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Autism Lecture Series


We are thrilled to be partnering with Pediatric Neurologist Margaret Bauman and University of California MIND Institute’s Professor David Amaral, to host an Autism Lecture Series at Riverview. This lecture series offers the general public opportunities to come to the Riverview campus to learn about Autism from leading researchers in the field.

All lectures are being held at Riverview School (551 Route 6A, East Sandwich, MA) in the Lund Auditorium and are free and open to the public. These presentations are intended for both professionals and community members. Boston University School of Social Work is a co-sponsor of the series. CEUs through BUSSW are pending for social workers who attend.


Autism is characterized by changes in behavior. The brain coordinates all behaviors and has been extensively studied in autistic individuals. The presentation will start with a brief overview of normal brain development indicating when neurons are generated and how they mature. Evidence from developmental magnetic resonance imaging studies will highlight the trajectories of normal brain development and how they are altered in autistic individuals. Given that autism is characterized by many co-occurring conditions such as anxiety, what is the evidence that specific brain changes are associated with these conditions. Finally, what is the evidence that early brain changes precede the occurrence of the defining behavioral conditions of autism? The literature indicates that there are several indications of brain changes prior to a formal diagnosis.

Anxiety is a common and impairing problem in autistic children and adolescents. In addition to subjective distress, anxiety can exacerbate social difficulties and contribute to impairment in family and school functioning. There is growing evidence that anxiety can be accurately diagnosed and successfully treated for children on the spectrum. This presentation will first discuss characteristics of anxiety in autism and assessment strategies for the differential diagnoses. This will be followed by a review of parenting and cognitive-behavioral interventions for reducing anxiety and its burden on children’s functioning. Specific attention will be paid to practical strategies for helping children build confidence and emotional resilience in navigating increasingly complex social situations in the transition from childhood to adolescence.

Although language is no longer a defining feature of autism, there is wide heterogeneity in the acquisition of linguistic abilities, ranging from remaining minimally verbal to achieving superior skills. Since language and communication are the most important determinants of long-term academic and vocational outcomes for people with autism, it is crucial to understand what underlies impairments in this domain. In this presentation I will explore two key questions: 1. Can we predict later language trajectories from early infancy using behavioral and brain measures? 2. What might explain why some children fail to acquire spoken language? The presentation will end with key takeaways that might inform new approaches to language intervention in autism.

Join Patrick Dwyer from the Department of Psychology at UC Davis and Alison Singer from the Autism Science Foundation as they lead a discussion about Neurodiversity.

Individuals on the Autism Spectrum are sexual beings. However, individual interest in sex or in developing an intimate sexual relationship with another person varies widely across (and within) individuals at all ability levels and across the lifespan. Unfortunately, sexuality is one area of education, support and intervention about which we know very little whether or not a person is on the spectrum. There is general agreement as to the importance of sexuality education inclusive of basic knowledge, issues related to social competence, personal boundaries, relationships, and the avoidance of dangerous or abusive situations. There continues to be little evidence defining those interventions that might result in better, more positive, and safer outcomes for adults with ASD is this challenging and rewarding area of adult life. This presentation will provide an overview of the current research in sexuality and ASD along with a discussion of the generally challenges sexuality may present to the individual, his or her family, and the associated professionals.

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