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Moving to Remote Events in 2020 and 2021

Posted on January 24, 2022
Screenshot of Fathers Group Live Event

Screenshot from the Fathers Group Live Event, June 19th, 2021

After a quick pivot to remote work in March of 2020, the Institute postponed the upcoming Autism Public Health Lecture and a live event with our Fathers Support Group. After a few months, when it became clear that in-person meetings and events were not going to be possible for the rest of the year, the Policy and Analytic Center (PAC) and Outreach Core decided to pivot to remote events.

The Policy and Analytics Center hosted two conferences remotely.


The Pennsylvania Autism Training Conference (PATC) is an annual conference held by the Bureau of Support for Autism and Special Populations, Office of Developmental Programs, Pennsylvania Department of Human Services to provide information and resources to Pennsylvania providers serving individuals on the autism spectrum. The conference had been running for 12 years in person before taking the virtual stage in 2020 with the help of the staff and leadership from the ASERT Collaborative. The interactive three-day event was free to the public and could be attended through Zoom. Presentations and panels reflected the PATC 2020 theme, “Innovate”, amid an unprecedented period for providers and individuals alike during the COVID-19 pandemic. For example, A.J. Drexel Autism Institute’s  Policy and Analytics Center (PAC) Director, Dr. Lindsay Shea took part in the panel discussion about the Community Autism Peer Specialist Program (CAPS), reviewing the development and implementation of the model. The 2020 conference was successful in its change to a virtual platform and attracted a great number of attendees. In fall 2021, PATC remained virtual with panels and presentations revolving around the theme “Integrate.”

Philly Autism Project Conference

The Philadelphia Autism Project is a city-funded project supported by the Department of Behavioral Health and Intellectual Disabilities Services (DBHIDS), Community Behavioral Health (CBH), and the office of Councilmember-At-Large Derek Green. Located at the Policy and Analytics Center at the A.J. Drexel Autism Institute, the project started in 2014 and invited a lot of different stakeholders – families, providers, self-advocates – to the table to make Philadelphia more autism friendly. Among more than 100 initiatives created from the project, stakeholders voted that the annual Philadelphia Autism Project Conference was a top priority initiative. It’s a free conference every year typically held in person over three days, until this year. With the pivot to a virtual format due to the ongoing pandemic, the conference was held over a week and weekend during various times of day to make a space for all individuals to attend. In 2020, the conference was themed “A Spectrum of Community Voices,” while the 2021 conference had a theme of “Rethinking, Reimagining, Resilience.” Both conferences covered a variety of tracks, one example being justice interactions. The online space allowed for attendees from outside of Philadelphia, and was a welcome change for those who experience sensory overload. Due to its success the conference will continue to be held virtually or in a hybrid format and focus on topics ranging from employment to policy. 

The Outreach Core hosted two virtual talks: the first virtual Autism Public Health Lecture, and a live conversation with our Fathers Autism Support Group.

The Autism Public Health Lecture

On December 1, 2020, the Outreach Core hosted the 8th Annual Autism Public Health Lecture on Zoom. After opening remarks from Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney and the office of Senator Bob Casey Jr., the lecture, “Nothing About Us Without Us: Autistic People Shaping Research and Policy about Our Lives,” was given by Julia Bascom, the Executive Director of the Autistic Self Advocacy Network. Bascom’s talk described the purpose, process, and ethical necessity of participatory policymaking and research, what a policy and research agenda informed by autistic people themselves would entail, and how to get there. You can watch the lecture here. Stay tuned for our 2022 Autism and Public Health Lecture coming in March 2022.

Fathers Group Live

On June 19th, 2021, the Fathers Autism Support Group, led by Dr. Michael Hannon, an Associate Professor of Counseling at Montclair State University, and Dr. Robert Naseef, a clinical psychologist at Alternative Choices, opened up their monthly meeting to an audience. Though Hannon and Naseef help to guide the conversation, the group operates under a support group model, which allows the opportunity for each father to share his story. One father summed up the goals of the group perfectly in saying, “This group is a reminder to take joy in the journey. It’s nice to have a place to talk about these things and be heard and understood. It helps me be a better father.” You can find a link to the recording in our full write up of the event.