Detailed 2021 Conference Schedule

A Navigating the Conference guide will be available soon!


Wednesday, April 21

3-5 p.m. State Services Navigation: FREE Interactive Session

Increase your awareness of and access to the range of services and supports available to people with autism in Minnesota. During this free session, representatives from the following state agencies will present and answer your questions:

  • Minnesota Department of Education (MDE)/Metro Educational Service Cooperative Unit (ECSU)
  • Minnesota Department of Health (MDH)
  • Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED) and Vocational Rehabilitation Services (VRS)
  • Minnesota Department of Human Services (DHS)

This session is FREE, but registration is required. Those registered for the Inform, Influence, Innovate Together virtual autism conference will automatically receive the link for this free pre-conference session. Registration for this FREE session does NOT include access to the virtual autism conference. Learn more.


7-9 p.m. KEYNOTE: Lydia X.Z. Brown
sponsored by Minnesota Independence College and Community

 

black and white image of person wearing glasses, smiling, and looking off to the right

Disability Justice is the Future of the Neurodiversity Movement
Difficulty: Intermediate-Advanced
Life Stage: All

Disability Justice principles and practices offer radical and revolutionary ways of reimagining our relationships with ourselves, each other, and the communities where we live, work, and learn. During the global COVID-19 pandemic, Disability Justice offers urgent and vital interventions for addressing and ending the myriad harms of eugenics; the medical/carceral industrial complex; and capitalist oppression, all of which disproportionately harm autistic and other neurodivergent and disabled people. Disability Justice enables us to understand and examine interpersonal, systemic, structural, and institutional ableism and its impact on disabled people of color, queer and trans disabled people, and other disabled people at the margins of the margins. We have always been at the forefront of movements for justice and freedom, challenging assumptions about what is normal or healthy, demanding our right to exist as we are, building networks of care and solidarity for one another, and creating social and cultural transformations that enable us to experience rest and practice active love as co-teachers and co-learners.

Lydia X. Z. Brown (they/them or no pronouns) is a disability justice advocate, organizer, educator, attorney, strategist, and writer whose work has largely focused on interpersonal and state violence against multiply-marginalized disabled people living at the intersections of race, class, gender, sexuality, nation, and language. They are Policy Counsel for the Privacy and Data Project at the Center for Democracy and Technology; Adjunct Lecturer in Disability Studies for Georgetown University; and Director of Policy, Advocacy, & External Affairs at the Autistic Women & Nonbinary Network. Brown also is founder and volunteer director of the Fund for Community Reparations for Autistic People of Color’s Interdependence, Survival, and Empowerment. Currently, they serve as a founding board member of the Alliance for Citizen Directed Supports, presidential appointee to the American Bar Association’s Commission on Disability Rights, and chair of the American Bar Association’s Section on Civil Rights & Social Justice, Disability Rights Committee.

Brown’s work appears in numerous scholarly and community publications, and they have received many awards for their work, including from the Obama White House, the Society for Disability Studies, the American Association of People with Disabilities, the Washington Peace Center, the Disability Policy Consortium, and the National Council on Independent Living. Brown was named to the Gold House Foundation’s A100 list of the most impactful Asians in America in 2020.


Thursday, April 22

 

9-10:30 a.m. KEYNOTE: Peter Vermeulen, PhD
sponsored by Autism Advocacy & Law Center, LLC

 

image of man with white hair, wearing glasses, and wearing an orange shirt with a black bowtie and smilingAutism and Happiness: from Neurodiversity to Neuroharmony
Difficulty: Introductory-Intermediate
Life Stage: All

With more than 10 scientific articles per day, Autism Spectrum Disorder is one of the most studied conditions in the world. Research increases our understanding of this developmental disability that has many myths and misconceptions. However, the research about how different, specific, and unique autism is has made us forget that people with autism share more than we think with neurotypical people, especially when it comes to basic needs such as happiness. Accepting neurodiversity is fine, but it emphasizes the differences between people. While recognizing the many ways a brain can operate is a big step toward autism acceptance, it is only the first step in our commitment to a better world and more well-being for people with autism. We also should focus on what connects all people: the pursuit of happiness.

Happiness has received little attention in the field of Autism Spectrum Disorders. Outcome and effect studies, for instance, rarely take emotional well-being as a desired outcome. And when the focus is on well-being, it is often from a negative perspective, namely the lack of well-being and quality of life. It is time to make a U-turn in our approach and change the focus from a clinical and medical approach to happiness in people with autism toward a shared and positive focus – we all want to be happy. Let’s move from neurodiversity to neuroharmony.

Explore how we can increase the well-being of autistic people. Learn how to promote positive feelings about life satisfaction and contentment as main sources of emotional well-being. Concepts will be illustrated with the story of Thijs, a boy diagnosed in the 80s and now a happy adult. His story will show how we can move from neurodiversity to neuroharmony, an inclusive world where autistic and non-autistic people are living in harmony.

Peter Vermeulen (he/him) has an MSc and PhD in Psychology and Educational Sciences and has worked with people with ASD and their families for more than 30 years. He is the founder of “Autism in Context,” where autism is understood in context. Dr. Vermeulen is a senior lecturer at Autisme Centraal, a training and education center for autism spectrum disorders. He is an internationally respected lecturer and trainer and he presents all over Europe and beyond. Dr. Vermeulen has written more than 15 books and several articles on autism. In 2019, he received a Lifetime Achievement Award for his work in the field of autism.


11 a.m.-12 p.m. Breakout Sessions 1

Untangle the Strategies for Working with a Student with Higher Impact Needs
Katie Berg, MA, Ed
(Live on Workcast)
Difficulty: Introductory
Life Stage: School Age

Learn about social communication through the lens of communication modes and supporting those with significant needs. Obtain strategies to enhance lessons, conversations, and activities as well as tools to problem-solve challenging behavior output and communication difficulties.

Katie Berg (she/her) has been educating students for the past 20 years. She has worked in the private sector, the public education system, and now statewide through an IDEA Discretionary Grant. From her experiences providing one-to-one therapy, classroom teaching, district training, and now statewide work, Berg has engaged learners in a range of subjects related to students with neurodiverse needs, including autism and mental health differences.

