2021 Conference Sessions (Archive)

a banner of A day of collaboration and learning about Neuroscience Mental Health Intervention Transition and self-advocacy

Conference Schedule

8:30 - 8:45 am: Conference welcome

8:45 - 9:45  am: Opening keynote address with Julie Lounds Taylor

10:00 - 10:50 am:  Breakout session 1 and poster session 1

11:00 - 11:50 am:  Breakout session 2

12:00 - 1:00 pm: Lunch Keynote Address with Jim Bodfish

1:15 - 2:05 pm:  Breakout session 3 and poster session 2

2:15 - 3:05 pm:  Breakout session 4

3:15 - 4:05 pm:  Breakout session 5

Breakout Tracks and Session Details

Behavioral Health

10-10:50 am
Parenting in Perspective: Self-Care for the Caregiver
Mary Anne Hammond, Education Coordinator, Autism and Related Disorders, Children’s Mercy, Kansas City

Parenting at times can be overwhelming and parenting a child with special needs at times can feel superhuman! Self-care is critically important in order to stay the course. Learn why and a few suggestions of HOW to care for yourself while caring for your family.

11-11:50 am
The Intersection of Autism Spectrum Disorder and other Mental Health Conditions
Sarah Kirk, PhD, ABPP, Director of KU Psychological Clinic, University of Kansas

Dr. Kirk will discuss the co-occurring mental health conditions and behavioral approaches one may consider.  We will discuss the different presentations and how to approach and then assess the outcomes associated with those treatment approaches. We will focus on the intersections with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder and Major Depressive Disorder.  

1:15-2 pm
Psychotropic Medication Management for Children on the Spectrum
Ann Genovese, MD, University of Kansas Medical Center

Children on the Autism Spectrum can have behavioral problems for which psychiatric medications can be helpful.  These children are also at increased risk for additional behavioral or psychiatric conditions for which various treatments can be helpful.  In this session we will review the evidence for prescribing  psychotropic medications in autistic children.  


10-10:50 am
Digital Solutions for Today and Tomorrow
Sean J Smith, PhD, Professor, Special Education, University of Kansas

Remote learning has created a series of challenges for ALL our learners. This session will highlight effective digital tools and solutions that we can use now but will also remain relevant post-COVID.  Tools that support our learners, facilitate inclusion, and enhance effective instructional, behavioral, and social emotional interventions.  Together, we will explore ways to continue to work in remote and hybrid learning environments while planning for return to fully face-to-face instruction.

11-11:50 am
Medication Management for Co-occurring Mental Health Concerns in Children with Autism
Elizabeth Hastings, MD, Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrician, Children’s Mercy 

This session will be discussing common mental health conditions that co-occur in children with an autism spectrum disorder.  This session will then also address medication management of these common co-occurring mental health conditions.  Lastly, the session will discuss the influence of sleep on the symptoms of these mental health conditions.

1:15-2 pm
Pedal to the Metal: Pediatric Telebehavioral Health 2021
Eve-Lynn Nelson, PhD, FATA, Professor, Pediatrics, University of Kansas Medical Center

Dr. Nelson will review the rapidly changing telebehavioral health landscape. She will describe telebehavioral health across settings (e.g., school, primary care, home) and consideration for patients, families, providers, and communities. She will share information about the telehealth resource centers and related technical assistance opportunities.

Dissemination of Evidence-based Practices: OASIS-Scaling Up!
Linda Heitzman-Powell, PhD, BCBA-D, University of Kansas Medical Center
Alice Zhang, PhD, BCBA, University of Kansas Medical Center

OASIS Parent Training is a manualized program following a Direct Instruction approach. This approach will be discussed, along with scaling up strategies currently in progress for dissemination of these materials for parents of young children with autism. These strategies include our process for the development of Coach Training materials and current efforts to develop materials for a "Train the Trainer" approach to treatment delivery.

Research and Neuroscience

10-10:50 am
​Genetics of autism: thinking outside the box! 
Zohreh Talebizadeh, PhD, Professor, Children’s Mercy Hospital

Multiple genes and environmental factors may contribute to the etiology of autism. Abnormalities in gene regulatory processes may also play a critical role in pathogenesis of complex conditions. Furthermore, concerns over the need to improve translational aspects of autism genetics research and engage community members have been noted in the literature and raised by patient advocates. Dr. Talebizadeh's talk provides a brief overview of (1) autism genetics findings with the focus on subtyping to reduce heterogeneity, and (2) a patient-centered initiative aiming to promote partnership between genetics and outcomes researchers in the context of improving translational aspects in autism research. 

11:00-11:50 am
​Promoting the Social-communication and Play Skills of Young Children with Autism
Brian Boyd, PhD, Associate Professor and Director, Juniper Gardens Children’s Project

The Advancing Social-communication And Play (ASAP) project was developed to improve the social-communication and play skills of preschool-aged children with autism spectrum disorder.  This session will provide school-based practitioners with evidence-based and practical intervention strategies and procedures that can be used to target those pivotal skill areas. Participants who attend this session will learn to (1) use developmental hierarchies to identify appropriate play and social-communication targets for preschool-aged children with ASD, and (2) develop classroom activities and strategies aligned with the selected intervention target(s). 

