STEM, Autism, and Building Professional Relationships: Interview with a Mentor, Part One

Steps to Autism Acceptance Podcast
Steps to Autism Acceptance Podcast
STEM, Autism, and Building Professional Relationships: Interview with a Mentor, Part One
STEM Mentor Dr. Melike Schalomon smiling and looking at camera
Dr. Melike Schalomon

Dr. Melike Schalomon is Interim Dean of Arts and Science and Associate Professor at Grant MacEwan University in Canada. Her background is in neuropsychology. I have had the pleasure of having her as an instructor for several of my undergraduate courses. Dr. Schalomon was also my research supervisor and co-author on two of my publications. I first met her in 2004, when she held a class in brain and behavior in the same room where I took first year English.

I arrived early to class and was fascinated by her notes on brain anatomy on the board (which is a special interest of mine). I walked up to the front of the room and started asking questions as she was finishing her lecture. She continues to be a great influence and colleague thirteen years later. In fact, she is one of the greatest influences in my career path and life direction. In this three-part series, I speak with her about her experience mentoring me as an autistic student and what she learned from it. We also discuss changes to university policy that she advocated for and that were somewhat influenced by my case.

Part one of this series discusses her experience on matching her cognitive style to mine when I was her student. We also discuss the importance of recognizing that autistic individuals may have different personalities and communication styles than the average university or college student. It is a matter of difference rather than lack. As Dr. Schalomon says, “If you don’t quite know what the student needs, go to the student and ask” what you can do to support them rather than assuming ill intent or rudeness on the part of the student. Finally, knowledge of a diagnosis is not necessary to provide support. All students have unique needs, and some students may have autistic tendencies or need explicit instruction without having a formal autism diagnosis.


For a pdf transcript of this interview, click here.

Download the audio file here: Laura Gilmour and Dr. Melike Schalomon: Interview with a Mentor, Part One

Do you have questions or comments for Laura Gilmour? We hope you’ll join the conversation.

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Laura Gilmour is a PhD candidate in educational psychology at the University of Alberta and an autistic self-advocate. Her research has centred around issues surrounding autism across the life span ranging from sexuality, online gaming, employment, and autism culture. She is actively involved in guest lectures in the Edmonton community which share both her personal and research experience.

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