1-1 Routes to Collaboration & Resolution with IEP’s
Trying to navigating the Individualized Education Program (IEP) process can feel like you are on a multi-lane interstate with unmarked exits and no GPS. Add in a disagreement and the route seems impossible to navigate. Since the parties come from radically different viewpoints, disagreements are inherent in the IEP process. In this session, participants will be provided with the road map, including turn by turn directions, to successfully understanding the various viewpoints and arrive at consensus in IEP team meetings. Using detailed handouts and video segments, Brian and Ashley will share their proven strategies and methods used to build collaboration and resolve special education disputes in a win-win manner for all parties. Their collaboration strategies include “Big Deal – Little Deal”, “Say What?!”, “The Language of Consensus”, “Making Homework Meaningful”, and “The Loop”. In addition to Ashley’s experience as a parents’ attorney, she spent 17 years working in schools and state departments, so she adds the school system perspective on how to speak so school staff truly hear what the parents are seeking. Parents and school staff will leave feeling empowered and informed to reroute their IEP meetings and any disputes to the pathway of collaboration and resolution.
Brian K. Gruber, Esq.; Ashley VanCleef, Esq., Attorneys, Law Office of Brian K. Gruber, P.C.

Brian heads up the Law Office of Brian K. Gruber, P.C., a DC area law firm dedicated to school law. Mr. Gruber has been representing children with special needs and their parents since 1997, is well known as a collaborative advocate who often is able to obtain the desired outcome for his clients without having to resort to adversarial and costly litigation.   Mr. Gruber is a nationally known speaker including the 2013, 2014, and 2015 LDA international conferences. Mr. Gruber is a member of the American Bar Association, Council for Exceptional Children, LDA, and COPAA.

Ashley is an experienced attorney and certified special educator. She has served as special education teacher, school and state level administrator, and school attorney. Prior to joining the Law Office of Brian K. Gruber, P.C., Ms. VanCleef led the compliance unit and served as the 504 Coordinator for the Montgomery County Public Schools in Maryland. Ms. VanCleef also works with multiple groups to provide training on legal requirements including being adjunct faculty at Morgan State University and a guest lecturer for other colleges. Ms. VanCleef is a member of the Maryland State Bar and Frederick Bar Association.

1-2 Preparing for College
This presentation describes strategies that parents can use and students can practice to develop skills necessary for a successful post-secondary transition. These include: executive function; self-advocacy; social skills; and independent living skills. The presentation introduces the concept of backwards design (McTighe and Wiggins) as it applies to teaching independent living skills. It will also cover the significant differences between supports under IDEA and ADA and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, so that participants have a clear understanding of the differences between supports in high school and college.
Janet Price, College Living Experience

Janet is the Regional Director of Community Education and Transition at College Living Experience. She holds a BA in International Affairs from The George Washington University and spent 10 years working with the U.S. Department of State, traveling internationally with two presidents. She began her second career in Special Education when her son was diagnosed as twice-exceptional, both gifted and learning disabled. Janet became a professional Educational Consultant and spent 9 years with a top consulting firm in the Washington, DC metro area. She has co-authored two books, Take Control of Asperger’s Syndrome, winner of the 2010 Legacy Book Award, and Take Control of Dyslexia, as well as numerous articles.

1-3 From Sorrow and Suffering to Joy and Grace
Whether you have a child with a disability or work with children with special needs and their families, it’s important to understand the challenges. We will define and discuss the psychological concept of “chronic sorrow” – recognizing the unique grieving process and emotional stress faced by the parents of children with disabilities is important. However, we will also explore the beauty and joy that can be found in these special children. The goals of this session are for parents to grow by understanding and naming the challenges they face and for those in disability ministry to better understand the families they serve.
John Wagner & Brad Mowry, YoungLife Capernaum

John is the Senior Vice President for the Greater New York Division of Young Life. He first joined Young Life in 1982 in Washington DC, later serving as the Regional Director of the DC Metro Region, and then as the Eastern Division Vice President. John earned his undergraduate degree from Wake Forest University and his Masters in Divinity from Fuller Theological Seminary. He was ordained in the PC-USA in 2003. In 2015 John published his first book about his son David, Perfect: Sacred Stories from the Heart of a Dad. John and his wife Gae live in New York City and have three children, Michael, Jessi and David.

