Monthly Archives: February 2015


It doesn’t matter if you are a parent, teacher, speech and language or other type of therapist or counselor. There is SO MUCH to be gained by attending this year’s ASD Symposium!!

1. Something for everyone.

The ASD Symposium is a wonderful educational opportunity for: educators, SLPs, OTs, psychologists, paraprofessionals, social workers, therapists, parents, family members, and other care givers who live with and/or support the development of people with ASD.

Speaking as a parent I can say that the knowledge that you can gain by attending the Symposium is tremendously valuable and will benefit your child, possibly for years to come. I have been SO FORTUNATE to have been able to attend every one of the last 19 ASD Symposiums. The knowledge I have gained over the years has served my son Andrew well. I have come to better understand Autism, how it affects Andrew and I have learned new ways to support him so he can function at his very best. I have also been able to share what I have learned with family members and the support staff who work daily with Andrew.

2. The history

The ASD Symposium has always been ahead of it’s time. It was “the first national forum to address the importance of understanding interests, strengths, and talents of people with Autism Spectrum Disorder.” Rather than focusing on areas of deficit, the Symposium’s speakers “put an emphasis on the importance of identifying and developing the interests, talents and the abilities of people with ASD, of all ages, and all ability levels, where they live, learn and work.”

Rather than just having professionals in the field of Autism offer their insights, The ASD symposium’s history is also full of presenters who are people with ASD and parents of people with ASD.

The parents have included: Elaine Hall, Maria Teresa Canha, Jackie Marquette, Clara Claiborne Park, Michael John Carley, and Barbara Domingue. This year we add to that list with Ron Suskind, and with Dena Gassner who will present from the perspective of a parent and as a person with ASD.

Presenters with ASD have included: Debra Lipsky, Jerry Newport, Michael John Carly, Justin Canha, Temple Grandin, Stephen Shore,and Ros Blackburn, who coached Sigourney Weaver for her role as a woman with Autism in the movie Snowcake

 3. This year’s speakers:

Every year we have outstanding speakers and this year is no different.

Emily Rubin, MS, CCC-SLP: is the director of Communication Crossroads, a private practice in Atlanta, GA. She is a speech-language pathologist specializing in Autism, Asperger’s Syndrome, and related social learning disabilities.

My experience with Emily is more personal. After Andrew had made very little progress with his language in over a 3 year period, I asked Emily to do an Independent Evaluation of Andrew who was then 15 years old. Her evaluation, along with the specific speech and language therapy protocol she developed for him, and her training the school staff in its use, resulted in significant language gains in a matter of months. Read Emily’s full bio here

Dena Gassner, LMSW: Dena, “a person with an autism spectrum condition” is also a parent to a young man on the spectrum. In addition she operates the Center for Understanding in Nashville, Tennessee. It is always so interesting and enlightening to hear speakers who are on the spectrum. I’m excited to hear what Dena will share in her presentations on helping people with ASD with “self-awareness to enhance personal wellness” and understanding “the causes, and individual triggers of dysregulation” and how understanding and accommodations can support people to function at their very best. Read Dena’s full bio here

Ron Suskind, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and author. Ron’s recent book Life, Animated, A Story of Sidekicks, Heroes and Autism, was inspired by his son Owen’s self-directed transformation and the unique way that the Suskinds “enabled him to engage and motivate himself via his profound affinity for Disney.” Ron will also discuss how new research studies and behavioral therapy for autism spectrum has been affected by what they learned from Owen and his “affinity” for Disney. Read more about Ron and the book Life Animated

 4. Discounted rates for parents

Autism Conferences can be expensive to attend. The price for parents and family members (as well as students) is purposely kept low to enable parents, grandparents, siblings and those with ASD to attend. The cost for 1 family member to attend both days is $199.00 and a second family member can attend for only $70.00 more. The cost for one day is $119.00 and $50 for the second person. Continential breakfast, lunch are included and parking is free.

5. The money raised supports the Parent’s Retreat

The ASD Symposium is not a for profit event. All of the money raised goes to support the Parent’s Retreat, which just celebrated it’s 20th anniversary. This very special yearly event gives parents of children and adults with ASD the chance to break away, rest, and “reflect on the journey.” For many of the dads who attend the retreat it’s their first chance to meet and talk with other guys who also have a child on the spectrum. Some couples have credited the retreat with “saving their marriage.” For other’s it’s a much needed break to rest and regroup.

