Friday, December 28, 2012

Photo Card

Year Of Us New Year's
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Photo Card

Year Of Us New Year's
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Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Juxtaposition of the Artistic and the Autistic, part 2

Here is a photo of me with my brother Omar. We are standing in front of a painting by Frida Kahlo, one of my favorite artists, at the Dallas Museum of Art. Given my interest in modern Mexican art, this was our first stop in the museum. This was a very pleasant piece to me. I'm not sure that Omar appreciated it, but since the trip, he has talked about going back to a museum. I'm looking forward to taking him to a museum in San Diego the next time I am out there!

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Juxtaposition of the Autistic and the Artistic

I have a brother with autism. His name is Omar, and he is 38 years old, a little younger than me. He lives with my father in San Diego and holds a part time job at a grocery store bagging groceries. He is certainly one of my inspirations for deciding to study psychology and work with persons with autism.

He loves to fly, so he recently traveled with my cousin from San Diego to Dallas for a family wedding. He was staying with the mother of the bride, but she was organizing the wedding and shifted Omar to another cousin to watch him for the Friday before the wedding. I was attending the wedding as well and was in town, so I asked Omar if he wanted to spend some time with us. Our plans on Friday were to go to the Dallas Museum of Art. To my knowledge, Omar has never been to an art museum, unless he went when he was in school. We agreed to take him to lunch, which he very rigidly eats at noon.

We got to the museum around 11:15, leaving us 45 minutes or so to explore before we needed to get him lunch. After locating my favorite artists (modern Mexican artists such as Rivera and Kahlo), we continued to explore. To engage him, we talked about the paintings in general description, and I asked him questions about what he saw (Do you see the big tree in the background? What color is the house?).

Because Omar can read, I pointed out the plates with information next to the art. Omar is a slow reader, so we stopped doing that at each painting after a while. However, on one of the plates, he read "Georgia O'Keefe", and seemed to recognize it. He recognized her name on another plate, and we determined that she was his favorite artist. Because this museum had several O'Keefe's throuout the museum, we would spot them out and let him read the information.

When lunchtime rolled around, we enjoyed a nice lunch in the museum restaurant. A giant mural was on the wall so I pointed out several aspects of the picture, such as busts of JFK, rocket ships, and other things. As Omar loves food, he enjoyed lunch.

After lunch, we explored the museum for another hour. In a section on modern US art, we found more O'Keefe's for Omar to explore, which he seemed to enjoy. He started to seem disengaged after an hour, so we went to the gift shop for a bit then left the museum.

I was really curious to see if Omar would enjoy the museum. Certainly the lunch break was helpful as it broke up the time. It also helped that lunch was pretty good (we all ate fried green tomato BLTs). Also, talking to Omar about the pictures and engaging him to look at the pictures made it more pleasant for him. We asked Omar if he liked the trip, and he said that he did. I'm hopeful that we can take him to another museum and continue to expand his experiences. The next time I visit him in San Diego we will try again and see how it goes.

And so goes the juxtaposition of the autistic and the artistic! Photos will follow soon.

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Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Thinking ahead to your first job

In my current position, I write a column for a quarterly magazine for graduate students. This column is about tips for how to prepare for your first job search.

Click on the title of this post for a direct link to that column!

A Developmental-Behavioral Approach to Outpatient Psychotherapy with Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders

The following is the abstract for my most recent journal article. This is my first peer reviewed publication in 10 years, so it is very exciting for me!

A Developmental-Behavioral Approach to Outpatient Psychotherapy with Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders

Over the course of development, children with autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) may present with an array of behavioral symptoms in addition to the primary impairments in language, socialization, and repetitive/restricted interests. These developmental challenges allow outpatient psychotherapists the opportunity to provide helpful clinical services to children and adolescents with ASDs. This can be best accomplished by combining behavioral strategies that are typically effective with children with ASDs with evidence-based approaches helpful for other psychiatric conditions. Four case examples are provided that review how to use both ASDs and general child clinical interventions with children with ASDs and their families.

