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Managing Autism and Anxiety

October 19 @ 7:30 am - 3:45 pm

Keynote Title: Understanding and Managing the Behaviors of Children and Adolescents with Autism

Presenters: Audrey Blakely Smith, Ph.D. and Judy Reaven, Ph.D.

Description: This session will provide an overview of anxiety symptoms that commonly co-occur in children/adolescents with ASD along with a discussion of the vulnerabilities that place youth with ASD at a greater risk for these symptoms.  A cognitive behavioral treatment approach to reduce anxiety in youth with ASD (Facing your Fears) will be described.  Modifications for adolescents, and youth with ASD/intellectual and developmental disabilities will be presented, along with suggestions for implementing this program in school settings.

Learning Objectives:
  At the completion of this session, participants will be able to:

  1. Identify anxious symptoms in youth with ASD
  2. Summarize at least two vulnerabilities that contribute to the development of anxiety in ASD
  3. Describe coping strategies (i.e. attention to thoughts, emotion regulation, deep breathing) for managing anxiety in ASD

Biography: Audrey Blakeley-Smith, Ph.D. is an Associate Professor in the Departments of Psychiatry and Pediatrics at the University of Colorado, School of Medicine.  She received her PhD in clinical psychology in 2005 and specializes in developmental disabilities, most specifically autism spectrum disorders (ASD). Dr. Blakeley Smith co-authored the Facing Your Fears treatment manual that will be discussed today along with Drs. Reaven, Hepburn and Nichols. Dr. Blakeley-Smith is also an investigator on a study designed to adapt the Facing Your Fears program for adolescents with Intellectual Disability and Autism. She is also involved in teaching at the University of Colorado and is the training director of the clinical psychology internship.

Judy Reaven, Ph.D. is currently Associate Director of JFK Partners as well as Director of Research for JFK Partners/Developmental Pediatrics.  She has worked in the field of developmental disabilities as a clinician, researcher and educator since 1985. Clinical and research interests include identifying and treating the co-occurrence of mental health symptoms in children and adolescents with autism spectrum disorders.  She is the primary developer of a cognitive behavior therapy group treatment intervention for anxiety symptoms in children with ASD (Facing Your Fears). She is particularly interested in the implementation of Facing Your Fears in “real-world” settings, including schools and mental health clinics.  Dr. Reaven has been the PI on several grants funded by private foundations dedicated to autism research (CAN, Autism Speaks, OAR), and has also been the PI on an NIH funded multi-site treatment trial (NIMH) exploring the implementation of the FYF program.   She is currently PI on a HRSA funded grant focused on the modification of FYF for low income and/or underrepresented racial/ethnic minority youth in school settings.  She has co-authored numerous peer-reviewed publications and book chapters.

Afternoon Presentations:

Pharmacologic Treatment of Anxiety Disorders: An overview of anxiety disorders and their treatments with and without comorbid autism spectrum diagnoses.

Learning objectives:

  • Recognize how anxiety may present in individuals with and without autism spectrum diagnoses.
  • Appreciate when to consider medication in the treatment of such disorders.
  • Understand the general risks and benefits of common medications for anxiety.

Biography:  After completing undergraduate education at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Dr. Adragna graduated from the SUNY at Buffalo School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences.  He then stayed at UB to complete a residency in General Psychiatry, after which he completed a fellowship in Child & Adolescent Psychiatry at Brown University.  He practices consultation-liaison psychiatry at Oishei Children’s Hospital, and maintains an outpatient practice with a special interest in children with developmental disabilities.

Consideration and strategies for supporting students with Autism and Comorbid Anxiety

Learning Objectives: At the completion of this session, participants will be able to:

  • Participants will learn how to identify symptoms of comorbid anxiety in students with autism
  • Participants will learn how to implement strategies to reduce anxiety in students with autism and comorbid anxiety
  • Participants will learn ways to evaluate the effectiveness of these interventions

Jennifer A. Toomey, Ph.D.,
is the Coordinator-Research and Program Evaluation at The Summit Center.  Dr. Toomey is a NYS licensed psychologist who graduated with a doctorate in Counseling and School Psychology from the University at Buffalo.  Dr. Toomey is an affiliate faculty member at the University at Buffalo and has taught classes on autism, assessment and consultation.  Dr. Toomey specialized in the assessment and treatment of autism spectrum disorders and ADHD using evidence-based interventions.

Conference Schedule:
7:30 am – 8:15 am            Registration and Continental Breakfast
8:15 am – 8:30 am            Opening Remarks
8:30 am – 10:00 am          Keynote Presentation
10:00 am – 10:15 am       Break
10:15 am – 11:45 am       Keynote Presentation (cont’d)
11:45 am – 12:30 pm       Buffet Lunch
12:30 pm – 2:00 pm         Pharmacologic Treatment of Anxiety Disorders
2:00 pm – 2:15 pm           Break
2:15 pm – 3:45 pm           Consideration & strategies for supporting students with Autism & Comorbid Anxiety


October 19
7:30 am - 3:45 pm
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Samuel’s Grande Manor
870 Main Street
Williamsville, NY 14221 United States
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