AAC for Beginners: Exploring Communication for All
Sonya Emerick and Lydia Dawley
(Live on Workcast)
Difficulty: Introductory
Life Stage: All

Communication is both a human right and an integral piece of the human experience. Children and adults with complex communication needs require support to access communication, and what that support looks like is as variable as communication itself. From the perspective of a person who uses augmentative and alternative communication (AAC), and a parent who pursued AAC access for her child, receive a basic foundation of AAC knowledge and explore the world of connection, relationship, and authenticity that opens up when an AAC journey begins.

Sonya Emerick (she/her) is an autistic storyteller with a background in grassroots organizing and a passion for communication and literacy access for all. The center of her world is her family, which includes two autistic children. Her lived experiences both as an autistic person and as a caregiver across diverse support needs have shaped her values pertaining to supporting neurodivergent development. Emerick loves music, cooking, heirloom vegetables, assistive technology, and her five cats.

Lydia Dawley (she/her) is a graduate from the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater. She has Mixed Cerebral Palsy, uses a wheelchair for mobility, and relies on an AAC device to speak. She is the Chief Executive Officer and founder of Click. Speak. Connect. She consults with speech-language pathologists, teachers, parents, and clients in access methods, device experiences in order to help with learning new apps, and language skills related to AAC. Dawley also works with children who talk with communication devices to practice social skills and improve confidence with their devices.

Building a Culture of Allyship in the Autism Community
Zephyr James and Jillian Nelson
(Live on Workcast)
Difficulty: Intermediate-Advanced
Life Stage: All

In recent years, autistic self-advocates have moved into the spotlight of policy and social justice advocacy. As their voices move to the forefront, parents, educators, service providers, and other support people are finding new roles as strong allies. Receive an overview of principles for being a strong ally to autistics in ways that are respectful, effective, and active.

Zephyr James (any pronouns) (formerly Olivia James) is an autistic adult and the Marketing and Communications Specialist at the Autism Society of Minnesota. After graduating with a BA in Philosophy and Religion from St. Olaf College, she struggled through a number of jobs before discovering her autism diagnosis and jumping headfirst into the world of autism. Since then, she has worked at the Autism Society of Minnesota, completed the Partners in Policymaking disability advocacy program, become a Minnesota LEND Fellow, and given presentations about autism across Minnesota. Her areas of interest are executive function, emotion regulation, and sensory needs. 

Jillian Nelson (she/her), Community Resource and Policy Advocate for the Autism Society of Minnesota, 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. She also has worked in employment services, helping others with autism secure and retain appropriate, successful employment.


12:30-1:30 p.m. KEYNOTE: Neurodivergent Teacher, McAlister Greiner Huynh

sponsored by CI Pediatrics

 

 

image of a woman wearing a gray shirt, pearls, and a brown sweater; woman is smiling and has long, brown hairThe Power of Accessibility: What Happens When We Change the World to Fit the Person Instead of Changing the Person to Fit Into the World
Difficulty: Introductory
Life Stage: All

We all want success for the autistic people in our lives: success in their education, their relationships, their careers, their happiness. However, despite our greatest efforts, we consistently fall short. Schools respond to autistic students with disciplinary action at alarming rates; autistic adults face chronic under- or unemployment; autistic individuals struggle with unmet mental health needs. This tells us one undeniable truth: what we’re doing…simply isn’t working. In our efforts to prevent autistic people from failing in this world, we have ignored the ways the world is failing them. In this session, learn from a neurodivergent educator–with a decade of professional experience working with autistic individuals–how an acceptance of differences and a focus on accessibility can make all the difference. After this session, you will be able to adapt your instructional approaches, educational support styles, and social-emotional interventions with the autistic neurology in mind to create a culture of acceptance, connection, belonging, and success for autistic individuals within the neurotypical-dominated world.

McAlister Greiner Huynh (she/her) is a special educator in Raleigh, N.C. She has been working with and learning from autistic individuals professionally for 10 years, steadily growing in her passion for neurodiversity, disability culture, and radical acceptance. She received her Bachelor of Science in Special Education and Bachelor of Arts in English from UNC-Greensboro and her Masters of Education with a concentration in Autism and Developmental Disabilities from the University of Texas at Austin. She is a Nationally Board Certified Exceptional Needs Specialist. McAlister is the educator behind “The Neurodivergent Teacher” pages on Facebook and Instagram, where she connects with families, professionals, and neurodivergent folks across the globe to share philosophies around teaching, self-advocacy skills, accessibility, and coping strategies.


1:30-2:30 p.m. NETWORKING LOUNGE: Neurodivergent Teacher – Continuing the Discussion
sponsored by Best Care

Join the Neurodivergent Teacher for a chance to ask questions, discuss her presentation, and chat with other community members.


2-3 p.m. Breakout Sessions 2

Prevent-Teach-Reinforce: Strategies and Interventions to Create Positive Learning Environments
Emily Bedford, MA, and Lynn Stansberry-Brusnahan, PhD
(Live on Workcast)
Difficulty: Introductory
Life Stage: School Age

Creating a positive learning environment for students on the autism spectrum is crucial for academic success. By laying a foundation using High Leverage Practices such as establishing a consistent and organized learning environment, modeling norms and routines, and specifying and reinforcing productive student behavior, you can decrease classroom behavior and increase time on task. Learn how to implement High Leverage Practices in your classroom in order to increase student regulation and engagement.

Lynn Stansberry-Brusnahan (she/her) is a Professor at the University of St. Thomas in Minnesota where she chairs the Department of Special Education and coordinates the autism spectrum disorder programs. Dr. Stansberry-Brusnahan is co-author of Do Watch Listen Say: Social and Communication Intervention for Autism Spectrum Disorder. She was the 2012 Autism Society of America Professional of the Year. She has a PhD from University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee in Urban Education and serves on the Council for Exceptional Children’s (CEC) Division on Autism and Developmental Disabilities (DADD) board.

