Celebrating Neurodiversity: Online Discussions Honor Autism Awareness Month

From K–12 education to healthcare, from business to politics, and from the arts to science to all other fields and facets of life, understanding and embracing individuals with autism and all across the neurodiversity spectrum is a goal worth striving for.

At WGU, we will be joining the nation in celebrating Autism Awareness Month 2015 throughout April. Beginning Wednesday, April 15, with an introductory panel on what we know about autism now, we will present a varied and engaging series of interdisciplinary online discussions about autism.

Check out the schedule below and be sure to make yourself a calendar reminder to attend the sessions you’re interested in. Then, on the day and time of the event, visit wgu.adobeconnect.com/autism-acceptance-month and call into 1-866-962-6634 with the participant code 94770378#.

Panelists will include subject-matter experts, students, and mentors from throughout WGU’s colleges and disciplines. Some have personal experience with autism; others have academic or other backgrounds that lend them special expertise.

Feel free to visit the Celebrate Neurodiversity: Autism Acceptance Month Companion Guide with books, articles, and resources to support our ongoing discussions on autism, neurotypicality, and more.

What is Autism Spectrum Disorder? Myths & Misconceptions

Dr. Desiree Kornrum-Byrne (Business College)
This session was held Wednesday, April 15, 2015.
View recorded session »
Access slides with resource links »

This presentation will touch on the basics of autism spectrum disorder, as well as the most common myths and misconceptions. We will discuss the following: what is autism spectrum disorder? What do we know so far about "the causes" of autism? What do we need to know about the reported "growth" in the numbers of diagnosed individuals? How autism is diagnosed and treated? What are common comorbid issues? And how/when/what information do you share with the affected individual. References to current research as well as resources will be provided in the powerpoint.

What I Wish Teachers and Other People Understood about Autism: A Parent Perspective

Dr. Brandi Westmoreland (General Education); Shannon Rumsey (Health Professions/Nursing); Michelle Tippins (Business);
Dr. Steve Harris (General Education)

This session was held Thursday, April 16, 2015
View recorded session »

We have gathered several parents to share some of their perspectives and experiences as a parent to an autistic child. In addition to what the panelists will share, we hope that you will bring with you questions, concerns, and anecdotes of your own to build a dialogue about autism in the community and classroom.

iPads & Mobile Technology for Autism & Speech Support

Dr. Kim Cohen (Teachers College) and Jacqueline Bair (President of Chromosome 9p-Minus Network)
This session was held Wednesday, April 22, 2015.
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Access slides with resource links »

In this panel, we will review why iPads and communication devices are helpful to autistic children and children with developmental speech delays. We will take you through a typical day in the life, with a review of specific apps and uses to support children, in areas such as behavioral, social, speech, and academic support. Feel free to bring ideas with you that you might want to share.

Wisdom from Daniel Stefanski, a Kid With Autism

Dr. Lynn Brogan (Teachers College) and Dr. Amy Hughes (Teachers College)
This session was held Wednesday, April 22, 2015.
View recorded session »

Meet 14 year old Daniel Stefanski, who describes himself as autistic, handy, funny, helpful, generous, creative, a talented golfer, and good at fixing things. Daniel provides an inside look at how his senses can overwhelm him. You will have the opportunity to experience a brief exposure to sensory overload. Daniel's book is a great classroom read aloud, a shared reading experience with your own child, and a gift those who don't yet understand the autism spectrum.

What I Wish Teachers and Others Understood about Autism: An Autistic Adult Perspective

Darnell Wilson (Student in Teachers College); Bill Wong (Occupational Therapist)
This session was held Thursday, April 23, 2015.
View recorded session »

Two autistic adults—one a student from WGU’s Teachers College and another an occupational therapist—will share some of their perspectives, their educational stories and experiences, and their journeys. In addition to what the panelists will share, we hope that you will bring with you questions, concerns, and anecdotes of your own to build a dialogue about autism in the classroom, the community, and the home.

What I Wish I Knew Before Going into My Classroom: A Classroom Teacher Perspective

Dr. Dina Linkenhoker (Teachers College), Michelle Tippins, M.Ed. (Business College); Dr. Courtney Purnell (Teachers College)
This session was held Monday, April 27, 2015
View recorded session »

We have gathered several classroom teachers to share some of their perspectives and experiences in their classrooms with autistic students. In addition to what the panelists will share, we hope that you will bring with you questions, concerns, and anecdotes of your own to build a dialogue about autism in the classroom.

Ann Martin’s Rain Reign Book Discussion: Beginning a Dialogue

Dr. Kim Cohen (Teachers College); Dr. Colleen Halverson (Teachers College); Dr. Karen Hager Martinez; Dr. Craig Brewer (General Education)
This session was held Wednesday, April 29, 2015
View recorded session »
Access slides with resource links »

Discussion Guide: http://images.macmillan.com/folio-assets/discusion-guides/9780312643003DG.pdf

In this panel, we will explore the representation of the autistic narrator in this award-winning middle-grade novel. Our conversation will likely include questions like: What can we make of Rose’s obsession with homonyms? Does the characterization of Rose help readers “understand” the world from an autistic perspective or does it offer a stereotyped perspective? How might we come to terms with the Rose’s father, his challenges in parenting her without a partner, and the darker social realities that it highlights? How does Rose’s dog help her to create a bridge past her other social and emotional challenges? We encourage everyone to read this story and participate in a larger dialogue about autism, children, and friendship. Come with your own questions, comments, teaching ideas, and favorite/interesting quotes from the story for this informal book discussion.

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