ShareThis Page

McCandless woman honored for autism research

| Wednesday, Nov. 13, 2013, 9:01 p.m.
Diane Williams of McCandless, a speech-language pathology associate professor at Duquesne University in Pittsburgh, was named the Anna Rangos Rizakus Endowed Chair in Health Sciences and Ethics at Duquesne in 2013.

Children with autism sometimes have difficulty learning to communicate effectively.

The research of Diane Williams of McCandless, a speech-language pathology associate professor at Duquesne University since 2006, is geared toward helping those with autism communicate better. Because of her research, Williams recently was named the Anna Rangos Rizakus Endowed Chair in Health Sciences and Ethics at Duquesne.

“Breaking through that communication barrier is what can make a really big difference for an individual,” said Williams, 59.

“If you can't communicate well with other people, then that really limits your ability to be a part of society.”

Autism is a developmental disorder in the brain that is characterized by impaired social and verbal function.

Williams's research uses a type of magnetic resonance imaging, or MRI, to collect images of the brain while the participant does simple tasks, such as reading.

“We can tell which parts of the brain are being used while the individuals are actively doing a task,” Williams said.

“That helps us learn more about how their brains work when processing language.”

Because autism is a spectrum disorder, people who have the condition can range from being unable to communicate at all to having some ability to speak and perform tasks.

The Anna Rangos Rizakus Chair allows the faculty member more time to concentrate on research with a break in her teaching load for a five-year term.

Department heads nominate faculty, and the final decision is made by Duquesne's president, Charles Dougherty.

Mikael Kimelman, associate professor and chairman of the department of speech-language pathology, nominated Williams for the position.

“Dr. Williams' work is embedded in an ethical expression of the need for scientists and clinical practitioners to work together to solve the pressing challenges faced by people with autism and their families,” said Kimelman, 58, of Pittsburgh's Squirrel Hill neighborhood.

Melanie Donahoo is a freelance writer for Trib Total Media.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.