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April 12, 2010

La Salle University, Green Tree Partnerships to Host Fourth Annual Autism Conference: Focus on the Family is the Theme

La Salle University will host the Fourth Annual Autism Conference, Autistic Spectrum Disorder (ASD) Focus on the Family, on Friday, April 30. Some of the area’s leading experts on autism and the families with individuals on the autism spectrum will lead 14 workshops, in both morning and afternoon sessions. The conference is sponsored by La Salle and Green Tree Partnerships, which works with schools, behavioral health agencies and community-based programs to find innovative ways to support students with behavioral challenges

The keynote speaker will be Kristie P. Koenig, Ph.D., OTR/L, FAOTA, Assistant Professor, Department of Occupational Therapy at New York University. She will discuss, “Self-Regulation and the Impact of Sensory Processing Strategies for Home and School.”

Attending the conference will be Eustacia Cutler, whose autistic daughter, Temple Grandin, was the subject of a recent HBO film starring Claire Danes as Temple and Julia Ormond as Cutler. Grandin was valedictorian at her college, went on to earn a doctorate, and has become one of top scientists in humane livestock handling. Cutler has written a memoir about her life with Temple called A Thorn in my Pocket.

Focusing on families was chosen as the conference topic because, “There are so many issues that affect the family once a diagnosis is made,” said Dr. Carole Patrylo, a professor of education at La Salle.  “Stress plays a prominent role in a marriage with a child diagnosed with autism. Also affected are the siblings, as parents devote time and resources for the ASD child.”

She added, “There are three ‘systems’ that need to work together for a family with a child on the ASD spectrum: family, school, and community mental health services. You can not work with child in isolation.”

Dr. Eric Mitchell, a consulting psychologist with Green Tree, said, “This conference is about providing opportunities for families to come together and learn about where they have come in relation to those around them, and what may be coming next in their journeys through life as it relates to ASD.”

“Families presented with the diagnosis of autistic spectrum disorder have historically faced a plethora of life changes, from daily struggles with their children, to revising future plans for the entire family, to setting aside time and resources to engage in a wide array of therapies,” Mitchell said. “The result of these seemingly insurmountable challenges faced by families can place them through stages of grieving and perhaps bewilderment, although over time, it is possible for inspiration, renewed family identity, and even stability to be achieved when families are able to learn how to cope with some potentially profound differences in their lives.

For information, call 609.518.1259 or email: info@eventmood.com or visit www.gtpartnerships.org.

The conference schedule is as follows:

Session A Workshops - 10:45 a.m. - 12:30 p.m.

Fathering Children on the Spectrum(A Parent Panel Discussion)
Presenters: Anthony Driggers, Jack Junod, and Tony Wilson
Facilitator: Dr. Eric Mitchell, Green Tree School

In the ASD community, fathers are sometimes overlooked, even though they may be a crucial factor for positive outcomes of children on the spectrum and their families. This interactive panel discussion will delve into some poignant and inspiring stories of the trials and tribulations of three devoted fathers, although their paths have not necessarily been smoothly paved. Come and hear how these dads have been coping with life in the ASD community, and how the ASD
community and related systems can support them as they navigate a course to support their families.

Using Creative Movement Activities to Enhance Communication and Playful Interaction with Children with Autistic Spectrum Disorders
Presenters: Gayle Gates and Amy Hunter, Green Tree School

This workshop will introduce techniques of play, creative movement activities and use of props to enhance verbal and non verbal communication between parent and child and support the potential for shared joint attention, reciprocity, imitation and functional and symbolic play. Participants will explore kinesthetic, tactile, visual and auditory elements of the play experience and learn how to attune to the child’s play behaviors and use props to initiate and sustain playful
interactions with the child.

A Social Skills Seminar
Presenters: Carol Moog Ph.D. and Parin Patel M.S., University of Pennsylvania

Adults with Asperger’s Syndrome and other social learning disorders have unique social deficits that interfere with their ability to communicate effectively, find employment, and develop meaningful interpersonal relationships. Many cannot effectively “read” nonverbal social cues such as facial expressions and body language. Their ability to intuit others’ emotional states is limited, and therefore they have trouble predicting the behavior of others. These problems in communication often lead to misperceptions of other people’s feelings and motivations.

The seminar focuses on noticing and understanding nonverbal communication which helps promote conversational, job interviewing, and relationship skills.

Building a Community of Young Adults on the Spectrum
Presenters: Lorie Brew, M.S. and Joyce Harding, R.N.

The Coffeehouse Center of Bucks County is a community program that supports young adults with Asperger’s Syndrome/PDD, NOS transitioning into adulthood. Through a panel presentation, Members and Staff will provide participants with experiences of living with Asperger’s Syndrome and PDD/NOS and how others could support individuals as they negotiate relationships, advocate and acquire independent living skills. The workshop will also offer participants best practices when facilitating individuals with Asperger’s Disorder, PDD, NOS with navigating peer and other societal interactions. The presenters will also provide knowledge through their general observations of the challenges, successes and surprises when facilitating young adults in a natural group setting.

