Andrew Patterson, a research specialist with the Department of Educational Psychology and Dr. Jennifer Ganz, professor of Special Education at Texas A&M University organized the Aggie Autism Forum. Bringing together people of different experiences and backgrounds to have conversations about improving the quality of life for individuals with autism.
Dr. Susan Bloomfield, Professor & Associate Dean for Research, Health and Kinesiology, welcomed the attendees about the importance to have a dialogue about children on the spectrum. Explaining how important it is to have the opportunity to interact, share information about projects, and bring ideas to the table.
Dr. Jennifer Ganz spoke about the revolutionary work they are doing at Texas A&M University. How the faculty, researchers, students and graduate students are passionate about their work in this area. It is also important for the individuals with autism, family members and service providers as critical stakeholders for improving the outcomes for this population.
This was an opportunity to bring faculty, students, families and others invested in autism and ASD and talk about improving the quality of life for those individuals. The panel featured faculty from the College of Education and Human Development, an Texas A&M University undergraduate student with autism, and a clinical nutritionist.
Discussions included what the panelists think are critical topics for children with autism, discrepancies in access to services, overall quality of life into adulthood for those with autism and other developmental disabilities. Only about 1 in every 4 are employed and how those jobs tend to be low skill and do not match their aspirations, skill sets, and talents.
After the panelist discussions, the guests grouped together for a community of conversation and interaction. Beginning conversations where everyone can come together with a purpose to help the students they are trying to serve as one. Speaking together, listening, supporting, encouraging, and connecting.
Community conversations with a great group of committed people from across the state to think about ideas surrounding quality of life and broader topics related to autism. The group participated in three rounds of group discussions. The first two rounds were focused on, “What can we do to improve the quality of life for individuals with autism?”
The purpose of these conversations is to generate ideas on how to build on the conversations from the panel discussions. Giving everyone in the group ideas that they can use to make changes in their home, community and state. The focus was in finding positive solutions for improving the quality of life for individuals with autism. Facilitators were taking notes and capturing the suggestions and ideas during each of the three conversations.
Third round of communication took the ideas and the groups focused on ways to put them into action. Finding ways for each individual to do to make these actions happen.
The goal of this event is to have everyone leave with at least one, if not more, actionable idea that each person can do in their setting to lead to some improvement in quality of life for individuals with autism.