Issue 2012-06 (June 13, 2012)



WSU Researcher Explores Use of iPad Video to Help Children with Autism

By Judith Van Dongen

Whip out your iPad, and the possibilities are endless—from functional uses such as reading e-mail and managing a to-do list to wacky ones like letting your cat play with the "Magic Piano" app.

To parents of children with autism, however, an iPad can be so much more than a cool gimmick. Research conducted by WSU assistant professor of speech and hearing sciences Teresa Cardon has revealed the iPad as an invaluable learning tool in teaching imitation skills to very young children with autism.

"Most children with autism don't imitate—it's one of the classic indicators of autism," says Cardon, who has been working with children with autism for close to 20 years.

An example of the short videos Cardon uses to teach
imitation. There are two versions: one with a plain
background and another with a multicolored
background. Cardon uses these videos in a current
study that looks at whether distraction in the video
affects a child's ability to imitate.

Imitation plays a key role in childhood learning. Typically developing children make use of observational learning. They observe the world around them and decide whether or not to copy certain actions or behaviors. Cardon says this doesn't come naturally to children with autism, who have to be taught this skill.  

Her theory is that stimulating imitation skills in children with autism will trigger improvements in other areas in which these kids experience developmental delays, such as speech and language, nonverbal communication, and social skills. She has set out to prove this through a series of research studies looking at the use of video modeling to teach imitation skills to children with autism four years of age or younger.

In one study, she used an iPad to record herself making different gestures. Cardon then brought three young children into her autism lab. First, she went through a live session with all the gestures and encouraged them to imitate her. Then, she sat them down and showed them the videos on the iPad.

"They'd sit there and watch it, and all of a sudden they'd start doing it, whereas they don't do it live," said Cardon.

In another study, Cardon worked with four families and taught the caregivers in each family how to create their own video models on iPads she loaned to them. Each family selected particular actions that they felt were important for their child to learn—from cutting with scissors to wiping their face after dinner.

"Every single child in the study made gains," said Cardon. "Some of them made huge gains."

She has done a similar study—with similar results—working with two pre-school teachers from Spokane Public Schools who have students with autism.

So why does the iPad succeed where teaching imitation live fails?

"The use of video modeling takes away some of the social interaction that can overwhelm kids with autism and focuses their attention on exactly the relevant detail you want them to pay attention to," Cardon says. "iPads are really powerful for that, and they're really easy to create videos on."

Plus, she points out, their portability makes them available for use anywhere and anytime.

Next, Cardon will be exploring the relationship between imitation and language skills. In a study that will kick off in the fall, Cardon will examine whether language intervention in children with autism is more successful when it is preceded by imitation training that uses video modeling.

So far, the results from Cardon's studies look promising. She says parents report back that their kids are doing much better and that they retain the skills they've learned through video modeling.

"For a lot of kids, video modeling really jumpstarts things and kicks them off in the right direction," she said.

  • Hear Cardon speak at a recent Spokane City Forum on autism (Part 1 & Part 2)

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Foundation Board Members See Value of Spokane Campus

By Doug Nadvornick

For an hour on a Friday morning in May, WSU Spokane sleep researchers Hans Van Dongen and Bryan Vila played the role of tour guides as they led a delegation of guests through the Sleep and Performance Research Center on the Riverpoint Campus. The visitors were members of the Boards of Governors and Trustees for the WSU Foundation. Every summer, foundation board members tour facilities at one of the university's branch campuses.

The sleep center was highlighted because it is one of the strongest research programs on campus. Center director Greg Belenky, assistant director Van Dongen, Vila, and their colleagues have attracted more than $15 million in external grants during the last five years. Their work exploring the effects of fatigue in the workplace is drawing national and international attention.

