ASL Interpreters will be provided for the 9 am Keynote Speaker on each day . All requests for other accommodations must be made as soon as possible via email to with the subject line “Summit Accommodation Request” . Requests cannot be guaranteed if received after Feb. 11, 2019.




9:00 – 10:00 am

Keynote: Caring for the Caregiver
Summary:  Jennifer Antkowiak is an award-winning newscaster and knows about caregiving. Caregivers for people with a disability provide critical work, and it is easy for them to be overworked and under supported. As a wife, mother of five, and stepmother of one, Jennifer knows firsthand how caring for a family member with extra needs is often a lonely and unforgiving task. Join us as Jennifer frames these issues and talks about what caregivers can do to help balance their lives and what policymakers should be doing to support them.
Presenter: Jennifer Antkowiak

9:00 – 1:30 pm

Influence to Action: Advocacy, Leadership and Transition
A Pennsylvania Youth Initiative Program
Summary: This session is for transition-age students only. Students will then learn skills for how to become a leader of tomorrow, how to navigate disability support services through self-advocacy, how to interact with elected officials, and how to network with potential employers at the Employment & Transition Resource Fair. This program will culminate with youth conversations with local elected officials.
Presenter: Pennsylvania Youth Initiative

10:15 – 11:15 am

Not Everyone’s a Golden Girl
Summary:  Whether you are living alone, or with friends or family, becoming empowered with the knowledge of programs available through the county is essential. While some seniors have been living with disabilities for many years, others become disabled as they age. No matter what your circumstance, there are programs available to assist you. This session will help you navigate the continuum of services offered.
Presenter: Brenda Slagle, Allegheny County Department of Human Services Area Agency on Aging

Access to Healthcare: A System Approach to Meeting the Needs of Patients with Disabilities
Summary: For more than 28 years, the Americans with Disabilities Act has mandated the provision of barrier-free medical care to patients with disabilities in healthcare facilities. The UPMC Disabilities Resource Center was established in 2007, charged with the mission to ensure equal, accessible healthcare for UPMC patients with disabilities across the UPMC Health System. Our work focuses on four areas: education, facility accessibility, community engagement and policy. A high-level account of our strategies for barrier-free care, effective communication from an executive leadership perspective to the operational staff perspective, and implementation will be provided. This session highlights needs, strategies, tools, resources and best practices to ensure accessible, effective healthcare to patients with disabilities across a broad system of care.
Presenter: Matthew Berwick, UPMC Disabilities Resource Center

11:30 – 12:30 pm

Impact of Isolation on Older Adults
Summary:  Disabilities related to mobility issues, cognitive impairment, vision and hearing loss can increasingly isolate adults as they age.  This session will discuss the effects of isolation, and the importance of socialization and other strategies to address these issues.
Presenters: TBD

Personal Stories: Panel of Persons with Disabilities
Summary: In this session, a panel of people living with varied disabilities will share their personal stories. These accounts of challenges and of triumphs will help broaden our understanding of the barriers that still exist, as well as inspire us all to continue to work to make a truly inclusive world a reality for all.
Presenters: Dr. Josie Badger CRC, DHCE, J Badger Consulting Inc., RAISE, United Way #IWantToWork Campaign, and others TBD

12:45 – 1:45 pm

Providing Culturally and Linguistically Appropriate Services to the Deaf and Hard of Hearing Community
Summary: This presentation will serve as an overview for providing services to individuals with hearing loss who also have other special needs, primarily mental health diagnoses and/or intellectual disabilities. The presenters will discuss the special considerations that need to be afforded to these unique populations when providing clinical services. This presentation will be a high-level overview of Deaf culture and the treatment needs of Deaf and hard of hearing individuals, along with an explanation of the impact of hearing loss on mental health. Time will be allotted for questions and answers.
Presenter: Presenters: Christina Costello, PAHrtners Deaf Services, Lori Milcic, Pressley Ridge

Guardianship & Forms of Substitute Decision Making
Summary:  Most societies seek to assist at risk individuals, and, if necessary, protect them from their own risky decision making or from the behavior of others. Doing so should be done with the minimum intrusion on their rights, always seeking the least restrictive means of assistance possible. This session will provide helpful information about Powers of Attorney, Representative Payee Services, types of Substitute Healthcare Decision Makers, Guardianship, and more.
Presenter: Rich Howard and Eric O’Connor, River Communities Fiduciary Services, Inc.

