THURSDAY, MARCH 22nd
9:00 – 10:00 am
Keynote: Department of Human Services (DHS) Update with Secretary Miller
Summary: No matter your diagnosis, no state agency is as important to the lives and futures of the many Pennsylvanians who have disabilities as DHS. In an increasingly challenging financial climate, guiding DHS and accomplishing its mission is no easy task. Secretary Teresa Miller will give us an update on her efforts to provide needed services efficiently in order to increase independence and maximize taxpayer resources under the direction of Governor Tom Wolf.
Presenter: Secretary Teresa Miller, PA Dept. Human Services
10:15 – 11:15 am
Music Therapy and the Benefits of Parent Child Interaction Therapy
Summary: Over the past two decades, music therapy and parent-child interaction therapy (PCIT) have emerged as cutting edge therapeutic interventions for children with autism and other developmental and behavioral disorders. Music therapy is an evidence-based therapy which uses music interventions to accomplish individualized goals that address the child’s physical, emotional, cognitive, communication and social needs. PCIT is another evidence-based practice for children with behavioral disorders that emphasizes improving the parent-child relationship and changing parent-child interaction patterns by coaching caregivers in real time to help manage their child’s disruptive behaviors. The presenters will describe the treatments and discuss how the programs complement each other and work to attain similar goals for clients.
Presenters: Katie Harrill, Wesley Family Services, Arianna Bendlin, Wesley Family Services, Megan Hoffman, Wesley Family Services
An Overview of the ADA and Current Challenges Facing People with Disabilities
Summary: The Americans with Disabilities Act was enacted 27 years ago. This session will discuss what the law looks like today, what the current challenges are and what the impact of proposed federal legislation might be.
Presenter: Carol Horowitz, Disability Rights Network
Executive Functioning: Tools for Success
Summary: Executive function refers to a set of mental skills that help a person get things done. Difficulties in executive functioning can be associated with ADHD, autism, concussions or other diagnoses and can lead to problems in school, relationships and employment. In this session, professionals and parents will learn how to address executive functioning difficulties (including those that impact organization, time management, mental flexibility and self-control) using therapeutic interventions and assistive technology.
Presenters: Dr. Ralph Wilps and Ms. Rebecca Hahn, MA, CRC, LPC
11:30 – 12:30 pm
Transitions from Early Intervention to School
Summary: The transition from early intervention to elementary school is a critical period in the learning and development of a child. This session will focus on what families should expect and will provide information to guide a smooth transition of services. Resources will include a timeline, the roles and responsibilities of EI programs, the school district, and parents. We will share questions to ask and discuss available options for families.
Presenters: Lissa Geiger Shulman, Trying Together, Emily Neff, Trying Together, Erica Balint, The Alliance for Infants and Toddlers, and Elizabeth Strickland, Pittsburgh Public Schools Early Intervention Program
Evidence-Based Practices for School & Home
Summary: Evidence-based practices are shown to improve student outcomes when utilized for teaching and learning in school classrooms. This session will define what these practices are related to various disability categories. A focus on strategies to support students with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) will be presented. Resources will be shared on practices to implement at school and home.
Presenters: Lori Sutton, Bethel Park School District, and Tina Tolkacevic, Mt. Lebanon School District
Autism and Legal Issues: A Growing Concern
Summary: There is growing concern about those with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) who engage in behaviors that are or could be considered illegal. This session will explain what has changed over the years and will explore what we can do to provide better education, support and services to divert people from the criminal justice system. This session is for professionals or those who love or support those with ASD or other cognitive disabilities.
Presenter: Shawn McGill, MSW, LSW
Special Screening: Rain Man Effect
“The Rain Man Effect” is a documentary that explores a disorder that was largely given a first impression through the spectacle of film.
What resulted was an unrealistic and inaccurate understanding of the disorder as well as branded autism through stigmas, generalizations, and stereotypes. The impact has burdened those diagnosed with autism in many ways, perhaps most significantly in the realm of employment. The movie was fiction, but the effect is real… the time to advocate is now.
Created by: Staff and participants of YAP’s Allegheny County Adult Autism program, under the direction of Brian Kluchurosky, Program Director
1:45 – 2:45 pm
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
Extended School Year (ESY) – What? Why? Who? Where?
Summary: Extended School Year (ESY) is a critical part of providing a free and appropriate public education to certain students with disabilities. Join us for this informative session as we address some of the most common questions about ESY, including who qualifies, how that determination is made, what kinds of programs qualify, and so much more.
Presenter: Brian Welles, Allegheny Intermediate Unit and Holly McElhinny, Allegheny Intermediate Unit
Improving Outcomes: New Treatments to Support Verbal Adolescents and Adults
Summary: Adolescence and adulthood present unique challenges for individuals with ASD as they attempt to navigate complex social dynamics in school and in the workplace. Recognizing the great need for treatments to support the transition to adulthood and improve adult outcomes in ASD, the Emotion Awareness and Skills Enhancement (EASE) and Perspectives Programs at the University of Pittsburgh were developed. Attendees will be introduced to these new research-based psychosocial interventions that help verbal adolescents and adults with ASD develop the emotional, cognitive, and social abilities needed to succeed in adolescence and adulthood.
