Early Bird!

Halifax, NS – April 16 & 17, 2020



In light of recent events with the evolution of the COVID-19 virus, Autism Awareness Centre will be cancelling the Halifax, NS conference on April 16 & 17th. Everyone’s health and safety are at the forefront of this decision.


Thursday, April 16

Dr. Cathy Pratt

Supporting Individuals on the Autism Spectrum with Co-occurring Mental Health Issues

Friday, April 17

Peter Vermeulen

Autism as Context Blindness

Conference Description

Thursday, April 16

Dr. Cathy Pratt

Supporting Individuals on the Autism Spectrum with Co-occurring Mental Health Issues

Individuals on the spectrum can present numerous challenges to the professionals and family members who support them. However, when an individual also has a mental health issue the support needs can be more complex and complicated.

Starting with an understanding and strategies for assessing behaviors, practical strategies will be presented that address the whole child, including the role of trauma and stress in a child’s life and how to promote self-regulation.

Dr. Cathy Pratt, BCBA-D, is the Director of the Indiana Resource Center for Autism located at the Indiana Institute on Disability and Community, Indiana’s University Center for Excellence in Disabilities.  Most recently, Dr. Pratt has become the director of the Indiana School Mental Health Initiative. Dr. Pratt serves on numerous Advisory Boards, including the Advisory Boards of Maap Services, Inc., the Temple Grandin/Eustacia Cutler Autism Fund, the Autism Society of Indiana and the College Internship Program.  In the past, she served on the Board of the National Autism Society and is a Past Chair. Dr. Pratt also serves on the Panel of Professional Advisors for the Autism Society. In addition, she is a member of the National Autism Leadership Collaboration. She also served as a member of the expert working group on services and as a member of the public review committee for the Research Roadmap of the Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee and in 2010 was invited to the White House to provide feedback on the president’s initiatives on autism spectrum disorders.

Dr. Pratt has been honored by the Autism Society with the Individual Achievement Award, with the 2005 Princeton Fellowship Award, and with various awards through NYFAC (New York Families for Autistic Children, Inc.), including recognition from the United States House of Representatives.  In 2008, Dr. Pratt was awarded with the Distinguished Service Award by the Indiana Council of Administrators of Special Education.

Dr. Pratt was the Shibles Distinguished Visiting Professor in the College of Education and Human Development at the University of Maine. In 2016, Dr. Pratt was awarded with the Charles Heineman Allied Professional Award through the Indiana Psychological Association.  She writes and presents internationally on the following topics: autism spectrum disorders, functional behavior assessment/positive behavior supports, applied behavior analysis, instructional approaches, evidence-based practices, systems change, and policy.

Friday, April 17

Peter Vermeulen

Autism as Context Blindness

Anyone wanting to support people with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) needs to understand how people on the spectrum perceive and understand the world. Anyone who wants to empathize with people with autism, should learn to see the world ‘through autistic glasses’. 

In this presentation, we will present a framework that helps us to gain a deeper understanding of the typical information processing style in ASD, which we have named context blindness. The concept of context blindness unifies the existing cognitive models in autism (theory of mind/extreme male brain, executive functioning, and central coherence) and it is embedded within the new findings in brain science about the predictive mind: the brain is not computing, but guessing and it makes its guesses based on contextual sensitivity; but most of all, the concept of context blindness offers a unique and practical understanding of autism. 

Difficulties understanding and using context can explain why communication, social interaction and (unpredictable) changes are so challenging for people with autism. We will explain the concept of context blindness in interaction with the audience and provide concrete examples and anecdotes. We will explain how a good understanding of the autistic mind is the cornerstone of autism friendliness and the first step in striving for Quality of Life and happiness for people with autism.

Detailed programme

Session 1: Why autism is like an iceberg and why a rabbit can also be a duck
• Understanding autism from within: the “outside” and the “inside” of autism spectrum disorders. Understanding the ‘why’ of autistic behaviors: the autistic information processing as the bridge between brain and behavior.
• The role of contextual sensitivity in the human brain: why context is pivotal in understanding the world around us. What is context, why do we need it and how do we use it? Experience your own contextual sensitivity!

Morning Break

Session 2: Why we don’t need faces to recognize emotions and why some people put a parrot on their head
• What if you miss the context? Autism spectrum disorders as Context Blindness.
• Consequences of context blindness on sense making and giving meaning to the world around us.
• Consequences of context blindness on social cognition (e.g. understanding emotions) and social interaction


Session 3: Why people never say what they mean, why you never know when later is and why even pictures can be confusing
• Consequences of context blindness on communication, both verbal and non-verbal.
• Context blindness as an explanation for the routines and rituals in ASD.

Afternoon Break

Session 4: Why pushing the context button is the cornerstone of autism friendliness
• Context Blindness: lessons for education and approaches in autism.
• How can we deal with context blindness? Autism friendly teaching style and communication: pushing the context button!
• Understanding autism from within as the key towards Quality of Life.

