Conference Call: Day 2 of the National Autism Conference - Transition

August 03, 2010

Staff members and interns from Penn State Outreach are blogging from the National Autism Conference at The Penn Stater Conference Center Hotel throughout the week. The conference, which averages about 2,500 participants, features experts in autism, educators, autism advocates, people with autism and their families. Erin Rowley, a senior majoring in journalism and history, blogs about the transition from childhood to adulthood for people with autism.

By Erin Rowley

As conference attendees prepare for their upcoming breakout sessions Tuesday (Aug. 3), they walk from display booth to display booth, perusing books on autism and learning about educational services and support groups for those impacted by autism.

Educators, husbands and wives, mothers and children, they are all here to learn about how to care for and encourage individuals with autism.

Helping a child with autism transition into a self-reliant adult is one of the biggest challenges for parents and teachers alike. About 70 people fill a conference room this afternoon to listen to Linda McDowell, an associate professor at the University of Southern Mississippi, talk about the transition process.

McDowell’s first question to the audience, “How’s it going, y’all?” initially elicited laughs, but led to a serious discussion about the barriers involved with transitioning, including lack of funding, hovering parents, lack of knowledge about the process and the state of the economy.

McDowell addressed those barriers and outlined four essential elements to overcoming them.

Element 1: Know the student -- understand their needs and their limitations.

Element 2: Know the community -- learn what resources are available.

Element 3: Connect with available resources and create a plan.

Element 4: Teach critical skills -- real-world skills that will promote independent living.

Audience members listened attentively and many took notes on laptops, including Mary Beth Urban, 43, from Lancaster, Pa. A supervisor at Lancaster-Lebanon Intermediate Unit 13, Urban hopes to learn strategies “to help students be as independent as possible as they move from school to adult life.”

That’s what teachers and parents want for all students, not just those with disabilities, according to McDowell.

“The ultimate goal is that students be able to manage their own lives,” McDowell said, “because that’s what makes a meaningful life, and that’s what we’re trying to achieve.”


  • Session leader Linda McDowell spoke to a large crowd Tuesday( Aug. 3) about how to facilitate a successful transition to adult life for someone with autism. Click ont he image above to learn more about the National Autism Conference.

    IMAGE: Bianca Barr

(Media Contacts)

Erin Rowley

Last Updated November 18, 2010