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April is Autism Awareness Month

April 16, 2012

April is Autism Awareness Month

Autism. It's a topic that is frequently in the news as researchers seek insight to its cause and treatment. 

Since the spring of 2010, Skidmore College has annually hosted an Autism Awareness event to provide information about Autism Spectrum disorders, explained Rachel Mann-Rosan, professor of psychology, who teaches a course titled "Developmental Disabilities and Autism." She explained, "I have continued to incorporate this event into the course because of the success of the previous years' events. The students who organize the event have said that they enjoyed and learned from the experience. Students who were not in the class but attended the events wrote to me about how much they learned. In addition the events have brought individuals from the Saratoga community to campus and they have said that they found the information helpful in their own experiences with the spectrum."

Rosan added, "We have also seen growing relationships between Skidmore and community organizations that have been a part of these events. For example, ASPIReNY, a local organization that provides social opportunities for teenagers on the spectrum, has been involved in the event each year, and this year approached me about helping to sponsor a larger vendor and informational fair for the Capital District region. The fair will be held April 29 in Skidmore's intramural gym with sponsorship from Skidmore's Psychology Department. The students from my course will assist with this event by running a concurrent carnival for the children on the spectrum and their siblings who will be attending the fair with their parents. I also have a student who took the course last year who is interning this semester with ASPIReNY."

This year's Autism Awareness event includes the following activities, all of which are free and open to the public.

--Tuesday, April 17, 5 p.m., Bolton Hall, Room 280

Nicole Weinstein and Victoria Schultz, RN, MS, ANP-C, will discuss "Do You Have What It Takes? Becoming a Direct Support Professional or a Nurse with the NYS Office for People with Developmental Disabilities (OPWDD)." Hear about direct support professional and nursing positions at the New York State Office for People with Developmental Disabilities (OPWDD) and find out how you can make a difference in the life of someone in this system of care.

--Monday, April 23, 7 p.m., Davis Auditorium, Palamountain Hall

Autism: The Musicalwill be screened. This touching and uplifting documentary brings "attention to a modern-day epidemic while celebrating the value of the human spirit in overcoming any challenge." The film tells the story of five autistic kids, who along with their parents, take part in a groundbreaking theatrical workshop. The film "...captures the struggles and triumphs of their family lives and observes how this musical production gives these performers a comfort zone in which they can explore their creative sides."

--Tuesday, April 24, 5 p.m., Bolton Hall, Room 280

Ronda Fein, Ph.D., will lead a discussion titled "Diagnosing Autism: Current and Future Perspectives." With the upcoming new edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, there are changes anticipated in how Autism Spectrum Disorders will be defined and diagnosed. Dr. Fein will describe and explain the current diagnostic criteria for Autistic Disorder and Asperger's Disorder and will compare and contrast these with the proposed changes.

--Thursday, April 26, 6 p.m., Bolton Hall, Room 382

Paul A. H. Partridge, Ph.D., will present "The Epidemiology of Autism Spectrum Disorders: A Brief Review of the Research Literature." In recent years, there has been much discussion about the reported increase in prevalence of Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASDs). This presentation will focus on how common ASDs are and what factors have and have not been found to be associated with these disorders.

--Friday, April 27th at 5:30 p.m., Bolton Hall, Room 280

Valerie Bolivar, Ph.D., will discuss "Mouse Modeling: The Genetic Basis for Autism"

Autism is a behaviorally defined disorder with symptoms that include impairments in social interactions, cognitive inflexibility, language difficulties, and repetitive motor behaviors. Assumed to be the result of a combination of genetic and environmental factors, the precise etiology of autism remains elusive. Dr. Bolivar will discuss her research and effort to identify the underlying genes and brain structures.

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