Featured Presentations and Events
Listed below are abstracts of some of the presentations featured at the November conference.
Presenter: Jane Thierfeld Brown, Ed.D
Program Abstract: This presentation will be an overview of College Students on the Autism Spectrum. How this population has expanded and what colleges are doing to meet their needs. Fascinating and innovative campus responses will be discussed.
Presenter: Nancy Kanwisher, Walter A. Rosenblith Professor, MIT Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences
Program Abstract: The cognitive profile of individuals with autism is widely thought to include deficits in face recognition and in visual attention (e.g. in global processing and in disengaging attention). I will present preliminary behavioral and neural findings from a large study of nearly 50 children with ASD suggesting that impairments in visual attention are small or nonexistent in high-functioning children with autism, but that differences in face processing and its neural basis are robust, largely restricted to memory tasks (rather than perception tasks), and reflected in reduced activation of brain regions specifically engaged in face perception.
Presenter: Rebecca Saxe, Associate Professor, MIT Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences
Program Abstract: One of the most remarkable discoveries of modern cognitive neuroscience is the discovery, in the human brain, of many regions with specifically social functions: brain regions recruited when looking at people, watching their interactions, interacting and communicating, and even thinking about their thoughts, beliefs and motivations. One key open question is: do the social difficulties experienced by individuals with ASD originate in the function of these brain regions?
Presenters: Mark Bowers and Kelly Bowers
Program Abstract: SōshTM is a mobile application developed based on a decade of work with children, adolescents, and young adults who struggle with social skills. This technology is ideal for students with social thinking challenges (e.g., Autism Spectrum, ADHD, and Learning Disorders). The approach will be discussed as well as the framework: Relate (Connect with Others), Relax (Reduce Stress), Regulate (Manage Behaviors), Reason (Think it Through) and Recognize (Understand Feelings). A live demonstration of the "5's" will be provided using the app. This session will also include strategies for incorporating technology into daily work with students and future advancements using technology will be explored.
Presenter: Jennifer Dougherty
Program Abstract: Even the most prepared and confident student experiences some difficulty transitioning into post- secondary education. Imagine entering a whole new social and academic atmosphere as a person on the Autism Spectrum. You can imagine the many obstacles a student like this may face. It is our job as an institution to help accommodate the needs of these students to help them have a successful college experience. In this panel, I will discuss my role specifically within the Advising and Learning Assistance Center at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and how I work closely with Residence Life, the Disability Services Office, the Student Experience office as well as many other offices and programs on campus. I will focus on my role in helping students navigate their way through Rensselaer while working on areas such as time management, study skills and self-advocacy.
Presenter: Jean L. Morrell
Program Abstract: Currently, significant time and energy is spent working with college students on the autism spectrum preparing them for job interviews. This interactive session will take a different approach; discussing strategies and training needed for corporations and government agencies to help them conduct effective interviews to ensure they get an accurate understanding of the skills and capabilities of these candidates. Audience members are strongly encouraged to share their ideas and suggestions about techniques and questions they would like to see incorporated into interviews.
Presenter: Harold Fields
Program Abstract: During the panel I would like to share some strategies that have been utilized by our Residence Life department in conjunction with the Spectrum Support Program and Housing Operations to serve students with ASD living in campus residences.
Presenter: Laurence I. Sugarman
Program Abstract: Since the spring of 2011, RIT’s Counseling Center (CC) and Center for Applied Psychophysiology and Self-regulation (CAPS) have collaborated to offer students with anxiety associated with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) a service called the Minding Anxiety Project (MAP). MAP’s purpose is to teach these students skills in psychophysiological self-regulation using computerized peripheral biofeedback to manage anxiety while investing in mastery and self-efficacy. There is sound support for biofeedback training to treat anxiety for people with ASD despite little empiric evidence reported in the literature. Both anecdotal and theoretical evidence indicates that a core feature of anxiety in ASD is autonomic dysregulation. Peripheral autonomic biofeedback therapy has been effective for management of anxiety disorders. Young people with ASD, especially at technical institutes, are likely to engage more readily with computers than socially (i.e., socially-based therapy). During intake students with confirmed ASD referred to MAP completed standardized assessments for anxiety (AMAS-CE) and self-concept (TSCS). They also identified therapeutic goals for their skill development to decrease anxiety-related impairments. Students then participated in a minimum of three visits during which they learned skills for autonomic control including lowering respiratory rate with abdominal breathing; maximizing heart rate variability (in the low frequency range); and practicing without feedback through meditative and self-hypnotic practices. Anxiety and self-concept assessments were repeated prior to final visits. Nineteen students participated with an average of 4 visits (range: 3-13). Results indicate that participants learned skills in physiological self-regulation, improved self-perceived functioning, lowered their anxiety and improved aspects of self-concept. Despite recruitment problems resulting in low turnout, this pilot project has formed the foundation for the Minding Anxiety Program with changes to increase recruitment; more standardized, client-centered and creative biofeedback interventions; refined data collection; and ongoing follow-up to assess long term effects.
Presenter: Nina Davis-Millis
Program Abstract: In higher education, the curricular focus is on the mastery of course content; support for strengthening social and executive functioning skills can be harder to locate in a university setting. This presentation will describe how one living group has successfully provided that type of support for students on the autism spectrum. The speaker, who has lived for the last 17 years at MIT's smallest dorm (and one of its quirkiest) will share her personal experience with a focus on what makes it work.
Presenter: Bonni Alpert
Program Abstract: This presentation will describe a year-long peer mentoring program that utilizes the university's existing academic resources to provide mutual benefits both to mentors and mentees, without imposing a financial "burden" to the institution. Mentors have the opportunity to learn and apply theoretical knowledge and skills in clinical practice (specifically, in the area of Applied Behavioral Analysis); thus, enriching their education while receiving internship credit. Mentees benefit because they are often more comfortable receiving assistance from peers than from faculty and staff; thus, working with peer mentors provides mentees with the opportunity to increase their ability to succeed in the college environment. Mentees also have the opportunity to improve their social and daily living skills through the dynamics of peer mentoring.
Presenter: Laurie Ackles
Program Abstract: Through Rochester Institute of Technology's Spectrum Support Program, students with ASD are offered a 10 week Co-Op and Career Success Seminar focused on skill development and confidence building for job search success. Session topics include making a good first impression, preparing for the interview, answering common and behavioral based interview questions, and disclosure and self-accommodation on the job. The session concludes with a group mock interview session and networking reception. This presentation will describe how students with ASD benefit from more targeted skill development in order to successfully navigate the job search process.
Hear directly from students, successfully navigating the transition into, through, and beyond higher education.