Families First: The Challenges of Autism
Presenter: Dr. Donna Tonrey, La Salle University - Marriage Family Therapy

This workshop will focus on helping families cope as a family with the challenges that come when a member has autism. Covered will be the following: Identifying the family system, the family strengths, the roles each person plays in the family, learning to cope as a family first and as a family with a member who has autism. The workshop is intended to be interactive and there will be time for open discussion.

Families and Attachment Issues
Presenter: Dr. Patricia Wilson, La Salle University, Psychology

Advocacy for Individuals on the Autism Spectrum
Presenter: Dr. Bonnie Zetick, La Salle University, Social Work

Some resources and programs have developed for individuals on the autism spectrum and their families. An objective of this workshop will be to provide information on identifying and accessing these resources. A second objective is to explore the role of advocacy as a key factor in expanding programs and resources for this population. Current gaps in the service system will be discussed, and strategies for successful advocacy, as well as examples of past accomplishments,
will be shared. The overall objective is to provide participants with information about what has been accomplished, as well as to encourage families, professionals serving this population, and individuals on the autism spectrum to keep up advocacy efforts to develop additional services and programs to benefit this population.

Session B Workshops   1:30 to 3:15 p.m.

Seamless Inclusion
Presenters: Stephen Downs and Lisa Lingman, La Salle University

 Self Advocacy and Social Skills for College Life, a course developed by the Drexel Autism Support Program
Presenters: Dr. Felicia Hurewitz and Erin Abrigo, M.A., Drexel University

The workshop will focus on the implementation and dissemination of a social skills and self advocacy course developed by the Drexel Autism Support Program. Under the umbrella of the Eastern ASERT, Drexel University has created a program that provides supports for college-based trainers to offer an onsite 8-week seminar addressing adjustment to college life and the (continued) development of interpersonal skills, geared towards the needs of the burgeoning population of high functioning individuals with autism who are attending college. The program includes training peer mentors, who are partnered with each student, and "real world" assignments where students and mentors work together outside of class to practice skills. Our model emphasizes self-determination, and assumes students will be assisted by learning from the experiences of other individuals with autism who have found strategies for success in college. Materials for creating the course were, in part, researched through surveys and videos collected from Youth Advocate Programs (YAP), who used informants with autism to assess the needs of this population. Also included are blackboard based e-courses to provide materials and cross-site discussion as other colleges adopt the DASP model. This session will include an overview of the status of this program after the first iterations, including initial feasibility results and a description of some the challenges associated with initiating this sort of program.

“Myths, Facts, and Families”
Presenter: Dr. Eric Mitchell, Green Tree School
When families are trying to navigate their way through development of their children on the autistic spectrum through adulthood, the pitfalls are many and safe havens are few. This workshop will explore some of the myths associated with treatment, family coping, divorce, sibling outcomes, and a host of bewildering issues. Grains of truth will be highlighted
and discussed to help families and those helping families find their way.

Autism Spectrum Disorders: A Developmental Pediatrician’s Overview
Presenter: Dr. Wendy Ross, Albert Einstein Medical Center

Autism is an increasingly common disorder in the United States. This talk will provide an overview of autism spectrum disorder including the ways autism can manifest itself, diagnostic procedures, therapeutic treatments, and recent controversies. At the end of this talk, participants should be able to:

1. Describe features of autism, especially how they relate to the categories of socialization, communication, and atypical  behaviors or interests.
2. Identify a diagnostic procedure for autism
3. Recognize therapeutic interventions for autism.
4. Discuss controversies regarding autism.

 Functional Family Therapy
Presenter: Lori Exum Thompson, M.HS., Green Tree School

Support for Siblings of Children with ASD
Presenter: Monique Turner, Green Tree School

Do you have other children that are not on the spectrum? This workshop will:
1. Help you understand how your child feels about living with ASD
2. Help you understand how to spend quality time with the child without ASD.
3. How to include them without making them the co-parent.

Fostering Positive Relationships between Families and School
Presenter: Doreen Williams, Green Tree School

This workshop will offer techniques that schools can use to develop and maintain positive relationships with the families of children on the autism spectrum. Workshop will include:

  • Parents of students will speak (via taped sessions) about the experiences they encountered before finding an appropriate placement which causes anger and tension that they may have carried over.
  • Specific examples of techniques that can be used to develop a positive rapport with families upon entering into a new school setting.
  • Ways/Ideas to foster positive communication including:
    1. Parent Support Meetings.
    2. Pre-IEP meetings.
    3. IEP Conferences.
    4. Report Cards.
    5. Daily Communication with homeroom teachers and specialty teachers.
    6. Celebrating life events.
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