9:00 – 10:15

Keynote: What is Inclusion For?

A PEAL Center Program

Summary: This one is for your head and your heart.

Presenter: Sue Swenson



10:30 – 12:00

National & State Policies Impacting Individuals with Disabilities

A PEAL Center Program

Summary: This panel of experts will discuss the direction of the new administration in regard to Medical Assistance (MA), employment, education, community living, and transition.

Policy Panel: David Gates, Esq., Sue Swenson, Nancy A. Hubley, Esq., Steve Suroviec, Michael Stoehr, Amy Engbarth



I’ve Got It. Now What Can I Do With It?

A PEAL Center Program

Summary: This session will explore features of common operating systems, tablets, and word processing tools that can be used to differentiate reading and writing supports for all students. Come learn ways to make use of those “hidden gems” in Microsoft Office, Google Docs, Adobe Acrobat, and iOS devices.

Presenter: Scott A. Dougherty, Educational Consultant, PaTTAN



Friendship: Building a Good Life

A PEAL Center Program

Summary: This session will introduce the latest resource from The PEAL Center. The booklet entitled Friendships: Building a Good Life presents strategies for families, peers, communities and schools to support the development of friendships for all including children with disabilities. Friendships play an important role in everyone’s life. This toolkit is based on the guiding principles:  1) everyone has a role to play in the development of friendships 2) friendships are important to all 3) everyone benefits when we support friendship development for kids with disabilities. Come join the conversation about building a good life for all.


Presenter: Cecelia Belasco, Parent & Educator


1:15 – 2:45

Ensuring Successful Outcomes for Transition-Age Youth in PA

A PEAL Center Program

Summary: During this session, learn about the Pennsylvania Bureau of Special Education’s and Office of Vocational Rehabilitation’s secondary transition projects, programs, and activities designed to ensure successful post-secondary education, employment and independent living outcomes for youth and young adults with disabilities.

Presenters: Michael Stoehr & Amy Engbarth



Going Over the Cliff

A PEAL Center Program

Summary: Youth often face a cliff when turning 21 as their eligibility for many of the services and supports they relied upon (such as special ed, wraparound and in-home nursing) comes to an end.  This workshop will explain many of the support programs available to those age 21 and older.  This will include information about eligibility for and services provided under all the waiver programs for adults as well as the many changes to those programs coming in the next 2 years.


Presenter: David Gates, Esq., Health Law Project



Law, Policy and Practice: Inclusion in Early Childhood Education Programs

A PEAL Center Program

Summary: Through interactive discussion and activities, we will learn about the law and policies that govern inclusion and prohibit exclusionary discipline in early childhood education program.


Presenter: Nancy A. Hubley, Esq., Pittsburgh Director, Education Law Center



2:55 – 4:15

For Youth, Families & Professionals: Youth Leadership, Self-Advocacy and Empowerment

A PEAL Center Program

Summary: This session will help parents and professionals understand the importance of empowering youth with disabilities by promoting self-advocacy. Our presenters will discuss the importance of presuming competence and utilization of strength-based vs. problem-centered approaches. The session will highlight ways that adults can support the development of self-awareness and self-acceptance by youth. We will review ways to effectively teach self-advocacy strategies and provide youth with the opportunities to practice those skills. Finally, the session will show how promoting self-advocacy for youth with disabilities results in empowerment of youth to become leaders in their schools and communities.


Presenters: Josie Badger, Youth Leadership Director and Katie Smith, Youth Leadership Coordinator, PEAL Center



The Myth of IQ and Mental Age: Changing the Conversation

A PEAL Center Program

Summary: Important decisions about a child’s education, future, and quality of life are too often made on the basis of IQ and “mental age” (MA). These numbers may be used to “explain” a child’s behavior and to predict what a child will or will not be capable of learning and doing. Yet this process of prediction is circular: the more it impacts what is said to and done with a child, the more our belief system itself increases the likelihood that the prediction will come true. The purpose of this presentation is to consider why IQ and MA are not meaningful planning tools, and to help parents and teachers move decisively away from using them. Instead, they will be encouraged to focus on communicating with, building a reciprocal relationship with, and interacting age-appropriately with the person they are supporting.


