Registration for the College Autism Summit is now CLOSED. Please watch the College Autism Network website for more details about the 2024 Summit.

The College Autism Summit brings together scholars, practitioners, administrators, employers, and self- advocates to discuss evidence-driven strategies that help support college students with autism and related learning differences.
October 18-20, 2023, Vanderbilt University, Nashville, TN

Join us for an in-person event! We are offering a preconference workshop on building or improving a program, over 30 general sessions, excellent major speakers, and too many networking opportunities to count. More info below.

Finding a Balance

In every aspect of our work, seeking the appropriate balance of sometimes-competing factors is essential to excellent work and a healthy life. The 2023 Summit encourages speakers, presenters, exhibitors and attendees to consider how to find the balance between:

  • Research and practice
  • Inclusion and rigor
  • Individual and community interests
  • How it’s been done and what might work better
  • What is needed and what is desired

In our work, we walk many fine lines between competing priorities. The Summit will be a place to reflect, consider, and pursue appropriate balances to improve our commitment to supporting neurodiversity on campuses and in the workplace.

We look forward to the collaboration and discussion across self-advocates, program directors, employers and other stakeholders.

Please be on the lookout for guidance on the process and focus areas for program proposals. The call for proposals will open on April 1.

CAN Supporting Tennessee Equality Project

We know you may have concerns about attending an event held in Tennessee, or at Vanderbilt University, based on events of the past few months, specifically the passage of anti-trans legislation. CAN is supportive of those individuals and groups in Tennessee who are working to eradicate transphobic and homophobic beliefs and activities. We will donate a portion of the Summit’s net revenue to the Tennessee Equality Project.

Maps of the Venue

The address for the venue is

Vanderbilt UniversityStudent Life Center310 25th Ave. S.Nashville TN 37240Below you will find links to a variety of maps to help you navigate Vanderbilt’s campus, parking, and our venue the Student Life Center.

Keynote Speaker and Panels


Russell Lehmann

Speaker & Poet on Autism, Mental Health…Life!
Wednesday, October 18, 2023, 1:00 p.m.

Russell Lehmann is an award-winning and internationally recognized thought leader, speaker, poet, and advocate contextualizing autism, mental health, disabilities, and the overall human condition. His words have been featured in the USA Today, LA Times, NPR, Yahoo! News, Success Magazine and archived in the Library of Congress.

A graduate of MIT’s “Leadership in the Digital Age” course, Russell sits on numerous boards such as the national Board of Directors for The Arc of the United States and is a lead council member for the Autism Society of America. He also serves as an advisor to NEXT for Autism and is a consultant for the US Department of Justice, restructuring our criminal justice system in a more equitable fashion for those with disabilities.

Additionally, Russell has been the Youth Ambassador for the mayor of Reno, Nevada, and a member of the Nevada Governor’s Council on Developmental Disabilities as well as the Nevada Commission on Autism Spectrum Disorders. Russell is also a contributor for Psychology Today.

Russell showed signs of autism as a newborn, however, he was not formally diagnosed until the age of 12 after suffering through 5 weeks in a lockdown psychiatric facility.

His new book, “On the Outside Looking In” recently hit bookstores nationwide.

In 2018, Russell was named as Reno-Tahoe’s “Most Outstanding Young Professional Under 40”.

In 2019 & 2020, Russell lectured for the prestigious King’s College of London and the Mohammed bin Rashid Center for Special Education in Abu Dhabi, respectively. In 2022, Russell was invited to the Finnish Parliament to discuss government supports that are needed in Finland for individuals on the spectrum.

Named the 2022 Advocate of the Year by the Autism Society of America, Russell currently travels the world spreading hope, awareness, and compassion in a raw and dynamic fashion, while also setting his sights on erasing the stigmas and stereotypes that come with having a disability. Russell’s passion is to be a voice for the unheard, for he knows how difficult and frustrating it is to go unnoticed.

