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Posted:
October 19, 2000

Founder of Autism School
To Give Annual Livingston Lecture

Longtime California State University, Sacramento psychology professor Joseph Morrow, whose consulting group last year built the country's only school designed specifically for children with autism, has been chosen to deliver this year's Livingston Lecture.

The honor is among the University's most prestigious recognitions of academic excellence. At the convocation, Morrow will talk about his Applied Behavior Consultants School, located in Southeast Sacramento, and the theory behind its highly successful methods. The talk will be titled "Applied Behavior Analysis and the Treatment of Autism" and will be at 3 p.m., Thursday, Nov. 2 in the University Ballroom.

"The challenge of these children is that, quite literally, they don't care much about us," Morrow explains. "Our approval and understanding isn't all that important to them. We have to teach them to socialize."

Autism is a neurological disorder of unknown cause. Children with it are excessively self-preoccupied - they don't seek social interaction, which leads to trouble speaking, violent tantrums and other problems.

Morrow says about 1 in 500 children are diagnosed with autism today, 10 times the number 30 years ago when he began teaching at CSUS.

The ABC School was completed last October. It's one of just a dozen applied behavior analysis schools for teaching children with autism in the nation, and the only one specifically designed for that purpose. Among its features are non-flickering lights and special soundproof walls, since autistic children are especially sensitive to changing light and to sound.

Morrow says ABC can help about 40 percent of autistic children get into mainstream public education classes, if the program is begun by the time the child is four. Other children can usually be helped into public school special education programs.

Morrow and his business partner, CSUS alumnae Brenda Terzich, began Applied Behavior Consultants 13 years ago. Today, 50 ABC staff work with about 70 children each year, primarily under agreements with Sacramento area school districts. More ABC staff provide the intense lessons, which last 30-40 hours a week per child, in the homes of about 100 children.

Not surprisingly, about a third of the ABC staff are graduates of the CSUS psychology department where Morrow teaches.

The Livingston Lecture is named in honor of the late Jack Livingston, a highly respected CSUS government professor and faculty leader from 1954 to 1982. Livingston was well known as a teacher, scholar and friend to his colleagues, but most of all as an inspiration to a generation of faculty and students.

The annual event recognizes a faculty member who has played an active role in the life of the University and shown a strong commitment to students, while remaining active in creative and scholarly activities. It is organized by the Faculty Senate.

Morrow joined the CSUS faculty in 1970. He earned his bachelor's and master's degrees at CSUS and his doctorate at Washington State University.

More information is available by contacting the CSUS public affairs office at (916) 278-6156.

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