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Drexel Law Review Symposium | Impactful Interactions: Autism Spectrum Disorder and the Legal System

Impactful Interactions: Autism Spectrum Disorder and the Legal System

Drexel Law Review Symposium
Friday, October 2, 2020
8:30 a.m. - 3:50 p.m. presented live via Zoom
CLE Credits: 6 Substantive Credits


Although there has been a significant increase in scientific and societal awareness of Autism Spectrum Disorder (“ASD”) over the past twenty years, the behemoth that is the American legal system has been slow to recognize the institutional barriers created for people with ASD. Perhaps the most singular example of this is the United States’ reluctance to ratify the Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities (“CRPD”).

As a new generation of practitioners moves into an evolving legal profession, it seems important to ask: How can we adapt our legal system to best suit the needs of people with ASD? Can the legal system transcend its historically shameful treatment of people with disabilities in cases such as Buck v. Bell? Are we able to fully realize the potential of the Americans with Disabilities Act or is progress contingent on the ratification of the CRPD? Can the legal system strike a balance between protection and autonomy for people with ASD? How do discrepancies between State and Federal regulations undermine the availability of publicly subsidized assistance to people with ASD—and is there a way for modern America to find a cohesive approach to disability services?

The Symposium’s goal is to prompt a robust conversation on the barriers that arise when people with ASD engage with the legal system, to discuss possibilities for meaningful change, and to serve as a “wake up” call for legal practitioners.

Keynote Address

Guest Lecturer

  • Lydia X.Z. Brown, JD, they/them, Policy Counsel – Privacy and Data at Center for Democracy and Technology; Director of Policy, Advocacy, & External Affairs at the Autistic Women and Nonbinary Network; Adjunct Lecturer of Disability Studies at Georgetown University, Department of English

Panel One: Reconciling the Treatment of ASD in the Criminal Justice System

  • Moderator: Emily B. Zimmerman, JD, she/her, Director of the Criminal Law Program, Drexel University’s Kline School of Law
  • Colleen Berryessa, PhD, she/her, Assistant Professor, Rutgers University, School of Criminal Justice
  • Dianah Msipa, LLM, LPC, LLB, she/her, Legal Researcher, Inclusion International
  • Samantha Crane, JD, she/her, Legal Director, Autistic Self Advocacy Network (ASAN)

Panel Two: Unequal Equality: How Our Education System Is Failing Americans with ASD

  • Moderator: Daniel M. Filler, JD, he/his, Dean, Drexel University’s Kline School of Law
  • Darlene Hemerka, JD, she/her, Staff Attorney, The Public Interest Law Center
  • Lewis Bossing, JD, he/his, Senior Staff Attorney, Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law
  • Terry Jean Seligmann, JD, she/her, Emerita Professor of Law, Drexel University’s Kline School of Law
  • Jasmine E. Harris, JD, she/her, Professor of Law, University of California – Davis, School of Law

Research Presentation: The Changing Medicaid Landscape for Autistic Individuals

  • Robert I. Field, PhD, JD, MPH, he/his, Professor of Law, Drexel University’s Kline School of Law
  • Lindsay Shea, DRPH, MS, Director of Policy and Analytics, A.J. Drexel Autism Institute

Panel Three: Navigating a Minefield: ASD and the American Healthcare System

Past Symposia