2019 Conference Schedule

8:00 AM Registration Opens

8:00 AM- 9:00 AM Breakfast

9:00 AM – 10:00 AM

Opening Panel

Roger Gassman

Crista Burns: Pat, Crista and Andrew Burns live in Dearborn, MI. Andrew will be 10 in August! He has a dual diagnosis:  Autism and Down Syndrome.  Andrew’s favorite pal is Mickey Mouse- they try to go to Disney each year.  Locally, the Burns family enjoys Detroit Tiger’s and Lion’s games, Eastern Market mornings, Greenfield Village and the Museum (Andrew learned to stand and walk with all that wide open hardwood in the museum), Detroit Zoo, swimming, and any splash pad or park with adaptive swings. They are thankful for the resources through AAoM and the network of people to share experiences and ideas!

Karah Ley is a Limited Licensed Master Social Worker who has both professional and personal experiences with autism. Karah is a Navigator Specialist here at the Autism Alliance of Michigan. Her personal experience stems from her older brother who lives with autism among other diagnoses, which led her to the social work field and inherently embodying a passion for serving and supporting individuals who live with autism.

Xavier DeGroat is an autism advocate that is very involved in networking to educate society on the needs of people with autism. Xavier was diagnosed with autism at the age of four years old, and has since faced many obstacles in reaching his potential. Overcoming these obstacles motivated him to help others with autism – and their families – reach their full potential economically, socially, and politically. He is passionate about eradicating injustices and poverty against those with autism through humanitarian work. He founded the Xavier DeGroat Autism Foundation at the beginning of 2018, and has many plans to educate and serve those with autism that struggle in today’s society.

Session A – – 10:10 AM – 11:00 AM

Gross Motor Planning with Autism: Stocking Your Toolbox with Good Motor Plans to Build Social Opportunities by Tamara Nordbeck, PT

Bringing social stories to the playground or PE class can only go so far if we expend all of our effort on the movement required to be a part of a game or a team. Gross Motor Skills are developed by repetition, refinement and opportunity. We learn to move by moving, falling, and trying again. When a child lacks the ability to kick, run, jump, and keep up with their peers, many chances for social inclusion are missed. Starting young, we can use physical activity to provide each child with the tools needed to be able to keep up with peers on the playground. As we move through the lifespan of the child with ASD, continued physical activity can provide healthy social opportunities in life sports such as bowling, hiking, golf, tennis, and swimming. Designed to help clinicians and parents screen for gross motor deficits, find appropriate physical activities, and promote active lifestyles that provide more opportunities for social skill refinement.

Tammy Nordbeck, BS, MPT has been practicing Physical Therapy for over 20 years in the Metro Detroit Area, with experience in many areas from trauma ICU, orthopedics and rehab. Her most recent endeavor has been 12 years of pediatric practice, in both school and clinical settings. With a primary focus on clients with diagnoses of ASD, developmental delays, torticollis, idiopathic toe walking, cerebral palsy, ADHD, and related gross motor difficulties, Tammy works as a part of a multi-disciplinary program at Building Bridges Therapy Center, and is part of the summer programming team. She leads social gross motor groups for preschoolers and early elementary ages, teaching social skills via recess and PE style games.

Enhancing Social and Emotional Development in Children with Multiple Special Needs by Jessica McCavit

All humans are social beings, but for many children with Visual Impairments and significant additional disabilities such as Autism, social development is delayed in the same way other areas of development are delayed.  Because social interactions provide richness and meaning as well as support and safety for all individuals, it is important that social and emotional development are not overlooked. Understanding social and emotional development in children with multiple disabilities also provides insight into aggressive, stereotyped, and/or self-injurious behaviors. This session will focus on determining the social and emotional developmental level of children with multiple special needs and providing strategies to enhance this development.

Jessica McCavit graduated from Grand Valley State University with her Master’s Degree in Occupational Therapy. She has been employed at Penrickton Center for Blind Children since 2012, specializing in working with children ages 1-12 years old, who are visually impaired, with multiple special needs. Penrickton Center, along with its staff, are strong proponents of the Active Learning approach, utilizing these strategies with all of their students and providing in-service trainings and seminars around the country.

Autism, Motivation and Overcoming Depression by Ron Sandison

Parents and professionals will learn practical methods to motivate children and young adults with autism to learn new life skills, prepare for transition, and gain independence. Ron examines common hindrances to growth, decision-making, and independence and ways to overcome them. Many students and young adults with autism experience severe depression and anxiety due to their lack of social interaction, a failure complex, perfectionist mindset, and sensory issues. Educators and parents will be equipped to help these individuals deal with his or her depression and anxiety, and gain self- confidence. Sandison shares inspiring stories from his interviews and articles throughout his presentation like Armani Williams, the first NASCAR driver with autism, Peter Lantz, a professional video game designer, Tarik El-Abour a professional baseball player, and many more. Ron also shares his own personal struggles with depression, anxiety, motivation from autism and how he was able to overcome and become a dad, author, professional, and motivational speaker.