 6. The Bookstore!!

Every year the ASD Symposium also includes an amazing bookstore with a wide variety of top notch books, DVDs and practical resources. Anyone who has had a chance to visit the bookstore will tell you with so many great resources it can be difficult to decide which materials to purchase. This year we have as a new addition to the book store, Fidget Kits. Each Kit will contain 11 Fidget/Sensory items and come in a Clear Vinyl Zipper Bag, for safe keeping and easy travel! In addition, laminated photos of each Fidget will be included as Visual Support for those who need them!
We will also have individual Fidget and Sensory items not included in the Kits!

7. Networking with experts, professionals and other parents and family members

One of my favorite parts of attending each ASD Symposium is the chance to talk and network with other parents. The ideas we can share with one another can be so helpful and it’s also nice to catch up and see how others are doing. Also the opportunity to meet, chat, and ask questions of people with Autism and other experts in the ASD is truly an exceptional opportunity.

8. We make it easy for you to attend.

  • Registration can be done Online or via Mail or fax.
  • You choose your lunch when you register, including vegetarian and gluten free
  • Parking is FREE

I hope this encourages you to join us for the 20th annual ASD Symposium!  I look forward to see you there


Nurturing Relationships with First Respondents is on Form of Good Advocacy and Education

Our guest blogger this month is Dennis Polselli, Publicity Coordinator at Community Autism Resources.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about disability and first respondents, especially in the wake of Ferguson Missouri and New York City. This is not a blog to bash police, not at all. It is a blog to point out how important it is for those of us with disabilities (and our care-givers, and service providers, who advocate for us) to use these tragedies to take steps in our own disability community to build concrete relationships with police and fire departments in our cities and towns.

I’m reminded of an article I read in 1988 in a publication for the Blind which detailed a misunderstanding between an individual who is blind and a police department in a community in California. This individual had a collapsible White Cane that can be broken down in 4 to 5 pieces. In order to use the cane, you pull up on the string and the pieces come together creating a useable White Cane. When the police officer was about to make an arrest of this blind individual, he grabbed his cane to use to move about, but the police officer thought he was grabbing for a weapon and threw the individual to the ground. It was fortunate that being pulled to the ground was the only thing the officer did and not something more drastic. There have also been instances where persons with cognitive disabilities were shot and killed by police in states like Arizona, California and New Mexico. When there is any kind of emergency, police need to act quickly. Our job, and I believe our responsibility, is to get on the calendars of Police and Fire Departments and provide in service training on issues involving disabilities from blindness, deafness, to individuals with cognitive disabilities.

I’m sure, in fact I know, that my colleagues here at Community Autism Resources would be happy to assist parents and advocates of individuals on the Autism Spectrum to provide any information you need to help local first respondents to understand the issues surrounding persons on the Autism Spectrum. This includes information on the ALEC Program. The ALEC (Autism and Law Enforcement Education and Coalition) program, a project of the The ARC of Bristol County that is now a national model, offers First Responders training programs. A number of the training programs have taken place throughout Southeastern Massachusetts. Please call Community Autism Resources for further information on the ALEC program and to find out if training has happened in your area. It is so important.

For 15 years at Framingham State University, my wife and I team-taught two sessions of a nursing course on how to deal with issues and support patients with disabilities. And, during my recent double by-pass heart surgery, I learned we have a long way to go in our efforts to educate and advocate with hospitals. If it weren’t for my sister, Barbara Domingue, and my wife’s advocacy, the experience would have been much worse than it turned out to be for at the beginning, people were coming in and out of my room not identifying themselves and performing different procedures on me.

We (as service providers, care-givers, and advocates) must take responsibility and introduce ourselves, and our issues, to Police, Fire officials, and medical establishments and they themselves, for the most part, would appreciate our assistance.

To find out more about ALEC or to set up an ALEC training session, contact Bill Cannata at: or call The Arc of South Norfolk , 789 Clapboardtree Street, Westwood, MA 02090 at 781-762-4001, ext. 420.

ALEC facebook page address is: