Autism: Education & Equity - A Virtual Public Health Discussion

The Pima County Health Department, in partnership with the Autism Society of Southern Arizona, hosted an online discussion titled Autism: Education & Equity -- A Public Health Discussion on June 22, 2021.

The 2021 virtual conference highlighted the department’s efforts to bring attention to autism resources and knowledge to create more equitable environments, services and workspaces in Pima County.

This conference helped allowed the Health Department to align priorities and leverage resources with identified partners to ensure that its work supports autistic populations and the community at large.

2021 program

Health Department logo


Kristin King, Pima County Health Department
Dr. Theresa Cullen, Director of Pima County Health Department
Kathy Hoffman, Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction

Introduction to Autism

Kristin King, Pima County Health Department;
Brie Seward, Autism Society of Southern Arizona

ASSA logo

Parents panel

Dustin Williams, Pima County School Superintendent; Brie Seward, Executive Director of the Autism Society of Southern Arizona; Maxine Mathews, Information & Referral Specialist for the Autism Society of Southern Arizona; Rosario Huerta, Clinical Manager, M.Ed., MSC, LPC-S

K-12 Student Experience

Emma Brewer, University of Arizona; Rosanna Kataja, Autistic advocate, Harvard College; Aiden Shivanonda, Intermountain Academy; Brandon Joseph Martinez, Pima County Young Democrats Task Force

Autism in the Workplace

Hannah Woelke, Information & Resources Coordinator, Direct Advocacy & Resource Center

A Personal Story

Nina Jensen, Autistic Advocate, Danish Royal Portraitist, Harvard College

Sincerely, Your Autistic Child

Sharon daVanport, Executive Director Autistic Women and Nonbinary Network; Morénike Giwa-Onaiwu, Autistic Women and Nonbinary Network; Lydia X. Z. Brown, Director of Policy, Advocacy & External Affairs, Autistic Women and Nonbinary Network

Disability Law

Renaldo Fowler, Senior Staff Advocate Arizona Center for Disability Law

Autism Data Collection in Arizona

Dr. Sydney Pettygrove, University of Arizona, CDC ADDM Network

There is Resilience Above Trauma & Autism

Dr. Da’Mond Holt, Tucson Urban League

Autistic & Teaching: My Experience as an Autistic Teacher of Autistic Students

Lauren Melissa Ellzey, MSLIS: Autistic Advocate, Instructional Support Specialist

Autism in College: Higher Education and the Needs of Autistic Students

Josh Anbar, DrPH, MPH, Research Associate at Southwest Autism Research & Resource Center (SARRC)

Existing Disability Work in Pima County

Dr. Theresa A. Cullen, Pima County Public Health Director

Pima County Schools

Dustin Williams, Pima County Schools Superintendent

Existing Community Resources

Brie Seward, Autism Society of Southern Arizona (ASSA); Josh Anbar, Southwest Autism Research & Resource Center (SARRC)

Disability Policy

Will Humble, MPH, Executive Director, Arizona Public Health Association; Erica McFadden, Executive Director, Arizona Developmental Disabilities Planning Council

Autism & Acceptance

Chris Banks, CEO & President Autism Society of America


Lauren Melissa Ellzey, MSLIS: Autistic Advocate, Instructional Support Specialist

Wrap up and Thank You

Kristin King, Pima County Health Department


Autistic individuals face health equity issues relating to job access, educational opportunities, housing, healthcare, and more.

The CDC reported in 2020 that about one in 54 children in the U.S. were diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder. Due to inequities in treatment access, teens with autism receive healthcare transition services half as often as those with other special healthcare needs according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. Additionally, internationally-renowned autism researcher Dr. Brenda Smith Myles, University of Kansas, reported that only 12 percent of autistic adults had full-time employment.

Fostering understanding and support for these communities is vital for the overall health of the Pima County community. The conference will create space for collaboration between Pima County community stakeholders and autistic individuals and encourage further commitment by Arizona-based entities to long-term and sustainable solutions in autism education and resource creation.

The conference will also serve as a platform to inform county residents about autism through the lens of public health to increase awareness and provide multi-sectional stakeholders and community members with the tools to create positive environments and change.

While we recommend professional diagnosis and urge you to connect with your primary care physician if you or someone you know suspect you may have autism, the following screening tool may be helpful for you. Again, this is not a diagnostic tool. Link:

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