Ron Sandison works full time in the medical field and is a professor of theology at Destiny School of Ministry. He is an advisory board member of Autism Society Faith Initiative of Autism Society of American. Sandison has a Master of Divinity from Oral Roberts University and is the author of A Parent’s Guide to Autism: Practical Advice. Biblical Wisdom published by Charisma House and Thought, Choice, Action. He frequently guest speaks at colleges, conferences, autism centers, and churches. Sandison speaks at over 70 events a year including 20 plus education conferences. Ron and his wife, Kristen, reside in Rochester Hills, MI, daughter, Makayla Marie born on March 20, 2016. You can contact Ron at his website http://www.spectruminclusion.com or email him at sandison456@hotmail.com.

Send Your Child to School a STAR: How Small Group Instruction in Your ABA Program Can Better Prepare Your Child for School by Reena Naami

ABA practitioners share a common goal with many parents to get their child to least restrictive environments and mainstreamed into public education. It can be difficult to fade the 1:1 support that is common to intensive ABA programs. At the Spark Center, we have developed a school and transition readiness program to focus on the necessary skills for transitioning, and targeting the barriers that may prevent a child from being successful in a classroom or other less restrictive setting. The STAR program develops skills that facilitate independence in classroom routines, self-management, and forming relationships with peers.

Reena Naami was first introduced to the field of behavior analysis during her undergraduate program at Central Michigan University and pursued graduate studies in applied behavior analysis from Florida State University. She relocated back to the metro-Detroit area with the intention of making Michigan a better state for children with Autism. Her areas of professional interest include autism spectrum disorders, emotional/behavioral disorders, verbal behavior, and intensive early intervention.

DOUBLE SESSION: Life Planning for a Child with Special Needs and an Update on the ABLE Act by Minoti H. Rajput, CFP(R), ChSNC(R)

Planning for an adult family member with special needs requires in-depth knowledge of ever changing local resources, laws, legal and financial tools available as you assist your family member in creating a current and future working plan to meet their lifelong dreams and needs. Minoti Rajput will explain the importance of special needs planning strategies and will address questions for both planning and key components of the ABLE Act.

Minoti Rajput, a Certified Financial Planner and Chartered Special Needs Consultant, has served as the founding president of Secure Planning Strategies for nearly three decades. She earned her MBA from Gujarat University in India. In 1989, Minoti formed her firm offering comprehensive wealth planning with a subspecialty of life planning with financial and legal guidance to families of special needs children. For the past 29 years her firm has counseled 1,500+ families of children with special needs.

Improving Behaviors in Your Everyday Life by Heather Hettinger, M.S., BCBA

Are daily tasks like running errands or making meals challenging for you and your child? We are here to help! This presentation will provide you with practical tools you can use in your everyday lives and in your everyday environments — home, school, and out and about in the community. Join us as we provide an array of methods to improve behavior and communication with your child, making daily life a lot more productive (and fun)!

Heather Hettinger received her Master’s degree in Special Education with a focus in Severe Emotional Disturbances from Florida State University in Tallahassee, Florida. After four years as a Special Education teacher in a classroom setting, she chose to pursue further education in the field of applied behavior analysis (ABA). She completed her course work to become a Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA) at the University of West Florida. Since moving to California, Heather has worked as a Behavior Therapist, Case Manager, and Clinical Supervisor working one-on-one with children with autism and with their families in the home, school, and community settings. Heather is trained in ABA using Discrete Trial Training (DTT), Verbal Behavior (VB), Pivotal Response Training (PRT), and Natural Environment Training (NET) methods. Heather has years of experience working directly with families, regional centers, schools, and insurance companies. Her skill set includes curriculum development, program design, ABA teaching techniques, assessments, and parent and staff training. Heather has dedicated her career to providing the best possible assistance to individuals with special needs.

It's Never Too Early To Start Preparing for Independent Living by Rachel Newbill, LLBSW, QIDP, Luke Frye (parent of individual with autism) and Nick Frye (adult with autism)

It’s never too early to begin preparing to live on your own.   Many of the individuals and their families that On My Own of Michigan support never thought that they would be able to live by themselves, be successful at work, or even get married.  It is possible to ease the transition to independent living with the right supports in place, though. In this presentation designed for parents, educators, caregivers and individuals interested in living independently one day, On My Own of Michigan will share strategies for making the transition more successful. Join On My Own of Michigan staff and a family that they support in a conversation to discuss the transition to, concerns, and benefits of independent living.day. Join On My Own of Michigan staff and a family that they support in a conversation to discuss the transition to, concerns, and benefits of independent living.

Rachel Newbill, LLBSW, QIDP, is Independent Living Program Manager of On My Own of Michigan, a nonprofit that supports adults with developmental disabilities as they live the life of their dreams. Rachel is responsible for developing and managing the organization’s robust suite of individualized support services, and for ensuring members have the skills and support necessary to live independently. Prior to joining On My Own, Rachel worked as a resident advocate and crisis line staff at Turning Point, Inc. Rachel has a Bachelor of Social Work degree from Oakland University and is a Qualified Intellectual Disabilities Professional.

