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Detailed Conference Schedule

2018ConfLogowebThe Autism Society of Minnesota invites you to participate in the 23rd Annual Minnesota Autism Conference. During this event, we will join our voices as a passionate community to inspire learning, hope, and innovation. Experts, parents, caregivers, educators, paraprofessionals, mental health professionals, service providers, and individuals on the spectrum will have a platform to connect, collaborate, advocate, and educate.

Online registration for the conference is closed. Thursday full-day, Friday full-day, and full conference registrations are sold out. Walk in registrations are available for the Wednesday evening keynote, Frank Campagna "Autism Daddy"; the Thursday evening keynote, Stephen Shore, PhD; and for Saturday morning breakout sessions. 

All conference volunteer positions are full.

Conference participants will be issued certificates of attendance at the conference. AuSM has secured Continuing Education Units (CEUs) from the Minnesota Board of Social Work, the Minnesota Board of Marriage and Family Therapy, and the Minnesota Board of Psychology.

Sensory Accommodation: Because the loud noise of applause can be a challenge for those with sensory sensitivities, we are asking audience members to show their appreciation for conference speakers by using American Sign Language clap, which looks a little bit like jazz hands but is silent. We appreciate your understanding and your willingness to make this minor adjustment to help make the conference more inclusive for our community.


Special thanks to our overall conference sponsor, Lindamood-Bell Learning Processes.

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

3:30-5:30 p.m. Julia's AuSM Autism Celebration

JuliaImageWEBThe conference will begin with an exciting family celebration featuring Julia, the newest Sesame Street Muppet, a character who was created to increase awareness and understanding of autism. Meet walkaround Julia, visit resource tables, participate in sensory activities, and play games during this age and ability inclusive event.
™/© 2018 Sesame Workshop. All Rights Reserved.

6-7 p.m. Registration and AuSM Bookstore Open

6-6:30 p.m. Meet Julia from Sesame Street

7-9 p.m. Keynote Presentation Sponsored by Fraser

CampagnaWebFrank Campagna, "Autism Daddy"
Things No One Ever Told Me When My Son Was Diagnosed with Autism
Learn, in a humorous way, how to be a great special needs parent without losing your former self in the process. "Autism Daddy" will talk about some of the important things that can sometimes fall through the cracks when you're caring for someone with special needs, and he will cover topcis including: "You're Allowed To Be Mad", "You're Going to Get Advice From Everyone", and "Stop Googling Everything".

Frank Campagna (aka "Autism Daddy"), father of a 14-year-old son with autism, has been riding the special needs roller-coaster for over 12 years, writes about his experiences, and has become a social media sensation with his blog and Facebook page. His claim to fame is giving people a realistic, non sugar-coated look at the world inside an autism household. Campagna also has worked at the Sesame Street Workshop for the past 23 years, and contributed to their autism initiative, Sesame Street & Autism: See Amazing in All Children.

Thursday, April 26, 2018

7:30 a.m.-3 p.m. Registration, AuSM Bookstore, Exhibits Open

8:30-10:30 a.m. Keynote Presentation Sponsored by Rosenberg Center

BakerWebJed Baker, PhD
Managing Anxiety and Frustration In Caregivers and Clients: Educate, Don't Incarcerate
How we understand difficult behavior in clients and family members can make things better or worse. Learn how to achieve better outcomes in challenging moments. Obtain ways to de-escalate meltdowns in the moment and develop effective behavior plans to prevent recurrence of problems. Dr. Baker will discuss seven common triggers to meltdowns and how to prevent these difficult situations.

Jed Baker is the director of the Social Skills Training Project, a private organization serving individuals with autism and social communication problems. He also directs social skills training for Millburn Public Schools in New Jersey. He is on the professional advisory board of Autism Today, ASPEN, ANSWER, YAI, the Kelberman Center, and several other autism organizations. In addition, Dr. Baker is an award-winning author and lecturer, and he provides training internationally on the topics of social skills training and managing challenging behaviors.

10:30 a.m. Break – AuSM Bookstore and Exhibits Open

11 a.m.-12 p.m. Breakout Sessions I

1. Creating Effective Prevention Plans for Challenging Behaviors: Jed Baker, PhD
Learn about prevention plans for common triggers to frustration and anxiety. Plans include dealing with difficult work demands; fears and phobias; waiting and disappointments; threats to self-esteem (mistakes, losing and teasing); attention seeking behavior; sensory overload; and unexpected triggers.

2. Social Coaching and Social Dancing; Teaching Skills Using Interests: Beth Pitchford, MA, LPCC
Pitchford taught a four-week class integrating Irish céilí dancing and social coaching that focused on nonverbal cues, practice discussions about shared experiences, and executive functions that are important to ongoing social interactions. In this presentation, learn unique ways to offer social opportunities to the autism community, the take-aways from the céilí class, and how to encourage inclusion in activities often not available to people with disabilities.

Beth Pitchford earned a master’s degree in Adlerian Counseling and Psychotherapy from the Adler Graduate School. She is passionate about working with people on the “invisible” part of the spectrum who want to “decode” the neurotypical world in order to decrease barriers to community integration and to increase feelings of success. Using cognitive behavioral approaches and her Adlerian training, Pitchford’s goal is to help people better understand not only themselves but also the people in their lives.

3. How Aging Affects My Autism Panel Part 1: AuSM Counseling and Consulting Services
While most research on autism and aging focuses on transition, many adults on the spectrum are reaching middle age and older, while navigating new challenges. In this two-part panel, adults on the spectrum will share insight on how aging has impacted specific characteristics of their autism, from executive function to sensory sensitivities.

