Autism education specialists to host conference for parents and educators

Third annual “Autism: Unlocking the Mystery” conference will be held Friday, Oct. 16.

Written by: Tiffany Westry

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rajesh kanaRajesh KanaUniversity of Alabama at Birmingham faculty and alumni will present at the third annual “Autism: Unlocking the Mystery” conference Friday, Oct. 16, at the Worship Center Christian Church, 100 Derby Parkway. The conference will be held from 8 a.m.-3:15 p.m.

Organized by the Autism Society of Alabama and Special Education Consultants and Conference Organizers, in collaboration with the Birmingham City Schools Special Education Department, the conference is designed for parents, general and special educators, para-educators, college students, and anyone else with a desire to learn about autism.

“We are working to improve the collaborative relationship between parents and educators,” said Special Education Consultants and Conference Organizers member Cindy Nelson. “We want people to know there are resources and highly qualified autism spectrum disorder specialists right here in Alabama. With each conference, our hope is that we’re developing a network of parents, professionals and educators to address the unique needs of everyone who works or lives with children with ASD.”

In 2013, the UAB School of Education offered the first education specialist degree in collaborative special education with a concentration in autism spectrum disorders in the state of Alabama. The program’s first cohort of students, including Nelson, went on to organize the inaugural “Autism: Unlocking the Mystery” conference in 2014. The Special Education Consultants and Conference Organizers group was founded by Nelson, and other School of Education alumni, with the day-to-day needs of parents and educators in mind. This year, the conference has expanded to Mobile, Alabama.

Among this year’s presenters is Rajesh Kana, Ph.D., associate professor of psychology in the UAB College of Arts and Sciences and director of the Department of Psychology’s Cognition, Brain and Autism Laboratory. Kana will discuss targeting brain plasticity using intervention in children with ASD, the subject of a recent study where he found that 10 weeks of intensive reading intervention for children with autism spectrum disorder was enough to strengthen the activity of loosely connected areas of their brains that work together to comprehend reading.

Other topics include practical interventions for home and school, how to identify giftedness in students with ASD, smart parenting for children with behavioral difficulties related to ASD, and litigation pitfalls for special and general education teachers.

To register for the conference or for more information, visit