MONDAY 9:00 AM – 10:15 AM
1. Keynote Speaker — Carol Beatty, Secretary, Maryland’s Department of Disabilities
Since 2004, the state of Maryland has operated a cabinet-level Department of Disabilities. It is currently the only state with a cabinet-level, cross-disability department focused on policy, making it a model for others. Please join us as we hear from Secretary Carol Beatty, who will describe the impact of the department in the state, outline the types of programs and services it supports, and explain how it enables the concerns of people with disabilities to be integrated with broader state policy initiatives at every step along the way. The Secretary will also highlight how the department was able to provide a cohesive response to the specific needs of people with disabilities during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Also, we will receive an update from special guest: Erin Dalton, Director, Allegheny County Department of Human Services
MONDAY 11:30 AM – 12:30 PM
2a. The COVID 19 classroom: Disparate effects on Mental Health and Education of Vulnerable
Dr. Tracy L. Scanlon, LPC, CT, CEAP | Outreach Teen & Family Services
COVID-19’s disparate effects on health, livelihoods, and education are still unfolding. Every day we learn of more inequities revealed by the pandemic. Of all K-12 students, those with vulnerabilities are especially hard hit by the pandemic, say the experts. The COVID-19 pandemic has triggered many changes in K-12 education—some major, like remote learning, and perhaps to a lesser degree, disruption of much needed routines. The students who have been most affected by that disruption are vulnerable students – students with mental health and/or learning vulnerabilities. Ultimately, parents and caregivers have been forced through a trial-and-error process to find what works—and what doesn’t— to support and encourage children to adapt to the ins and outs of a new virtual education that looks very different than ‘school’ looked pre-COVID-19. Parents have now added multiple new hats; they are teachers, recess and lunch monitors, all while attempting to find their way around the technology and the regulations and the ever-changing protocols. Moreover, parents of special needs children were already over-taxed prior to the pandemic. For parents, juggling the balance between school and home is extraordinarily challenging. Families and children are struggling to attain academic and classroom success while constantly evolving their practices both at home and in the virtual classroom to remain safe during a global crisis and they are overwhelmed.
2b. Improving the Safety and Social Skills of Teens and Young Adults with ASD and IDD During
Times of Isolation
Rob Anderson, MSW | Director of Healthy Relationships Curriculum; Wesley Family Services
This session will guide parents, educators and clinicians on practical ways to instruct teens and young adults with ASD and IDD on subjects that pertain to quality of life during the COVID-19 pandemic. Safety issues related to social media, video chat and on-line friendships will be discussed. The importance of maintaining a schedule, good hygiene, and an organized work area will also be explained with practical suggestions for implementation.
MONDAY 1:30 PM – 2:30 PM
3a. Youth Voice Panel: Teen Mental Health Matters – Now More than Ever
Deborah Murdoch | Program Manager; Jewish Healthcare Foundation
Join youth advocates and school-based mental health providers for a panel discussion about teen mental health in the era of COVID-19. Panelists will share how the pandemic has impacted teen mental health, what supports have been most helpful from parents, schools, and community partners, and their perspective on the way forward. Panelists include members of the PA Youth Advocacy Network and youth-serving organizations committed to improving teen mental health, including Allegheny County’s Stand Together program.
3b. Virtual Reality: Providing Transition Services During a Pandemic
Jacki Lyster, M.S. & Hillary Mangis, Ph.D. | Pennsylvania Training and Technical Assistance Network
The COVID-19 school closures put a stop to many things, but not the requirements to provide transition services and activities for students with disabilities. This session will focus on statewide efforts to provide creative solutions for schools to offer transition services in a virtual setting. Opportunities such as community instruction, internships, work-based learning experiences and support from outside agencies must be re-imagined. This session will provide examples of effective programming strategies and practices created by statewide systems of support to help students and youth with disabilities, as well as their families, during their transition journeys. Resources including virtual transition padlets, virtual transition fairs, virtual reality fairs, and more will be discussed.
MONDAY 3:30 PM – 4:30 PM
4a. Navigating Uncharted Waters: Online Peer Support to Grieving Young Adults Following
the Death of a Loved One
Conor Dawley, MS, LPC, CT | Outreach and Education Coordinator and Child Grief Specialist, Erie;
Highmark Caring Place
Janet Arida, PhD, RN, LCSW, CT | Outreach and Education Coordinator and Child Grief Specialist;
Warrendale Highmark Caring Place
The transition from adolescence to young adulthood is inherently a time of change and uncertainty, and this can be amplified when the death of a loved one occurs during this significant passage. This webinar will describe the issues unique to grieving young adults and explore ways of supporting them during times of grief, including the importance of connecting them with supportive peers. Using online models to deliver peer grief support can address many of these obstacles by offering support that is both accessible and effective. This presentation will describe an 8-week online support group offered by the Highmark Caring Place to grieving young adults using a virtual format. We will discuss lessons learned in tailoring services to this population.
