Detailed Virtual Conference Schedule

Unprecedented times call for creativity, collaboration, and community. The Autism Societies of Minnesota and Greater Wisconsin were proud to offer a first-ever joint conference brought to our communities virtually April 30-May 2, 2020.

We are pleased to announce this amazing content, including keynote presentations from Judy Endow, LCSW; Loui Lord Nelson, PhD; Kari Dunn Buron; and Haley Moss; 45+ on-demand breakout sessions in tracks focused on accessibility, neurodiversity, services and supports, strategies, and COVID-19; and Minnesota and Wisconsin virtual exhibit halls full of resources is available for new registrants. Content can be accessed as often as desired until Nov. 1, 2020.

Certificates of Attendance/CEUs
Conference participants will be issued certificates of attendance; educators are encouraged to keep the certificate of attendance and the conference program to submit to their respective CEU boards. The following boards have approved CEU credits for the virtual autism conference: Minnesota Board of Psychology = 17.5 hours; Minnesota Board of Social Work = 32 hours; Minnesota Board of Marriage and Family Therapy = 17 hours; and Minnesota Board of Behavioral Health and Therapy = 17 hours.

Keynote Presentation: Judy Endow, LCSW
Autistically Thriving

Based on her newest book, Autistically Thriving: Reading Comprehension, Conversational Engagement and Living a Self-Determined Life Based on Autistic Neurology, Endow will talk about a shift in how autistic support is thought about and implemented. Rather than supporting deficits (as is typical in the field of autism), Endow will cover who autistic people are and how they comfortably function, going over key elements of taking in, processing, storing, and retrieving information along with autistic thinking style. She will share numerous examples so autistic individuals, parents, educators and therapy providers will come to understand that when autistics are honored for who they are and supported for who they want to be in this world, they can truly thrive! (Note: identity-first language used intentionally as it is the preference of most autistics.)

Judy Endow, LCSW, author and international speaker on a variety of autism-related topics, has written numerous articles and books, including award winners: Learning the Hidden Curriculum: The Odyssey of One Autistic Adult and Paper Words and Discovering and Living with My Autism. As a person who lived some of her early years in an institution, Endow has emerged as a leader in the autism community. A resource specialist and a clinician at Common Threads Family Resource Center in McFarland, WI, she received the Autism Society of America’s Cathy Pratt Professional of the Year Award — the first autistic person to receive this prestigious national award. Endow has served on the boards of both the Autism Society of America, Wisconsin Chapter and the Autism National Committee, was featured in the New York Times’ Patient Voices, and was honored by The Art of Autism as one of the most influential bloggers on the web. Endow has made over 400 presentations all over the world.

Keynote Presentation: Loui Lord Nelson
What Do You See? Lessons We Learn Through Universal Design for Learning

When you envision instruction, what does it look like? How does that instruction shift when you think specifically about autism? Why? Using stories from the field, research, and her own experiences, along with guided discussions, Dr. Nelson will share how the Universal Design for Learning (UDL) framework encourages us to view teaching and learning through the lens of neurodiversity and how that impacts design and possibility.

Dr. Nelson is an internationally recognized leader in UDL implementation. A former special education teacher, she held the first known UDL Coordinator position for a school district, has taught online courses about UDL, completed her UDL post-doctoral fellowship at CAST (the creators of UDL), is a member of the CAST Cadre, and is part of the UDL-Implementation and Research Network (IRN) leadership council. She has worked with educators across the U.S., Canada, Europe, Asia, Africa, and Australia. Her publications include: Design and Deliver: Planning and Teaching Using Universal Design for Learning; The Role of Technology in Implementing Universal Design for Learning; Culturally Responsive Design for English Learners: The UDL Approach; and A Tree for All: Your Coloring Book of UDL Principles and Practice. She also hosts the popular podcast, UDL in 15 Minutes, accessed in more than 44 countries.

Keynote Presentation: Kari Dunn Buron
Self-Regulation: 25 Years of Trying New Pieces of String

Over the past 25 years, our response to challenging behaviors in the school environment has evolved to include the recognition of what it means to be able to self-regulate one’s own emotions; to regulate one’s responses to the sensory environment; and to navigate one’s way through difficult social situations. We have moved from a culture of control to one of self-empowerment. From a culture of “normalizing” to one that appreciates neurodiversity. Learn about the quest to understand the nature of self-regulation, research to support this change in school culture, and ideas to make it happen.

Dunn Buron taught in the K-12 MN public school system with students on the autism spectrum for more than 30 years, is a past president of AuSM, was a founding member of the Minnesota Autism Project, and developed an ASD Certificate program for educators at Hamline University. In 2003, Dunn Buron received a self-designed fellowship that allowed her to spend a year interviewing and working internationally with a number of scientists and researchers in the areas of neuroscience, social cognition, education, and autism with a focus on challenging behaviors. Dunn Buron is the co-author of The Incredible 5-Point Scale (Revised Edition) and Social Behavior and Self-Management. She is the author of When My Worries Get Too Big (Revised Edition); A 5 Could Make Me Lose Control; and A 5 is Against the Law!. She is the co-editor of a textbook, Learners on the Autism Spectrum: Preparing Highly Qualified Educators, and a curriculum for teachers called Social Times Curriculum. She currently is re-launching her early chapter book, Adalyn’s Clare.

Keynote Presentation: Haley Moss
Assembly Required

Autism does not come with an instruction manual, but it does come with lots of magical parts and important tools to use to build the best life possible. Assembly Required is the story of Haley Moss, an autistic attorney who has gone from a nonverbal child diagnosed with autism at age 3, to an author, artist, attorney, and autism advocate. Explore Moss’s journey, the assembly of her village, finding her written and spoken voice, looking to the future full of hope, inspiration, and excitement as she writes the next, ongoing chapter in her life as a lawyer. Moss also will look at neurodiversity, acceptance, and perspectives of how society views autism and related disabilities.

Diagnosed with autism at age 3, Moss graduated with her Juris Doctor from the University of Miami School of Law in 2018, and graduated from the University of Florida in 2015 with Bachelor degrees in Psychology and Criminology. Moss is a renowned visual pop artist and the author of Middle School: The Stuff Nobody Tells You About and A Freshman Survival Guide for College Students with Autism Spectrum Disorders: The Stuff Nobody Tells You About. She also was the illustrator of and a contributor for the Autism Women’s Network anthology What Every Autistic Girl Wishes Her Parents Knew. Her writing has been featured in HuffPost, Teen Vogue, Elite Daily, The Mighty, and other websites and publications.

10:45-11:45 a.m. LIVE Breakout Session 1

Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction: A Tool To Help Reduce Stress In Parents of Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder
Beth Dierker PhD; Adam Langenfield; Jennifer Reiter; Kate Biederman, OTR/L, NBC-HWC
MN LEND Session

Parents of children with ASD report experiencing high levels of stress. In this session, review evidence supporting the use of mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) techniques for managing stress and improving overall health among parents of children with special needs. Facilitators and participants from an MBSR program that was designed with and for these parents discuss their experiences and program development ideas. Session participants are invited to try MBSR techniques during the session. Gain a greater understanding of MBSR and how it can be integrated into the daily lives of parents and caregivers, educators, and healthcare practitioners.

Adam Langenfeld is a first-year fellow in Developmental-Behavioral Pediatrics (DBP) at the University of Minnesota. He attended medical school as an MD/PhD candidate at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, where he also completed his PhD in Chemistry. He completed his Pediatric Residency at Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin in Milwaukee, Wis. As a MN LEND and DBP Fellow, Langenfeld is interested in developing interventions that can optimize the health and well-being of children with neurodevelopmental disorders and their families in different settings.