Presenter: Pat Amos, Trainer/Consultant



Project MAX and the Statewide Parent Network

A PEAL Center Program

Summary: Project MAX is an initiative that ensures that all students have access to the general education curriculum. Explore the principles of this project, its implementation, and the development of the Statewide Parent Network.


Presenters: Jeannine H. Brinkley, Executive Director, Lorie Brew and Tammi Morton, Project MAX Coordinators, PEAL Center
10:30 – 12:00 & 1:15 – 2:45

I Go Home

A PEAL Center Program

Summary: For years, children with intellectual disability were not allowed in public schools. Parents were told to send their children with intellectual disability away to institutions. It was not until the late 1960s that a television exposé shed light on what was happening inside the walls of institutions. It was that knowledge that fueled parents and the public to ignite change. Join Nancy Thaler and Jim Conroy in a viewing of I Go Home, the PBS documentary of the legacy of Pennhurst, the first American institution closed via Federal Courts’ orders. The documentary is part of the Pennhurst History Traveling Exhibit: A Microcosm of the Disability Rights Movement in America. After the viewing Nancy Thaler and Jim Conroy will answer questions and discuss the important leaps of progress in disability rights in the United States.


Presenters: Nancy Thaler and Jim Conroy





9:00 – 10:00

Keynote: State Department of Human Services (DHS) Update

Summary: The DHS is the largest department in the state budget and covers a myriad of human service needs. Dealing with such a complicated mission and providing services for such a diverse group of people is a challenging endeavor – especially in today’s financial climate. Secretary Ted Dallas will join us to give us an update on his efforts to lead DHS specifically in the areas of disability and mental health issues.


Presenter: Secretary Ted Dallas, PA Dept. Human Services



10:15 – 11:15

Eating Challenges and Resources

Summary: Getting kids to eat their vegetables and have variety in their meals is a time-tested parental challenge. However, when your child is diagnosed with sensory, motor, and/or oral difficulties, meal times can become a challenge. Food sensitivity issues can also isolate children from their peers at lunch, furthering the social divide for many. Join us for a discussion with certified therapists who will discuss underlying possible causes, suggest strategies to try at home and therapeutic possibilities that can ease stress and increase wellness.


Presenters: Amy M. Morgan, MS CCC-SLP, Aspire Pediatric Therapy, LLC and Christine Zundel, OTR/L, Aspire Pediatric Therapy, LLC

Autism & Intellectual Disabilities Caucus Update

Summary: As co-chairs of the bipartisan legislative caucus in Harrisburg, Representatives Murt and Miller will give an update on recent bills, caucus activities, and the inner workings of Harrisburg in relation to disability issues in general.


Presenters: State Representative Tom Murt and State Representative Dan Miller


Youth Stories of Strength & Success with RENEW

Summary: This session will provide an overview and update on the Rehabilitation for Empowerment, Natural Supports, Education, and Work project (RENEW), which is an individualized intervention to support students academically, emotionally, and socially as they enhance their achievement and prepare for post-secondary life. Participants will learn about person-centered planning, self-determination, student empowerment, and action planning centered around the growth and progress of our youth.


Presenter: Michael Minor, Educational Consultant at PaTTAN Pittsburgh



11:30 – 12:30

Early Intervention Supports

Summary: Early intervention, whether for disabilities or mental health, is key to long-term success and growth. This session will discuss how evaluations are conducted, what early services are available, and what questions caregivers should ask in order to help create a supportive plan. We will also discuss the renewed and collaborative effort involving pediatric practices and how those services can be used as a hub of developmental support.


