As you recall, during my transition from Oak Hill School to Wings Learning Center, I volunteered on the Marin Autism Collaborative, helping to develop autism supports in the community. The Autism Lecture Series was founded by me in 2009-2010 to meet the needs of brining researchers, specialists, authors & therapists to the North Bay Area to offer state of the art information on Autism. "Hear Our Voices" the 2015-2016 series will show case teens & adults living each day on the spectrum. It will again be hosted at the conference center in San Rafael at Marin County Office of Eduation.
But come with me as I share with you some of the amazing speakers & their wisdoms.
2010-2011 Autism Lectures focused on Different Perspectives for Learning
September 2010 “Teaching Parents to Become Effective Autism Services Consumers” was presented by Dr. Bryna Siegel, author, Developmental Psychologist & Professor in Psychiatry at UCSF Autism Clinic. Dr. Siegel helped the parents better understand their role, to find teachable moments to improve non-verbal and verbal communication & to understand how they can improve spontaneity of communication. Her advice was to look at their child from a learning challenged perspective. Once identifying the learning challenges then they can better match the interventions that will best support the learning challenge. Children with ASD have social learning challenges, expressive & receptive language challenges & sensory processing challenges ®ulation. Dr. Siegel believes it is crucial for the parent to be trained and have a key position in intervening. She supports the Pivotal Response method to engaging children on the spectrum.
Robyn Steward http://www.robynsteward.com/ , kicked off our October 2010 lecture “Asperger from a Person Not Just a Textbook”. Robyn was inspirational helping the audience understand what it has been like growing up on the spectrum. She told us her stories about her challenges in school, connecting & making friends. She let us know that she recognizes people by their shoes. She is an artist & mentor. She likes to inspire those on the spectrum to know they can succeed & that there is “life after diagnosis. She stressed that people on the spectrum are creative. She let us know that she needs help regulating sensory input & often comes across very hyper-active. She loves to travel and speak out on behalf of the spectrum. She is the author of The Independent Woman’s handbook to super safe living on the Autistic Spectrum.
The November 2010 lecture “Making Life Work…A Menu of Options for Developing Life Skills for Children, Teens & Young Adults on the Autism Spectrum” was presented by Kara Barber, parent advocate & author. Her curriculum is a creative way of helping our kiddos understand social communication. Prepare, Project, Practice & Produce are her core concepts developed in her curriculum. She has also developed a clear visual method for our teens to visual a social interaction with someone (A Menu!! There is a Starter to begin the conversation, the Meat and Potatoes of the conversation, the purpose & then the Treat, to end the conversation). Her curriculum contains all kinds of activities to teach skills her son was not learning to develop independence. http://www.kalahari.com/Books/The-Social-and-Life-Skills-Menu_p_39050203
The January 2011 Lecture featured Dr. Miranda board certified in Neurology, Electroencephalography, Neurological Rehabilitation, Sleep Disorders & Evoked Potentials. His lecture “A Neurologists Perspective on Autism” was interesting. As the founder of Bright Minds Institute he created a team of specialists to develop a goal-orientated plan of treatment. His plan included physical therapy, occupational therapy and behavior therapy. Dr. Miranda felt that many seizure disorders go unnoticed to the untrained eye in the autism population and there needs to be careful attention paid in this area. He felt it was very important to identify discharges in these kiddos as they affect cognitive and behavior functions. Temporal lobe epilepsy should be ruled out. He felt testing needed to be done during sleep as well, since 80 percent of discharges will occur at nighttime. He felt that MRI scans & EEG can be used.
February 2011 Lecture featured Dr. Kristin Whalen a licensed psychologist & board certified Behavior Analyst specializing in Autism. Her lecture “Computer Assisted Instruction for ASD” was well received. Dr. Whalen wanted to make sure parents & professionals understood how to choose programs that would work for children on the spectrum. She introduced The TEACH TOWN program which builds language comprehension in children with ASD & has been successful in a school environment and home environment.
Our March 2011 lecture “Auditory Processing Problems in Children with ASD was presented by Dr. Deborah Ross-Swain the Clinical Director of the Listening Center http://www.theswaincenter.com/ and The Swain Center for Listening, Communicating and Learning in Santa Rosa. Dr. Swain is a national speaker, writer and researcher. Dr. Swain supports that children with Autism have auditory processing challenges. They can have near or near normal hearing and yet not understand what is heard. She explained that Auditory Processing is what the brain does with what the ears hear. She cited studies that clearly indicate our kiddos have challenges discriminating simple auditory sounds. Dr. Swain gave some red flags to look out for (fails to respond to name, experiences hyper sensitivity, experience delays in processing, covers ears, distracted by noises, speech delays, seem deaf).
The April 2011 Lecture was presented by Leah Kuypers, M.A. ED, OTR/L currently practicing Occupational Therapy at Communication Works http://www.cwtherapy.com/ as a private therapist. Leah was there to present her newly developed curriculum, Zones of Regulation published by Think Social. Leah went over how this curriculum will work. It will explain sensory processing systems, outline executive functions that impact self-regulation, explain emotional regulation, teach a systematic way for students to self-regulate, cite strategies to identify ones level of arousal & then describe how social cues can be used to determine appropriate arousal levels. She then identified ways to integrate the Zones into regular settings. http://www.amazon.com/dp/0982523165/?tag=mh0b-20&hvadid=4162882971&hvqmt=e&hvbmt=be&hvdev=c&ref=pd_sl_8lzs2p1hbf_e
The final lecture of this series occurred in May 2011 & was presented by Dr. Melanie Johnson www.melaniejohnsonphd.com and Janet Lawson www.autistrystudios.com , parent and MFT. The topic, “Parenting ASD Children across the Lifespan” was inspiring. They acknowledged that there is a large diversity in ASD and parenting is very complex. Parents have to find a balance within self, family and community. They discussed the roles parents play as the child moves from infant, toddler, pre-school, adolescent, young adult & to middle age. The parent of a child with ASD is making critical decisions about health care, education and often postposing their own careers. The parent can often remain the primary caregiver throughout the child’s life having to consider financial stability & residential needs. They explained the impact on Marriage. They offered that 80% of parents with ASD children will divorce. They discussed the stages of Grief (shock, anger, confusion, depression, guilt, shame, fear, bargaining, hope and acceptance.) They ended the lecture providing strategies (developing a support system, accepting help, gathering information & realize that you can’t do everything so learn to delegate!!)