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2021 Conference Presentations



If you have questions please e-mail

Amber at

(All information below this line was based on the Sept. 10 date and is subject to change due to rescheduling.)

This page will list all the 2021 presentation titles, presenters, descriptions, and learning objectives. Presentations are divided into five tracks: Educators, Parents 1, Parents 2, Adults, and Spanish-Language. Check back soon for more information and a draft of the conference agenda!

Click here for agenda with times

Click the links below to jump to a specific track:


Parents 1

Parents 2


Spanish-Language (coming soon!)

Presentation titles and speakers are subject to change between now and the conference.


Understanding and Supporting Autistic Students in the Classroom 


Presenter: Bob Friedle, PhD 


Description: Attendees will be able to understand children working within the general and special education environments. Ways to evaluate and identify executive functioning skills and limits will be presented. You will be provided with insights into emotional, behavioral, and cognitive characteristics that give each child a unique perspective on the purpose for what we ask them to do, thus supporting our ability to work within their world.


Learning Objectives: Attendees will be able to: 

  • become better at evaluating and recognizing all aspects of Autism, with a focus on higher order thinking.

  • explain interventions and supports for children in the classroom.

  • differentiate emotional/behavioral "problems" from autism needs.

Making the Leap: Transition to College - Facts and Strategies 

Presenter: Kristi Strode, Doctoral Candidate, PhD, Psychology 


Description: During this presentation, those who are thinking about going to college and their parents/significant others will learn how to plan for a smooth transition into college life. Findings from current research will be shared along with tips for getting grounded into the campus community. Participants will leave with a plan for making contacts and discovering other opportunities on campus that can facilitate academic and overall success.


Learning Objectives: Attendees will be able to: 

  • describe the current research says is most important for making a successful transition to college.

  • identify staff and services on campus that facilitate anchoring oneself into the college experience.

  • utilize tips for working with the college's Disabilities Services.


Understanding and Supporting Sensory Needs

Presenter: Gin Noon Spaulding M. Ed 


Description: Mrs. Gin Noon Spaulding will share how it is possible to teach for a number of years and not understand sensory issues. Once Mrs. Spaulding's daughter displayed sensory issues and received speech and OT, Mrs. Spaulding began to understand her daughter and students better. Mrs. Spaulding changed the way she taught her students, and she will share some strategies with you. It is important that educators and parents understand children's sensory issues, so that they can help them find strategies to help them be successful in and out of the classroom.


Learning Objectives: Attendees will be able to: 

  • identify sensory issues that they have, those they've seen displayed in their classrooms, and those they don't understand.

  • discover simple, realistic strategies that will help children with sensory issues in their classrooms.

  • participate to find new strategies they can use at home and the classroom to help students advocate for themselves.

Neurotypical Awareness for People with ASD

Presenter: Troy Krombholz 


Description: Living as aware as possible of those around us who help take care of us, and the ones we interact with on a daily basis. Learning to promote awareness of the differences we have and trying to accommodate others outside of our sphere, when possible, because we share the world with others who have needs too! Self-awareness is very important, and at the same time we need to learn to become more aware of others too. Let’s share the world together as teammates on the same team. “Autism is my 1st language and English is my 2nd Language, would you like to learn some of my language? Because I would like to learn some of your language too in the World we share!”

Learning Objectives: Attendees will be able to: 

  • understand yourself as a neurodiverse person while living on the Spectrum around others who are not on the diverse side of the spectrum.

  • describe life lessons and valuable teaching illustrations that I have learned from living in a blended family of neurodiversity, as a husband, father, musician, author, teacher, and having Autism.

  • ask questions of those who are different than us, and accommodate others, when possible, as we can, to help them during our differences and struggles.

  • describe illustrations and teaching points from an autistic person who see’s life in pictures.

The Power of Purposeful Play 

Presenter: Lynn Hegedus, M. Ed, PhD ABD


Description: The purpose of this presentation is to explain the power of play and how play relates to the increase in abilities, physically, emotionally and educationally. Resources will be provided on how to modify activities for maximum achievements and how to hide learning within play. Ideas will also be provided on how to continue play activities into adulthood and community involvement.