Emily Bedford (she/her) works as Adjunct Faculty at the University of St. Thomas in Minnesota where she teaches in the Department of Special Education. Prior to St. Thomas, Bedford taught in the public school system, and also consulted privately in the area of autism spectrum disorders for counties in Western Wisconsin. Bedford has a Masters from University of St. Thomas in Minneapolis, specializing in Autism Spectrum Disorders, and earned her Bachelor’s degree at the University of Wisconsin – Eau Claire in Learning Disabilities and Cognitive Disabilities.

Addressing Sensory Processing Challenges Throughout the Lifespan
Carrie Einck, MS, OTR/L
Difficulty: Introductory
Life Stage: All

The more we learn about sensory processing and integration, the more we know that sensory-based challenges exist throughout the lifespan, not only in childhood. These challenges can improve with treatment but often do not go away as one gets older. Obtain a basic understanding of the similarities and differences of sensory-based occupational therapy treatment in pediatric, adolescent, and adult populations. Learn to think about sensory-based treatment from a lifespan perspective instead of within only one phase of development.

Carrie Einck (she/her) currently works as a Lead Occupational Therapist at Aspire Therapy and Developmental Services in Wisconsin. She has extensive knowledge and training in the treatment and evaluation of sensory processing and integration challenges through several years of education, research, and teaching through STAR Institute. During her time at STAR Institute, Einck helped develop the adolescent and adult program. She has experience in school, clinic, home, and community-based settings for children, adolescents, and adults with sensory processing challenges.

Integrating Indigenous Knowledge and Modern Strategies to Support Young Autistics
Jules Edwards
Difficulty: Introductory
Life Stage: All

Culturally responsive care includes designing and adapting support to meet the needs of diverse communities. Predominant treatment methodologies are rooted in a worldview that may be incompatible with many cultures, and may even replicate historical traumas. Examine how we can integrate Indigenous knowledge (referencing a Relational Worldview) with modern support strategies to develop culturally responsive and comprehensive supports for young autistics. By sharing cultural values alongside collaborative problem-solving strategies, learn to integrate concepts that honor the people they serve and effectively support learning and behavior difficulties.

Jules Edwards (she/her) is an Anishinaabe autistic activist and parent of autistic children. Her advocacy includes formal and informal work in the areas of social justice, with a focus on intersectional disability rights and child safety. She is the founder of MN Autistics and Allies, serves as the Chair of the MN Senate Autism Council, President of MN Disability Support Alternatives, and Board Member for the MN Ombudsman for American Indian Families.


3:30-4:30 p.m. Breakout Sessions 3

Motivational Interviewing: Empowering Progress Toward Personal Goals
Greg Burton, MFA, and Gretchen Robb, MA
(Live on Zoom)
Difficulty: Intermediate
Life Stage: Transition to Adulthood

Motivational Interviewing, a directive, person-centered counseling style, can be used to guide communication with individuals during transition to empower them to make progress toward personal goals. Explore the spirit, principles, and process of Motivational Interviewing. Through interactive breakouts, practice using Motivational Interviewing tools and review concepts.

Greg Burton (he/him) works at Minnesota Independence College and Community (MICC) as an advisor in their College Program and brings 10 years of experience working with individuals with ASD. He has a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Santa Clara University, an MFA from Saint Mary’s College of CA, and currently is working on his master’s degree in counseling psychology. Burton also has completed the Direct Support Certification program with the Autism Society of Minnesota.

Gretchen Robb (she/her) has been employed at MICC for more than eight years and is an advisor in their College Program. She has a bachelor’s degree in sport and exercise science and a master’s degree in integrative health and wellness coaching from the University of Minnesota. She also has acquired her board certification in health and wellness coaching.

Autism and Sleep Disturbances: Causes, Consequences, and Interventions
Jerrod Brown, PhD
(Live on Workcast)
Difficulty: Introductory
Life Stage: All

Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a neurodevelopmental disorder characterized by social-emotional issues, communication deficits, and repetitive behaviors. Complicating matters, many individuals diagnosed with ASD also have at least one other disorder. One of the most common co-morbid issues in in people with autism is sleep problems (e.g., issues falling and staying asleep). This co-occurrence could be due, at least in part, to hormones and neurotransmitter abnormalities, rapid eye movement (REM) sleep issues, hypersensitive sensory experiences, and medications. Viable interventions include maximizing sleep hygiene; medication (when necessary); massage therapy; and light therapy. When left untreated, sleep problems can plague children with autism into adulthood, resulting in pernicious school, work, and social outcomes. Examine the causes, consequences, and interventions associated with ASD and sleep disturbances.

Jerrod Brown (he/him) is an Assistant Professor, Program Director, and lead developer for the Master of Arts degree in Human Services with an emphasis in Forensic Behavioral Health for Concordia University. Dr. Brown has been employed with Pathways Counseling Center in St. Paul, Minn. for 17 years. He also is the founder and CEO of the American Institute for the Advancement of Forensic Studies (AIAFS). Dr. Brown has completed four separate master’s degree programs and holds graduate certificates in Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), Other Health Disabilities (OHD), and Traumatic-Brain Injuries (TBI).

Regulated You, Regulated Me: A Sensory-Informed Attachment Model for Autism Treatment
Laura Hewitt, MS, OTR, and Jenna Mao, LPC, BC-DMT
(Live on Workcast)
Difficulty: Advanced
Life Stage: All

When early parent-child relationships are affected by sensory or developmental challenges, such as a diagnosis of autism, it can impact attachment and the long-term relationship. Learn how a sensory-informed attachment model can address social, emotional, and daily-life skills. Obtain real-life therapeutic examples of how to integrate strategies for the child and parent into the therapeutic process from an occupational therapy and mental health perspective for a child with autism.

Jenna Mao (she/her) received her master’s degree in Dance/Movement Therapy and Counseling from Columbia College Chicago. She combines her knowledge of the body and movement into her mental health role at Children’s Therapy Network. Mao works with clients with autism, trauma histories, anxiety, and emotional regulation difficulties. She believes that non-verbal communication can have a profound impact on the therapeutic relationship. She is trained in trauma informed care and critical instance stress management, and uses a person centered approach in her work.

