College Autism Summit 2023

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.

Call for Proposals

Deadline for Proposals: June 5, 2023

Notification of Acceptance: July 14, 2023

Please review this information to help you plan to submit your proposal.  The call for proposals will open on April 1, 2023, 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.
  • 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. 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.

Keynote Speaker and Panels


Poet and Speaker Robert Lehman, a young caucasian male with red hair, a goatee, and a red shirt.

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.

Sponsor to be named soon!

More information to come soon!

Summit Schedule

More information coming soon!

Pre-Conference Workshop

Wednesday, October 18, 2023

9 a.m. – 12 p.m. CT

Pre-registration is required. 

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

Image of Laurie Ackles

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

Laurie Ackles, Rochester Institute of Technology

About the Leader

Laurie Ackles, MSW, is Director of the Spectrum Support Program at Rochester Institute of Technology and a leading authority on college autism programs.

Hotel Information

Two hotels are offering discounted rates for Summit attendees beginning October 17 (arrival) through October 20 (departure). You must use the link here and book your rooms by the dates indicated. Both hotels are within half a mile of the Summit venue, and both offer shuttle service. A limited number of rooms are available at a reduced conference rate, so please book your accommodations early. Special rates are available until September 17.

Holiday Inn Nashville

Holiday Inn

(0.4 m from Student Life Center)

2613 West End Ave

Nashville, TN 37203

Rate:  $189/double (book by September 17 to be guaranteed group rate, if rooms remain available)

Booking Link Coming Soon!       


Nashville Marriott Front

Nashville Marriott at Vanderbilt University

(0.3 m from Student Life Center)

2525 West End Ave

Nashville, TN 37203

Rate:  $244/double (book by September 17 to be guaranteed group rate, if rooms remain available)

Booking Link Coming Soon!       

Other 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?

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



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!




Made with Padlet

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.

Click on the image below to learn more about our sponsorship levels!

An image of the 2023 sponsorship information PDF which links to PDF.

Information for Exhibitors

Would you like to share your organization’s work with Summit attendees? You can do that as an exhibitor. The exhibitor fee is $1000. Your fee will include:  

  • One free registration

  • Organization name listed in the program (paper and virtual)

  • Organization mentioned in an email to attendees

  • Exhibit space throughout the Summit (virtual and/or in-person).  Exhibit times will be Wednesday, October 18 2-5 p.m., Thursday, October 19th 8:30 a.m. – 5 p.m. and Friday, October 20, 8:30 a.m. until 12 pm..

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!

Frist Center Logo







Maps of the Venue

The address for the venue is

Vanderbilt University
Student Life Center
310 25th Ave. S.
Nashville TN 37240

Below you will find links to a variety of maps to help you navigate Vanderbilt’s campus, parking, and our venue the Student Life Center.

COVID Response

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

  • We ask that unvaccinated individuals do not attend the Summit.
  • We request that Summit attendees test no more than two days prior to arrival at the Summit, and if you are positive, that you do not attend.
  • While at the Summit, we ask that you abide by protocols we have in place at the time. These will include:
    • Masking during indoor sessions except while eating, drinking or presenting
    • Appropriate social distancing
    • Use of hand sanitizers and hand-washing
  • If you exhibit symptoms of Covid while at the Summit, we ask that you do not attend events, and that if possible, you test yourself.
  • If you test positive for Covid while at the Summit, we ask that you do not attend events and that you notify Summit staff about your test results.
  • If you test positive 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 during or immediately after the Summit, we will notify all attendees by email.

CAN Awards

Deadline for nominations:  June 15, 2023

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.

Submit Your Nominations Here!

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

Outstanding Researcher on Autism in Higher Ed - Kathleen Viezel

Outstanding Neurodiversity Workplace of the Year - Neurodiversity @ IBM

Outstanding Autism College Support Program - MOSAIC

CAN Contributor of the Year: Katie Tobin McDermott


The College Autism Summit is thankful for its large support from the Frist Center for Autism and Innovation at Vanderbilt University!

Frist Center Logo