1:00 – 2:00 pm

A Conversation with Local Elected Officials
Summary:  Arguably there is no level of government more impactful to someone’s day-to-day life than local government. Whether a municipal commissioner, school director, or county official, these positions matter, especially for the administration of services and the accessibility of our communities. Join us for a special roundtable discussion as we talk about what it means to have local communities and services that are truly open for everyone, regardless of their disability or mental health issue.
Moderator: State Representative Dan Miller

5:30 – 8:00 pm

A Transition Plan is Not Just a Form: 21 & Able/PEAL evening program
A 21 and Able Program, an initiative of United Way of Southwestern Pennsylvania in partnership with PEAL
Summary: The Transition portion of the IEP can be a powerful tool for building an IEP that presumes competence and leads to positive outcomes. However, the family and youth must have a vision and ambitious goals and understand the possibilities in order to maximize the power.  Learn how person-centered planning can form the foundation for strong IEPs that support our youth to learn and achieve in ways that lead toward their dreams.
Presenters: Jeanine Schultz, The PEAL Center


9:00 – 10:00 am

Keynote: Riding the Wave of Mental Health with Humor
Summary: Mental health advocate and award winning comedian Gab Bonesso openly discusses her experience with mental health in a high energy, comedic, yet earnest discussion.
Presenter: Gab Bonesso, mental health advocate and award winning comedian

10:15 – 11:15 am

Pittsburgh Office of Vocational Rehabilitation: Early Reach Initiative & PETS Programming
Summary: The Early Reach Initiative of the Office of Vocational Rehabilitation (OVR) provides education, outreach, and consultation services to students, families, and professionals, and addresses career and post-secondary options, workplace readiness, and independent living. Presenters will provide an overview of Early Reach, as well as discussing Pre-Employment Transition Services (PETS), which are preparatory services for students with disabilities designed to identify career interests, practice and improve work skills, and explore postsecondary training opportunities at an earlier age to maximize their potential to enter competitive, integrated employment.
Presenters: Andria McCourt, OVR Early Reach, Ashley Mullen, OVR Early Reach, Brett Glavey, OVR, Lindsay Coulehan, OVR

Special Needs in the Preschool Years
Summary: This session will explore some of the considerations surrounding finding and working with preschools to get the best outcomes for children with unique needs. We will talk about how to find programs that are more inclusive, including what to look for and what questions to ask. We will share tips for working cooperatively with your preschool to help to ensure that your child has the best possible experience.
Presenters: Lissa Geiger Shulman, Trying Together, Eileen Sharbaugh, St. Paul’s Episcopal Nursery School

Children’s Mental Health: A Family System Approach
Summary: Presenters will discuss the challenges an entire family encounters when one member has a behavioral health diagnosis, address when to seek treatment as a family, and where to start to access family support. The presentation will cover common misdiagnoses and give an overview of the different types of treatment models available. Presenters with specialties in Obsessive Compulsive and Autism Spectrum disorders will provide insight into how those diagnoses have impacted the families they have worked with and how interventions have helped.
Presenters: Amanda Meredith, Kimberly Kir, and Bryce Shirey, Every Child, Inc.

11:30 – 12:30 pm

Why Mindfulness and Parenting Make Great Partners!
Summary: They can be some of the most frustrating and embarrassing child behaviors—temper tantrums, lashing out at others, impatience, and short attention spans. So what can you do about them?  Research has found that having a sense of mindfulness, or the ability to be present and think before reacting, can provide children with the skills they need to better understand their feelings, to pay more attention and to make wiser decisions. Mindfulness also means paying attention to the moment without judgment and intentionally pausing before reacting. Mindfulness is a wonderful way to help children, especially those with particular physical and emotional struggles, manage their emotions, reduce their stress, improve their academics, and even develop greater empathy. The hidden benefit of practicing mindfulness with your family is that as parents you get to reap the benefits too. Learn eight easy ways to get started.
Presenter: Dr. Tracy Scanlon, LPC, Outreach Teen & Family Services, Inc.

Things No One Told Me After My Kid Was Diagnosed with Autism
Summary:  Parents at all stages of their child’s diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder will come away from this session with insights and practical tips on parenting their child, while tending to their own needs.  From navigating the grieving process, handling unsolicited advice and how to set appropriate goals for your child, as well as how to access supports for you and your child, this session will provide parents with strategies and resources.
Presenter: Joel Shaul, LCSW, Watson Institute

Continuum of Mental Health Supports in Schools Today
Summary: In this session, information will be presented on various mental health supports that are integral to current school safety initiatives and how to access these services in local school districts. An understanding of how to improve school climate with social and emotional learning approaches will be shared with examples from the research and current evidence-based practices. Resources will also be shared for parents and other community members to assist in supporting students with mental health needs outside of school.
Presenters: Tina Beer, Mt. Lebanon School District, Dr. Heather Doyle, Mt. Lebanon School District, Suzanne Lochie, Keystone Oaks School District, Lori Sutton, Bethel Park School District