4. Intro to Autism: Jillian Nelson and Robert Waltz
Develop an understanding of the basics of autism spectrum disorder, resource options, and positive behavior supports. Learn how families, schools, and the medical community can work together to educate and support those with autism. Get practical tips on helping individuals with autism meet their potential.

Jillian Nelson was diagnosed with autism as a young adult. With a degree in human services and a background in self-advocacy, she has dedicated her career to helping others with autism achieve their goals, advocating for system change, and spreading a message of education and autism acceptance. Nelson currently sits on The Governor’s Council for Developmental Disabilities and is an Information and Resource Specialist for AuSM.

Robert Waltz received his BA in physics and math from Hamline University in 1985. Diagnosed with autism in 2012, he has published four books and works with AuSM preparing and teaching curriculum.

12-1 p.m. Lunch Sponsored by Accra and Optum – AuSM Bookstore and Exhibits Open

1-2 p.m. Breakout Sessions II

1. Why Most Social Skills Programs Fail! Six Key Components of Social Skills Training: Jed Baker, PhD
Regardless of the strategy used to teach social skills, certain key components must be considered in order to create effective outcomes, including: prioritizing relevant skill goals; establishing motivation to use skills; skill acquisition (choosing a strategy to teach skills based on language ability); generalization strategies to use skills in real settings; creating accepting peer environments; and measuring progress.

2. Protecting the Vulnerable: Strategies for Keeping Children on the Spectrum Safe: James Rechs, LICSW
Explore the intersection between autism/developmental disabilities and child maltreatment. Identify the types of maltreatment children with autism may experience, the challenges of investigating maltreatment, and what parents and professionals can do to minimize risk. Parent will learn appropriate precautions to help keep your child as safe as possible. Professionals will learn strategies for decreasing the likelihood that a client or a staff in their organization mistreats a person with autism. Also discuss how societal attitudes toward disability impact the risk of maltreatment toward people with autism and other disabilities.

James Rechs is the Executive Director of the RT Autism Awareness Foundation and also is a mental health therapist at Associates in Psychiatry and Psychology in Rochester, Minn. He spent eight years on staff at the Rochester Center for Autism and has taught child welfare as an adjunct instructor for the Department of Social Work at Winona State University. Rechs spent several years providing and supervising services for children and families involved with the child welfare systems in the Twin Cities and Fargo, ND.

3. Advancing Social Coping Mechanisms from School to the Workplace: Allen Mavis - SESSION CANCELED
Take an in-depth look at how social coping skills used in the home and in high school can be advanced into those who will facilitate success in the workplace. Break down the behavior needed out of a competitive coping mechanism and learn how to identify gaps in present skills. Understand how to use analogies, props, and interests and hobbies to create student perspective, self-confidence, and consistency in skills. Also learn strategies for transitioning coping mechanisms with practice verses creating change that may cause anxiety and negative effects.

Allen Mavis earned a Bachelor’s Degree in behavioral science from Bellevue University and also is certified as a Motivational Interviewing practitioner and trainer. He has spent 10 years working as a transitional career specialist to build social and vocational skills for those challenged with autism, anxiety disorder, ADHD, or learning disabilities. 

4. How Aging Affects My Autism Panel Part 2: AuSM Counseling and Consulting Services
While most research on autism and aging focuses on transition, many adults on the spectrum are reaching middle age and older, while navigating new challenges. In this two-part panel, adults on the spectrum will share insight on how aging has impacted specific characteristics of their autism, from executive function to sensory sensitivities.

2 p.m. Break – AuSM Bookstore and Exhibits Open

2:30-3:30 p.m. Breakout Sessions III

1. Peer Sensitivity Lessons and Questions and Answers: Jed Baker, PhD
Obtain sample lessons to sensitize peers and engage them in protecting clients from bullying. Time also will be allocated for an audience question and answer session regarding social skill issues or behavior challenges.

2. Asking the Right Questions: Affirmative Perspectives at the Intersection of Autism and Gender Identity: Rachel Becker-Warner, PsyD, LP
Research increasingly is demonstrating a high correlation between gender diversity (e.g. transgender) and neurodiversity (e.g. autism spectrum (AS) conditions). As such, the validity of gender variant neurodiverse individuals’ experiences, as well as their capacity to consent to socio-medical transitional goals, has been under security. Explore an affirmative approach to these issues, by addressing both the unique challenges and the positive and beneficial aspects of these overlapping identities. Evidence-based and practical tools for the provision of clinical and therapeutic services with this population will be discussed.

Rachel Becker-Warner provides individual, family, couples, and group psychotherapy for a wide range of gender and sexual health issues including: transgender (i.e. gender identity issues in children and adults) and sexual orientation issues; relationship and sexual problems; and sexual compulsive behaviors at the University of Minnesota’s Program in Human Sexuality. She practices using integrative interventions drawing from family and developmental systems, relational, and cognitive-behavioral theories in her approach to addressing a variety of mental health concerns and sexual health problems. Becker-Warner’s research and practice interests include the intersection of gender and neuro diversity.

3. Coming Soon! AMP: Developing a One-to-One Mentoring Program for Youth on the Spectrum: Emily Goldberg; Michael Etten; Jenn Peterson; AJ Hokland; Grady Garman; Jenny Austin; Johnny Jimenez Lezama; Dr. Rebekah Hudock; and Carolyn Scherer, MSW
Learn about the Autism Mentorship Program (AMP), an innovative program pairing youth and adults with autism in meaningful mentoring relationships designed to provide support for the present and hope for the future. This panel of parents, adults with autism, and educators will help you understand how you can become involved and will give you the opportunity to provide feedback on the program. Hear how a mother’s desire for positive role models in her children’s lives developed from the initial concept into this fall’s upcoming program pilot.