Showing Unconditional Positive Regard To Children With Autism by Tammy McCrory

This presentation will discuss how to adopt a unconditional positive regard attitude while caring, living, or socializing with a person on the Autism Spectrum. Unconditional Positive Regard is a psychological approach that focuses on adopting a mentality that is understanding and accepting, developed by Carl Rogers.Rogers was a psychologist and one of the founders of Humanistic Psychology. This train of thought can be developed in a short period of time.

Tammy McCrory is a Temporary Limited Licensed Psychologist and Behavioral Consultant in the state of MI. Tammy provides treatment to young children diagnosed with Autism, Trauma, and Stress related disorders. Tammy believes because a person is born with developmental limitations does not limit the possibility of them being able to live a fully functional life. Before joining Hutchison and Associates as a Psychotherapist, Tammy served as the Director of Maternal Child Health at the Detroit Health Department. Tammy received her Masters of Arts in Clinical Psychology from the Michigan School of Psychology, Bachelors of Arts in Community Service from Siena Heights University, Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA,) Training from UCSB, and Clinical Trauma Professional Training from the International Association of Trauma Professionals. Tammy utilizes only evidence- based treatment modalities and teaches therapeutic adjustment strategies to families. Tammy also works at an Autism Therapy Center as a Behavioral Consultant providing ABA direct services.

Session B — 11:10 AM – Noon

It’s as Easy as AAC: Building Core Vocabulary for the Non-Verbal Child by Stephanie Naberhaus, M.S., CCC-SLP

Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) systems are being used with increasing number of children with Autism Spectrum Disorders, and can be an effective means of communication for non-verbal children. However, getting started with AAC can seem overwhelming. This session will outline the basics of AAC, with an emphasis on the use of “Core Words”: simple words that make up over half of what we say on a daily basis and are relevant across various contexts.  When learned, these words can be combined quickly and used to help individuals with limited or no verbal speech to expresses themselves, leading to better communication with family and friends, as well as a decrease in problem behaviors. Common AAC misconceptions, scenarios and strategies will also be addressed.

Stephanie Naberhaus is a pediatric speech-language pathologist from Building Bridges Therapy Center. She received her Bachelor’s in Communication Sciences and Disorders from Michigan State University and her Masters Degree in Speech-Language Pathology from Miami of Ohio. Stephanie has worked in both school and clinical settings and has extensive experience providing assessment and treatment to individuals with a variety of communication disorders, including Autism and Apraxia. In addition to seeing individual clients, Stephanie oversees Bridges to Learning, a Pre-K program focusing on teaching children with Autism Spectrum Disorders the social and behavioral skills necessary for successful functioning in a classroom.

The Art of Anxiety by Albert Pizutti and Lauren Sexton

This presentation will discuss the biological features that may contribute to anxiety, the various anxiety disorders, and how to best manage it all. Through our combined personal experiences, we will share stories about the different manifestations of anxiety as well as coping skills that we have found effective in managing one’s mental health.

Al Pizzuti has been with Wayne State University for over 20 years. He has been involved in research projects that include, children screening, developmentally disabled response to tele-psychiatry, various substance abuse studies, Children’s Hospital of Michigan length of stay etc. He has been working in Psychiatry for over 40 years. Past experience include the State of Michigan Lafayette Clinic. VAMC Allen park for over 5 years. He is also a trainer in the areas of non-violent patient restraint and compassionate care. This is in addition to his clinical work as a psychiatric nurse at Detroit Receiving Hospital both in the crisis center & inpatient settings. He has trained staff in the use of various risk assessment scales (PANSS, GAD, SCID & Mini-SCID)

Lauren Sexton graduated from Wayne State University with a Master’s in Social Work in 2018. She has spent her career focusing on mental health and has worked in both inpatient and outpatient settings for nearly 10 years, with a notable amount of time working directly with severely autistic adolescents and young adults. She has focused on reintegration into the community, activities of daily living, and encouraging independence.

Your Best Self: Pragmatic Techniques For An Autastic Life by Andrew Ackner

Navigating life on the Autism Spectrum as an adult is one of the hardest skills I’ve had to acquire in life. It isn’t just one skill, it’s thousands of skills all under the umbrella many people my generation refer to as “adulting” and all while doing what it takes to maintain psychological well-being for myself. In this presentation I will discuss my own experiences, from other sources and knowledge from research based data on how someone on the spectrum can achieve the most fulfilled mindset on life.

Andrew Ackner is a tennis coach, entrepreneur and professional speaker with ASD. Having been a professional speaker on autism topics since his mid teens, Andrew has spoken to audiences in the autism community with over 1500 people and has moderated multiple panels. He was the first autistic person to serve on the Autism Society of Michigan Board of Directors. Andrew is a competitive athlete, avidly training and competing in the sport of tennis and the founder of Autastic Athletics, an athletic program which currently offers tennis lessons to the ASD community. His passion for tennis has inspired him to learn more about the art of coaching and about the learning process for all people with ASD, so that he can offer the highest quality of lessons to his students. His plan is to create employment opportunities for other coaches with ASD to teach other sports to children in the ASD Community.