Brad is a Coordinator for YoungLife’s ministry to children with disabilities. Brad oversees the ministry called Capernaum in the Eastern and Greater New York Divisions of YoungLife and has been on staff since 1999. He and his wife, Melissa, live in Grove City, PA and have 7 children. His only daughter, Hannah, has significant special needs and two of his sons were adopted from Ethiopia.

2-1 Challenging Behaviors: What They Mean and What to Do?
So your child doesn’t seem to act like the other children his or her age and it happens not just at home but in daycare, school, and at extracurricular events. Your first impulse is to deny this behavior, consider it a response to instigation from other kids, or blame it on how the teacher or coach is interpreting the situation. Deep down inside, you know that something isn’t quite right, but you have no idea what to do about it since everything you have tried in the past hasn’t worked. Let’s take a closer look at challenging behaviors: what they mean and what can be done about them. We’ll determine how these behaviors can be a clue to a foundational issue in a typically developing child and when a re-evaluation is indicated in a child with special needs. We’ll also talk about the key components of effective communication and how to be a strong advocate for your child.
Joni J. Johnson, MD, Pediatric Partners for Attention and Learning, Inc.

Dr. Joni is the Founder and Medical Director for Pediatric Partners for Attention and Learning in Stafford and Great Falls, VA, and also the Founder of CogSolid Athletics. A product of the United States Military Academy and Albert Einstein College of Medicine, Dr. Johnson has spent her 18 year career caring for military families. The last 9 years have been dedicated exclusively to helping individuals reach their fullest potential. Through her multi-disciplinary clinic and athletic program, Dr. Johnson hopes to forever change the way we diagnosis, treat, think about, and encourage individuals with ADHD, Autism and Learning Differences.

2-2 Supporting People with I/DD Toward Healthy SexualityNavigating the path towards sexual and relational maturity brings both challenges and opportunities. This workshop will provide practical insights and strategies to assist young people with I/DD in their growth towards becoming sexually healthy adults. We will address misconceptions about sexuality, sexual and relational boundaries, private and public behavior, problematic sexual behaviors, dating, and preparation for marriage. Opportunities for questions and discussion will be woven into the presentation structure.
Dr. Russell Kinkade, Executive VP, Shepherds Ministries; Laura Pollard, Student Advisor and Instructor, Shepherds College; Lori Konopasek, Dean of Students, Shepherds College, Union Grove, Wisconsin

Dr. Russ is the Executive Vice President of Shepherds Ministries in Union Grove, Wisconsin. Instrumental in developing Shepherds’ philosophy of ministry entitled, Appropriate Independence™, Dr. Kinkade’s experience as both a psychologist and pastor provides a unique perspective on the needs of individuals with intellectual disabilities. In addition to his responsibilities at Shepherds, Dr. Kinkade maintains a small private counseling practice and is an adjunct instructor at Trinity International University (REACH) and Judson University (Graduate Program).

Laura serves as a Student Advisor and Instructor at Shepherds College, one of the nation’s premier post-secondary schools for young adults with intellectual disabilities in Union Grove, Wisconsin.   She received a Bachelor’s of Science in Special Education from Carson Newman College and ministry training from The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.  Laura is currently pursuing a Master’s of Arts and subsequent licensure in Professional Counseling from Concordia University.  Her passion is for students of all ability levels to realize their potential as God’s workmanship through the pursuit of independence.

Lori is the Dean of Students at Shepherds College. She was instrumental in the development of the social skills curriculum at Shepherds College and continues to provide leadership in student development and continuous improvement. Lori earned a Bachelor of Social Work and Master of Social Work. She is committed to the personal development and empowerment of individuals with disability in their pursuit of increased independence.

