2019 AMF NATIONAL CONFERENCE 

SPEAKERS

Adam Morgan is a junior at Fort Zumwalt East High School. He is the oldest of four kids and a very protective big brother. Adam has autism as his Super Power and has broken down many barriers throughout his educational career. As a young man that is non-speaking, Adam has always had access to age level curriculum and is a great self-advocate for inclusion for all. He currently holds a 3.25 GPA and will be the first non-speaking student to take the ACT in his school district. Adam has spoken to many college classes, a Boy Scout troop, and at conferences. He plans on attending college and pursuing a career as an Author and Motivational Speaker. Adam has started his own YouTube channel called “Tech Talk With Adam Morgan” to help educate others in the field of disabilities and challenges the status quo!

Adam Morgan

High School Student

Dr. Morgan is a proud wife and mother of four amazing children! She received her Doctorate in Education with an emphasis in Andragogy from Lindenwood University in 2017. Dr. Morgan holds a master’s degree in Education with an emphasis in early intervention in Autism & Sensory Impairments.  She became Internationally Certified as an Autism Specialist in Jan. of 2014.  Dr. Morgan founded a non-profit organization called the Adam Morgan Foundation (AMF) in 2008.  AMF is dedicated to creating inclusive opportunities for individuals with autism and/or other co-occurring conditions within all aspects of their lives through education, awareness, access to communication preference, and technology. Dr. Morgan is the Owner/CEO of Consultants for Community (CFC), LLC.  CFC is an educational consulting business in the field of disabilities which assists parents, providers, and educators to collaborate and effectively problem solve in the educational planning of students as well as planning for the future.  As a national speaker & published author of “Building Forever Friendships – Strategies to Help Your Friend with Autism or Other Special Needs at School,” Dr. Morgan’s expertise and research focuses on inclusion of all students at school, home, their neighborhood, and the greater community.   

Rachel C. Morgan, Ed.D., CAS

Author, National Speaker – Owner/President & CEO, Adam Morgan Foundation/Consultants for Community

General & Breakout Sessions

BELIEVING IN ADAM:

A Mother & Son’s Journey out of a Prison of Doubt

Join this Mother and Son duo on their journey navigating therapies, the educational system, family, and most important their own beliefs, values, and attitudes.  The biggest barrier to inclusion and success has nothing to do with individual strategies or the newest evidence-based intervention; it embodies something so much greater.  The secret to success starts within in all of us, are you ready to take a leap of faith?

Thomas Armstrong, Ph.D. is the Executive Director of the American Institute for Learning and Human Development, and an award-winning author and speaker who has been an educator for over forty years. Over 1.3 million copies of his books are in print in English on issues related to learning and human development.

His books have been translated in ninety foreign editions into twenty-eight languages, including Spanish, Chinese, Hebrew, Danish, and Russian.

He has written for Ladies Home Journal, Family Circle (where he received awards from the Educational Press Association, and the National Association of Secondary School Principals, Parenting (where he was a regularly featured columnist for four years), Mothering (where he was a contributing editor), The AMA Journal of Ethics, many other periodicals, journals, and edited books.

He has appeared on several national and international television and radio programs, including NBC’s “The Today Show,” “CBS This Morning,” “CNN,” the “BBC” and “The Voice of America.”

Articles featuring his work have appeared in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, USA Today, Investor’s Business Daily, Good Housekeeping, and hundreds of other newspapers and magazines around the country.

Dr. Armstrong has given over 1000 keynotes, workshop presentations, and lectures on six continents in 29 countries, and 44 states in the past thirty years. His clients have included Sesame Street, the Bureau of Indian Affairs, the European Council of International Schools, the Republic of Singapore, and several state departments of education.

Thomas Armstrong, Ph.D

Keynote Speaker

Keynote

Neurodiversity in the Classroom:

Strength-Based Strategies to Help Students with Special Needs Achieve Success in School and Life

This keynote will argue for a major paradigm shift in special education by proposing that we look at students with special needs (including ADHD, learning disabilities, autism spectrum disorders, intellectual disabilities, and emotional and behavioral disorders) in terms of their “diversities” rather than “their disabilities.”  Dr. Armstrong will introduce the concept of neurodiversity (originally developed in the autism community) as a strength-based approach that can positively transform the lives of students with special needs. After presenting five basic principles of neurodiversity based on recent findings in neuroscience, evolutionary psychobiology, and social history, he will devote the greater part of the keynote to seven practical components of ”positive niche construction” that can be used to help students with special needs flourish in the classroom: strength awareness, positive role models, assistive technologies/Universal Design for Learning tools, strength-based learning strategies, enhanced social networks, positive environmental modifications, and affirmative career aspirations.  Dr. Armstrong will conclude with a description of what an IEP meeting might look like if the student happened to be a young Leonardo da Vinci. 

