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The conference’s aim is exploring the perspective of fathers who have children with autism, and offering support and resources.

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. – Jan. 13, 2021 – The 2021 virtual UNC Autism Fathers Conference will take place on Jan. 23 as a 3-hour event for fathers who have children with autism spectrum disorder, featuring keynote speaker Joe Mantegna. Joe is a Tony Award-winning actor and currently stars in the hit CBS drama Criminal Minds as FBI Special Agent David Rossi. He will share his experience as the father of a young adult with ASD.

WHAT:  The conference’s aim is exploring the perspective of fathers who have children with autism, and offering support and resources. This event is the second in a series of gatherings tied to the internationally recognized autism programs at UNC.

WHY: The conference is an outgrowth of one father’s journey – award-winning broadcaster Dwayne Ballen – and the efforts to expand his insights and experiences to a wider audience of fathers. Ballen is a Raleigh resident and the author of a memoir, “Journey with Julian,” which explores the challenges he faced raising a son with autism.

WHEN: Saturday, January 23, 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. Eastern time

WHERE: For more information and online registration, visit:

WHO: Speakers include:

  • Kevin Guskiewicz, Chancellor of UNC-Chapel Hill
  • Wesley Burks, CEO of UNC Health
  • Joe Piven, Director, Carolina Institute for Developmental Disabilities
  • Dwayne Ballen
  • Clare Harrop, Assistant Professor, UNC Department of Allied Health Sciences
  • Laura Klinger, Executive Director of the UNC TEACCH Autism Program
  • Gary Bowen, Dean, UNC School of Social Work
  • Stephen Hooper, Associate Dean and Chair, UNC Department of Allied Health Sciences

For more information on the UNC Autism Research Center, click here. The center is a new model for developing personalized interventions that improve the lives of children and adults with Autism Spectrum Disorder. The center brings together genetics, pharmacology, public health and intervention expertise at UNC to tackle autism’s greatest challenges.


About UNC Health

UNC Health is an integrated health care system owned by the state of North Carolina and based in Chapel Hill. It exists to further the teaching mission of the University of North Carolina and to provide state-of-the-art patient care.

UNC Health is comprised of UNC Hospitals at Chapel Hill, ranked consistently among the best medical centers in the country; the UNC School of Medicine, a nationally eminent research institution; Pardee UNC Health Care in Hendersonville; Chatham Hospital in Siler City; Johnston Health in Clayton and Smithfield; UNC Lenoir Health Care in Kinston; Wayne UNC Health Care in Goldsboro; Caldwell UNC Health Care in Lenoir; Nash UNC Health Care in Rocky Mount; UNC Rockingham Health Care in Eden, Onslow Memorial Hospital in Jacksonville, UNC Health Southeastern in Lumberton, UNC REX Healthcare and its provider network in Wake County; and the UNC Physicians Network.