Fifth Annual Autism Spectrum Disorder Conference for educators, parents, and therapists

BLACKSBURG, Va., March 11, 2008 – Virginia Tech is sponsoring a conference designed for parents, therapists, and educators supporting students from preschool through high school with autism spectrum disorders, commonly referred to as ASD.

The conference will be held April 3 and 4, at the Southwest Virginia Higher Education Center in Abingdon, Va. Registration is $79 for both days and covers breakfast, lunch, and materials.

Sponsored by the Virginia Department of Education’s Training and Technical Assistance Center at Virginia Tech, the conference will bring together more than 200 educators, psychologists, paraprofessionals, parents, speech pathologists, and other educational professionals.

Two nationally known presenters are slated to share information and empowering strategies for use as tools in support of the educational, social, and communicative success of their children or students with autism spectrum disorders. Conference content will address autism, Asperger syndrome, and pervasive developmental disorder, not otherwise specified – commonly known as PDD-NOS. This year there will be an added focus on supporting families of individuals on the autism disorder spectrum.

Barbara Bloomfield, who will discuss how to target and teach critical skills that lead to later employment success, is a speech-language pathologist specializing in consultation and therapy services for students with autism spectrum disorders and other developmental language problems.

A designer of commercial therapy materials for students with special needs, she currently serves as executive director of IconTalk, a firm that develops and distributes communication-based teaching supports. She is an internationally known program consultant and was invited to represent the United States at the World Autism Congress in Cape Town, South Africa.

Kristi Sakai lives on an Oregon farm with her husband and three children. The children all have Asperger syndrome. In her search for effective interventions, she found most were geared toward clinical or school settings, and set out to “translate” these research-based strategies for use in the home and family setting.

Her efforts culminated in the book, Finding Our Way: Creating a Supportive Home and Community for the Asperger Syndrome Family, which received a literary award in 2006 from the Autism Society of America. She is a national presenter and editor of the Autism Asperger Publishing Company’s online newsletter, AAPC Community of Support for Parents, Professionals, and People on the Spectrum. Her first presentation at the conference will be “Self-Management Tools: Transitioning from Parent-Directed to Self-Directed.”

Other sessions cover “‘Skill Mastery’ Versus ‘Mastered Activities’ for Students with Autism Spectrum Disorders,” “Teaching and Integrating Social Communication Skills into Everyday Classroom Routines” (Bloomfield), and “The Hidden Curriculum of Sexuality” (Sakai).

Sakai will also deliver the keynote address on Friday, April 4, entitled, “Team Building: It’s All about Relationships,” which will focus attention on the importance of communication between home and school in creating a strong and supportive system for the child with an autism spectrum disorder. Following the keynote, breakout sessions covering a variety of topics related to supporting students and individuals with autism spectrum disorders will continue through 4 p.m.