2-3 Protected Tomorrows: Eight Steps of Special Needs Planning
As family members of a person with a disability, we so often tend to view life in light of the challenges presented to us. Bringing You Protected Tomorrows looks at our lives in a whole new light, as Mary Anne Ehlert provides a passionate glimpse of her life with her sister, Marcia. The presentation will be uplifting, entertaining and educational, as well as provide a good basic understanding of some important facts. Participants will develop the foundation for their family’s own personal Eight Step Future Care Plan. Protected Tomorrows focus is on quality of life and peace of mind for the entire family. The Future Care Plan must be both practical and sustainable.
Mary Anne Ehlert CFP®, Protected Tomorrows Inc.

Mary Anne, President and Founder of Protected Tomorrows, is a financial professional and sister to an individual with disabilities. She is highly regarded as a specialist in working with families of individuals with disabilities and the elderly and speaks to conferences and television audiences on financial planning. As President and Founder of Protected Tomorrows, Inc., Mary Anne serves as a member of the Board of Directors of several organizations providing services to children and adults with special needs, including; National Disability Institute in Washington D.C. and Illinois Special Olympics. She also serves on the Advisory Board of Integrative Touch for Kids.

3-1 Where Will My Child Live? Housing Options for Adults with Special Needs
Do you want to know more about innovative housing models and support options for adults with special needs? This session will present the pros & cons of the broad array of housing and support opportunities nationwide: transitional programs, supported living, group homes, adult foster care, shared living, planned communities, and working farm/ranches. Learn about the public supports available and the challenges faced, while hearing stories that demonstrate how local communities can work together to turn a housing vision into a housing option. In order to meet the housing and support demand, a national movement of organizations and families is facilitating increased development of housing options in local communities. This session will conclude with practical steps to begin your journey of home and community planning for you or your loved one. A brief introduction to the interactive Autism Housing Network will introduce you to a tool you can use to explore more housing resources. Whether you or a loved one with disabilities is ready to move or you’re new to the idea of life in adulthood, this session will give you the information needed to determine what home setting and service delivery model that may be the best fit.
Desiree Kameka, Madison House Autism Foundation

Desiree is the Director of Community Engagement and Housing Network for the Madison House Autism Foundation. Her work focuses on researching housing issues, leading advocacy efforts, and presenting at local and national gatherings. She visits residential communities and social enterprises nationwide to highlight their unique victories and learning curves, while sharing stories of residents with autism and other developmental disabilities. Desiree is the project lead for the Autism Housing Network and National Coordinator of the Coalition for Community Choice. Her passion is to empower communities by offering small group consultations for forming projects so they can create a future that is joyful and life-affirming for those of all abilities.

3-2 Straight Talk and Tips for Coping with StressResearch shows that the stress level of parents raising kids with autism is close to that of combat veterans, This workshop briefly explores both why raising kids with special needs is stressful and why parents seldom acknowledge their daily, ongoing stress. The majority of the workshop will summarize practical strategies parents can implement to cope with and reduce stress, discuss when to seek professional help, and review therapy options proven to effectively minimize stress.
Jolene Philo, Author and Speaker, Different Dream Living

Jolene is the parent of a child with medical special needs and grew up in a family that cared for her father with multiple sclerosis for almost four decades. She’s a former educator with twenty-five years of public school experience and the author of five books about special needs and caregiving. She speaks at special needs ministry and foster care conferences around the country and abroad. She hosts DifferentDream.com, a blog about parenting children with special needs. Jolene and her husband live in Boone, Iowa, and in her free time, she enjoys walking, reading, and hanging out with her three adorable grandchildren.