The Big WHY Behind Autism Behaviors: Understanding The Brain Can Equip Parents and Educators to Better Help Those Diagnosed with ASD by Dr. Karen Clark

There are many theories surrounding autism today. Three of the most recognized and respected are the Weak Central Coherence Theory, the Theory of Executive Dysfunction, and, Theory of Mind. This presentation will provide a well-rounded summary of each of these cognitive processing theories. Understanding how the autistic brain is processing information can provide a big ‘aha!’ moment for parents and educators. Understanding techniques and strategies for working with those who are diagnosed is wonderful but understanding the WHY can make all the difference in the world!

Dr. Karen Clark is currently pursuing her passion of changing how autism is viewed in society and how education is handled for unique learners. She has her Master’s in education and a teaching certification, both from Central Michigan University. She currently teaches special education courses at the master’s level and contributes to doctoral students’ dissertation committees while also personally continuing to engage in autism-related post-doctoral research. During her years of teaching in public schools, part of which was in one of the most economically challenged sections of the Detroit area, she often lead curriculum committees and volunteered to run after-school student organizations. As to working with the challenges that come with an economically challenged area, she said, “I enjoyed every moment with the kids!” Preceding her teaching career, she earned her first Bachelor’s in Journalism from the nationally-ranked journalism school at Michigan State University.

While still studying at MSU, at the early age of 18, Karen started her professional career as a reporter. She produced and delivered on-air news for several stations, worked on the copy desk of an award-winning university newspaper and also single-handedly produced Michigan State University’s Dean of Engineering’s monthly newsletter. Further, while at MSU, she joined social organization Alpha Xi Delta. Alpha Xi’s philanthropic cause revolves around autism. Karen took on various leadership roles while apart of the organization. Outside of pursuing her passion to advocate for kids and families with autism, she also volunteers at her church several times each week and, in her free time, Karen enjoys being a ‘big kid’ on the playground alongside her own little ones. She currently resides in the metro-Detroit area with her husband Derek, their two kids, and their dog, Perry. Karen, most importantly, is a mom to a son with autism.

DOUBLE SESSION: Life Planning for a Child with Special Needs and an Update on the ABLE Act - by Minoti H. Rajput, CFP(R), ChSNC(R)

Planning for an adult family member with special needs requires in-depth knowledge of ever changing local resources, laws, legal and financial tools available as you assist your family member in creating a current and future working plan to meet their lifelong dreams and needs. Minoti Rajput will explain the importance of special needs planning strategies and will address questions for both planning and key components of the ABLE Act.

Minoti Rajput, a Certified Financial Planner and Chartered Special Needs Consultant, has served as the founding president of Secure Planning Strategies for nearly three decades. She earned her MBA from Gujarat University in India. In 1989, Minoti formed her firm offering comprehensive wealth planning with a subspecialty of life planning with financial and legal guidance to families of special needs children. For the past 29 years her firm has counseled 1,500+ families of children with special needs.

Deep Dive into the ASD Diagnosis - by Jill Matson MSN, RN, CPNP

Have ever questioned an autism diagnosis you, your child or family member received or maybe wondered what an autism evaluation should look like? Have you ever thought that autism looks like a lot of things and a lot of things look like autism? If so, you won’t want to miss this session which takes a closer look at how autism is diagnosed and the diagnostic criteria clinicians use to make a diagnosis. Components of a comprehensive autism assessment will be discussed as well as the importance of differential diagnoses and identification of associated co-occurring conditions.

Jill Matson is the Clinical Specialist for AAoM’s MiNavigator Program. She is a certified Pediatric Nurse Practitioner with over 20 years of experience in treating individuals with special health care needs. Jill has worked on the Autism and assessment teams at Children’s Hospital of Michigan and Oakwood’s Center for Exceptional Families. In addition to her position as Clinical Specialist at the AAoM, she continues to practice in the Neurology Clinic at Children’s Hospital of Michigan providing medical management to individuals with Autism and developmental disabilities. Jill is the parent of a teenager with autism and her passion surrounds increasing opportunities for healthcare for individuals in the Detroit and Downriver areas where she has lived and worked throughout her career.

Beyond the Dinner Table: Addressing Selective Eating and Feeding Concerns of Your Child Collaboratively with School Professionals - by James Nuse, BCBA

Participants will learn how to address selective eating and feeding behaviors beyond the dinner table! James Nuse will offer practical and purposeful solutions to assist families in addressing their picky eaters within the classroom. An emphasis will be placed on developing a collaborative relationship between the school and home in order identify a necessary action plan to address eating within the school setting!

James Nuse is a Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA) and State of Michigan Certified Teacher. He currently serves as a Teacher on Special Assignment primarily providing intensive behavioral consultation. When James is not working with students throughout his school district, he also teaches an online course through Central Michigan University (CMU) called Applied Behavior Analysis for Teachers. James completed his undergraduate degree in Special Education and Elementary Education through CMU. He holds endorsements in Elementary Education, Reading, and Emotional Impairment (Special Education). He also holds a Master’s in Special Education with a concentration in Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) through Oakland University.

Everyone Can Read! Creating Adaptive Books to Support Learning for All Students Tammy Daigneau, M.A.

How can you make your Daily 5 mini lessons or any reading time accessible for all students? Is there a way to engage your highest reader and your lowest reader all at the same time? Yes…even those students who are nonverbal or cognitively impaired! In this session you will learn how to adapt books in various ways and see examples of different types of adapted books. You will see how different levels of readers can engage with adapted books and see the types of progress they make in their reading skills.