Learning Objectives: Attendees will be able to: 

  • describe how play can be helpful in achieving educational, physical and emotional goals

  • identify resources you can use to provide purposeful play

  • modify traditional games and activities to provide purposeful play


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Parents 1

How Not to Be a Martyr Parent 


Presenter: Larisa DeZayas, COMS 


Description: In this presentation, we will discuss the different ways many of us have learned to address the sometimes overwhelming aspects of parenting an autistic child. We will talk about how compelling and human it is to engage with the drama triangle, often to the detriment of ourselves and our children. We will encourage each other to visit and maybe even recalibrate our individual approaches to parenting in a healthy, thoughtful, compassionate, respectful and honest way. This presentation is intended to be challenging and thought-provoking, and not in any way didactic.


Learning Objectives: Attendees will be able to: 

  • identify the three aspects and interactions of the players of the drama triangle.

  • describe ways to engage with a child who is struggling with compassion, coaching, and humor while staying off the triangle.

  • identify ways to express their own struggles with compassion for themselves and their children.

  • receive information about written parenting resources recommended by the presenter.

Surprise! Puberty is happening!


Presenter: Meghan Lindsay, BCBA

Description: Puberty, and all it's awkwardness, surprises everyone, but normalizing conversations and routines early help to smooth the way to body positivity, appropriateness, and a path forward toward independence!

Learning Objectives: Attendees will be able to: 

  • describe where to start with pre-puberty conversations

  • calmly handle the most awkward puberty related situations

  • use strategies to facilitate independence with your child

Music Therapy and Autism

Presenters: Sarah Hawkins, MMT, MT-BC, NMT & Kennedi Walz, MT-BC 

Description: Music therapy is a relatively new field associated with a variety of ideas, concepts, and questions regarding its definition and utilization among a plethora of populations. This interactive presentation will discuss and demonstrate the basics of what music therapy is, the process of receiving services, what a session might look like, and the benefits possible for those on the autism spectrum. 

Learning Objectives: Attendees will be able to: 

  • define music therapy and understand how it differs from music lessons/class

  • describe how and why music therapy is beneficial for individuals with ASD

  • describe examples of music therapy intervention(s)

Advocacy for Employment  


Presenter: Dave Krikac 

Description: We will discuss Employment Pilots and Business Opportunities created and locally and options to introduce our special needs work force to employers. How to work with local businesses and new creative ways to get our adults working.

Learning Objectives: Attendees will be able to:

  • list available employment services

  • describe the steps of creating a non profit if needed

  • partner with local churches and businesses to introduce our workforce

  • describe lessons learned: describe what has worked, what has not 

Empowering Black Ausome Families 

Facilitator: Rekita Blackmon. Panelists: Harrison Anderson and Shari Stewart

Description: Panelists will discuss their lives as parents, including a dad's perspective, a military mom's perspective, and a single mom's perspective. This panel will shine a light on the lack of resources, training, funding, and other needs in the minority community for people with disabilities and especially autistic children. This group will also discuss the steps that parents can take to ask local and state governments to make the necessary changes.

Learning Objectives: Attendees will be able to: 

  • describe the experiences of parents in the minority community who are raising autistic children.

  • describe the types of resources that are lacking in our community.

  • list the steps to take to make changes at the local and state level.

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Parents 2

Increasing Independence Through Technology: Empowering Through Innovation 


Presenters: Carrie Brna, MS – TN DIDD Director of Employment Innovation & Community Inclusion & Milton Neuenschwander, BA - TN DIDD Director of Enabling Technology

Description: “For people without disabilities, technology makes things easier. For people with disabilities, technology makes things possible.”- Mary Pat Radabaugh, IBM (1988). Enabling Technology provides people with autism opportunities for increased independence at home, in the community, and at work. State-of-the-art technologies available for people with autism to increase independent living, employment, transportation and community inclusion outcomes will be presented and real-life applications and success stories will be shared. The Department of Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities is fully committed to promoting technology as a means to help people with disabilities make choices in their lives, and the lessons the Department has learned about innovation and technology can be applied to everyone’s lives.


