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Autism Conference Set for March 27 at Mississippi College

School of Education Dean Cindy Melton
School of Education Dean Cindy Melton

Autism impacts more than two million Americans. Each day, they face this developmental disability posing major social, communicative and behavioral challenges.

National experts are addressing a March 27 conference at Mississippi College to explore autism issues. The program’s theme is “Growing and Thriving on the Spectrum.”

The keynote speaker is psychology professor Kasee Stratton-Gadke of Mississippi State University. She is an internationally recognized children’s disabilities scholar. The researcher is known for her groundbreaking work with CHARGE Syndrome.

Stratton-Gadke serves as director of MSU’s T.K. Martin Center for Technology and Disability. Opening in 1996, the center is part of the MSU College of Education on the Starkville campus.

Other speakers include professors Sarah Bloom of the University of South Florida professor and Mark Dixon of Southern Illinois University. Mississippi Lt. Gov. Delbert Hosemann will also address the group.

MC School of Education leaders are teaming with Canopy Children’s Solutions of Jackson to co-sponsor the event.

The program at Anderson Hall will attract national experts as well as therapists, teachers, students and family members. Registration costs $50 for professionals and $35 for parents.

Autism can be diagnosed in children as young as 18-months-old. There are many types of this disorder caused by different combinations of genetic and environmental influences.

The first Haley Rose Gunter Autism conference at MC was held in October 2018. Generous donations by Haley Rose’s grandfather, former Mississippi Insurance Commissioner George Dale and Dale’s son-in-law, Dr. Chad Stokes, a Madison dentist, are making the programs possible. Thomas and Susan Colbert, J.L. Holloway and Canopy Children’s Solutions also provided strong support.

The inaugural conference began when a parent, Donna Dale Gunter of Madison, discussed the journey with her daughter, Haley, who has autism. Donna is the daughter of George Dale, an MC graduate from Clinton.

Conference participants seek to provide the best services and care for people with autism.

“Our idea is to truly journey together and learn from one another,” says Cindy Melton, dean of MC’s School of Education.

Mississippi lacks the number of professionals to provide services to people with autism. “Ongoing training and education for professionals and family members is important,” says Cynthia Johnson, who chairs MC’s Department of Psychology and Counseling.

Conference participants can obtain continuing education credits. Check-in begins at 7:30 a.m.

For additional details, contact DeShanna Dixon of the MC Department of Psychology and Counseling at 601-925-3841 or