Strategies and resources for ensuring the success of students with autism will be explored during the Community Autism Awareness Evening on March 24 and the 7th annual Autism Spectrum Disorders Conference on March 25 at the Southwest Virginia Higher Education Center in Abingdon.

Both events are sponsored by the Virginia Department of Education’s Training and Technical Assistance Center at Virginia Tech.

The Community Autism Awareness Evening, a free event open to the public from 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m., will provide information about local, regional, and state resources available to families, teachers, service providers, and others who work with children with autism.

In addition, D.J. Svoboda, a young man who was diagnosed with autism at the age of three, will discuss his creation, “The Imagifriends.” Svoboda and his work have been featured in magazines in the United States and Australia and he was chosen by the Autism Society of America for its national Autism Puzzle Project.

The full-day Autism Spectrum Disorders Conference on March 25 will bring together more than 300 educators, psychologists, paraprofessionals, parents, speech pathologists, and other professionals to share information and strategies for enhancing the educational, social, and communicative success of students with autism spectrum disorders (ASD).

David Koppenhaver, a professor of language, reading, and exceptionalities at Appalachian State University and co-founder of the Center for Literacy and Disability Studies at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, will deliver the conference’s keynote address, “Bumping into Walls in the Dark: Learning to Teach Students with ASD to Read.” He will discuss barriers to successful literacy learning and ways in which educators can help students with ASD become capable and independent readers.

Koppenhaver is the co-author of Adolescent Literacy: What Works and Why and Children with Disabilities: Reading and Writing the Four-Block Way, and co-editor of Waves of Words: Augmented Communicators Read and Write.

Conference sessions will address literacy and math instruction, communication and social skills, preschool instruction, and other topics. The conference also will feature a networking lunch for families of individuals with ASD and displays by service vendors showcasing software, technology, books, and school-related resources.

Registration for the conference is $39, which includes materials, all sessions, a continental breakfast, and lunch.

For more information and to register, visit the conference website or contact Diann Eaton at (540) 231-1846.

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