Beth Dierker, the Executive Director of Communities Engaging Autism (CEA), is a parent of two children, one of whom is on the autism spectrum. While navigating her child’s ASD diagnosis and supports, Dierker did community-engaged research in youth and community development. Seeing individuals within systems, communities, and families informs her role with CEA, including her program development and facilitation work with CEA’s Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction for Parents of Kids with Special Needs course.

Jennifer LeGrand Reiter has worked in the arts community for more than 20 years. A Minnesota native and graduate of the College of St. Benedict, she has worked with the Ordway, Guthrie Theater, and Walker Art Center. Her daughter’s ASD diagnosis shifted her focus to creating opportunities for inclusion for people with disabilities via arts and education. She is working with local schools and arts organizations to create sensory-friendly arts programming. As a MN LEND Fellow, LeGrand Reiter is working to deepen leadership skills and community connections to build opportunities for youth and adults with developmental disabilities in arts organizations.

Kate Biederman has a passion for supporting children and their families’ ability to learn, grow, participate successfully in their daily activities, enjoy one another, and create lives filled with health and happiness. She is a certified health coach and pediatric occupational therapist. Biederman serves as Clinical Supervisor of Occupational Therapy at St. David’s Center where she has worked for more than 22 years in a variety of roles. She has been both a participant and an assistant facilitator for the MBSR course developed by Jon Kabat-Zinn. She currently facilitates a MBSR course for parents of kids with special needs.

Community Inclusion: The AuSM Paradigm
Robyn DeCourcy, Mike Pucci

Equitable access to community-based social and recreational opportunities is an integral component of positive long-term health outcomes. However, many public spaces pose physical, environmental, and social barriers for neurodiverse individuals. Learn how AuSM actively addresses such obstacles in collaboration with our community partners via our ‘Community Inclusion’ paradigm, and promotes the implementation of evidence-based practices within community-based settings. When everyone is included, we ALL benefit.

Robyn DeCourcy has been working with individuals on the autism spectrum for over 12 years, specializing in early intervention as well as community accessibility. Robyn designed her own multidisciplinary Bachelor of Science degree (Liberal Arts and Autism Studies) at the University of Minnesota – Twin Cities, where she also obtained her Certificate in Autism Spectrum Disorders. As an Education Specialist for the Autism Society of Minnesota, her role includes developing and providing customized trainings along with designing and implementing social skills curricula. In addition, Robyn serves on numerous accessibility teams for a wide variety of organizations and regularly consults about sensory-friendly and inclusive spaces.

Mike Pucci, an AuSM Education Specialist, contributes to the development and delivery of specialized trainings to businesses, educators, families, and more. In addition to trainings, Mike also coordinates and oversees social skills programming for youth and adults with autism. Prior to joining the Autism Society of Minnesota, he worked for Minneapolis Public Schools in their adult transitional programs and lead adaptive recreation programming for the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board.

1:45-2:45 p.m. LIVE Breakout Session 2

Promoting Health, Wellness, and Quality of Life
Carley Matsumoto; Lindsey Ryan; Camille Loughlin

Among individuals with ASD, social isolation and mental/physical health conditions can compromise an individual’s ability to sustain an independent life. In practice, these challenges affect individuals with ASD in highly variable ways. Learn about practices that ensure the individual served drives the decisions made around their health and social well-being while obtaining practical insights around techniques that both promote quality of life and offer individualized plans to improve in these areas. Also learn about data collection methods and how the results both promote accountability and inform decisions made at the individual and program levels.

Carley Matsumoto received her master’s degree in Public Policy at the Humphrey School of Public Affairs where she focused on nonprofit leadership and program evaluation. She is currently the Evaluation Program Manager at Minnesota Independence College and Community (MICC), and she is responsible for tracking and reporting on program outcomes. In addition to collecting data that informs program improvements and communicates successes, Matsumoto works with MICC’s research partners such as the University of Minnesota and Wilder Research to examine the impact of MICC’s work in a broader context.

Lindsey Ryan received a degree in Health and Wellness Promotion from Luther College and a Personal Training Certification from the American Council on Exercise. Ryabn is the Wellness Program Manager at MICC where she supports health, wellness, and nutrition by implementing programming for the community program.

Camille Loughlin received her Bachelor of Science degree from the University of Wisconsin-Stout in Vocational Rehabilitation with a concentration on Transition Services. Loughlin has worked with the autism population for more than 10 years in roles as an Employment Consultant and most recently a Social Engagement Program Manager at MICC where she works with participants to increase their involvement in their community.

Addressing Complex Behaviors Associated with Autism Spectrum Disorder
L. Lynn Stansberry Brusnahan PhD; Erin Farrell; James Williams

Obtain simple strategies to address complex behaviors in areas such as eating, sleeping, toileting, hygiene, sexuality, and safety. Learn strategies to prevent challenging behaviors; teach behaviors; increase pro-social behaviors; and maintain and generalize skills already learned. Session will highlight these strategies: antecedent-based intervention, task analysis, shaping, chaining, prompting, time delay, reinforcement, differential reinforcement, extinction, and functional communication training.

L. Lynn Stansberry Brusnahan 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. She is coauthor of Do Watch Listen Say: Social and Communication Intervention for Autism Spectrum Disorder and was the 2012 Autism Society of America Professional of the Year. Dr. Stansberry Brusnahan has a PhD in Urban Education from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. She serves on the Council for Exceptional Children’s (CEC) Division on Autism and Developmental Disabilities (DADD) board.

Erin Farrell is the Autism Spectrum Disorders Specialist for the Minnesota Department of Education. She is a Board Certified Behavior Analyst and a licensed ASD teacher. In addition to her role at MDE, Farrell is an Adjunct Professor and Doctoral Student at the University of St. Thomas. Prior to her role at MDE, she was a District Behavior Specialist in schools, supporting families, teachers, and students through positive behavior supports. Farrell is dedicated in many different roles to helping families and educators navigate supports and evidence-based strategies for students with ASD.

Accommodations, Interviewing and Work Culture: Tips for Navigating the Neurotypical Work World When You Are Neurodiverse
Ann Macheledt MS, CRC; Abbie Wells-Herzog, MS, CRC, ACRE; Margie Webb, MS, CRC, ACRE

Individuals who identify as neurodiverse sometimes see the workplace as a social puzzle. The social interactions during interviews can be tedious. Lunch and break-time chit chat is tiring. Wondering if you should disclose or request accommodations can be nerve racking. Learn about challenging work-related situations and how to manage them.

Abbie Wells-Herzog has worked in the employment and disability field for more than 30 years. She developed a passion for working with people on the autism spectrum through her work as a Vocational Rehabilitation transition counselor in Dakota County schools. For the past seven years, she has served as the Autism Specialist at Vocational Rehabilitation Services, a division of DEED. Wells-Herzog has two adult daughters who have autism.

Ann Macheledt has worked in the field of Vocational Rehabilitation for more than 25 years. Currently she is a Program Specialist in Training and Development for VRS, where she assists in developing training on autism. Prior to this, she held management/leadership positions in both nonprofit and for-profit businesses and advised businesses on their retention and accommodation needs. Macheledt has expertise in the areas of ADA/ADAAA consulting and training, ergonomics, and diversity recruitment. She serves on the board of Disability:IN Minnesota and is committed to driving disability inclusion in the workplace.