2:15-3:05 pm
Bioinformatic methods for understanding new treatment targets and etiological mechanisms of ASD
Olivia J Veatch, PhD, Assistant Professor, University of Kansas Medical Center

Variation in more than one hundred genes is implicated in risk for autism spectrum disorder (ASD), and the list is continually growing. While novel gene discovery is important, it is also necessary to understand how currently implicated genetic factors can be useful to informing treatment of symptoms in individuals with ASD. This session will focus on detailing available computational resources and state-of-the-art methods that are beneficial to translating data from genetic studies in ASD into clinically useful knowledge. A primary focus will be on approaches for integrating data from a number of excellent tools that are publicly available. In addition, this session will highlight the benefits and caveats of leveraging data from clinical resources, including electronic health records. The ultimate goal is to stimulate the use of bioinformatics and medical informatics for identifying clinically useful ways to interpret information from genetic studies.


10-10:50 am
​Healthcare and Neurodiversity: A Panel Discussion
Spencer Hunley, Elizabeth Boresow, Ben Edwards, Executive Committee Members, Kansas City League of Autistics (KCLA)

When it comes to care and outcomes, most would agree that patient voices are integral to ensuring quality and effective treatment; yet autistic and other neurodivergent perspectives are still rarely included. This panel discussion, led by the Executive Committee of the Kansas City League of Autistics, will define Neurodiversity and describe it in plain-language terms, review current projects, and confer about what needs to be done to not only increase neurodiverse representation in the medical and academic communities, but how such an increase would benefit those communities as well.

11-11:50 am
Including Students with ID/D at The University of Kansas
Dana Lattin, MSEdProgram Director, University of Kansas Transition to Postsecondary Ed (KU TPE)
Brenda Aylward, Academic Advisor, KU TPE
Tanner Daniels, KU Alumnus

KU Transition to Postsecondary Education (KU TPE) is the first and only inclusive postsecondary education in Kansas for students with intellectual and developmental disability (ID/D). In this 2-year program, KU students with ID/D receive  services from KU student services and intensive supports, as needed, from TPE to help them participate campus life and undergraduate KU coursework. A focus on career development and internships help students work toward their career goals while completing a KU undergraduate certificate. Participants in this session will receive details of TPE and hear how attending KU has impacted students with ID/D. #InclusiveKU

1:15-2:05 pm
Self-Determination for Students with ASD: Emerging Directions in Research and Practice
Sheida K. Raley, PhD, Assistant Research Professor, Kansas University Center on Developmental Disabilities
Karrie A. Shogren, PhD, Director, Kansas Center on Developmental Disabilities 

Developing the abilities to set and attain personally meaningful goals is central to self-determination and enhanced self-determination has been linked with positive in-school and post school outcomes for students with disabilities. Researchers at the KU Center on Developmental Disabilities will share current and emerging research with students with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). on self-determination assessment and evidence-based interventions Specifically, this presentation will share findings from longitudinal studies examining the impact of self-determination intervention using the Self-Determined Learning Model of Instruction (SDLMI) on student outcomes (e.g., self-determination, goal attainment, access to general education) as well as information about newly funded research projects focused on enhancing self-determination for students with ASD.

2:15-3:05 pm
Enhancing Self-Determination and Supported Decision-Making in Adults with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities
Evan Dean, PhD, OTRAssociate Director, Kansas University Center on Developmental Disabilities
Brad Linnenkamp, Community Liaison, Kansas University Center on Developmental Disabilities

This presentation will describe community-based approaches to enhancing self-determination using a career-design focused intervention and supported decision-making.  We will begin by describing self-determination and an intervention designed to promote self-determination while building a career, the Self-Determined Career Design Model (SDCDM).  We will also describe supported decision-making and strategies to support people with intellectual and developmental disabilities in making decisions.

Keynote addresses

8:45 am
Opening Keynote: Preparing Families to Support Transition-Aged Youth on the Autism Spectrum
Julie Lounds Taylor, PhD, Associate Professor, Pediatrics, Vanderbilt University Medical Center

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. 

12 pm
Understanding Repetitive Behaviors and Interests in Autism
Jim Bodfish, PhD, Professor, Vanderbilt University

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.

Main Stage

3:15 – 4:05
Family Resiliency and COVID-19: Silver Linings and Lessons Learned

Rene Jamison, PhD, Skylar Bellinger, PhD,  Leni Swails, PhD
Center For Child Health and Development,
University of Kansas Medical Center

The last year was a challenging one for everyone, heightening stress for kids with ASD and their families. We’ve also seen tremendous resiliency and flexibility in families, educators, clinicians, support personnel, and in our patients and students with and without ASD that should be recognized and is the focus for our closing session. Drs. Swails, Bellinger, and Jamison will describe challenges and critical issues moving forward as a result of the pandemic through a discussion of supports and adaptations leading to positive outcomes, changes that advanced access or care, and the importance of mitigating risk factors to promote social-emotional health as we move forward. Please join us to close the Autism Across the Lifespan Conference as we acknowledge lessons learned, growth, and motivation to tackle what comes next!