Learning Objectives: Attendees will be able to: 

  • explain how enabling technology may increase self-direction, self-reliance, productivity, safety and inclusion.

  • describe state-of-the-art technologies available for people with autism and apply some of these technologies to one’s ideal home and/or career.

  • explain how technology can help people find, maintain and advance at work.

My World, Your World, Our World: Problem Solving Together


Presenter: Kim Clairy-Miller OTR/L, William Miller 

Description: During this engaging session Kim, an autistic occupational therapist, and William, a mystery writer, provide invaluable insights as they share intimate details of their life together. Attendees will not only learn evidenced-based strategies used within their marriage to address autism challenges but also learn about the unexpected blessings experienced in an ASD relationship. While this dynamic duo discusses their marriage, information shared is applicable to all relationships across the lifespan.

Learning Objectives: Attendees will be able to: 

  • describe at least 3 autism traits that can be positive attributes within a relationship.

  • identify common challenges unique to a relationship where one or more individuals have autism.

  • list at least 3 tools and/or strategies to help with common challenges faced within a relationship where one or more individuals have autism.

Parenting Intentionally for Independence 

Presenter: Lisa Mattheiss 

Description: Lisa Mattheiss tells the story of Emily, born with spina bifida, hydrocephalus, and more than two dozen other diagnoses. She shares very intentional choices that she and Jeff made in Emily's first several years of life as they prepared Emily for independently reaching her potential medically, educationally, financially, physically, emotionally, cognitively, and spiritually. Lisa speaks of long-term planning in the areas of safety, environmental accessibility, communication, technology, time management, and community involvement. Now that Emily is 21, Lisa shares what they did well and what they wish they would have done differently.

Learning Objectives: Attendees will be able to: 

  • describe practical ideas from early intervention through high school

  • list the many decisions faced by families when raising a child with special needs and ideas for practically supporting parents through the journey

  • explain what can be accomplished in the life of one individual when families, educators, and community members work together.

Sleep in Autism: Helping Families Get the Rest they Need 

Presenter: Beth Malow, MD, MS 

Description: Sleep problems are very common in children and teens with autism. Many sleep problems are treatable, and can make a big impact on a child's health, daytime behavior, and family functioning. In this presentation, we will discuss the causes of poor sleep along with common treatments that are safe and effective.

Learning Objectives: Attendees will be able to: 

  • recognize the causes and contributors to sleep problems in children with autism

  • describe the impact of sleep problems on health, and on daytime functioning in the child and family

  • list various treatments for sleep problems in Autism

Planning a Road Trip in 2021? Special Needs Estate Planning and Decision Making 

Presenter: Amy Boulware, LAP MSW 

Description: Chambliss Elder Law and Special Needs Care Manager Amy Boulware will present on various special needs planning tools and tactics. She will go into detail on considerations for a comprehensive plan, common legal concerns, and why the planning process requires a multi-disciplinary approach. Amy will discuss necessary legal documents, including conservatorships and incapacity documents, roadblocks that may come up, and the preservation of resources for your special needs law plan.

Learning Objectives: Attendees will be able to: 

  • describe the process and components of a comprehensive Special Needs Law Plan

  • describe the process for conservatorship

  • describe the type of special needs trusts and reasons for needing them

  • describe the roadblocks that may come up while exploring benefits planning and related work


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Taking Charge: Using Intervention Ziggurat to Teach Self-Advocacy 


Presenter: Kim Clairy-Miller OTR/L & Ruth Aspy, Ph.D. 


