Penn State autism conference focuses on life's big changes

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

University Park, Pa. -- Parents often worry about how their children will successfully move through the stages of growing up. It's a job that begs for patience, wisdom and probably a good sense of humor. Preparing for the transition between childhood and adulthood with an autistic child, in particular, requires intensive preparation and planning. As kids with autism grow up, they may face a wide variety of challenges as they work through the changes and responsibilities of becoming an adult.

A series of topics about the transition from childhood to adulthood for those with autism will be featured at Penn State's 2010 National Autism Conference, Aug. 2-6 at The Penn Stater Conference Center Hotel at the University Park campus.

Mike Miklos, education consultant for the Pennsylvania Training and Technical Assistance Network (PaTTAN), also a conference organizer, said a greater number of individuals with autism will exit secondary education in the next few years.

"Preparing students for the challenges of coping with the world beyond school should not be left to chance," Miklos said. "It is important to develop transition plans to have the individual's unique skills and abilities, which have been honed through the educational process, transfer to life beyond school."

Miklos said transition plans can address vocational training work experiences, community-based instruction and additional courses of study.

However, for many students living with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), change is a difficult process. Miklos said a core characteristic of ASD is a tendency for the individual to prefer stability and resist change.

"An artful plan can facilitate guiding an individual through the transition period and with much less difficulty than might otherwise occur," Miklos said.

The conference offers breakout sessions dealing with transitions like advancing from middle school to high school, sexuality education, crisis management for families, creating a successful college experience and supporting the shift to adult life, among others.

The conference, which averages about 2,500 participants, will feature experts in autism, educators, autism advocates, people with autism and their families.

Keynote speakers at this year’s conference include Brian Abrams, who overcame the debilitating effects of autism to achieve high academic success, marry and have a son. When his son was diagnosed, he founded the Flagler Autism Coalition for Education and Services to help others.

Also speaking at the conference will be Deborah Lipsky, who was diagnosed with high functioning autism as an adult. She travels the United States and Canada doing seminars and workshops on autism.

The conference is sponsored by the Pennsylvania Department of Education.

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.

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Last Updated November 18, 2010