Autism Across the Life Span Conference 2021



A Virtual Conference

Friday, April 23, 2021


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Autism Across the Life Span addresses the needs of families, professionals, and educators interested in autism spectrum disorder. This one-day event held online will feature16 breakout sessions on behavioral health, interventions, research and neuroscience, and transition. In response to COVID-19, the 2021 conference is entirely online. 

Registration for the conference is $95 for professionals, including investigators, tenure-track or research faculty, and clinicians. Families and self-advocates can register for $50, and the cost is $40 for undergraduate and graduate students. Scholarships are available for families and self-advocates. 

With presentations from nationally recognized researchers including KU faculty, the conference will offer research presentations as well as practical and informative guidance for people who are currently working and caring for children, teenagers, and/or adults with autism spectrum disorder. Topics include technology and social skills, genetics, early childhood, self-determination, supported decision-making and more.  View the detailed schedule

Keynote speakers

Jim Bodfish

Jim Bodfish, PhD; Professor, Vanderbilt University

Dr. Jim Bodfish is a Professor at the Vanderbilt University Medical Center. He has devoted his career exclusively to research, teaching, and clinical activities in the field of autism and developmental disabilities. His research has focused on the pathogenesis and treatment of autism and related conditions and has been published in a variety of journals including The New England Journal of Medicine, Science, PLoS One, Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, Autism Research, the American Journal of Intellectual & Developmental Disabilities, the Journal of Pediatrics, Brain Behavior Research, and Social Cognitive Affective Neuroscience. His research has been continuously funded by NIH since 1992.  His service activities have included: standing member of the NIH Childhood Psychopathology and Developmental Disabilities Study Section; Associate Editor of the American Journal of Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities, Editor of Autism: The International Journal; of Research and Practice, Co-Chair of the NC Institute of Medicine Developmental Disabilities Task Force, Governor-appointed member of the Council on Developmental Disabilities; Senate Appointee of the Legislative Study Commission on Autism Spectrum Disorders; expert consultant for the US Department of Justice Civil Rights Division, and faculty member of the International Congress on Movement Disorders.

Understanding repetitive behaviors and interests in autism.

Repetitive patterns of behavior are a hallmark of autism.   However, both the research literature and common practices related to this aspect of autism are mixed on a key issue:  Should repetitive behavior be understood as an adaptive response and encouraged, or a challenging behavior to be treated?  Many people with autism report that their repetitive behaviors are useful for them and also are an important source of their identity. But, for a minority, more severe forms of repetitive behavior may limit opportunities for development and may cause stress for persons with autism, their families, and their care providers due to the behavior and mood challenges that are associated with inflexibility.  How should people with autism, caregivers, and clinicians sort this out?  What types of assessments are useful for this aspect of autism? How should we think about supports and interventions for this domain of autism? Can repetitive interests be used to broaden and build other skill areas?  What intervention approaches are practical and effective if repetitive interests have become inflexible routines and a source of stress? When a child with autism has difficulty with communication or socialization we intuitively know what to teach to help address this, and a considerable amount of research and practice provide us with guides on how to do this effectively.  Unfortunately less is known about repetitive behaviors and as a result practices can vary widely in acceptability, effectiveness, and outcomes.  In this talk I’ll review clinical translational research designed to increase our understanding of how repetitive behaviors develop in autism and what functions they seem to serve. I’ll propose a way to help integrate findings from mechanistic research (neuroscience, behavioral science) with valuable information from persons with autism and their families. In addition, I’ll describe how we are beginning to “translate” this research into clinical applications in clinic, home, and school settings.


Julie Lounds-TaylorJulie Lounds-Taylor, PhD
Vanderbilt University Medical Center
Associate Professor of Pediatrics

Julie Lounds Taylor, PhD, is an associate professor of Pediatrics at Vanderbilt University Medical Center and an investigator at the Vanderbilt Kennedy Center. She received her PhD in Developmental Psychology from the University of Notre Dame, and completed a post-doctoral fellowship in lifespan family research at the Waisman Center, University of Wisconsin-Madison. Her research focuses on understanding the factors that promote positive outcomes for adults on the autism spectrum disorder and their families, particularly during the transition to adulthood.  Dr. Taylor’s work has been funded by the National Institutes of Mental Health, Autism Speaks, the FAR fund, and US Department of Defense. She was the 2014 recipient of the American Association on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities Early Career Award, is an associate editor for Autism: The International Journal of Research and Practice, and has served as a member of the United States Department of Health and Human Services’ Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee.

Preparing families to support transition-aged youth on the autism spectrum

Parents often provide critical assistance to their autistic sons and daughters during the transition to adulthood. Yet, many families are inadequately supported during this time. This presentation will describe the important roles that parents can play in the lives of their young adults on the autism spectrum, and discuss the findings of a new study aimed at supporting families by teaching them about adult service systems.