Description: Using a comprehensive approach is best practice; however, outcomes for individuals with ASD continue to be poor. Improved strategies for self-advocacy will help fill this deficit. Through learning to ask/answer five questions people with autism can take leadership in developing supports needed. These questions represent a comprehensive framework based on key ASD needs and direct attention to evidence-based strategies including sensory regulation, reinforcement, visual supports, predictability, and deliberate practice.


Learning Objectives: Attendees will be able to: 

  • list the five questions that guide self-advocacy and collaboration for individuals on the spectrum and those in helping roles.

  • identify research validated strategies that can help address the identified needs at each of the five levels.

  • describe how knowing the right questions to ask leads to better outcomes.

Autism and Aging: Stepping Into Tomorrow


Presenter: Melvin Rodgers 


Description: This presentation will offer a spiritual care perspective on Autism and Aging.  As an adult on the autism spectrum and a spiritual care professional, Melvin will offer an understanding of some  challenges and resources related to aging on the autism spectrum. The following subjects will be discussed; advocacy efforts, emotional/spiritual challenges, healing vs cure, and a care/nurture framework for adults on the autism spectrum. The importance of this topic is very much connected with our ongoing search for meaning. 

Learning Objectives: Attendees will be able to: 

  • identify and explain strengths and limitations of advocacy efforts related to adults on the autism spectrum.

  • describe some emotional/spiritual challenges experienced by adults on the autism spectrum.

  • distinguish between healing and cure as it relates to adults on the autism spectrum

  • describe a care/nurture framework for adults on the autism spectrum. 

  • list some spiritual resources available for adults on the autism spectrum. 

The Journey of Finding Yourself and Being the Best You 


Presenter: Troy Krombholz 

Description: Autism is not a dismal road that ends in hopelessness. There are plenty of flowers and beautiful things to pay attention to on a journey that can be often frustrating, and confusing. Finding yourself and learning to be the best you in a world of obvious differences and emotional spheres.” A late diagnosis with Autism can both free someone to understand themselves better, and it can also send their brains and emotions on a whirlwind of confusion, and identity crisis. Seeing the crisis for someone in this process will help them achieve positive steps more quickly. Learning to overcome the pains of failure, and learning to cope with who you are as a Neurodiverse person, and being the best you no matter what obstacles may come your way. I lived my whole life being told to blend in and fit quietly with everyone else. This was not easily possible. Learning the side of you, that many of you never knew how to explain before. And in the same space, not forgetting who you are and how you have been living. Keeping it all together in a world that is overly stressed and maxed on many levels.


Learning Objectives: Attendees will be able to: 

  • describe the problem of missing an early diagnosis and why it happens so easily.

  • overcome current working hurdles in society by being honest with your co-workers and employers.

  • find community with others, living and learning through difficulties TOGETHER.

  • repair and mend bridges and and remove confusion in extended family life, and friendships.

  • keep who you are, and yet allowing your mind to grow outside the box that it was squeezed into.

Autism - The Driving Experience 

Presenter: Roger Thompson Ed.D


Description: Identifying and facing the challenges of mobility and independence as a licensed driver of a motor vehicle appears as a puzzle with many moving parts. This presentation will focus on expectations, preparations necessary in advance of the driving experience, strategies for behind the wheel instruction, stressors and stress management, technology support systems, and insights/recommendations from a state certified (TN) driving instructor and third party tester.

Learning Objectives: Attendees will be able to: 

  • identify steps to be taken in advance of driving

  • understand basic control techniques

  • examine strategies for behind the wheel instruction

  • share insights and experiences

Through the Eyes of an Aspie: Lessons Learned During the Pandemic 

Presenter: Eric D. Zimmerman  

Description: This discussion will talk about the 2020 Hard COVID Lockdown from the eyes of someone on the Autism Spectrum. It will talk about how I personally managed, the anxieties of getting COVID, and how I dealt with the stress of the lack of socialization and norms. What could have been done differently and will allow for a question and answer session.

Learning Objectives: Attendees will be able to: 

  • recognize stressful situations.

  • direct energy into something meaningful during a crisis.

  • manage stress.

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