Presenters: Heather Hoeke, LCSW, Assistant Director of Outpatient Services, Wesley Spectrum Services, Kim Eckel, Young Child Wellness Coordinator, Project Launch, and Amy Sukay, Preschool Service Coordinator, AIU


ABLE Savings Accounts – Planning for the Future

Summary: The PA Treasury will give an update regarding the state’s ABLE Act rollout, address issues for the future, and offer further insight as to how ABLE accounts can be used to help loved ones live in dignity and happiness.


Presenter: Kelly Davis, Program Representative, PA Dept. of Treasury


Mental Health Screens and SAP

Summary: There are no blood draws to diagnose mental illness, however there are several screening tools that can be useful. Join us for a discussion on the types of mental health screens available, how they are administered, and what questions you should ask about them. We will also talk about the Student Assistant Programs (SAP) available in our schools and how they can help identify issues and provide assistance.


Presenters: Emily Heim, MA, Mental Health Therapist, Outreach Teen and Family Services, Rosanne Levine, CRNP, Pediatrics South, and Suzanne Lochie, Director of Pupil Services, Keystone Oaks School District


1:45 – 2:45

Ten Things You Need to Know about Special Education

Summary: IEPs and 504 plans can be confusing. With so many pages with 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. They will also offer free private consultations to go more in-depth as to your child’s specific issues.


Presenter: Jeff Ruder, Esq., Ruder Law


Family Stress – Strategies for Coping

Raising an atypical child often leads to atypical stress in the family. Whether between siblings or between spouses, such challenging circumstances can take their toll on the best of relationships. In this session we will discuss how to prepare for and how to address such unique situations in a manner that supports the overall family structure.


Presenter: Carole Kunkle-Miller, PhD


Anxiety in the Classroom

Summary: The impact of anxiety can be severe for adolescents and pre-teens alike. In this session we will discuss the common causes and symptoms of anxiety in students, as well as the possible lasting effects anxiety can have on those who go undiagnosed or untreated. We will also discuss what supportive strategies can be implemented at home and at school.


Presenters: Kevin Prince, Psychologist, Keystone Oaks School District, and Whitney Menarcheck, MS, LPC NCC, Watson Institute



3:00 – 4:00

Autism & the Family: Thinking Outside the Box

Summary: Beyond BHRS, evidence-based Family Based Therapy with Applied Behavioral Analysis can meet your child’s autism treatment needs more holistically, while supporting the entire family. It is a community-based service that provides behavioral analysis and intervention, positive parenting practices, structural family therapy, advocacy, case management and 24/7 crisis response. We will address the benefits of this child-focused, family-driven approach to autism treatment and how it can be accessed.


Presenters: Alicia Logue, MA, BCBA, NCC, LPC; Dennis Falo, Director of Clinical Services, Every Child; and Samantha Baillie, MA, Family Based Supervisor, Every Child


A Home of My Own

Summary: Do you know a person with an intellectual disability who may be interested in living in “A Home of My Own”? “A Home of My Own” is based on person-centered planning and offers people the choice of where and with whom to live. If so, we invite you to attend this presentation to learn about how this is different from traditional community living options, the funding resources, and how housing and support services are creatively combined to make it happen.


Presenter: Michelle Stockunas, Manager of ACHIEVA’s “A Home of My Own”


Mental Health and Medications

Summary: Turning to medications for behavioral health needs can be a scary decision for many families and self-advocates. Turning away from them can even be more challenging. Doctors Kettel and Sakolsky will take us through some of the most common prescriptions used in behavioral health treatment and discuss their side effects, what questions people should ask, and what therapeutic support should be offered. We will also talk about strategies to improve medication adherence.


Presenters: Dr. Jessica Kettel, MD, PhD, Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic and Dr. Dara Sakolsky, MD, PhD, Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic



3:00 – 5:00

FREE IEP/504 CLINIC! Do you have concerns regarding your child’s Individual Education Plan or 504 Plan?

Summary: Pre-register for a private meeting with an attorney from Ruder Law during our Disability Summit.


