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Class of 2013-2014

Jason DeCamillis

Jason DeCamillis

Jason DeCamillis, Visual Impairment

Jason met a number of challenges while in grade school. Being visually impaired he learned differently than others and he attributes these experiences to his proactive approach to living and seeking accommodations. Jason never saw "woe is me" as an option and he is driven to spread this viewpoint and help instill it in others, both with and without disabilities. Jason sees creative passion and the acquisition of professional knowledge as life defining pursuits. He finds it difficult to make it through life without "both enjoying and creating music, photography, writing, and film".

Not only has Jason had academic success at EMU, he has had numerous interesting experiences. He is president of Disability Empowerment and Advocacy League (DEAL), a student organization that helps to make the educational experience accessible to everyone at EMU, and founded a new organization, Visual Impairment Teachers of Tomorrow (VITT). As a student with a disability at EMU, Jason receives services through the Disability Resource Center (DRC), and he has also become the Center's first student mentor. Over the past two years he has met with over 30 students who experience life at EMU differently and has assisted these students in their transition to college life.

Jason's research interest is in the area of technology for individuals who are blind or visually impaired. He has begun preliminary research on the use of the iPad as a low-cost alternative for individuals with visual impairment and he plans to further this research in k-12 classrooms during his Brehm year.

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Kaytie Corlew Edwards

Kaytie Corlew Edwards

Kaytie Corlew Edwards, Cognitive Impairment

Going into special education was never a matter of choosing a career, but rather a long and challenging path that Kaytie knew she had to follow in order to reach her goal. This journey started with her brother who has special needs and continued as she tutored students with disabilities, worked with Special Olympics, and babysat local families who had children with various disabilities.

Many years ago Kaytie started collecting – computers, ideas, math manipulatives, games, posters, lesson plans, children's books; anything that could help her be a better teacher. While at EMU Kaytie became aware of missed opportunities in the community, recreational activities, vocational options, and other important aspects of student life. This awareness has led her to her research topic: solutions for incorporating universal design for learning (UDL) in the school curriculum. Kaytie looks forward to working with a faculty member on this important research.

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Anna Hesson

Anna Hesson

Anna Hesson, Speech-Language Pathology

Anna's passions are early childhood education and speech-language pathology.  She has a drive to improve the standard of living of individuals; from children to elderly.  During her undergraduate work at Western Michigan University, Anna had many opportunities to volunteer: assisting and collaborating with graduate student clinicians working with individuals with aphasia, instructing first grade students in English and Spanish to strengthen their reading and writing skills, and developing and implementing a martial-arts after school program.  Recently Anna has worked as a substitute teacher in special education classrooms.

Anna had a defining moment which connected her desire to work with individuals with disabilities.  Struggling with her third language, Portuguese, she mispronounced a word and received "a lecture and an articulation lesson".  She learned that when working with English language learners or with anyone who had learning "differences", greatest care and compassion need to be taken.

Anna plans to complete her master's degree in speech-language pathology and to become a doctoral student.  Her career goal is to work as a speech-language therapist, collaborating with teachers to raise awareness of speech and language disorders and to help create systems that integrate therapy into the daily teaching curriculum.

Anna's research focus is in children afflicted by brachydactyly, a genetic skeletal disorder.  She got interested in this when she worked with a seven-year-old boy with this disorder.  Anna looks forward to working with a faculty mentor to reveal new information about brachydactyly and to develop plans that address the whole person.

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Leah Miller

Leah Miller

Leah Miller, Speech-Language Pathology

Leah has always enjoyed art, and combined with experience in her parents' day care center, found her way to a career in art education.  It was here that she had an opportunity to work on communication skills with a nine-year-old boy with Down syndrome.  This experience introduced her to special education and, subsequently, to speech-language pathology at EMU.

Leah is a graduate assistant (GA) in the Department Special Education, a student member of the 2013-2014 Porter Chair Committee, and a member of the National Student Speech Language Hearing Association (NSSLHA)  and the Michigan Speech Language Hearing Association (MSHA).  She plans to continue her education to earn a doctoral degree.

Leah's research interest is in the area of communication skills of individuals with cognitive impairment.  While working with the nine-year-old boy, she learned first-hand how important communication is and how interrelated this is to behavior and emotional well-being.  Leah plans to conduct research on the application of total communication, i.e. sign language and speech, as a transitional language system for children who are delayed in spoken language.  She may also examine the effectiveness of techniques and technologies currently in practice to teach sign language to this population.  Leah sees being a Brehm Scholar as an opportunity to work with a faculty member on research that will help her in the future to more effectively meet the language needs of her clients.

