Autism Colloquia

Autism studies colloquia explore important autism-related topics in an informal setting. Past colloquia have included panel discussions of autism in popular culture, presentations of research-in-progress by autism studies faculty and fellows, and conversations about recent autism-related discoveries and publications. Members of the public, as well as the campus community, are welcome to attend.  For more information, contact Dr. Michael Waddell.

Upcoming colloquia

Due to the pandemic, our colloquia are not currently open to the public. We look forward to resuming public events when the pandemic subsides.

In the meantime, you can view recordings of previous colloquia on the Autism Studies YouTube channel.

Past colloquia

"Rooting Your Advocacy and Allyship in Autistic Experience"

Friday, March 25, 12:30pm–1:45pm
Spes Unica Hall, Room 145 (Saint Mary’s College)

In this colloquium, author, mother, and SMC alumna Jenna Gensic, MA, discussed things we should and should not do if we want to root our advocacy and allyship in autistic experience. Ms. Gensic is the author of What Your Child on the Spectrum Really Needs: Advice from 12 Autistic Adults and The #ActuallyAutistic Guide to Advocacy. She also runs the website

"Controversial Issues in Delivering Interventions to Young Children"

Friday, March 4, 12:30pm–1:45pm
Spes Unica Hall, Room 145 (Saint Mary’s College)

We want to use evidence-based interventions in our clinical work, but what, exactly, is the evidence base for the most common interventions used with young children on the spectrum? And how do we decide which intervention(s) to use in a specific case? In this colloquium, Dr. Connie Kasari discussed the quality and quantity of evidence supporting the efficacy of some of the most frequently used early interventions and elements of clinical decision-making that should be taken into account determining which interventions to use in a particular case. Dr. Kasari is Distinguished Professor of Human Development and Psychiatry at UCLA and the current president of the International Society for Autism Research (INSAR).


"Autism, Anxiety and Yoga"

Friday, Feb. 11, 12:30pm–1:45pm
Regina Hall, Room 025 (Saint Mary’s College)

There is a high co-occurrence of anxiety and autism. In this colloquium, local therapist and anxiety expert Dr. Margaret Jessop discussed the neuroscience of anxiety and ways in which yoga and other forms of exercise can help to alleviate the symptoms of anxiety. Dr. Jessop then led a yoga class that gave audience members an opportunity to practice yoga techniques that can be used to help manage anxiety. 

"Sexual Behavior, Functional Assessment, and Human Rights"

This was a two-part colloquium:
Part one: Friday, Jan. 31, 2020, 12:30pm–1:45pm
Part two: Friday, Feb. 14, 2020 12:30pm–1:45pm
Spes Unica Hall, Room 145 (Saint Mary’s College)

Often in our work as clinicians and caregivers, especially when we work with teens and young adults, we encounter individuals who engage in sexual behavior. In this two-part colloquium, Sorah Stein (MA, BCBA, CSE) addressed sexual behavior as behavior that can be assessed via functional behavior assessment and modified using functional replacement behavior strategies often implemented when addressing other challenging behaviors. Data following function-based interventions implemented was presented. Implications for functional assessment in instances of inappropriate sexual behavior was discussed. Additional discussion covered: defining sex and sexuality, recognizing sexuality and sexual expression as a basic human right, distinguishing developmentally appropriate sexual behavior from problematic sexual behavior, identifying multiple reasons inappropriate sexual behavior may occur, clarifying the ethics of addressing sexual behavior, and consent.

“Supporting Siblings of People with Developmental Disabilities: Advice from a Sib”

Wednesday, Jan. 15, 2020
Spes Unica Hall, Room 145 (Saint Mary’s College)

In this colloquium, Dr. Joshua John Diehl offered an account of sibling relationships in families of people with developmental disabilities, integrating research, clinical, and personal perspectives to provide a practical framework for supporting these important relationships. Dr. Diehl is a Faculty Fellow in the Master of Autism Studies program, Associate Editor of the Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, and Chief Program Officer for Child and Adolescent Services at LOGAN Community Resources, Inc. View a recording of this colloquium on the Autism Studies YouTube Channel.

“Anxious and Autistic? Relations between Anxiety and Repetitive Behavior in Autism and Down Syndrome”

Friday, October 18, 2019
Spes Unica Hall, Room 145 (Saint Mary’s College)

Most of our knowledge about the relationship between anxiety and repetitive behavior has been gained through studies of higher functioning individuals with autism spectrum disorder (ASD).  In this colloquium, Laura Simon discussed the existing knowledge about this relationship in ASD and recent research that suggests the presence of the relationship between anxiety and repetitive behavior in Down syndrome as well.  Laura Simon, MA, is a doctoral candidate in clinical psychology at The Ohio State University, and an alumna of Saint Mary's College (psychology and philosophy, '16). View a recording of this colloquium on the Autism Studies YouTube Channel.

“Biomechanics: A New Tool for Understanding Brain Development”

Monday, March 25, 2019
Spes Unica Hall, Room 145 (Saint Mary's College)

In this colloquium, Dr. Maria Holland discussed the complex interactions of biology and mechanics in development, and the tools that mechanical engineers and bioengineers use to study the developing brain. Across the spectrum of typical development and neurological disorders, this research offers new insights into the form and function of the brain, and how they came to be. Dr. Holland is Clare Boothe Luce Assistant Professor in the Department of Aerospace & Mechanical Engineering and the Bioengineering Graduate Program at the University of Notre Dame.

“Autism and Assisted Suicide: What's Happening in Europe and Why It Should Stop”

Friday, Nov. 30, 2018
Spes Unica Hall, Room 145 (Saint Mary’s College)

It is now well-documented—if not well-publicized on this side of the Atlantic—that people on the spectrum have died by euthanasia and assisted suicide in Belgium and the Netherlands. In this colloquium, Dr. Michael Waddell drew upon psychological and legal scholarship to examine ethical problems with euthanasia and assisted suicide for people on the spectrum. Responses were presented by Dr. Joshua John Diehl and Professor Carter Snead (University of Notre Dame Law School).

“Autism in Television and Film”

April 30, 2018
Duncan Student Center, Meeting Room 2 South (W210) (University of Notre Dame)

This colloquium was a panel discussion about ways in which autism and people on the spectrum are portrayed in television and film. Panelists included autism studies faculty and fellows: Dr. Susan Latham, Dr. Joshua Diehl, Dr. Nancy Turner, Dr. Juhi Kaboski, and Dr. Michael Waddell. Co-sponsored by Special Friends of Notre Dame and Saint Mary’s.

“Personhood, Identity, and the Autism Rights Movement: A Catholic View” 

September 15, 2016
Spes Unica 137 (Saint Mary’s College) 

In this colloquium, Dr. Michael Waddell shared research in progress that drew resources from the Catholic philosophical and theological traditions to address questions about autistic identity and the autism rights movement. Dr. Waddell previously presented this research in lectures at the University of Oxford and the University of Cambridge. Dr. Waddell is director of the Master of Autism Studies program and holder of the McMahon Aquinas Chair in Philosophy at Saint Mary’s College.