1:45 – 2:45 pm

My LD to Ph.D. Journey: I Couldn’t Have Done It Alone
Summary: Dr. Diedrich has multiple learning disabilities that wounded his self-esteem growing up. Despite his learning disabilities, he was able to get a PhD in molecular virology and microbiology from University of Pittsburgh. During his decade-long career examining how HIV makes people more susceptible to tuberculosis, he felt stuck between two opposing worlds: success in a field that obsesses over intellectualism and his personal experiences struggling with multiple everyday activities like reading menus and street signs. Inhabiting these dual spheres can be emotionally exhausting. However, Dr. Diedrich learned to embrace his learning disabilities and now understands the benefits of having them. He now believes that he wouldn’t be the scientist he is today if it wasn’t for his learning disabilities! For this presentation, he will discuss personal stories about how he was able to overcome and use his learning disabilities to become a better scientist. He will give advice and techniques to students, parents, and educators on how best to overcome obstacles. The presentation will focus on how the techniques we learn to help overcome the negative stigmas associated with learning disabilities can be used to help us live more productive lives.
Presenter: Dr. Collin Diedrich, Learning Disabilities Association of America, Learning Disabilities Association of Pennsylvania

Ten Things You Need to Know about Special Education
Summary: IEPs and 504 plans can be confusing. With so many pages and so much data, it’s easy for parents and self-advocates to get lost in the process. Ruder Law, which specializes in representing parents of students with disabilities in school matters, will share the keys to being a strong advocate. Attorneys from the firm will also offer free, private consultations to go more in-depth as to your child’s specific issues.
Presenter: Jeff Ruder, Esq., Ruder Law

Talk Saves Lives – An Introduction to Suicide Prevention
Summary: Talk Saves Lives helps general community and family members gain more information that could help save a life one day. Attendees will learn about the latest statistics, what research is revealing about suicidal persons, risk factors, warning signs that can be observed, how to talk to someone who may be in crisis, and options for getting them help. This is important information that will give attendees greater confidence in having mental health conversations and encouraging those struggling to seek help.
Presenter: Katelyn Lamm, American Foundation for Suicide Prevention

3:00 – 4:00 pm

Dyslexia: An Overview of Screening, Assessment and Evidence-Based Intervention Practices
Summary: This session will focus on developing the participant’s understanding of dyslexia through discussion of the neurobiological origins, signs and symptoms, screening, assessment, and social-emotional implications of dyslexia. Participants will also become familiar with evidence-based intervention practices including classroom strategies which will be presented with specific examples from local school districts. Resources designed to assist parents, community members, and professionals in supporting students with dyslexia will be shared.
Presenters: Dr. Heather Doyle, Mt. Lebanon School District, Tina Beer, Mt. Lebanon School District, Suzanne Lochie, Keystone Oaks School District, Lori Sutton, Bethel Park School District

Home Visiting and Family Support 
Summary: Family support and home visiting services are available in Allegheny County for parents who are concerned about their young child’s development. This session will describe the range of programs, developmental screenings, and supports for the entire family unit. We will also touch on how programs support caregiver stress, parenting strategies, child health, and more.
Presenters: Lissa Geiger Shulman, Trying Together, Heather Arenth, Allegheny County Department of Human Services

From Parent to Advocate in 5 Easy Steps
Summary: Most people would agree that parents fill many roles in the lives of their children, including teaching, encouraging, supporting and setting limits. For parents of children with disabilities, there is another important role for them to play – the role of advocate. Advocating for your child in school, in medical settings and in other areas is a critical piece in ensuring that their needs are met as effectively as possible. Join us as we talk about five steps in the journey from parent to advocate and learn more about how to become a successful advocate for your child.
Presenter: Allegheny Family Network

4:15 – 5:15 pm

Future Planning with Special Needs Trusts and ABLE Accounts
Summary: Individuals with disabilities often rely on essential government benefits for assistance with the costs of shelter, food, care (both in the home and in long-term care facilities), medications, medical visits and procedures, co-pays, and many other day-to-day needs.  These government benefits have strict income and asset limits that prevent an individual from saving money or accumulating wealth.  In this session, we will discuss how special needs trusts and ABLE accounts can be utilized to allow individuals with special needs to have monies available to them for supplemental use, above and beyond their government benefits.  We will also discuss ways for family members to formulate an estate plan to include their loved ones with disabilities without jeopardizing any benefits
Presenter: Jacquelyn Connell, Trust Attorney, Achieva Family Trust

