PATC 2014: 7th Annual Pennsylvania Autism Training Conference

Presented by Amanda Pearl, Ph.D., Susan Minnick, Psy.D., Central ASERT

There is a substantial amount of support which indicates that a significant number of individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) also meet criteria for an anxiety disorder. Commonly, individuals with ASD report symptoms of specific phobias, generalized anxiety disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), and social anxiety. We know a great deal about how to assess for and treat anxiety in typically developing individuals; however, this area of research is just emerging for individuals with ASD. The presentation of anxiety in individuals with ASD can vary greatly from the presentation of anxiety in typically developing individuals. Additionally, the treatment of anxiety in individuals with ASD can require significant modifications from traditional approaches to anxiety treatment. Researchers are now examining what are valid ways to assess anxiety in individuals with ASD, as well as what are effective ways to treat comorbid anxiety in individuals with ASD. Strategies for assessing anxiety in individuals with ASD will be discussed as well as ways to approach the treatment of anxiety in individuals with ASD. Case examples will be used to supplement presented materials.

Presented by James E. Connell, Ph.D., Eastern ASERT

The PA Autism Needs Assessment found that more than two-thirds of adults with autism in Pennsylvania are unemployed, and of those who are employed, most work part-time. With the rapidly increasing number of adults with autism, it is critically important to think beyond volunteer work and supported employment, and explore competitive employment opportunities tailored to meet an individual’s goals. To do so requires creative consideration of funding streams and existing employment services. Through the presentation of case studies, attendees will learn about steps underway in the Commonwealth to develop an employment model designed to match a person’s interests, skills and motivations to competitive career opportunities within his/her community. The considerations shared during this session result from the employment model developed by the Eastern Region ASERT Collaborative.

Presented by John J. McGonigle, Ph.D., Western ASERT

The workshop will focus on understanding the influence of mental health symptoms on learning, mood and behavior of Individual’s with ASD. The presentation will address issues regarding manifestations and behavioral equivalence of co-occurring psychiatric symptoms and associated challenging behaviors, factors in obtaining an accurate diagnosis and ways to use functional behavior assessments (FBA) to differentiate diagnoses. The session will also discuss ways to monitor and track treatment effects and designing behavioral interventions and community crisis plans using a Least Restrictive Treatment Model.

Presented by Michael J. Murray, M.D., Amanda Pearl, Ph.D., Andrea Layton, M.A., BCBA, Susan Minnick, Psy.D., Central ASERT

To date, there is little research about social skills interventions for adults with ASD despite these social processing deficits being the core challenge for individuals with ASD. Social skills complexity increase as we age as we typically have increased numbers and types of social relationships in our lives. Furthermore we are expected to understand the contingencies within these relationships and execute required skills with high rates of proficiency and fluency. These are all areas of potential struggle for adults with ASD. The consequences for not meeting these expectations can be high making the need for effective social skills intervention all the more critical.

This presentation will review common social skills deficits among individuals with ASD and how they present in adult social relationships. Components of effective intervention will be discussed with an emphasis on targeting three critical areas of need: improving social fluency, increasing social flexibility, and generating social responsiveness.

This presentation will include case examples to supplement the presented material. Video clips of participants in The Multi-Media Social Skills Project for Adults (an ASERT project) will provide clinical examples of social skills deficits and provide examples of strategies for intervention. Conference attendees will be provided materials to assess social skills needs of adults with ASD. The considerations shared during this session result from the social skills project developed by the Central Region ASERT Collaborative.

Presented by Scott Michael Robertson, Ph.D., MHCI

This keynote session by Scott Michael Robertson, Ph.D., MHCI, an autistic person, will discuss ongoing and emerging trends and themes in empowerment of autistic adults through innovative initiatives. These initiatives seek to improve the community inclusion, self-determination, community living, and quality of life of autistic adults. Particularly, the session will describe key happenings in resource enhancement, service system development, and public policy. Developments in these three areas aim to improve access by autistic adults to higher education, employment, healthcare services, and other critical facets of adult life. Where applicable, the presenter will share developments from the nonprofit sphere and industry, research and academia, and government.

Presented by Michael J. Murray, M.D., Andrea Layton, M.A., BCBA, Central ASERT

Medication prescribers frequently are not familiar with behavior data and may be averse to considering this input as they make medication decisions for individuals with ASD. Yet, the proper behavior data can make their decisions about medication management more empirically based and, in many ways, easier. Strategies for combatting prescriber resistance will be discussed. Treatment plans needs to be individualized to have the most benefit; however, there are commonly encountered clinical issues among older adolescents and adults with ASD where medications are frequently considered as part of the treatment plan. Strategies for data collection to address these commonly occurring issues will be discussed as well as ways of presenting data to prescribers which leads to easy and rapid interpretation. Case examples including data collection strategies and presentations will be used to supplement presented materials.

Presented by Paul Shattuck, Ph.D.

Dr. Shattuck believes people on the autism spectrum are valuable members of our communities. They have roles to play, dreams to achieve, and contributions to make. Much of his current research is aimed at understanding services and outcomes among youth on the autism spectrum as they leave high school and transition to young adulthood. Do they go to college or find work? What kinds of services do people get compared to what they need? Dr. Shattuck’s published studies have been formally recognized by federal agencies and private advocacy groups as some of the most important research in the field. During this session, Dr. Shattuck will briefly review recent research findings about young adult outcomes. This will lead to a discussion of ideas for moving the field forward and achieving better outcomes for youth and adults on the autism spectrum and the families and communities they are part of.