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Conference Faculty

2022 Events - Color Bar

Communication Strategies for Autism: Supporting Engagement, Self-Advocacy, and Transitions

November 30–December 12, 2022 | Online Conference

Madeline Auge, PhD, is a postdoctoral clinical psychology fellow at the Vanderbilt Kennedy Center’s Treatment and Research Institute for Autism Spectrum Disorders (TRIAD). She earned her PhD in school psychology from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, and completed her predoctoral psychology internship at the Marcus Autism Center in Atlanta. Madeline is currently involved in the Leadership in Neurodevelopmental Disabilities (LEND) Program and is developing an extensive online resource for early intervention providers to learn about neurodiversity and how it can be applied into practice. Madeline’s clinical interests include school-age autism assessments and behavioral consultation with schools.

Financial Disclosures:

  • Financial compensation from ASHA for this presentation

Nonfinancial Disclosures:

  • None

Elizabeth E. Biggs, PhD, is an assistant professor in the Department of Special Education at Vanderbilt University and a member of the Vanderbilt Kennedy Center. Her work focuses on understanding how to promote the inclusion and flourishing of children and youth with autism, intellectual disabilities, and other developmental disabilities who have complex communication needs and/or use augmentative and alternative communication (AAC). Dr. Biggs conducts research focused on promoting strong social, communication, and language/early literacy outcomes for children and youth who have complex communication needs, in both school and home settings. Dr. Biggs has worked extensively with students with autism, intellectual disability, and other developmental disabilities across different settings, including as a former elementary special education teacher on the Navajo Nation in New Mexico. Her research is applied in nature, and she is particularly interested in understanding the complex factors that influence implementation and sustainment of effective AAC-related interventions by stakeholders in natural settings, including through the use of mixed and multiple research methods. Dr. Biggs’ research has received funding from the Institute of Education Sciences (IES) and the Spencer Foundation, and she has published widely across the fields of special education and communication sciences and disorders.

Financial Disclosures:

  • Salaried faculty member in the Department of Special Education at Vanderbilt University
  • Research funding related to the content of this presentation from the Institute of Education Sciences (IES) National Center for Special Education Research (NCSER) 
  • Financial compensation from ASHA for this presentation

Nonfinancial Disclosures:

  • None

Belinda Daughrity, PhD, CCC-SLP, is an assistant professor in the Department of Speech-Language Pathology at CSULB. She completed her BA in English and Spanish at Spelman College, earned her MA in Speech-Language Pathology and Audiology at NYU, and earned her PhD in Education with a specialization in Human Development and Psychology at UCLA. Her research interests include social skills and parent involvement in children with autism spectrum disorder, as well as barriers to early access to diagnosis and treatment of autism in communities of color. Additionally, she is interested in issues of cultural competence for speech-language pathologists. She has presented at numerous conferences both nationally and abroad, including ASHA Convention, the International Society for Autism Research meeting, the California Speech Language Hearing Association, and the National Black Association for Speech-Language and Hearing conference. She has more than 15 years of experience in clinical treatment and diagnosis of individuals with autism across the life span.

Financial Disclosures:

  • Financial compensation from ASHA for this presentation
  • Some content presented includes material from the upcoming textbook titled, Autism Spectrum Disorders From Theory to Practice (Wiley and Sons, 2022), of which Daughrity serves as first author 

Nonfinancial Disclosures:

  • None

Alexa Dixon, PhD, is currently a postdoctoral psychology fellow at the Vanderbilt Kennedy Center’s Treatment and Research Institute for Autism Spectrum Disorders (TRIAD). She earned her PhD in school psychology from the University of Florida and completed her predoctoral psychology internship at Geisinger Medical Center/Geisinger’s Autism & Developmental Medicine Institute. Alexa is a current Leadership in Neurodevelopmental Disabilities (LEND) Program trainee and is working to develop a comprehensive online resource (“Toolkit”) for early intervention and early childhood providers to learn about self-determination. Alexa’s clinical and research interests include screening and early diagnostic evaluation practices for autism.