This keynote is sponsored by:

Workshops & Preconference Session

Wednesday, October 18, 2023

9 a.m. – 12 p.m. CT


Additional fee: $75

You must register for the Summit to attend a pre-conference workshop.

Limited to 50 participants.

Building, Expanding or Improving a College Program for Students with Autism

About the Workshop

Many colleges, universities and programs for students with autism are looking for unique ways to provide supports. This preconference workshop will assist participants in planning creative supports using examples from around the country. Topics will include: establishing a campus wide response; options for developing a mentoring program; the importance of keeping a career ready focus, and using key performance indicators to evaluate program effectiveness and improve existing supports. The presenter will address many of the above issues, and more.

Led by

Amy Rutherford, University of Tennessee – Chattanooga

Jane Thierfeld-Brown, Yale Medical School and College Autism Spectrum

About the Leaders

Amy Rutherford

Amy Rutherford currently serves as the director of the Mosaic Program at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. Founded in 2008 the program currently serves approximately 60 autistic students annually. She co-authored The BASICS College Curriculum, a four-book series based on curriculum for autistic college students as they transition in to and out of college. She is a co-founder of Navigate U and a consultant with many universities and businesses where she specializes in creating autism programming and neurodiversity hiring initiatives. She has participated in a variety of program evaluations, am proficient in project management and love supporting study abroad possibilities for students. Her research focuses on autism and neurodiversity in higher education and mental health services, Universal Design and Leadership Studies. She is a Licensed Professional Counselor servicing the Chattanooga area through private practice. She currently serves on the Board of Directors for Warrior Freedom Dogs, a non-profit that pairs service animals with combat veterans as they transition back to civilian life.

Jane Thierfeld-Brown

Jane Thierfeld Brown is Assistant Clinical Professor at Yale Child Study, Yale Medical School, Director of College Autism Spectrum and former Director of Student Services at the University of Connecticut School of Law. She has worked in Disability Services for 39 years. She holds an Ed.D from Columbia University, Teachers College. Dr. Brown consults with many families, students, school districts and institutions of higher education. Dr. Brown has appeared on Good Morning America, CBS News and NPR. She has co- authored “ Student with Asperger’s: A Guide for College Professionals,” (2009) “The Parent’s Guide to College for Students on the Autism Spectrum,” (2012) and “Behavior Management and Self-Regulation,” (2012) along with many textbook chapters and articles. Dr. Brown is married and has three children, the youngest being a 26 year old son with Autism.

Program Directors/Leaders Networking Breakfast

Wednesday, October 18, 2023

9 a.m. – 11:45 a.m. CT


Additional fee: $25

You must register for the Summit to attend the networking breakfast.

If yoWhether you are the leader of an existing program or initiative on your campus, please join your colleagues for a special breakfast and workshop.

The College Autism Summit is hosting a specialized opportunity for program directors to:

  1. Connect with each other based on strength and growth areas
  2. Problem-solve key barriers to student achievement
  3. Explore and develop resources to meet campus demands

This event is designed to be fun, while also taking advantage of the vast knowledge available in the room. Come and enjoy the company of your fellow program directors, and you will leave with additional knowledge and resources to support your students. Breakfast will be provided to all attendees. More information is forthcoming. We look forward to seeing you there!

Land Acknowledgment

We collectively acknowledge that Vanderbilt University occupies the ancestral hunting and traditional Lands of the Cherokee, Shawnee, Choctaw, Chickasaw, and Creek peoples. We recognize, support, and advocate for the Indigenous individuals and communities who live here now, and for those forcibly removed from their Homelands. By offering this Land Acknowledgement, we affirm Indigenous sovereignty. We gratefully acknowledge the Native Peoples on whose ancestral homelands we gather, as well as the diverse and vibrant Native communities who make their home here today.