Presenters: Carla A. Mazefsky, PhD., Center for Excellence in Autism Research, Department of Psychiatry, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine
3:00 – 4:00 pm
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
Promoting Healthy Sleep for Children & Teens with a Developmental Disability
Summary: Sleep is something we all do—whether we do it well or not. Yet many of us understand very little about sleep: what it is, why it is important, and how it can be improved. People with a developmental disability such as autism, intellectual disability, or a genetic condition that affects development seem to be especially prone to sleep problems. What can be done? Dr. Anderson will provide an overview of the most common sleep problems, how they are assessed in a behavioral health clinic, and how they can be treated using behavioral techniques.
Presenter: Dr. Ryan Anderson PhD, Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC
A Home of My Own
Summary: “A Home of My Own” is an innovative way for people with disabilities to move out of their family home and into homes of their own. Key elements of “A Home of My Own” will be discussed: true person-centered thinking and practice, the importance of support brokerage, people choosing where and with whom they wish to live, interviewing and choosing Life Coaches and customized, individualized supports. The process will be explained from the initial phone call for information to “move in” day and the resources (home and community based waivers and other government benefits) that enable people to achieve their dreams of having a place of their own.
Presenter: Michelle Stockunas, Manager of ACHIEVA’s “A Home of My Own”
4:15 – 5:15 pm
Opening New Opportunities with Assistive Technology
Summary: Assistive technology provides creative solutions that enable individuals with disabilities to be more independent and productive. This session will discuss what types of assistive technology are available, how they can enhance quality of life and how to find resources to pay for them.
Presenter: Susan Tachau, PA Assistive Technology Foundation
A Family’s Guide to Understanding Evaluation and Reevaluation Reports
Summary: Learn and understand each step of the evaluation/reevaluation process to be an active and informed decision maker in your child’s education. This session will explore what occurs from when an initial evaluation is first requested to generation of the report itself. We will talk about the information, observations and recommendations provided by parents or guardians and school personnel, including all of the fine print that parents or guardians need to know. We will also walk through the summary of findings and how to review the evaluation and follow up, as well as covering what happens if there is a disagreement. You will walk away from this session feeling fully equipped to understand evaluation and reevaluation reports.
Presenters: Cindy Duch, The PEAL Center
Summary: Throughout their lives, individuals living with disabilities will face unique situations with which they will need knowledgeable, professional help and support. By attending this session, you will learn how and when to get started on a financial plan as well as how to use tools such as supplemental needs trusts, powers of attorney, and guardianships to benefit the plan.
Presenters: Rich Howard, River Communities Fiduciary Services, Inc., Eric O’Connor, River Communities Fiduciary Services, Inc., Nora Gieg Chatha, Esq., Tucker Arensberg; and Brittany R. Holzer, Esq., Tucker Arensberg
6:00 – 8:30 pm
Transition to Adulthood
A 21 and Able Program, an initiative of United Way of Southwestern Pennsylvania in partnership with PEAL
Summary: One of the best ways to ensure a better bridge to adulthood for you or your child is to actively participate in the transition process. In this session, you will learn how to effectively engage with your school and community to get the most out of the transition process. We will address school, community, employment, housing, waivers and more. You will also learn more about 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: Jeanine Schultz, The PEAL Center and Katie Smith, The PEAL Center
FRIDAY, MARCH 23rd
9:00 – 1:30 pm
Influence to Action: Advocacy, Leadership and Transition
A Pittsburgh Youth Leadership Taskforce Program
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 Initiative
9:00 – 10:00 am
Keynote: Department of Education Update with Secretary Rivera
with special guest, Director for the Bureau of Special Education, Ann Hinkson-Hermann
Summary: Over the last 20 years, Pennsylvania schools have forged a path toward more inclusive practices for students with disabilities. Pennsylvania’s special education data reveal that there has been a steady increase in the number of students with disabilities who are accessing general education curriculum and standards, graduating with their peers, participating in extracurricular activities, and achieving post-school outcomes. While those accomplishments have brought about success, there are unique challenges in today’s world that lead us to continue to push boundaries and ensure all students graduate college, career, and community ready. While underscoring the impact of equity and transparency, Secretary Rivera will provide an update on the Pennsylvania Department of Education’s vision to help advance strong educational outcomes for all students. Highlights will include how teachers, parents, and students must work together to create a robust educational system that draws upon the science of learning, promising practices, and resources to support students with disabilities, including those with complex needs.
Presenter: Secretary Pedro Rivera, PA Dept. of Education
10:00 – 11:00 am
The Autism Caucus and Federal Disability Policy with Congressman Mike Doyle
Congressman Doyle is a co-founder and co-chair of the Coalition for Autism Research and Education (CARE), commonly referred to as the Autism Caucus. He will provide a history of the caucus, as well as current efforts and legislative priorities. He will also discuss current legislative efforts, especially in the House of Representatives, that impact the disability community.
Presenter: Congressman Mike Doyle, House of Representatives
11:00 – 12:00 pm
Federal Legislation Update from the Office of Senator Casey
Summary: Michael Gamel-Mccormick, Disability Policy Director for Senator Bob Casey, will give us an overview of the major disability related federal legislation and activity that has occurred thus far in the 115th Congress. Along with a broad overview, special attention will be given to issues that impact children and adults with disabilities in education, healthcare and employment.
Presenter: Michael Gamel-Mccormick Office of Senator Bob Casey
1:00 – 3:00 pm
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