Breakout Sessions

Breakout Session Descriptions

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



Promoting Everyday Independence, Everyday

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

Description: As family members, friends and care providers of individuals with autism we may be inclined to do things for those individuals which can limit their development. To promote learning, independence and personal growth, this workshop asks you to take a step back and examine our relationships. Join this interactive session for a refreshing prospective on building trusting connections and promoting greater independence. 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. You will walk away with new ideas to best support growth and happiness.



DDS: Charting the Job Search Process for Individuals with Autism

Presenter: DDS 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.



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.



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.



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.



The Journey Continues: Successes and Challenges in Adulthood

Presenter: Panel of adults receiving services, moderated by DDS Autism Service Coordinators Erica Donovan & Ashley McGrath

Description: The panel is comprised of adults with autism who will share their experiences, as well as two DDS Coordinators. 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.



Trans and Autistic: Gender Inclusion in our Communities

Presenter: J. Aleah Nesteby, MSN, FP 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.



Teaching Boundaries and Relationships to Individuals with IDD and Autism

Presenters: Maggie Rice, M.Ed, Director of Whole Children & Whole Selves; Brian Melanson, MSW, Whole Selves, 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.



Forged by Fire: The Intersection of Race, Disability, and Gender

Presenters: Morénike Giwa Onaiwu, PhD(c), MA

Note: Morénike will be a keynote speaker at the conference as well as a breakout session presenter.

Description: Existing at the intersection of multiple marginalizations dramatically shapes the way an individual perceives the world and is perceived by the world. Utilizing facts as well as personal experience, this dynamic presentation highlights some of the unique ways that gender and race impact individuals with disabilities (including neurodevelopmental disabilities i.e. autism).



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Venue: Autism Connections’ Virtual Event Platform

Time: 8:00 am – 4:00 pm