Wednesday, January 23, 2019

URSP Student Amanda Dillon Investigates the Use of Visual Aids and Self-Monitoring

My name is Amanda Dillon and I am a senior psychology major graduating in Spring 2019. This semester I have had the pleasure of investigating how teaching the combination of using a customized visual aid and self-monitoring strategies can create better shower hygiene routines for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities. 

My research project was inspired by my time working for the residential component of the Mason LIFE program here on campus. Mason LIFE is a post-secondary education program for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities. In the residential component I spend much of my time in the dorms with students working to teach independent living skills. I noticed that when it came to individuals with a deficit in shower hygiene we did not have a set way to teach these skills. At this time, I was also taking the research methods class for psychology students and was inspired to write a proposal for a project that would be able to help not only my students, but other post-secondary programs and other individuals of all ages with IDD. 

On a weekly basis I check in with participants and monitor their use of the visual. I sit down with participants and construct individualized visual aids for their personal showering routines. I remind students to send photographic evidence that they have completed their visual by physically checking a box next to each step on the list. I also track the frequency of these reports. The extent of each step that I complete varies based on participant activity for the particular week. 

My long-term goals include getting my master’s degree in special education focusing on an ABA certificate. I plan to continue my work in new improved studies with the Mason LIFE program. I hope to one day practice private ABA therapy with individuals with IDD. 

One constant thing that I have learned over the course of the semester is all of the background work that goes into creating a successful research project. I have learned practical skills like submitting an IRB and data collection strategies. I have also learned how messy research can get and how to be resilient even when everything isn’t necessarily going according to plan. I have found this opportunity to be a great chance to experience firsthand how to execute a research project within my future field.