Emily Goldberg is the mother of 8-year-old twin boys with autism who often feel misunderstood even by those closest to them. Goldberg sees the need for young people on the spectrum to know and get support from role models like themselves and for adults on the spectrum to share their lived expertise.

Michael Etten's own struggles in high school, college, law school, and professionally motivate him, an adult on the spectrum, to want to help others get more support than he did.

Jenn Peterson is an Instructor/Advisor at Minnesota Life College, a life-long learning program for individuals on the autism spectrum and with other learning differences who want to lead an independent life within the community.

AJ Hokland is a former special education teacher and parent whose child’s autism revealed her own diagnosis. AJ brings her experience, her smarts and sensitivity, and a commitment to inclusivity to AMP.

Grady Garman has been a special education teacher at Bloomington’s Kennedy High School for seven years.

Jenny Austin, mother of a 10-year-old boy on the spectrum, is a voracious researcher of all things autism and a strong advocate for kids and adults alike. She was a founding member of Children’s Autism Rights Minneapolis (ChARM) and a supporter of Spanish-speaking families affected by autism.

Johnny Jimenez Lezama is a ninth grader in the center-based autism program at Kennedy High School in Bloomington. He is an aspiring artist who created the AMP logo design and is looking forward to being matched with an AMP mentor in the fall.

Dr. Rebekah Hudock, a pediatric neuropsychologist and Assistant Professor in the Department of Pediatrics at the University of Minnesota, is a clinician who specializes in assessment and intervention for children with autism and other neurodevelopmental disabilities. Her research focuses on services for individuals with autism, services for children with autism and co-occurring mental health diagnoses, social-emotional development, parenting stress, school-based services, and transition services.

Carolyn Scherer, Director of Program Services at MENTOR Minnesota, is a consultant helping to insure that Minnesota youth mentoring programs have the resources they need to provide high quality, long-lasting, and effective mentoring experiences for youth and volunteers. Scherer holds a Master’s Degree in Social Work with a concentration in Direct Practice with Children and Families from the University of Minnesota.

4. Getting Older and Getting What You Need: Autism and Aging: Barb Luskin, PhD, LP
Though participants do not need to attend all three autism and aging sessions, this session will build on the insights of the prior two panel sessions, and will cover supports available to individuals on the spectrum. Obtain resources specific to the diagnosis as well as reasonable accommodations available to the general population over 50. Receive suggestions for obtaining services.

Barb Luskin is a licensed psychologist who has worked closely with children and adults with ASD for more than 30 years in professional and home settings. She specializes in providing both assessments and counseling to individuals with ASD and those who support them. Dr. Luskin’s services include diagnostic and functional assessments, individual therapy for adults and adolescents, and training and consultation for caregivers. She helps them understand ASD, teaches them creative and effective interventions, helps them evaluate progress, and provides guidance when adjustments are needed.

6-7 p.m. Registration and AuSM Bookstore Open

7-9 p.m. Keynote Presentation Sponsored by Minnesota Life College

ShoreWebStephen Shore, PhD
Developing an Understanding of the Hidden Curriculum for Learners on the Autism Spectrum: A Lifespan Approach
When is it appropriate to talk in class? How does one act when hanging out with friends, in school, or in the library? Is there a way to reckon with the fact that the "lunch hour" at work is only 30 minutes? Most people automatically know the answers to these questions and many like them through observations of social interaction. However, the ability to infer proper social interaction through observation often is impaired in people with autism. Examine Power Cards, Social Stories by Carol Gray, emotional thermometers, and mnemonic devices such as Stop, Observe, Deliberate, and Act, and other strategies for providing practical solutions to the problems of teaching appropriate social interaction to people on the autism spectrum and developing skills in executive functioning. In taking a strength-based approach, the common theme between these and other related educational devices is that these techniques employ the often considerable cognitive and analytical powers of people on the autism spectrum.

Nonverbal until age 4 and diagnosed with "atypical development and strong autistic tendencies" and "too sick" for outpatient treatment, Dr. Shore was recommended for institutionalization. With support from his parents, teachers, wife, and others, Dr. Shore now is a professor at Adelphi University where his research focuses on matching best practice to the needs of people with autism. Dr. Shore is internationally renowned for presentations, consultations, and writings on lifespan issues pertinent to education, relationships, employment, advocacy, and disclosure. His most recent book, College for Students with Disabilities, combines personal stories and research for promoting success in higher education.

9-10 p.m. Stephen Shore Book Signing

Friday, April 27, 2018

7:30 a.m.-3 p.m. Registration, AuSM Bookstore, Exhibits Open

8:30-10:30 a.m. Keynote Presentation Sponsored by St. David's Center for Child & Family Development

KuypersWebLeah Kuypers, MA Ed, OTR/L
Developing Pathways Toward Regulation
Self-regulation is not “one thing” we do, but rather is a combination of mental and emotional processes that encompass reflecting on the situation we are in, how we are feeling, and using our tools and strategies to regulate our feelings and behaviors. Kuypers will explore the topic of self- regulation and share the latest evolution to her framework, The Zones of Regulation®, outlining a concrete pathway approach to foster self-regulation skills. While learning from a visual structure and a simple, common language, take away ideas to support co-regulation with students and clients as a stepping-stone to the development of independent regulation. Hands-on strategies will be shared that make self-regulation and emotional-management less abstract and simpler for all to navigate.

Leah Kuypers earned a Bachelors of Science in Occupational Therapy from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, a Graduate Certificate in Autism, and a Master of Arts in Education from Hamline University. She has practiced as an OT/autism specialist in school and clinical settings, specializing in self-regulation and social learning, and has worked with students of all ages and challenges, including anxiety, ADHD, and ASD. Kuypers created The Zones of Regulation® (www.zonesofregulation.com), a framework designed to teach self-regulation, and is author of the book and two apps by same name (2011, Social Thinking Publishing; 2013, 2016 Selosoft, Inc). In addition to working with students, she provides trainings and consultation to parents and professionals on self-regulation and challenging behavior, and also conducts workshops on the Zones to groups across North America.