4b. Building Skills & Managing Behaviors Through the Power of Technology During a
Lindsey Marshall, BSW | FOCUS Behavioral Health
Cynthia Domeier, BS | FOCUS Behavioral Health
The intention for this presentation is to share how internet platforms such as Zoom can help to bridge the gaps in services due to the COVID-19 pandemic. During this presentation, we will share how we used Zoom to support participants with life skills, communication skills, social skills and behavior modification. We will also share how remote services have impacted participants positively, the new challenges they have presented, and how we overcame these challenges.
TUESDAY 9:00 AM – 11:00 AM
5. Legislative Panel: State Policies on Disability & Mental Health
State Representative Dan Miller, Moderator
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.
TUESDAY 12:00 PM – 1:00 PM
6a. Return to the Workplace: Developing Disability Inclusive Telework and COVID-19 Health
and Safety Policies
Bobby Silverstein | State Exchange on Employment & Disability
This session features examples of disability-inclusive federal and state pandemic recovery related policies, as well as employer practices to ensure the health and safety of all workers in returning to the workplace. Learn about the intersection between COVID-19 and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability and requires covered employers to provide reasonable accommodations for individuals with disabilities. One such accommodation is teleworking, which can help prevent the transmission of COVID-19 but also ensure equal employment opportunities for individuals with disabilities who may be at higher risk of contracting the virus.
6b. Putting the Puzzle Pieces in Place During the Pandemic: A Focus on Students with Autism
Lori Sutton | Director of Special Education; Bethel Park School District
Dr. Heather Doyle | Mt. Lebanon School District
Desiree Burns | Keystone Oaks School District
Luciana Randall | Autism Connection of PA
This session will feature a team presentation to share resources and present a variety of strategies and evidence-based practices for students with autism featuring school, agency, and family perspectives. Behavioral, social, and sensory strategies and practices in the areas of academics and communication will be discussed as well as the barriers encountered during the pandemic. Having a strengths-based view and team-orientation will help to “put the puzzle pieces in place during the pandemic” and beyond.
TUESDAY 2:00 PM – 3:00 PM
7a. Managing Stress During the Pandemic
Christine Michaels | Chief Operating Officer; NAMI Keystone Pennsylvania
The global pandemic has challenged our physical, mental, and emotional health. We have all experienced a number of changes including adjustments in work environment or work status, altered school schedules, canceled extra-curricular activities, social distancing, and the list can go on. All of these factors – alone or combined – have led to higher levels of stress and anxiety for all of us of all ages. The presentation will discuss the sources of stress and signs that you may be overwhelmed. It will also explore how you can manage your stress through self-care.
7b. Empowered by our COVID-19 Experience: The Importance of Your Voice at the Table
Dr. Josie Badger CRC, DHCE | Women and Girls’ Foundation
Monica Albert Still, RN, BSN
The pandemic has brought a lot of pain and struggling to our community, but it has also brought to light the importance of advocacy from the disability community. This unprecedented time has created new opportunities to improve the lives of people with disabilities. Advocates with disabilities will discuss ways to learn about issues and legislation that are important to you, ways to work with your legislator, and why your voice matters.
TUESDAY 4:00 PM – 5:00 PM
8a. A Behavior Analyst and Mental Health Clinician Walk into a Classroom: Partnering
through Pandemics and Beyond
Dr. Rachel Schwartz | Education Consultant; The Watson Institute
Erica Caprini | Psychiatric Mental Health Clinician; The Watson Institute
Both behavior analysts and mental health clinicians focus on changing human behavior. In this presentation, we will discuss building a collaboration between the behavioral and mental health perspectives to support students and schools through COVID-19. The presentation will present challenges, successes, and considerations for developing interdisciplinary partnerships to approach and address complex issues.
8b. Coughing and Sneezing are Tics? Oh My (How COVID-19 made a Difficult Disability Even
Sherrie Myers Wivell | Administrator; PA Tourette Syndrome Alliance
Tourette syndrome is one of the most misunderstood and misinterpreted disabilities encountered in the classroom. COVID-19 has made interpreting some tics even more difficult. Yes, coughing, sneezing, and throat clearing can be tics. How can we differentiate those tics from actual illness? How can we reduce stress and anxiety in the classroom to help reduce tics? Learn about common and uncommon symptoms of TS and real-life examples of accommodations that can help. Understanding TS and the differences it causes is an important step in supporting a child with TS.