Margie Webb has 30 years of experience providing employment services to people with disabilities both in the private sector for 17 years and 13 years within VRS. She worked as a Program Director for a nonprofit Community Rehabilitation Program supervising and providing direct services in employment and independent living. As a counselor with VRS since 2006, Webb provided transition services to youth in local high schools for nine years, and then spent time focusing on helping adults with disabilities obtain community, integrated, competitive employment through the use of Person Centered practices and Customized Employment. Webb participated in the curriculum development of MN Customized Employment, and currently is training and mentoring Customized Employment throughout Minnesota.

3-4 p.m. LIVE Breakout Session 3

Understanding and Applying the Neurodiversity Paradigm to Provide Respectful Supports for ALL
Allie Tasche and Katy Hayes

During this session, a teacher’s journey toward inclusion illustrates lessons learned from the #actuallyautistic community. By letting go of what we thought we knew and reculturing our support of autistic students, we move from compliance to compassion, improving outcomes for ALL. Gain improved understanding of the neurodiversity paradigm, and discover the importance of pairing evidence-based strategies with perspectives of autistic advocates when designing person-centered supports. Video clips, visuals, case-studies, and quotes will be used to synthesize and illuminate concepts, with a focus on respectful support of learner variability, behavior, communication, social interaction, and sensory differences.

Allie Tasche is an educator from Wisconsin. She has a B.S. in cross-categorical special education with certification in Autism Spectrum Disorders. Tasche has worked in education as a Program Support Teacher, Autism Instructional Coach, and a Learning Strategist. Tasche is experienced in leveraging UDL to design supports that allow neurodiverse students to thrive. Tasche has lectured and provided professional development about Autism, Visual Supports, UDL, Sensory Supports, Co-planning/Co-teaching, and Peer-Mediated Literacy Practices in regional districts, at Carroll University and UW-Madison, and nationally at the CAST Symposium: UDL for Social Justice in Boston, MA, and OCALICON2018 in Columbus, OH.

Katy Hayes, MS, is a low incidence/autism coach from Oconomowoc, Wisconsin. She has a B.S. in elementary and special education and an M.S. in reading. Hayes currently collaborates with teachers to increase student outcomes and expand inclusive practices at Oconomowoc High School. Hayes has presented at Ocalicon in 2018 and the CAST UDL 4 Justice Symposium in 2017. She is a member of her district’s Autism, Building Leadership, PBIS, Literacy Leaders, and CPI teams.

Video Modeling and High Tech Supports
Sharon Hammer and Lisa Ladson

Many different teaching methods can be used to support individuals with autism. Video modeling is an evidenced-based practice, useful for school, home, work, and community settings. It works for people of all ages and access levels. Learn about the benefits of using supports that match autistic neurology and obtain an understanding of the characteristics that maximize the effectiveness of video models and high tech supports.

Sharon Hammer, MS, LPC is an Educational and Behavioral Consultant and a Licensed Professional Counselor. She has over 20-years of experience working with children and individuals on the autism spectrum and their families. Sharon is a partner at Imagine a Child’s Capacity, where she provides training and consultation to schools, community members, and parents. Sharon has co-authored two books and DVDs about using technology to support individuals with autism, entitled Lights! Camera! Autism! With Star Cinema, Sharon co-created the first “Sensory Friendly” movie going experience in the state of Wisconsin. Sharon is committed to increasing awareness and possibilities throughout the community for individuals on the spectrum.

Lisa Ladson is an Educational & Behavioral Consultant, working as an independent contractor for Imagine a Child’s Capacity in Madison, Wisconsin. She is a former special educator who has served as a classroom teacher, certified resource teacher and behavior specialist, assisting individuals with disabilities for over 25 years.

Supports for Minimally Verbal Individuals with ASD
Stacey Brandjord, MA, CCC-SLP; Rebekah Hudock, PhD, LP, NCSP; Amy Esler, PhD, LP; Whiteny Terrill, BA; Kourtney Kromminga, BA; Madison Blair; Charlie Davis, BS
MN LEND Session

The minimally verbal end of the autism spectrum is traditionally underserved clinically and understudied in research. Obtaining supports for individuals with limited communication strategies during the transition to adulthood is particularly challenging. Learn about communication needs, specifically how families are accessing augmentative and alternative communication (AAC), and the effectiveness of those services, including the Transitioning Together program.

Stacey Brandjord is a PhD student in the school psychology program at the University of Minnesota. She previously worked as a school speech-language pathologist before returning to school. Her research interests focus on service identification and use for individuals with autism as well as students with co-occurring language and behavior disorders within the educational setting. Brandjord has a specific interest in service use and interventions for individuals with autism who are minimally verbal as this is an often-overlooked population within autism.

Amy Esler is a licensed psychologist specializing in autism and related conditions and an associate professor in the Department of Pediatrics at the University of Minnesota. Her clinical work and research emphasize the development of individuals with minimally verbal autism across the lifespan, including the development of interventions and assessment measures to improve functional communication skills and quality of life.

Madison Blair grew up in Wisconsin and always has been passionate about working with children. While working on her undergraduate degree in Communication Sciences and Disorders at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, she discovered that her true passion is working with children with autism. She is excited to become a licensed Speech Language Therapist and begin changing the lives of others by providing people with the ability to communicate.

Charles Davis worked for several years in an elementary and middle school in West Saint Paul before starting a combined master’s in public health and nutrition. He is passionate about working with children from all backgrounds and is excited to grow with MN LEND, where he hopes to meet other like-minded professionals who are passionate about working with children.

Rebekah Hudock is a pediatric neuropsychologist and assistant professor in the Department of Pediatrics at the University of Minnesota. She is an expert in diagnosis and therapeutic intervention for individuals with autism across the lifespan, with particular expertise in serving transition-aged adolescents and young adults. Clinically, Dr. Hudock conducts comprehensive diagnostic evaluations and coordinates treatment programming specifically designed to assist individuals with ASD and their caregivers in accessing supports and navigating the transition to adulthood. Her research focuses on services for individuals with ASD and their families, including social transition, skills intervention, social-emotional development, and parenting stress.

Whitney Terrill is sociologist and public administration professional currently serving as a 2019-2020 MN LEND Fellow at the University of Minnesota. During her MN LEND fellowship year, she is working on a project with co-author Dr. Hudock to complete projects related to community-based interventions for youth and adolescents with ASD. Terrill also has experience and interests related to disability policy, community outreach, and implementation of evidence-based community supports.

Kourtney Kromminga is a PhD student in the school psychology program at the University of Minnesota. She is currently MN LEND Fellow and a practicum student in the M Health Fairview Voyager Pediatric Specialty Clinic. Kromminga’s interest is in providing services and intervention to youth with autism and their families, specifically coordination of educational and community services for transition-aged youth.

4:15- 5:15 p.m. LIVE Breakout Session 4

See It, Show It: Reading Comprehension Based on Autistic Neurology
Rachel Wright Jones

The ability to understand what is read, to comprehend, is what makes reading a meaningful life skill. Of course, one must first learn to read in order to decipher meaning from print, but at the same time, one must understand what is read in order to be motivated to learn to read. While reading instruction has a longstanding history, teaching reading comprehension explicitly remains a fairly young science. Explicit reading comprehension instruction for students with autism is almost entirely absent in research publications. Review the existing literature base regarding reading comprehension and students with autism, as featured in Autistically Thriving: Reading Comprehension, Conversational Engagement, and Living a Self-Determined Life, by Judy Endow. Gain easy strategies to implement on-the-fly to help promote reading comprehension for learners on the spectrum.

Rachel Wright Jones, Ph.D. is the Director of the Common Threads School Program in McFarland, WI, and has over 15 years of experience serving individuals with autism across the country. Rachel’s areas of interest and research involve the use of emerging technologies as supports to promote independence in daily routines, improve situational outcomes in employment settings, and increase the overall quality of life for students and individuals with autism and intellectual disability as they transition to adulthood. Dr. Jones is among the leading experts in applied uses of Augmented Reality in Special Education and has published and presented her work on both the national and international circuits.

