ausome environments

Innovation Challenge 2016: AuSome Environments

ausome environments
The AuSome Environments team, from left to right: Samantha Hamernick, Emilee Ruhland and Patricia Schnase.

Traditional laboratories with their flasks of bubbling, mysterious substances often spring to mind when we think of research and innovation. However, innovation is not limited to the “hard” sciences. There are important innovations happening in the social sciences, too.

I spoke with Emilee Ruhland, a graduate student studying English who is a part of the AuSome Environments team along with fellow grad student Patricia Schnase, and Samantha Hamernick, a sophomore studying English education. The members of the AuSome Environments team are finalists in NDSU’s 2016 Innovation Challenge.

AuSome Environments is an online platform designed to connect educators to organizations and experts within the autism community and to allow for discussion on how to deal with the challenges of working with autistic children.

Before coming to NDSU to pursue her master’s degree, Ruhland was hired as a paraeducator in a public school to work with an autistic child. “The student was placed in isolation because the teacher didn’t really know what to do with him,” Ruhland said. “I was supposed to be helping him, but it was frustrating because I didn’t really have anywhere to figure out what I should be doing and had received no training. Google could help to some extent, but with thousands of results, it was hard to know what you should be looking at.”

This experience provided the impetus for the AuSome Environments project. The team realized that answers and help could be found from organizations and experts within the autism community, but educators often weren’t in contact with these people.

“That’s the goal for AuSome Environments — to connect educators with the right people, so they can all do what they do best,” Ruhland said.

The AuSome Environments team plans on launching pilots in the Fargo-Moorhead to establish a base and open up conversations around educating autistic students.

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