U of A Symposium to Focus on Autism, Other Developmental Disabilities

Peter Gerhardt, left, and Kara Hume
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Peter Gerhardt, left, and Kara Hume

"Teaching for Independence Across All Ages" is the theme of the next University of Arkansas Symposium on Autism Spectrum Disorders and Other Developmental Disabilities, set for March 10 and 11 in Fayetteville.

The symposium takes place from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. each day at the Hilton Garden Inn, 1325 N. Palak Drive. Cost, other information and a registration link are available on the special education program website. Sixteen hours of professional development credit are available to professionals who attend, including board certified behavior analysts and educators. Early bird registration is available through Jan. 31, after which the cost for professionals will go up.

Suzanne Kucharczyk, an assistant professor of special education who joined the College of Education and Health Professions faculty last fall, is helping to organize the event.

"A child's, adolescent's and adult's level of independence greatly impacts his or her quality of life," Kucharczyk said. "A focus on independence supports learning in all areas of life such as academics, relationships, communication and self-care. The symposium will prepare parents, educators, and other caregivers and professionals to provide the resources and instruction needed to build independence across the life span."

The conference is also appropriate for behavior analysts, speech therapists, early child-care providers and anyone else interested in teaching children with autism and other developmental disabilities.

"We are excited to bring to Arkansas two nationally prominent speakers who have dedicated their work to improving the outcomes for people with developmental disabilities and ASD, in particular," Kucharczyk added.

Peter Gerhardt, executive director of the EPIC school in Paramus, New Jersey, and Kara Hume, research scientist at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, are the featured speakers.

Gerhardt's keynote address on March 10 is titled "Adolescence to Adulthood - Effective Supports for Living a Full Life." He has more than 30 years of experience using the principles of applied behavior analysis to help people with autism in educational, employment, residential and community-based settings.

Gerhardt is the author or the co-author of many articles and book chapters on the needs of adolescents and adults with autism and has presented nationally and internationally on this topic. He is the founding chair of the Scientific Council for the Organization for Autism Research and sits on numerous professional advisory boards including Behavior Analysis in Practice, the Cambridge Center for Behavioral Studies, the Association of Professional Behavior Analysts, and the Autism Society of America.

Hume's keynote address on March 11 is titled "Promoting Student Independence Across the School Day." She co-directs projects at the Frank Porter Graham Child Development Institute at UNC-Chapel Hill, including the Center on Secondary Education for Students Autism Spectrum Disorder and the Family Implemented TEACCH for Toddlers Study. Both are grant-funded research projects.

Hume has more than 25 years of experience as a practitioner and researcher supporting individuals on the autism spectrum across the age range. She is a trainer with the TEACCH Autism Program, an intervention approach developed at the University of North Carolina to help people with autism live and work more independently at home, school and in the community.

Breakout and extended sessions are also planned during the two days. State and local experts will offer strategies, evidence-based practices and resources for educators, clinicians and parents to support independence for students with autism and other developmental disabilities from preschool through adulthood.

Breakout session topics include sexuality and sexuality education, transition from school to adulthood, maintaining ethical boundaries, supported employment and peer relationships. Extended session topics include friendship, using visual supports and toilet training.

Contacts

Heidi Wells, director of communications
College of Education and Health Professions
(479) 575-3138, heidisw@uark.edu


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