Laura Hewitt (she/her/hers) is an occupational therapist at Children’s Therapy Network in Madison, WI. She has advanced training in supporting engagement and relationships, sensory integration, manual therapies, and feeding.  She graduated from UW– Madison where she participated in research on supporting the well-being of caregivers of children with autism.


4:30-5:30 p.m. NETWORKING LOUNGE: Allyship Workshop
sponsored by Best Care

Join Zephyr James and Jillian Nelson for a chance to discuss their presentation, ask questions, and chat with community members.


Friday, April 23

9-10:30 a.m. KEYNOTE: Temple Grandin, PhD
sponsored by GT Independence

 

Image of woman wearing black western shirt with red tieHelping Different Kinds of Minds Be Successful
Difficulty: Introductory
Life Stage: All

In this special presentation backed by personal experience and evidence-based research, Dr. Temple Grandin will provide a look into her personal experiences, including intervention, problems with sensory and over-sensitivity. She will also discuss the thinking process, the importance of developing strengths as well as the importance of work skills. Take away practical tips for parenting, teaching and learning from the individuals with autism in your life.

Temple Grandin, PhD, (she/her) is a Professor of Animal Science at Colorado State University where she researches and teaches. Dr. Grandin’s popular books include Thinking in Pictures, Emergence Labeled Autistic, The Way I See It, and The Autistic Brain. Dr. Grandin is a past member of the board of directors of the Autism Society of America. In 2010, Dr. Grandin was honored on Time Magazine’s list of “The 100 Most Influential People in the World.” She was inducted into the Colorado Women’s Hall of Fame in 2012, and in 2017 was inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame.


11 a.m.-12 p.m. Breakout Sessions 4

Strategies and Supports Promoting Safety in the Home and Community
Rebecca Thompson, PhD, BCBA-D
(Live on Workcast)
Difficulty: Intermediate
Life Stage: All

Obtain teaching strategies and visual supports to encourage safe behavior at home and in the community. Learn how to manage elopement from rooms and buildings, stay within the boundaries of a yard or playground, stay near caregivers in parking lots and in stores, as well as identify community helpers. Those supporting learners of all skill levels will have the opportunity to discuss strategies they have found helpful and share their own successes with teaching safety skills to individuals with autism spectrum disorder.

Rebecca Thompson (she/her) is the Director of Clinical Services for Wisconsin Early Autism Project (WEAP). She is a licensed Clinical Psychologist and Board Certified Behavior Analyst, Doctoral level (BCBA-D), with 15 years of experience working with individuals with autism. In her Clinical Leadership role at WEAP, Dr. Thompson conducts diagnostic evaluations, supervises behavioral treatment programs, and mentors students seeking a master’s degree in behavior analysis. Dr. Thompson serves as an appointed member of the Governor’s Autism Council, and she is the current President of the Wisconsin Autism Providers Association (WAPA).

First: Justice, Then: All
Allie Tasche
(Live on Workcast)
Difficulty: Intermediate-Advanced
Life Stage: School Age

In this session, Allie Tasche, leader for inclusion in Wisconsin, will share her knowledge and experience in enhancing the implementation of Universal Design for Learning (UDL) to promote social justice in K-12 classrooms. Tasche will caution the dangers of deficit-based systems, particularly around race and disability. Learn about the need to reframe and RETHINK school culture, practices, and policies which were created and continue to serve the racial and neuro majority. By putting our BIPOC and neurodivergent students’ needs FIRST, we can THEN begin to say that our schools are dedicated to equity for ALL.

Allie Tasche is an educator from Wisconsin who has a BS in cross-categorical special education with certification in autism. She has worked in education as a program support teacher, autism instructional coach, and learning strategist. Tasche is experienced in leveraging UDL to design supports that allow neurodiverse students to thrive, and has lectured and provided professional development about autism, visual supports; UDL; sensory supports; co-planning/co-teaching; and peer-mediated literacy practices.

Trauma Exposure and Self-Care
Thomas Szewczyk, EdS
(Live on Workcast)
Difficulty: Introductory
Life Stage: All

As our knowledge of and exposure to trauma increases, we are seeing an increase in teachers leaving the profession. In families, the impact of trauma exposure leads to apathy and negative behaviors with our children. Learn about the differences between three different psychological effects – secondary trauma, burnout, and compassion fatigue – how they impact an individual, and ways to engage in self-care. This session will include learnings from an Action Research project and tips for teachers and administrators.

Tom Szewczyk (he/him) has worked with children in a variety of capacities over the last 18 years as a residential worker, paraprofessional, teacher, and administrator. He currently is a Special Education Dean for District 917. Szewczyk has a passion for supporting students with trauma, advocating for families, and supporting staff with the residual effects of working with children with trauma.


12:30-1:30 p.m. Breakout Sessions 5

Supporting Neurodiversity at the High School: Balancing Social-Emotional Needs with Academic Needs
Gail Wilke, MS
(Live on Workcast)
Difficulty: Intermediate
Life Stage: Transition to Adulthood

What happens when you have a student with autism who does well academically but continues to struggle socially? This is common at our high schools. Our special education system is designed to accommodate students with academic delays, but often lacks the supports to make sure neurodiverse students graduate with a full understanding of their strengths and challenges. Learn how creating an “Autism Focus” space, teacher, and supports can help neurodiverse students achieve in ALL areas and graduate ready for the real world and success.

Gail Wilke (she/her) has been working with neurodiverse students for more than 25 years in a number of roles including special education teacher, program support teacher, autism specialist, and advocate. She also is the parent of a son with ASD. Wilke believes strongly that empowering students with neurodiversity to understand their unique abilities and self-advocate is crucial to success. She has worked to develop unique, successful programs to support these students at the high school level in several school districts.

Building a Parachute for the Transition Cliff
Abbie Wells-Herzog, MS, CRC, ACRE
(Live on Workcast)
Difficulty: Introductory-Intermediate
Life Stage: Transition to Adulthood, Adulthood

This session will bring to light the large number of young adult autistics who are sitting in their parents basement for 5-10 years after graduating from high school. These individuals have fallen off the transition cliff, into the abyss of their parent’s basement, if they are lucky. If they are not lucky, they end up homeless. How is this happening? Where are the supports and services? What are some solutions to this problem?