Clinic Host: Ruder Law


4:15 – 5:15

Learning after High School

Summary: Navigating post-secondary academic options can be challenging enough, but for students with a diagnosis there can be additional hurdles to success. For many students this transition is made even more difficult by the lack of structured supports they have grown accustomed to. In this session we will discuss how families and self-advocates can develop a support structure both on and off campus, how students can integrate into an environment with more freedom and choices, and what questions to ask when choosing learning opportunities.


Presenter: Heather Conroy, LCSW, Evolve Coaching


Financial Planning

Planning for one’s financial future is tough enough, but for people with a diagnosis it can be uniquely challenging. In this session we will review how tools such as powers of attorney, special needs trusts, and guardianships can be useful and how to get started on your plan.


Presenters: Michele Conti, J.D., LL.M, Life Enrichment Trust; Nora Gieg Chatha, Esq., Tucker Arensberg; and Brittany R. Holzer, Esq., Tucker Arensberg


Warning – Harmful for Health! Stigma and Stereotypes Blocking Us from Seeking Care

An Allegheny Family Network Program

Summary: Informative presentation that incorporates poignant monologues sharing the personal sting of stigma associated with mental illness that led to isolation, silence and shame. Discuss the strategies on lessening stigma, raising public awareness and what we each can do to remove hurdles to health care for families and persons living with mental illness.


Presenters: Staff, Allegheny Family Network and The Reverend Sally Jo Snyder, Director of Advocacy and Consumer Engagement of the Consumer Health Coalition



6:00 – 8:30

3rd Annual Survival Guide to Life After High School

A 21 and Able Program, an Initiative United Way of Southwestern Pennsylvania

Summary: Learn how to effectively engage with your school and community to get the most out of the transition process, ensuring a better bridge to adulthood for yourself or your son or daughter. Identify resources and support services for transition to adulthood. At this session, your individual questions will be answered and connections will be made to those who can help.


Presenters: Michael J. Stoehr, Educational Consultant Special Projects, Pennsylvania Department of Education; Bureau of Special Education; Pennsylvania Training and Technical Assistance Network (PaTTAN); Jeannine H. Brinkley, Executive Director, Parent Education Advocacy Leadership Center (PEAL) Center; Student and Family Panel ; and Mary Hartley, Lead Consultant, 21 and Able and Megan Grabski, Project Manager, 21 and Able





9:00 – 1:30

Influence to Action: Advocacy, Leadership and Transition

A PA Leadership Network Taskforce Program

Summary: This session is for transition-age students only. Keynote Speaker David Loshelder, Distinguished Mental Health Professional, Martial Arts Instructor and Author, will open the session with tips on how to address bullying. 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 and Transition Resource Fair. This program will culminate with the Legislative Panel.

Presenter: Pennsylvania Youth Leadership Taskforce (PYLT)



9:00 – 10:00

What’s Next for the Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act

Summary: Congressman Murphy, architect of the Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act, will provide an update on its implementation, as well as his work as chair of the Oversight & Investigation Subcommittee on Energy & Commerce.


Presenter: Congressman Tim Murphy


10:00 – 11:00

Senator Casey’s RISE Act, Helping Students with Disabilities Succeed in College

Summary: Many young people with a diagnosis are testing and grading into our most prestigious universities. However, finding similar success without the right supportive environment can be very challenging. The RISE Act, introduced by Senator Bob Casey, is designed to help students with disabilities thrive in college. Join us for a conversation with the Senator’s office about this important bill and the hurdles facing it as it navigates Washington.


Presenter: Office of Senator Bob Casey



11:00 – 12:00

Promoting Independence for Students with Disabilities at Home and at School

Summary: This session will explore supports and strategies to promote student independence in the home and school environments.  Topics that will be covered are least restrictive environment, the continuum of supplementary aids and services such as paraprofessional support as well as other hot topics in special education such as executive functioning skills.


Presenters: Tina Tolkacevic, Inclusion Specialist, Mt. Lebanon School; Suzanne Lochie, Director of Pupil Services, Keystone Oaks School; Lori Sutton, Director of Special Education, Bethel Park School



 1:00 – 3:00

Legislative Panel

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