Tammy Daigneau M.A. is an autism teacher at Lincoln Park Public schools. She works in a self-contained classroom with students on the autism spectrum. Tammy graduated from the University of Michigan Dearborn with her bachelors in 2003 where she earned her teaching degree and received her Early Childhood endorsement. She worked at the University of Michigan Dearborn Early Childhood Education Center from 2004-2013. During that time she received her Master’s in Education from the University of Michigan Dearborn and an endorsement in Autism from Oakland University. She has worked at Lincoln Park Public schools from 2013- present.

12:00PM – 1:00PM Lunch

Session C — 1:10 PM – 2:00 PM

It’s Complicated! - by Monica Puente Tabila, M.A. CCC-SLP

Join me for a discussion about my love-hate relationship with technology. I will dive into a reflection about the amazing contributions it has had in my personal life, profession, and the lives of my clients. I will share current thoughts on issues related to screen time use, as well as the latest research and recommendations.

Monica Puente Tabila is a nationally certified and state licensed Speech Language Pathologist who specializes in Augmentative Alternative Communication (AAC), developmental delays, and neurological disorders in children and young adults. Mrs. Tabila previously taught at the graduate level at Wayne State University, and has been a guest lecturer at Oakland University and Eastern Michigan University. She currently owns BE HEARD LLC, where she and her colleagues provide speech therapy services to individuals with complex communication needs.

MiABLE Workshop: Helping to Fund Independence, Health and Quality of Life - by Scott de Varona

The MiABLE presentation will cover the following topics: ABLE Act history, ABLE account features, Who is eligible for an ABLE account? What can ABLE funds be used for? MiABLE features (tax implications and state specific features), How to open a MiABLE account and a Q & A

Scott serves as the MiABLE Director within the Student Financial Services Bureau. Scott has worked for the State for 18 years in various positions within the Departments of Treasury & Health & Human Services. Scott holds a BA in Business Administration from Northwood University and an MBA from the De Vos Graduate School of Management. Scott lives in Grand Ledge, Michigan with his wife and 2 children.

Roadmap to Supporting Social-Emotional Development in Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder by LaShorage Shaffer, PhD


Dr. LaShorage Shaffer is an Associate Professor at the University of Michigan-Dearborn in the College of Education, Health, and Human Services. She is a member of the Department of Education in the college and teaches early childhood and early childhood special education courses. She is the director for the Early Childhood Education Center, a university laboratory school where trans-disciplinary and Reggio Inspired approach is strongly applied and practice.

Growing Up on the Autism Spectrum and How I Started My Own NPO Despite Adversity - by Eric D. Zimmerman

My presentation is aimed at parents with Autism and co-occurring/Co-morbid diagnoses and will focus on growing up with Autism and the issues I have lived with this “Invisible” Disability. I talk about my challenges and the ways I found to get around them along with that of how I found love and as well as how I got to realize my childhood dream of racing stock cars.

Eric D. Zimmerman is Founder and Technical Director of The Buddy Project, and should know about technology’s ability to unlock some of the everyday barriers faced by the special-needs community: The 30 year-old has Asperger’s syndrome, a form of autism which hinders social interaction. Zimmerman, a graduate of Frederick High School, decided to take action. Officially, since 2007, his technological savviness (certified in computer repair and rehabilitation by the Career Technology Center’s IT program), united with his caring, altruistic drive to help others, has been brightening lives. That’s when, out of his Frederick home, he began The Buddy Project. And, ever since, his not-for-profit organization has acted upon its mission of providing free computers (and/or other technologies) to qualifying IDD candidates.

Navigating the ABA Intake Process: From Interview to First Day - by Rachel Enright, BCBA

Navigating the next steps once your child has received a diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder can feel daunting at times. Within our community, there are many different treatment options available. Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) therapy continues to remain the primary recommended medical treatment by the American Medical Association (AMA). While there has been a recent increase in the number of ABA therapy providers in our area, this increase in options can sometimes lead to feeling unsure how to determine a provider of high quality therapy services, as well as determining what benchmarks will result in a provider that fits your family’s needs. Furthermore, once a provider has been found, there traditionally are many steps required in order to successfully navigate the intake process, receive authorization, and begin receiving services.  These factors listed above can result in families receiving therapy services from a provider that is not matched with their needs or potentially receiving therapy services delivered in an unethical manner. This discussion can clarify for families what options should be considered in the process of enrolling their child in ABA therapy, what are benchmarks of quality ABA therapy delivery, as well as what steps are most commonly required to receive authorization to start therapy services.


Rachel Enright is the Vice President of Clinical Development & Strategy at Gateway Pediatric Therapy where she focuses on new client relationships, community partnerships, strategic development and analysis and the overall functionality of Gateway Clinical Operations. Rachel has worked in the field for over 5 years and has experience with direct implementation as well as supervision of ABA therapy interventions for clients aged 3-16. Rachel received her Master’s Degree from Western Michigan University and is a Board Certified Behavior Analyst.

