Texas Tech University

What Should You Know About Autism Spectrum Disorder?

Amanda Castro-Crist

April 15, 2020

Texas Tech faculty, researchers and staff share their expertise during Autism Awareness Month.

Since 1970, April has been recognized as Autism Awareness Month. According to a report published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in March 2020, about 1 in 54 children has been diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), which occurs in all racial, ethnic and socioeconomic groups. This is an increase from the previous estimate of 1 in 59.

Texas Tech University is home to the Burkhart Center for Autism Education & Research, a multidisciplinary, lifespan autism center that is part of the College of Education. Established in 2005, the center is well known in the ASD community for conducting, sharing and presenting collaborative, cutting-edge research on ASD treatment and training methodologies across the state and country and receiving numerous accolades along the way.

Due to the current COVID-19 pandemic, much of the clinical and outreach services the center provides are temporarily closed to protect the community. Nevertheless, faculty and staff are working to find ways to continue offering services through telemedicine, including through the Mobile Outreach Clinic for Autism (MOCA), the Transition Academy, the Connections for Academic Success and Employment (CASE) Program and a new statewide, telehealth initiative launching in May, the Texas Telehealth Outreach Clinic for Autism (TTOCA).

Experts from the center are available to speak on a variety of topics related to autism.


Wes Dotson, Burkhart Center director, board-certified behavior analyst-doctoral (BCBA-D) and associate professor in the Department of Educational Psychology and Leadership, (806) 834-0783 or wesley.dotson@ttu.edu

Jennifer Hamrick, BCBA and assistant professor in the Department of Educational Psychology and Leadership, (806) 834-0054 or jennifer.hamrick@ttu.edu

  • Director of MOCA, TTOCA and Autism Training Workshop Series
  • Areas of expertise:
    • Training and supporting families and caregivers of children with ASD in underserved, rural communities in West Texas
    • Applied behavior analysis
    • Rural and telehealth service delivery
    • Special education programming in large school districts, including best practices when working effectively with students with special needs in public education
  • Christy Chapman, BCBA, licensed behavior analyst, licensed specialist in school psychology and an adjunct professor for the school psychology program in the College of Education, (806) 834-2491 or christy.chapman@ttu.edu
  • Leads a telehealth model through the MOCA and will help lead the TTOCA
  • Areas of expertise:
    • ASD and behavior, including issues surrounding communication, social skills, development, transition and aging for individuals with autism
    • Co-occurring ASD and anxiety
    • Rural and telehealth service delivery
    • Parenting and homeschooling children with ASD

DeAnn Lechtenberger, CASE Program director, research assistant professor and grant management staff, (806) 834-7804 or deann.lechtenberger@ttu.edu

  • Appointed chairperson of the Texas Higher Education Coordination Board's Advisory Council on Postsecondary Education for Individuals with Intellectual and/or Developmental Disabilities by Gov. Greg Abbott
  • Areas of expertise:
    • Grant management and securing external funding
    • Special education in rural and inner-city schools
    • Implementing state and national programs that focus on supporting individuals with disabilities and their families and promoting inclusivity in their communities
    • Designing strengths-based college support programs for students with ASD, including using the "wraparound" planning process to develop individualized, strength-based service delivery systems for students with disabilities
    • Building collaborative networks across universities and collaborating across state agencies to build more inclusive schools and communities through family involvement and empowerment

Taylor Fidler, assistant director, CASE Program, (806) 834-6002 or taylor.fidler@ttu.edu

  • Assists students with ASD and other related disabilities in navigating college and beyond
  • Areas of expertise:
    • Accessing Student Disability Services at Texas Tech, including accommodations and advising services for students with ASD
    • Critical information dissemination to students and how various technologies can help administrators communicate that information more effectively
    • Advocating for students with ASD through collaborative efforts on campus and in the community

Janice Magness, Burkhart Transition Academy director, (806) 834-3725 or janice.magness@ttu.edu

  • Leads the Transition Academy and previously served as interim director of the Burkhart Center. During the COVID-19 pandemic, internships are on hold, but the Transition Academy continues to support students through social, vocational and life skills online classes that also include art and music
  • Areas of expertise:
    • Working with individuals with ASD to assist them with job, social, independent-living and leadership skills
    • Helping high school graduates with ASD gain and maintain employment
    • Converting to online classes to continue to support students in the Transition Academy
    • Providing support in the workplace for individuals with ASD who are seeking employment