10:30 a.m. Break – AuSM Bookstore, Exhibits Open

11 a.m.-12 p.m. Breakout Sessions I

1. Sexuality for All Abilities: Katie Thune, MA Ed
People with disabilities want friendships and relationships as much as anyone else. Unfortunately, there is a lack of appropriate education available to support safe and healthy relationships. The rate of sexual assault is much higher for individuals with disabilities than for those without. We can work together to lower that statistic by supporting the sexual health for this population through conversations, education, and awareness. In this workshop, explore why people with disabilities are more vulnerable to assault; review the background on sexual education for people with disabilities; discuss potential sexual education strategies; learn how to recognize, respond, and react to sensitive situations and inappropriate sexual behaviors that may occur; and learn how to have conversations around sexual health and support people with disabilities to have safe and healthy relationships. This session also will focus on the role teachers and educators play in appropriate and effective sex education.

Katie Thune has her teaching license in Health Education and Special Education K-12, as well as her MA in Education: Developmental Disabilities and has worked as a teacher for St. Paul Public Schools for 12 years. Her mission is to enhance the quality of life for children and adults with and without disabilities through empowerment, education, awareness, and movement to globally eliminate sexual violence and promote advocacy for self and others. Thune has done extensive curriculum writing and relationship work with nonprofits including the Highland Friendship Club, Lifeworks, Upstream Arts, AuSM, and Special Olympics MN.

2. Executive Function Solutions in The Classroom and Beyond: Mary Beth Kelley, MA and Rachel David, EdD
Executive functions consist of a variety of "higher-order" mental processes and behaviors. Many teachers and service providers understand that students on the spectrum struggle with executive function, but don’t always have the tools to help. Obtain hands-on tools and strategies for different executive functioning areas for K-12 students.

Mary Beth Kelley currently oversees LDA Minnesota’s assessment program and is developing new programs for the agency. She has been in the field of special education since 1990 serving in a variety of roles. She continues to teach adjunct at the University of St. Thomas and trains graduate students.

Rachel David works at LDA Minnesota overseeing their learning connections program in which she coaches the part-time teachers providing academic interventions to the K-12 students enrolled in the program and leads their Professional Learning Community. Over the past 14 years, David has dedicated herself to improving the achievement gap in urban education. 

3. Call in the Reinforcements! Building Independence Through Understanding of ABA Principles: Lucas Scott and Sara Pahl, MS, BCBA, LPCC, NCC
Applied Behavior Analysis can be a powerful tool in the shaping and learning of behaviors. In this session we will discuss the benefits of teaching clients the rules and patterns of their own behavior to help implement more self-directed behavior plans by better understanding antecedents, identifying effective reinforcements, and dissecting the function of the role of the caregiver and the effects. Help your clients understand that their behavior plans will fluctuate and need frequent adjustments, and learn the best way to create a behavior plan that prioritizes the client.

Sara Pahl is a Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor, Nationally Certified Counselor, and a Board Certified Behavior Analyst. She received a bachelor's degree in psychology from the University of Minnesota and a Master's degree in mental health counseling from Walden University. Pahl has worked with people with ASD for nearly 20 years. Her professional experience includes working with people with ASD in multiple capacities, such as mental health counselor, behavior support professional, education specialist, lead therapist, program manager, primary grade teacher, consultant, and director of a teen program. She specializes in working with systems, such as families and schools struggling with behavioral issues, as well as working with adolescents and young adults with ASD. Pahl strives to help empower, children, adolescents, and young adults with ASD through self-advocacy and self-determination, no matter what ability, using a non-judgemental, integrated, empathetic, evidenced-based approach.

Lucas Scott, an Education Specialist at AuSM, develops and delivers professional training to a wide audience of interdisciplinary professionals and plans and executes social skills programming for children and adults with autism. Scott has more than 10 years of hands-on experience working with those with developmental disabilities in educational, residential, and recreational settings. His particular passions are resourceful, practical, evidence-based strategies for challenging behaviors, and the use of arts learning for promotion of social and communication skills amongst those of varying age and abilities.

4. Engaging Students in their IEPs: Allana Walsh, MA and Jessica Metke, MA
Greater student involvement in the Individual Education Program (IEP) and process has been advocated by many; however, teachers and families may be unaware of the materials that can assist them in preparing students for this involvement. Learn how to increase student self-advocacy and self-confidence by providing resources to engage students with a wide range of ability levels in their IEPs.

Allana Walsh is a District Program Facilitator in Minneapolis Public Schools. She is passionate about inclusive practices in all areas of life. She works to focus on responding to each learner’s needs by removing barriers to full social and academic acceptance.

Jessica Metke has developed resources for teachers to ensure access to Free Appropriate Public Education for all. Metke is passionate about successful transition into adulthood for students with disabilities.

12-1 p.m. Lunch Sponsored by Autism Advocacy & Law Center, LLC and The Therapy Place - AuSM Bookstore and Exhibits Open 

1-2 p.m. Breakout Sessions II 

1. How to Work with Somali Parents with Autistic Children: A Culturally Sensitive Approach: Iman Dadras, PhD, LMFT; Asad Mahmoud, BA; and Sandra Espinosa, PsyD
Empirical studies have indicated that pre- and post-migration trauma due to forced migration impact negatively on parents’ ability to care for their children. In 2008, Somali parents in the Twin Cities raised concerns about disproportionally high rates of Somali children for receiving autism spectrum disorder (ASD) special education services as compared to the overall percentage of Somali children. Learn about a multiculturally sensitive approach that will provide an inside perspective of the Somali community and show how the Western paradigm of knowledge and mental health has failed to adapt and provide appropriate care.

