May 14, 2008

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Posted May 14, 2008

LEWISBURG, Pa. — It all started with a conversation …

When Bucknell University senior Lindsey Appenzoller offered to help at an annual autism event, she met 1998 Bucknell graduate Susan Colón, who founded the event and serves as chief executive officer for the Autism Advocacy Organization.

The conversation led to a video project that will help children with autism better interact with others.

Collaborative DVD
Colón and Appenzoller collaborated on a short DVD of children displaying examples of socially acceptable behaviors. "This project is exciting because it meets a real need, as there is a limited amount of materials related to autism that are substantial," said Colón, who lives in Lewisburg.

"One of the areas children with autism spectrum disorders tend to have difficulties in is navigating social interactions," she said. "They also tend to be visual consumers in interpretation so the decision to use video was viable. 

"This video will offer social cues to children who may have challenges with social appropriateness, including short examples of reciprocity in language, turn taking, joint attention, and appropriate responses to questions and respect for individual personal space. It includes some of the areas the autism spectrum disorders impair including social interaction, communication and speech," Colón said.
The video, which begins with a brief background about autism spectrum disorder and the goals of the project, portrays two 7-year-old children displaying proper social behaviors during a "play date." These include joining in, accepting no for an answer, taking turns, making eye contact, transitioning, changing plans, displaying self-confidence, and accepting a compliment.

Appenzoller is allowing Autism Advocacy Organization to offer the DVD through its Web site,, to families and educators to use to help children with autism related disorders.

Senior project
The video also served as Appenzoller's final project in the Neural Signals and System class taught by Joseph Tranquillo, assistant professor of biomedical and electrical engineering at Bucknell. The assignment was to communicate a neural related subject to a unique audience.

Tranquillo said, "Although Lindsey's movie was an outstanding final project, I was thrilled to learn of the wider impact of her work. Lindsey's collaboration with Susan exemplifies yet another instance of the excellent service-learning opportunities here at Bucknell."

"I've been interested in Autism Spectrum Disorder since I grew up near a group home for autistic adults," Appenzoller said. "During my sophomore year, the Bucknell women's soccer team hosted a tournament during Autism Awareness Month, with the proceeds going to the Autism Society of America, Montgomery County, Md., branch.

"Then my sorority volunteered to help at a local autism event, which was an awesome experience. When I had to choose a topic for my final project in Dr. Tranquillo's class, it seemed natural to want to explore some of the neurological aspects of Autism Spectrum Disorder. This educational video project was an excellent opportunity to increase my understanding and to give back to the autism community."

Appenzoller, who will graduate this month with a bachelor of science degree in physics and a minor in mathematics, will attend graduate school at The University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia this fall.

Contact: Division of Communications