Health and Safety Notice

We are doing our best to stay up to date on current CDC and state guidelines regarding COVID and similar illnesses. These are our current requests and plans:

  • Please familiarize yourself with CDC guidelines about current vaccination options.
  • If you live in an area experiencing an outbreak of Covid or other contagious illnesses and are experiencing any kind of symptoms, we encourage you to test prior to traveling and, if positive, to stay at home.
  • While at the Summit, we encourage you to practice good personal hygiene by washing your hands regularly and using hand sanitizer.
  • If you prefer to wear a mask, please do! And if others are wearing masks, please respect their choice to do so.
  • If you exhibit symptoms of a contagious illness while at the Summit, we ask that you do not attend events, and encourage you to test yourself.
  • If you test positive for a contagious illness while at the Summit, we ask that you not attend events and that you notify Summit staff about your test results.
  • If you test positive for a significant contagious illness (COVID, RSV) after the Summit, within five days of returning from the Summit, we ask that you notify Summit staff immediately.

Should we receive information that a Summit attendee has tested positive for COVID or a serious contagious illness during or immediately after the Summit, we will notify all attendees by email.

Planning Committee


Program Co-chair Amy Radochonski Vice President of Programming, College Living Experience
Program Co-chair Cherie Fishbaugh Director of Autism Services, West Chester University of Pennsylvania
Logistics Chair Brittany Jackson Online Learning Manager, Hiram College
Marketing and Communications Chair Bridget McElroy Employment Strategist, Neurodiversity in the Workplace
Marketing and Communications Kelsey Roberson Intern, College Autism Network
Student Engagement Co-chair John Caldora Disability Accommodations Consultant, University of Kentucky
Student Engagement Co-chair Helen Rottier Ph.D. candidate, University of Illinois-Chicago
Research Initiative Chair Brett Ranon Nachman Assistant Professor, University of Arkansas; Director of Research, College Autism Network
Networking Co-chair Megan Davis Assistant Professor and Director of UA-ACTS Program, University of Alabama
Networking Co-chair Lindsay Hill Ability Access Specialist, Michigan State University
Program Promotion Co-chair Katie Tobin McDermott Transition Coach/Student Support Specialist, McDermott Autism Services
Program Promotion Co-chair Tamara Miller-Leeper Clinical Instructor, Indiana University of Pennsylvania
Continuing Education Co-chair Emily Raclaw Director, On Your Marq, Marquette University
Continuing Education Co-chair Jill Fahy Associate Professor, Director, STEP Program, Eastern Illinois University

Research Planning Committee

Jess Monahan University of Delaware
Jodi Duke George Mason University
Karen Krainz Edison The Ohio State University
Carol Rogers-Shaw University of Dayton
Lauren Lestramau Allen SUNY Empire State College

Why Sponsor?

Sponsorships are an ideal way for organizations, companies, and individuals to demonstrate their support of the Summit and their commitment to empowering autistic students in higher education. The Summit and the College Autism Network have achieved a wide reach among scholars, practitioners, employers, and self-advocates across the world.

Our sponsors’ generous support allows the College Autism Network to organize the annual Summit, develop training materials, distribute our newsletter, and maintain a website that has received tens of thousands of views.

Your sponsorship helps us support autistic college students across the globe.

Thank you to our current sponsors!

A Very Special Thank You to the Frist Center for Autism and Innovation at Vanderbilt University for all its support for the College Autism Network and the College Autism Summit!

Our exhibitor space is now full. If you are still interested in sponsoring and attending the Summit, please contact Summit Coordinator Lee Williams directly.


Begin networking before the conference even begins! Continue to network throughout the conference! Carry on conversations and connections even after the conference has ended! Need additional categories added? Reach out to College Autism Summit Logistics Committee Chair, Dr. Brittany Jackson, with the category you would like to add!

Summit Student Experience

Students: Join us at the Summit!

Undergraduate students who want to attend the Summit can register at the $65 student rate. For more information about being part of the Summit Student Experience, contact Helen ( with questions.

