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2014 Conference Session Descriptions

Opening Keynote – David Finch, – (Grande Ballroom – 9am – 9:50 am)

David Finch, author of the New York Times Bestseller, The Journal of Best Practices: A Memoir of Marriage, Asperger Syndrome, and One Man's Quest to Be a Better Husbandwill open our conference with a fun and informative look at living with autism. Filled with humor and surprising wisdom, David will share his candid story of ruthless self-improvement, a unique window into living with an autism spectrum condition, and proof that a true heart can conquer all.

Morning Concurrent Sessions

10 am

Preparing Individuals on the Autism Spectrum for Adulthood – Rhonda Greenhaw (Centre Stage – 10am-10:50am)

Based upon her experiences as a clinician, researcher and designer of programs for young adults on the autism spectrum, Rhonda Greenhaw will examine critical experiences, attitudes and information that young people living with ASD must be provided with and exposed to in order to maximize their capacities. Participants will develop understanding about the challenges young adults on the spectrum experience, what information these young adults are lacking, and how to create opportunity for young adults to grow and learn in unexpected ways that lead to incredible gains in abilities. Attendees will learn about the program experiences of the Hussman Center at Towson University, and the lessons they have learned developing one of the world’s largest university-based centers focused on adult autism.

10 Comprehensive Life Care Planning Steps – Spencer Mack (SC 206A 10am – 10:50 am)

Join Spencer Mack, one of only two Chartered Special Needs Consultants in Utah, as he gives an overview of the Ten Comprehensive Life Care Planning Steps which will help families build life plans for their special-needs children. Along with other valuable information, participants will have the opportunity to receive a template for preparing the Letter of Intent, which can serve as the family’s ‘Handbook of Instructions’ for the future.

Across Cultures: Rethinking Autism – Hyun Uk Kim (SC 206B 10am – 10:50 am)

Whereas the autism prevalence rate has been very closely monitored in the United States since the 1960’s, there are many countries where no equivalent work has been done. This may be attributed to the fact that autism is differently constructed and viewed socially in other cultures and countries. Based upon field notes, interviews, and observations of family members and professionals in three different countries, Dr. Kim will share her insight into this difference. These cultural explorations can teach us more about having less restrictive attitudes and to more appreciate individual difference or ‘neurodiversity’ in everyone.

Why Was I Fired? Job-keeping Social Skills for Adults with Autism Spectrum Disorders – Kali Hall and Lynnette Jewell (SC 206C 10am – 10:50 am )

In today’s workplace it is not enough to have an education or marketable work skills to be successful. While they are necessary to get hired, adults with ASD often lack the social understanding needed to keep their jobs. According to a study of a corporation who hire MBA’s, “the three most desired capabilities are communication skills, interpersonal skills and initiative – all of which are elements of emotional intelligence” (Caudron, 1999). This presentation will focus on challenges that adults with ASD face in the work place, how to teach resiliency, self-advocacy, workplace social rules, emotional management among other soft skills, and how to work with supervisors to get the best out of adults with ASD.

IEPs and Section 504 Plans - Maria Wiscombe and LauraLee Gillespie (SC 213A – 10am-11:50am)

Join Maria Wiscombe from the Utah Parent Center and LauraLee Gillespie from the Disability Law Center, for this useful and insightful discussion on common issues parents are confronted with in public schools (districts and charter schools) when seeking special education or Section 504 services. Questions such as: how can parents be effective members of the IEP team, what is an appropriate educational placement for a student with Autism, what are the differences between an IEP and a Section 504 plan, what are the common legal issues parents can face, and what are the rights under the law (including such areas as restraint, seclusion, suspension and expulsion) for students with an ASD diagnosis will be reviewed. NOTE: EXTENDED SESSION (110 minutes)

Download session material here

Autism: A Survival Guide for Caregivers – Laura Anderson and Cheryl Smith, Utah Autism Council (SC 213B 10am-10:50am) NOTE: This session will be repeated at 2pm in SC 213A

Finding and retaining caregivers for children and adults with autism can be challenging and frustrating. This presentation will preview the new Caregivers Survival DVD recently produced in collaboration with SaharaCares, Clear Horizons and the Autism Council of Utah. The purpose of this session, and the DVD, is to educate families and potential caregivers who may be interested in providing support and home respite services for the family caring for an individual with autism. Suggestions and professional recommendations for dealing with the unique behaviors and challenges associated with autism will be offered, along with messages from parents, volunteers and caregivers currently receiving or providing those services.

