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Autism Connections Breakout Sessions 2022

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Breakout Session Descriptions

Thank you for joining us at the 31st Annual Autism Connections Conference! Browse each sections descriptions below. 

Autistic Perspectives on Post Secondary Education

Description: three local autistic self-advocates share their experiences and resources on navigating post-secondary education. 

Workshop Learning Objectives: Gain confidence in navigating post-secondary education; achieve a foundational understanding of neurodiversity in post-secondary education; understand the importance of peer-to-peer relationships in navigating post-secondary education.

Participant Profile: Autistic people and their parents

Jay Eveson-Egler is an autistic self-advocate and current Co-Manager of the Simpatico Autism Peer-to-Peer Mentorship Program at AANE. Throughout their academic career, they facilitated peer-to-peer support for autistic and other neurodivergent students and presented on autistic led and organized panels that helped provide transition and post-secondary information to the autistic community in Western Massachusetts, as well as education regarding autism and neurodiversity to the community at large. They are also the founder and current advisor of the Neurodiverse Students Association at Mount Holyoke College.

 

Tiffany Cavanaugh (she/her) is an autistic self-advocate, social media influencer, and Inclusion Consultant at Holyoke Community College. She was diagnosed with autism at 5 years old, and became more public about her diagnosis when she was 14 years old. However, she didn’t become active in the Autistic Community until 2016 when she joined the Students on the Autism Spectrum (SAS) Club at Holyoke Community College. She currently works at Holyoke Community College as an Inclusion Consultant for the Office for Students with Disabilities and Deaf Services (OSDDS) and the Massachusetts Inclusive Concurrent Enrollment Initiative (MAICEI) Program. In addition, she currently serves as an co-advisor for both the SAS Club and SHOUTS Mentor Program, and as a member of the Universal Design Council (formally ADA Committee). Throughout the years, she has been actively involved in the Autistic Community at HCC and on social media to advocate and use her voice to educate others about autism.

Adra Riv Woods Rege is an autistic self-advocate. An alum of both Holyoke Community College and Mount Holyoke College, they graduated with their BA in Psychology in 2021. They served as Vice President of the Students on the Autism Spectrum club at HCC and Co-Chair of the Neurodiverse Students Association at MHC. Additionally, they are an alum of the Autism Campus Inclusion Leadership Academy, a conference run by the Autistic Self-Advocacy Network every summer that provides tools for autistic people in academia to build communities and take part in community and self-advocacy.

Introduction to Floortime/DIR

Description: Sarah will review the essential elements of the DIR/Floortime model. Video tapes will be used to illustrate principles and strategies.

 

Workshop Learning Objectives: review of the six developmental stages of the model and the criteria for evaluating the child’s functioning at each level; learn the importance of understanding the child’s processing issues and sensory challenges and how these impact the child’s movement through the developmental levels;  the significance in the fact that affect is the driving force enabling children to learn and that only when the child’s actions are “hooked up” to his feelings is he able to make skills his own.

 

Participant Profile: Anyone interested in child development

Sarah Measures has been helping families with children who have special needs for twenty-five years. Currently, Ms. Measures is an instructor for the Astra Foundation, training parents in DIR, as well as teaching graduate and undergraduate students at Lesley University. She is a training leader for I.C.D.L. She works privately with children on the autism spectrum consulting both to school districts and to families.  She conducts DIR workshops for parents and professionals and has presented at local and regional conferences.

Key Components of Effective Social/Emotional Skills Training

Description: The presentation details key components that must be addressed in order to be effective in teaching skills including: prioritizing appropriate skill goals, motivation for training, skill acquisition: strategies based on level of language functioning, generalization, peer sensitivity training, and measuring progress.


Workshop Learning Objectives: One size does not fit all – prioritizing relevant skill goals; knowing what to do does not mean one will do it – establishing motivation to use skills; skill acquisition: strategies to teach skills based on language ability; generalization strategies – prompting skills in real settings; having skills does not insure peer acceptance – creating accepting peer environments; measuring progress. 


Participant Profile: All professionals, family members, caretakers, and educators can benefit from this breakout session. 

Jed Baker, Ph.D. is the director of the Social Skills Training Project, an organization serving individuals with autism and social communication problems.  He writes, lectures, and provides training internationally on the topic of social skills training and managing challenging behaviors.  He is an award winning author of 8 books, including Social Skills Training for Children and Adolescents with Aspergers Syndrome and Social Communication Problems; Preparing for Life: The Complete Handbook for the Transition to Adulthood for Those with Autism and Aspergers Syndrome; The Social Skills Picture Book; The Social Skills Picture Book for High School and Beyond; No More Meltdowns: Positive Strategies for Managing and Preventing Out-of-Control Behavior; No More Victims: Protecting those with Autism from Cyber Bullying, Internet Predators & Scams; Overcoming Anxiety in Children and Teens; and School Shadow Guidelines. His work has also been featured on ABC World News, Nightline, the CBS Early Show, and the Discovery Health Channel. 