Abbie Wells-Herzog (she/her) is the Autism Specialist for Vocational Rehabilitation Services (VRS), a division of the Department of Employment and Economic Development. She has worked in the disability and employment sector for over 30 years. She earned a B.S. in Rehabilitation Education and a M.S. in Rehabilitation Counseling from the University of Arizona. Wells-Herzog began working for the State of Minnesota as a VR Counselor in 2000 and is the parent of two, wonderful, neurodiverse daughters.

“YES, AND” – Social Emotional Learning through Applied Improvisation
Michael Bruckmueller and Kelly Kautz
(Live on Zoom)
Difficulty: Introductory
Life Stage: School Age

How can you create a learning environment that reinforces listening, accepting, supporting, taking risks and letting go of mistakes? Learn how to use improvisation with your students to practice social emotional learning goals such as reciprocal conversation, non-verbal communication, flexible thinking, perspective taking, and collaboration. Improv provides a safe, fun, and authentic space for students to take chances, accept mistakes, present their ideas, and build confidence. Experience improv games and learn how these games support SEL goals. Laughter guaranteed!

Michael Bruckmueller (he/him) is a teaching artist with more than 20 years of experience in theatrical improvisation. He works as the Director of Education at CSz Twin Cities and does freelance coaching and instruction. Bruckmueller has facilitated Applied Improvisation workshops for many businesses and organizations. He is very proud of his work with the Autism Society of Minnesota, using improvisation to provide social skills workshops to students on the spectrum. He is a co-founder of MNprov.

Kelly Kautz (she/her) is a national board certified special education teacher with more than 20 years of experience. She has taught ASD courses at UMN-Twin Cities. In 2016, Kautz received a grant from the Minnetonka School Foundation to provide improv classes to her students. She formed the Minnetonka High School improv club in 2017, creating an inclusive space for students to enjoy improv together. She is a co-founder of MNprov.


2-3 p.m. Breakout Sessions 6

Telehealth as a Modality to Deliver Services to Children with Neurodevelopmental Disabilities: A Presentation and Panel Discussion on the Use of Telehealth During COVID-19 and Implications for the Future
Jessica Simacek, PhD; Adele Dimian, PhD; Muna Khalif, LSW, SPMI, CM; and Nicole Berning, BCBA
(Live on Workcast)
Difficulty: Intermediate
Life Stage: Birth to five

Despite the clear benefits of early intervention, children with neurodevelopmental disabilities and their families often face barriers to timely and sufficient intervention access. During the COVID-19 pandemic, these barriers worsened, resulting in interruption to intervention for children across Minnesota. Many early intervention providers rapidly pivoted to the use of telehealth, or the delivery of intervention via teleconferencing technology. Learn about the use of telehealth prior to and during the COVID-19 pandemic, the strengths and limitations of its use, and future directions. Panelists will discuss their experiences in the rapid adjustment to intervention delivered via telehealth models.

Jessica Simacek holds a PhD in Special Education, Educational Psychology from the University of Minnesota. Her work focuses on the areas of early intervention for children with neurodevelopmental disabilities, particularly on communication intervention for children with complex communication needs, and in the use of telehealth as an intervention delivery mechanism to address barriers to intervention access. Dr. Simacek has an extensive background in working closely with families and clinical teams in behavioral intervention programs, throughout home, clinical, and educational settings.

Adele Dimian is an Advanced Rehabilitation Research Training (ARRT) Post-doctoral Associate at the University of Minnesota Institute on Community Integration. Dr. Dimian co-leads the ICI telehealth laboratory and several telehealth research projects focused on outreach, intervention access, and translational research. She specializes in the intersection between epidemiology and public health risk for young children with autism, including evaluating barriers to accessing intervention and development and environmental risks associated with the development of self-injurious behavior. Dr. Dimian served as a Post-Doctoral Fellow in LEND in the areas of early intervention and telehealth and currently serves as a faculty mentor.

Muna A. Khalif is a licensed Mental Health Social Worker and small business owner with BA in Sociology/Biology from The University of Minnesota. Over the past decade, she has worked in the healthcare field serving refugees within underserved communities. Khalif is an Education Specialist 2 at the Institute on Community Integration at the University of Minnesota. After migrating from Somalia in her youth, Khalif became passionate about advocacy and education upon witnessing the effects of PTSD, NDD, and ASD.

Nicole Berning works with the Minnesota Department of Human Services (DHS), Disability Services Division as the Autism Clinical Lead for the Early Intensive Developmental and Behavioral Intervention (EIDBI) benefit. She has a background in providing early intensive behavioral intervention services to children with ASD and related conditions. Berning provides consultation and technical assistance training to early intervention providers across the state on EIDBI policies and clinical procedures. She also provides training to parents and caregivers of children with ASD and related conditions on the services and supports available and how to access them.

Building Bridges: How Parents of Diverse Neurologies Can Learn from Each Other
Maren Christenson Hofer, Sonya Emerick, Elizabeth Scheel-Keita, and Jean Bender
(Live on Workcast)
Difficulty: Introductory
Life Stage: All

Parents of autistic children often talk about the supports needed for our children, but less attention is paid to the supports needed as parents. Many support groups exist, but few seek to build on the rich relationships between autistic parents and non-autistics. This panel discussion will explore cross-neurotype parenting through the lens of neurodiverse friends who view their different neurotypes as a source of strength rather than divisiveness. Learn how this group has used their differences to provide support and guidance to one another, build cross-cultural capacity, and become better parents to their children through the natural supports of friendship.

Maren Christenson Hofer (she/her) is the mother of a delightful autistic 9-year-old. She currently serves as the administrator for Multicultural Autism Action Network (MAAN) and on the Department of Education’s Restrictive Procedures Work Group, as the Policy Liaison for the MN Autism Council, and on the Board of Directors for The Arc Minnesota. Christenson Hofer’s advocacy work is informed by adults with disabilities who have greatly influenced her thinking about disability justice, as well as the families of children with disabilities in immigrant communities with whom she has the great pleasure of working every day.

