Samantha McCready
Samantha McCready
November 26, 2019

“Breaking barriers. Building understanding”: UNB hosts Atlantic provinces autism conference

Atlantic Provinces Autism Conference

The University of New Brunswick Fredericton campus hosted the Atlantic Provinces Autism Conference (APAC) from November 7th-8th, 2019. This was the first event of its kind in the region. 

APAC was a two day conference, held in UNB’s Wu Centre. It was packed with keynote speakers and informative breakout sessions—workshops involving group discussions or skills training sessions. These sessions aimed to help build a deeper understanding around autism spectrum disorders. 

In addition to informative sessions, APAC also offered keynote sessions. Individuals with autism spectrum, parents of children on the spectrum, and autism spectrum physicians and professionals presented at the conference. 

According to the APAC website, the conference’s mission is “to disseminate behaviour-based research and empirically supported practices in the assessment, treatment, and support of individuals on the Autism spectrum. The mission aims to enrich the quality of life of individuals on the Autism spectrum and their families in the Atlantic Provinces.”

Nicole Whyte, an organizer of APAC, believes the public does not have sufficient knowledge on autism spectrum disorders, but is confident that this conference will provide knowledge.

“I think the public mostly sees stereotypes of ASD… The reality is [ASD] is diverse and includes people with varying strengths and needs. But what the public isn’t taught is how to respond to those on the autism spectrum or how to change their own behaviour and perceptions towards those on the autism spectrum,” said Whyte.

APAC is intended for individuals on the autism spectrum, families with an individual on the autism spectrum, medical professionals such as nurses, psychologists, faculty and researchers, support workers, and all other individuals interested in gaining knowledge on autism spectrum disorders. 

Casey Gray, a graduate student from Dalhousie University, attended APAC last week. 

“I learned a great deal from the conference. I had the opportunity to listen to so many experts and participated in workshops that gave me a more complete understanding of autism spectrum disorders,” said Gray. 

According to Gray, the conference also talked about stereotypes and misconceptions that surround autism disorders.

“One of the specialists spent time talking about the stereotypes and myths people tend to believe about people with autism, like that they can’t feel emotion and are intellectually diabled. It was very informative to distinguish between fact and myth,” said Gray. 

When asked what would make the conference a success, Whyte said it was up to what the attendees get out of it.

“We would consider the conference a success if attendees take something they learned with them back to their homes, communities, work, etc. and do something to help improve the quality of life for someone on the autism spectrum,” said Whyte. 

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