Karen DeYoung: Serving Students with Disabilities
For Antioch University Seattle alumna Karen DeYoung, supporting students with disabilities is not just her day job, it’s part of who she is. As Student Access Support Coordinator at Bastyr University in Kenmore, DeYoung works with one-on-one with students who have disabilities to make sure they have the support they need as they get their education. Her advocacy for students with disabilities began long before she started working at Bastyr, however.
After going back to school for a bachelor’s degree in Early Childhood and Family Studies, DeYoung wanted to get a master’s degree. When she observed her autistic child not getting the support he needed at college, she was inspired to change her research interests and focus. The school she planned to attend for her master’s didn’t have the resources to support her new research interests so she looked into Antioch’s Master’s of Arts in Education program.
“I chose Antioch for the its social justice perspective and mission, as well as the opportunity to design my own program and focus on my own research interests and have the faculty support I needed,” she said.
After enrolling in the program, DeYoung began researching how people on the autism spectrum navigate college. She interviewed multiple students on the spectrum about their experiences and created a documentary film based on the interviews, which has been shown on several college campuses in Washington.
DeYoug also created a professional development workshop for higher education institutions to raise awareness about neurodiversity on college and university campuses. She found that the workshop helped people change their attitudes toward college students with Autism spectrum disorders. “It caused people to challenge their misperceptions of Autism.”
DeYoung presented her research at a conference in Dublin, Ireland and conducted her workshop at several local colleges.
Through it all, DeYoung felt supported by Antioch. “The core classes were instructive and relevant,” she said. As a non-traditional student, she appreciated the flexibility Antioch offered, as well as the supportive learning environment.
“I never felt marginalized by being one of the oldest students in my classes,” she said.
All of her research and hard work paid off, as it led to her current position at Bastyr. “Without the work I did at Antioch, I wouldn’t be doing what I am doing today,” she said.