Community Services



Adventist University in Puerto Rico Hosts First Virtual Conference on Autism

The Antillean Adventist University (AAU) event drew hundreds of viewers throughout Puerto Rico.

Posted: February 16th, 2023

A virtual conference on the realities of children with autism was recently held. The online conference was part of a new certification program launched by Antillean Adventist University (AAU) in Mayagüez, Puerto Rico. The event, which was covered by media outlets across Puerto Rico, drew hundreds of viewers.

There’s a great need among families with children with autism, and it was important to provide awareness and expert advice during this conference, explained Dr. Ileanex Pérez, dean of the School of Humanities and Psychology at AAU and part of the organizing team of the virtual event.

A study done after the 2010 census in Puerto Rico revealed that 1 out of every 62 persons has autism, which totaled over 28,000 persons with autism on the island. Experts believe the number is higher today.

Dr. Manuel González Abreu, director of ABA (Applied Behavior Analysis) Autism Services at Beacon Health Options in Miami, Florida, spoke about children with autism and what is behind their behavior. “You have to alternate between easy activities for children with autism with difficult ones [and] explore different therapeutic techniques and learning techniques,” said Dr. González Abreu. “Use activities, preferably strategic ones, work with time duration of activities, and use motivating activities that the children can choose themselves.”

Like any other child, children with autism have desires and needs, too, said Abreu, “so behaviors occur because they serve a purpose for children with autism.” He emphasized that persons around the child play a crucial role in reinforcing the child’s behavior, whether appropriate or not.

Dr. Robert Turner, school psychologist in Miami Dade County, Florida, explained the particular characteristics of autism and the importance of helping children with autism acquire social skills needed to navigate through their day and for life as an adult. “The success for any student with autism will fall back on the support team and systems he or she received from early childhood into adult life,” said Dr. Turner.

The four-hour virtual conference concluded with a conversation among the two experts who offered tips and answered questions from viewers.

“We are glad to have begun this important conference that launched the new certification on autism,” said Dr. Pérez, indicating this is the only certification offered online on autism on the island and approved by both the Board of Post-Secondary Institutions of the Department of State and the Title II-A Program of the Department of Education Federal Affairs. The certification will continue every trimester for those registered and is recommended for graduates with an education degree as well as social workers and health professionals.

To learn more about Antillean Adventist University and its programs and certifications, visit

The original article was published on the Inter-American Division website