Together for Autism Conference 2020
Written by Carlos De La Torre
There has been a sharp 95% increase in the number of students with Autism in Texas from 2013 through 2020. The number of students on the Autism Spectrum in Texas schools currently stands at 80,557 and continues to rise, according to various reports. To better address the needs of students, educators usually rely on professional development opportunities often, only found out-of-state or in bigger Texas cities.
“El Paso (Texas) and our surrounding areas have a much more difficult time traveling to receive training but require the same quality pieces of training provided across the state,” says Katherine Wellborn, Project Manager for Autism Disorders in the Special Education Department of Education Service Center (ESC) Region 19. Wellborn organizes a popular annual autism conference in El Paso, Texas, usually attended by over 500 teachers, parents, and students, selling out every year.
“The rise in students with autism is FAR outpacing the rise in students in Texas and the rise in students receiving special education.”, emphasizes Wellborn. “Because of this huge need, I initiated our first Together for Autism Conference 18 years ago, and TOGETHER we are making a difference for our students with Autism Spectrum Disorders.”
This year has presented educators, students, and parents with various challenges via the COVID-19 pandemic. These challenges include but are not limited to curriculum reconstruction, technical difficulties, maintaining the attention of students remotely, among many other challenges. One of these challenges that are important to note is that Educators and Administrators attend various professional development conferences and sessions regularly in a regular school year, which allows them to gain strategies and resources. Many of these professional development opportunities have indefinitely postponed their events or have canceled them due to the pandemic. That isn’t the case for the Together for Autism Conference.
“Against the backdrop of COVID-19, one choice we could have made was to cancel this year’s conference. Instead, we decided 2020 will NOT stop us from learning, growing, and being together!” says Wellborn.
ESC Region 19’s Together for Autism Conference is celebrating its 17thyear as it prepares for its Virtual Conference format this December. This conference aims to bring to El Paso and our surrounding areas nationally and internationally recognized speakers, as well as speakers from our area districts. Each presentation will share evidence-based practices and strategies that will guide parents, professionals. community members, and individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorders.
This year’s conference will feature 4 Keynote presentations, including Dr. Barry Prizant, author of “Uniquely Human: A Different Way of Seeing Autism” and nine breakout sessions to choose from. In addition to the various sessions offered during the conference, “swag” boxes will be mailed to every participant and door prizes will be awarded daily.
“A ‘pre-conference warm-up’ is also scheduled for local participants to drive-by to pick up conference materials and visit with our vendors in our OUTDOOR SOCIALLY DISTANCED VENDOR RESOURCE FAIR!”, says Wellborn.
The Together for Autism Conference will be held virtually December 1-3, 2020, from 3:45 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. (MST). The virtual conference will have a cost of $75 and will require a valid email address to send the links to participants once registered. For more information about the conference and to register, you can click on the images below!