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Autism Caregiver Conference

Man, child and woman smiling

For parents, grandparents and caregivers of a child with ASD. Please join us for Children's Mercy Autism Caregiver Conference. This year's event is now virtual.

When: Wednesday, Sept. 2, 2020

Time: 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Fee: Free

RSVP required: Registration deadline is Friday, Aug. 28, 2020


8:30-9:15 a.m.

Session one


Keynote: Parenting in Perspective

Parenting at times can be overwhelming and parenting a child with special needs at times can feel superhuman! Self-care is critically important in order to stay the course. Learn why and a few suggestions of HOW to care for yourself while caring for your family.

Presenter: Mary Anne Hammond, BS

9:25-10:40 a.m.

Session two


Autism and Sleep, from A to Zzzs

Up to 80% of children with autism have some kind of sleep problem, and sleep problems are a recipe for even more difficulties with behavior and learning during the day (not to mention tired parents and caregivers). This session will cover the basics of both behavioral and medical sleep problems associated with autism, as well as education of the kinds of solutions families might seek to help the whole family rest easy.

Presenters: Cy Nadler, PhD and Sarah Nyp, MD

Supporting Executive Functioning in ASD

This session will describe the possible impact of executive functioning barriers on individuals with ASD and provide a framework for approaching challenges, including strategies to support individual success.

Presenter: Jena Randolph, PhD

10:50 a.m. to 12:05 p.m.

Session three


An Apple a Day Keeps the Doctor Away, But What Do You Do If Your Child Doesn’t Eat Them?

Youth with ASD are 5 times more likely to experience challenges with healthy eating patterns than their peers or siblings. In this talk, we will review reasons for the increased risk for feeding challenges and some of the top strategies for increasing healthy eating and activity patterns among youth with ASD.

Presenter: Meredith Dreyer Gillette, PhD

Depression in Youth with Autism Spectrum Disorder

Description: This talk will review what is known about how to recognize depressive disorders in youth with Autism Spectrum Disorder and provide an overview of evidence-based psychosocial and medical treatments for these conditions. Attendees will also learn about prevention, safety planning, and other considerations for youth with ASD and mood disorders.

Presenter: Darren Olsen, PhD

12:05-12:30 p.m.

Lunch break (on your own)

12:30-1:35 p.m.

Session four


Panel discussion: Hindsight and Foresight in 2020

For many families, 2020 has been the most challenging year ever. A panel of experts will discuss these challenges, silver linings, and “what’s next” for children and families. Questions and comments sent in by the audience will be discussed and addressed as well.

1:45-3:00 p.m.

Session five


Turning Transition Upside Down to Get it Right

Accessing and navigating resources for success after high school has always been a challenge. But the pandemic exacerbated systems’ challenges. This case study on the newly launched The Transition Academy provides lessons on pivoting to celebrate transition as well as supporting families to navigate systems, COVID and racial injustice. Parents of teens who need to think about the future will be provided practical tips as well as community resources.

Presenters: Kim Riley, Director of The Transition Academy

Girls & ASD

This session will consider the unique presentation of autism in females and interventions to promote overall social-emotional health. Much of what we know about autism is based on largely male samples, causing potential pause when considering evidence-based interventions for this population. Girls with autism can experience a secondary impact by being isolated from other girls due to male dominated autism programs and high rates of boys in special education. This means fewer opportunities for girls with autism to socialize with other girls their age, which may also lead to elevated risks for anxiety and depression. Opportunities for building social skills and connectedness will be discussed.

Presenter: Rene Jamison, PhD