Friday, Sept. 11, 2009
Dave Wellman, Director of Communications, 304-696-7153

Autism Society of America – West Virginia Chapter Conference
is next week; theme is ‘Climbing Mountains to Inclusion’

HUNTINGTON, W.Va. – The Autism Society of America – West Virginia Chapter (ASA-WV) 2009 Conference will take place Friday and Saturday, Sept. 18 and 19, at the Pullman Plaza Hotel in Huntington. Pre-conference workshops are planned for Thursday, Sept. 17.

Hosts of the conference are the Huntington Area Autism Society, the Autism Services Center and the West Virginia Autism Training Center at Marshall University. The theme of the conference is “Climbing Mountains to Inclusion.”

Autism is a complex developmental disability that typically appears during the first three years of life and affects a person’s ability to communicate and interact with others (Autism Society of America, 2009).

“With the alarming increases in the prevalence of this syndrome, there is a great need for information for families, educators and the community,” said Barbara Becker-Cottrill, chair of the conference and executive director of the West Virginia Autism Training Center at Marshall University. “This conference will offer state of the art information about educating individuals with autism and great insight about living with this syndrome.”

Pre-conference workshop topics include Early Intervention and Autism, with Jim Ball, Autism and Comprehensive Program Planning, with Shawn Henry, and Autism and Self-advocacy, with Stephen Shore.

The keynote speaker on Friday morning, Sept. 18 is Paula Kluth, a national expert on working with students with autism in inclusive settings, and the author of several nationally acclaimed books and films on the topic. A variety of sessions for parents and educators and others interested in learning more about autism will be held throughout the afternoon. These sessions will be conducted by recognized authorities in their topic areas from West Virginia.

Saturday’s keynote speaker will be Stephen Shore.  As a child, Shore was diagnosed with “Atypical Development with strong autistic tendencies.” Doctors recommended that he be institutionalized to receive the best treatment. Today, he is a professor at Adelphi University in New York, teaching courses on autism. Shore is an international speaker on autism and spoke at the United Nations on World Autism Awareness Day in April.

The conference will conclude on Saturday with a panel of individuals on the autism spectrum who will discuss their experiences living with autism.

“This conference will be an exceptional learning opportunity for families, educators, individuals with autism spectrum disorders and anyone who would like to learn about autism,” Becker-Cottrill said. “Paula Kluth is a dynamic speaker who believes all people with autism can thrive and learn. Her presentation will highlight what she continues to learn from individuals with autism themselves.” 

On Saturday, Shore will share his experiences growing up with autism, highlighting how he met the challenges, Becker-Cottrill said.

“He serves to remind us all that with a dedicated support system in place and hard work and determination, people on the autism spectrum can live high quality lives and be valued contributing members of society,” she said. “If you hear both of these speakers, and the many other session speakers, you will truly be inspired.”

The conference logo was developed by Misho Bills of Huntington, a 16-year-old artist with autism.

“Our logo is a great example of the many talents of our citizens with autism,” Becker-Cottrill said. “Misho has many gifts and talents.”

Online registration is at Registration is also available at the door.  For more information about the conference or the Autism Society of America – West Virginia Chapter, call 304-696-2332 or e-mail


Conference schedule

Pre-conference Workshop Day
Thursday, Sept. 17

8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., workshops:

  • Early Intervention and Autism, Jim Ball
  • Comprehensive Educational Planning for Students with Autism, Shawn Henry
  • Self-advocacy and Disclosure for People on the Autism Spectrum: A Lifespan Approach, Stephen Shore

Friday, Sept. 18

7 a.m. – Registration opens

7:30 a.m. – Exhibition/Vendor Room opens (Autism bookstore will be in the lobby on the second floor).

8:30 a.m. – Opening remarks

9 a.m. – Paula Kluth, keynote speaker: “We Thought You’d Never Ask: Voices From The Spectrum”

10:30 a.m. – Break

10:45 a.m. – Paula Kluth continues

11:45 a.m. – Break

Noon – ASA-West Virginia business meeting and lunch

1:30 p.m. – Concurrent sessions (topic areas):

  • Sensory that Makes Sense – Susan McKinley
  • Learning the Signs: Identifying the Early Indicators of Autism – Gloria Sage
  • Civil Rights that Protect People with Disabilities – David Stewart
  • Play and Autism – Erin Lash

2:45 p.m. – Break

3 p.m. – Concurrent sessions:

  • Building a Social Skills Club: A Pilot Project with The Break Ins – Peggy Hovatter, Andrew Nelson and the Rev. Richard Work, Jr.
  • Adults on the Autism Spectrum: Life After High School – Jimmie Beirne
  • Autism Treatment 101: ABA and Autism – Dr. Susannah Poe
  • What to Expect … When Your Child Has Challenging Behavior – Dr. Jennifer McFarland-Whisman

4:15 p.m. – Adjourn

6:30 p.m. – ASA-West Virginia Awards Dinner Banquet, featuring stand-up comedy and dancing

Saturday, Sept. 19

7:30 a.m. – Registration and Exhibition area (including Autism bookstore) open

9 a.m. – Stephen Shore, keynote speaker: “Life on and Slightly to the Right of the Autism Spectrum: An Inside View Towards Success”

10:30 a.m. – Break

10:45 a.m. – Panel of people on the Autism Spectrum

Noon – Adjourn