11 am

Initiations & Interactions: Communication Strategies for Children with ASD – Teresa Cardon, PhD – (Centre Stage 11am-11:50am)

Come and learn how to help your child discover the power of initiation! Learn to follow your child’s lead and create meaningful interactions out of everyday activities and special interests. We will discuss creating communication environments and providing intervention in natural settings. The session will focus on strategies to support the whole child including sensory and music activities, play skills, visual supports, emergent literacy and much, much more! Specific techniques, along with video clips, will be introduced so that participants leave the workshop with useful strategies they can implement in their own settings! No matter what your current role is, parent or provider, this session will provide tools that are meaningful and practical.

Download session material here

Creating Learning Environments – Holli Child (SC 206 A - 11am-11:50am)

Creating opportunities for students to have success is extremely important to social, emotional, behavioral and academic growth. This session will focus on creating environments where students can be successful. Join Holli as she demonstrates ways to foster academic growth through physical environment, effective communication, visual supports and social interaction.

Plan for the Future: Employment and Higher Education – Esperanza Reyes (SC 206 B - 11am-11:50am)

This session will help families and care givers to understand how vocational rehabilitation can be involved in a student’s current IEP or Section 504 plan as they plan for future and employment goals. Participants will also gain understanding about Vocational Rehabilitation programs and services, as well as the services for students with disabilities who plan on attending a college/university or college of applied technology.

Representations of Autism in Popular Culture – Todd Mack, PhD (SC 206 C – 11am-11:50am)

We are all aware that autism is being represented with increasing frequency in the media. In this entertaining, interactive and informative presentation, Dr. Mack will highlight how popular television shows such as Parenthood, The Middle, Big Bang Theory, Bones, Doc Martin and others can help us see autism from different angles – the angle of the parent, the angle of the person with autism, and the angle of the neurotypical outsider. In seeing how autism affects others, and in thinking about how other people work through the challenges associated with autism, viewers are also given the chance to reflect on how they are being affected and how they are working through those challenges in their own lives. This session will present tools that will help individuals learn from, and get the most out of, shows they quite possible already watch. NOTE: This session will be repeated at 3pm in SC 206 B

Activity Schedules – Julia Hermansen (SC 213B 11am – 11:50 am)

How many times has your calendar on your phone or computer buzzed at you to remind you to complete a task or attend a meeting? Often we require calendars, electronic devices and or the classic ‘Post-It Note’ to remind us to get started on something. People living with autism are no different in needing a little ‘nudge’ here and there to remind them to begin a task. The need for these reminders or prompts often becomes an obstacle to an individual’s ability to be more independent. This presentation will dive into one solution that has been found through research to be effective in helping people with autism do activities independently.

LUNCHEON (Grande Ballroom 12 noon – 1pm)

Afternoon Concurrent Sessions

1 pm

Adult Outcomes of Children Diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) – William McMahon, PhD (Centre Stage – 1pm – 1:50 pm)

Dr. McMahon will review results in the Utah statewide epidemiologic sample of children with ASD first assessed in 1984-1988, who have now been re-assessed as adults nearly 30 years later. In addition, new information will be reviewed regarding adults with autism spectrum disorder, who were not diagnosed with ASD as children.

The Program for the Education and Enrichment of Relational Skills (PEERS) – Kristina Cottle, Chloe Ruebeck and Julia Connelly (SC 206B 1pm – 2:50pm) NOTE: EXTENDED SESSION (110 minutes)

This session will review the PEERS program, which is based largely on the structure and experiences of the evidence based Children’s Friendship Training (CFT) created by researchers at UCLA. The program uses developmental research principles to teach age appropriate friendship building and maintaining techniques. Parents and adolescents with high functioning autism spectrum disorder or related disorders benefit from the evidence based curriculum. Presenters from the Autism Spectrum Disorder Clinic will outline how they have adapted the program to meet the needs of adolescents in an outpatient setting, and the positive results they have seen.

Practicing Authentic Self-Care – Laurie Bowen (SC 206C 1pm-1:50pm)

Parents with children with special needs, including autism, often find themselves navigating in an unexpected world of responsibilities and altered expectations. Often in a desire to give their child every opportunity, it is common for the parent to dedicate a majority of their time to serving and assisting their child to become their best. This can add extra stress and burdens that other parents may not be facing or understand. This session will focus on helping caregivers ensure that they are practicing authentic self-care. Self-care principles such as using mindful prioritization, dedicated time investment, ways to increase personal support system building through strategic planning with be reviewed. Also ways and techniques to simplify areas of stress and burdens common to those living with Autism Spectrum Disorders will also be addressed.

Download session materials here

2 pm

Anxiety, Depression and Autism: Current Research and Implications for Treatment – Mikle South, PhD (Centre Stage 2pm-3:50pm) NOTE: EXTENDED SESSION (110 minutes)

Significant symptoms of anxiety and depression may occur in up to 80% of individuals diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Often these difficulties with emotion regulation cause as much difficulty for individuals, families and care systems as the autism symptoms themselves. This extended session presentation will review findings on anxiety and depression in ASD, including information on prevalence – but more importantly on characterization of the nature of these problems in autism, for example related to cutting-edge applications such as ‘fear of negative evaluation’, and ‘intolerance of uncertainty’. Dr. South will summarize his new research program at Brigham Young University, and discuss how to translate his findings into meaningful interventions.

