In honor of Autism Awareness Month, Eden Autism Services is sponsoring and hosting its forth annual “Autism: Planning Through the Lifespan” event at the Santa Ynez Valley Marriott in Buellton from April 13-April 14. The two-day seminar, which also celebrates the work done by the Autism Speaks organization, will feature a number of presentations from medical professionals, teachers, and people whose lives have been touched by autism. Eden President Tom McCool is set to speak as well as Registered Nurse Judy Corliss and her husband Mark, who will be providing a first hand account of their experience raising a child with autism. The overarching theme for the symposium is one of transition, focusing on the future adult population affected by autism.

“Autism Speaks is the most successful organizations nationally to create autism awareness,” said McCool. “Before, there were a lot of programs for children and not many for adults, so we needed to gear up and prepare for the children entering adulthood. We’re talking about transitioning and asking, what is the future for your child when they become an adult with autism?”

Opening presenter Phillip Hain, L.A. Chapter’s Executive Director of Autism Speaks, handles everything from Santa Barbara to San Diego, from event planning and fundraising, to outreach and community relations. While he speaks regularly at events, this marks Hain’s debut lecture at the Buelton event with Eden.

“I speak to groups regularly, but it is my first time presenting at this particular conference. My goal is to provide attendees with more information about our organization, the initiatives we are collaboratively pursuing to support adults, and the resources people can access for their families and constituents,” said Hain.

Fellow speaker Judy Corliss, whose son Jeff was diagnosed with autism when he was two and a half, devotes her life to nursing and has spoken previously at the conferences. Her lecture entitled “Managing the Medical Maze” will provide support for families, and talk about the importance of creating a more medically accommodating environment for people with the disease.

“While the rate of autism is 1:110 now, parents still feel isolated because of the nature of the disability. I found that when I could connect with parents that had similar concerns and experiences I felt more empowered to act on behalf of my son. The costs of caring for our autistic population are staggering and will only continue to grow, and it’s so important that we get ahead of this at some point. That can only happen with research and good treatment options and programs,” said Corliss.

Other talks scheduled to take place during the conference include “Advancing the Futures for Adults with Autism,” “Legal Rights of Families Impacted by Autism”, “Transition Planning for Students Turning 16”. Speakers were selected by a committee, which included McCool and chose participants based on their mission to enhance education about autism for the general public and families.

McCool, who served as executive director of the Santa Barbara Devereux School before becoming President and CEO for Eden, will discuss the difficulties in navigating Human Sexuality and Autism along with Victor Dominocielo M.A. Human Biology and Health Teacher at Santa Barbara Middle School.

“What we’re hoping is people will get what they need to be more effective teachers, parents, and group home providers and gain a better understanding and concept of teaching. With regard to human sexuality, most schools are not addressing it, and families have a difficult time with it. What aspects of autism actually impact adults and children with human sexuality?” said McCool.

Eden Autism Services is located in New Jersey and Florida with Group Home Services in Connecticut to help adults with autism live more independently while still receiving daily support. Serving over 2,400 individuals and families, the Eden Institute offers speech and language assistance programs for students, training and support to families, and individual care including tutoring and outdoor excursions to help those with autism gain greater independence and self-confidence. Tickets will be $75 per person for both days and $25 for Wednesday only with ticket sales going toward the cost of putting the conference on.


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