UAMS Educates on Behavior in Autism and Down Syndrome

UAMS Down syndrome and autism conference Dr. Kent McKelvey Kent D. McKelvey, M.D., (left) stands with conference speakers Melissa Richardson and Dennis Mcguire, Ph.D.

Cathy Lawlor, conference attendee, chats with McKelvey during a break at the conference.

Health care workers, teachers and caregivers listen as experts talk about autism and Down syndrome.

May 6, 2014 | UAMS and the Arkansas Down Syndrome Association hosted its eighth conference for health care professionals, educators and caregivers at the UAMS Jackson T. Stephens Spine & Neurosciences Institute on April 26-27.

More than 220 parents, health care workers, teachers and other advocates attended the two-day conference, which featured nationally recognized experts and focused on behavior, treatment and legal advocacy.

Kent D. McKelvey, M.D., associate professor of Genetics and Family Medicine, helped organize and host the conference, which focused on behavior in people with special needs.  

The first day’s featured speakers included McKelvey; Dennis McGuire, Ph.D., co-founder of the Adult Down Syndrome Center of Advocate Lutheran General Hospital in Park Ridge, Ill.; and Melissa Richardson, who founded the west Texas Autism Center and serves on the Texas State Autism Network.

Health care and legal professionals earned continuing education credit and, along with caregivers, gained valuable insight.

“I was really impressed with what I learned today, and was able to get a grasp on my son and his needs,” said Carl Nichols, a parent of a special-needs child. “I feel up to date and informed.”

“We are seeing that there are so many similarities between behavioral tendencies in people with Down syndrome and people with autism,” McKelvey said. “We’re trying to unite the efforts of multiple organizations with education about the causes for behaviors and approaches to treat them. For the first day we started with the genetic causes and ended that day with treatment interventions from a scientific standpoint.”

Leigh Anna Askins, another parent who attended Friday’s presentations, said the conference helped put her at ease.

“For the first time I felt my daughter was normal after hearing Dr. McGuire explain the behaviors of Down syndrome,” she said.  McGuire is a behavioral expert who now practices at the Linda Crnic Institute for Down syndrome in Denver.

 “When a parent feels empowered to help their child, it’s really significant,” McKelvey said. “Information with a strategy is what we are trying to bring.”

Saturday’s conference featured Peter Wright, a lawyer who has been practicing special education law for nearly four decades and is the co-author of several books including Wrightslaw: Special Education Law, Wrightslaw: From Emotions to Advocacy, Wrightslaw: No Child Left Behind, and Wrightslaw: IDEA 2004.

McKelvey is the director of Adult and Cancer Genetics Clinics and has taken care of people with Down syndrome at UAMS since 2003. UAMS’ Down syndrome service has become one of the leaders in the country for clinical care and research for people with Down syndrome. For more information visit www.facebook.com/uamsgenetics.

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