State of the Art Conference on Postsecondary Education & Individuals with Intellectual Disabilities

The ninth annual State of the Art Conference on Postsecondary Education and Individuals with Intellectual Disabilities runs Wednesday and Thursday at the Sheraton Syracuse University Hotel and Conference Center and the Schine Student Center.

Including a first-time parallel Student Leadership Conference, the event will draw more than 300 participants, providing opportunities for colleges and universities, researchers, program staff, parents and self-advocates to learn about the current state of research and practice in the field, and to network with each other. Panels include faculty and staff from postsecondary education initiatives, parents, self-advocates, and other experts sharing effective practices during breakout sessions with opportunities for group discussion. The student conference will bring high school and college students into the conversation.

For the first time, the conference—hosted by George Mason University’s Helen A. Kellar Institute for Human Disabilities and The Lawrence B. Taishoff Center for Inclusive Higher Education at Syracuse University—takes place in Syracuse.

“We have professionals coming from universities and centers all over the world, including Austria, Ireland, Canada, Hawaii, and Washington,” says Beth Myers, executive director of the Taishoff Center and Lawrence B. Taishoff Professor of Inclusive Education inthe School of Education. “Tracks include academic supports, promoting policy and systemic change, campus life, innovations in higher education, independent living, family and community support, research and evaluation, program development, and transition.”

Filmmaker Dan Habib, from the University of New Hampshire Institute on Disability, and Micah Fialka-Feldman ’15, a Taishoff Center staff member, will present the opening keynote, including clips from Habib’s forthcoming documentary Intelligent Lives.The film tells the stories of Fialka-Feldman and twoother young adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDDs).

“I’m sure they will talk about the construction of intelligence as a marker of success and show how some individuals with IDD are pioneers in inclusion, breaking stereotypes about intellectual disability,” says Myers.

Retired Navy Capt. Robert Taishoff, a Syracuse University Trustee, will speak Wednesday afternoon. He is chairman of the Taishoff Family Foundation, which created the Taishoff Center. It’s named for his grandfather, who made it his priority to aid in research and educating society about Down syndrome.

The State of the Art Conference will have 250 participants; 85 students are expected for the Student Leadership Conference. The latter event is open to all students, with an emphasis on young adults who are transitioning into college and current college students. The focus is on students with intellectual disabilities and their peers, including traditionally enrolled friends, classmates, and mentors.

Sessions for the students will cover academic life, social connections, self-advocacy, self-representation, and housing, along with a ropes course, yoga, and a karaoke party.

“The SLC is a gathering of current and future college students with intellectual disabilities. This is so hugely significant because 30 years ago not only would these students not be attending college, many or most of them would be isolated or institutionalized,” says Cara Levine, a Ph.D. student in counseling and counselor education at the School of Education and coordinator of the student conference. “The conference will provide a space for participants to acquire self-advocacy skills and learn about the college experience from one another while making valuable social connections with peers from across the United States and Canada.”

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