Financial Disclosures:

  • Financial compensation from ASHA for this presentation

Nonfinancial Disclosures:

  • None

Anna Dvortcsak, MS, CCC-SLP, is a speech-language pathologist in private practice in Portland, Oregon, and one of the developers of the Project ImPACT Curriculum. She provides consulting, parent training, and individual speech and language services to families and children with autism. Anna has experience developing interventions for children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), conducting research on the efficacy of treatment methodologies for children with ASD, presenting information on treatments for children with ASD, and training professionals to use Naturalistic Developmental Behavioral Interventions. Anna co-developed and authored Teaching Social Communication to Children with Autism (Project ImPACT), an internationally recognized parent training curriculum for children with ASD.

Financial Disclosures:

  • Royalties from Guilford Publications for sale of the Project ImPACT curriculum and the Beginner Project ImPACT eCourse and online tutorial
  • Speaking fees when conducting workshops on Project ImPACT and consultation fees when training individuals to use Project ImPACT
  • Financial compensation from ASHA for this presentation

Nonfinancial Disclosures:

  • None

Dena Gassner, MSW, PhD(C), is an appointed member to the Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee (IACC), providing recommendations to the White House regarding autism research funding. She is the co-chair of the Autistic Researcher Committee (ARC) for the International Society for Autism Research (INSAR). She is a member of the ARC Review Board for the Autism Intervention Research Network in Physical Health (AIR-P) and is a member of the AIR-P Gender, Sexuality and Healthcare Node. In her 8th year on the board of directors for the Arc US, she served 4 years as the chair of the National Council for Self-Advocates and has moved from the Policy Committee to the Access, Equity and Inclusion Committee. She has published multiple book chapters and journal articles, and her presentations include NYU London, The United Nations (Geneva and US) (autism + aging, disparities for autistic women, and autistic motherhood/reproductive health care access), Cambridge, University of Birmingham, Russia, Fonden Samrådet-Denmark and Scotland among other places. In 1999 she was awarded the Cathy Pratt Professional of the Year Award from Autism Society of America and seeks to live an authentic life as an autistic woman. Her work is inspired by the accomplishments of her son, Patrick.

Financial Disclosures:

  • Financial compensation from ASHA for this presentation

Nonfinancial Disclosures:

  • None

Carly Blustein Gilson, PhD, is an assistant professor of special education in the Department of Educational Psychology at Texas A&M University in College Station, Texas. She is the founding faculty director of Aggie ACHIEVE, an inclusive postsecondary education program and a comprehensive transition program for young adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Dr. Gilson provides oversight for the Aggie ACHIEVE staff and leads the research and long-term vision for the program. She is the principal investigator of the Transition Programs for Students with Intellectual Disabilities (TPSID) model demonstration grant from the U.S. Department of Education (Cohort 3, 2020–2025). Dr. Gilson received her PhD in special education from Vanderbilt University, with an emphasis on Severe Disabilities and Transition. Her research interests include preparing adolescents and young adults with IDD for integrated employment and inclusive higher education; supporting individuals and families through school-to-work transition; and equipping strong educational team collaborations among secondary special education teachers and paraprofessionals. Prior to pursuing doctoral studies, Dr. Gilson worked as a special education teacher in Atlanta. Dr. Gilson teaches courses in the special education undergraduate program, and graduate programs, focused on low-incidence disabilities, school-to-work transition, and historical foundations of special education.

