Public Participation Encouraged At Third Annual UVU Conference On Autism
April 8, 2013
For Immediate Release
University Marketing & Communications: Mike Rigert
Written by: Heather Wrigley
On April 12, Utah Valley University will hold its third annual Conference on Autism from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. in the UVU Sorensen Student Center. The conference is part of UVU’s ongoing effort to be a growing resource for autism in the community, and will be followed by an autism awareness balloon launch and baseball game, which are free and open to the public, the next day on Saturday, April 13.
“A statement released in mid-March by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates one in 50 children have autism, up from one in 88 a year and a half ago. Utah has the highest diagnosis rate in the country — one in 47 in 2012,” said Toni Harris, assistant dean of UVU’s College of Humanities & Social Sciences. “Since 2010, UVU has been keenly aware of this trend. The community has told us loudly and clearly that information and services are desperately needed. It’s part of our mission and responsibility to provide educational resources and support for individuals to learn more and to provide those with autism a friendly environment.”
Teresa Cardon, a noted researcher, author and leading autism expert who has worked with individuals on the autism spectrum for more than 20 years, will provide the opening keynote. Cardon is currently a visiting scholar on autism at UVU where she works in the Autism Studies program.
The College of Humanities & Social Sciences and the College of Science & Health, along with Autism Resources of Utah County Council (ARUCC), are presenting the conference.
Lunch will include an innovative, theatrical presentation by Anna Hargadon, a BYU theatre studies major who is passionate about giving individuals with autism the opportunity to learn through performance. She will present research gathered from families across Utah who have children with autism.
Desiree Kameka, housing director for Madison House Foundation, will present information about a new, interactive Autism Housing Network and highlight innovative disability housing solutions across the country during the closing keynote session of the conference.
In addition to the scheduled keynotes, more than two dozen sessions throughout the day will feature presentations by clinical professionals, medical and genetic researchers, service providers, educators and support organization representatives. Speakers will address topics such as neurological differences in those with autism, helpful literature, changes in the rates of autism, genetics, financial preparation and social skills.
Between sessions, attendees will have the opportunity to visit informational booths hosted by various service and support vendors from throughout the state, who will provide a window into regional services and resources.
“There’s something for everybody — parents, service providers, students, educators. Anyone who has a need for information on autism is going to find it,” Harris said. “Our hope is that individuals find the conference informative, that they learn something new, that they find resources and information they didn’t have before and that they walk away more dedicated to helping these families that need our understanding and support.”
Also during lunch, ARUCC twill present its 2013 Heroes of Autism Award to Brent and Kathy Wood. The Wood Family Foundation has been a strong proponent for autism awareness education and services in Utah County for the last several years, including establishing Clear Horizons Academy — a learning center dedicated to autism — in 2005.
Last year, more than 40 community members, professionals and educators volunteered their time and insight at the UVU Conference on Autism. Nearly 600 participants attended. This year, the number is expected to increase based on public interest and previous participation.
Registration is $35. UVU students may attend for free. Registration includes lunch, parking, shuttle transportation every 15 minutes from Lot 9 in the northwest corner of campus and all materials. Attendees may also register for six continuing education units for an additional $25.
The following day, on Saturday, April 13, UVU and ARUCC will co-sponsor “An Uplifting Celebration for Autism.” Between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. at Brent Brown Ballpark on UVU’s campus, community members can participate in family activities, eat hot dogs, join in an awareness balloon launch at 12:50 p.m. and watch the 1 p.m. baseball game between UVU and Houston Baptist — all for free. UVU is donating autism-blue T-shirts to be given away to the first 600 people to attend the event.
“Our goal is to provide an environment where everyone is inviting and accepting, where families can come and enjoy fun activities, while raising awareness for autism,” Harris said.
Carnival-style activities including face painting, live animal interaction, arts and crafts and balloon artistry will be held for the first two hours. Then, volunteers and attendees will release 1,500 environmentally friendly balloons just before the start of the baseball game, at 12:50 p.m. The ScenicView Academy Choir, composed of adults with autism, will perform the national anthem during the opening ceremonies of the game.