Fordham University hosted “Autism and Advocacy,” a daylong conference on autism spectrum disorder, on Friday, Oct. 27 at the McNally Amphitheatre, Lincoln Center campus, featuring an opening address by Timothy P. Shriver, Ph.D., chairman of the board of Special Olympics, Inc. The conference, sponsored by the Francis and Ann Curran Center for American Catholic Studies at Fordham, included panel discussions about different kinds of advocacy practiced with and by persons with autism, especially those forms grounded in moral and religious traditions. Conference organizers hoped to promote dialogue and greater engagement, with autism advocacy as an integral component of work for social justice.
The morning session featured clergy from Jewish and Christian traditions sharing their experience in advocacy for persons with autism in liturgical and educational settings. The afternoon session focused on innovative forms of community, including a burgeoning Internet presence, building through the gifts of advocacy and self-advocacy. Many persons with autism and their families were in attendance throughout the day.
In addition to Shriver, speakers included James T. Fisher, Ph.D., professor of theology and co-director of the Francis and Ann Curran Center for American Catholic Studies; and Kristina Chew, Ph.D., assistant professor of classics at Saint Peter’s College, and author of the popular blog devoted to her son, Charlie:www.autismland.com. The conference benefactors were: John Tognino, FCLS ’75, chairman of the Board of Trustees of Fordham University, and Norma Tognino; Kathleen Fisher and Rocco Maggiotto; Janet and Michael Feeley; and Grace and James J. Fisher.
Fordham president Rev. Joseph M. McShane, S.J. said that the conference was “part of a service to our city and nation,” and credited Fisher for “bringing to our attention matters that society would choose to forget.”