What is the Summit Student Experience?

This year, the College Autism Summit will feature the inaugural Summit Student Experience, an opportunity for autistic and neurodivergent students to attend the Summit, learn about the College Autism Network, and share their perspectives on “Finding A Balance” in college autism research and practice alongside their peers from other campuses. CAN hopes to encourage the next generation of college autism professionals and researchers through this program.

The Summit Student Experience begins on Wednesday, October 18 with a morning preconference session focused on advocacy, leveraging lived experience/expertise, and networking. Students will learn and practice skills that will benefit them throughout the Summit and beyond, especially in sharing their story and building connections.

Following the preconference, student attendees will join the larger conference attendance for lunch and the opening keynote featuring Russell Lehmann. Lehmann is a poet, author, and advocate on autism and mental health. Lehmann has agreed to host an exclusive roundtable with student attendees following the keynote session.

Student attendees will also have the opportunity to present to all conference attendees during the student plenary session on the morning of Thursday, October 19. Here, students will be able to inform the present college autism landscape by addressing researchers, educators, and other professionals with their experiences and recommendations.

The Summit Student Experience is generously sponsored by:

Hotel Information

Hotel Options Within Walking Distance

These hotels are not offering discounts for College Autism Summit attendees, but are within walking distance of the Vanderbilt University Student Life Center.

Looking for a Roommate?

College Autism Summit CAN Award Winners of 2023

The deadline for the CAN Award nominations has now passed!

Recipients will be notified by August 15, 2023

In order to recognize the outstanding work being done by our colleagues, the College Autism Network seeks nominations for our annual College Autism Network Excellence in Autism Practice and Research Awards. Nominations may be submitted by colleagues, though self-nominations will also be accepted. Recipients will be recognized at the 2023 College Autism Summit

The Awards

Outstanding Autism Support Program

This award is given to a campus-based support program or initiative that has demonstrated excellence in implementation of evidence-guided practices. These may include some or all of the following:

  • Individual practices, clusters or combination of activities
  • Programs or initiatives that focus on autistic students directly, neurotypical students/peers or faculty/staff in relation to autistic students, or relevant to/about other key stakeholders
  • Program may be longstanding or newly-created
  • Program may be implemented by campus-based units, departments, or other programs, or may be initiated by independent entities that focus on college students and the higher education setting

Outstanding Neurodiversity Workplace Initiative

This award is given to an employer who has established a workplace initiative that recruits and supports autistic and other neurodivergent employees and encourages professional growth and advancement. These may include some or all of the following:

  • Support of, and connection to, campus resources and initiatives
  • Effective recruiting of neurodivergent applicants
  • Outreach and education to all employees about neurodiversity
  • Initiatives, policies and processes that demonstrate ongoing support of, and attention to, neurodivergent employees in their professional growth and advancement

Outstanding Research on Autism in Higher Education

This award is given to an individual (or research team) who has, in the previous year (2022-23), produced original scholarship advancing research, policy, and/or practice in ways that facilitate college success for autistic students. Such scholarship may include any/all of the following:

  • Journal articles
  • Project reports
  • Books
  • Research briefs

CAN Contributor of the Year

This award is given to an individual whose contributions to the College Autism Network, its members, and its mission, have been outstanding during the previous year. Contributions may include:

  • Presentations at College Autism Summit or other event
  • Consultations with other campuses
  • Contributions to CAN’s mission to support autistic college students and the professionals who work with them
  • Engagement and/or service in CAN programming, including CANVAS, Program Director Calls, Summit planning
  • April 15: Call for nominations
  • June 15: Deadline
  • Aug 1: Winners selected
  • Aug 15: Winners notified
  • Oct 18-20: College Autism Summit, Nashville, TN

Check out our 2022 CAN Award Winners

Call for Proposals is Now Closed

Deadline for Proposals: June 5, 2023, 11:59 PM PT

Notification of Acceptance: July 14, 2023

Please review this information to help you plan to submit your proposal. The call for proposals is now open, so check back then for more information!

