Autism Conference Breakout Sessions

Breakout Session Descriptions

Thank you for joining us for the 29th Annual Autism Conference! Browse each session's description below.

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

1. Weaving the Way to a Successful School to Adulthood

Presenter: Rick Hawes, Director of Employment Services at Berkshire County Arc

Workshop Description: An in-depth overview of the key concepts and methods to facilitate young adults smoothly transitioning into adulthood and employment. This presentation will review best practices in the transition process to assist parents, educators, and human services agencies to provide quality outcomes.

2. Autism and Me

Presenter: Alison Butler (paraprofessional) and Milan Bonilla-Cruz (student)

Workshop Description: Allison Butler (Paraprofessional) along with her former student (and book illustrator) Milan Bonilla-Cruz co-authored a children's book together, and this workshop will describe this process. This book is written through eyes of Milan as he describes himself to show how he is similar to his typical classmates, as well as what might be harder for him and specific strategies that help him that might help other students with autism.

3. Teaching Boundaries and Relationships to Individuals with Intellectual Disabilities or Autism

Presenter: Brian Melanson, Program Assistant at Whole Children; Maggie Rice, Program Director at Whole Children

Workshop Description: This presentation will focus on the Whole Selves curriculum and the practical skills teachers employ to create meaningful classroom experiences. This sexuality education program provides a basic foundation for learners of all abilities in a variety of topics pertaining to self-esteem, healthy relationships, healthy boundaries, and sexuality; we would like attendees to understand the basics of our curriculum while also learning some skills for facilitating meaningful conversations and interventions in their own setting.

4. No More Pencils. No More Books. No More Parent and Teacher Dirty Looks

Presenter: Keynote speakers Gina (Terrasi) Gallagher and Patricia Terrasi

Workshop Description: Helping special needs children get the services they need to learn can be a stressful experience for parents as well as educators operating in the constraints of tight school system budgets. In this fun and interactive workshop, presented at colleges and universities around the county, Patty and Gina share both the parent and educator perspective and provide real solutions for how parents and teachers can come together and meet in the middle of the IEP table.

5. ARICA: Autism and Insurance - What Families Need to Know

Presenter: Amy Weinstock, Director of the Autism Insurance Resource Center at the University of Massachusetts Medical School’s Eunice Kennedy Shriver Center, and an instructor in the medical school’s Department of Psychiatry

Workshop Description: This presentation will discuss autism insurance for families in Massachusetts, including MassHealth and recent changes; eligibility and how to figure out what coverage you need; Premium Assistance; The Health Connector; covered treatments and how to access them; frequently asked questions, and where to get assistance; and the relationship between ARICA and your MassHealth plan.

6. Communication Supports for Individuals with Autism

Presenter: Maggie Wurm, Assistive Technology Specialist at Collaborative for Educational Services; Jeanne Tuthill, SLP, Assistive Technology Specialist at Collaborative for Educational Services

Workshop Description: Many individuals with autism experience significant challenges with communication and social skills. These difficulties can be pervasive, affecting all areas of life. These individuals often benefit from visual strategies to support effective communication to help build relations as well as aid their comprehension of the world around them. A variety of visual supports and strategies to supply daily functional communication needs will be discussed, along with low and high tech Assistive Technology options.

7. Bridging the Gap: Intersection of ABA and Mental Health Counseling

Presenter: Yvette Stoddard, Director of Academic Services – ASD; April Roche, Clinical Director/Clinician;  Danielle Miller, Behavioral Analyst; Hillcrest Educational Centers

Workshop Description: Panel discussion for attendees to ask questions on how to get professionals to collaborate respectively while aligning with their codes of conduct and ethical consideration. The workshop will also review an introduction to Trauma-Informed Care and the therapeutic model and how those are bridged.

8. Grief: Strategies for Dealing With It For People With Autism

Presenter: Shelly Lenn, The Garden: A Center for Grieving Children and Teens, and previously Rick’s Place

Workshop Description: Youth ages 5-18 can fully benefit from knowing the truth when someone close in their life dies. In this workshop participants will learn how to explain what death means, the range of feelings that can come up, and the importance of commemoration. Simple language will be shared, as well as readily available resources.

9. The Journey Continues: Successes and Challenges in Adulthood

Presenter: The Panel is comprised of DDS Autism Service Coordinators and adults with autism who will share their experiences

Workshop Description: What happens after school and transition are over? DDS has now extended eligibility for adult services to adults with autism who do not have an intellectual disability. This panel discussion will address the unique challenges that these 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.

10. Psychological and Neuropsychological Evaluations: Navigating the Process and Making Sense of the Results

Presenter: David Kieval, Clinical Psychologist with a specialty working with children, adolescents and families

Workshop Description:  A comprehensive psychological evaluation can be a uniquely valuable tool in understanding a child’s profile and how to best help him or her find success and fulfillment. Come learn what psychological evaluations are and what they can do for you. This session will address when and why you might seek evaluation, what types of evaluations to pursue different goals, and what to expect from the discussion of specific instruments and domains that are likely to show up for children with autism.

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Venue: Sheraton Springfield Monarch Place Hotel

Time: 8:00 am - 3:00 pm

Venue Phone: 413-781-1010

Venue Website:

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

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