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Health Symposium Addresses ‘Autism Across the Lifespan’

February 10, 2014

With a significant number of adolescents with autism aging out of the school system and moving into adulthood, the symposium will address issues that relate to the importance of providing programs and support for adults with ASD.

Leading experts will discuss critical issues related to “Autism Across the Lifespan” at the second annual Alma College Health Symposium, sponsored by the Integrated Health Studies Institute.

Health care professionals, teachers, school administrators, local advocacy groups, caregivers, law enforcement personnel and community members are invited to attend the symposium, which will take place from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday, March 8 in the Remick Heritage Center.

Admission is free, but advanced registration is required. For registration information, visit the website at: http://www.alma.edu/health-symposium.

Historically, autism spectrum disorders, or ASD, were misunderstood and rarely diagnosed, yet recently the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention labeled ASD an “urgent public health concern,” says Karen Ball, director of the IHSI at Alma College. The prevalence rate has increased across the country to one in 88 children.

“As the number of people being diagnosed with ASD in Michigan continues to grow at rates consistent with national data, it is important that the medical, educational and human service communities rethink the way they serve this increasing population,” says Ball.

With a significant number of adolescents with ASD aging out of the school system and moving into adulthood, the symposium will address issues that relate to the importance of providing programs and support for adults with ASD.

“Individuals with ASD have talents and skills, but they just approach things differently and need special accommodations,” says Sheryle Dixon, a member of the Alma College administrative staff and parent of 14-year-old Katie, who has ASD. “As an advocate for inclusion, I think this symposium is a fabulous response to helping not only parents but educators, caregivers and society in general to better understand the needs of individuals with ASD.”

The goal of the symposium is to spark future community conversations regarding the coordination of services and effective integration of those with ASD “as full and productive members of our community,” says Ball.

Symposium Speakers and Sessions:

• Chantal Sicile-Kira, author and leader in the field of autism, will present “Living with Autism: Our Challenges, Our Strengths and Our Dreams.” The parent of a young adult with ASD, Sicile-Kira is the founder of AutismCollege.com, which provides practical information online. She and her son Jeremy are co-authors of A Full Life with Autism from Learning to Forming Relationships to Achieving Independence (2012).

• Linda Hodgdon, a speech-language pathologist and pioneer in the use of visual stimulation to enhance communication, will present “Visual Strategies for Autism: Three Keys for Overcoming Communication, Behavior and Social Challenges.” She is the author of a book, Visual Strategies for Improving Communication.

• Gloria Satriale, executive director of the PAAL Program, will present “Intensive and Effective Community Based Transition Programming for Individuals with ASD.” PAAL — Preparing Adolescents and Adults for Life — is a nationally recognized program that helps individuals with autism participate more fully in their communities.

• Daniel Blauw, a Grand Rapids attorney who helps families prepare special needs trusts and arrange for services when they have a family member with life-long disability, will present “Legal Planning for People with Autism.” He has served as executive director of ARC of Kent County, an advocacy group for people with disabilities.

In addition to the presentations, the speakers will participate in a question-and-answer panel discussion at the conclusion of the program.

 

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