The Virginia Tech Center for Autism Research will host its fourth annual Northern Virginia Autism Research Symposium Sept. 21 in Falls Church, Virginia.

The symposium brings together scientists, professionals, educators, students, and health care providers in the field of autism, and individuals with autism and/or their family members for a day of presentations and discussion.

This year’s presentations will focus on biomedical, technology-related, educational, and clinical autism research. The event starts at 7:30 a.m. at the Falls Church Marriott Fairview Park and is free, with breakfast and lunch included.

This event has been sponsored every year by Jerry Hulick, owner and a senior special care planner with The Washington Group Special Care Planning Team and a 1973 political science alumnus of Virginia Tech. Hulick is also a longtime member of the College of Science Dean’s Roundtable Advisory Board and the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences Dean's Roundtable.

“With this conference I hope to extend beyond the Blacksburg boundaries to offer information about our work to the Northern Virginia community,” said Angela Scarpa, center director and an associate professor with the Department of Psychology, part of the College of Science. “Our mission is to merge science with service by improving the quality of life for people with autism and their families through education, services, and research. We aim to improve access to care for all people with autism, including those from diverse and underserved communities, and we support autism-friendly environments for inclusiveness.”

The day’s keynote speaker will be Kerry Magro, a best-selling author, film consultant, and advocate for the autism community who is on the autism spectrum. Magro was nonverbal at age 2.5 and diagnosed with autism at 4. His website describes how he overcame “countless obstacles to get to where he is today.” He is currently CEO and founder of KFM Making-a-Difference, a nonprofit corporation focused on disability advocacy.

Kerry Magro

Kerry Magro
Kerry Magro will give the keynote address at the fourth annual Northern Virginia Autism Research Symposium.

Virginia Tech autism researchers speaking at the event include faculty and graduate students from the College of Science, the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences, and the College of Engineering.

From the College of Science, speakers are Mike Bowers, an assistant professor in the School of Neuroscience; and Ashley Muskett, a graduate student, and John Richey, an associate professor, both with the Department of Psychology. From the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences, speakers are Amy Azano, an associate professor in the School of Education; and Jeff Jackson and Carolyn Shivers, both assistant professors in the Department of Human Development and Family Science. Representing the College of Engineering will be Denis Gracanin, an associate professor in the Department of Computer Science. Also speaking will be Sally C. Morton, dean of the College of Science.

The Center for Autism Research will have on display its Mobile Autism Clinic, a converted RV that is bringing the services of the clinic to communities across Southwest Virginia. As with the symposium, the RV was funded in part by Hulick, who previously has said he holds a strong interest in serving families with special needs. Jen Pollard Scott, rural outreach coordina­tor for the autism clinic, also will be at the event.

Seating is limited for the event and RSVPs are strongly encouraged. Those interested in attending the event should contact  Carey Alford of Washington Group Special Care at 703-865-6502 or by email. Attendees impacted or with a family member impacted by autism spectrum disorder may request information regarding special needs and physical, visual, and/or hearing impairment by contacting the Center for Autism Research at 540-231-8747 or by email.

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