When Sr. Mary Annelle Velivis gave the invocation at the 3rd annual Felician Autism Collaboration in Teaching (FACT) Conference, she fittingly adapted the Prayer of St. Francis to the occasion, praying “that where some see disability, we may reveal to them extraordinary gifts.”
On a campus that values inclusivity, conference participants learned practical and relevant information to support individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). Keynote speakers and leaders in ASD research connected with more than 250 in-person attendees who gathered at the Rutherford campus, along with another 50 who participated online, to provide both interpersonal and institutional support for individuals with ASD.
Dr. John Burke, the Felician University professor who has chaired the FACT Conference committee every year since its inception, is a pioneer in early intervention for autistic children. He brought on two event co-chairs this year: Dr. Theoni Mantzoros, a first-year faculty member, and Dr. Katharine Croce, a specialist in behavior analytics. Before the conference, Dr. Mantzoros said, “Our speakers have so much to offer in terms of practical strategies that individuals can implement immediately for better quality of life.”
Participants left the conference with updated information and resources to support individuals with autism, as well as a renewed sense of service for these individuals. The FACT conference meshes well with Felician University’s mission, since the university both educates students with ASD and trains students in the School of Education with programs in Behavior Analysis and Autism Studies.