Conference focuses on Autism

Suzi Starheim

Local and national leaders will be meeting tomorrow and Friday in the Student Center for the eighth annual Topics in Child Development Conference. This year’s message is The Essence of Autism: Addressing the Core Needs of Individuals with Autism.

The conference focuses on individuals with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and a variety of topics related to ASD.

Lisa Audet, assistant professor in the School of Speech Pathology and Audiology, is a faculty coordinator of the conference. Audet, who has been a speech pathologist for 20 years, focuses on children who have autism in their families and consults with school districts and families regarding children who have autism.

Audet has been developing research projects to explore communications aspects and educational programs for teachers of children with autism.

The conference offers a family-based evening with vendors tomorrow and an all-day conference with various speakers, including keynote speaker Barry Prizant, on Friday.

“We added the Thursday evening session because the need for families was so great,” Audet said. “We realize the need to support families is very big.”

Juanita Greenwood, executive director of adult services at the Hattie Larlham Foundation, said she is happy to be a part of this year’s conference because it is the first year the foundation has co-sponsored with the College and Graduate School of Education, Health and Human Services.

“We have a number of people that work with kids training them with competitive employment in mind,” Greenwood said.

Conference coordinator Kathlyn Brown said while she has taken part in all the Child Development Conferences, she is very glad to see Hattie Larlham co-sponsoring the event.

“We are very excited to be co-sponsored,” Brown said. “They (the Hattie Larlham Foundation) are a unique and very specific organization for children with autism.”

The Hattie Larlham Foundation is a non-profit organization that provides care to adults and children with developmental disabilities. Brown said she is glad to have their expertise on hand.

“When I look at these parents, I see such a need and such a desire for more information,” Brown said. “This is a great opportunity for them to be exposed to so many experts.”

Audet agreed that since there is such a wealth of information, parents can sometimes feel lost.

• When: Tomorrow and Friday

• Thursday evening session is $10 per person and runs from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m.

• Friday’s all-day conference is $25 for students and $90 for professionals and runs from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.

• For a complete conference schedule or to register go to or call 330-672-3100 or 800-672-5782.

“People are presented with so much information on different forms of intervention and families and practitioners can feel lost,” Audet said. “It’s overwhelming for both families and professionals.”

Audet said she hopes the conference will help families and practitioners to better understand the core features of autism, so when having to make decisions about intervention they can look at how it fits into the needs of each individual.

Brown said while some of the sessions are advanced, the conference is a great place for families and professionals to get more information on autism.

“Parents so yearn for information on how to work with autistic individuals and I think a lot of frustration for people is that they feel alone and don’t know where to turn,” Brown said. “It’s great for parents and different families to network.”

Contact news correspondent Suzi Starheim at [email protected].