Contact Info: 

Jed Baker, PhD, Director of the Social Skills Training Project

jandbbaker@aol.com

www.socialskillstrainingproject.com

www.jedbaker.com

LifeMAP Coaching- The Road to Success

Description: This workshop is a presentation of AANE’s coaching programs called LifeMAP. LifeMAP consists of eight subprograms: LifeMAP for Teens, CollegeMAP, InterviewPREP, Practice Interview, WorkMAP, LifeMAP over 50, LifeMAP in Spanish, LifeMAP Foundation. All LifeMAP programs are intensive, practical, highly individualized life coaching programs for individuals with Asperger/autism profiles. LifeMAP is staffed by trained Master and Doctoral level professionals with expertise in Asperger/autism profiles. Coaches help clients use their strengths to identify and overcome the particular barriers they face. Clients acquire new life skills or fine-tune existing daily living skills to reach their full potential. The ultimate goal of LifeMAP is for clients to improve their quality of life and increase their independence. Client progress is evaluated with the help of researchers from UMASS Lowell, the lead investigator is Professor Ashleigh Hillier. According to research findings, the majority of the clients reach their coaching goals, increase their confidence and decrease their anxiety, they become overall more independent and improve their quality of life. The workshop offers unique tools and innovative coaching strategies which are developed and used by LifeMAP coaches to support their clients.

Learning Objectives:  Identify the Asperger/autism profile and its impact on individuals and their daily life and learn how to utilize each individual’s strengths and interests to improve their quality of life; implement innovative coaching strategies to help individuals with Asperger/autism profiles gain independence; apply practical strategies towards effectively assisting clients in reaching their goals in the areas of college, employment, and independent living; recognize various co-occurring mental health conditions such as anxiety and depression and their impact on the workplace, home, community, etc.

Participant Profile: Professionals who work with Teens and Adults with an Asperger/Autism Profile; Adults with an Asperger/Autism Profile as well as Parents and Families of Adults and Transition-Age Teens with an Asperger/Autism Profile

Nataliya S. Poto, M.A. is the Director of LifeMAP Coaching Programs and Asperger/Autism Professional Coaching Association at the Asperger/Autism Network (AANE). She began as an intern at AANE back in 2008 and her first project was to develop and evaluate LifeMAP. Over the last 14 years, the LifeMAP programs have served more than 3,000 clients. In addition to overseeing LifeMAP and AAPCA, Mrs. Poto is also a coach, successfully assisting clients with their goals in the areas of higher education, career development, employment, personal growth, relationship-building, independent living, and more. She and her team also conceptualized LifeMAP’s unique coaching approaches into the AsperCoach curriculum, a Certification program offered annually at AANE. Prior to joining AANE, Mrs. Poto taught Psychology at UMASS Lowell and conducted applied research evaluating employment and music intervention programs for youth with Asperger/autism profiles. She is the co-author of several research articles published in peer-reviewed journals. Her research has been presented at national and international conferences. A native of Ukraine, Mrs. Poto for the last 20 years has been residing in Northern MA with her husband and her son. Mrs. Poto enjoys traveling, skiing, gardening, and spending time with her family.

Teaching Communication Skills to Young Learners

1.5 BCBA credits will be available for this session 

Topic: Learn about using a total communication approach to teach speech and language skills in young children.  Independently requesting needs and wants is an empowering skill that will be used for a lifetime.

Workshop Description:  Participants will learn the benefits of using a total communication approach.  Research supports the use of multiple methods, used simultaneously, to promote increases in communication skills.  Examples include: Sign language, Vocal Verbal Echoics/Modeling, and Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS).

Learning Objectives:  1. Participants will learn about the benefits of teaching communication skills to young learners.  2. Participants will learn about communication skills assessments and planning for interventions.  3. Participants will learn basic teaching principles and strategies utilized across different modes of communication training.