3-3 Parenting Special Siblings
This interactive session opens a dialogue about the challenges, disappointments, advantages and opportunities of being a sibling in a family affected by disability. It is led by Lisa Jamieson, the mother of three adult children and author of Finding Glory in the Thorns. Lisa is joined by her adult daughters Alex and Erin who share candid perspectives about growing up with a sibling who has Angelman Syndrome which involves chronic health issues and severe developmental disabilities. Discussion topics will include sibling conflict, balancing attention, grief processing, dealing with social stigmas and misunderstanding, family vacations and managing stress. Participants will leave encouraged with basic principles and numerous practical ideas about how to enjoy more victories and deeper graces despite the reality of weaknesses in every family.
Lisa Jamieson, Walk Right In Ministries; Alex Jamieson; Erin Jamieson

Lisa is a national speaker, author, consultant and advocate who serves as Executive Director of Walk Right In Ministries and leads Minnesota’s Disability Ministry Connection. Her books include Finding Glory in the Thorns and Living Your Glory Story. She is also creator of the Finding Glory small group curriculum, a favorite of caregivers and others wanting Christ-centered discussion through challenges. Lisa and husband Larry have three adult daughters. Her daughter, Carly, has Angelman Syndrome and lives at home. Their story has been featured on Words to Live By, 100 Huntley Street and My Refuge Radio Belize.

Alex is a senior audit assistant at Deloitte (Minneapolis). Active in her church and as a community soccer coach, Alex also volunteers with Walk Right In Ministries as an occasional speaker and regular encourager to families experiencing special needs. She is the oldest sibling to a sister who has Angelman Syndrome. During her high school years, Alex worked as a personal care assistant and has since become a strong advocate for her sister Carly and others who experience disabilities. In her blog “Authentically Alex,” she reflects on a range of topics from setting goals to dealing with life’s transitions.

Erin is a singer-songwriter and worship leader. Her songwriting, blogging, and speaking is often inspired by challenges and insights experienced growing up in a family affected by disability. The title cut from her debut EP Without the Dark is featured in the movie Season of Miracles about a baseball player with autism. Erin is a senior at Belmont University in Nashville where she recently performed in the 2017 Christian Showcase. Her latest release No Dream Too Big is available on NoiseTrade. Erin’s youngest sister has Angelman Syndrome

3-4 Overlooked: Healthcare Transition From the Peds Office to Adult
If you have a teenager or young adult with special needs, you won’t want to miss this important presentation on successfully managing their healthcare as they transition to adulthood. Research shows that most youth and their families are unprepared for the change from the pediatrician’s office to the adult system. This critical aspect of transition planning is necessary so youth with disabilities or complex healthcare needs can make a safe transfer to adult care. The good news is that, with planning, much can be done early to facilitate a safe and successful healthcare transition.
Linda Starnes, PEART-Parent/Family Education & Advocacy Resources & Training

Linda is a seasoned family advocate and the parent of two young adults with varying abilities and significant healthcare needs. Due to their complex care needs, she managed 24-hour home nursing care, worked with physicians and therapists in fifteen medical specialties, and oversaw over 40 hospitalizations or surgeries for her children. Now, both are successfully “launched” in their respective college and career lives. Linda serves on multiple academic, healthcare, and disability-related boards; presents at conferences across the country; has been honored with a variety of awards; and her family has been featured in several filmed presentations, books, and articles. Through her work with the Healthcare Transition Workgroup of the Southeast Regional Genetics Collaborative and the Advisory Council of Miami University’s Mailman Child Development Center, Linda is highly informed on issues surrounding special healthcare transition.

4-1 Building Skills to Pay the Bills
I believe that everyone one of us rises to the level of expectation placed upon us.  So often individuals with intellectual disabilities are not given the opportunities to grow into the person they are capable of becoming because they are not given the opportunity to fail.   Does your teenage or young adult have any household responsibilities right now?  If not, why not?  Do they volunteer in the community without your supervision?  Are there small jobs that they can take on today to help build the skills for having more responsibility in the future?  I will suggest some very specific goals for you establish to begin working towards future independence for your son or daughter.
Ellen W. Graham, Every1 Can Work /Cameron’s Chocolates