Learning objectives:

• Understanding that context blindness is the common pathway in the main cognitive deficits/differences associated with autism
• Identifying the role of context in social interaction, communication and flexibility in thoughts and actions
• Knowing what ‘pushing the context button’ means and how it is pivotal for creating an autism friendly environment
• Reflecting on the extent to which your own practice (teaching, therapy, ….) supports your clients/students in seeing and using context

Peter Vermeulen, MSc and PhD in Psychology and Educational Sciences, has worked with people with ASD and their families for more than 30 years. He is a Senior lecturer at Autisme Centraal, a training and education centre for autism spectrum disorders. Peter is an internationally respected lecturer/trainer and he presents all over Europe and beyond. Peter has written more than 15 books and several articles on autism. His books include, “This is the title: on autistic thinking” (2001), “I am Special: handbook for psycho-education” (2000, revised edition 2013), and “Autism as Context Blindness” (2012), a book than won several awards in the USA.

Tentative Daily Schedule

Thursday, April 16

Registration 7:30 am – 8:45 am
Opening Remarks 8:45 am – 9:00 am
Dr. Cathy Pratt 9:00 am – 10:30 am
Refreshment Break 10:30 am – 10:45 am
Dr. Cathy Pratt 10:45 am – 12:00 pm
Lunch on Own 12:00 pm – 1:15 pm
Dr. Cathy Pratt 1:15 pm – 2:30 pm
Refreshment Break 2:30 pm – 2:45 pm
Dr. Cathy Pratt 2:45 pm – 4:00 pm

Friday, April 17

Registration 8:00 am – 8:45 am
Opening Remarks 8:45 am – 9:00 am
Peter Vermeulen 9:00 am – 10:30 am
Refreshment Break 10:30 am – 10:45 am
Peter Vermeulen 10:45 am – 12:00 pm
Lunch on Own 12:00 pm – 1:15 pm
Peter Vermeulen 1:15 pm – 2:30 pm
Refreshment Break 2:30 pm – 2:45pm
Peter Vermeulen 2:45 pm – 4:00 pm




Professional Rates

BEFORE March 31, 2020 AFTER March 31, 2020
2 Days
$325.00 + $48.75 HST = $373.75 $355.00 + $53.25 HST = $408.25
1 Day Only $240.00 + $36.00 HST = $276.00 $270.00 + $40.50 HST = $310.50

Parent/Para-Professional Rates

BEFORE March 31, 2020 AFTER March 31, 2020
2 Days $285.00 + $42.75 HST = $327.75 $315.00 + $47.25 HST = $362.25
1 Day Only
$165.00 + $24.75 HST = $189.75 $195.00 + $29.25 HST = $224.25

Registration Includes

Sessions, session materials, refreshment breaks. If you do not receive a confirmation 7 business days prior to the conference please contact Autism Awareness Centre. Registrations received after the deadline may not be sent a confirmation before the conference.

General Information

Conference Location

Hotel Halifax
1990 Barrington Street, Scotia Square
Halifax, NS
B3J 1P2

2 double beds or 1 King bed – $139 per night

Hotel room rates are subject to applicable taxes and fees in effect at the time of check in (currently 15% HST and 2% Halifax Regional Municipality Marketing Levy).

Reservations can be made by directly with Hotel Halifax reservations at 1 (833) 357-8155 or (902) 425-6700 or by using the link below. Reservations by conference attendees must be received on or before March 15, 2020 to receive the conference rate.

Book your group rate for Autism Awareness Centre, Inc.

Certificates of Course Completion

Delegates will receive a certificate of course completion for 6 hours of training for each day of the conference.

Dress Code

Dress is business casual. Delegates are reminded that the room may be chilly at times and are encouraged to wear a sweater.

Meals, Refreshment Breaks

Delegates are on their own for lunch. Refreshment breaks will be served in the mid-morning and mid-afternoon.

Cancellation Policy

Cancellations must be in writing and received prior to March 31, 2020. There will be a $50 administration fee applied to all cancellations until March 31, 2020. No refunds will be given after March 31, 2020 for any reason such as inclement weather, illness, injury or unforeseen circumstances.  You may substitute someone in your place.


Valet parking – $29.00 plus tax daily
Self-parking in Scotia Square – $24.00 plus tax daily


The Autism Awareness Centre Bookstore will be open throughout the conference.



Download the Halifax Conference Flyer »


Download the Halifax Conference Brochure »

Autism Awareness Centre Inc.

To Register by Phone or Email
Or For Books and Resources:

Maureen Bennie:

Phone: 403-640-2710
Toll Free: 1-866-724-2224

To Display a Product or Service at an AACI Event

Maureen Bennie:

Phone: 403-640-2710