Iman Dadras is an Assistant Professor for the Couple and Family Therapy program at Alliant International University, Los Angeles. Over past five years, he has worked with immigrant families and refugees who are experiencing marital conflicts and acculturative stress. His main research interests are the impact of acculturative stress on marital satisfaction, self of the therapist, and social justice family therapy.

Asad Mohamed is the Chief Executive Officer of Medway Support Services, community health center based in Minneapolis and St. Cloud. He is a healthcare executive who has demonstrated continuous growth, achievements, and impressive leadership in the community meatal health work. Mohamed has been a Somali community advocate for past 10 years and has been consistently providing multiple resources for Somali refugee families in Minnesota.

Sandra Espinoza is a Visiting Assistant Professor for the Couple and Family Therapy program at Alliant International University, Los Angeles. She has presented her research on immigration and the impact of deportation of Latinos at state and national levels. She also has worked in the community mental health sector providing therapy in Spanish to undocumented Latino/a individuals and families. She is also a member of the National Latino/a Psychological Association.

2. Creative Interventions for Children with Social, Sensory, and Processing Difficulties: Briana Colton MA, ATR
Receive an overview of art therapy and the benefits of art interventions in working with children or adults who have sensory, social, and processing difficulties, especially those related to autism and common co-occurring disorders (e.g. ADHD and anxiety). Review developmental stages in art-making, the use and choice of different materials, and specific intervention ideas to bring into group or individual therapy settings. Be guided through an interactive experience of a common art directive used with clients on the autism spectrum to support increased control, increased self-esteem, and increased relationship skills.

Briana Colton received her Masters degree in Counseling Psychology: Art Therapy from Adler University in Chicago. She is a Registered Art Therapist and member of the American Art Therapy Association. She has spent the past two years at Fraser working in autism day treatment with 3-5 year-olds and providing individual and family therapy for clients with autism, ADHD, and anxiety disorders. 

3. Leadership Enrichment Opportunities (LEO): An Alternative Approach for Gifted/Talented Education: Brandy Schwab, MA and Malory Kosher
Many gifted programs focus on student intellectual abilities without taking into consideration the soft skills needed for success. Learn about LEO, a program designed to support secondary students with twice exceptionality. While the focus of the program is on 2E students, the ideas presented can be helpful in enabling all gifted students to demonstrate their knowledge and abilities. Learn about alternative curricula that address soft skills and how to engage 2E students in this challenging work.

Brandy Schwab is the principal at Lionsgate Academy’s Shoreview campus. She holds a teaching certificate in social studies from Minnesota State University-Moorhead and a master’s degree in gifted, creative, and talented education from the University of St. Thomas. Schwab has been with Lionsgate Academy for 10 years, serving as a social studies teacher, academic director, assistant director, and principal. She was a key architect in the development of the LEO program and continues to advocate for alternative methods to meet the needs of all gifted students.

Malory Kosher graduated from the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse with a bachelor’s degree in exercise and sport science: health, physical education, and adaptive physical education. She joined Lionsgate Academy’s team in 2009 and teaches health, mindfulness, yoga, safety and first aid, lifetime fitness planning and education, and has been highly involved in the creation of the LEO program.

4. Teaching the Teacher: Managing Your Class with ASD: Lynn Stansberry Brusnahan, PhD; Erin Farrell, MA, BCBA; Maci Spica (Brown), MA, BCBA; and James Williams. 
What skills does a teacher need to positively manage a classroom that includes students with ASD? Learn from experienced educators how to manage your classroom while balancing a variety of needs.

L. Lynn Stansberry Brusnahan is the parent of a young adult with autism. She coordinates the autism spectrum disorders certificate, license, and Master’s program at University of St. Thomas. Stansberry Brusnahan has served on boards for the Autism Society of America, Autism Society of Wisconsin, Autism Society of Southeastern Wisconsin, and Council for Exceptional Children Division on Autism and Developmental Disabilities. In 2012, she was awarded the Autism Society Professional of the Year.

Erin Farrell is a board certified behavior analyst and serves as a behavior specialist in a school district. She is a doctorate student specializing in autism spectrum disorders.

Maci Brown (Spica)​ is a PhD student in Educational Psychology with an emphasis in Special Education. ​She is a board-certified behavior analyst and a licensed MN special education teacher with an endorsement in autism, B-21. Prior to attending UMN, she worked as the autism and PBIS specialist at the Minnesota Department of Education. Maci also serves as a board member for the Autism Society of Minnesota. She is committed to research and services that positively impact teachers, students, and families.

James Williams is an adult on the autism spectrum.

2 p.m. Break - AuSM Bookstore and Exhibits Open 

2:30-3:30 p.m. Breakout Sessions III 

1. A Picture of Success: Improving Reading and Language Comprehension in Children with ASD: Dana Kernik
Some children with ASD do not develop language while others are verbal; some have weak basic reading skills while some read accurately. This presentation examines three sensory-cognitive functions—concept imagery, phonemic awareness, and symbol imagery—which affect language-processing skills, such as comprehension and reading. Many students experience decoding, spelling, or comprehension difficulties that may actually be the result of weaknesses in these underlying sensory-cognitive functions. Learn about recent research on how improvements in imagery result in positive changes in word reading, comprehension, and specific areas of brain function in students with ASD. Individual student case studies and demonstration of specific techniques will be featured.

