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2019 Autism Symposium Session Descriptions

[ Download a Copy of the 2019 Conference Program ]

Coping with Disaster: Avoiding Burnout Through Self Care
Dr. Amy Alward | Owner, Touch of Intention Bodywork

Autism burnout is something most on the spectrum confront regularly over their lifetimes. Burnout is characterized by a reduction in capacity to cope with daily life or work requirements due to overload; autistic burnout results in loss of functioning life skills. Amy will share her personal case story of success and failure of managing burnout and meltdown with impeccable self-care and healthy coping mechanisms.

Employment for Autistic Adults in a Neurodiverse Workplace: A Website of Resources
Betina Wildhaber | MA, School of Social Science, CSU, Chico

Unemployment among autistic adults is estimated between 70% and 90%. There are lack of services to assist autistic adults with obtaining and maintaining meaningful employment. Neurodiverse work environments address barriers autistics face with employment. The website www.NeurodiversityNetwork.net serves as a tool to guide both autistic job seekers and potential employers about neurodiverse environments. It identifies several prominent neurodiverse companies that may be attractive employment options for neurodivergent job-seekers and that are models for other non-neurodiverse companies wanting to make a change. The website provides ideas on how companies can create a more inclusive work environment for autistics and neurodiverse peers. Ultimately, it is an effort to bring awareness to the need of the autistic population, and how certain adjustments can not only benefit autistics, but also neurotypical co-workers and company profits.

Evidence-based Practices to Support Inclusion for Students with ASD
Dr. Maggie Daugherty | Coordinator of Special Education , Gridley Unified School District
Liz Fuller | BCBA, Butte County Office of Education SELPA

This session will explore the potential barriers to inclusion and what evidence-based practices teachers and other professionals can utilize to best support students with ASD to increase success in inclusive settings. This session will focus on both academic and behavioral supports.

Financial Planning for Families with Special Needs Children
Kylee Garrettson | New York Life Insurance Company
Mike Clark | New York Life Insurance Company
• For information on their presentation, please contact Kylee Garrettson or Mike Clark directly.

This financial session will cover the importance of basic planning pertaining to families dealing with special needs children. We will discuss four broad topics of planning that will help families understand the importance of taking control of planning for many different issues that may arise, while taking into consideration tax implications and overall economic forecast. There are many facets to consider around protecting the financial integrity of a family dealing with a special needs child. We will cover simple strategies to help families understand the importance of protecting income (both current and future replacement), investment and asset allocation for retirement, conservatorship, and estate planning.

Finding Voice for Students with ASD: Practicing Self-determination in a Virtual Reality Social Skills Simulator
Dr. Aaron Koch | Assistant Professor, California State University, Chico

Transition-aged youth with autism are met with overwhelming challenges as they navigate the path from graduation to adulthood. These students are at greater risk for anxiety, depression, and mood disorders (HHS, 2017) and only a minority ever achieve full employment or post-secondary education (Shattuck et al., 2012). A best practice to counter these pitfalls is student training in self-determination. Self-determination has been shown to increase graduation rates and employment outcomes (Wehmeyer et al., 2013). Although these interventions usually come in the form of support groups or role-play, virtual technologies have streamlined our ability to practice social skills while catering to the unique preferences and strengths of students with autism. Human-controlled virtual reality simulators offer enormous potential for skills acquisition of self-determination, including student-led IEP practice to practice goal-setting and tracking. Results from an ongoing research study will be presented.

Functional Communication Training
Jacqueline Campos | SELPA Director, Glenn County Office of Education

Functional communication training can be used to replace interfering behaviors with more appropriate and effective communicative behavior.

Learn the Signs. Act Early: Developmental Milestones and Red Flags
Mark Pfaff, Jr. | Tehama County Office of Education

From birth to five years of age, your child should reach milestones in how he plays, learns, speaks, acts, and moves. This session will provide and introduction to the CDC's "Learn the Signs. Act Early." initiative. Track your child's development and act early if you have a concern. Many free resources and innovative tools are available.

Morse Communication to Lessen Stress in Youth and Adults with ASD
Duane E. Wyatt | Morse Code Enthusiast & Educator

I have Autism Spectrum Disorder and major depression. I became a veterinarian (because of my difficulties and stress involved with human interaction) and use high speed Morse code (above 30 WPM) to "stim" and as my preferred method of communication. It is a fun, challenging, safe, wholesome, self esteem-elevating way to find and keep friends in my non-threatening home environment. I will provide an informed overview of the history and current uses of Morse Code, and demonstrate using three unique Morse instruments. There will also be opportunity for you to get a taste of the great fun and challenges inherent in Morse Communication by practicing sending Morse.

Motivating Operations: Going Beyond the ABCs of Behavior
Tara Yarberry | Board Certified Behavior Analyst, Butte County Office of Education SELPA
Adriana Torres, M.S. | Family Coach, Family First Solutions

Dive deeper into your understanding of the science of behavior analysis with this look at the motivational factors that influence behavior change. Go beyond the three term contingency (Antecedent, Behavior, Consequence) in your understanding of Applied Behavior Analysis and look at factors that impact these ABCs to support meaningful behavior change. Setting events, establishing and abolishing operations, and individual preferences are key aspects of all behavior change efforts. We will discuss evidence-based practices such as Antecedent Based Intervention, Self-Monitoring, (Differential) Reinforcement, Functional Behavior Assessment, Naturalistic Intervention, Pivotal Response Training, and Visual Supports, and look specifically at how motivating operations play an important role in ensuring treatment integrity and fidelity of implementation. Training will be provided on use of preference assessments and reinforcement inventories, with take home materials provided for all attendees.

