Marquette Autism Consortium formed to help people with autism spectrum disorder

March 10, 2016

MILWAUKEE — Marquette University announced today it has formed the Marquette Autism Consortium to promote the exchange of ideas among people and groups on campus who are interested in autism spectrum disorder (ASD).

The consortium seeks to increase opportunities for awareness and inclusion, education, collaborative efforts, research, community connections, and development of resources for individuals and families.

The National Health Interview Survey released in November found one in 45 children have a prevalence for autism and other related developmental disabilities.

"With the increasing rate of autism being seen in children, it's important for Marquette to respond right now to increase research and develop efforts to raise awareness of autism spectrum disorder," said Amy Vaughan Van Hecke, associate professor of psychology who directs the consortium. "This is a real indication of our commitment to autism awareness, student support and research."

The consortium includes faculty members from many of Marquette's colleges, including the Helen Way Klingler College of Arts and Sciences, the Opus College of Engineering, the College of Nursing, the College of Health Sciences and the Marquette Law School.

"We welcome alumni, students, faculty and staff to join this campus-wide effort," Van Hecke said.

Building on the success of the Marquette Autism Project, the consortium will bolster research and support broader community outreach.

"This new consortium has its roots in our college," said Richard Holz, dean of the Klingler College of Arts and Sciences. "We committed to autism research nearly 10 years ago, are proud of the programs offered and continue our support as the consortium expands."

Multiple research studies on autism spectrum conditions currently are being conducted at Marquette. They include brain and physiological responses to social skills treatments in adolescents and young adults, training community members to identify ASD in young children, and technology development for ASD screening at toddler well checks.

The Milwaukee Program for the Enrichment and Education of Relational Skills, or PEERS, study aims to understand how teenagers and young adults with ASD and their parents are affected by social skills therapy. Participants in the 14-week sessions are children and young adults ages 11 to 28 with ASD and a parent or guardian. The children who are successful in the free program may change behaviorally and neurologically.

Assistance for Marquette students with Autism Spectrum Disorder

Marquette has support services and resources for students with ASD, including help with living arrangements, tutoring and academic support, disability services, counseling and instruction in friendship and relationship skills, dental services for those with sensory sensitivities, and speech pathology and audiology.

The consortium looks to expand the range of services, and how these services are coordinated, for students with ASD on campus.

"We want the consortium to eventually serve as the point of entry for parents who are looking at Marquette for their students to come here to attend college," Van Hecke said. "Students with ASD need help accessing and coordinating services. Often times, communication can be challenging for these students, which may make it difficult to access the different services we offer."

The group will seek to raise funds for student support and research programs. Research grants typically do not cover expenses for support services that students with autism spectrum disorder need to help them succeed in a college environment.

"It needs to be an area of philanthropy for Marquette to be an option for these deserving students," Van Hecke said.

Faculty who are members of the consortium are Norah Johnson, assistant professor of nursing; Abir Bekhet, associate professor of nursing; Robert Scheidt, professor of biomedical engineering; Wendy Krueger, clinical assistant professor of speech pathology and audiology; Mary Carlson, clinical instructor in educational policy and instruction; Paul Secunda, professor of law; Claire Barber-Stetson, lecturer in English; Iqbal Ahamed, professor of mathematics, statistics and computer science; Niharika Jain, adjunct assistant professor of mathematics, statistics and computer science; Susan Giaimo, visiting assistant professor of political science; and Khadijah Makky, clinical assistant professor of biomedical sciences.

To join the consortium please contact Van Hecke at