Safe, Effective and Fun Food Therapy: Systematic Sensory and Oral Motor Approaches for Feeding - by Mary Archer, MS OTR/L and Melissa Czinski, MOT OTR/L

Proper nutrition is a critical element in the process of development. Many children, both with and without a specific diagnosis, find eating to be one of the most challenging parts of their day. During this presentation, we will take a look at reasons why children have difficulty eating, assessments that can be used for feeding therapy, safety concerns related to feeding, the essential components of both sensory and oral motor programs used for feeding, learning the difference between picky eaters and problem feeders, as well as numerous strategies that can be used both in the clinic setting and at home to make eating fun again.

Mary Archer, MS OTR/L, and Melissa Czinski, MOT OTR/L, are pediatric occupational therapists with experience providing direct care to children and their families in the outpatient medical setting and within the school system. Mary earned her master 's degree in Occupational Therapy from Western Michigan University in 2015 and is a board-certified occupational therapist licensed with the state of Michigan. Melissa earned her master 's degree in Occupational Therapy from Wayne State University in 2012 and is also a board-certified occupational therapist licensed in the state of Michigan. As trained providers in the Sequential Oral Sensory Approach to Feeding and The Beckman Oral Motor protocol, they each bring expert experience with the assessment and intervention of children with oral motor and feeding difficulties. Both Mary and Melissa work at Building Bridges Therapy Center serving children with Autism Spectrum Disorder, Sensory Processing Disorder and difficulties, Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder, genetic syndromes, and children with overall developmental delays.

Understanding Home and Community Based Services Using Supports for Community Inclusion - by Joanna Lofton

Joanna Monk-Lofton is the Community Resource Specialist for AAoM’s MiNavigator Team. She has over 20 years of experience assisting families with mental and physical challenges. Joanna worked at The Children’s Center of Wayne County providing support to staff, connecting families to community resources and advocating for the educational rights of children with special needs. Prior to joining to Children’s Center Joanna operated as the Associate Director of (CAUSE) Citizens Alliance to Uphold Special Education for the tri county area. Joanna is the parent of a young adult with special needs and has worked diligently to assist him and others in achieving their life goals and improving their quality of life.

Using Language Scripting to Expand Communication and Social Language Skills for Children with ASD - by Kerry Peterson, MA, CCC-SLP, BCBA

Does your child have words, repeat words and phrases but not readily greet, request, comment or answer questions effectively? This session will provide strategies on how to use the skill of repeating others to improve spontaneous communication within social context.

Kerry Peterson is the director of applied behavior analysis (ABA) autism programs at the Kaufman Children’s Center. She is both a speech language pathologist and board certified behavior analyst with unique expertise in autism spectrum disorders. Kerry earned her bachelor’s degree in psychology and speech and hearing from the University of Michigan and her master’s degree in speech-language pathology from Michigan State University. She completed the requirements of a board certified behavior analyst (BCBA) through the Florida Institute of Technology. Kerry has presented multiple training conferences on autism and related topics, including effective assessment and treatment for those with autism who also struggle to develop functional speech.

2:10 PM – 3:00 PM

Autism and Your Religious Community: How to Make It Work - by Karen Wang

Most families in the autism community are not active in their faith for a variety of reasons. This session will briefly explain some of the proven benefits of regular spiritual practice, such as decreased anxiety and increased opportunity for social interaction. We will discuss how to approach leaders in the religious community, how to prepare our loved ones for involvement and three methods for faith formation: special needs ministry, full inclusion in worship and peer-to-peer support. We will spend the last 20 minutes discussing specific religious communities that support our families in a positive way.

Karen Wang is the parent of one son with autism and one son with ADHD. She volunteers as the assistant director of religious education at Sacred Heart Byzantine Catholic Church in Livonia and as the PTSA president at Northville High School. A former academic, she now directs all of her energy into researching best practices to improve quality of life for her sons.

How To Fight Denial: Insurance - by Chaunta Tsegaye

Helping individuals weed through the appeal process and teaching them the basic information they need to get started.

Chaunta began working at Beaumont Health Systems in 2011 at which time she began utilizing insurance vocabulary, crosswalks, and appropriate billing codes as it relates to pediatric therapies.  During her time at Beaumont, Chaunta was responsible for pediatric speech, physical and occupational therapy authorizations, verifications, and customer billing concerns. Helping parents navigate the insurance benefits offered to them by their employers, or through state funded services, was one of the main components of her position.  In her role at AAoM, Chaunta is responsible for helping families learn about the options available for additional insurance plans, denials, and also helping adult members find the best available health insurance options. Chaunta aspires to learn everything she can to help people with disabilities lead the best life possible and pursue their life goals.  Chaunta’s motivation behind everything she does is being a positive role model for her children first, and then for any other children with which she comes in contact. Chaunta’s biggest supporters are her husband and mother.

Assessing Barriers to Enhance Quality of Life in Adolescents with Autism - by Courtney Schiappacasse, Leslie Scobe LLMSW, BCBA, and Katie McGee

As children with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) develop into adolescents their leisure skills are often impacted. Social and independent leisure skills support a positive quality of life. This presentation focuses on a conversation to identify barriers to engagement in leisure activities. Independent personal leisure skills and independent social leisure skills affect the quality of life of individuals as they go through adolescence. These may limit engagement with family, the community, and functional independent activities.

