Autism Conference Breakout Sessions

Breakout Session Descriptions

Thank you for joining us for the 30th Annual Autism Conference! Browse each session's description below.

*Breakouts are chosen during the registration process. Please note the number of your choices now.

Morning Breakout Sessions

1. DDS: Charting the Job Search Process for Individuals with Autism

Presenter: Department of Developmental Services Autism Program Regional Coordinators: Pamela Ferguson, Lea Hill, Shannon Hubley, Maria Stefano

Description: This session will focus on employment for individuals with autism without intellectual disabilities, and will also be relevant for all individuals conducting a job search. Topics covered will include strategies for getting and keeping a job. The session will also address executive functioning and sensory challenges, stress and anxiety in the workplace, and tools individuals can access to be successful on the job.

2. Disability Law Center: Rev-Up - Voting Rights for People with Disabilities

Presenter: Stephanie Krantz, Senior Attorney at DLC

Description: This workshop will provide information about the rights of people with disabilities to vote and the nuts and bolts of the process. Attendees will learn about accessible voting options, how to register, options for casting your ballot and other access issues. At the end of this workshop there will be plenty of time for Q&A. Your vote counts, let’s get out the vote!

3. Elizabeth Roberts Psychology: Psychosis in Autism Spectrum Disorder: What do we know, and how to help

Presenter: Elizabeth Roberts, PsyD

Description: This workshop is for parents and professionals.  It will review emerging research concerning psychosis in autism spectrum disorder.  Psychosis will be defined and described.  Risk factors for psychosis, warning signs and when parents and professionals need to be concerned, and where to get help will be reviewed.  Strategies for parents and professionals to help individuals with autism spectrum disorders with psychosis will be presented.

4. Kerry Magro: I Used to Be Bullied for Having Autism - Here’s When It Stopped

Presenter: Kerry Magro, Ed.D, Educational Technology Leadership

Description: Bullying can be a lifelong concern for our loved ones with developmental disabilities. This presentation will offer a first-hand account of a young man who was bullied as he was growing up on the autism spectrum. He will share tips for educators and students to take a stand against bullying.

5. MFOFC: The Power of Advocacy: How Families Can Impact Programs and Policies

Presenters: Sue Crosby, MSW, MFOFC, Western Mass Family Leadership Coordinator, will moderate a panel

Description: The sharing of family experiences, stories and concerns are key to improving services, and developing public policies that support and empower individuals who have autism. We will discuss successful advocacy efforts by local parents and professionals as a way to encourage and inspire families to get involved in creating positive change.

6. Widening the Circle: Pathways to Friendship, Supporting Friendships Between People with and without Disabilities

Presenter: Mary Ann Brennan, Co-coordinator of Widening the Circle

Description: This workshop will give participants an opportunity to reflect on why, for people with intellectual/developmental disabilities, it is so important to broaden their circle of friends beyond family, staff and others receiving paid supports. Strategies and resources will be provided on how we can encourage and support these friendships. There will also be an opportunity for participants to share their success and struggles as we brainstorm together.

7. Williams and LaRoc Consulting: Combating Diagnostic Disparities in African Americans

Presenter: Jacqueline Williams Hines, Co-Founder of Williams and LaRoc Consulting

Description: This workshop will explore cultural inhibitors to early and accurate diagnosis of ADS in the African American population, as well as systemic bias and disconnects between this at risk population and systems of delivery that directly impact diagnosis, access to services and service delivery.

Afternoon Breakout Sessions

8. Communicare: Chutes and Ladders: The Ups and Downs of AAC (Breaking it down and making it fun)

Presenters: Hillary Jellison, MS.CCC-SLP, ATP; Nerissa Hall, PhD.CCC-SLP, ATP

Description: Using the framework of the board game Chutes and Ladders we will outline the strategies and implementation tools for families and educators to support successful AAC use across multiple environments. We will review principals of AAC implementation: AAC modeling, creating opportunities for communication, and the triadic model of language and prompting hierarchy. We will review the ‘chutes’ that may derail successful AAC use as well as how to use varying tools and strategies to overcome these ‘chutes’ . We will share some case studies of success and hear from some parents on their strategies for successful AAC implementation in the home setting.

9. Cooley Dickinson Health Care: Trans and Autistic: Gender Inclusion in our Communities

Presenter: J. Aleah Nasteby, Director of LGTBQ Services; Elliot Ezcurra, Trans Health Navigator

Description: Transgender and gender-expansive people have always existed within autistic communities. However, the recent increases in visibility of transgender people overall has boosted the visibility of autistic trans people. Participants will gain a greater understanding of gender-expansive children, adolescents and adults. This workshop is for educators, parents and health care providers.

10. DDS: The Journey Continues: Successes and Challenges in Adulthood

Presenter: Panel of adults receiving services, moderated by Sarah Hunter, DDS service coordinator

Description: The Panel is comprised of adults with autism who will share their experiences, as well as a DDS Coordinator. This panel discussion will address the unique challenges that adults experience. Areas of focus include living independently and other housing models, job training and the journey to maintaining competitive employment, attending college, and forming relationships and a social network.

11. Kerry Magro: I Used to Be Bullied for Having Autism - Here’s When It Stopped

Presenter: Kerry Magro, Ed.D, Educational Technology Leadership

Description: Bullying can be a lifelong concern for our loved ones with developmental disabilities. This presentation will offer a first-hand account of a young man who was bullied as he was growing up on the autism spectrum. He will share tips for educators and students to take a stand against bullying.

12. Pathlight: Promoting Everyday Independence, Everyday

Presenter: Peter McLean, M.Ed, Training and Development Manager

Description: Join this highly interactive session for a refreshing prospective on building trusting connections and promoting greater independence. We will examine how we may be “doing for” individuals and how that can inhibit independence.  From there we will review how we can be better at “doing with” individuals and thereby promote their personal growth and development. We will cover topics from the most basic need of feeling safe to building trusting relationships as we consider our approach to communication, community membership and promoting reasonable risk.

13. Positive Behavior Supports: Building and Maintaining Rapport with Caregivers and Providers

Presenters: Julie Hayden, MS, BCBA, LABA, Regional Coordinator; Sopheap Nhim, MS, BCBA, LABA, Regional Clinical Coordinator

Description: Learn how to effectively communicate with client caregivers and providers to build and maintain relationships that promote learning, participation and collaboration to achieve client goals. Participants will learn to use strategies that build rapport with caregivers and providers.  Once rapport is established caregivers may be more likely to engage in treatment strategies and trainings.  Research has shown that the caregivers trained in behavioral techniques can train other collaborators in the procedures they have been taught.  This may increase treatment integrity and effectiveness for treatments in which caretakers are involved.

14. Whole Selves: Teaching Boundaries and Relationships to Individuals with IDD and Autism

Presenters: Maggie Rice, M.Ed, Director of Whole Children; Brian Melanson, BS, Whole Children, Sexuality Educator

Description: From 10 years of expertise teaching Boundaries and Relationships, we have developed accessible ways to teach complex topics around self-discovery, friendships, dating and sexuality. We will share strategies and skills for facilitating meaningful conversations and interventions in your own setting.

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Venue: Sheraton Springfield Monarch Place Hotel

Time: 8:00 am - 3:30 pm

Venue Phone: 413-781-1010

Venue Website:

Address: One Monarch Place, Springfield, Massachusetts, 01144, United States

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