In Our Own Voice: Mental Health Recovery Presentation: A Veteran’s Journey
Summary: This program is an interactive presentation that is designed to shatter the negative stereotypes and stigma that individuals with mental illness face. This presentation will provide audience members the opportunity to gain insight into the lives of two veterans whose lives are impacted by mental illness and substance abuse. Presenters will share their journey of recovery and wellness and encourage audience members to further their own learning by participating in Q&A with presenters.
Presenters: Fred Terling and Nicole Dawson, NAMI

Building a Youth Mental Health Advocacy Movement
Summary: Ignite the power of the youth voice! Join youth from across Southwestern PA who are concerned about teen mental health issues for a session focused on advocacy. Participants will learn how youth activists are taking steps within their schools, communities, and across the state to share their concerns and advocate for an improved safety-net for teen mental health. Join us as we build a statewide advocacy network inspired by the power of the youth voice. We welcome youth, student advisors, and other stakeholders to attend.
Presenters: Carol Frazer, LPC, Pittsburgh Regional Health Initiative, Deborah Murdoch, MPH, Jewish Healthcare Foundation, The Reverend Sally Jo Snyder, Consumer Health Coalition

OVR & Juvenile Justice: Partnership with Bureau of Juvenile Justice Services
Summary: The Office of Vocational Rehabilitation (OVR) has partnered with the Bureau of Juvenile Justice Services (BJJS) to assist juvenile court involved students or youth with disabilities in reaching improved employment outcomes. This session will describe the goals of this joint effort, which include improving high school graduation rates, aiding with the transition to post-secondary schools or training programs, and improving the ability of these youth obtain and retain employment.
Presenters: Erika Kauffman, OVR, and TBD

6:00 – 8:30 pm

Turning Points – A Discussion of Teen Decisions
Summary: The late teen years are turning points for all students. Some unique challenges exist for students with disabilities, especially autism, when it comes to social decision making, legal issues, job readiness, and dating. Join us to hear from experts who have supported teens for decades, and let them help you make the best decisions for your life moving forward. This program is for teens accompanied by a trusted adult. Free dinner is included if registered by March 6th – space is limited!
Presenters:  Shawn McGill, LCSW, Aprilynn Artz, LPC, Lu Randall, MRC, and Heather Conroy, LCSW, Autism Connection of PA


9:00 – 10:00 am

Keynote: Pennsylvania Department of Labor & Industry Update with Secretary Oleksiak
Summary: The Department of Labor & Industry oversees multiple offices including Vocational Rehabilitation, Deaf & Hard of Hearing, and the Bureau of Blindness & Visual Services. Secretary Oleksiak will give us an update on the departments’ efforts on establishing ‘Employment First’ policy and increasing competitive-integrated employment for Pennsylvanians with a disability.
Presenter:  Secretary W. Gerard “Jerry” Oleksiak, Pennsylvania Department of Labor & Industry

9:00 – 1:30 pm

Influence to Action: Advocacy, Leadership and Transition
A Pennsylvania Youth Initiative Program
Summary: This session is for transition-age students only. Students will then learn skills for how to become a leader of tomorrow, navigate disability support services through self-advocacy, interact with elected officials, and network with potential employers at the Employment and Transition Resource Fair. This program will culminate with youth conversations with state legislators.
Presenter: Pennsylvania Youth Initiative

10:00 – 11:00 am

Disability Employment: Supporting both People with Disabilities and Businesses: A Federal Policy Update from the Office of Senator Casey
Summary: Michael Gamel-McCormick, Disability Policy Director for Senator Bob Casey, will provide an overview of efforts to increase the employment of people with disabilities focusing on federal policy that aimed at enhancing opportunities for people with disabilities to earn a living wage and for businesses to hire and retain employees with disabilities.
Presenter: Dr. Michael Gamel-McCormick, Disability Policy Director for Senator Bob Casey

11:00 – 12:00 pm

Congressional Conversation about the Importance of Disabilities & Mental Health
Summary: Congressman Mike Doyle and Congressman Conor Lamb will provide a detailed update regarding disability and mental health advocacy occurring in Washington, and will talk about their own work and experiences concerning making our country more open and inviting for everyone.
Presenters: Congressman Mike Doyle, 18th District, and Congressman Conor Lamb, 17th District

1:00 – 3:00 pm

Legislative Panel – State Policies on Disabilities
Summary: Representatives, Senators, and elected leaders from across the area will get together for a panel discussion to talk about state policies and legislative initiatives that need to advance in order to increase independence and opportunity for everyone.
Moderator: State Representative Dan Miller