Ellen is a fully certified substitute teacher for Fairfax County, working exclusively with the Special Education classes at The Davis Center, which is part of Marshall High School in Falls Church, VA. Ellen holds a BS and an MBA in Finance from George Washington University and was an executive with First Virginia Bank before leaving to raise her family. She served as treasurer for Lift Me Up during a two-year span when the organization raised funds and acquired a $1million+ barn and indoor riding facility for their therapeutic horseback-riding program. Ellen has a long record of successful advocacy for the disabled and currently chairs the Davis Family Group. She and her husband, Jim, started Cameron’s Chocolates for their daughter, Cameron, who has special needs, after she graduated from the Davis Center with a keen interest in food and catering. Ellen currently focuses all of her work efforts on Cameron’s Chocolates, the first business enterprise of the non-profit foundation, Every 1 Can Work.

4-2 Challenge and Opportunity – Developing Self-Advocates
Life is not without challenges, especially for those with disabilities. While parents cannot always be there to protect and guide youth, it is essential to help youth develop resilience. In that process development of effective and meaningful self-advocacy is essential, particularly for youth in transition.  Learn more about how to instill these skills, the importance of presuming competence, and providing opportunities for practice, with takeaways on how to view challenges differently.
Katie Smith, Youth Leadership Assistant, PEAL Center, Pittsburgh, PA

Katie is a teacher, speaker, advocate and an athlete. At the PEAL Center, Katie works in youth leadership development with the Leadership, Empowerment, and Advocacy Program (LEAP), to educate and empower youth with disabilities and special healthcare needs in transition to adulthood. Katie received a Bachelor of Arts degree in psychology with certifications in elementary and special education. She has substitute taught in K-12 classrooms, served as Ms. Wheelchair Pennsylvania 2013, and competed internationally in quadriplegic rugby.

4-3 Yes You Can!  Fitness for Those with Special Needs
The challenges facing those with special needs include significantly higher obesity rates; poorer overall health; lack of regular activity and exercise; and in some cases, lower expectations from family, caregivers, and school. All of these factors contribute to unhealthy lifestyles, higher health care costs, and more burden on family and caregivers. Parents of children and teenagers with special needs know the importance of keeping their children active and motivated. Learn how to incorporate regular exercise and other fitness activities that can help your child internalize the benefits of a healthier life. Hear about a study conducted by Cleveland State University last year, which provided evidence of specific benefits of exercise, using a sample group of individuals with special needs. 

Tony D’Orazio, Jacob’s Ladder Special Needs Fitness, Strongsville, OH

Tony has over 25 years marketing and sales in the field of disability management. Prior to that, he spent 5 years in a residential treatment center working as a cottage parent, case manager, and teacher for behaviorally challenged teens. He is a former athlete and fitness enthusiast (most of the time) and a member of the national Semi-Pro Football Hall of Fame. He is the father of a 16-year old son with special needs, Jacob, who was born in 2000. In 2012 Tony began an exercise program at Grace Church for children and teenagers with special needs, and in  2015 he founded Jacob’s Ladder Special Needs Fitness with his older son Ray. He has been married for 24 years, and he and his wife, Karen, have 2 sons, 1 daughter and  5 grandchildren.

4-4 Strategies for Multi-Tasking Moms
The moms of children with special needs must wear many hats. Often there is just too much to do in too little time. Hear practical tips and strategies that will help you navigate the busy life that is part of your unique situation. Learn how to set priorities and work through your daily plan, leading to greater joy and less anxiety as the mother of your special child.
Ginny Mooney, Co-Founder, 99 Balloons

Ginny and her husband Matt founded 99 Balloons, Inc. in 2007. 99 Balloons refers to what was released at the funeral of her first son, Eliot Mooney- each balloon representing a day he spent on this earth. Among the many gifts Eliot brought his parents was a passion to help children with special needs and their families. Their desire is to change the story of disability by proclaiming the worth and image-bearing beauty of each and every human being. Ginny lives in Fayetteville, AR where she manages the beautiful chaos produced in their home by Lena, Hazel and Anders.