University Relations and Communications

MSU Billings autism conference focuses on advances in communications and technology

July 15, 2011



Kim Schweikert, MSU Billings Downtown, 896-5888
Dan Carter, University Relations, 657-2269


July 27-28 event provides hands-on training with iPads, iPods, iPhones for parents, educators and caregivers


MSU BILLINGS NEWS SERVICES — Technology is embedded in everyone’s personal lives. From smart phones to iPads, people use devices to keep in touch with friends, find a restaurant and track weather.


But recent developments in technology can also benefit those who have autism and those who care for them.


That will be the focus of a two-day annual conference July 27-28 at MSU Billings that deals with autism and related issues.


“Autism: Technology in Action” is the title of the 8th annual MSU Billings At-Risk Conference that deals with childhood and education issues that reach across Montana. The conference costs $139 for both days and includes meals. Participants can also obtain a college credit for a $100 fee.


Sponsored by MSU Billings Downtown and the MSU Billings College of Education, the conference will be held in rooms on the fourth floor of the College of Education on the MSU Billings main campus.


Scholarships are available and this year, organizers will be giving away one free iPad at the conference, courtesy of The Children's Clinic. Door prizes will also include $200 worth of iTunes Gift Cards from EBMS and $200 iTunes Gift Card from Billings Wellbeing Institute.


This conference will provide information and hands-on training in the latest technology being used to enhance communication and social skills for individuals living with autism. This conference is designed for everyone who works with children and adults with autism on a daily basis.


The highlight of the conference will be discussion on communication and iOS devices — iPads, iPods and iPhones — which offer highly interactive tools that can be used to build communication skills. Participants will learn how to choose applications appropriate for their needs, whether they are a parent, educator or practitioner.


Through demonstration and actual hands-on training conference attendees will be introduced to a variety of applications that use interactive text, illustrations, painting, animation, voice recording, stories, songs and speech/language based activities that may be helpful in developing communication abilities of children and adults on the autism spectrum.


""Keynote speaker this year will be Dr. Patricia Wright, National Director Autism Services for Easter Seals. She will speak on Thursday, July 28 at 8:30 a.m. on “Communication and Individuals with Autism: No/Low/High Tech Strategies for Success.”


Wright is well known for her passion advocacy and has dedicated her career to ensuring that individuals with autism are fully-included in society. Her personal mission is to offer the support that makes it possible for people with autism to lead meaningful, happy and productive lives. Wright leads autism-related programs for Easter Seals, one of the nation’s largest providers of services for individuals with autism across the life span.


She is a member of the Organization for Autism Research’s Scientific Council and is currently serving on the Executive Committee for the External Partners Group for the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities.


Other speakers at this year’s conference are:


Vicki Andre, a speech and language pathologist, works with Nancy Rice at the Speech and Language Ability Center. Vicki holds a Certificate of Clinical Competence from the American Speech Language and Hearing Association and is a certified Hanen trainer.


Nancy JM Rice, who has worked in a variety of settings including public school, clinic and rehabilitation center.  She founded the Billings Scottish Rite Language Clinic in 1994 and held the position of clinic director there until 2006.  Since then, she has been working in partnership with Vicki Andre at the Speech and Language Ability Center.  She specializes in treatment of children with autism, cerebral palsy and hearing impairment. 


Rick Welsh, Vice President NoBox Inc. Educational Consulting. Welsh works with educators on team- teaching strategies for inclusive classrooms. He has designed and implemented a classroom-based service delivery model for students with language disorders and auditory processing deficits. 


Lorri Coulter, an itinerent school psychologist for the Big Country Educational Cooperative (BCEC) in Miles City.  She is a graduate of Montana State University and Great Falls University.  Lorri is currently a part of the Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA) program at MSU Billings. 


Chelsea Phipps, a speech pathologist who works at the Big Country Educational Cooperative (BCEC) in Miles City. Phipps provides itinerant services in Garfield and Custer Counties and provides summer services for DEAP. 


For more information on the conference, call Kim Schweikert, senior programmer at MSU Billings Downtown at 896-5888 or at