Dana Kernik received her bachelor's degree in psychology from the University of Minnesota. She has worked for Lindamood-Bell Learning Processes since 2010 in capacities including clinician, consultant, and associate center director. In addition, Kernik has managed Seasonal Learning Clinics in several locations, including Singapore and Tokyo in 2014. Currently, she serves as the Director of the Twin Cities Learning Center, overseeing operations, instruction, and outreach. Kernik is passionate about helping people reach their potential and has worked directly with hundreds of children and their families to help them improve their language and literacy skills.

2. Behavioral Crisis Management: Brittney Kalicki, Med, BCBA
Behavioral crises present safety concerns, limit accessibility to the community, and create stress on family members. Often family members do not receive adequate support in preventing and managing these crisis behaviors. Family members, educators, and professionals will learn strategies for preventing and minimizing crisis behavior and review important components of family safety plans in home and in the community.

Brittney Kalicki has worked with individuals with autism and other developmental disabilities for more than 13 years. She began her career as a special education teacher after graduating with a Master of Education in Special Education from the University of Washington. As a special education teacher, Kalicki ran center-based autism classrooms and is a Board Certified Behavior Analyst who has supervised both home-based and center-based services. 

3. College Aspie: John MacCormick
This presentation, for transition-age students on the autism spectrum, will equip young adults with the ability to make informed decisions about what education/training they need to accomplish their career goals. Students also will learn strategies to manage their post secondary experience. Participants will learn to use self-advocacy skills to access the resources they need to achieve their career goals. Topics will include: making choices about the education and training needed to accomplish career goals, the role of personal strengths and interests, importance of a support group, having or being a mentor, and self-care strategies.

John MacCormick has been a mentor for high school students with autism, sharing his experiences and offering tips for navigating high school and transitioning into independence. As a mentor, he participated in monthly panel and small group discussions related to a variety of topics and gave a presentation regarding post secondary education. In 2017 MacCormick started a successful monthly support group for young adults on the autism spectrum in their 20s and 30s.

4. Teaching Whole Class Social Skills: Kelsey Kinsella, MA; Lindsay Herman, MA; and Logan Krause
Social skills often are taught in a small group, special education classroom, pull-out model. Research shows that students with autism have difficulty generalizing skills from one setting to the next and maintaining those skills. Fourth and fifth grade classrooms at Centennial Elementary School in Richfield are using a different approach, teaching social skills class-wide in general education settings, to support the generalization and maintenance of social skills for all students. Three individuals will share their experiences with this model, including the special education teacher, classroom teacher, and student.

Kelsey Kinsella has an undergraduate degree in Special Education/General Education and a Masters in Special Education Autism Spectrum Disorders. This is her eighth year teaching in Richfield as a special education teacher and has been a district autism specialist as well. Kinsella's passion is in working with students with autism spectrum disorders in their general education classroom and using co-taught models and peer modeling to integrate our students’ services into their general education classroom as much as possible. 

Lindsay Herman received her teaching license from St. Cloud State and a Masters degree in Curriculum Writing with a reading endorsement from Concordia St. Paul. In her six years of teaching in the Richfield Public Schools District for six years, she has taught fourth and fifth grade at Centennial Elementary, a high poverty school with a large population of English Language Learners. 

Logan Krause is a fifth grade student at Centennial Elementary School in Richfield, which he has attended since kindergarten. He is an assistant social skills teacher in fourth and fifth grade classrooms around the school. Krause enjoys teaching social skills so that he can help others who have a hard time seeing and talking to people learn interaction skills.

Gala2018Color6-10 p.m. Celebrate the Magic Within AuSM Gala

Join AuSM for an enchanting evening of food, drinks, games, silent and live auctions, and a celebration of those serving as true inspirations to individuals affected by autism. Gala proceeds benefit programs and services for the Minnesota autism community. Click here for more information.

Saturday, April 28, 2018

7:30 a.m.-12 p.m. Registration, AuSM Bookstore and Exhibits Open 

8:30-9:30 a.m. Breakout Sessions I 

1. "Related Services" for Middle and High School Students with ASD: Joe Timmons, MSW; Tara Wagner, MS, CCC-SLP; and Emily Trindal, MS, CCC-SLP
Older students with autism may need supports commonly provided by professionals who are not classroom teachers. The Minnesota Department of Education calls these “Related Services” and they include “developmental, corrective, and other supportive services…to assist a child with a disability to benefit from special education”. These services may include therapies, counseling, transportation, and skills development and are based on the results of a comprehensive evaluation and integrated into an Individualized Education Program plan. Receive information about typical Related Services and describe how goals and objectives are written and incorporated into a student’s school day.

Joe Timmons has worked with individuals with disabilities in educational, vocational, and health care settings for more than 33 years. From 2002 to 2017, he was a research coordinator at the Institute on Community Integration (ICI) at the University of Minnesota. In August 2017, he became a school social worker at Lionsgate Academy, a charter school for students with autism.

Tara Wagner is a speech language pathologist at Lionsgate Academy who provides speech and language services for students to improve their expressive and receptive language, social communication, and executive function skills. Wagner enjoys supporting students in the academic setting to promote success in their future academic, social, vocational, and community-based goals.

Emily Trindal is a school-based speech language pathologist who has experience working with students of all ages. Currently, Trindal is working at Lionsgate Academy with students in grades 7-12 who have complex communication needs.

2. Using Technology to Increase Safety and Positive Outcomes with First Responders: Nick Tietz and Dawn Brasch
News reports of police response involving use of force due to misunderstood mannerisms of vulnerable individuals are increasing. Knowledge is the key to safety, and Vitals™ is designed to provide first responders with the knowledge they need to create safer interactions. Developed by AuSM and VariAware Inc., the Vitals first responder app is a non-intrusive, real-time service created to enhance policing, give families of vulnerable individuals more peace of mind, and improve the quality of life for people living with invisible disabilities. Learn about how the service works, the growth of the Vitals program in Minnesota, and bringing this technology beyond Minnesota’s borders. Also learn from the mother of an adult son with autism who uses the Vitals technology.

