RMC Alumni Corner: Antonia Klein changes the world for autistic children, article by Margaret Klein

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Rocky Mountain College alumna, Antonia Klein was fascinated with the college ever since she was first exposed to the campus at age thirteen. She says that at that age, her initial impression was one of awe. She had, “never seen anything like it.” Klein’s life went on but she never forgot the buildings. After becoming a student at RMC, the sight of those same buildings restored her vision. Klein saw them as a testament to the character of the first students who built these structures as a way to pay for their tuition. Klein observes, “When I learned the story of the construction and its accompanying com- mitment from those involved, I was in all the way. I did not choose RMC, RMC chose me and everything else fell into place.”

During her time at RMC, there were many vital experiences which stood out. One in particular, was Klein’s work in assisting the psychology department. This allowed her to “develop the passion for learning about the biopsychosocial connection.” Another was her stint in the Creative Writing courses which guided her in finding her own voice. In addition to those milestones, Klein cites her opportunity to be a part of the RMC Chaplains group as significant because it helped her “be a part of something much larger than myself.”

A common topic that comes up in Klein’s praise of RMC is the role of the professors. One professor left an impression on Klein. She states, “At the outset of the class she had us write something…I wrote it and she liked it so much she actually put it online so it would be the first thing you would see when you entered the virtual classroom.” For Klein, the most memorable element of RMC was the role of teachers because while she was learning she was “being taught by some pretty amazing individuals who made all the difference in the outcome for one person… me.”

Klein didn’t just experience joy at RMC, she also had regrets. One regret in particular was failing Chemistry. However, she understood that failure can inspire just as well as success. Klein states, “failure has the power to change the course to something more excellent.”

RMC was crucial in the development of Klein’s dissertation. She notes that RMC afforded her the opportunity to examine the biopsychosocial aspect of autism and its effects: “What I learned at RMC formulated the foundation being built and fostered the ability to expand into other areas such as nutrition, genetics, environment, education, and other areas of autism research.”

While deciding on a dissertation, Klein asked herself about the ways her background in the eld of biopsychosocial science might benefit others. She asked herself, “What need is out there that must be addressed?” She received her answer from a friend living in France, Michel Mace, who encouraged Klein to consider the autism community.

Klein described her mentality as wanting to, “shake the building, examine the falling bricks, critique my findings and develop a way in which to contribute to putting it back in a rm foundation; one that makes it easier for others.”

After countless hours of work spent studying, interviewing, and researching, Antonia Klein published her 470-page dissertation titled, “The Environmental Health of the Autistic Student in the Public School Classroom.” According to her, this work is, “solely dedicated to ways in which students with autism can and do learn as well as potential barriers based on the relationship of each of the factors.” Klein’s dissertation not only benefits autistic students, educators, administrators, and parents, it is also a fascinating read. Klein states, “It is wonderful being in a position to provide insights into ways that bring ideas and people together in seeking a solution for a very challenging issue.”

As someone who already experienced RMC at the student level, Klein is well-suited to give advice to current students. For the general student population, Klein advises that they make the most of their adventure at RMC. “You are working hard and might be frustrated with the demands but it is changing you in ways you never imagined. Your commitment to your education is the best decision you have made and while there are time constraints, moments of frustration and stress, there are also rewarding moments when you have met the challenge.”

To education majors specifically, she says, “You are truly a person I admire, each of you. Leaders are not born; they are made and this is your opportunity to build upon the foundation of change. Take the time to re ect upon those who have gone before you. You may be the true catalyst that changes everything. You will be given that power with the education you receive from RMC.”

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