31st Annual Conference
More than 1,000 people joined Autism New Jersey over two days at the Atlantic City Convention Center for the 31st Annual Conference held October 17 and 18. Attendees were provided the opportunity to attend more than 70 workshops and the chance to visit nearly 90 exhibitors covering the full age range and needs of people with autism and their family members as well as the professionals who support them. We thank the attendees, presenters, exhibitors and special guests who helped make this year's conference a success, as well as the tireless work of our volunteers. We are pleased to summarize the highlights of the event below. Please consider giving feedback and complete a survey.
State Leaders Address NJ's Autism Community
On Friday, October 18th, Autism New Jersey welcomed Louis D. Greenwald, Majority Leader of the New Jersey General Assembly and Loretta Weinberg, Majority Leader of the New Jersey Senate for keynote remarks. Senator Weinberg and Assemblyman Greenwald have each fought for critical legislation and policy initiatives that have improved the lives of those with autism. Most recently, it was their joint sponsorship of a Budget Resolution that supported the inclusion of $250,000 in new funding for the Autism New Jersey Helpline in the State Fiscal Year 2014 Budget. These new resources, included in Public Law 2013, c. 77, will allow our toll-free helpline (800.4.AUTISM) to continue to answer the call for families across New Jersey. It is a Helpline has literally transformed tens of thousands of lives, and thanks to the leadership of Senator Weinberg and Assemblyman Greenwald, will continue to do so. View the remarks delivered by Senator Weinberg and Assemblyman Greenwald:
On Thursday, October 17th, New Jersey Department of Human Services Commissioner Jennifer Velez addressed our Conference. A longtime friend to Autism New Jersey and effective champion for those with developmental disabilities, Commissioner Velez highlighted the Christie Administration's efforts to improve the lives of families of individuals with autism. She touched upon dedicated funding for those aging-out of their education entitlement to the new resources allocated to transition individuals into community placements.
She also noted the $250,000 in new state funding Governor Christie strongly supported, and signed into law in June, to preserve and strengthen Autism New Jersey's Helpline. Her heartfelt remarks kicked off a great day at the Conference. Our organization has enjoyed a long and successful public-private partnership with the Department, and Commissioner Velez's steadfast leadership in recent years has made that partnership successful. We greatly appreciate her attendance and continued support for those we serve. View Commissioner Velez's entire speech:
ABA and Insurance: An Open Forum
Insurance experts presented information on the Insurance Mandate to a packed room. Attendees were afforded the opportunity to have lunch and discuss insurance questions and issues with special guests Ellen DeRosa, Executive Director, Individual and Small Employer Health Coverage Programs, New Jersey Department of Banking and Insurance (pictured above left) and Jodi Bouer, Esq. of Freeman Carolla Reisman & Gran, LLC. (pictured above right).
“The insurance forum helped inform both parents and providers,” said Bobbie Gallagher, a mother of a child with autism, a special education consultant, and behavior analyst. “The forum provided parents information on their rights under the New Jersey mandate and within the appeals process. It also helped providers understand what is approved by insurance companies. The forum was able to help clarify misinformation and concerns within this complex system.”
Thank you to Freeman Carolla Reisman & Gran, LLC. for your generous sponsorship of this forum.
Best Adult/ Adolescent :
Treatment of Maladaptive Behavior Evoked by Negative Phrases with Differential Reinforcement of Other Behavior (DRO) in an Adolescent with Autism
Presented by Shawna Ueyama (pictured left) from Rutgers University/DDDC
This poster was rewarded with a $500 award from Quest Autism Programs.
A Systematic Evaluation of the Long-Term Effects of Feeding Interventions Utilizing Caregivers as the Primary Therapists
Presented by Kylee Merendino, B.A. Bianca Coleman, M.A., BCBA and MaryLouise Kerwin, Ph.D., BCBA-D from Rowan University
Assessing Diagnostic Differences of the Revised Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule
Presented by Karen Law from Rutgers University
Broadening the Functional Communication Repertoires of Individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder
Presented by Rachel Davis, BCBA from Rutgers University/Douglass Developmental Disabilities Center
Thank you to the Poster Chair Gregory S. MacDuff, Ph.D., BCBA-D and this year's poster judgers: Andy Bondy, Ph.D., Amy Golden, M.S., BCBA, Frances Perrin, Ph.D., BCBA, David Wilson, Ph.D., BCBA-D, and Thomas Zane, Ph.D., BCBA-D.
Gold Member & Friends Lunch
This year’s Gold Member and Friends Lunch were addressed by Autism New Jersey’s newly appointed Board of Trustees president, Gino Valiant. Gino emphasized the importance of connecting with other parents at the conference.
“I’ve been a parent for a long time, but this conference reminds me that there is always an opportunity to learn something new,” said Gino. He went on to mention how meeting a parent of a newly diagnosed child underscores the importance of the annual conference and the year-long commitment to serving families across the lifespan.
Enhancing Transition Behavior in Individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorders: From Assessment to Intervention
Mary E. McDonald, Ph.D., BCBA-D, Associate Professor in the Special Education Department of Hofstra University; Director, Eden II/Genesis Outreach Autism Center; and President of the Association for Science in Autism Treatment (ASAT)
Individuals with autism often have difficulty during transitions resulting in frustration and confusion. These transitions may occur between settings, people, or activities. Understandably, the individual may resist or refuse the transition and challenging behavior may result. This behavior can interfere greatly with the individual’s participation in school, home, community and the workplace. These periods of transition are often very difficult for the individual with ASD, the family, teachers, clinicians and support staff.
“Dr. McDonald’s presentation was very thought-provoking,” one conference attendee commented. “She focused on the factors that make transition difficult and clearly explained strategies that can be implemented to increase behavioral flexibility. It was incredibly useful information that I am looking forward to implementing!”
This panel shared personal stories and information about navigating life as an individual with autism. From elementary school, high school, college, graduate school and the work environment, these presenters inspired attendees with their unique perspectives on overcoming hurdles as they offered strategies for the next generation.
After learning of the struggles some of the presenters faced as young students, one parent thanked the panel through tear-filled eyes, “I’m so grateful that I now have a starting point on how to talk to my son about bullying.” She continued, “My greatest fear is that he is going to school and having a miserable experience day after day. Thank you for making me aware of the warning signs through your own experiences. Your journeys are inspiring; you have all given me hope.”