Annual MIND Summer Institute program a major success (video)

Virtual event focused on mental health for individuals with neurodevelopmental conditions

This video is best viewed in Chrome, Firefox or Safari.

Every year, the Center of Excellence in Developmental Disabilities at the UC Davis MIND Institute offers the Summer Institute. It’s typically an in-person event that attracts about 300 people. This year’s, held Aug. 6, was the second virtual event, due to COVID-19. Over 800 people registered for the interactive webinar, a learning program that brought together experts, family members, self-advocates and caregivers.

A focus on mental health

This year’s Summer Institute, “Insights on the Complexities of Mental Health and Disability,” featured a keynote presentation by Judy Reaven of the University of Colorado. Reaven discussed methods for supporting the mental health of children and adolescents with autism and neurodevelopmental conditions.

“The Olympics has highlighted mental health for athletes in the media. Let’s do the same for people with disabilities.”

— Nicole Adler

There were also two interactive panel discussions. One discussion featured self-advocates and family members offering their perspectives on navigating mental health services, and another one featured providers, who offered practical mental health strategies.

Nicole Adler, a motivational speaker, college student, member of the State Council on Developmental Disabilities and self-advocate who has Down syndrome, noted that Olympic gymnast Simone Biles’ withdrawal from several events at the recent Tokyo games due to mental health concerns elevated the issue.

“The Olympics has highlighted mental health for athletes in the media. Let’s do the same for people with disabilities,” she said during her panel presentation. “People with disabilities get depressed and need mental health support just like everyone else.”

Adler stressed the need to erase the stigma around mental health. “Let’s normalize mental health and make it a positive part of the conversation. Don’t give up. Don’t take no for an answer. Always ask why, and fight, fight, fight for your rights, all the time.”

Practical mental health strategies

The provider panel was moderated by Megan Tudor, assistant clinical professor of pediatrics and licensed clinical psychologist at the MIND Institute. She noted that often, once an individual has been diagnosed with a neurodevelopmental difference, other mental health conditions may not get the attention they should.

The MIND Summer Institute on Neurodevelopmental Disabilities is an annual learning event that brings together experts, families, self-advocates and providers.

“Any kind of behavioral presentation or anything that that person displays gets attributed back to the developmental difference, rather than considering, could there be anxiety? Could there be depression? Could they be experiencing other things that are treatable? And if they’re treatable, then we can make a lot of change,” she explained.

The providers on the panel recommended numerous mental health strategies, including focusing on mindfulness and the five senses, getting more exercise, getting more sleep, deep breathing and creating a strong support system.

“It was appropriate and important that we focused on mental health this year,” said Leonard Abbeduto, director of the MIND Institute. “The pandemic has been especially challenging for individuals and families with neurodevelopmental differences. The Summer Institute gave community members and experts an opportunity to connect and learn from one another in a meaningful way.” 

Watch a recorded version of the event. 

The UC Davis MIND Institute in Sacramento, Calif. was founded in 1998 as a unique interdisciplinary research center where families, community leaders, researchers, clinicians and volunteers work together toward a common goal: researching causes, treatments and potential prevention of challenges associated with neurodevelopmental disabilities. The institute has major research efforts in autism, fragile X syndrome, chromosome 22q11.2 deletion syndrome, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and Down syndrome. More information about the institute and its Distinguished Lecturer Series, including previous presentations in this series, is available on the Web at