College Autism Summit 2021

October 26 – 29, 2021


College Autism Summit Logo: The Power of Connection

The College Autism Summit, sponsored by the College Autism Network, 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. Transition to college, experience while in college, and transition to employment and independent living are all areas of focus.

The College Autism Summit is offered by the College Autism Network in partnership with the Frist Center for Autism and Innovation at Vanderbilt University.

Deadline for registration is

midnight, October 22.

Learn More About our Pre-Conference Research Symposium Titled Taking Care of You: A Research Symposium on Mental Health and Autism

Image: Taking Care of You: A Research Symposium on Mental Health and Autism

Tuesday, October 26th

1 p.m. – 5 p.m.

Ever more reliant on digital devices in the technological world we occupy, many of us can reach out to a colleague halfway around the world with the click of a button. Our capacity to connect and to build new relationships is easy.  However, we may also be feeling more isolated, siloed by the physical and metaphorical walls that divide us.
We must ask ourselves: what does true connection look like? And, more importantly, how do we find, build, maintain, and grow connections across our distinct programs, roles, responsibilities, learning spaces, and frames of knowledge? At our fifth College Autism Summit we encourage you to be guided by the theme of connection and to explore this term in our collective work to better learn from, and alongside, autistic college students. Among the questions that may inform your proposals are the following:

  • How can researchers build trust and connection with autistic college students?
  • How can autism program directors form connections with other major campus leaders who may lack autism awareness or acceptance?
  • How can educators manage community and connection across autistic college students in digital settings?
  • How can autistic college students develop the necessary tools to make connections with peers?
  • How can college staff members (e.g., counselors, advisors) connect with employers to serve autistic college students in their professional pursuits?
  • How can employers establish connections and mentoring relationships across autistic employees?
We invite you to be our (virtual) guests this October as you share your work that helps leverage networks in this increasingly intertwined society, and to submit proposals that imagine the possibilities and power of connection!

Keynote Speakers

Lydia X. Z. Brown

Lydia X. Z. Brown

Advocate, Educator, & Attorney

October 26, 2021, 6 p.m. ET

Lydia X. Z. Brown is an advocate, educator, and attorney addressing state and interpersonal violence targeting disabled people living at the intersections of race, class, gender, sexuality, faith, language, and nation. Lydia is Policy Counsel for Privacy & Data at the Center for Democracy & Technology, focused on algorithmic discrimination and disability, as well as Director of Policy, Advocacy, & External Affairs at the Autistic Women & Nonbinary Network. They are founding director of the Fund for Community Reparations for Autistic People of Color’s Interdependence, Survival, & Empowerment. Lydia is adjunct lecturer/core faculty in Georgetown University’s Disability Studies Program, and adjunct professorial lecturer in American Studies at American University’s Department of Critical Race, Gender, & Culture Studies. They serve as a commissioner on the American Bar Association’s Commission on Disability Rights, chairperson of the ABA Civil Rights & Social Justice Section’s Disability Rights Committee, board co-chair of the Disability Rights Bar Association, and representative for the Disability Justice Committee to the National Lawyers Guild’s National Executive Committee. Lydia is currently creating their own tarot deck, Disability Justice Wisdom Tarot.  Often, their most important work has no title, job description, or funding, and probably never will.

Learn more about their keynote.

Daniel James (DJ) Savarese

Daniel James (DJ) Savarese

Artful Activist, Public Scholar, & Poet

October 29, 2021, 12 p.m. ET

David James “DJ” Savarese ( is an artful activist, public scholar, and practicing optimist. He is the co-producer, narrative commentator, subject, and poet of the Peabody award-winning documentary Deej: Inclusion Shouldn’t Be a Lottery and founded Listen2Us: Writing Our Own Futures as an Open Society Foundation Human Rights Initiative Youth Fellow. As Co-Chair of the Alliance for Citizen Directed Support, he is designing and fundraising for the Lives in Progress project, an online map and database that documents dis/Abled self-advocates’ experiences, and offers the tools, resources, community and mentorship necessary to pursue meaningful, self-directed lives. His publications include a chapbook, A Doorknob for the Eye; a “Notable” Best American Essay, “Passive Plants;” an insight piece, “Coming to My Senses;” and numerous poems in various literary journals. Forthcoming publications in 2021-22 include an auto-ethnographic study, “Unearthing the Tools (and Concepts) That Bury Us;” a co-authored essay on life-writing across genres, “Enmeshing Selves, Words and Media, or Two Life Writers in One Family Talk about Art and Disability,” and a multiply-authored chapbook, Studies in Brotherly Love (PromptPress). He also teaches and presents nationally on a range of topics. Before moving to Iowa City, he graduated from Oberlin College ’17 with a double major in Anthropology and Creative Writing. 

Learn more about their keynote.


Who is the Summit for?

The Summit is for:

  • Professionals working in campus-based or independent programs that support students with autism;

  • Scholars whose research focuses on students with autism and their college experience;
  • Professionals who work with students with autism as coaches, employers, employment advisors, and advocates;
  • College students and alumni with autism who wish to contribute to conversations and learning related to autism on campus
  • Families and parents of future or current college students with autism

This year’s Summit will be a virtual event, held October 26 – 29, 2021. Bookmark this site and check back for more information. 

The College Autism Network logo
The Frist Center for Autism and Innovation logo