Conference to Explore Autism and the Arts in College

By | March 1, 2017
Dani Bowman

Dani Bowman

Autism advocate Dani Bowman, who founded an animation company at age 11, will be the featured speaker at a conference on educating students in visual and performing arts scheduled for March 23 at Daemen College.

“Autism and the Arts: Supporting Students in a Post-Secondary Studio Environment” will be held from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. in Daemen’s Wick Campus Center.

“This conference is an opportunity for college professionals to come together to hear from experts and colleagues on effective approaches and support needed in visual and performing arts programs for students on the autism spectrum,” said Dr. Kathleen Boone, associate vice president for academic affairs. “As educators, it is vital that we have the resources and accommodations in place to help students with autism be successful in their college experience.”

The one-day conference will open with a keynote address at 8:30 a.m. given by Bowman, an animation major at Woodbury College, who will talk about living with autism and the positive impact the arts have had on her life. Founder of DaniMation Entertainment, she is an award-winning animated filmmaker and animation teacher, and has been honored for her contributions to the autism community.

Conference sessions will include:

  • “Autism and Theater Discussion” from 9:40 to 11 a.m. – SUNY Buffalo State panelists will include Dr. Kathy Doody, assistant professor of exceptional education; Ann Emo, chair and associate professor of theater; Maureen Porter, lecturer of theater; Sumana Silverheels, technology accommodations coordinator; and Mary Lou Vaughan, director of the College Based Transition Program.
  • “Autism in the Fine Arts Studio: Student Transition to Creative Learning Spaces” from 11 a.m. to 12:20 p.m. – Daemen presenters will be Dr. Laura Watts, associate professor of visual and performing arts and co-director of the Studio Support Program, and Alyssa Crane, instructor of visual and performing arts and Studio Support Program life skills coach.
  • “Career Preparation and Readiness for Students With Autism in the Arts” from 1:40 to 3 p.m. – presenter will be Laurie Ackles, director of the Rochester Institute of Technology Spectrum Support Program.

Also, the following concurrent sessions will take place from 3 to 5 p.m.:

  • “Visual and Performing Arts Panel” will discuss art programs, best practices, and challenges. Moderator will be Dr. Laura Watts.
  • “Autism Program/Disability Services Discussion” will cover program designs, sharing resources, strategies, and best practices. Moderator will be Dr. Jane Thierfeld Brown, co-director of the College Autism Spectrum.

The conference is being sponsored by Daemen with generous support provided by The Peter and Elizabeth C. Tower Foundation. It is open to visual and performing arts faculty, college autism support program providers, college disability services staff, and college representatives interested in starting a support program for students with autism.

Registration is $55, which includes lunch. To register, go to

Additional information is available by contacting Jennifer Runco at or call 839-8228.