Jodi Yager receives Dean's Convocation Medal

June 11, 2013

Dr. Jodi Yager's research involved studying the social interactions of high-functioning individuals with autism spectrum disorder (ASD).

Although all individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) demonstrate some level of difficulty with social interaction, there is variability in the types of challenges shown. For instance, some individuals with ASD appear interested in interacting with others but have trouble applying their social knowledge in daily life. Others appear less interested in social interaction and prefer to be on their own. Such differences in social presentation might have important implications for developing and planning appropriate social skills treatments.

However, clinicians and researchers do not have many tools available to help them identify which areas of social functioning a child/adolescent with ASD struggles with most. For her research, she developed and evaluated a new measure, the Multidimensional Social Competence Scale (MSCS). It is hoped that this new tool will help both researchers and clinicians identify areas of relative social strength and challenge in youth with ASD.

In developing this work for her dissertation, Dr. Yager has opened up a very promising research area which can be applied to understand the social development of individuals with ASD.

Dr. Yager was a rising star even as as an undergraduate, earning the BC Psychological Association Gold Medal in Psychology, among many other awards. As a graduate student, she received the CD Nelson Memorial Graduate Scholarship, an Autism Training Program Doctoral Scholarship, a Michael Smith Foundation for Health Research Senior Graduate Studentship Award, and a SSHRC Doctoral Fellowship. She has also published five papers in refereed publications, and delivered conference presentations as far afield as London, Boston, and Georgia.

Dr. Grace Iarocci, her supervisor, says, "Dr. Jodi Yager has been an outstanding student in the SFU Clinical Psychology Program; she excelled both academically and in terms of her scientific process. As part of her dissertation research, she developed a measurement tool that will benefit genetic, behavioural and clinical research as well as clinical practice in the autism field. She is highly deserving of this honour, and both I and the Department of Psychology offer our heartfelt congratulations."

Dr. Yager adds, "I am passionate about continuing to work with children with Autism Spectrum Disorder and their families — both clinically and in a research capacity. I am currently working at Compass Clinic in Vancouver where I conduct contracted psychological assessments for the Provincial Autism Resource Centre. I also plan to continue research collaborations with my mentor, Dr. Grace Iarocci, and the Autism & Developmental Disorders Lab."

On behalf of SFU, we congratulate Jodi Yager on her outstanding achievements which are being recognized with the award of the Dean of Graduate Studies Convocation Medal as one of SFU's most outstanding graduate students from the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences.

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