One of Vila's graduate students, Steve James, demonstrates
the lab's driving simulator (Photo by Cori Medeiros)

Van Dongen and Vila took their guests to the comfortable space where sleep study participants live under observation. Then they ushered their visitors into the center's simulation lab: a unique, world-class suite filled with driving and deadly force simulators where fatigued police officers, soldiers, commercial drivers, and others are monitored as they perform a variety of tasks.

The visitors spent time watching and participating in simulation drills. Then Vila, a professor of criminal justice, gathered them to make a final pitch. The Sleep and Performance Research Center, he said, is a big success. It is self-sufficient, actually makes money for the university, and positions WSU as a high-level sleep research institution.

Vila said the center operates on grants that will keep it competitive with its peers for several more years. But he said its progress could stall unless it can find money—private funding, in this case—to complete the laboratory and to create endowed professorships. Vila worries that without more job security some of WSU's talented sleep researchers who are doing groundbreaking work might leave for other opportunities.

That pitch to some of WSU's most generous donors was not an isolated one during the foundation board members' two-day visit. Faculty members planted the seeds for potential gifts, underscoring the value of existing programs they say don't receive enough university funding.

Private giving plays a major role at WSU

With the legislature cutting WSU's state allocation by 52 percent during the last four years, private gifts have become more important than ever.

"You have been very generous," president Elson Floyd told foundation members who gathered for lunch after the sleep lab tour. He credited WSU alumni and donors not only for contributing nearly $700 million toward the Campaign for Washington State University's $1 billion goal, but also for helping to convince legislators to spare WSU from further cuts in the state budget that takes effect in July.

At the opening reception for the Foundation visit, WSU
Spokane Chancellor Brian Pitcher tells trustees and
governors about the campus's progress toward becoming
a health sciences campus (Photo by Bob Hubner)
Specific to Spokane, Floyd explained the university's efforts to build a health sciences campus at Riverpoint.

One donor, Carol Ann Quigg of Spokane, credited the growing medical education program and WSU's partnership with the University of Washington School of Medicine as one of the reasons she has given to the university.

Board of Regents chair Scott Carson credited the foundation board's visit to Spokane for reinforcing the influence of the WSU urban campuses.

"Now we need to show the institution's 100,000 alumni what's happening," he said.

It's clear the foundation board's meeting was a success, said WSU Spokane chancellor Brian Pitcher.

"Based on what they saw and experienced in the program presentations, they were enormously impressed with the quality and potential of WSU health sciences. This will undoubtedly translate into future funding support," he said.

For more information about making a donation to WSU Spokane, contact Brady Crook, director of campus and regional development, at 509-358-7586 or

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Lake Roosevelt Students Use "Scrap Power" to Solve Real Problems

By Doug Nadvornick

Sometimes a good school science project requires only a problem that needs solving, a few spare parts and some hard work.

Take, for example, the "Scrap Power" project devised by five Lake Roosevelt High School student scientists, teacher Ralph Rise, and mentors Frank Ayers and Lee Largent. The students presented their solution at the recent Imagine Tomorrow problem-solving competition at WSU in Pullman.

Their challenge was to devise a better way for a priest in the African nation of Malawi to recharge a 12-volt car battery that powers his portable keyboard. (There's no electric grid in that region.) The priest plays the keyboard when he leads services in the 13 parishes in his sprawling, rural district. When the battery runs low, he pays someone to recharge it. That expense is a real burden in a place where most people are extremely poor.

The students devised a system made of scrap components that allows the priest—and people around him—to replenish the battery themselves, using pedal power. They hooked up a car's alternator to the back wheel of an old stationary bicycle. Then—using a surplus computer, inexpensive computer chips and switches—they built a circuit board system that takes the energy generated from pedaling the bike and converts it to electrical energy that the battery can store.

"The students started in the fall and have worked all year on this," said Rise. "Since it's technically not part of a school class, they've stayed after school to design and test everything."

The project won a global impact award and fourth place in the 'behavior' category at the four-state Imagine Tomorrow competition. Not bad for a small school near Grand Coulee Dam on the Colville Indian Reservation. What's also impressive is that Rise's students have consistently won top awards in their five years of competing there. Several of them have graduated to science-related careers.