Financial Disclosures:

  • Financial compensation from ASHA for this presentation

Nonfinancial Disclosures:

  • None

Leisa Hammett first realized she was a champion for the underdogs of life when she was 16. She channeled her warrior mindset into magazine and wire service journalism as her career. She later branched into other aspects of the communications industry, including a small concept-to-publication business in Atlanta. But her only child’s diagnosis of moderately severe autism, intellectual disabilities, ADHD, and severe speech-language disorder catapulted her underdog-championing energies into disability advocacy. The bold theme that’s characterizes the last quarter of a century of that journey is how she, as a single mother, and her daughter, could live a whole, healthy, and supported life and mine joy amid inevitable life challenges. For her daughter, Grace Goad, a whole life encompasses a passion for visual art, discovered when she was 4 years old. Grace began receiving national attention for her work around age 10. She has been featured on “The View” and in The New York Times, among numerous local, state, national, and international television news programs, newspapers, and magazines, and in and on the covers of books. Her work is in private collections, including the Tennessee State Museum, Vanderbilt University Medical Center, and others. She has been commissioned by West Elm and has exhibited in Washington, D.C., New York, Seattle, North Carolina, and Massachusetts. She is represented in Nashville and greater Los Angeles galleries as well as online at GraceGoad.com, ArtLifting.com, and on Facebook and Instagram as Grace Goad Autism Art. A consummate clotheshorse, Grace also works part time at TJ Maxx. For the last 5 years, Leisa has worked for a Nashville-based state disability advocacy agency, most recently in public policy. This fall she will pivot back into writing, managing Grace’s art business, coaching families of loved ones on the necessity of self-care, consulting with families on transition to adulthood, and speaking and working on her forthcoming books, including Grace in the Time of Corona: Autism, Resilience & Joy, due out in 2023. 

Financial Disclosures:

  • Financial compensation from ASHA for this presentation

Nonfinancial Disclosures:

  • Maintains a website at LeisaHammett.com

Ashley Wiley Johnson, PhD, CCC-SLP, is Vice President of Los Angeles Speech & Language Therapy Center, a family-owned small business founded more than 43 years ago that is at the forefront of working with people with autism and other special needs across the life span. A second-generation speech-language pathologist, Ashley manages licensed SLPs, therapists, and behaviorists serving clients in early intervention programs, social skills classes, summer programs, employment readiness programs, and typical and therapeutic preschool programs across five sites within Los Angeles County. As part of her practice, she consults with school districts and charter schools to help improve their delivery of speech and language-based services to students with special needs. She has focused on the overidentification of African American and Latino students classified for special education services, created innovative pathways to service delivery for people with autism across the life span, forged partnerships between public school systems and private practice settings, and brought traditional speech treatment methods into the classroom setting to encourage facilitation and increased development in students with speech and language delays. She is co-author of Autism Spectrum Disorders:From Theory to Practice, a new text book for interventionists, which will be released internationally in fall 2022.

Financial Disclosures:

  • Financial compensation from ASHA for this presentation

Nonfinancial Disclosures:

  • None

Abigail Leofsky, MS, CCC-SLP, is a pediatric speech-language pathologist in the Vanderbilt Bill Wilkerson Center at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville, Tennessee. She is a practicing clinician, focusing in the center's Preschool for Children with Autism as a lead SLP in one of four classrooms. In the clinic, Abigail serves children of all ages, with focuses in autism spectrum disorder, AAC, and language disorders in children with limited English proficient background. She also supervises graduate students in the master's program at Vanderbilt University.

Financial Disclosures:

  • Salaried employee of the Vanderbilt Bill Wilkerson Center
  • Financial compensation from ASHA for this presentation

Nonfinancial Disclosures:

  • None

Mary Ann McIntyre, BCBA, is a Board Certified Behavior Analyst and was, for many years prior, a licensed and credentialed speech-language pathologist. Her primary professional focus has been on the identification and treatment of all ages of individuals with significant neurodiverse needs (autism and other diagnoses that involve social, behavioral, and cognitive differences). Prior to her current position, Mary Ann has served as a member of university developmental teams, a supervisor in a residential facility, an at-risk infant/toddler consultant, a graduate-level clinical instructor and adjunct professor, the first coordinator of Vanderbilt’s Autism Program (Communication Sciences Department), an independent autism consultant, and a statewide co-coordinator for the Behavior Support Specialists (Arkansas Department of Education, Division of Special Education). She is honored to have been chosen in mid-2019 as the inaugural Director of Clinical Services for SLS Community (Supporting Lifelong Success) in Fayetteville, Arkansas, after having served as a prior Board Member. SLS Community’s mission is to create a thriving and productive community through our fully integrated live, work, and play solutions for neurodiverse adults. We believe strongly that together with the surrounding community we can create a world where ALL flourish.

