Autism Focus of Conference

    “Exploring Autism Across the Spectrum: Building Inclusive Communities” will be the focus of The University of Scranton’s 18th Annual U.S. Conference on disAbility on Thursday, Oct. 10. The daylong conference, which is free of charge and open to the public, begins with registration at 7:45 a.m. in the fourth-floor lobby of the DeNaples Center. Registration is required to attend.
    September 18, 2019

    By recognizing the fundamental value of each person, an inclusive community offers the same activities to everyone, while providing support and services to accommodate people’s differences. “Exploring Autism Across the Spectrum: Building Inclusive Communities” will be the focus of The University of Scranton’s 18th Annual U.S. Conference on disAbility on Thursday, Oct. 10, at the DeNaples Center.

    Examining the subject will be: Patrick R. Progar, Ph.D., BCBA-D, vice president of behavioral services at The Center for Neurological and Neurodevelopmental Health; autism advocates Deya Velasco and her son Jose Velasco Jr.; Kerry Magro, Ph.D., an award-winning professional speaker and best-selling author; and Jeremy Sicile-Kira, an acclaimed intuitive artist.

    The conference will include a disability-related legislation update and highlight the continued work being accomplished through the area’s Autism Collaborative Centers of Excellence (ACCE), which are part of a multi-year, multi-million dollar regional initiative led by the AllOne Foundation to enhance the service delivery system for individuals with autism and their families living in 13 counties in Northeastern and North Central Pennsylvania. The conference will provide opportunities for participants to network with representatives of the five ACCE hubs, as well as service providers. The University serves as the executive hub for ACCE.

    Dr. Progar, who will deliver the conference’s opening keynote address, has served as the executive director of the Princeton Child Development Institute and as vice president for academic affairs at Caldwell College in New Jersey. An adjunct faculty member at Rider University, he completed a postdoctoral fellowship in developmental disabilities and applied behavior analysis at Children’s Seashore House of Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.

    The morning keynote address will be delivered by the Velasco family of Austin, Texas. For more than 25 years, Deya Velasco has advocated for families with disabilities and of low socio-economic means in the educational system and the judicial system. A computer science student at Austin Community College, Jose Velasco Jr. has been a panelist at the 2016 Autism Society National Convention, as well as a motivational speaker. In 2013, he won the Austin Independent School District’s Hispanic Academic Achievement award for Community Service.

    Dr. Magro is CEO and president of KFM Making A Difference, a nonprofit organization that hosts inclusion events and has provided college scholarships for 60 students with autism. He has appeared on several national TV shows and online media outlets, and he hosts “A Special Community,” a Facebook page with 160,000 followers and 25 million visits, which features on-camera interviews highlighting people impacted by a diagnosis. Dr. Magro will give interested self-advocates in the audience a platform to spotlight their stories, and he will be available to sign copies of his books, which are on Amazon best-seller lists for special-needs parenting.

    The conference will close with the evening keynote presentation, “Greatly I Dream...The Journey Towards A Colorful Life with Autism,” by Sicile-Kira. Overcoming significant communication obstacles, he graduated from high school at age 21 and co-authored a book, “A Full Life with Autism,” to help others transitioning to adult life. In 2012, Sicile-Kira, motivated by his dreams that he was painting the emotions of people, began to create colorful abstract portraits. Four years later, his first curated solo show, which was covered by local and national media, sold out and led to many private commissions.

    The daylong conference is free of charge to the general public. There is a $25 fee for those wishing to earn continuing education unit (CEU) credit hours. Up to seven CEU hours can be earned at the conference. Registration is required to attend the day-long conference. The evening presentation is also open to the public, free of charge, but does not require reservations to attend.

    The annual Conference on disAbility brings together national, state and regional experts to discuss a multifaceted approach to improving employment, independent living and transition for all people with disabilities. The conference is presented by the University’s Panuska College of Professional Studies and the Edward R. Leahy Jr. Endowment, in collaboration with the AllOne Foundation and ACCE. Edward R. and Patricia Leahy serve as honorary conference co-chairs.

    Additional information about the 18th Annual U.S. Conference on disAbility is available online or by contacting the conference co-chairs Rebecca Spirito Dalgin, Ph.D., director of the Rehabilitation Counseling Program, at; or Lori Bruch, Ed.D., chair of the Counseling and Human Services Department, at

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