Undergraduate Research Experience - Kiersten Goetz

This past year, I had the opportunity to study the early numeracy skills of students with autism, alongside Dr. Jenny Root and Bonnie Henning. Throughout this hands-on experience, I was able to learn more about research-based curriculum as well as research methods. The curriculum that was implemented was beneficial in teaching students how to effectively measure, solve addition and word problems, complete calendar activities, identify and create patterns and compare sets. During the course of the year, I was able to watch our participants gain many new skills and build confidence in their abilities. Ultimately, observing the students throughout the past year taught me a valuable lesson that I would like to share.

Throughout my time assessing our participants at the Florida Autism Center, it was incredible to see the overall growth in each student’s skill mastery. However, it was also frustrating to see the students stumble and sometimes get stuck on problems. Over time, I learned that changes in level are not immediate and often require practice, or in this case repeated instruction.

In order to overcome the daunting task of mathematics, the students required time and motivation. Similar to other instances in life, challenges can be overcome with a strong support system. Therefore, it’s important to never give up on students, especially students with disabilities. Our participants proved this to be true by achieving a greater understanding of the curriculum. The students were given time to complete the curriculum at their own pace and received tokens or free time after each session. After the entire curriculum was completed, each student received a math crown. Essentially, all that it takes is patience and unconditional support for students to reach their potential.

As an undergraduate student, I was nervous to jump into research with little experience; however, this opportunity provided me with amazing mentors who taught me valuable skills. I highly recommend all undergraduates to engage in research and expand their knowledge.