UNT’s Adventures in Autism Conference unites professionals, parents

Guests and presenters at the conference included guest speaker Paul Collins (second from left); Keturi Beatty, director of development for the UNT College of Education (center in stripes); Smita Mehta, UNT professor of Educational Psychology (center in black and white); Kristin Farmer, UNT College of Education graduate, founder of ACES (Comprehensive Educational Services Inc.) and benefactor of the UNT Kristin Farmer Autism Center (back row, behind Mehta); Bertina Combes, interim dean of the UNT College of Education (third from right); Kevin Callahan, executive director of KFAC; and Miriam Boesch, UNT assistant professor of Educational Psychology.

 

By Raquel Talamantes

More than 200 teachers, parents and clinicians ready to learn about new developments and methods in the Autism Spectrum Disorder community gathered at UNT July 30 for the 2016 Adventures in Autism Intervention and Research Conference, organized by the UNT Kristin Farmer Autism Center.

Bertina Combes, the UNT College of Education’s interim dean, said the university has the expertise and passion needed to make the conference relevant and successful every year. Combes said UNT has also historically responded to the needs of the community.

Smita Mehta, UNT professor of Educational Psychology, leaqds a seminar at the conference.

“I think the increasing number of individuals who have ASD creates a need to examine it more closely, and to investigate not only identification, assessment and intervention strategies, but also ways to support families of individuals with autism with the long-term goal of seamless integration into society,” Combes said. “I think as an institution, one of the oldest and largest in the stat

e founded to prepare teachers, we have a responsibility to the North Texas area to provide quality training for those working with individuals with autism, whether it be through education or through community services. It is our duty and responsibility to be sure that we provide quality training to the individuals and professionals who are going to be providing direct services to kids with autism.”

College professors, researchers and clinicians gathered from across the country to give presentations about what’s new in ASD research and intervention.

Conference speakers this year included Connie Kasari, professor of human development and psychiatry at the University of California; Smita Mehta, professor in the Department of Educational Psychology at UNT; CJ Conard, BCBA-D at Autism Comprehensive Education Services; Lauren Mathews, senior lecturer in Speech Language Pathology at UNT; Paul Collins, professor in the Department of English at Portland State University; and many others.

Kristin Farmer, a UNT College of Education graduate, founder of ACES (Comprehensive Educational Services Inc.) and benefactor of the UNT Kristin Farmer Autism Center, said she hopes conference attendees were reminded of the importance of research and of helping those affected by ASD — particularly the population that is more severely impacted by the disorder — lead fuller lives.

“I’m hoping that people will gain new knowledge of how to treat autism and gain new ideas or even be reminded of the i
mportance of serving the entire population of autism, from high-functioning to those who are more impacted,” she said.

Kevin Callahan, executive director of the UNT Kristin Farmer Autism Center, said the conference provides hope for changing lives and making a difference in the futures of families. And Mathews said it unites autism professionals in a meaningful way.

“Interdisciplinary work is so important in this field, and this conference brings together nearly every kind of professional who works with people with autism,” she said. “I just think that’s fantastic. It takes a group to really holistically work with someone with autism, and I feel like this conference embodies that.”