Sonya Emerick (she/her) is an autistic storyteller with a background in grassroots organizing and a passion for communication and literacy access for all. The center of her world is her family, which includes two autistic children. Her lived experiences both as an autistic person and as a caregiver across diverse support needs have shaped her values pertaining to supporting neurodivergent development. Emerick loves music, cooking, heirloom vegetables, assistive technology, and her five cats.

Elizabeth Scheel (she/her) is an autistic woman, mom of two autistics, one an adult and one a bi-racial pre-teen. She has been active in the online autism groups for more than nine years and often has been stigmatized due to her autistic style of communication and interaction. She is a sociology professor at St. Cloud State University with degrees in psychology and sociology from University of California, Santa Cruz and graduate degrees in Criminology, Law and Society from University of California, Irvine. Her specializations include violence against women, family violence, social movements, community organizing, and social change, crime, deviance, and delinquency and disability.

Jean Bender (she/her) is the parent of three adults, one of whom has multiple disabilities. She has served as a volunteer advocate for many disability organizations; currently she co-chairs AuSM’s Advocacy Committee and is the Member Advocate for the MN Autism Council. Jean’s work has been informed and enriched by her relationships with adults with disabilities, including her son and autistic adult friends. She was an early intervention service coordinator for families of preschool children with disabilities, leaving paid work to create and implement a person-centered life plan for her son.

Dating, Relationships, and Sex
Stacy Stefaniak Luther, PsyD, LPC
(Live on Workcast)
Difficulty: Intermediate
Life Stage: Transition to Adulthood, Adulthood

Dating, relationships, and sex are aspects of daily living that can be difficult for autistic youth and adults. Difficulties with reading social cues in a neurotypical world, the hidden curriculum of social aspects regarding dating and consent, in addition to sensory sensitivities, can make these aspects of life challenging. Loneliness can be pervasive and impact mental health, safety, confidence, and self-esteem. Obtain a brief overview of skills that are helpful for navigating romantic relationships and safely navigating sexual relationships. Explore information on gender diversity and sexual minority relationships.

Stacy Stefaniak Luther (she/her) received her psychology doctorate in Clinical Psychology and her master’s Degree in Psychology with specializations in Clinical Psychology and Child and Adolescent Development from Capella University. She has been working with children ranging in age from infancy through adolescence and with parents in a variety of environments for more than 20 years and has more than 10 years of experience working with autistic youth and adults. She is especially passionate about autism and timely diagnosis, advocacy for early diagnosis for autistic females, and suicide prevention. Dr. Stefaniak Luther co-owns the Behavioral Health Clinic.


3:30-4:30 p.m. Breakout Sessions 7

Autism: Personality vs. Pathology
Zephyr James
(Live on Workcast)
Difficulty: Intermediate-Advanced
Life Stage: All

When you’re autistic, family members and providers often view your behaviors through the lens of autism. But just like neurotypicals, autistics have unique personalities and preferences that should be understood, respected, and supported. Learn about the the ways that over pathologizing can limit the lives of autistics, lead to ignored boundaries, and dampen the bright personalities in our autistic community. Learn about joyfully supporting autistic preferences, determining healthy intervention goals, and recognizing that every human is entitled to likes and dislikes.

Zephyr James (any pronouns) (formerly Olivia James) is an autistic adult and the Marketing and Communications Specialist at the Autism Society of Minnesota. After graduating with a BA in Philosophy and Religion from St. Olaf College, she struggled through a number of jobs before discovering her autism diagnosis and jumping headfirst into the world of autism. Since then, she has worked at the Autism Society of Minnesota for 5 years, completed the Partners in Policymaking disability advocacy program, become a Minnesota LEND Fellow, and given presentations about autism across Minnesota. Her areas of interest are executive function, emotion regulation, and sensory needs.

Who is in Control? Supporting Autistic Individuals Experiencing Dysregulation
Kelly Mahler, OTD, OTR/L; Amy Laurent, PhD, OTR/L; Jacquelyn Fede, PhD; and Chloe Rothschild
(Live on Workcast)
Difficulty: Introductory
Life Stage: All

Autistic individuals often exhibit behaviors deemed to be problematic and challenging, especially during extreme dysregulation. There is considerable debate regarding the best approach for supporting dysregulation. Many widely accepted practices focus on control, e.g., “the autistic individual is no longer in control of their actions, the support person must take control of the situation.” Examine commonplace practices and beliefs through autistic experiences and professional perspectives. Learn how a variety of approaches offering a multitude of strategies can be successful for autistic people, as they are person-centered and empowering…for autistic people.

Kelly Mahler (she/her) has been an occupational therapist for 18 years, serving school-aged children and adults. She has won multiple awards including the 2020 American Occupational Therapy Association Emerging and Innovative Practice Award and a Mom’s Choice Gold Medal. Mahler is adjunct faculty in the Department of Occupational Therapy at Elizabethtown College and is actively involved in several research projects pertaining to topics such as interoception, self-regulation, trauma, and autism.

Amy Laurent (she/her) specializes in educating autistic individuals. Her work involves creating learning environments designed to facilitate children’s active engagement at home, in schools, and throughout their communities. She is a co-author of the SCERTS Model and frequently lectures around the globe. Laurent is passionate about neurodiversity and helping others to honor and understand the implications of “different ways of being” in relation to navigating the physical and social world.

Jacquelyn Fede (she/her) is an autistic self- advocate, developmental psychologist, and program evaluator. Her research interests include immigration policy, autism, and community engagement. Dr. Fede uses her experiences to mentor other autistics and to help educate others about autism through lecturing, blogging, and consulting on evaluation projects. A full scholarship Division I athlete in college, Dr. Fede continues to meet her sensory needs by seeking extreme physical activity. She also enjoys the use of creativity and art for expression.

Chloe Rothschild (she/her) is an autistic self-advocate and international presenter. She is co-author of My Interoception Workbook: A Guide for Adolescents, Teens and Adults. Rothschild is on a mission to educate individuals about autism from her perspective.