Nataliya S. Poto, M.A. is the Director of LifeMAP Coaching Programs and Asperger/Autism Professional Coaching Association at the Asperger/Autism Network (AANE). She began as an intern at AANE back in 2008 and her first project was to develop and evaluate LifeMAP. Over the last 14 years, the LifeMAP programs have served more than 3,000 clients. In addition to overseeing LifeMAP and AAPCA, Mrs. Poto is also a coach, successfully assisting clients with their goals in the areas of higher education, career development, employment, personal growth, relationship-building, independent living, and more. She and her team also conceptualized LifeMAP’s unique coaching approaches into the AsperCoach curriculum, a Certification program offered annually at AANE. Prior to joining AANE, Mrs. Poto taught Psychology at UMASS Lowell and conducted applied research evaluating employment and music intervention programs for youth with Asperger/autism profiles. She is the co-author of several research articles published in peer-reviewed journals. Her research has been presented at national and international conferences. A native of Ukraine, Mrs. Poto for the last 20 years has been residing in Northern MA with her husband and her son. Mrs. Poto enjoys traveling, skiing, gardening, and spending time with her family.

CBHI Services an Overview

Title: CBHI Services (Children’s Behavioral Health Initiative)

 

Presenters: Leah Cote: Director of Intensive Care Coordination at Gándara; Lianette Sheehan, BCBA, Director of In home behavioral Services and Gándara

 

Description: An overview of the services within CBHI with a focus on ICC and IHB and the referral and exclusionary criteria.

 

Workshop Learning Objectives: Introduce CBHI Services; discuss ICC services and inclusionary and exclusionary criteria.

Participant Profile: educators, parents, and professionals

Leah Cote is a LICSW and the Director of Intensive Care Coordination for the Gándara Center. Leah began her career in the field in 2010 within the Children’s Behavioral Health initiative division within the In-home Therapy program. In 2017 Leah started working with Gándara as an In-home Therapy supervisor and then transitioned to the Director of Intensive Care Coordination. Intensive Care Coordination is a service that facilitates care planning and coordination of services for youth, with serious emotional disturbance (SED), under the age of 21, and who meet the medical necessity criteria for this service. Care planning is driven by the needs of the youth and developed through a Wraparound planning process consistent with Systems of Care philosophy. The focus for the ICC program is to give culturally sensitive, family-driven, strength based services to the families within our program.

Lianette Sheehan (Master of Education / Board Certified Behavior Analyst/ Licensed Applied Behavior Analyst MA); Lianette began her career in behavior analysis at the Gandara Center in 2014, as a bachelor level staff working in the Children’s Behavioral Health Initiative division within the In Home Behavioral Services IHBS) department. It was here that she found her passion for behavior change. IHBS is designed with the clinical flexibility to offer highly individualized behavioral support services to youth with a broad array of emotional and developmental conditions, including those with co-morbid diagnoses utilizing the foundations of Applied Behavior Analysis and Positive Behavior Support (PBS).

Shortly after her start with Gándara she enrolled in the Autism/Applied Behavior Analysis Program at Cambridge College and graduate in 2016 with a Master of Education and became certified as a BCBA.  Today she is the Director of the In Home Behavioral Services Program at Gándara.  Lianette’s main focus is to train and coach teams to offer services that are family-driven and youth-guided, strengths-based, culturally responsive and collaborative.

It Takes Two: Autism and Dual Diagnosis

Presenter: Alix Generous (Keynote Speaker)

Description: Participants will learn about the dual diagnosis of Autism and Mental Health issues, some common dual diagnosis and problems encountered, as well as considerations for treatment.

 Participant Profile: autistic individuals, parents, and professionals

Alix Generous is an #ActuallyAutistic advocate for advancing mental health reform and institutional treatment of autistic people. With a particular interest in preventing autism filicide, Alix is passionate about expanding the reach of therapies to all continents. Alix has 5 years of professional experience working in behavior analysis, but a lifetime of experience living as an autistic person in a neurotypical world. She hopes one day all autistic voices are heard and respected, and to create a world designed to accommodate everyone.

Individualized College Support for Students in Need of Transition Services

Title: Individualized College Support for Students in Need of Transition Services

Presenters: Chris Kennedy, Regional Director; Brya Emery, Director of Admissions and Enrollment

Description: How teams can support students in their transition to a post-secondary education environment with a focus on post-secondary or pre-employment goals. Topics include the program overview, age-appropriate transition supports, partnerships both on- and off-campus, and monitoring student goals and progress towards greater independence. Breakout Session topics include: program overview, individualized college support model, 4 core areas of programming, peer mentorship, data and reporting, providing support in a changing world, and Q&A with CS Team, mentors, families.

Workshop Learning Objectives: Individuals or those supporting individuals will learn about College Steps and the transitional supports provided within a college experience focused on post-secondary or pre-employment goals; Individuals will better understand if they may have an interest in a transition to more independence within the post-secondary environment with peer and professional support; Students will receive a broad overview of the four areas of support, goals, and how they relate to participation in a course(s) and within the campus community.

Participant Profile: Educators, parents, professionals, individuals with autism. Everyone is welcome! College Steps partners with schools, families, professionals/community agencies to support our students.