Financial Disclosures:

  • Financial compensation from ASHA for this presentation

Nonfinancial Disclosures:

  • None

Chloe Rothschild is a young adult with autism, who is on a mission to advocate and teach others about autism from her perspective. Chloe is a co-author of the My Interoception Workbook for Teens, Adolescents, and Adults. She also serves on the Arc of the United States national board and the Ohio Center for Autism and Low Incidence (OCALI) advisory board. Chloe works as a teacher's aide at an autism school 3 days a week. Chloe is passionate about advocating about a variety of topics related to autism from her perspective, including communication and AAC, her journey, Sensory, Interoception, and more. When Chloe is not presenting or working, she enjoys spending time with her friends and family, participating in adaptive ice skating and dog agility for individuals with autism.

Financial Disclosures:

  • Financial compensation from ASHA for this presentation

Nonfinancial Disclosures:

  • None

Kenton Odaniel Shaw (Daniel), MS, CCC-SLP, is a pediatric SLP who serves as a lead SLP in the Preschool for Children with Autism and on the Autism Diagnostic team at the Vanderbilt Bill Wilkerson Center in Nashville, Tennessee. Prior to his role at Vanderbilt, Daniel served a variety of ages, school settings, and programs in Metro Nashville Public Schools. While he has served preschool, school-age, and teens with autism throughout his career, he is most passionate about working with the toddler and preschool populations. Daniel's primary hope is to encourage clinicians and families to prioritize social engagement with children with autism in naturalistic settings as the pathway to access all other competency areas. Other areas of specialty include stuttering across the life span, play development, screen time, and parent coaching. He has presented regionally and nationally on topics ranging from screen time and autism to neurodiversity as it relates to stuttering and autism.

Financial Disclosures:

  • Salaried employee of the Vanderbilt Bill Wilkerson Center
  • Financial compensation from ASHA for this presentation

Nonfinancial Disclosures:

  • None

Eric Shyman, EdD, is an Associate Professor of Child Study at St. Joseph's College, New York. He is the author of five books and over 30 national and international peer-reviewed articles, as well as an avid presenter on the topic of autism, social justice, educational history and philosophy, cultural responsiveness, neuroscience, and inclusive education. He received his doctorate from Teachers College, Columbia University, from which he was also awarded the 2014 Early Career Award.

Financial Disclosures:

  • Financial compensation from ASHA for this presentation

Nonfinancial Disclosures:

  • None

Lisa Wallace, MS, CCC-SLP, is a speech-language pathologist who has specialized in working with with children with autism for the past 25 years. Currently, she oversees treatment funded through research studying the effects of intensive ABA services and parent training with toddlers with autism and develops and provides training for school-based SLPs around best practices with students with ASD.

Financial Disclosures:

  • Financial compensation from ASHA for this presentation

Nonfinancial Disclosures:

  • None

Lauren Weaver, MS, BCBA, works as a Board-Certified Behavior Analyst in Pediatrics and Director of Community Engagement for Vanderbilt Kennedy Center’s Treatment and Research Institute for Autism Spectrum Disorders (TRIAD) in Nashville, Tennessee. Lauren is the founder of the All-Access Inclusion Network—an innovative partnership to create a community network of self-advocates, arts, education, athletic, entertainment, and disability organizations—that works to promote full inclusion of neurodiverse people. Lauren also coordinates TRIAD’s behavioral coaching and consultation services throughout the state of Tennessee under a grant contract funded by the Tennessee Department of Education. ​

Financial Disclosures:

  • Financial compensation from ASHA for this presentation

Nonfinancial Disclosures:

  • None
"I appreciated the diversity of the presenters, including having presenters who are autistic or are a caregiver of an autistic individual."
Rebecca Peixoto, MA, CCC-SLP, ATP, Past Participant

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