Experts slated for upcoming Michigan Autism Conference

Contact: Mark Schwerin

KALAMAZOO, Mich.—The fourth annual Michigan Autism Conference will bring leading scientists and treatment practitioners to the Radisson Plaza Hotel and Suites to share their expertise on the latest research on the neurodevelopmental disorder.

The conference, set for Wednesday through Friday, Sept. 14-16, is dedicated to providing families, practitioners and researchers with the latest information on a variety of topics related to the assessment and treatment of autism. Experts will come from across the globe to talk about the most effective scientifically proven treatments for children with autism. More than 500 people are expected to attend. To register, go to Online registration has closed, but there is still space to register the day of the conference.

Opening night kickoff

Of particular interest to parents with children with autism will be a free session from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. as part of the conference's Wednesday night kickoff. Held in the Arcadia Ballroom, the session will feature Dr. Stephanie Peterson, chair of the WMU Department of Psychology. Her presentation will focus on behavior management, a common concern for many families with children with autism and other developmental disabilities. Her presentation is titled "Strategies that Parents Can Use to Minimize Problem Behavior" and will be preceded by a reception and light refreshments from 6 to 6:30  p.m. Parents wishing to attend should RSVP at Child supervision is available.

Renowned keynote speakers

The conference also will feature world-renowned keynote speakers, poster presentations from across the state and more than 40 expo booths.

Keynote speakers will include:

  • Dr. Andy Bondy, president and co-founder of Pyramid Education Consultants Inc. Bondy is an innovative leader in the field of autism and applied behavior analysis and directed a statewide school system for students with autism for 14 years. His presentation is titled " A Clear Picture: The Use and Benefits of Picture Exchange Communication System."
  • Dr. Ron Van Houten, WMU professor of psychology and a member of the behavior analysis faculty. He has published research on developmental disabilities and autism, and clinical applications and educational applications of behavior analysis. His presentation is titled "How Can We Increase the Impact of Behavior Analysis in Solving Problems in New Areas?"
  • Dr. Jen Austin, a lecturer at the University of South Wales. Austin obtained her doctoral degree from Florida State University and is a board certified behavior analyst. Her presentation is titled "What Students and Educators Can Teach Us About Functional Behavior Assessment and Intervention in the Classroom."
  • Lorri Shealy Unumb, a lawyer who wrote the ground-breaking autism insurance legislation for South Carolina, "Ryan's Law," which served as a catalyst for the national movement toward autism insurance reform. Her presentation is "Favors, Facts and Fishnets: Shaping Autism Law and Policy."
  • Anthony Ianni, of the Michigan Department of Civil Rights and one of the most sought after anti-bullying motivational speakers in the region. His presentation is titled "Dreams, Goals and Aspirations."
  • Dr. Bruce Thyer, professor at Florida State University's Department of Social Work. His presentation is titled "Evidence-based Practice: Myths and Realities."

Several workshops and breakout sessions each day of the conference will be offered on a wide variety of topics pertaining to autism. Subjects range from "Methods of Communication for Non-verbal Individuals through the Life Span" to "Stories and Experience from Parents of Individuals with Autism."

Conference sponsors include the Western Michigan University Department of Psychology and WMU Extended University Programs.

For more information or to register, go to

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