"What Ralph and his fellow teachers are offering the students is what we would wish for all students: student-driven, hands-on, inquiry-based projects that have application to real life," said Sylvia Oliver, director of health sciences laboratory operations and education outreach at WSU Spokane. "Students apply what they are learning in school to projects that capture their interest, with teachers facilitating the discovery process."

Taking the next step

Oliver has been so impressed by the science program at Lake Roosevelt that she helped Grand Coulee Dam School District apply for a $1.2 million dollar federal Indian education grant to help bring more advanced STEM (Science Technology Engineering Math) programs to the school. That would include Project Lead The Way, a non-profit whose hands-on engineering and biomedical programs are taught in hundreds of American high schools. WSU Spokane is an affiliate organization. More than a dozen Spokane area high schools offer PLTW's biomedical curriculum. She says many rural schools would also like it for their students, but can't afford it.

"There is such desperate need in so many rural communities for good STEM experiences for students," she said.

The school district hopes to learn by the end of June whether Lake Roosevelt will receive its grant.

While they wait, Rise says his students are building their fourth-generation "Scrap Power" circuit board, hoping to put all of the electronics onto a surface the size of a playing card. In December, they'll pack up the bike and the electronics and ship it to the priest in Malawi. 

Meanwhile, Rise says a Boeing software engineer who was one of the judges at Imagine Tomorrow has offered to guide the students through the process of applying for a patent for their project.

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Spokane Medical Students Take on Summer Research Projects

By Doug Nadvornick

Tara Kenny has just completed a solid first year of medical school. Her hard work was rewarded with a Spokane County Medical Society scholarship and a class leadership award from the Shikany Foundation.

This summer the Portland, Oregon, native is staying in Spokane to fulfill a research requirement. She's working with assistant professor of nursing Kenn Daratha to study whether expectant mothers with mental disorders and drug problems are more likely to suffer adverse events related to birthing than women who don't have those conditions.

"We're looking at whether substance abuse and mental disorder affect things such as length of stay in the hospital," said Kenny. "In the literature we found there's a possible link between substance abuse and placental insult that could cause the baby to be born prematurely."

On-campus research options becoming more popular

Kenny's decision to stay and work in Spokane before going to Seattle in August for her second-year studies is part of a trend. She and three of her classmates have paired up with WSU and local clinical researchers for summer projects, an increase from two students last summer and one during the summer of 2010. In addition, a fifth student—from Spokane's first-year class of 2010—is returning to continue a research collaboration he began last summer.

The University of Washington School of Medicine requires a research project during the first and second years. It gives students five options.

Many build their research around a clinical assignment, either a month working in a rural hospital in the Northwest (Rural and Underserved Opportunities Program) or 10 weeks in a developing nation as part of the Global Health Immersion Program.

Kenny is pursuing a hypothesis-driven research option that is typically accomplished over 10 weeks. Some of these projects are supported by the Medical Student Research Training Program.  

"The idea behind students doing original research is a good one," said Ken Roberts, the director of the WWAMI medical education program in Spokane. "We've encouraged students here to take a look around at the faculty who are teaching them—almost all of them have research programs—and as they build relationships with them, learn about what they do, and potentially do a summer project with them."

Three students, including Kenny, are teaming up with an interprofessional group of faculty collaborators led by Daratha. The other two students are working on projects related to kidney disease. Daratha, Roberts, and Spokane nephrologist Kathy Tuttle are each mentoring one student.

"These are projects initiated by the students. They decide the topics. They're the ones who write the proposals," said Daratha. He says they work together through the process of getting support from institutional review boards.

The students comb through databases that include de-identified hospital patient information to find and analyze relevant data. He says they combine that knowledge with evidence from other sources of medical information and pull it all together into papers they write for publication.