Courtney Schiappacasse is an Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) Clinical Supervisor with Novel Responses, Inc.. She has worked with children and adults diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder since 2008. ​​Courtney earned her Master of Arts in Teaching Autism Spectrum Disorders in 2012. Courtney began her experience in ABA with Novel Responses in 2013. She has experience as a special education provider in a self-contained classroom for students with autism and resource room teacher. In spare time, Courtney enjoys going to yoga, bike riding, paddle boarding, baking, and spending time with family.

Leslie Scobie, LLMSW, BCBA. Leslie was introduced to her first client diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and the field of Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) in 2006. Since that time Leslie’s passion to support both learning and generalization for those diagnosed with ASD lead her to pursue a MSW from the University of Michigan School of Social Work, complete a certificate in ABA from the Florida Institute of Technology, complete the requirements to become a Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA), as well as complete a certificate in sex therapy and sexuality education from the University of Michigan. Leslie currently works as BCBA Clinical Supervisor at Novel Responses, Inc.

Katie McGee received her Masters of Arts in Applied Behavior Analysis from Western Michigan University in 2015. Katie was trained under the supervision of Dr. Richard Malott in the Behavioral Analysis Training System (BATS) program with a focus in both autism and Organizational Behavior Management (OBM). Katie began working in the field as an undergraduate in 2011 at the Kalamazoo Autism Center implementing one-on-one verbal behavior-based programming with children with autism and other developmental disabilities. Katie has been working as a BCBA at Novel Responses, Inc. since 2015. Katie specializes in severe maladaptive behavior, parent training, and school consultation.

Building Foundational Independent Living and Employment Skills - by Jake Boehm, M.S., BCBA and Elizabeth Elias M.Ed., BCBA

Programs and services for adolescents and young adults with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) have varied in content and quality of that content over the years. Although these services and programs have shown significant improvement, many still fail to address the key skills that these individuals will require as they navigate their lives. The first portion of this presentation will focus on one skills assessment that is currently being used to help not only identify specific deficits in an individual’s repertoire but also how to improve those deficits in a way that is straightforward and simple for parents to follow along with and understand. The second portion of this presentation will discuss employment readiness skills. Employment can instill a sense of independence in an individual and it will also put them on the path to self-sufficiency. In this presentation, parents will learn how to prepare their child for getting and keeping a job through the review of basic and necessary skills for employment.

Jake Boehm, M.S., BCBA Jake received a B.S. in Psychology with a concentration in Applied Behavior Analysis in 2012 from Western Michigan University. He went on to receive his M.S. in Applied Behavior Analysis from The Chicago School of Professional Psychology in 2016. He became a Board Certified Behavior Analyst in 2017. Throughout his academic and professional career, Jake has worked with children and adults with autism and other developmental disabilities through a variety of roles including a paraprofessional, direct care worker, behavior technician, practicum student, and now as a BCBA at Gateway Pediatric Therapy.

Elizabeth Elias M.Ed., BCBA Liz received a B.A. in Psychology with a concentration in Human Services in 2013 from Albion College and went on to Oakland University where she received an M.Ed. in Special Education with a concentration in Applied Behavior Analysis. She became a Board Certified Behavior Analyst ​in 2017. Liz has worked with early intervention, teenagers, and adults with autism and other developmental disabilities in her practicum placements and through her time at Gateway Pediatric Therapy.

Interactive Training to Increase Desired Behaviors by Jason Majchrzak MS, LLP, BCBA, Danielle Carveth M.Ed., BCBA, and Shelby Amman MS, BCBA

In the presentation, the presenters will provide information about reinforcement, the difference kinds of reinforcement, why it’s effective, and how to assess for good rewards. They will share effective ways to reinforce in a workshop format including role-plays and examples. Followed by a Q&A at the end.