Bullying Prevention, Intervention, and Tools for Parents, Educators, Professionals, and Individuals with Autism
Susan Einspar M Ed, JD; Danna Mirviss

More than one in every five students experiences bullying at school, and students with disabilities are bullied two to three times more often than their peers. Chances are this could be happening to someone you know and care about. Parents, educators, professionals, and individuals with autism, learn what you can do to address and prevent bullying. Topics will include the dynamics of bullying, including its definition, common views, roles and its impact; classroom and individual tools and strategies; the unique protections for children with disabilities; and addressing bullying through the IEP or 504 process.

Susan Einspar currently is a Senior Advocate for PACER Center in Minneapolis, providing special education advocacy services for students on IEPs and 504 Plans or simply struggling in school. She also provides in-service training seminars for parents, school professionals, and state PTIs (Parent Information and Training Centers) on bullying prevention and legal obligations for schools to prevent and respond to bullying behavior. She has worked at PACER for nine years.

Danna Mirviss is an associate with PACER’s National Bullying Prevention Center. She has been involved with PACER Center since 2000, responding to inquiries and providing support and resources to students, parents, and educators about bullying prevention. Mirviss also provides community outreach services.

How to Use the Technology Tools in Your Toolbox for Distance Learning
Don McMahon, PhD

In this session participants will have instruction with practical application of using technology tools for distance learning, including how to use the tools in developing lesson plans and implementing lesson plans through distance learning.

Dr. McMahon coordinates the Assistive Technology Research and Development Lab at Washington State University where he focuses on Universal Design for Learning, Assistive Technology, Augmented Reality, Virtual Reality, Wearable devices, Mobile Devices, Mobile Learning, and Instructional technology. Dr. McMahon is the cofounder of the WSU ROAR postsecondary education program for students with intellectual and developmental disabilities. He is a national presenter providing professional development sessions for both general educators and special educators on using mobile devices in education. His work has been featured in invited podcasts, television and print features, and invited presentations.

10:45-11:45 a.m. LIVE Breakout Session 5

Empower Students: Teaching Students About Their Brain
Katie Berg, MA, Ed

Participants will learn the importance of teaching basic brain function to students with neurodiverse needs. Information about the amygdala hijack, the paths out brains get stuck in, and our sensory processing systems will be shared. Obtain strategies and resources to create your own lessons on how the brain works.

Katie Berg 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 on one therapy, classroom teaching, district training, and statewide work, Berg has had opportunities to engage learners in a range of subjects related to students with neurodiverse needs. Many years were spent focused on working with students with autism and students experiencing mental health differences. Social and emotional learning skills have been her focus in helping students and educators problem solve challenging behaviors.

Behind the Mask: Aiding and Understanding Girls and Women with ASD
Emily Lindberg; Stacy Stefaniak-Luther

Across time, Autism Spectrum Disorder has been more frequently diagnosed in boys than girls. Why is this? Current research has begun to explore sex-related differences in the presentation and diagnosis of autism. Explore the literature and how differences may impact females, as well as what caregivers can do to best work with their family member.

Emily Lindberg, LPC-IT, NCC, is a Licensed Professional Counselor – In Training at Behavioral Health Clinic of Wausau and Plover, she is also a Nationally Certified Counselor. She provides treatment of Autism Spectrum Disorder for children and adolescents. She is currently expanding her knowledge on the assessment and diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder. Emily works directly with educators, medical professionals, occupational therapists, and mental health professionals to provide rounded care for individuals on the Autism Spectrum. Emily co-leads social skills groups for children and adolescents with Autism Spectrum Disorder and other disorders and symptoms that cause social difficulties.

Stacy Stefaniak Luther, PsyD., LPC, is a post-doctoral resident at the Behavioral Health Clinic of Wausau and Plover, she is also a Licensed Professional Counselor. With more than 15 years of experience, Dr. Luther specializes in assessment, diagnosis, and treatment of Autism Spectrum Disorder for individuals of all ages with varied sensory needs and intellectual abilities. She works directly with various care providers serving individuals with autism and leads social skills groups for people of all ages with autism and other diagnoses that cause social difficulties.

Cooking Up Awesome Science At Home
Jonte’ C. Taylor

Learn how to create food-based science activities that can be done at home with simple and easy materials or ingredients. Science lessons will be connected to Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) and research-based practices in autism.

Dr. Jonte C. Taylor is an Associate Professor of Special Education in the Department of Educational Psychology, Counseling, and Special Education in the College of Education at Penn State University. He taught for approximately ten years with a variety of populations from PreK to adult in settings ranging from inclusive classrooms to residential treatment facilities. His research interests include: science education for students with disabilities, evaluating innovative classroom practices, and bullying issues for students with autism; learning disabilities; and emotional/behavioral disorders.

12-1:00 p.m. LIVE Breakout Session 6

Introduction to Autistic Culture
Jules Edwards

One of the most important sources of support and information for autistics is often overlooked: other autistics. Minnesota is home to an emerging autistic community that provides a rich culture full of shared values, a strong sense of justice, and loud hands. Learn the ways that our diverse autistic community can provide necessary supports including perspective, pride, friendship, and the wisdom gained from living life as an autistic. Learn what it means to be autistic, how we can demonstrate acceptance of the autistic people in our lives, and how we can create true inclusion in our communities by recognizing and celebrating autistic culture.

Jules Edwards is an autistic activist and parent of autistic children. Her advocacy includes founding the MN Autistics and Allies social media group; volunteer work in the areas of disability services, alternative education, and family services; political advocacy with a focus on child safety and disability rights; and grassroots work focused on intersectional disability rights.

Helping Coordinate Your Wishes for Their Future
Bob Johnston

What will happen to your child when you are no longer around to care for them? How does the ABLE Act of 2014 impact their life? Learn about planning for the financial future of your child with special needs. Obtain information on estate planning, guardianship, wills and trusts, and letters of intent. Johnston will draw from personal experiences as both parent and patient.

Bob Johnston is the father of a son diagnosed with ASD. He is also 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 both patient and a parent. He is an Agency SpecialCare Planning Specialist for MassMutual Midwest and founder of Special Needs Planning, LLC. Additionally, he is a past president of the Autism Society of Greater Wisconsin, a member of the Academy of Special Needs Planners, and a representative with the Governor’s Council on Autism. Johnston 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. He does not charge consultation fees. Bob and his wife, Jody, are co-inventors of a learn-to-swim “assistive floatation device” called Paddler. Paddler is available through Amazon, Kiefer Aquatics, The Lifeguard Store, Swim Clubs of the Southwest and All-American Swim.

Accommodations and Modifications: Equity for Each and Every
Samantha Jung

In today’s classrooms, teachers work with students who have a wide variety of experiences, knowledge, learning styles, skill sets, work ethic, needs, and motivation. A “one size fits all” approach is no longer an efficient way to teach, but it also is unrealistic to require teachers to rewrite their lesson plans for each different learner’s profile. Educators and professionals, obtain the education and tools to define, implement, and evaluate accommodations for students in all educational settings.

Samantha Jung is a Special Education Coordinator with the Wayzata School District. She has worked as a professional special educator for nine years, but has lived in the world of autism for 29 years with a sibling who is on the spectrum. She earned her bachelor’s degree in Special Education from Winona State University in 2011 and went on to complete her master’s degree in 2015 from Hamline University.