North State Trajectory: A Comprehensive Strength-based Program to Transition Youth on the Autism Spectrum
Russell Rudin, Ph.D. | Program Director, North State Trajectory

North State Trajectory (NST) is a set of synergistic programs designed to prepare high school children and graduates (up to 21 years) on the autism spectrum for a meaningful STEM career. NST comes into the school during normal class time and provides technical activities that are customized to the needs and desires of each group. Students can also work on longer-term projects outside of the classroom. In designing activities, NST meets with local high-tech businesses to assess their required skill sets. Activities are then aligned with these commercial needs to provide maximum opportunity for employment. Local economic development and entrepreneurial organizations are made aware of NST, so that they might be able to find, for example, a computer programmer. The program has also teamed with local maker spaces to provide affordable access for use in student projects or for prototyping product ideas. NST currently serves Butte, Shasta, and Tehama Counties.

Physical Activity and Autism: Research Updates and Building Skills in Home and Community Settings
Dr. Josephine Blagrave | Faculty, CSU, Chico
Dr. Carli Ross | Faculty & Staff, CSU, Chico

Children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) are known to have deficits and delays in gross motor skills and performance. However, improvements in these areas can lead to a variety of benefits, such as increases in physical activity time, opportunity for social interactions, and confidence in playground and physical education settings. Gross motor skills can be practiced with minimal equipment and in a variety of environments outside of the school or clinical setting, including at home with parents and family members. This presentation will provide an overview of the latest research in physical activity and ASD, share a new model for autistic adult participation in physical activity, and provide creative and simple strategies for engaging in motor skills and physical activities at home.

Potential Pregnancy Prevention Pathways for Autism Spectrum Disorder
Dr. Rebecca Schmidt | Associate Professor, Department of Public Health Sciences and the MIND Institute, University of California, Davis, School of Medicine

The brain and nervous system are highly susceptible to nutritional and environmental impacts, especially during key developmental windows beginning near the time of conception. Our highly replicated work identified folic acid as a potential protective factor for autism, and our more recent pioneering findings demonstrating evidence for attenuation of associations between gestational environmental contaminant exposures and autism by maternal folic acid supplementation. These findings are congruent with both human and animal studies demonstrating maternal folic acid’s ability to alter effects of environmental toxicants on the developing offspring. Similar associations were found between maternal periconceptional folic acid intake and decreased recurrence risk of autism in high-risk siblings of children with autism. Potential mechanistic pathways by which early nutritional and environmental exposures could influence autism risk and neurodevelopment more generally, could include epigenetic impacts near conception when much of the DNA methylome is erased and re-established. Shared underlying mechanisms behind these associations could inform pathways for prevention and ultimately help reduce the public health burden of autism and other neurodevelopmental disorders.

Preparing Students with Autism for Post-secondary Transition
Terry Quinto | Accessibility Advisor, CSU, Chico Accessibility Resource Center
Charlene Corder | Accessibility Advisor, CSU, Chico Accessibility Resource Center

Transitioning out of high school can be stressful for students on the spectrum, and for their parents and caregivers. Learn how to determine if college is the best choice for your child; how to prepare your child for their post-secondary journey; what services and accommodations are available to help support your child in college; and how your role as parent will change when your child enrolls in college.

Research Updates from the UC Davis MIND Institute: Brain Imaging Studies of Autism
Dr. Christine Wu Nordahl, Ph.D. | Associate Professor, UC Davis MIND Institute

Dr. Nordahl will present recent findings from the UC Davis MIND Institute Autism Phenome Project (APP). Initiated in 2006, the APP is a longitudinal, multidisciplinary study of children with autism. Over 400 families are participating in the study - children are enrolled at 2-3 years of age and are followed longitudinally through middle childhood. The overarching goal is to gather sufficient biological, medical, and behavioral data to allow definition of clinically meaningful subtypes of autism. Defining subtypes of autism will hopefully better inform discoveries into underlying etiology, prognosis, and treatment options for children with autism.

Social Narratives
Jacqueline Campos | SELPA Director, Glenn County Office of Education

Learners with ASD often struggle with social interactions. These learners respond less frequently to social initiations and often engage in shorter interactions with adults and peers. To assist learners with navigating these challenging situations, social narratives use text and images to highlight important aspects of social situations.

Task Analysis and Video Modeling
Joe Comiskey | Psychologist/Program Specialist, CAPTAIN/Trinity County Office of Education

This interactive session will introduce and consider the application of two evidenced-based practices: task analysis and video modeling. Participants will learn the steps involved with analyzing a task, practice the steps, and apply them to a situation. The concept of task analysis will then be combined with the practice of video modeling, in which participants will learn about the needed content and the necessary steps involved with creating a teaching video.

The Future of Autistic Employment
John Marble | Founder, Pivot Neurodiversity

Only 13% of autistic adults in the United States have had employment in an integrated community setting at any point over the past year. This a statistic which has not changed in more than a decade despite hundreds of millions of dollars spent. Why? New research, insight, and approaches are now providing a frame which allows us to break through this statistic and improve employment outcomes. This session will share the vision, common approaches, and practical examples of success from factories, farms, tech centers like Silicon Valley, and from other countries as we shape a more productive path to increase autistic employment.