Autism Education Week Concludes With Conference


Autism Education Week ended Friday with a well-attended conference focused on providing the latest strategies for helping students with autism spectrum disorders.

About 60 people attended the event, said Professor Concetta Russo, who teaches special education and helped organize the Graduate School event. "This is a good number, because this was the first conference of its kind for The College of New Rochelle," said Russo, who also led one of the workshops. "We will be implementing this conference every year, especially as our program grows."

The College of New Rochelle is offering a new 15-credit certificate program in autism studies. "Not only does this certificate add to their knowledge base on a very significant issue, but it also makes the graduate more desirable in getting a permanent position within a school system."

One out of 80 children is classified with autism spectrum disorders, which makes addressing the disability important to teachers. "Children with autism are in every kind of classroom in school," Russo said.

Mary E. McDonald delivered the keynote address on incorporating technology in the education of students with autistic spectrum disorders. She said emerging research has shown that technology motivates students and improves their performance, but she feels it also motivates educators.

Watch video from the conference

McDonald noted that many students with autism are visual learners, and says technology provides the benefit of being easy to modify.

Earlier in the week, a panel offered their perspectives on autism advocacy in a free event at the Mooney Center.

The group included Lydia Brown, an autistic activist and scholar; Lisa Quinones-Fontanez, blogger and mother to an autistic child; school psychologist Marjorie St. Hilaire; and Edie Barasch, chairwoman of the New Rochelle school district's Committee on Preschool Special Education and mother of an adult child with autism.

Watch video from the panel

On Thursday, April 25, pediatric neurologist Dr. Ram Kairam gave a free presentation on the myths and truths of autism. He is the founder of The Autism Treatment and Advocacy Center at Bronx-Lebanon Hospital Center, and also hosts a support group for parents of children with autism spectrum disorders.

Watch video from Dr. Kairam's presentation

(Photo: Keith Amerson of Tri-State Learning Center leads a workshop on Curriculum for Youngsters with Autism Spectrum Disorders.)