The other two students are working with WSU sleep and addictions researchers. One is comparing the physiological effects of e-cigarettes and regular cigarettes in people who use them. The other is examining the sleep patterns of people who are dependent on opioids.

Roberts says some students may be invited to present their research papers at the Western Student Medical Research Forum next January in Carmel, California.

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SLIDESHOW: Campus, Community Celebrate the Opening of Martin Luther King Jr. Way

By Justine Dacanay, Communications Intern; photos by Cori Medeiros

The name of the great civil rights leader, Martin Luther King Jr., is now displayed proudly at the front door to the Riverpoint Campus.

The new Martin Luther King Jr. Way curves along the south edge of campus adjacent to the railroad line, connecting the east end of Spokane Falls Boulevard with Riverside Avenue. It helps reroute through traffic away from the center of campus, thereby increasing pedestrian safety and promoting a more welcoming campus environment. Another road construction project slated to start this summer will narrow the stretch of Spokane Falls Boulevard that runs through campus to one lane in each direction to slow down the remaining traffic.

On May 31, city officials, WSU faculty and staff, and members of the Spokane community gathered to celebrate the opening of the new street. Among the guests were Spokane community leaders Rev. Percy "Happy" Watkins and Ivan Bush, who had waited 25 years to see the City of Spokane name a street after the late Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. Several community leaders spoke to the appropriateness of this street being named after King, given his passion for education and the street's location at the gateway to Spokane's University District.

The opening celebration marked the completion of the first phase of this multi-phase project, which began in February 2011. Slated for 2013, the next phase of the project will extend the road along the Spokane River and under the Hamilton Street Bridge to connect with Perry Street and Trent Avenue, according to the City of Spokane. A third (still unfunded) phase will include a pedestrian and bicycle bridge that will connect the campus to the Sprague Avenue Corridor, across the railroad tracks.

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Spokane STEM Network Appoints Winder Executive Director

By Doug Nadvornick

The steering committee for the new Spokane STEM Network has hired John Winder as the organization's first executive director.  

Winder, who started his duties on May 21, will oversee the development of STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) Network education programs in Spokane County. The Spokane STEM Network recently received a $220,000 grant from Washington STEM to coordinate local K-12 and higher education programs and align them with economic development initiatives.  

"The workforce of tomorrow will be increasingly dependent upon science, mathematics, engineering and technology," said Winder.  

For the past year, Winder has operated his own consulting business in Pullman. Before that, he worked in a variety of leadership roles for Washington State University Extension. He points to his work overseeing Extension's 4-H Youth Development program—"arguably the largest STEM-focused program in the state."  

Winder has also worked for university extension systems in Oregon and Vermont and served as a professor of animal and range sciences at New Mexico State University.  

"Today the U.S. is confronted with the greatest challenge to its technological superiority since the Soviet Union launched Sputnik in 1957," Winder said. "Washington State is ranked number two nationally in the importance of the knowledge economy to the state. Only Massachusetts ranks higher. We have a great demand for workers with skills in science and engineering which greatly outstrips the current supply."  

"John has deep experience and success building community-based programs with complex partnerships," said WSU Spokane chancellor Brian Pitcher, a member of the steering committee that selected Winder.

"In our judgment he has the vision and organization experience to launch and ramp up network planning to a high level."

Winder's  office will be located at Greater Spokane Incorporated.

