September 1, 2022

The New England Center for Children (NECC) has announced that Samantha Dykes and Lauren Rae have been named the 2022 winners of the Myrna E. Libby Scholar Award. The award, established in 2009, honors one student enrolled in each of the onsite graduate programs – Simmons University and Western New England University – whose work exemplify Myrna Libby’s vision that research guides the education and treatment of individuals with autism.

Myrna Libby, Ph.D., BCBA, was a director at NECC for 20 years whose impact endures as she was the principal program architect of NECC’s internationally recognized curriculum. As clinical director, she was a tireless advocate for using scientifically validated approaches and her groundbreaking research helped improve the lives of children with autism. For Libby, the actual test of any program was whether it made a meaningful difference in students’ behavior. Her clinical work directly benefitted the lives of many and will continue to positively influence countless others for generations to come. Libby passed away in 2008.

Samantha Dykes has worked in NECC’s Higley Road residence as a level 2 teacher for three years and graduated from the Simmons program this past May. Dykes, who looks up to Malala Yousafzai because she has dedicated her life to creating education opportunities for marginalized people, chose a career helping children with autism for a similar reason. “Our world is set up in a way that often overlooks the needs of neurodivergent people, and I want to play an active role in making this world more inclusive by changing oppressive systems and supporting students in learning ways to navigate this world,” she shared.

Dykes shared that winning the Libby Award is overwhelming. “To have my colleagues and supervisors see Myrna’s legacy in my practice is such an honor,” she said. “I hope I continue to emulate her in my efforts to use best practices in my teaching.”

Lauren Rae is a day coordinator for the Intensive Treatment Team’s (ITT) Apartment 3 and currently enrolled in the WNEU master’s program. Rae joined NECC in 2017 after developing an interest in applied behavior analysis (ABA) during an internship working with individuals with autism. “I really enjoy working directly with the students and striving to make even small impacts in their lives and the lives of their families,” she said. “The opportunity to work with so many well accomplished clinicians with a common goal of bettering the lives of our students is a great feeling.”

When Rae heard she was nominated for the Libby Award, she was honored “to be considered for an award that aligns with my goals and visions as a graduate student and future BCBA. While I never had the pleasure of working with Myrna Libby, she sounds like the clinician, mentor, and leader in the field that I strive to be one day,” she shared. 

Both winners received a financial award in the amount of $2,000.