A conference designed to assist those who are supporting students from preschool through high school with autism spectrum disorders including Asperger’s syndrome and pervasive developmental disorder, not otherwise specified PDD-NOS or atypical autism, will be held March 30 and 31, at the Southwest Virginia Higher Education Center in Abingdon, Va. Registration for the conference is $65 for both days and covers breaks, lunch, and materials.

Sponsored by the Virginia Department of Education’s Training and Technical Assistance Center at Virginia Tech, the Autism Spectrum Disorders Conference will bring together more than 200 educators, psychologists, parents, speech pathologists, and students. Attendees and presenters will share information and strategies to empower them with the tools they need to better support the educational, social, and communicative success of their children and/or students with Autism Spectrum Disorder.

Dr. Anne Donnellan and Martha Leary will present a full-day session titled, “Myths and assumptions: What we know and what we think we know about people with a label of autism.”

Anne M. Donnellan, Ph.D., is a professor in the School of Leadership and Education Studies at the University of San Diego and professor emerita at University of Wisconsin-Madison. A long time member of the Professional Advisory Panel of the Autism Society of America, the Autism National Committee, The Association for Persons with Severe Handicaps (TASH), and other related organizations, she is internationally known for her numerous books and articles, as well as her training, research, and advocacy work on behalf of children and adults with significant communication and behavioral challenges. Her most recent work with Martha Leary and Jodi Robledo has focused on the effect of stress on individuals with the autism label. Martha Leary, M.A., CCC-SLP, speech pathologist and communication consultant, has 30 years experience working with people diagnosed with autism and related communication disorders. Recently, she moved to Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada, where she continued her work as a workshop leader and consultant worldwide. Leary has worked with hundreds of children and adults with autism—in homes with families, in schools with teachers, and in community settings with families and supporters. She is a leader in an international effort to integrate information about the effects of movement differences in all aspects of individuals’ daily lives, creating communication programs that are functional and meaningful to the individuals and others. Leary is co-author, with David Hill, of the groundbreaking article, “Moving on: Autism and movement disturbance,” published in the journal, Mental Retardation.

David Pitonyak, an independent consultant, with more than 20 years of experience whose work involves meeting people with challenging behaviors, will provide the keynote on Friday morning, March 31, entitled, “What do I do next...? Strategies for getting started after the conference is finished.” This keynote will address the tendency of workers to become positively charged with new ideas at conferences or workshops, only to return to work and be mired down in day-to-day problems.

Pitonyak has consulted with families and professionals throughout the United States, Puerto Rico, Canada, England, the Republic of Ireland, and Northern Ireland. He is a recipient of the 2005 Positive Approaches Award from TASH. In 2001, he received the Outstanding Professional Award from the Autism Society of America, Greater Roanoke Valley Chapter. Pitonyak lives in Blacksburg with his wife Cyndi and two sons, Joe and Sam.

Breakout sessions covering teaching strategies, communication, and social skills will continue through 4 p.m.

For more information, contact Diann Eaton, Training and Technical Assistance Center at Virginia Tech at(540) 231-1846.