.m.
Bar Louie, Fort Worth

Collin County

Tuesday, July 26
5:30 to 7:30 p.m.
Mexican Sugar, Plano

Dallas County

Tuesday, Aug. 2
5:30 to 7:30 p.m.
Happiest Hour, Dallas

Denton County

Tuesday, Aug. 9
5:30 to 7:30 p.m.
Hula Hut, Little Elm


Message from the dean and college news roundup - Summer 2016


Thank you for taking time to read the summer 2016 UNT College of Education newsletter! It's my first newsletter as interim dean of the college following Dean Thomas' retirement. He leaves very big shoes to fill, but I know that by working together with our excellent faculty, staff and students, I'll have no trouble continuing the college's reputation for providing the best educational experience in North Texas.

Now, a little bit about me: I am the college's associate dean for academic affairs and research, and I also teach courses in Special Education in the Department of Educational Psychology. I earned my Ph.D. in Special Education from the University of Texas and my M.Ed. in Supervision and Administration at Southern University in Baton Rouge, La. This fall I will begin my 27th year at UNT coming to Denton after spending three years at Texas Tech University. I have two children who attend UNT, Ashley, a junior, and Julius, a sophomore. My mother, Dr. Gladys Hildreth, recently retired from UNT, having taught in the area of Development and Family Studies. As you can see, I am deeply committed to UNT on many levels. I will continue to endeavor to ensure our students get the learning experiences they need to forge successful careers and our faculty receive the support they need in the classroom and in their research.

The UNT College of Education is as busy as ever this summer, with several faculty members traveling internationally to conduct their research. Dina Castro, our Velma E. Schmidt Endowed Chair in Early Childhood Education, is back in Peru, where last summer she visited a remote community in the Andes to meet with indigenous Quechua-speaking schoolchildren (we'll have a story about this year's trip in our next issue). Rossana Boyd, a principal lecturer and leader in our bilingual education program, and Nancy Nelson, our Meadows Chair for Excellence in Education, traveled to Guadalajara in May with other COE faculty and students to solidify a 15-year relationship between UNT and the Secretariat of Education for the State of Jalisco, Mexico. Read more about their adventures here.

Our COE students are doing some fantastic things right now too. Like Nydia Sanchez, a Higher Education doctoral student who won the National Academy of Education/Spencer Dissertation Fellowship for 2016-17. She is the first UNT student to ever win the award! And Krystal Johnson, a KHPR master's student, teamed up with KHPR faculty members John Collins and Scott Martin to bring Girls in the Game, a mentorship program designed to empower young girls, to Denton this spring.

I'm immensely proud to be part of the College of Education at UNT, and I hope you are tool. If you have suggestions about news or events you'd like to see from the College of Education, please drop us a line at And if you would like to support the college by making a gift, please visit or contact Keturi Beatty at or 940-891-6860.