ICI Autism Summer Institute: Workshops Overview

In our last post, ICI Autism Summer Institute: Training and Information for FC Typers, Parents, Trainers and Educators, we presented an outline of the Keynote presentations and workshops that took place at the 2012 Autism Summer Institute, co-hosted by Syracuse University School of Education’s Institute on Communication and Inclusion and the University of New Hampshire Institute on Disabilities. In this article, we’ll provide summaries of each of the various workshops, which will allow you to focus on the strands that hold particular interest for you.

Workshops were organized into six strands, plus an additional strand reserved for facilitated communication (FC) skill building. Conference participants were able to attend sessions in one strand or “mix and match” sessions from the six strands according to their interests.

Future posts will take a close look at the information and handout materials provided for each strand, including PowerPoint presentations of the actual workshops, where available.
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Strand A: Supporting Expression Through Typing

Too many individuals without effective verbal speech are assumed incapable of contributing meaningfully to the world around them or are only afforded limited access to communication systems. Supported typing or facilitated communication training has been an effective way for some individuals with autism to express their own ideas.

Sessions in this strand explored supported typing as a method of communication access, and pushed participants to think beyond access to meaningful participation and greater independence.

Strand B: Self-Advocacy: A Movement Whose Time Has Come

Over the last several decades, the disability rights movement has achieved much. Yet, despite this, assumptions and stereotypes still govern much of society’s understanding of disability, including within the realms of service provision and policy. The self-advocacy movement aims to change this through the efforts of disabled people speaking for themselves, rather than parents and professionals speaking on their behalf.

This strand—aimed at high school and college-age youth, as well as adults on the autism spectrum and allies—explored the many educational, societal, and legal barriers autistic individuals encounter and offered conceptual, practical, and material suggestions for effective self-advocacy and local activism. Each session was facilitated by autistic self-advocates.

Strand C: Self-Expression through Literacy: Academic Supports that Construct Competence

All students with ASD can express themselves through literacy when educators presume students’ competence, students are members of inclusive classrooms, and students receive high quality literacy instruction and supports. This strand laid the foundation for a common vision of high expectations, and helped participants develop individualized literacy profiles for students.

Sessions described and modeled strategies for building students’ vocabularies, capitalizing on their interests and fascinations, helping them plan what they want to write, and accommodating fine motor difficulties through the use of “alternate pencils.” The final session demonstrated how these beliefs and strategies come together in a school improvement model, using a powerful student example.

Strand D: Art as Self-Expression

From music to museums, from dance to films, the creation of and access to art allows individuals to express themselves in a way that influences and affects the senses, emotions, and intellect. This strand provided participants with access to art and the artists who created it in order to gain a deeper understanding of the role of art in the promotion of self-expression and advocacy.

Strand E: Opening Doors to Expression with Assistive Technology

Thousands of assistive technology (AT) devices and accommodations can enable individuals to fully express themselves. This strand explored the use of the iPad and other technologies for home, school, work, and play.

Strand F: Skill Building Sessions for Facilitated Communication (FC) Users

This unique training opportunity allowed interested FC users and facilitators to attend hands-on workshop sessions with skilled trainers based on their current skill level. No support material from this strand is available..

Strand G: Contemporary Topics

This strand featured free-standing workshops on topics representing current and emerging issues related to supporting children and adults with ASD to express themselves and to fully participate in their schools and communities.
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Next: Strand A1, Introduction to Facilitated Communication – Learning the Basics
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