USD to Host Sixth Annual Conference on Autism

Curriculum, Communication and Community:  Full Inclusion, Participation and Supported Living for All

For the sixth consecutive year, USD’s Autism Institute, housed in the School of Leadership and Education Sciences (SOLES), will conduct a conference for educators, family members, advocates and the community on how to support those with autism. The conference will take place on the USD campus from June 27 through June 29, 2011.
Dr. Anne M. Donnellan, the director of the Autism Institute and the annual conference, believes deeply that those with autism are fully present and far more competent than is usually assumed. She and her colleagues have written widely on sensory and movement differences that too often confuse us and cause us to misunderstand the abilities and interests of these individuals. By assuming competence and offering appropriate accommodations, you have a better chance of seeing competence and of enhancing the lives of those living with autism, and the lives of their family members. The adage about including individuals in policy decisions that affect them, “Nothing About Us Without Us,” has become something of a mantra among individuals with autism and other disabilities, and for those who understand that anything is possible if we allow individuals with autism to function in the world with respect and dignity.
“We look forward to a conference that highlights the potential and the personhood of individuals with the autism label, said Dr. Donnellan. “We will share with participants insights from communication, education, technology and movement as well as the perspective of those with the autism label.  And we expect that, as in previous years, everyone will have a really good time!”

A major purpose of the Autism Institute is to challenge our present definitions and understanding of autism. For many years most professionals and many parents have described the behavior of individuals with the autism label in terms of social constructs. This has led to much confusion and misdiagnosis. For example, children and adults with autism are described as being “unwilling to respond,” without regard to the well documented problems people with autism have initiating movement. Likewise, most children and adults have been described as mentally retarded, i.e. lacking understanding because they fail to answer on a standardized and timed test though recent research suggests that this false. This conference will update the present “common knowledge” and provide new direction for how we understand autism, behavior, support, opportunity and relationships.
We hope to explore theoretical and practical issues that affect support for individuals with autism at home, in school and into adult services. Topics will include: personalized supports throughout the life span, academic accommodations and support, social skills and belonging, transition to adulthood and beyond, employment, and first-hand accounts of the experience of autism through the perspective of those who live with autism.
Serving as a keynote speaker, Dr. Paula Kluth is a consultant, author, advocate, and independent scholar who works with teachers and families to provide inclusive opportunities for students with disabilities, and to create more responsive and engaging schooling experiences for all learners. Paula is a former special educator who has served as a classroom teacher and inclusion facilitator. Her professional interests include differentiating instruction and inclusive schooling. She wrote the wildly popular book, You're going to love this kid and is a specialist on Curriculum and Inclusion.
Ari Ne'eman, the founder of “Autistic Self-Advocacy Network,” and a member of the President's National Committee on Disability will speak about the perspective and efforts of self-advocates to challenge the national attitudes about people with the autism label. Christi Kasa is a researcher, author and professor at the University of Colorado-Colorado Springs. She is a specialist on Inclusion and Typing-to-Talking who will present her research data on adults who learn to talk through typing.
Kate McGinnity, Nan Negri, Martha Leary and Darlene Hanson will discuss the use of video and other technology to support and accommodate children and adults with autism. With the assistance of Apple, Inc., we will offer hands-on experience with developing personalized communication options with the latest Assistive & Augmentative Communication (AAC) software on iPhone, iPod Touch and IPad.  There will also be presentations by individuals with the autism label. And, the actor and improve teacher, JD Walsh, will do a three hour workshop on “Improv-ing your Communication.”
To access the detailed agenda, costs and to register for the conference, please visit us online here.
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There are limited scholarship opportunities available to cover the cost of attendance. Spaces are limited. Please apply as soon as possible to reserve your spot and apply for financial assistance.

San Diego Unified School District Employees Scholarship: Limited space - Please contact Debbie Clemons (SDUSD) for scholarship information and to register (619) 725-5653 (2 graduate level extension credits available for an additional fee of $130 to be paid by employee. Register for units at

San Diego Unified School District Parent Scholarship: Limited space - Please contact Debbie Clemons (SDUSD) for scholarship information and to register (619) 725-5653 (2 graduate level extension credits available for an additional fee of $130 to be paid by employee. Register for units at

Autism Society of America-San Diego Chapter has limited funds to help members who wish to attend the conference.  Phone number is: (858)  715-067;



About the University of San Diego

The University of San Diego sets the standard for an engaged, contemporary Catholic university where innovative Changemakers confront humanity’s urgent challenges. With more than 9,000 students from 69 countries and 50 states, USD is the youngest independent institution on the U.S. News & World Report list of top 100 universities in the United States. The university's eight academic divisions include the College of Arts and Sciences, the School of Business, the Shiley-Marcos School of Engineering, the School of Law, the School of Leadership and Education Sciences, the Hahn School of Nursing and Health Science, the Joan B. Kroc School of Peace Studies, and the Division of Professional and Continuing Education. USD's Envisioning 2024 strategic plan capitalizes on the university’s recent progress and aligns new strategic goals with current strengths to help shape a vision for the future as the university looks ahead to its 75th anniversary in the year 2024.