Nick Tietz is the Co-Founder and Chief Digital Officer for VariAware, a Minnesota based company dedicated to social good. He leads the digital efforts for Vitals™ Aware Services. Tietz has spent the last 12+ years as a strategic leader developing new and innovative solutions for many fortune 500 companies, non-profit groups, and start-ups. He also has spent more than a decade doing pro-bono creative and marketing for PACER Center in Bloomington, Minn. and has served on many advisory boards.

Dawn Brasch has been involved with AuSM for more than 20 years where she currently is the Senior Director of Finance and Operations. Brasch also parents a young adult on the spectrum. Committed to serving families and individuals in the autism community, Brasch worked with VariAware Inc. to develop Vitals, and she has conducted numerous emergency preparedness autism training sessions for first responders, teaches the adolescence-focused Life with Autism Series, and has served on AuSM's Board of Directors.

3. Hacking Your Executive Function: Tips From Someone Who's Been There: Olivia James
Difficulty with executive functioning can lead to serious everyday challenges for individuals on the spectrum, whether it’s holding down a job or maintaining relationships. James will give an overview of the tips and tricks she uses to manage multiple jobs, difficult relationships, and hobbies. You’ll gain tools that will help with in-the-moment stress as well as long term strategies to help with prioritizing and creating a life that you love.

Olivia James is an autistic woman who currently works at AuSM. After spending most of her life with major anxiety, she learned to use a variety of planners, supports, and reminders to hack her executive functioning and balance dozens of competing priorities.

4. Services and Supports Available for Families Impacted by ASD: Nicole Berning, BCBA
Parents throughout Minnesota often report the complexities of navigating the social service system in their attempts to access services for their children. In response to parent feedback, the EIDBI team has been travelling the state to share information with families about what services and supports exist for children, youth, and adults with a diagnosis of autism. Learn the basics of getting connected with services (e.g., signing up for Medical Assistance, getting connected with a local county or tribe, etc.) and what services and supports exist for families from the Minnesota Departments of Education, Employment and Economic Assistance, Health and Human Services. Also learn about the EIDBI benefit, a new medical benefit which provides behavioral treatment to children, youth, and young adults up to age 21 with autism or related conditions.

Nicole Berning is a Board Certified Behavioral Analyst and works with the Minnesota Department of Human Services Disability Services Division as the Policy Lead for the Early Intensive Developmental and Behavioral Intervention (EIDBI) benefit.

9:30 a.m. Break - AuSM Bookstore and Exhibits Open 

9:45-10:45 a.m. Breakout Sessions II 

1. Video Games: Obstruction or Asset?: Blake Plankers, MS
Our students' engagement with video games can be viewed as a fruitless perseveration; however, the enthusiasm video games evoke can be harnessed for productive, educational purposes. Gain strategies to differentiate instruction using video games to improve students' expressive/receptive communication; engagement in academic core subjects; transition/life skills; and social/emotional intelligence. Explore how principles of video game design can apply to the creation of student-centered positive behavior support plans.

Blake Plankers currently serves as autism consultant for Moorhead Schools, President of Education Moorhead, and Secretary of Red River Asperger Autism Network. He has worked with individuals with autism in several capacities over the past 10 years and holds a Master's degree in special education. 

2. The Hidden Harm of Functionality Labels: Laura Dettloff
Labels such as “high functioning” and “low functioning” are familiar to anyone who has an autism diagnosis, but they are unhelpful in many ways, from making it difficult to obtain needed services to alienating autistic people from each other. Learn about an alternative system that looks at specific areas of functioning and offers more detail about an individual’s needs and struggles.

Laura Dettloff was diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome at the age of 39. She has since discovered that most of the thinking and research about autism done to date revolves around children, and that little consideration has been given to the needs of adults on the spectrum. She became interested in functionality labels after learning of the perceived divide between the lives of people labeled “high functioning” and those labeled “low functioning.” Dettloff serves on the Board of Directors of AuSM and is an administrator and writer for a peer-to-peer mental health support site.

3. Matchmaker, Matchmaker Find Me a Career: Jody Van Ness, MA and Mark Olson
New mandates through the Workforce Innovation Opportunity Act (WIOA) are designed to improve our public workforce system and help all individuals, regardless of ability, find and maintain high quality jobs and careers. Approaching an employment search through a person-centered lens ensures that individuals with disabilities are treated with dignity and respect. Obtain tools and strategies that focus on the job seeker’s skills and interests as they navigate employment as a valued social role. Learn the differences between “power over and power with,” and the important of informed choice and a self-determined life.

Jody Van Ness provides writing and coordination support for courses in the College of Direct Support, drawing on a varied background in writing, teaching, and educational consulting. She holds an MA in education and administration, with an emphasis on autism and other neurobehavioral disorders. Her professional foundation includes a business start-up and 15 years of classroom teaching and nonprofit work. Van Ness served as the first Executive Director of Lionsgate Academy and she trained and coached families and professionals as a psychoeducational consultant at Fraser.

Mark Olson currently is a Project Coordinator at the Institute on Community Integration where he trains others in Person-Centered Thinking and in Person-Centered Active Support. In addition, he writes curriculum for Direct Course and supports Self-Advocacy Online. Throughout his career, Olson has provided service to people with disabilities in recreation and inclusion, residential and daily living skills, vocational skills, and advocacy. His key policy interests include health care, disability, education, workforce recognition and development, civic engagement, and human rights.

