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Building a Community of Belonging
Melisa Nellesen Center for Autism Parent Advisory Group

What does it mean to belong?  Why does this matter in our communities? How do we help establish supports for ourselves and those we love that encourages a community of awareness, acceptance, and opportunities for growth for individuals with autism spectrum disorder. Some key contributors to our community include education, business, non-profit service organizations, government, health and wellness and faith groups. Find ways to encourage these groups to embed belonging into their services. Learn from the parents and their collective experience about the campaign of belonging in our area, and how you can be a part of it.

Best Practices for Autism Treatment
Dr. Jane Carlson, BCBA-D

How do you know what treatments can improve difficulties associated with an autism spectrum diagnosis? How do you determine if the services being received meet the professional standards? Learn more about what types of treatments have been recognized as evidence based, and how to find those qualified to provide them.

About Dr. Carlson
Dr. Jane Carlson Dr. Carlson is a licensed psychologist and Board Certified Behavior Analyst with more than 35 years of experience working with children and adults with autism and other developmental disabilities. Dr. Carlson began her career as a special education teacher and received her PhD in clinical psychology from the State University of New York at Stony Brook.  Dr. Carlson has held leadership roles at a number of programs serving individuals with ASD, including, The Groden Center in Providence, RI, and The May Institute in Randolph, MA. She served as an expert panelist on the National Standards Project, a review of evidence-based practices in the treatment of autism, produced by the National Autism Center.  She served as Education Director of the Autism Center at Virginia Commonwealth University and as Assistant Professor in the Department of Psychiatry at the Medical College of Virginia/Virginia Commonwealth University. In addition, she has served as Director of the Autism Inclusion Project at the Developmental Disabilities Institute in Smithtown, NY, providing technical assistance and training to public schools to build capacity to serve students with autism spectrum disorders. Dr. Carlson is currently Director of the Melisa Nellesen Center for Autism as well as Assistant Professor and Verified Course Sequence Coordinator for the M.Ed. in Applied Behavior Analysis Program. She also serves as the President Elect of UtABA.  Dr. Carlson has presented her work at national and international conferences and her publications have been translated for international audiences.

Establishing Social Relationships During the School Years
Dr. Wes Dotson, BCBA-D

Social relationships develop over time and involve a variety of different skill sets.  Learn what skills develop over time, and how to foster increased relationships for those with autism spectrum disorders during the school years.

Promoting Language & Communication for Educators, Parents & Professionals
Dr. Caleb Stanley, BCBA-D

Details to come.

Preparing for Independent Living
Kari Bushman

Living independently requires years of preparation and practice. Many adults with autism, can live on their own, if given the right supports. Learn ways to encourage development of skills during adolescence.

Encouraging Self-determination
Melisa Nellesen Center for Autism Passages Team

Making decisions and acting for oneself are critical needs for everyone. Learn ways to encourage and strengthen these essential skills from early ages all the way to adulthood.


Lights, Sirens & Jumping Out of Trees: Anxiety, Depression & Suicice in Autism
Dr. Mikle South

 Children and adults with autism are often overlooked for diagnosis and treatment of associated mental health concerns such as depression, anxiety, and ADHD. There is a long history of mental health professionals telling adults with autism how to think about their mental health. We've tried to flip this on its head: integrating cutting-edge research with first-person perspectives, how an adult with autism inform broad understanding of their mental health needs.

 Mental Health Concerns in Autism Anxiety, depression and other mental health concerns occur very often alongside autism, and significantly disrupt quality of life including well-being and success in relationships and school/work settings. However, mental health in autism is traditionally viewed from a framework that doesn't include thinking about how mental health experience is unique in autism. We conduct research using a variety of methods ranging from surveys to neuroimaging and important to interviews with people with autism about their own experience. We strive to conduct clinically-informed research that is also informative for helping adults with autism and those who are close to them to better understand the hows and whys of mental health difficulties. The takeaways from our presentation are: listen to people with autism, and believe them; don't insist on making your frameworks fit onto the people you are seeing; and think about how some unique things that are common in autism can help you (clinician, teacher, family, individual) better understand mental health challenges and support them more effectively. This presentation represents dissemination of knowledge to benefit the whole community. The presentation is organized around themes of anxiety and autism; depression and autism; suicide and autism; gender identity and autism; and how better understanding of these topics can inform better support and help.