On-Demand Breakout Sessions

On-Demand Breakout Sessions are categorized into four tracks to help you navigate by topic-focus.

  • Accessibility Track
  • Neurodiversity Track
  • Services and Supports Track
  • Strategies Track

Sessions Tailored for COVID-19 Pandemic

  • How to Use the Technology Tools in Your Toolbox for Distance Learning (LIVE: Breakout Session 4)
  • The Hidden Relationship Between Executive Function and Emotion Regulation (On-Demand: Neurodiversity Track)
  • Using Song Lyrics to Teach Meaningful Lessons: Distance Learning Edition (On-Demand: Strategies Track)
  • Engineering Social Skills While Social Distancing (On-Demand: Strategies Track)


Overcoming Obstacles: Accessing Services in Multicultural Communities
Fatima Molas, Delia Samuel, Rufo Jiru, Jules Edwards, Maren Christenson Hofer

Accessing services for the autistic community can be challenging under the very best of circumstances, but when we add in differences of language, culture, immigration status, and power dynamics into the mix, the obstacles can seem almost insurmountable. Hear from a culturally diverse panel of parents of autistic children about what is working for their families, what is not, and discuss how to move forward on the path to successful community engagement that includes ALL families.

Fatima Molas is the chairperson and co-founder of the Multicultural Autism Action Network, leads a support group for families of autistic children in the Somali community, and is the mother of an autistic child.

Delia Samuels is board member of the Multicultural Autism Action Network and the author of a book entitled Against the Odds: Inspiration for Parenting Children with Special Needs. She is also the founder of an organization supporting autistic children and their families in her home country of St. Lucia.

Rufo Jiru is a Research Associate and Developmental Chemist at R&D Systems in Minneapolis. She is also an outspoken advocate for women and children in the Oromo community, and is the founder of Anole Sisters, a nonprofit organization supporting Oromo women.

Jules Edwards is the autistic mom of three autistic children. She is co-founder of MN Autistics and Allies, an autistic-led social media group, a member of the MN Autism Council, and a board member for Minnesota Disability Support Alternatives. She is a passionate advocate for issues of disability justice, and her family members are enrolled members of the Fon du Lac band of Chippewa (Ojibwe).

Maren Christenson Hofer is the mother of an amazing autistic child. She is also a board member of the Multicultural Autism Action Network and coordinates Minneapolis Autism Parent Support, a group for parents of autistic children. She serves on the MN State Autism Council, the Governor’s Interagency Coordinating Committee for Early Intervention, the Minnesota Restrictive Procedures Workgroup, the Leadership Team for the State Comprehensive System of Personnel Development for Early Childhood Education, and is currently partnering with the Autism Society of Minnesota and the Somali American Parent Association on a project to improve outcomes for multicultural families of autistic children.

Trauma Informed Classrooms: Using the Polyvagal Theory to Modify Our Approaches
Thomas Szewczyk

Gain a new understanding of how to view behaviors of students who have experienced trauma. Learn about a regulation curriculum for the classroom and how to intertwine that curriculum with the ideas of the Polyvagal Theory. Dive into Polyvagal Theory and how we should change our approach depending on the student’s stage.

Tom Szewczyk was born in Connecticut and moved to Minnesota in 2009. He currently lives in Bloomington, Minn., with his wife Kristi and two boys, Finley and Felix. For 17 years he has held a number of roles working with children with trauma: residential children service worker, assistant recreation therapist, paraprofessional, special education teacher, and now as an administrator.

Using Person-Centered Design to Improve Equity and Outcomes in Schools
Cindy Hillyer BSN, RN, LSN; Mariam Warsame, BA

Receive an overview of the Minneapolis Public Schools ASD Families Connected Initiative, a project that focuses on person-centered program design and equity in identification and treatment of autism, addressing professional approaches to enhance equity and outcomes in health, and education and family supports for children with ASD and their families. ASD Families Connected aims to build equity in service delivery through family input, data analysis, and continuous improvement to create new services and cross-system coordination that support families from diverse backgrounds in timely access to resources and supports. In partnership with MN LEND and families, Minneapolis Public Schools has designed a series of projects over four years to improve internal processes and external collaboration, making it easier for families to get what they need for their children and improving population outcomes.

Cindy Hillyer is the director of MPS Early Childhood Education, where she designs and leads strategies in the public and nonprofit sectors to advance health and education outcomes through cross-sector collaboration and an equity lens. She graduated with distinction from the UMN School of Nursing and is an MPA candidate at Hamline University. Her community contributions include serving on boards, using her expertise to influence systems redesign so that our public and private systems will serve all groups in our communities well.

Mariam Warsame currently is a sub-teacher with the Minneapolis Public Schools Early Childhood Screening Program and a MN LEND Fellow. Her work includes identifying developmental delays in children with an early preventative stance, promoting kindergarten readiness, and using person-centered strategies to support families in accessing needed resources and supports. Originally from Somalia, she graduated from the University of Minnesota with a BA in Biology, Society and Environment.

Enhancing Therapeutic Relationships
Tiffany Tully

Many autistics and their family members end up in therapy at some point. However, the experience of therapy differs greatly depending on how well the client and therapist build a relationship and shared goals. Learn ways to enhance the quality of the therapy experience and to build a better bond and connection between families and support staff. Topics addressed will include:
*What therapists can do to better support the whole family as well as the client.
*What families and clients can do to get practical and useful help.
*How the disabled individual can advocate for themselves in appointments.
*How therapists can connect with their disabled clients.
*Tools that therapists can teach to help their clients and families in practical settings.

Tiffany Tully is an autistic mom with a BA in Applied Behavior Analysis with a focus on early childhood education and intervention. Tully decided against pursuing ABA as her career and went on to teach in the classroom. She now stays home to support her family. Tully currently focuses on educating providers, educators, and parents on culturally sensitive autism interventions. She is an autism advocate who is passionate in enhancing autistic lives as well as an outspoken proponent for acceptance. Alongside her husband, they are raising two beautiful neurodivergent children.


Grieving As a Person with ASD
Br. Anselm Philip King-Lowe OSB; Barb Luskin, PhD, LP

Every person experiences grief after losing someone they love, a job, and when a close relationship ends. People on the autistic spectrum experience grief on multiple levels. The experience of emotions while grieving is often tangled for the autistic person. Figuring out which emotion to deal with first is more complicated than the loss itself. Learn about what grieving emotions are legitimate and need attention. Talk about important ways an autistic person can take care of themselves while grieving.

Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe was diagnosed with autism in 2011. He is a Benedictine Anchorite Monk and is married to his husband, Jason. He offers Spiritual and Grief Companionship through a web-based ministry.

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.

Cultural Journeys: How to Engage and Best Support East-African Families Who Have Children with ASD
Leanna Kraemer LMFT; Hamdi Ahmed; Aida Ibrahim

Obtain a brief history and background about Somali and East African immigrants in the Twin Cities area, which will include a short video of a family’s story. Learn about the obstacles and challenges East African families may face during the assessment process, the diagnosis, and finally the recommendation or referral process for appropriate services. Gain knowledge in effective strategies and tools during each step for best supporting and engaging families during this often stressful and confusing time while keeping a culturally sensitive perspective.

Leanna Kraemer is a licensed marriage and family therapist. She received her master’s in marriage and family therapy at St. Mary’s University in 2015. She began her work with children and families at St. David’s Center as an intern in their autism day treatment program, then as a mental health practitioner, and finally transitioned to the St. David’s East African day treatment program as a mental health professional to continue to support the growth of the program and is currently the program supervisor.

