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Their Voice

Daily Herald - 4/1/2018

Their Voice:

The color blue and the various puzzles pieces that represent autism are starting to show up on Facebook and on the internet. That is a reminder that April is Autism Awareness Month and it's time again for the Utah Valley University Autism Conference.

In its eighth year of operation, the conference is being managed for the first time through the Melisa Nellesen Center for Autism. The conference started eight years ago in response to the community and family need for services and education. Through the years, the conference has laid the groundwork for all of the autism services available now. This year, the theme is "Hope and Inclusion through Best Practices." It is being held at UVU on Friday, April 13.

Keynote speaker, Dr. Erik Carter, Ph.D., is a Cornelius Vanderbilt Professor of Special Education at Vanderbilt University and a member of the Vanderbilt Kennedy Center. His presentation, "Toward a Future of Flourishing: Supporting Strong Transitions for Young People with ASD," will provide a strong way to enforce the day's theme. After the keynote, there will be morning and afternoon concurrent sessions with a luncheon and exhibit fair between.

Morning sessions include: "Serving Students with ASD and Other Developmental Disabilities in Inclusive Settings," "Mental Health and Autism," "My Voice Counts!" "Highlighting Behavior Analytic Practice in Utah Schools," "Autism Diagnosis in Girls and Women," "Helping Doesn't Have to Hurt," "Orientation to Utah State Vocational Rehabilitation Services," and "Navigating Relationships and Intimacy for Adolescents and Young Adults with ASD."

Afternoon sessions include: "The Road to Independence: Think Marathon ? Not 5K," "Changing the Conversation: Engaging Communities in Improving Outcomes for Individuals with Disabilities," "Autism in the Workplace in Utah: A Case Approach to Understanding ASD Employment Accommodation," "Successful Medical and Dental Examinations," "Inclusion: Together we are Better," "Achieving Peace of Mind and a Sense of Direction Through Family-centered Care Coordination," "Married ? With Autism and "The ABC's of Everyday Behavior. How to see Functional Relations in Any Environment." It is noteworthy that as the conference itself has evolved, the focus is also evolving from just children in the spectrum to addressing the challenges of adults and their ability to maneuver beyond education into having successful, competitive employment and healthy relationships.

As usual, this conference has combined a variety of highly regarded individual presenters with panel discussions. Some of the courses also have BCBA CEU's available. For a complete list of speakers, more details on topics and to register; visit

And finally, I would be negligent if I did not address my other favorite Autism awareness event in Utah County, "Uplifting Celebration for Autism." This event, co-sponsored by UVU and the Autism Resources of Utah County Council (ARUCC) is an autism-friendly, free opportunity for families to celebrate their community involvement. There are over 35 organizations who work together to make this happen every year.

As always, the event takes place at UVU and this year, it is on April 21 from 11 a.m. to 12:45 p.m., and consists of a variety of booths which include games and food. The 1,000 biodegradable balloons are released without string at 1 p.m., and is an awe-inspiring sight.

There is still a need for volunteers to assist with the "Uplifting Celebration." This is a great opportunity for families or school and church groups to get out and learn more about their community. If you are interested in volunteering, you can register at

Once again, I am reminded of how fortunate our community is to have such strong resources for education and opportunities for inclusion.


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