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Faculty recognized nationally for special education dissertation

Closeup of Holly Whittenburg
Holly Whittenburg

The Council for Exceptional Children (CEC) has awarded a WSU College of Education faculty member with this year’s Student Research Award in Single Case Research Design Methods.

Holly Whittenburg is completing her first semester as an assistant professor of special education. The CEC’s Division for Research gives out awards for high-quality undergraduate or graduate student research studies. Whittenburg’s award was for her dissertation study while a student at Virginia Commonwealth University.

The CEC gives one award across each of the four major special education research methodologies: qualitative, single subject, quantitative, and mixed methods. Whittenburg’s recognition came in the single subject category for her dissertation which investigated the use of different trainings to improve the workplace conversational skills of transition-aged high school students with autism spectrum disorder.

“Finding and maintaining meaningful employment is an important part of becoming an adult for all of us,” Whittenburg said. “While we know that positive social relationships at work are important to employment, we know a lot less about how we can support youth with autism spectrum disorder in developing skills that help build those relationships.

Whittenburg said her study suggests that learning and practicing workplace conversational skills in authentic employment settings can help high school students with autism spectrum disorder succeed.

“I am grateful for the doctoral training I received at Virginia Commonwealth University, and I am excited to continue this work with my colleagues in the special education program here at Washington State University,” she said. “I am both excited and humbled by this award.”

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