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NIU TODAY | Visually Impaired Students Impress Research at Biennial Conference

Galen Kupperman, Rebecca Karas, Carly Spitz, Stacey Kelly

Galen Kupperman, Rebecca Karas, Carly Spitz, Stacey Kelly

Galen Kupperman During my nearly half-century in academia, I have attended countless professional conferences.

However, the professor emeritus Department of Special Early Educationof visually impaired program It’s hard to remember a more packed conference room than the one I encountered in St. Louis this summer.

on that saturday biennial meeting of Association for Education and Rehabilitation for the Blind (AER)?

Professor Joins NIU Graduate Students Carly Spitz and Rebecca Karas Stacey Kelly and Kappaman himself.

“It was standing room only. All the chairs were taken,” says Kapperman. “It was the best presentation at the conference, no question. He is one of the best presentations I have ever attended. We are very proud of them.”

Kelly confirms that assessment.

“I have attended dozens of professional presentations locally, regionally, nationally and internationally over the years and this was the best professional presentation I have attended. “It was right on point in terms of the timeliness of the topic and how well the audience received it,” Kelly says.

And I take no credit for the presentation. It was all our graduate students. I was just their mentor and their co-presenter,” she adds. was there.”

Entitled “How to Reduce Vulnerability to Sexual Assault for People with Visual Impairment,” the presentation includes demonstrations of teachable self-defense techniques and precautions to improve personal safety and It included ways to assist law enforcement in response.

Devices on display included a taser (“everyone in the crowd was very excited about it,” Kalas said) and voice-enabled “SOS” technology.

“People thought it was really important to go, even for sighted people,” says Callas.

“Unfortunately, that’s the reality we live in, so we wanted to break through that stigma and fear of reporting,” she adds. We want to support education and make fear a little less so that we can try to take the fear out of things and hopefully increase the reporting rate. ”

Spitz shares that hope.

“It’s a topic that a lot of people are afraid to touch on because it can be sensitive and sensitive,” she says. It was relevant to everyone, let alone all women with visual impairments.”

MSEd. A Buffalo, New York student observes the practical nature of relatively simple safety tips at an internship.

“We teach all of our students to ask, ‘Who are you here for? Are you there?” Because everyone can say ‘yes,'” she says. “We’re trying to create this knowledge in people so they know they don’t have to just wander around hoping nothing happens. They can take precautions and It’s a big problem for the visually impaired community.”

Indeed, says Kupperman.

Studies show that women with disabilities “are most at risk of sexual assault, and apparently blind women are in that group,” says Kapperman.

The numbers are staggering. According to his 2001 study cited in an NIU presentation, 75% of people with visual impairments have been or are likely to be assaulted. That’s 15 times more than her in the general population.

“One of the reasons they are chosen is because they are blind,” says Kapperman.

However, he made a key point made during the presentation that safety is only visual.The self-defense techniques demonstrated by Karas and Spitz included methods to collect DNA samples that would be useful to the police. was included.

“This is an unexplored area of ​​research in our field,” says Kelly, who took notes on audience questions as ideas for future research. “People said to me, ‘Oh my God, I wish I had this information a long time ago.'”

Spitz and Kalas attributed part of the success of the talk to having attended several other presentations during the first three days of the conference.

Karlie Spitz and Rebecca Karas

Karlie Spitz and Rebecca Karas

Of course, their sheer excitement about the topic also helped.

“It was a great experience because everyone was so encouraging to us. As soon as we started presenting, people were asking us good questions and supporting us,” says Spitz. “It felt like a conversation, telling people everything we were investigating.

“We’ve become very passionate about this topic and what we’re telling people, but we haven’t had a career yet,” agrees Callas, who grew up in suburban McHenry. “Dr. Kapperman kept forwarding us the emails he received from people who attended the conference, especially our presentation, saying, ‘This is such a great idea. Can you send me more resources? Join the study.’ Can you?” It was great that we did something and felt our name was there. ”

Conference attendance is a hallmark of NIU’s programs, established in 1964.

Students on the trip also included Alison Cole, Caitlin Costello, Mandy Hetzel, Teresa Lopez, Alana Rybak, Taurus Smith, Tina Sutton and Monica Vandiven, all faculty members Kelly and Copperman. , Molly Passley, William Penrod When Sue Dalton.

Pasley, an assistant professor in the Visually Impaired Program, said the apparently enthusiastic huskies “drank it all down,” while future professional colleagues “were thrilled they were there.” says.

“One of the things that’s valuable to them is seeing how the organization works. It also gives them the opportunity to learn more about professional development opportunities in our field.” says Pasley.

“Illinois is lucky to have a very solid state chapter, so if graduate students decide to stay in Illinois, they have access to the annual conference,” she says.

Ten students from the College of Education's visually impaired program attended the AER conference in St. Louis.

Ten students from the College of Education’s visually impaired program attended the AER conference in St. Louis.

“If they decide to move out of state, they may not have as many discipline-specific professional development opportunities, so the AER is just another opportunity to get one,” she adds. . Not only from all over the country, but from all over the world. ”

She saw a great camaraderie among the students who found seats at each other’s presentations and cheered them on. “I had a session too,” she says Pasley. It was great to talk to them about what they valued and what they enjoyed at the conference. ”

Kapperman, who came to NIU in 1974, says that taking students to conferences “instills in them an attitude of true professionalism.”

“This shows the importance of continuing to attend conferences to keep your skills up to date, talking to your peers, and exchanging information and ideas. It was developed for working with blind young people who are blind,” he says.

Even preparing research to share at such events can be beneficial, he adds.

“Carly and Rebecca, Stacey and I prepared the manuscript that we submitted for publication, and they will be included as co-authors,” says Kupperman.

“When it gets published, which I’m sure it will, these young women will be published authors. Over the years, by the time they graduate, or right after they graduate, they’ll be published authors.” We have a lot of students, and I don’t know of any other program in the country that does this for master’s students.”

That seems like a good thing for spitz and crows.

Kalas, who holds a Bachelor of Science in Family and Consumer Sciences with a focus on family services, is happy with her choice of NIU. This was a recommendation from his aunt, a social worker in Illinois.

“So far, so far, so good,” said Kalas, who is currently an intern at the Lighthouse Center for Vital Living in Duluth, Minnesota, and will graduate next May. increase.

“Professors are extremely knowledgeable and know a lot. Not only that, they are passionate. Dr. Kelly’s energy is unbeatable and makes you excited to learn,” she adds. .

“I want to be surrounded by this kind of energy. Everyone in this program has made me so excited about this field. There was nothing they gave us.“What is the purpose of doing this?”It all made sense. ”

Spitz, whose undergraduate course was in animal studies, earned a master’s degree by drawing the line between guide dogs and blindness. She has always been interested in the profession of “helping people” and she grew up volunteering at various therapy and her riding organizations.

“This is kind of the path I stumbled upon, and it was a good fit,” says Spitz, who found NIU through a Google search and a “very compelling” conversation with Kelly.

“It’s a very unique group of people and a very unique field, so everything is new and exciting to me,” adds Spitz, who will graduate next August. “I feel that the NIU program will set you up for success. They really make sure you are ready and you know everything you need to know.”

What she still doesn’t quite understand is how to apply her degree.

“It’s tough because there’s so much we can do, but I want to keep working,” says Spitz. “Overall, I want to reach and influence as many people as possible and see how far it can take me.”

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