“I see ASD Nest as an investment in our children,” said Carmen Farina, Chancellor, NYC Department of Education in her powerful opening remarks at NestCon: The Conference for Autism and Inclusive Education, held January 18-19, 2018 at NYU. The atmosphere in the room was one of hope, positivity, and support as educators, school administrators, parents, clinicians and therapists, advocates, and others gathered for the first ever conference of its kind. Bridging research and practice, the conference explored how to better understand and support students on the autism spectrum.
The DOE’s ASD Nest Program is New York City’s school inclusion program for higher-functioning students with ASD. ”Nested” within supportive neighborhood schools, the ASD Nest program helps children learn how to function well academically, behaviorally, and socially, providing a therapeutic environment within a grade-appropriate academic environment.
The NYU ASD Nest Support Project is one of several community-focused programs serving special populations hosted by NYU Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development’s MetroCenter. The NestCon 2018 was spearheaded by Lauren Hough Williams and Aaron Lanou, Co-Directors of ASD Nest, and Kristie Patten Koenig, ASD Nest Principal Investigator.
NestCon brought together speakers from across various disciplines including renowned autism researcher Catherine Lord, who spoke about the science of ASD, and Paula Kluth, a former special educator turned consultant, author, advocate, and independent scholar who works with teachers and families to provide inclusive opportunities for students with disabilities, who spoke about practical ways of supporting students with ASD within a general education classroom. Stephen Shore, current professor at Adelphi University and autistic self-advocate spoke on the power and strengths of interests in ASD individuals.
Other speakers included David E. Kirkland, Executive Director of NYU Metro Center; Peter Vermeulen, senior lecturer and consultant at Belgium’s Autisme Centraal; and Brenda Myles, Associate Professor, Department of Special Education at the University of Kansas. The ASD Nest model is even being used internationally, and conference-goers were able to hear from representatives from the school system in Aarhus, Denmark where it was recently implemented.
The ASD Nest team hopes the sold out conference inspired and invigorated all attendees to continue their important work in inclusive education.
Graphic Recorder Sherrill Knezel illustrates Paula Kluth’s NestCon 2018 talk “You’re Going to Love this Kid”. Video by Nitasha Maindiratta/ NYU Steinhardt.