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An Inspiring Conference on Autism and Developmental Disabilities, CEC DADD

We just returned from an “exceptional” conference in beautiful (but cold) Clearwater, FL—the 19th annual conference of the Council for Exceptional Children (CEC) Division of Autism and Developmental Disabilities (DADD). Our president, Joseph Casbarro attended the 3-day conference, held from January 17-19, along with Georgina Casbarro and Lisa Hanson.

Joseph Casbarro, President

Given that it was a relatively small conference and we had three team members in attendance, we were able to sit in on some sessions and visit poster presentations. We left feeling incredibly inspired by the enthusiasm, expertise, and dedication of conference attendees. Children with disabilities, their families, and society are incredibly fortunate to have so many wonderful people devoting their lives to helping individuals on the autism spectrum and those with developmental disabilities succeed.

Among the sessions we were fortunate enough to observe was one by Padmaja Sarathy, who presented “Nurturing Executive Function in the Early Years: Designing Environment, Instruction and Adaptations.” Padmaja is the author of the laminated guide Autism Spectrum Disorders: Seven Steps of Support, and a good friend of NPR, Inc. Her presentation offered a well balanced combination of research and ideas for implementation, with strategies on how to put them into practice.

Some take-aways from Padmaja’s presentation on ways to promote executive function during instruction for young children:

  1. Brain loves action. Heighten children’s interest, engage and sustain their attention during instruction with interactive demonstrations, storytelling, role play, and drama and movement activities.
  2. Use an interactive learning process to sustain children’s attention. Combine direct instruction with hands-on activities to allow children to practice what they have learned.
  3. Incorporate novel materials (e.g., musical instruments and toys, puppets, objects hidden in a bag, photos, science and math tools such as magnets, magnifying glass, talking calculator, etc.) to heighten children’s curiosity and sustain motivation.
  4. Weave multi-sensory features into your lessons. Moving, touching and experiencing –– linking abstract concepts with concrete objects and experiences –– will facilitate comprehension of the concepts presented and will assist with recall.
  5. Play games to exercise working memory, build attention, develop self-regulation and cognitive flexibility. Children will learn to take turns, wait their turns, reflect and respond.
  6. Strengthen children’s emotional literacy. Role-play problem situations and model how to respond to stressful situations.
  7. Teach and model self-calming strategies to develop self-regulation. Integrate yoga exercise and mindfulness-based practices into the daily routine. Guide students to practice deep breathing to calm down when feeling anxious.

To learn more about Padmaja and her publications, visit her website

In conclusion, we wish to congratulate CEC DADD on a very successful conference. We certainly hope we can join them for next year’s conference… in Hawaii!!

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