Over 150 leading edge thinkers in the fields of autism, advocacy and technology gathered on Monday, May 8 at the Microsoft New England Research & Development (NERD) Center in Cambridge, MA to participate in the Massachusetts Advocates for Children’s (MAC’s) second annual Meeting of the Minds Forum. The event was organized by MAC’s Friends of the Autism Center and the Nancy Lurie Marks Family Foundation.

The forum featured Dr. Ann M. Graybiel, Principal Investigator at MIT’s McGovern Institute for Brain Research, as the keynote speaker. Dr. Graybiel spoke on the applicability of her brain research on habit formation to autism and possible behavior interventions and therapies. The audience also heard from Julia Landau, Esq., the Director of MAC’s Autism Center, about the leading edge policy work of MAC’s Autism Center project. Aimee Sprung, Civic Engagement Manager for Microsoft, also spoke about the company’s commitment to inclusive hiring.

The event brought together science and tech innovators, who connected and shared ideas with parents, providers, self-advocates, policy-makers, and others. A robust question and answer session after Dr. Graybiel’s talk helped start a conversation about the applicability of the science to attendees’ work and areas of interest. Dr. Graybiel’s enthusiasm and passion for her research lit up the MetterBoard with tweets, so much so that MAC’s official event hashtag #MofM17 was “trending!” Check it out here.

This was the second Meeting of the Minds forum hosted by MAC’s Friends of the Autism Center, designed to bring together leading edge thinkers in autism research, advocacy, and technology.  The Friends of the Autism Center organize events to raise awareness and financial support for MAC’s autism advocacy. The Autism Center is one of five advocacy projects of the Massachusetts Advocates for Children, whose mission, since 1969, has been to advocate for children who face barriers to educational opportunity, particularly those who have disabilities, are low income and/or are racially, culturally, or linguistically diverse.

Monday’s event was sponsored by Alternatives ABA, APEX Behavioral Consulting, New England ABA, One Visual Mind, Peer Projects-Therapy From the Heart, and NESCA. More information about MAC’s Autism Center and opportunities to get involved or support its work can be found at https://massadvocates.org/autism/

Check out an article on the event and co-emcees Brian and Ann Guay in the Bedford Citizen.

Photo credit: Tony Irving Photography