Hamdi Ahmed received her BA in psychology from the University of Minnesota. She is currently a second year master’s of social work student, with a concentration in clinical mental health, at the University of Minnesota. Ahmed is also a MN LEND Fellow. She previously worked at St. David’s Center as a Mental Health Practitioner in the East African Autism Day Treatment program and is passionate about the field of neurodevelopmental disabilities and enjoys working with children with autism and their families.

Aida Ibrahim is a mental health practitioner and outreach specialist at St. David’s Center. She has a master’s degree in clinical counseling and has worked closely with families to provide family therapy and support to better meet the unique needs of their child with autism while remaining culturally sensitive. She also provides individual skill work for children with ASD and community wide psychoeducation within the Somali community about autism.

“Neuro-Majority” Mistakes
Lisa Hoeme

Often, much time and effort are spent finding ways to change the autistic individuals’ way of being. What would happen if we flipped that, and instead looked at helping those in the “neuro-majority” identify their behaviors that may not be a good fit or match for autistic neurology? With an increased awareness of these “mistakes” we make, we can adjust and modify our own thoughts and behaviors in order to have more authentic relationships, honor and respect different neurologies, and better support those with autism in our lives.

Lisa Hoeme, MS, LPC is a Licensed Professional Counselor, Educational and Behavior Consultant and a partner at Imagine a Child’s Capacity where she provides training and consultation to schools, community agencies and parents. She has more than 20 years of clinical experience serving an expansive range individuals and families, including those with autism, Down syndrome, traumatic brain injury, attention difficulties, obsessive compulsive disorder, anxiety and depression. In her counseling practice, Lisa uses a variety of approaches, including mindfulness, cognitive behavior therapy, collaborative problem solving and interpersonal neurobiology. She uses these modalities as a catalyst to help clients work through difficult life experiences, develop effective coping and relaxation strategies and to express themselves authentically. Lisa is committed to helping those she supports to achieve personal growth and overall well-being using a positive, individualized and person-centered approach.

The Edge of the Spectrum: Autistic Traits Without a Diagnosis
Beth Pitchford, MA, LPCC

It’s common for family members of autistic individuals to show similar traits, or be a part of the Broader Autism Phenotype (BAP). Learn what BAP is, what research exists about it, and the helpful role BAPs can take on in the autism community. Through discussion, autistics, providers, and community members can propose ways to be supportive of BAPs and learn about their needs in the community.

Beth Pitchford, an AuSM Counseling and Consulting Services therapist, earned a master’s degree in Psychology from the Adler Graduate School (AGS), where she focused on learning about autism and how various aspects of Adlerian psychology could compliment the standard use of cognitive behavioral therapy with people on the autism spectrum. Pitchford became passionate about working with people on the “invisible” part of the spectrum (formerly known as Asperger’s syndrome) after she realized that many people close to her are on the spectrum and have spent most of their lives wondering why they felt so different.

Navigating the World of Sensory Supports
Jenna Matteson-Laabs

We live in a world where sensory tools are more accessible and sensory supports are more common. But how do we know what to choose, and how do we know if they work? Move beyond the simple knowledge of the sensory system and explore strategies that are commonly used to improve sensory processing and participation. Discuss the different signs that may indicate strategy effectiveness, while building confidence in your ability to select appropriate sensory tools. Feel like you have more direction while you navigate the world of sensory supports.

Jenna Matteson Laabs is currently an occupational therapist within the Centennial School District. Her background has primarily focused on providing services to children, from birth through adolescence, within clinical and educational settings. She brings 15 years of experience in working with autistic individuals, including previous employment with AuSM’s Hand in Hand and Wahode Camps, and current involvement in serving on the Board of Directors for the Autism Society of Minnesota. She is passionate about helping people find success and independence in their lives, with particular interests in executive functioning, self-regulation, and behavior management.

The Hidden Relationship Between Executive Function and Emotion Regulation
Olivia James

While most resources keep executive functioning and emotion regulation distinct, the two areas of life are deeply interrelated. Each of them plays a significant role in autistic quality of life. How can we use each one to improve the other? What skills do they share? Join James in exploring the ways that prioritization, focus, and inhibition allow us to improve our executive functioning and emotion regulation, and learn skills that will help you take control of both.

Olivia James, a woman on the autism spectrum, is the Marketing and Communications Specialist at AuSM. James has been a keynote speaker at the AuSM Self-Advocacy Summit and has presented at the state autism conference. As a MN LEND Fellow, she is in the process of writing and illustrating a book about executive functioning.

Presuming Competence in Individuals with Complex Support Needs
Sirad Shirdon MS CCP-SLP; Jean Bender

Imagine that you are surrounded by people, who regularly make assumptions about your intelligence based on your communicative abilities and behaviors. People regularly speak about you in front of you, and professionals rarely address you directly. Even though you are well into your 20s, you are engaged with activity options and in manner of speech better suited for a toddler. How would you feel? This is a reality for many adults with severe autism; well-meaning professionals, and sometimes parents, too often presume ignorance, instead of presuming competence. Learn from experiences and obtain basic strategies for presuming competence of adults with severe high support needs.

Sirad Shirdon is a speech-language pathologist, specializing in augmentative and alternative communication, with LiveLife Therapy Solution’s Technology for HOME program. Technology for HOME is contracted by the Department of Human Services (DHS) to provide assistive technology services for Minnesotans with disabilities in their home. Since 2018, Technology for HOME has partnered with DHS on a pilot to explore the use of communication and sensory supports as positive support strategies for adults with complex support needs living in residential facilities. Shirdon is deeply passionate about improving the service system for children and adults with autism and other disabilities.

Jean Bender is the parent of an adult with multiple disabilities, including autism, who has high support needs. She has parented David by capitalizing on his playful nature, sense of humor, and special interests, understanding that he can learn new skills and self-accommodation with patience, repetition and presuming competence. Professionally, Bender worked in early intervention services for more than 15 years as a service coordinator for families who had preschool children with disabilities. She currently serves on AuSM’s board and is co-chair of AuSM’s Advocacy Committee.

Services and Supports

Overview of Guardianship Options and Supported Decision Making
Allycia Wolff; Jason Schellack, JD

When people turn 18-years-old, they are legally considered adults. For many individuals with disabilities, families may need to consider whether guardianship, or a less-restrictive alternative, is appropriate. Guardianship allows one person to make decisions on behalf of a disabled adult. Through supported decision-making, individuals with disabilities are able to make their own decisions, with the support of their individual networks. This session will help caregivers, parents, support providers, practitioners and people who need help in making decisions, better understand their options. Guardianship is just one way. Learn about supported decision-making, and what level of support is appropriate for each individual person.

Allycia Wolff joined The Arc Minnesota in 2013 as an advocate. Through the years, she has worked as an advocate in the areas of housing, employment, and guardianship. She assists individuals and families in understanding their options around supported decision making, and rights through the guardianship process. Wolff leads The Arc Minnesota’s Future Planning work. She supports people in thinking about their futures through Person-Centered Planning and the FutureLife Options program. In 2019, Wolff developed and hosted the Focus on the Future podcast. She is passionate about helping people plan for the next steps in their life while having their goals, hopes, and dreams at center stage.

Jason Schellack is the Managing Attorney at Autism Advocacy & Law Center, LLC. He has been advocating for individuals with autism and their families for his entire career as an AuSM Camp Discovery counselor and direct support staff; public defender; and attorney with Autism Advocacy & Law Center. Schellack focuses his practice on estate planning, guardianship, family law, and special education law. He earned his Bachelor of Arts from Hamline University and his law degree from Mitchell Hamline School of Law.