4:30-5:30 p.m. NETWORKING LOUNGE: Autistic Adult Discussion Group
sponsored by Best Care

Join autistic adults and share insights, favorite sessions, and questions. This lounge session will be moderated by Barb Luskin, PhD, an AuSM Counseling and Consulting Services psychologist.


6:30-8:30 p.m. VIP Evening with Temple Grandin, PhD SOLD OUT
sponsored by GT Independence
(Live on Zoom)

Separate Registration Cost Per Participant: $75 (must also be registered for the general conference to participate in this VIP event)

  • Access to a 2-hour Zoom session with Temple Grandin, limited to 30 participants
  • Opportunity to ask Dr. Grandin one question
  • Digital picture with Dr. Grandin (e-mailed after the event)
  • Signed copy of a Dr. Grandin book (shipped to you)

Saturday, April 24

9-11 a.m. KEYNOTE: Wale Elegbede, MBA, PMP and Audrey Elegbede, PhD, ACC
sponsored by St. David’s Center for Child & Family Development

 

Image of a woman wearing a black shirt, red sweater, and black glasses with a man wearing a gray suit with a red tie. Both are smiling.Rising to the Challenge – Unleash Your Superpower for Social Justice
Difficulty: Introductory-Intermediate
Life Stage: All

Transformational social change requires passion, perseverance, and truly original thinking. The autism community with its focus on inclusion, neurodiversity, self-empowerment, and genius is poised to make a significant contribution to social justice efforts. Drawing on their expertise in systemic inequality, antiracism, autism advocacy, community building, and strategic planning, Wale and Audrey Elegbede will take us on a journey of new ideas and inspire us to actively engage in social equity efforts. Building on Wale’s TED Talk titled “It Takes a Community to Eradicate Hate,” Wale and Audrey will demonstrate the power of community in advancing systemic change.

Wale Elegbede (he/him) is a TED motivational speaker, social justice leader, and director of strategy management services at Mayo Clinic. Described as a community servant leader, Elegbede is president of NAACP Rochester Branch, Rada Distinguished Alumni of University of Wisconsin La-Crosse, and President of La Crosse-Rochester Project Management chapter.

Audrey Elegbede (she/her) is Curriculum Development and Assessment Manager at the Mayo Clinic Alix School of Medicine, former Professor of Ethnic and Racial Studies, and active autism advocate. She is an educator, speaker, and professional coach, and she serves on state and local boards supporting the autism community.

They are the parents of three children, the oldest son of whom is autistic.


11:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m. Breakout Sessions 8

Turning Ideas into Action – A Fireside Chat
Wale Elegbede, MBA, PMP and Audrey Elegbede, PhD, ACC
(Live on Zoom)
Difficulty: Introductory
Life Stage: All

Have you ever wanted to be involved in social justice change but didn’t know how to start? Join Audrey and Wale in a moderated conversation on individual strengths, antiracism, social inclusion, leadership, and holistically diverse social change. This session provides a more intimate exchange where participants learn how to turn ideas into reality. Join the conversation or just listen.

Wale Elegbede (he/him) is a TED motivational speaker, social justice leader, and director of strategy management services at Mayo Clinic. Described as a community servant leader, Elegbede is president of NAACP Rochester Branch, Rada Distinguished Alumni of University of Wisconsin La-Crosse, and President of La Crosse-Rochester Project Management chapter.

Audrey Elegbede (she/her) is Curriculum Development and Assessment Manager at the Mayo Clinic Alix School of Medicine, former Professor of Ethnic and Racial Studies, and active autism advocate. She is an educator, speaker, and professional coach, and she serves on state and local boards supporting the autism community.

They are the parents of three children, the oldest son of whom is autistic.

Suicidality and Autism
Megan Farley, PhD
(Live on Workcast)
Difficulty: Intermediate
Life Stage: School Age, Transition to Adulthood, Adulthood, Older Adult

Learn how to recognize signs of suicidality in a person with ASD, identify current prevalence of ASD and suicide, and obtain interventions to help a person with ASD cope with suicidality.

Megan Farley (she/her) is a licensed psychologist in private practice at Different Minds. She provides clinical diagnostic services for people who may have ASD of all ages. Her research interests are related to outcomes for adults with autism spectrum conditions across functional, health and social areas. She is interested in understanding the natural development of ASC and understanding effective ways to support people with ASC to achieve their goals, especially in the areas of employment, social relationships, and quality of life.

Looking Ahead: Financial Planning for the Future
Bob Johnston, LUTCF®, AIF®
(Live on Workcast)
Difficulty: Introductory
Life Stage: All

What will happen to your child when you are no longer around to take care of them? How does the ABLE Act of 2014 impact their future? Learn how to plan for the financial future of your child(ren), or other dependents, with special needs. Learn about eligibility for government benefits while helping to meet the needs for lifetime of care and quality of life issues. This presentation will cover estate planning, guardianship, will and trusts, and Letter of Intent.

Bob Johnston (he/him) is the father of a son with autism spectrum disorder. He is the survivor of a 1975 car accident that resulted in 22 orthopedic reconstruction surgeries over a 43-year time period. Consequently, he understands disability as both a patient and a parent. He is an Agency Special Care Planner for WestPoint Financial Group and founder of Special Needs Planning, LLC. Johnston is past president of the Autism Society of Greater Wisconsin, a representative with the Governor’s Council on Autism, and a member of the Academy of Special Needs Planners. He is committed to helping families through the maze of legal and financial complexities that surround planning for the financial future of people with special needs.


1-2 p.m. Breakout Sessions 9

Parenting, Autism, and the Era of George Floyd
Wale Elegbede, MBA, PMP and Audrey Elegbede, PhD, ACC
(Live on Workcast)
Difficulty: Intermediate
Life Stage: Birth to Five, School Age, Transition to Adulthood

2020 forced parents to have tough conversations regarding racial discrimination, social inequalities, and social justice protests. While these conversations are difficult for all parents, they can be uniquely different for parents of children with multicultural identities. Audrey and Wale Elegbede, a mixed race couple raising multi-racial children, will share their experiences navigating bias, discrimination, and privilege in educational and service sectors as well as how they engage in these difficult conversations with their autistic son.

