Changing puzzles into progress


Heather Schwarz

Heather Schwarz (’08, ’09M) is a new face on our Be the Change website.  Heather received the Heather M. Empfield Scholarship in Autism for distinguished teaching from the school division where she teaches children who have been diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (ASD).  As a first-year teacher last year, Heather’s work with these special — and challenging —  students was exemplary. Autism is a complex and puzzling condition that afflicts thousands of children every year, and by it’s very nature, requires a special brand of teaching and commitment. In her classroom, Heather changes puzzles into progress.

According to the National Institutes of Health website: “Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a range of complex neurodevelopment disorders, characterized by social impairments, communication difficulties, and restricted, repetitive, and stereotyped patterns of behavior.  Autistic disorder, sometimes called autism or classical ASD, is the most severe form of ASD, while other conditions along the spectrum include a milder form known as Asperger syndrome, the rare condition called Rett syndrome, and childhood disintegrative disorder and pervasive developmental disorder not otherwise specified (usually referred to as PDD-NOS).  Although ASD varies significantly in character and severity, it occurs in all ethnic and socioeconomic groups and affects every age group.  Experts estimate that three to six children out of every 1,000 will have ASD.”

Through her skilled, dedicated and compassionate teaching, Heather is changing the lives of children and also their families.  Heather’s commitment to helping change these students’ outlook and future is inspiring.

Read more about Heather here:

You can also read about another Be the Changer, JMU alumna Gay Finlayson, who also is changing the lives of individuals and their families challenged by ASD:

And stay tuned.  In coming weeks, we’ll be telling you about a current student who has started a new program on campus for local children with special needs.


About James Madison University
This blog is about the people of James Madison University — a caring, committed and engaged community spread all over the world, making lives better and brighter, healthier and safer, kinder and bolder. As Gandhi suggested, we are taking steps to BE the CHANGE we wish to see in the world. And these are our stories....

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