Jason Majchrzak is a Limited Licensed Psychologist, Board Certified Behavior Analyst, and Parent-Child Interaction Certified therapist at the Beaumont Children’s Center in Dearborn, MI Jason received his bachelor’s degree in psychology at Oakland University and his master’s degree at Eastern Michigan University in Clinical-Behavioral Psychology. He is currently a 3rd year doctoral student in Applied Behavior Analysis at Queen’s University in Belfast, Ireland. Jason has served in many roles including expert psychologist for Detroit-Wayne County Medication Treatment Review Committee, Autism Clinic Director at the Former PsychSystems Starr Commonwealth Autism Center, and Supervising Behavior Analyst of the Henry Ford Center for Autism and Developmental Disabilities. Jason has experience in treating individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorders and other Developmental Disabilities, ADHD, Oppositional Defiant Disorder, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, feeding and sleep difficulties, and Anxiety and Stress Disorders. Jason’s current research interests include Habit Reversal Treatment for repetitive behaviors and nervous tics.
Shelby is a Board Certified Behavior Analyst that works to supervise the provision of Applied Behavior Analysis at Beaumont’s Center for Exceptional Families’ Autism Center, Her passion for working with individuals on the autism spectrum began while she was in high school, volunteering during her lunch hours for the “Buddies Program”-an opportunity that paired typical high school students with those diagnosed with a variety of special needs. Following her degree in psychology from Grand Valley State University, Shelby quickly began working for a company that provided in-home ABA therapy, realizing her passion for working with such a special population was a possible career, Working as a direct service provider, Shelby worked with individuals of a variety of age groups, as well as a variety of children diagnosed with comorbid disorders, allowing for a wider picture of the individuality behind the diagnosis of Autism. She attended Capella University, where she obtained her Master’s degree in Psychology with a specialization in Applied Behavior Analysis, graduating with distinction. While obtaining her graduate degree, she worked closely with her supervisor, providing therapy for individuals with select mutism as well as working to provide direct one-on-one therapy with children and teenagers diagnosed with autism, and creating a center-based program focused on the treatment of individuals with autism for a vulnerable population of individuals who would not typically have had access to services. In her current role, Shelby is so excited to able to provide direct supervision to the therapy provided in a clinic setting which allows for an outstanding understanding of how therapy is being provided at all times, and what needs cach child on her caseload has in the moment. She loves the opportunity to work closely with parents at the Center for Exceptional Families, and enjoys planning every program with their specific goals in mind. When Shelby is not working, she enjoys spending time with her fiance and their two Australian Shepherds.
Danielle Carveth graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Elementary Education from Michigan State University. Danielle was very passionate about challenging the socioeconomic factors that can negatively impact an individual’s education. She completed a Cross-Cultural Teaching Study Abroad for six weeks in South Africa in which she took graduate courses and toured the country. Danielle had the experience of staying in the home of an elementary teacher in South Africa and traveling to work with her daily. After earning her teaching certificate, Danielle worked for five years as a kindergarten teacher in Pontiac and Flint. From her experience as an educator, Danielle desired to grow in her knowledge on meeting the unique needs of every individual. She completed her Master of Education in Special Education with a concentration in Applied Behavior Analysis at Oakland University. After earning her certification as a Board Certified Behavior Analyst, Danielle began working at Beaumont’s Center for Exceptional Families. Danielle is passionate about working with Beaumont’s talented team of Behavior Technicians to provide individualized and quality therapy to every client. Danielle enjoys the collaboration between caregivers to ensure that clients’ success is transferred to all settings. Danielle is interested in using her experiences as an educator to ensure clients make a successful transfer from ABA therapy to school.
How To: Align Your Special Needs Plan with Your Child’s Unique Hopes, Goals, and Abilities - by Phillip Clark

Have you ever worried about your child’s future? Wondered who would step in to love and care for him or her if you were no longer able to do so? Are you overwhelmed trying to keep track of all the details swirling around inside your head — doctors, therapies, medications, IEPs, government benefits? Do you long for your child to succeed in school, find a job that fits their abilities, and build meaningful social connections? Are you concerned that you might not be able to afford all of the resources to help your child truly thrive? Does planning for the future feel impossible because you barely have time to plan for today? Most parents of children with special needs struggle with these same questions. You’re not alone and we’re here to help. During this interactive workshop, you will learn why creating a Vision Plan is the most important step of your special needs planning process and you will begin creating a plan for your loved one. You will leave this workshop with a clearer idea of what a GREAT life looks like for your child and how to align every aspect of your special needs plan with his or her unique hopes, goals, and abilities *Bring a laptop/tablet/smartphone. During the workshop, you will receive access to a FREE, online, Vision Plan tool.*

Phillip Clark is the Founder and President of ENABLE Special Needs Planning, an organization that helps families across the country plan for an abundant future for their loved ones with special needs. He is also the proud big brother to his sister, Sarah, who has Down syndrome. He began his organization and co-created the ENABLE Special Needs Planning System due to the profound impact that his sister has had on his life and the lives of so many others. He believes that everyone has the ability to be impactful and that special needs planning should be focused on creating a life of purpose and impact today – and every day in the future.

The PLAY Project Model: Parent-Implemented Autism Early Intervention - by Onna Solomon, LMSW

PLAY Project Autism Intervention (PLAY) is an evidence-base, parent-implemented model that uses a developmental and relationship-based approach to helping young children (18 months to 6 years old) with autism spectrum disorders improve in their development, social interaction and autism severity. In PLAY, trained PLAY Consultants coach parents to be sensitive and responsive in a way that is fun and effectively engages the child, with the goal of improving the child’s functional development.

Onna Solomon, LMSW, is a Certified PLAY Project Consultant and Lead Trainer for the PLAY Project, an organization dedicated to helping children on the autism spectrum change and grow through joyful relationships. Onna has a private practice as an individual and family therapist, with 15 years of clinical experience working with young children with autism. She has collaborated with professionals all over the world in therapeutic and educational settings to bring playful, relationship-based approaches to autism early intervention.

Top 10 Strategies for Students with ADHD in the School Setting - by Trisha Lormier, M.A., BCBA

Trisha Lormier is a Board Certified Behavior Analyst and a Senior Clinical Director for Autism Spectrum Therapies. She supports clinical teams in California as well as the growing Midwest regions in Illinois and Michigan. She holds a master’s degree in both Applied Behavior Analysis as well as Special Education.