Penn State autism conference to discuss the challenges of college

Thousands expected to attend one of nation’s most comprehensive conferences on autism spectrum disorder

University Park, Pa. -- More students with an Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) diagnosis are being accepted into college, and while many may have the grades, experts are concerned that some students do not have the appropriate social skills to maneuver through that crucial first year of college. For a teenager with ASD, living away from home and managing school work might be too much to handle without proper training and support.

This topic, along with many others related to autism, will be featured at Penn State's 2011 National Autism Conference, Aug. 1-4 at The Penn Stater Conference Center Hotel.

Brenda Eaton, an ASD college coach and conference presenter, said parents, teachers and students may not realize the complexity of attending college that a typical student takes for granted. 

“These individuals have to want to go to college, and work on their metacognition skills,” Eaton said. “They must think about how they learn and process information and they must enhance problem solving skills to become independent.”

Eaton said students with ASD must understand their disability and be aware of how it impacts them to make a smooth transition to college life. “With the appropriate level of support, these individuals can be successful and should have an equal opportunity to attend a college to develop their abilities for a positive outcome,” Eaton said.

The four-day conference offers dozens of breakout sessions. Some topics include parental advocacy, teaching complex language skills, managing challenging behaviors, social success, relationship building with peers and bullying.

The conference will feature autism experts, educators, autism advocates, people with autism and their families.

Keynote speakers at this year’s conference include Lorri Unumb, a lawyer and mother of three children, the oldest of whom has autism. In 2005, she wrote autism insurance legislation for South Carolina (Ryan’s Law) that passed in 2007 and served as a catalyst for the national movement toward autism insurance reform.

Also speaking at the conference will be William Heward, professor emeritus in the College of Education and Human Ecology at Ohio State. His closing keynote will focus on helping students with autism succeed through systematic interventions.

The conference is hosted by the Pennsylvania Department of Education, Bureau of Special Education; the Pennsylvania Training and Technical Assistance Network; Penn State’s College of Education, Continuing Education Office, and the Pennsylvania Department of Public Welfare.

Information about the conference is available at http://www.outreach.psu.edu/programs/Autism/ online.

Penn State Conferences plans and manages more than 300 programs each year, with enrollments of nearly 45,000. Conferences is part of Penn State Outreach, the largest unified outreach organization in American higher education. Penn State Outreach serves more than 5 million people each year, delivering more than 2,000 programs to people in all 67 Pennsylvania counties, all 50 states and 114 countries worldwide.

Last Updated July 29, 2011