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    Conference on disAbility Marks 20th Year Impact Banner

    Conference on disAbility Marks 20th Year

    The University of Scranton’s 20th Annual U.S. Conference on disAbility, “Exploring Autism Across the Spectrum: Building Inclusive Communities,” will be held in a virtual format on Oct. 14. The conference, presented by the University’s Panuska College of Professional Studies and the Edward R. Leahy, Jr. Endowment in partnership with AllOne Foundation, is open to the public free of charge. Registration is required to attend the conference.
    August 25, 2021

    The 20th Annual U.S. Conference on disAbility at The University of Scranton will be held in a virtual format on Oct. 14. The conference, “Exploring Autism Across the Spectrum: Building Inclusive Communities,” is open to the public free of charge and will feature a number of live and pre-recorded speakers. Registration is required to attend the conference.

    Speakers at this year’s conference include a keynote address by Maria Davis–Pierre, founder and CEO of Autism In Black, Inc., and licensed mental health counselor, who will look at Autism from a cultural perspective. Award-winning artist Devin Wildes, who was diagnosed with autism when he was 4 years old, and his mother, AJ Paron-Wildes, a design consultant in healthcare and education, will share their inspirational story. The conference also includes a panel discussion of “Dads Making a Difference” with Jose Velasco (moderator), vice president of product development for SAP and U.S. ambassador of Autism at Work (an employment initiative of SAP); V. R. Ferose, senior vice president and head of SAP Engineering Academy; and Thorkil Sonne, founder of Specialisterne and Specialisterne Foundation.

    The conference will also include pre-recorded sessions on curriculum and inclusive classrooms and first responder training, as well as panel discussions with employees with ASD, with the ACCE Grant Founders Panel about creative collaborations, and a discussion with The Council of State Administrators of Vocational Rehabilitation/National Employment Team business partners. The conference is presented by the University’s Panuska College of Professional Studies and the Edward R. Leahy, Jr. Endowment in partnership with AllOne Foundation.

     Registration is required to attend and capacity is limited. Registration and additional information is available online or by contacting the conference co-chairs Rebecca Spirito Dalgin, Ph.D., director of the Rehabilitation Counseling Program, at rebecca.dalgin@scranton.edu; or Lori Bruch, Ed.D., chair of the Counseling and Human Services Department, at lori.bruch@scranton.edu.

    Annual U.S. Conference on disAbility Turns 20

    Edward R. and Patricia Leahy will serve as Honorary Conference Co-Chairs for the 2021 U.S. Conference on disAbility, which they helped to establish 20 years ago.

    “We established the endowment as a way to remember our son and do something to help children with disabilities,” said University of Scranton alumnus and benefactor Edward Leahy ’68, H’01.

    “Providing a quality education, proper resources and access to qualified professionals will empower individuals with disabilities to secure high quality employment, live independently in the community, and share fully in the American dream,” said Patricia Leahy at the inaugural U.S. Conference on disAbility in 2002.

    Over the past two decades, numerous nationally-recognized speakers have discussed topics such as transitioning from school to work and enhancing the quality of life of individuals with disabilities, autism across the lifespan, veterans’ issues, the evolution of the Americans with Disabilities Act., vocational workforce innovations and technology for accessing education, employment and life. Since 2019, through a partnership with AllOne Foundation, the conference has focused on “Exploring Autism Across the Spectrum: Building Inclusive Communities.”

    Past Conference on disAbility keynote speakers include John Hockenberry, an Emmy Award-winning journalist; Richard Pimentel, disability rights activist and subject of the film “Music Within;” Most Reverend Joseph E. Kurtz, D.D., former president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and the Archbishop of Louisville, Kentucky; actor R.J. Mitte, who played Walter “Flynn” White Jr. in the television series “Breaking Bad;” and well-known authors including Denise Bissonnette, Br. Rick Curry, S.J, Dr. Edward Hallowell, Jonathan Mooney, Nelson Lauver, Kerry Magro, Ph.D., and Dr. Temple Grandin, world-renowned animal behaviorist and autism spokesperson. U.S. Senator Robert P. Casey Jr., also spoke at several conferences.

    Another constant presence at the conferences has been Dr. Bruch, who has had a role in the conferences since they began in 2002.

    “The conference will offer participants a chance to explore best practices, increase their knowledge of resources, technology and legislation, and develop advocacy skills that can help school-age students with disabilities,” said Dr. Bruch in 2002. The U.S. Conference on disAbilities continues to provide world-class resources and information to empower individuals with disAbilities to meet their full potential as well as the families and professionals who help them.

    A look at the U.S. Conference on disAbility over the years.

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