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Chico State

Temple Grandin Highlights Chico State’s 2024 Northern California Neurodiversity and Disability Symposium

Portrait of Temple Grandin
Photo courtesy of Rosalie Winard

Already regarded as a statewide leader in neurodiversity education and community services, Chico State will bring some recognizable names in the field to campus next year.

On Friday, February 2, 2024, Professional & Continuing Education will host its annual Northern California Neurodiversity and Disability Symposium, a full day of education, engagement and enlightenment, and one of the only events like it in the state. The symposium will take place in Colusa Hall and feature keynote speaker and world-renowned autism advocate Temple Grandin.

An expert in both animal welfare and autism, Grandin rose to fame in the autism community as one of the first individuals with autism to share their experiences and perspectives publicly. She has a unique ability to express an “inside narrative” of the autistic experience. Grandin has taught at Colorado State University in its College of Agriculture since 1990 and is a past member of the board of directors of the Autism Society of America.

A plenary session, “Life After 18,” will be presented by Abbey Romeo and her mother Christine Romeo. Abbey is widely known as a musician, vocalist and autism advocate and was featured on the Netflix series “Love on the Spectrum.”

Heather Quilici, Professional & Continuing Education’s professional programs coordinator and symposium co-founder, said that hosting such identifiable names that cover a wide range of disability perspectives and engagement is truly exciting.

“When we created the symposium in 2017, our aim was to help bring the community together, share resources, and foster conversation and collaboration,” she said. “With each year’s events, the campus has come closer together around support and inclusion for our neurodiverse students, faculty and staff.”

Josie Blagrave, faculty in the Kinesiology Department and co-founder of the Neurodiversity and Disability Symposium, said that while Chico State students learn through robust adapted physical education programs like the Autism Clinic, which serves Butte County residents, the Neurodiversity and Disability Symposium is for the wider community.

The symposium’s content is designed for a wide range of interests and participants, including psychologists, social workers and educators to school counselors, behavioral health professionals and high school and higher education students studying in these areas, and particularly caregivers and parents.

“Chico State, in particular the office of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion, has partnered with the Neurodiversity Taskforce to support guest speakers, neurodiversity book clubs and other special events. For example, in the last year, Chico State students have established the first Neurodiversity Student Club and they are very active and engaged,” Blagrave noted. “This symposium is a chance to celebrate the work we’ve done and see where we need to keep pushing to move access and equity forward for our neurodiverse and disabled students.”

Registration is now open, with varied price points:

Event check-in begins at 7:30 a.m. and after a welcome address by Chico State President Steve Perez at 8 a.m., concurrent sessions will get underway at 8:30 a.m., “Sex Education and Disability” and “Employment Panel.”

A pair of concurrent sessions will take place again at 11:45 a.m., with a Q&A session with Abbey and Christine as well as the session, “Building College Connections.”

After a 1 p.m. lunch break, Grandin will begin her keynote, “Great Minds Don’t Always Think Alike,” at 2:25 p.m. Grandin, an author of more than 20 books, will also discuss her newest book, “Visual Thinking.” The day closes with a reception and book signing from 3:30 to 4 p.m.

Those who require accommodations to attend the Neurodiversity and Disability Symposium or who have questions about accessibility may contact the Accessibility Resource Center at 530-898-5959.