LEXINGTON, Ky. (June 18, 2010) - The Human Development Institute — University of Kentucky Center for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities — announced today that Jessie Birdwhistell is the 2010 winner of the Paul Kevin Burberry Award, given annually since 2004 to a UK student who has demonstrated exemplary leadership and advocacy in working with children, youth or adults with developmental disabilities.
Birdwhistell is entering her third year as a doctoral student in UK's School Psychology Program in the College of Education. She has volunteered innumerable hours throughout her educational career to working with children and youth with developmental disabilities, including autism.
In the fall of 2009, Birdwhistell organized the TOPSoccer league, specifically focused on including children with disabilities 4 years of age and older. The program, which was featured in the Lexington Herald Leader, currently consists of 48 players and more than 80 volunteers (including children and youth without disabilities), all organized through Birdwhistell's efforts. She also spearheaded fund raising of over $15,000 for the league in its first year.
In addition, Birdwhistell has served as a research assistant at HDI, helping to evaluate the impact of many of our projects. She recently completed HDI's Graduate Certificate in Developmental Disabilities, a year-long sequence of courses related to life span issues for individuals with developmental disabilities and their families. Her own research interests as a doctoral student are focused on peer relationships for students with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), and how best to insure that these students are able to be part of their classroom social network. This is a crucial area of need for students with ASD.
HDI has presented the Burberry Award to an outstanding University of Kentucky student each year since 2004. The award is named for an outstanding self-advocate and former University of Kentucky student, Paul Kevin Burberry, who was a pioneer in creating opportunities for individuals with significant disabilities in our society.
For more information about the award or to learn more about the institute, visit www.hdi.uky.edu.