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Kristina Oberly

Kristina Oberly

Kristina Oberly, Cognitive Impairment

Kristina, at the end of high school, was unsure what to study in college.  She enjoyed the general special education class she took at EMU and the observations she made in classrooms of students with cognitive impairment.  She knew she had found her calling!  Kristina went from uncertainty about her future to a great confidence that she has found a career where her strengths will impact positive change in the world.

Through various leadership roles at EMU, Kristina has acquired valuable skills that will be assets to her as a future teacher.  She is a member of the Honors College and Program Chair of the Honors Student Association, has been a resident advisor, and currently works an officer manager in a campus department.

Kristina's research interest is in transition programs for young adults located on college campuses.  These programs can enhance the quality of life for this population.  Students gain social and life skills, have access to resources, and acquire real-world experiences.  The Brehm Scholarship will give Kristina an opportunity to collaborate with a faculty member in examining the effects of these types of transition programs and to make a difference in the lives of young adults with cognitive impairment.

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Molly Peabody

Molly Peabody

Molly Peabody, Physical or Other Health Impairment

Molly has been immersed in an environment of differences from an early age.  Her parents adopted two boys from Russia, one with cerebral palsy and the other with autism.  This early experience with children with special needs is what sparked her compassion toward this population and motivated her desire to help others like them.  Her most recent experience, and probably the most life-changing one, has been dealing with her mother who was diagnosed with a neurological disorder and the implications it has had on her family's life over the past couple of years.  This is why Molly changed her major from cognitive impairment to physical impairment.

Molly is in the Honors College and currently plays an active role in EMU's Disability Empowerment and Advocacy League (DEAL) and the Student Council for Exceptional Children (SCEC).  She also spends time learning first-hand from individuals with disabilities by volunteering through Best Buddies and working at the Fowler Center and the St. Clair Shores Special Needs Playground Program.

Molly's research interest is in the area of assistive technology and how it can be applied to behavior management.  She has realized through her experiences that many individuals need assistance to better communicate their thoughts and needs.  Molly looks forward to the Brehm Scholarship helping her work with a faculty partner to impact the field of special education in behavior management through assistive technology.

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Olivia Rhoades

Olivia Rhoades

Olivia Rhoades, Speech-Language Pathology

Olivia possesses a driving passion to learn, research, and ultimately practice speech-language pathology in order to improve the quality of life for individuals living with communication disorders.  Her personal background includes positions involving decision making and problem solving skills that have helped her develop leadership and professionalism.

Olivia has served as coordinator for several benefit concerts, working to fundraise for various nonprofits groups.  These organizations include the Susan G. Komen for the Cure Foundation, the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, and Forever After Productions, an educational youth theater company.  She also volunteers at Sunrise Assisted Living.

Olivia's research interest focuses on the possible benefits of incorporating theater into therapy for children with autism and others with communication disorders.  Since establishing the general focus of her research, she has been granted permission from a regional educational theater company to develop a summer program for children with autism.  Olivia looks forward to working with a faculty partner on her topic of theater for children with disabilities.

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Mary Kathryn Staton

Mary Kathryn Staton

Mary Kathryn Staton, Cognitive Impairment/Autism Spectrum Disorder

When Mary Kathryn was nine years old she was diagnosed with type I diabetes.  Immediately after the diagnosis, she spent a week at the International Diabetes Center in St. Louis Park, Minnesota.  The following summer she attended Camp Needlepoint in Hudson, Wisconsin.  These experiences taught Mary Kathryn two lessons: having a chronic illness afforded her opportunities that her sisters did not have and having a child with a disability has an impact on the entire family.

Mary Kathryn knew she wanted to be a teacher as she completed her undergraduate degree at Michigan State University.  Whether she was teaching swimming lessons, leading campers, or instructing preschoolers she had always enjoyed and valued the opportunities to work with children.  Upon graduation Mary Kathryn took some time off to have her children, planning to return to university and acquire her teaching credentials.  After she became a single parent, Mary Kathryn decided to take a position at a child care center where she worked with a variety of young children with special needs.   It was here that she began to see herself as an advocate for these children and a special educator.

Mary Kathryn is very passionate about working with individuals with autism spectrum disorder.  Her research interests are in providing individuals with autism and their families with interventions to help with communication, social interactions, and family function.  Mary Kathryn looks forward to working with a faculty partner to investigate ways to strengthen families and empower individuals with autism and their family support system.

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