Social Security Disability Benefits 101
Nate Gurol, JD

Is your child or young adult unable to work and support themselves due to their Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) diagnosis? Many parents are unaware that their child diagnosed with ASD may be eligible for Social Security Disability benefits. Nate Gurol, a Staff Attorney at Autism Advocacy & Law Center, LLC, will walk you through the steps to apply for Social Security benefits and explain how an attorney can help with your application, the application timeline and process, and how the Social Security Administration makes a determination on a disability claim.

Nate Gurol graduated from the University of Oregon School of Law in May 2015. Since graduating from law school, he has worn many different hats, including holding positions as a Legislative Fellow for the New York State Senate and an Attorney Editor at Thomson Reuters. Nate joined Autism Advocacy & Law Center, LLC as a Staff Attorney in 2018. In that position he has assisted numerous individuals and families with special needs in a variety of areas of law, including guardianship petitions, divorces, child support, criminal expungements, and applying for Social Security benefits.

Navigating Minnesota’s Systems of Supports for People with ASD
Nicole Berning MS, Board Certified Behavior Analyst. Erin Farrell; Abbie Wells-Herzog, MS, CRC, ACRE; Shawn Holmes

The focus of this interactive panel presentation is to support people with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and their families, caregivers, providers and advocates. Obtain a clearer understanding of Minnesota’s system of supports and services. Representatives from the Minnesota Departments of Education, Health, Employment and Economic Development, and Human Services will provide an overview of what services are available in education, health care, public health, and social services and how to best access those services. Learn how to advocate for better coordinated services.

Nicole Berning is a Board Certified Behavior Analyst and 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 of providing early intensive behavioral intervention services to child with ASD and related conditions, and currently provides consultation, training and technical assistance to early intervention providers across the state on EIDBI policies and procedures. Berning also provides outreach to parents and caregivers of children with ASD and related conditions on the services and supports available and how to access them.

Erin Farrell is the Autism Spectrum Disorders Specialist for the Minnesota Department of Education. She is a Board Certified Behavior Analyst and a licensed ASD teacher. In addition to her role at MDE, Farrell is an Adjunct Professor and Doctoral Student at the University of St. Thomas. Prior to her role at MDE, she was a District Behavior Specialist in schools, supporting families, teachers, and students through positive behavior supports. Farrell is dedicated in many different roles to helping families and educators navigate supports and evidence-based strategies for students with ASD.

Abbie Wells-Herzog has worked in the employment and disability field for more than 30 years. She developed a passion for working with people on the autism spectrum through her work as a Vocational Rehabilitation transition counselor in Dakota County schools. For the past seven years, she has served as the Autism Specialist at Vocational Rehabilitation Services, a division of DEED. Wells-Herzog has two adult daughters who have autism.

Shawn Holmes works for the MN Department of Health (MDH) as the Early Identification and Intervention Coordinator in the Children and Youth with Special Health Needs Section. She manages MN’s Follow Along Program, a statewide developmental and social-emotional screening program provided through local public health departments for children birth to 36 months who are at risk of health or developmental issues. Holmes conducts statewide training opportunities for early childhood screening providers on the use of screening instruments, typical development resources, communicating screening results, referral procedures, and connection to local evaluation and early intervention services. She also serves as the MDH liaison for Minnesota’s early intervention system, Help Me Grow.

How To Pay for It? Funding Options for Autism Services and Supports
Kimberly Hicks

People with autism may choose to access many services and supports, however, understanding how to access funding to cover these things can be confusing and frustrating. Many people go without services because of the cost. Learn about health care coverage and other funding opportunities to obtain access to services.

Kimberly Hicks has worked in the disability services field for more than 20 years as a direct support professional, autism service provider, special education teacher, advocate, and in state policy. She is part of a diverse family in outstate Minnesota, raising three children with disabilities, including ASD. Hicks is active in her local community and passionate about providing information so all families can make informed choices to meet their children’s unique needs. She had 11 years of experience when she started her family, knowing how things were supposed to work, and then experiencing first-hand how they didn’t. This ignited her passion for making change.

Disability Policy and Advocacy: Current Climate and Election Preview
Jillian Nelson, Jean Bender

Receive a detailed overview of the current policy affecting the disability community and what interested parties can do in response to current legislative challenges. Obtain information pertaining to the disability community regarding upcoming elections as well as current issues.

Jillian Nelson, Community Resource and Policy Advocate at AuSM, 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 a Community Resource and Policy Advocate for AuSM. She also has worked in employment services, helping others with autism secure and retain appropriate, successful employment.

Jean Bender is the parent of an adult with multiple disabilities, including autism, who has high support needs. She has parented David by capitalizing on his playful nature, sense of humor, and special interests, understanding that he can learn new skills and self-accommodation with patience, repetition and presuming competence. Professionally, Bender worked in early intervention services for more than 15 years as a service coordinator for families who had preschool children with disabilities. She currently serves on AuSM’s board and is co-chair of AuSM’s Advocacy Committee.

Autism Prevalence in Minnesota
Amy Hewitt, PhD; Jennifer Hall-Lande, PhD, LP; Amy Esler, PhD, LP
MN LEND Session

Autism is the fastest growing developmental disability in the U.S. Every two years the CDC’s Autism Developmental Disabilities Monitoring (ADDM) Network reports on national autism prevalence rates. National autism prevalence rates reveal that 1 in 54 children are identified with autism. MN autism prevalence rates are 1 in 44 children. During this session, the MN ADDM team will share about recently updated national and Minnesota ASD prevalence rates as well as the age of initial identification of autism in U.S. and MN; research in autism identification; and strategies to better support children and families in the autism identification process.

Amy Hewitt has an extensive background in the field of developmental disabilities (ID/DD) and has worked in various positions over more than 30 years to improve community inclusion and quality of life for children and adults with disabilities and their families. Dr. Hewitt is Director of the Institute on Community Integration where she leads several research and evaluation projects in the area of community long-term services and supports for children and adults with developmental disabilities, including autism. She currently leads projects that focus on community living, autism prevalence, outcome measurement, direct support workforce, person centered planning and positive behavior supports.

Jennifer Hall-Lande is a researcher and psychologist in the field of early Intervention at the Institute on Community Integration at the University of Minnesota. Dr. Hall-Lande also has an extensive background working with young children in both clinical, school, and early childhood settings. Her clinical work focuses on child development, including early identification of autism and other developmental disabilities and delays. Her research focuses on autism prevalence and early identification of developmental delays and disabilities. She is a Lead Researcher on the Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring (ADDM) Network and “Learn the Signs. Act Early.” projects.

Amy Esler is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Pediatrics, a licensed psychologist in the Pediatric Autism Spectrum Disorder Clinic, and Director of the Fragile X Clinic at the University of Minnesota. Dr. Esler specializes in diagnosis and behavioral characteristics of autism spectrum disorder (ASD). She is an internationally-recognized trainer on ASD diagnostic measures. Dr. Esler’s research interests focus on early screening and diagnosis of ASD, characterizing the behavioral symptoms of ASD across the lifespan, and studying the relationship between culture and ASD.


Engineering Social Skills While Social Distancing
Patrick Garvey

One of the challenges during this time of social distancing is continuing to engage in meaningful and motivating social experiences. Technology can help provide a tool to rebuild those experiences and bring us back to building and playing together. In this workshop, participants will learn about different online platforms and activities that parents, educators, and providers can use to lead online social groups that focus on the shared objective of designing, building, and reflecting on a project. Online cooperative gaming will also be discussed as a method to facilitate conversation. Learn how to easily control a video chat, manage a Minecraft server, build websites, collectively edit videos online, and become a digital dungeon master.