Wale Elegbede (he/him) is a TED motivational speaker, social justice leader, and director of strategy management services at Mayo Clinic. Described as a community servant leader, Elegbede is president of NAACP Rochester Branch, Rada Distinguished Alumni of University of Wisconsin La-Crosse, and President of La Crosse-Rochester Project Management chapter.

Audrey Elegbede (she/her) is Curriculum Development and Assessment Manager at the Mayo Clinic Alix School of Medicine, former Professor of Ethnic and Racial Studies, and active autism advocate. She is an educator, speaker, and professional coach, and she serves on state and local boards supporting the autism community.

They are the parents of three children, the oldest son of whom is autistic.

How to Forgive in an Unforgiving World
Timothy Markle, MA, MA/CS
(Live on Workcast)
Difficulty: Introductory
Life Stage: All

As a parent of a child with special health needs and a professional who works with families, Markle knows how anger and bitterness can seep into life and others’ lives. We have had many opportunities for people to wound us on our journey. Sometimes we come to crossroads: “Do I want to hang onto my anger and bitterness or is there another way?” Explore what forgiveness is and steps you can take to become more forgiving and get rid of some of the ick.

Tim Markle (he/him) is founder of Forgiveness Factor and serves as speaker and contributing writer for the International Forgiveness Institute. He has been teaching about forgiveness as tool for mental health for more than five years. He incorporates Dr. Robert Enright’s process for forgiveness with his own personal experiences to help people move from anger, bitterness, and resentment into forgiveness.

Supporting Educators in Teaching Sexuality Education to Autistic Students
Leah Bauman-Smith and Kim Rossow
(Live on Workcast)
Difficulty: Introductory
Life Stage: All

People with disabilities want relationships as much as anyone else, however, they often do not receive the specialized education and support needed to manage puberty, sexual feelings, and relationship skills. Parents, caregivers, and educators are critical to ensuring that children of all abilities live in a sexually safe environment and receive the information they deserve. In this session, discuss sexual education for autistic people and learn how to support your child or student to develop safe and healthy relationships; have conversations about safety, sexuality, appropriate boundaries, and healthy relationships; learn about teaching tools and strategies for teaching topics related to sexuality education; and obtain teaching tools and strategies for home.

Leah Bauman-Smith (she/her) is an educator and outreach specialist with Mad Hatter Wellness and Sexuality for All Abilities. She has a graduate degree in special education and a teaching certificate in sexuality education. Bauman-Smith has taught special education for 13 years and sexuality education for the past 10. She is a mom and activist and loves working with people of all abilities, especially teens and young adults.

Kim Rossow (she/her) is the Parent/Caregiver Education Specialist for Mad Hatter Wellness. She has more than 20 years of experience in sexual health education and wellness, but her real expertise comes from her 14 years of parenting her three unique children, including one child who has profound intellectual and developmental disabilities.


2:30-3:30 p.m. Breakout Sessions 10

AAC and Its Role in Socialization
Nicholas (Cole) Cooper
(Live on Workcast)
Difficulty: Intermediate
Life Stage: All

Alternative and Augmentative Communication (AAC) is often seen as a tool for communicating only basic wants and needs, but AAC users deserve to access a full social life as well. AAC can support many autistic people with social interaction and community engagement, even those with some ability to speak. This session will explore the benefits of AAC for social interaction, the ways that professionals can support community engagement with the AAC users they work with, and the importance of mentorship for AAC users.

Cole Cooper (he/him) is an autistic self advocate who is pursuing a degree in Special Education at the University of Minnesota, where he also helps teach a class on disability. He is a symbol-based AAC user who communicates using an iPad about 90% of the time. He has written for the Explicit Literary Journal about his experiences as an often-nonspeaking autistic person.

What About Me? Tips for Raising Siblings of Children with Autism and other Developmental Disabilities
Harriet Redman, MS, Ed
(Live on Workcast)
Difficulty: Introductory
Life Stage: All

Parents want to do their best for all of their children, but sometimes they are uncertain how to do their best when they have a child with autism or other developmental disabilities and also neurotypical children. Receive insights and ideas for raising children who are growing up with their siblings with autism. What’s fair? What’s right? What about Me? Learn from Redman’s personal experiences and insights on working with siblings for more than 20 years as well as current sibling research.

Harriet Redman (she/her) is Executive Director and founder of WisconSibs, a non-profit organization dedicated to children and adults who have siblings with disabilities. Formerly a marketing director for Thrivent Financial, she left that position to become caregiver for her son with developmental disabilities and create WisconSibs, the first organization of its kind in the United States.

Mindful or Mind Full?
Kerry Hoops, MA, BCBA; Karen Konop, MA, BCBA; and Brittany Schumacher, MS, BCBA
(Live on Zoom)
Difficulty: Introductory
Life Stage: All

The world is moving faster and changing every day. Tasks, schedules, and different activities are cluttering our minds: things to do, things that could have been done better, things that did not get done. Individuals often are living in the past and worrying about the future. Learn how to use mindfulness to organize the clutter and live more in the present with an attitude of acceptance.

Kerry Hoops has been working with children with autism for more than 20 years. She is the Clinical Director for the Wisconsin Early Autism Project-Green Bay Region where she provides clinical consultation and mentorship to help support families and clinicians. Hoops has been on the Board of Directors for the Autism Society of Greater Wisconsin for more than five years and also has worked with a program at the YMCA called Special Pops, which facilitates social activities for adults with special needs.

Karen Konop works with young children and families as a Behavioral Treatment Licensed Supervisor with the Wisconsin Early Autism Project. She is a PhD student at The Chicago School of Professional Psychology, researching the application of Relational Frame Theory and Acceptance and Commitment Training in supporting children and families with autism spectrum disorder.

Brittany Schumacher is an Assistant Clinical Director at Wisconsin Early Autism Project, Eau Claire. She has been working with children with autism for 15 years. She received a bachelor of arts degree in Psychology with an Emphasis in Behavior Analysis from UW Eau Claire and a Master of Science degree in Applied Behavior Analysis from St. Cloud University. Schumacher also is a certified yoga instructor (RYT-235).