September 13, 2010

The WV ATC Guest Lecture Series Welcomes Dr. Valerie Paradiz

I first became aware of Dr. Valerie Paradiz when she, along with her son Elijah, was featured on the MTV True Life episode, "I Have Autism." A young comedian still learning his craft, Elijah was being counseled by professional comedian mentors to include into his act that he was diagnosed with Asperger's syndrome. Elijah was unsure if he wanted to, and insecure about doing so.

Faced with similar circumstances, many parents might step in and make the decision for their child. Watching your child struggle heavily with issues like disclosure can be a painful experience; it's easier, perhaps, to simply make the decision for the child and be done with it. While watching the episode, I was struck at how Dr. Paradiz supported Elijah as he processed, then ultimately made, the decision for himself. She was there for him, and provided him obvious support. She ensured he thought through the issues, and helped him arrive at a conclusion. But in the end it was clear the decision to disclose was his to make.

The scene was a tender, poignant lesson in how to teach and promote self-advocacy skills.

This past summer, years after the True Life episode aired, I had the pleasure of working with Dr. Paradiz. Based in part on her support for Elijah and the fact that she, too, is living on the autism spectrum, Dr. Paradiz developed the Integrated Self Advocacy (ISA) curriculum and certification training series. Designed to assist educators and therapists in teaching self advocacy skills to individuals with ASD, the ISA helps individuals identify their social and sensory needs, develop protocols for caring for those needs, and embrace the concept of self-determination.

The ISA curriculum was used this summer in our skill building groups. Students found the information to be a valuable tool for their successful navigation of the college lifestyle.

The West Virginia Autism Training Center is pleased to announce that Dr. Paradiz will be the first in a series of guest lecturers scheduled for the upcoming year. From 9am until 4pm on Tuesday, October 5, 2010, Dr. Paradiz will speak on the topic: "The Integrated Self Advocacy (ISA) Curriculum: Supporting the Emerging Self Advocate with Autism and Other Developmental Disabilities."

The presentation will be located at the Marshall University Student Memorial Center, room BE 5 (on the basement floor). There is no cost to families registered with the WV ATC; a fee of $20 for all others may be paid at the door.

Call 800-344-5115 to register.