Download session materials here

Understanding Neurotypicals (NTs): A Primer – Tracy Golden, PhD and Teresa Cardon, PhD (SC 206A 2pm – 2:50pm) NOTE: This presentation is best suited for anyone who is touched by individuals with higher functioning autism (what is formerly known as Asperger’s Syndrome). NOTE: This session will be repeated at 3pm in SC 206A

Because individuals with autism constitute a minority of our population, it is easy to categorize them as ‘different’ and ‘other’. This categorization tends to marginalize and misrepresent individuals with autism by assuming that characteristics of people with autism need to be ‘normalized’. Through humor, this presentation will turn that perspective upside down by showing what is ‘normal’ about autism, and what may appear ‘crazy’ about neurotypical behavior.

Parent Panel – Jared Stewart, Moderator (SC 206 C 2pm – 2:50pm)

Join Jared Stewart as he leads a discussion focused on parenting the autistic adolescent or adult. Panelists will share their personal experiences ( triumphs, failures, joys and concerns) and ways they have approached the changes growing up brings to their children.

Autism: A Survival Guide for Caregivers – Laura Anderson and Cheryl Smith, Utah Autism Council (SC 213B 2 pm-2:50 pm) NOTE: REPEATED SESSION

Finding and retaining caregivers for children and adults with autism can be challenging and frustrating. This presentation will preview the new Caregivers Survival DVD recently produced in collaboration with SaharaCares, Clear Horizons and the Autism Council of Utah. The purpose of this session, and the DVD, is to educate families and potential caregivers who may be interested in providing support and home respite services for the family caring for an individual with autism. Suggestions and professional recommendations for dealing with the unique behaviors and challenges associated with autism will be offered, along with messages from parents, volunteers and caregivers currently receiving or providing those services.

Simple Yoga Breaks for Compassion Fatigue, and for Students, Clients and Families – Yael Calhoun (SC 206 B – 3pm- 3:50pm)

This session will provide professionals and caregivers with the tools to use simple yoga stretching and breathing breaks for both self-care and use with clients, students and/or families with ASD. The session will address the science of yoga, applications for working with people with ASD and will include experiential learning. It includes free support materials so that professionals can both use and share the yoga breaks easily and with confidence.

3 pm

Understanding Neurotypicals (NTs): A Primer – Tracy Golden, PhD and Teresa Cardon, PhD (SC 206A 2pm – 2:50pm) NOTE: This presentation is best suited for anyone who is touched by individuals with higher functioning autism (what is formerly known as Asperger’s Syndrome). NOTE: REPEATED SESSION

Because individuals with autism constitute a minority of our population, it is easy to categorize them as ‘different’ and ‘other’. This categorization tends to marginalize and misrepresent individuals with autism by assuming that characteristics of people with autism need to be ‘normalized’. Through humor, this presentation will turn that perspective upside down by showing what is ‘normal’ about autism, and what may appear ‘crazy’ about neurotypical behavior.

Representations of Autism in Popular Culture – Todd Mack, PhD (SC 206 B – 11am-11:50am)

We are all aware that autism is being represented with increasing frequency in the media. In this entertaining, interactive and informative presentation, Dr. Mack will highlight how popular television shows such as Parenthood, The Middle, Big Bang Theory, Bones, Doc Martin and others can help us see autism from different angles – the angle of the parent, the angle of the person with autism, and the angle of the neurotypical outsider. In seeing how autism affects others, and in thinking about how other people work through the challenges associated with autism, viewers are also given the chance to reflect on how they are being affected and how they are working through those challenges in their own lives. This session will present tools that will help individuals learn from, and get the most out of, shows they quite possible already watch. NOTE: REPEATED SESSION

Adult Relationships and Autism: A Panel Discussion – Jared Stewart, Moderator (SC 206 C – 3pm- 3:50pm)

Having a successful healthy relationship is a wonderfully challenging experience for all who pursue it. But how do things change when your partner is diagnosed with autism? Join Jared Stewart as he leads a discussion focused on marriage, partnership, dating and falling in love within the world of autism.

Teaching Self-Determination – Esperanza Reyes (SC 213 A 1pm-1:50 pm)

Join Esperanza as she discusses how to effectively support adults with disabilities in the post-secondary years. Learn how to be a mentor to the young adult as he/she learns how to manage his/her own life. A self-determined person can set goals, make decision, speak for themselves and solve problems on their own. But it’s up to those who care of them most to help lead the way. This session will help family members and care givers to achieve this objective.