You can read Nancy Musarra's Ph.D. dissertation on the face of every child she helps.

At Walden University, we believe research shouldn't gather dust sitting on a library shelf. Instead, we expect our students to apply their research immediately. Just as Nancy Musarra, Walden Ph.D. in Psychology has done working with children with Asperger's Disorder.

Asperger's is characterized by a range of delays in different developmental changes. It's more common in males, and typically diagnosed in later childhood, between the ages of 11 and 13. Those with the disorder have average or above-average intelligence and language development, but have difficulty using and understanding non-verbal communication. As a result, they struggle to form relationships and lack social confidence.

"It's a difficult diagnosis to make," says Dr. Musarra, a therapist and behavioral health consultant in Ohio. "Parents often notice that something 'isn't quite right' with their child, but can't identify it."

As part of her dissertation, Dr. Nancy Musarra identified a connection between working-memory capacity-the brain's ability to temporarily store information-and the poor social skills exhibited by children with the disorder. Her findings suggest that if psychologists and educators target remedial efforts to enhance working-memory capacity, persons with Asperger's may more effectively engage in complex information processing and participate more effectively in reciprocal social interactions.

Dr. Musarra won the Harold L. Hodgkinson Award, presented annually to a Walden graduate whose dissertation meets the highest university standards.

"My dissertation committee continually raised the bar throughout the study," Dr. Musarra said. "Considering where that took me, I'm glad they did."

You can make a positive difference in the lives of others. And you can start today at Walden University.

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