To submit a proposal, you will need the following:

  • General Presenter Information
    • Name and contact information of presenter(s)
    • Does your presentation include a neurodivergent student presenter? (*Note: Priority is provided to neurodivergent student presenters)
  • General Program Information
    • Program title
    • 150-word abstract (this will appear in the program)
    • 300-word description of the program to be used in the review process. All programs will have 45-minute time slots.
    • Please include the following in this description:
      • How will you present? Type of program (lecture, panel (include participant names or roles), interactive discussion, etc)
      • Why are you presenting? Foundation/evidence/theory/model/history guiding the content. Examples include “After five years of using this model;” or “A recent program evaluation;” or “This topic has been a frequent source of discussion.”
      • What will you present? Primary or most significant content
      • How can you enhance your attendees’ experience? Strategy(ies) to make the session engaging
      • Up to 3 learning objectives for the program and a plan for implementation of each
    • Type of Sessions
      • 45-minute breakout session, including the type of session it will include
        • Lecture: Provide information on the content and offer the opportunity for Q&A (*Note: Presentations that primarily provide an overview of a campus autism support program are being redirected to the poster session and other networking events)
        • Discussion: Provide ample opportunities for engagement on a specific topic. These sessions place an emphasis on attendee participation in the form of a panel, brainstorming opportunity, and/or small group activity
        • Research: Content that involves the collection and analysis of data. Eligible proposals for the research/evaluation category include any of the following types of data: interviews, surveys, observations, written reflections, datasets, documents, photovoice, etc.
      • Poster session
        • Research: Share an overview of the outcomes of your current research.
        • Program Model: Opportunity to give an overview of the program structure at your university

Pertinent Presentation Topics to Consider Include:

Focus Areas Descriptors
Student Experiences & Wellness
  • Intersectionality
  • Heath, wellness, fitness
  • Relationships – social connections, romantic relationships
  • Online Safety
  • School/work/life balance
  • Disclosure
  • Masking
Campus Resources
  • Autism friendly campuses
  • Campus training/outreach
  • Implementation of research-based practices
  • Curriculum innovation and implementation
  • Culture change on your campus or in the workplace
  • Assessments, evaluations, outcomes
Professional Development & Employment
  • Hiring initiatives
  • Professional development for employment
  • Onboarding and supervision
  • Networking (education/job seekers/employers/providers)

By submitting your proposal, you are agreeing to the following:

  • All presenters must register, as a paid attendee, for the conference. If you are unable to pay the registration fee due to financial hardship, please contact Lee Williams for attendee scholarship information.
  • A program, if accepted, could be scheduled anytime between Wednesday, October 18, 2023 at 1 p.m. CT through Friday, October 20, 2023 at noon, CT.
  • To promote shared resources and provide a session that benefits all learners, we ask each presenter to commit to submissions of any documents that are relevant to the presentation including PowerPoint presentation, apps, one-page summary sheets, and/or videos, which must be provided to the College Autism Summit Planning Committee by October 1, 2023. These materials will be posted on the conference platform for participant download. Additional material may be shared during the session, but submitting material in advance makes it more accessible to diverse learners.
  • Any videos shown during presentations must be captioned. Video captioning is the responsibility of the presenter.
  • It is the presenter’s responsibility to assure they have proper permission to use/display all text, recordings and images used in the presentation.
  • Presenters must verbally describe any visual aids used during a session.
  • Presenters agree that the proposal summary and/or learning goals may be edited for space and clarity when added to the Summit schedule/platform.

The proposal Deadline is June 5 at midnight (PT). Notification of acceptance will be on or about July 14.

Thank you for your interest & contributions to the 2023 College Autism Summit! We look forward to seeing you there.

Registration is Now Closed

Please watch our website for information about our 2024 Summit next fall!