The Melisa Nellesen Center for Autism, the College of Humanities and Social Sciences, and the School of Education at Utah Valley University will present the 11th annual Autism Conference on March 4, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. in the Sorensen Student Center on UVU’s Orem Campus.
The single-day event will be held in-person and virtually and the conference theme is “Cultivating Competencies Across the Community.” The keynote session will feature Amy Gravino, relationship coach in the Center for Adult Autism Services at Rutgers University.
Gravino, who is also president of A.S.C.O.T. Consulting, which offers autism consulting, college coaching, and mentoring services for organizations, schools, and individuals on the autism spectrum, will address the conference attendees with a lecture titled “Entering Into Adulthood with Autism.”
Her presentation will discuss the image of autism both in the medical community and popular culture, and how these industries tend to portray autism affecting only children. Her lecture will interweave the limited knowledge on autism in adulthood with one young woman’s personal story, and the journey her parents and she embarked on after she received the diagnosis of autism at age 11.
A pre-conference workshop will be held on Thursday, March 3, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. in the Sorensen Student Center, and will feature Mark Dixon, clinical professor in the Department of Disability and Human Development at the University of Illinois Chicago. Dr. Dixon’s workshop will focus on PEAK Relational Training System, a curriculum guide for teaching basic and advanced language skills.
“Autism is a lifelong disability, yet the focus is often on children,” said Laurie Bowen, associate director for the Melisa Nellesen Center for Autism. “We are honored to start our conference with the expertise and personal experience of Amy Gravino. She is an excellent speaker and will provide perspective and insights on adulthood with autism, ways to foster interdependence and build future plans for autistic children and clients.”
Bowen added, “Research indicates that when people feel like they belong they thrive in their communities. Not only does the Autism Conference provide an opportunity for individuals, parents, and professionals to come together, hear personal perspectives, learn hands-on, best practice techniques and ways to best support autism, but through the conference, we seek to increase belonging and understanding for autism on our campus and in our community.”
There are multiple sessions planned to address students, adults on the spectrum, families, educators, professionals, service providers, and support vendors.