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Student Seeks to Develop Autism Assessment Tool in Arabs

May Mahmoud

May Mahmoud is in her last semester of the Katz School’s Speech-Language Pathology program. Originally from Alexandria, Egypt, she currently lives in Brooklyn. May is bilingual in Arabic and English, and holds an undergraduate degree in speech-language pathology from Brooklyn College. Helena Goodman, a marketing manager at Yeshiva University, recently spoke with May about her experience at the Katz School of Science and Health.

Q: How have you adapted your SLP practice during COVID-19?

I used to provide services to children and geriatrics in person, but I transitioned to teletherapy and distance-based therapy as COVID-19 hit. It has definitely been an adjustment for my clients, as a lot of them have never worked with a pathologist remotely before. Yet, we have been able to continue to provide help to our clients, as the need does not stop. Many things have been put on pause during COVID-19; however, an elderly person recovering from a stroke does not have the luxury to stop his therapy. We continue to provide the care that is needed to help our clients in their situations.

Q: Have you found anything that has made the transition easier?

I have found that sometimes you need to compensate for the fact that you are not doing face-to-face therapy. Certain methods are much harder via Zoom, such as play-based therapy.  Children with autism cannot sustain eye contact and their attention, but as we transitioned I have found ways to supplement this. I use the shared-screen option for book readings and pointing to things. This has resulted in many of my clients gaining new skills from remote therapy; I believe that even the geriatric population is now learning a bunch of new skills by using these platforms. I also see the confidence they are gaining by mastering these platforms.

Q: What are some of the benefits of the Katz program?

The Katz program stood out to me because it was the only one that provided a medical track and an SLP education with an emphasis on working in a medical setting, as well as an educational setting. Without a medical background, you cannot work in a hospital or nursing facility. Many don’t realize that our field helps more than children, but those across the lifespan and with varying abilities. The Katz courses are incredibly specialized and specific, providing you experience in a variety of topics. Marissa Barrera also was a deciding factor. We spent over an hour on the phone before I was accepted. She was humble and personable. It just clicked—the cherry on the top for why I chose Katz.

Q: What did you focus your research on?

My investigation focused on “Assessment of Autism Spectrum Disorder in Bilingual Children.” Standardized assessments are often considered the gold standard for identifying diagnoses. This research examined the efficacy of standardized assessments in diagnosing Autism Spectrum Disorder in bilingual children. My long-term goal is to develop a standardized assessment for Arabic-speaking individuals.

Q: Any advice for prospective students?

You have to be passionate - that passion will give you the drive to work hard. It is not an easy program, but it will prepare you for the real world and work in the field. You have to be positive you want to be in the program: you are treating people who are in critical condition and you need the skills and patience to give them what they need. The ability to help them will come from that passion.

The Katz School of Science and Health is an academic powerhouse in the heart of New York City. It offers master's programs on five sectors that are redefining the economy: Artificial Intelligence, Cybersecurity, Biotech and Health, Digital Media, and Fintech. In the lab, classroom and clinic, we lead with kindness, integrity, generosity and a commitment to making the world safer, smarter and healthier.