Chris Kennedy earned both his graduate and undergraduate degree in Special Education from the University of Wisconsin. He is a founding member of College Steps and currently serves as Regional Director for New England.

Chris has also served as Assistant Professor of Inclusive Education at Johnson State College, Program Director for Think College at Johnson State College, co-founder and board member of a non-profit organization serving youth with disabilities in Cameroon, as a special education teacher in public and private schools in the United States, Sweden, Ecuador, and Namibia and in various residential and support services for individuals with disabilities in the United States and abroad.

Brya Emery earned her undergraduate degree in Business Management and Technology from Vermont Tech. Working as the Director of Admissions and Enrollment for College Steps since 2017, Brya supports enrollment for College Steps programs in 6 states at 12 campuses.

Prior to College Steps, Brya was an Account Executive at Zone 5 where she supported the marketing and admissions needs of both institutions of higher education and not-for-profit clients. She has also served in leadership roles within admissions departments at Southern Vermont College as the Senior Associate Director and liaison for College Steps, and previously as the Assistant Director of Admissions at Lyndon State College and at Norwich University.

Transition: Special Education to Adult Services

Description: Transition is a word that has a unique meaning to families with a loved one aging out of the entitlement of education and into the world as productive, contributing adults. This anticipated change brings about many anxious feelings. When does the transition process start? Who is involved? Are there any options? Who can help? Family members were also competent with the educational terminology, now they must learn a new language such as 688, ISP and Self-Direction? The Breakout Session will discuss student’s vision, critical timelines, eligibility process and criteria, Chapter 688, Individual Transition Plan, and a review of adult services.

Workshop Learning Objectives: Learner will have an understanding of Transition Timeline; learner will connect with school district for 688 referral and invite DDS to IEP; learner will have the knowledge to create a vision using Charting the LifeCourse.

Participant Profile: Individuals with Autism, parents, professionals, and educators.

Leilani has more than 18 years of experience supporting individuals and families in Massachusetts. In her current role of more than seven years with the Massachusetts Department of Developmental Services in Springfield as the MA Transition Service Coordinator, Leilani concentrates on the following: assisting young adults with developmental disabilities transition from Special Education into adult services; working collaboratively with school departments in the Hilltowns, Southwick, Westfield, Longmeadow, E. Longmeadow, Hampden, Wilbraham, and Springfield; collaborating with community agencies and vendors to provide appropriate services to the individuals we serve; creating the Individual Transition Plan with individuals leaving special education and entering adult services.

Leilani has also worked with Wayfinders, MA Department of Transitional Assistance in Boston, MA Department of Children and Families, and Casa Myrna Vazquez, Inc. in Boston.

Widening the Circle: The Importance of Friendship for All

Presenters: Meg Gaydos, Pathways to Friendship Facilitator; Phoebe Goodman, Pathways to Friendship Facilitator

Description: Pathways to Friendship consultants will share stories of connecting people, the benefits of inclusive friendships, and also what to do when efforts are distracted and misled, which even when well-intended, can be terrible barriers to relationships. Making connections is exactly what we plan to occur when we are looking at enriching people’s lives and our communities. Each section will emphasize the opportunity for people to build relationships within their communities, naturally wherever they live, learn, work and play. Support on how to encourage friendships for people with autism in different facets of everyday life will be explored.

Workshop Learning Objectives: Participants will understand the importance of intentional friendships between people with and without disabilities; participants will learn successful strategies used when people connect in genuine friendships where they live, learn, work and play; participants will be able to identify methods used to identify community interests and how they may be explored to develop valued roles in pursuit of friendships.

Participant Profile: Everyone with interest in supporting freely given friendships is welcome to participate.

Meg Gaydos is a Pathways to Friendship Facilitator for the ARC of Massachusetts where she works with provider agencies in supporting individuals to develop true friendships in their communities. She has been a strong advocate for people with disabilities throughout her thirty-plus year career in Illinois, Colorado and Massachusetts. For the past fourteen years, Meg has been part of the residential management team with the Vinfen Corporation. Currently she is the Director of Community Living for Vinfen where she oversees Shared Living arrangements and Individual Home Supports. In addition, she is an instructor for “Building Community Belonging” to new employees in the Developmental Services Division.

Phoebe Goodman has been supporting people with disabilities for 15+ years. Her experience includes working in schools, residential programs, community-based day services and employment services throughout the years, starting her career as a direct support professional. Currently, Phoebe functions as a Pathways to Friendship Facilitator with The Arc of Massachusetts, as well as the Employment Director & Community Inclusion Specialist for Beaverbrook STEP, Inc.

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