Parents seek advice at conference on autism

Allison Brookes

Parents of children with autism spectrum disorders attended the ninth annual Topics in Child Development Conference held Thursday and Friday at the Student Center.

The event focused on day-to-day educational interventions throughout the autism spectrum with special sessions headed by Richard Cowan and Diane Twachtman-Cullen. Parents also attended breakout sessions on topics including using computers to teach students with ASD, high-functioning autism and socialization, positive approaches to behavior change and comprehensive school planning.

On Thursday night, Cowan presented families with ways to positively interact with their autistic child and allowed them to talk with each other to see what they have been trying with their children.

On Friday, Twachtman-Cullen, the editor-in-chief of Autism Spectrum Quarterly, presented two keynote speeches. The first speech was “Theory of Mind: Where Communication, Social Understanding and Behavior Meet.” Her second speech, “An Intervention Potpourri,” focused on things she has learned about teaching students with ASD.

Vicky Bambic came to the event because she is the mother of two autistic children.

“After having these children, we’ve learned to be patient,” she said.

Cowan focused on “making time-in” with your child, where parents of autistic children set aside 10 to 20 minutes a day to spend quality time with them. He said by doing this, parents build a positive relationship and enhance behavior management with their children.

“The philosophy of the parent evening as a whole is an opportunity for parents to mingle and also gain helpful information,” Cowan said. “This session also teaches them more positive approaches to teaching.”

Supportive listening was another tactic Cowan spoke about. Parents need to listen and then talk with their children about their problems, especially children with autism.

“All kids need to be heard,” Cowan said.

Contact diversity reporter Allison Brookes at [email protected].