University Relations and Communications

Autism conference focuses on handling life transitions

July 9, 2012



Kim Schweikert, Senior Programmer at MSUB Downtown at 896-5888
Dan Carter, University Relations, 657-2269



MSU BILLINGS NEWS SERVICES — Transitions are important parts of every life, but for families and educators who assist individuals with autism, transition periods can mean even more.


Autism Conference 2012 logo

Finding the resources necessary to maneuver through those transitions will be the focus of a special two-day conference in early August at Montana State University Billings. The conference, “Autism: Life Transitions from Pre-School to Adult Life” will be held Aug. 2-3 at MSU Billings Downtown conference center on the corner of Third Avenue North and Broadway.


Sponsored by MSU Billings and Easter Seals/Goodwill, the conference will provide information and hands-on experience to families and educators who need continued assistance and resources. The information will help them assist children and young adults on the autism spectrum to discover their unique interests and abilities.  The resources will also help foster self-identity to prepare individuals with autism for lifelong inclusion in the community that will maximize their independence, productivity, and enjoyment. 


Organizers say successful early transitions help pave the way for future transitions as individuals on the spectrum pursue higher education or competitive employment opportunities. Beyond their varied abilities and interests, limited social skills for nearly all individuals with autism make it difficult for them to adjust to new school environments, different living arrangements, college and the workplace. With proper support and services from teachers, mentors, co-workers and job coaches who understand these special needs, it is believed all individuals can be supported to lead happier, more productive and independent lives. 


In addition to information about transitions, educators and family members attending this year’s conference will be able to participate in activities often used in therapy and successful educational environments.  This will provide a unique opportunity to experience life from the perspective of a person on the autism spectrum and help with skills to help calm, teach and care.


The keynote speaker will be Melisa Genaux, who has conducted more than 600 school district staff training seminars and student consultations in the areas of Autism Spectrum Disorders, behavior management, social skills training and special education legal/compliance issues. In addition, she has spoken at national and regional conferences for the past 15 years. She has trained thousands of educators and parents, and worked with hundreds of students with Asperger Syndrome. She was a special education coordinator for nine years and continues to serve as a consultant to the Utah State Office of Education.


Recognized nationally as an expert in her field, Genaux directs and presents at workshops and conferences for teachers, parents, school administrators, related services staff, paraeducators and medical professionals. She also provides extensive consultation services to school districts in program development and individual student case management. She has published articles in the national Behavioral Disorders Journal and the Utah Special Educator journal. She has written and produced training videos for the education and law publishing company, LRP Publications, and has been a speaker at the LRP Institute on Legal Issues of Educating Students with Disabilities for 13 years.


The conference will also include a parent panel that offers wisdom and guidance from local parents who have negotiated transitions in their children’s lives.  Their stories will inspire, educate and bring participants closer as a group as everyone learns to improve the lives of individuals with autism.


The conference fee is $150 and includes breakfast and lunch both days. Some scholarships are available through Parents, Let’s Unite for Kids (PLUK) at 255-0540. College credit and continuing education units are also available for $199.