Patrick Garvey received his bachelor’s degree in elementary education and theater education from the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh. He’s currently working toward a master’s degree at the University of Wisconsin-Madison in library information studies with an emphasis in educational technology. Garvey previously taught for the Madison Metropolitan School District, Wisconsin Youth Company, and Madison Family Theater. He enjoys teaching project-based engineering lessons that empower students with new tools to create products that can be shared with others.

Sexuality for All Abilities: Best Practices in Teaching Sexuality Education for People with Autism
Leah Bauman-Smith

Review the background on sexual education for people with disabilities, and discuss potential education strategies for people with autism. Learn how to have respectful and supportive conversations around sexual health and strategies you can use with your student/child related to sexual health. Feel more comfortable talking about consent and boundaries and obtain at least one new resource you can use to learn more about sexuality education.

Leah Bauman-Smith is an educator and outreach specialist for Mad Hatter Wellness and Sexuality for All Abilities. She loves having the opportunity to teach about consent, healthy relationships, and boundaries to people of all abilities. Bauman-Smith has been a special education teacher for 13 years and taught sexuality education in special education classes for more than 10 years.

Strategies for Preventing Explosive “Behaviors”
Mandy Reinke

If you are looking to fill your toolbox with strategies to increase your probability of preventing explosive “behaviors,” this is the session for you. Learn strategies you can take back to your classrooms or home in order to be proactive in meeting needs of your students or children. This is an introductory level session briefly touching on why understanding the function of a behavior is important to determine which strategies will best fit your student’s/child’s needs. Ready to implement strategies will be shared.

Mandy Reinke has worked in the field of autism as both a special educator and autism consultant for the past 21 years. She provides program support for various school districts, families, and employers across the state. She also works for the Hortonville Area School District as their program support for students with ASD as well as an Allies in Mental Health Education coach for CESA 7. Reinke provides trainings, consultation services and coaching on a wide variety of topics related to Autism Spectrum Disorders across Wisconsin.

Ten Tips For Teaching Young Children With Autism
Tara Tuchel M.S. CCC-SLP, Terri Swenson

Early childhood special education teachers, speech/language pathologists, preschool teachers, childcare providers and parents of autistic children, obtain tips, resources, and strategies for structuring play and interactions through pictures, examples, and videos. Learn about visual supports and increasing effective communication and self-regulation.

Tara Tuchel is a speech/language pathologist who has specialized in autism for 20 years. She started her career at the elementary level and now is enjoying the early childhood level at Stillwater Area Public Schools. Tuchel has a published children’s book about autism titled My Best Friend Will and is an adjunct faculty member for the ASD licensure program at Hamline University. In 2015 and 2016, Tuchel traveled to Dmitrov, Russia to work side by side with educators and parents to teach them how to work with children with autism.

Terri Swenson is an early childhood special education teacher and is licensed in Autism Spectrum Disorders. She has specialized in early childhood autism in Stillwater Area Public Schools for 22 years. In 2015 and 2016, Swenson traveled to Dmitrov, Russia to work side by side with educators and parents to teach them how to work with children with autism. In 2017, she was the recipient of a Partnership Award, which recognizes teachers who create wonderful learning environments for students.

Panic Attack Toolbox
Savannah Bloechl

Many people on and off the autism spectrum are affected by panic attacks. Being prepared to manage the symptoms or prevent one from happening can be critical for self-care and may help alleviate anxiety caused by the unknown. Learn how to create a personalized panic attack toolbox for yourself, or for/with, your child, client, spouse, sibling, or student. Learn what a panic attack is, the difference between a panic attack and an autistic meltdown, identifying triggers, and how to effectively manage the symptoms of one.

Savannah Bloechl is an aspiring public speaker, advocate for neurodiversity and autism acceptance, and is a medical assistant in training. She hopes to someday continue her education and become a clinical pathologist or laboratory scientist. In her spare time, she’s also a freelance artist who dabbles in various forms of art, including digital art, polymer clay items, and aromatherapy bracelets. Savannah also loves to listen to the experiences of diverse groups of people so she can better understand the world around her and learn how to effectively help people in need.

Tales from the Toybox: Learning Through Evidenced-Based Play
Laura Nagel, MS, OTR/L and Liz Hedrich, MS, CCC-SLP

Play is a powerful vehicle through which children learn and explore many skills. This session will focus on lessons learned from 23 years of combined experience providing play-based therapy interventions to children with ASD. Come unpack our toybox to learn about our favorite games, books, and activities to target goal areas commonly addressed within this population. Gain an understanding of the research behind play-based learning and dive right into exploring activities hands-on while developing your activity analysis skills. Come for the knowledge, stay for the FUN!

Laura Nagel, MS, OTR/L is an occupational therapist at CI Pediatric Therapy Centers. Laura has over 14 years of experience working with children on the autism spectrum, starting her career as an ABA therapist before becoming an OT. Laura is a graduate of UW-Madison’s undergraduate rehabilitation psychology program and master’s level occupational therapy program. Laura’s experience includes emphasis on self-regulation, sexuality education, transition to adulthood, executive functioning, and functional application of client interests to address goal areas.

Liz Hedrich, MS, CCC-SLP is a speech-language pathologist and the Director of Therapy at CI Pediatric Therapy Centers. Liz has over nine years of experience working with children on the autism spectrum, starting her career as an ABA therapist before becoming an SLP. Liz completed both her bachelor’s degree and master’s degree at UW-Madison. Liz’s clinical passions include early language development, social communication, AAC, and creating meaningful and functional communication outcomes for her clients.

Using Song Lyrics to Teach Meaningful Lessons: Distance Learning Edition
Ben Riden, PhD and Jonte C. Taylor

Learn strategies to engage students with song lyrics to teach meaningful lessons, particularly as support during distance learning.

Dr. Riden is an Assistant Professor and Special Education Coordinator at the University of Minnesota Duluth. He received his PhD in Special Education from Penn State University and his Med in Mild and Moderate Special Education from the Universtiy of Utah.

Dr. Jonte C. Taylor is an Associate Professor of Special Education in the Department of Educational Psychology, Counseling, and Special Education in the College of Education at Penn State University. He taught for approximately ten years with a variety of populations from PreK to adult in settings ranging from inclusive classrooms to residential treatment facilities. His research interests include: science education for students with disabilities, evaluating innovative classroom practices, and bullying issues for students with autism; learning disabilities; and emotional/behavioral disorders.

Autism 101
Sharon Hammer, MS, LPC and Lisa Ladson

This introductory workshop will focus on providing a deeper understanding of autism and how people with autism experience the world. Learn common characteristics of autism and strategies for effectively supporting people on the spectrum and obtain autism-related resources. Receive a greater understanding of how autism may impact how a person learns, interacts with others, and develops relationships.

Sharon Hammer, MS, LPC is an Educational and Behavioral Consultant and a Licensed Professional Counselor. She has over 20-years of experience working with children and individuals on the autism spectrum and their families. Sharon is a partner at Imagine a Child’s Capacity, where she provides training and consultation to schools, community members, and parents. Sharon has co-authored two books and DVDs about using technology to support individuals with autism, entitled Lights! Camera! Autism! With Star Cinema, Sharon co-created the first “Sensory Friendly” movie going experience in the state of Wisconsin. Sharon is committed to increasing awareness and possibilities throughout the community for individuals on the spectrum.

Lisa Ladson is an Educational & Behavioral Consultant, working as an independent contractor for Imagine a Child’s Capacity in Madison, Wisconsin. She is a former special educator who has served as a classroom teacher, certified resource teacher and behavior specialist, assisting individuals with disabilities for over 25 years.