Click on the title of this post for a link to the journal's page. If you have access through a university library, you can get the PDF, or you can purchase the article.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Pomp and circumstance - Is attending graduation worth the time and expense?

gradPSYCH Staff

Rory Stern, PsyD, finished his doctoral requirements from the Massachusetts School of Professional Psychology in July 2006—a month after the school’s annual commencement ceremony. That meant that he’d have to wait nearly a year before donning a cap and gown, so Stern initially decided to opt out of the graduation ceremony.
“At the time, I knew I would have a postdoc [position],” he says. “I was already taking the next step.”

But as the year progressed, Stern’s friends and family convinced him to take a step back and celebrate his accomplishments. In June, with his wife and daughter in tow, Stern returned to campus to reflect on his accomplishments.

Every spring, about 5,000 psychology students face a similar dilemma. By the time graduation rolls around, many have already moved on to the next stage of their careers and closed the chapter on their graduate student lives without fanfare. But those who choose to “walk” report that graduation ceremonies offer a rare opportunity to take a moment from their fast-paced lives and celebrate.

“It was one of the most moving and powerful experiences I can remember,” Stern says.


At Northeastern University, about 40 percent of graduate students do not walk, says Luis Falcon, PhD, the school’s vice provost for graduate education. Their reasons are frequently financial, he says.

“Many have moved away to begin appointments elsewhere, and they find it hard to get back to campus to attend graduation,” Falcon notes.

That was the case for Chris Kaeppner, PhD, who was living in Ohio by the time he’d finished his graduate requirements. Returning to pick up a hood and gown at St. John’s University in New York didn’t seem worth the expense.

“Since then, I have occasionally regretted the decision,” he says.

For instance, Kaeppner suspects that having that hood in his closet might have served as a confidence-booster during times early in his career when he felt unsure about how to address complicated client issues.

While he regrets not walking, Kaeppner, who just started a private practice in Cincinnati, doesn’t think it hindered his career much.

Marco DiBonaventura, PhD, on the other hand, didn’t walk and doesn’t regret it, even though he was the first in his family to attend college.

DiBonaventura—who only lived about a mile from the Rutgers University campus—opted instead to visit his family in Connecticut.

“I am extremely proud of all that hard work that went into getting my degree, but I did not feel I needed an official provide closure to the experience,” he says.

That attitude has been with DiBonaventura since he was a teen. As a track athlete in high school, DiBonaventura hated the award ceremonies. The joy, he says, was in the running.


The process of going through graduate school—at least, toward the end of it—brought little joy to Nabil El-Ghoroury, PhD. As a student at Binghamton University, The State University of New York, El-Ghoroury struggled to write his dissertation. That difficulty reached a peak when his mother died during his internship year.

El-Ghoroury’s friends and family helped him cope with his grief and stay on track to complete his doctorate. To celebrate their support, El-Ghoroury took a road trip from Rochester to Binghamton, picking up his father, brother, stepmother and two friends on the way to attend his graduation. Before the ceremony, El-Ghoroury and his entourage toured the school, and he introduced his father to his thesis adviser. A photo of that moment now sits on El-Ghoroury’s desk, and it serves as a reminder of the many people who are there to support him when times get tough.

Graduation also reminded Jeannie Fiumara, PsyD, of her personal cheerleading section. Fiumara’s 13-person class at Xavier University in Cincinnati was the university’s first clinical psychology cohort in which every member got matched to an internship. Their success came, in part, because they all grew to be friends, Fiumara says.

After the ceremony, Fiumara and her classmates celebrated together and invited their families. In the four years since graduation, their bonds have only strengthened, Fiumara adds.

“I got married in April, and they all came to my wedding,” she says.

For his part, El-Ghoroury says he’ll never forget when his mentor stepped up in front of the entire university community and pinned a hood to his gown.

He recently used that hood for a Harry Potter costume. And Stern lost his during a move. But their graduation memories will be with them forever.

“It was the first time in my life I just sat and embraced something fully, without thinking, ‘Well, what is the next step?’” Stern says.