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Club sponsors autism conference

| Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Notre Dame’s Special Friends Club will hold its fifth annual Autism Conference on Wednesday at 8 p.m. in the Carey Auditorium of the Hesburgh Library.
Vanderbilt pediatrics professor and Notre Dame alumna Julie Lounds Taylor will give a talk titled “Understanding the Transition to Adulthood with Autism Spectrum Disorder.”

Sophomore Thomas Gordon, a member of the Special Friends Club, said Taylor is a leader in examining how people with autism interact with the rest of society.

“Dr. Taylor’s research program investigates how individual, family and societal factors interact to promote healthy development, and she is especially interested in how families experience the transition to adulthood for young adults affected by Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD),” Gordon said.

Gordon said the Special Friends  Club aims to bring speakers to the conference who have made a significant commitment to fighting autism.

“The beauty of the Autism Conference is the professionals invited to speak at the event,” he said.

“Past speakers have represented a group of individuals who have impacted the knowledge we have of ASD through their research and a lifelong commitment to helping us come closer to understanding ASD.”

The Special Friends Club’s president, senior Christina Mondi said our society needs to develop better strategies for supporting autistic individuals and their families.

“According to the [Center for Disease Control], roughly 1 [out of] 88 children will be diagnosed with ASD,” Mondi said. “Almost all students will inevitably have a family member, friend, colleague, classmate or neighbor affected by autism. … It is incredibly important that students be aware not only of what autism is, but of how they can play a role in supporting those whose lives and families are affected by it in the classroom, workplace and community. This is not a special interest topic.”

The Notre Dame community can help make the transition to adulthood for people with autism smoother, Mondi said.

“If individuals with ASD are to reach their fullest potentials as they move into adulthood, they will need the understanding and support of their classmates and community members in doing so,” she said. “This is an area where we, as young college students and emerging professionals, could make a real difference in forging a culture of acceptance for our peers affected by ASD.”

The event is open and free for all students. For more information, visit the conference’s website.

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