Kathy Matthews, 32 

Assistant Professor, VCU, Director of Education, The Faison School for Autism

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Anyone who knows about autism knows that progress can and needs to be made. Kathy Matthews, 32, knows a lot about autism.

She received her doctorate in behavioral analysis and special education from Columbia University. She is director of education for the Faison School of Autism and teaches at the Virginia Commonwealth University School of Medicine and George Mason University.

But for Matthews, progress doesn't come from ivory towers. It comes from classrooms. It builds from communities. It shows in the faces of children with autism.  

Louis Hagopian, program director of the neuro-behavioral unit at Kennedy Krieger Institute in Baltimore and an associate professor at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, consults for the Faison School and works with Matthews on research.

“Kathy's contributions to the Faison School are difficult to overstate, as is her commitment to the students,” he says. “She's happy with the progress she makes each day, but is never completely satisfied.”

Matthews has met with Gov. Tim Kaine to address the state's role in autism and education. She's conducted free public-awareness programs, and has worked with officials and scholars to establish a plan for improving services to children with autism. Most of all, she's helping families struggling with the disorder to know there's progress at hand.


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