4. Parent Support: The Power of Connection: Beth Dierker, PhD; Mariam Egal, MPH; and Shannon Andreson, MA
Connecting with parents who “get it” is a step toward acceptance and social support for many parents of children with autism. Learn about a range of parent support approaches inclcuding local efforts to connect and educate Somali parents, organic connections and needs, and an emerging whole family model. Obtain tools for building acceptance and connections within and beyond families. 

Beth Dierker is a Community Fellow in the Leadership Education in Neurodevelopmental and Related Disabilities program at the University of Minnesota. She also is a parent, a writer, and an independent consultant using community-engaged and participatory approaches in her research and evaluation. Dierker serves as a parent advisor and contributing writer with the Center for Engaging Autism, and as owner of Waymarks Consulting, she supports organizational learning and community wellness by engaging stakeholders in critical examinations of their work while leveraging community knowledge in support of partnerships and innovations.

Mariam Egal has conducted qualitative research to understand the experiences of Somali families with children with autism in comparison to Hmong and Latino family experiences. Her work allowed her and her collaborators to make recommendations to Minnesota legislators regarding effective policies on autism services for these populations. Additionally, Egal works with DHS’s Disability Services Division in identifying gaps in access to information, resources, and services for Somali families with children with autism through collaborative work with parents, Somali community organizations, Hennepin County Human Services, Minneapolis Schools, and the medical community.

Shannon Andreson is a parent of a child with an autism spectrum disorder and is the executive director of the Center for Engaging Autism. Andreson’s work with other parents and professionals has allowed her to be instrumental in the development of programs, conferences, therapies, and resources that directly benefit individuals with autism and their families. Andreson is dedicated to developing partnerships, forging connections, and easing access to services for families in need.

10:45 a.m. Break - AuSM Bookstore and Exhibits Open 

11 a.m.-12 p.m. Breakout Sessions III 

1. Yes, And … (Social Skills Through Improv): Kelly Kautz, MEd, NBCT and Michael Bruckmueller, MFA
Learn how Improvisation allows students with autism the opportunity to develop social skills such as listening, reciprocal conversation, accepting the ideas of others, taking the point of view of another, working as a team, and placing the group goal above the individual goal. In this safe and fun space, students learn to take chances, accept mistakes, present their ideas, and build confidence. Learn how improv activities support social communication goals and see some of these activities in action through video and in person with students from AuSM’s Advanced Improv class. Did we mention that it’s FUN?

Kelly Kautz is a National Board Certified Teacher who has been teaching students with autism in the Minnetonka School District for 18 years. She currently teaches at Minnetonka High School where she is the Minnetonka Mentors and Improv clubs advisor. 

Michael Bruckmueller is an improvisor and teacher with 20 years of experience in professional improv. He holds an MFA in Theatre Pedagogy from Virginia Commonwealth University and a BFA in Theatre Performance from the University of Minnesota Duluth. He has been with CSz since 2000 where he works as both a performer and Director of Education. Bruckmueller works with all ages and has facilitated Applied Improvisation workshops for a variety of businesses and organizations. He is very proud of his work with AuSM, using improvisation to provide social skills workshops to students on the spectrum.

2. Estate Planning for Special Needs Families: Jason Schellack, JD
Many individuals with disabilities can benefit from an array of government programs, including Social Security and Medical Assistance. Adults with disabilities, however, must meet strict asset limits to be eligible for these programs. Social Security has an asset limit of $2,000 and Medical Assistance has an asset limit of $3,000. There are options, however, to avoid these asset limits! Assets in a supplemental needs trust, a special needs trust, or ABLE Act account will not count against an individual’s asset limits. Learn how to establish these accounts and incorporate them into your estate plans.

Jason Schellack is an attorney and the Executive Director of the Autism Advocacy & Law Center. He has been advocating for individuals with autism and their families for his entire career, as a Camp Discovery counselor, personal care attendant, public defender, and attorney with the Autism Advocacy & Law Center. Schellack focuses his practice on estate planning, guardianship, family law, and special education law.

3. Promoting Resilience in Families of Children with Autism: Amy Gunty, MA and Pang Chaxiong 
A child’s autism is often stressful for families. Some families adapt and create a “new normal” that maintains (and even increases) family functioning, while other families experience an on-going crisis. Using a review of existing literature, explore family stress and resilience theory as a lens through which to understand the factors and processes that support family resilience. Identify points of intervention and strategies to promote resilience in families of children with autism. 

Amy Gunty is a researcher in the Institute on Community Integration and a doctoral student in the Department of Family Social Science, both at the University of Minnesota. She has worked with children and families for almost 20 years, 13 of which she has spent supporting children with developmental disabilities or emotional and behavioral disorders and their families. She also has worked in research for eight years, focusing on a variety of topics that all center around recognizing and enhancing the strengths and resilience that are inherent in all people.

Pang Chaxiong is a pre-doctoral student in Educational Psychology and a LEND fellow at the University of Minnesota - Twin Cities. As the sibling of an individual with autism, Chaxiong has first-hand experience with the process of family resilience. She has worked as a behavioral therapist in a preschool for children with autism, and her current work is on promoting early identification and intervention in children with autism from culturally and linguistically diverse communities.


The overall sponsor of the 23rd Annual Minnesota Autism Conference is Lindamood-Bell Learning Processes. The event also is sponsored by Accra; Autism Advocacy & Law Center, LLC; Fraser; Minnesota Life College; Optum; Rosenberg Center; St. David’s Center for Child & Family Development; and The Therapy Place. Thank you for your support!

Conference Registration Policy 
Registrations will not be accepted without payment or purchase order. Registration confirmations will be sent via e-mail by April 19, 2018. Please include your e-mail address on the registration form. Refunds less a $15 processing fee will be given for cancellations received in writing to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. seven business days prior to the conference. Following this date, no refunds will be given. Requests for transfers of registration to another individual will be considered on a case-by-case basis.