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In the News

  • The Montreal Gazette quoted professor of criminal justice Bryan Vila in a May 24 article on police fatigue. The article followed on repeated protests sparked by tuition increases that have Montréal police officers doing overtime. Read the story here.
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  • Associate professor of pharmacotherapy Mark Garrison has been appointed to the new position of "Ombudsman for Students" in the College of Pharmacy. His new appointment is effective through the end of June 2013. Garrison previously served as assistant dean of student services for the college. In his new role, Garrison serves as an additional resource for students, allowing the college to separate student support on administrative issues from student support on academic issues, such as advising.
  • Doctor of Pharmacy students Lisa Garza ('14) and Eric Nelson ('13) have been selected to represent Region 8 on the National Community Pharmacists Association's National Student Leadership Council for the 2012-2013 academic year. The National Student Leadership Council is comprised of student pharmacists who are interested in entrepreneurship and pursuing a career in community pharmacy. The pair are two of just 16 student members on the council.
  • Matt Layton, a clinical associate professor in the WWAMI Medical Education Program, has been recognized as a Distinguished Fellow of the American Psychiatric Association (APA). The highest honor bestowed upon members by the APA, Distinguished Fellowship is awarded to psychiatrists who have made significant contributions to the profession. Layton was also appointed as one of two district branch representatives for the Washington State Psychiatric Association, the APA's district branch for Washington..
  • Research professor Hans Van Dongen of the Sleep and Performance Research Center has been reappointed to the Associated Professional Sleep Societies' (APSS) Program Committee. Van Dongen's appointment, which was set to expire this month, has been renewed for another three-year term. A joint venture of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine and the Sleep Research Society, APSS organizes the annual SLEEP meeting, which brings together sleep clinicians and scientists from around the world for an update on the latest sleep research and best clinical practices.
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Community Connections

  • Friday, June 22 - KPBX Kids' Concert: A 100 Year Tribute to the Father of Bluegrass Music Bill Monroe
    Come to the Bing Crosby Theater at 901 West Sprague Avenue on Friday, June 22, from noon to 1 p.m. for a free concert featuring John Reischman and the Spokane Bluegrass All Stars. Kids of all ages (and their parents) are welcome to celebrate the life and legacy of Bill Monroe, the father of bluegrass music, who would have been 100 years old this year. Monroe's music is responsible for influencing 20th century artists such as Elvis Presley, Hank Williams, Johnny Cash, Jerry Garcia, and Bob Dylan. The featured band includes John Reischman, Jim Faddis, Kelly Bogan, Gregory Spatz, and Dave Hackwith. All are well-known musicians to bluegrass fans locally and throughout the Inland Northwest. For more information, go to the KPBX event page.

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Personnel and Staffing Changes    


  • Theresa Boyer, Development Director, College of Nursing, effective May 23, 2012
  • Samantha Riedy, Research Intern, Sleep and Performance Lab, effective June 1, 2012
  • Dianne Eldridge, Custodian 1, Facilities Operations, effective June 3, 2012
  • Amy Sparrow, Research Intern, Sleep and Performance Lab/Criminal Justice, effective June 18, 2012


    • Cathy Courtright, Research Study Assistant to Research Study Coordinator, College of Nursing-National Children's Study Moses Lake, effective April 1, 2012
    • Dawn Scartozzi, Administrative Assistant 2, Chancellor's Office, to Secretary Supervisor, College of Pharmacy, effective June 11, 2012


    • Elise Balogh, Research Assistant, College of Nursing, effective June 21, 2012  
    Recruitments & Searches:

    • Area Extension Educator, WSU Extension, position closes July 22, 2012, apply at
    • Campus Security Officer, Facilities Operations, position closed June 4, 2012, applications under review
    • Clinical Assistant/Clinical Associate/Clinical Professor, WWAMI, open until filled, apply at
    • Fiscal Technician 1, WWAMI, closed June 12, 2012, apply at
    • Student Services Specialist (MESA Middle School Coordinator) 10-months (September-June), 50%, MESA, position closed March 27, 2012, selection pending

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    Way to Go!

    Here's where you make someone's day a little brighter by extending your thanks for a job well done. Send your "Way to Go!" comments to Judith Van Dongen and watch for your thanks to be published in an upcoming issue of the Campus Bulletin!

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    The Bulletin is a monthly publication that is usually published on the second Wednesday of each month. The exact publication date may shift due to holidays. If you have an item that you'd like us to include, send it to us by Friday in the week before publication.

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