Workshop

Workshop:

The Power of the Adolescent Brain: 

Strategies for Teaching Middle and High School Students

This workshop will begin by presenting eight key neuroscience research findings concerning how the adolescent brain develops. It will then provide an experiential introduction to the teen years by having participants fill out an inventory and share in small group their own adolescent attitudes, behaviors, and experiences (the better to empathize with their students).  After this, the workshop will look at specific vulnerabilities associated with the teenage years (including suicide, traffic accidents, substance abuse, violence etc.) and examine how these factors influence brain development. The core of the workshop will include a detailed look at eight key interventions that secondary schools need to integrate into their classrooms based upon the last twenty years of neuroscience research on the adolescent brain, including: opportunities to choose, self-awareness activities, peer learning connections, affective learning, learning through the body, metacognitive learning, expressive arts activities, and real world experiences.  For each intervention, several practical strategies will be presented (for example, for ‘’opportunities to choose’’ selected strategies will include homework options, student polling, passion projects, student voice initiatives, and independent study opportunities).  The total number of strategies presented will vary from thirty to fifty depending upon whether it is a half-day or full-day workshop.  Finally, sample lesson plans based on using the eight interventions (and accompanying strategies) will be presented, and time will be taken to engage in whole group and small group brainstorming where additional lesson plan ideas will be constructed based upon participants’ own classroom objectives and goals.

Kennedy is a model, actress, and dancer. Having Down Syndrome and being a survivor of childhood cancer, she has not let anything hold her back. She talks about what it means to Be Who You Are! Kennedy recently launched her clothing line and has been featured in numerous independent films. Kennedy leaves her audience feeling empowered and ready to take on the world!


Lori Kay Fierro works one on one with individuals with a disability on life skills, helping them and their families reach the goals that will result in the independence they want. Lori has created numerous programs to help create a more inclusive world.

Kennedy Garcia & Lori Kay Fierro

Life Skills & Communication Consultant, New Mexico

General & Breakout Sessions

Eight Limbs of Inclusion

Creating a path of independence through the Eight Limbs of Inclusion that give parents and support systems the tools they can use in the real world!

Sam Kuhnert was born with one hand, but that has never stopped him from embracing God’s purpose for him. When people used to ask Sam about his limb-difference, he’d smile and answer, “Because God said I didn’t need an ‘extra’ hand!” Owning his difference made all the difference in his ability to move forward with confidence in sports, even after many said he’d never play outside of rec level. Sam spends every single day working with kids and making real changes in their lives.

Sam Kuhnert

Founder/President,

NubAbility Athletics Foundation

DuQuoin, IL.

General & Breakout Sessions

Be a Game Changer in School and in Life

A motivational talk based on Sam’s experiences in school overcoming adversity in sport and life as a congenital amputee.

Rosemary Bell is a St. Louis Resident for 64 years Presently living in Blue Eye, MO I have been helping people with Reliv products for over 15 years. While we do not make health claims or claims of cures, we can share with others some of the results that people have received from taking the products. I have helped many children with autism as well as a multitude of other health issues.

Rosemary Bell

Reliv International Ambassador

Blue Eye, MO

Breakout Session

Nutrition and Autism

Reliv provides essential nutrients for children ages 2–12. Supports energy, mental performance, and healthy kids.

Dawn Hesse is a seasoned educator who has over 31 years of experience in special education. She currently works as a MU
Pre-Employment Transition Specialist. Dawn has been a Special Education teacher, Director of Special Education, Department Chair of Special Education and Coordinator of Special Education with an emphasis in Post-Secondary Transition and more recently
trauma-based initiatives in the public-school setting. Dawn believes that transition is the most vital piece in preparing students for life beyond their school years. Dawn earned her bachelor’s degree from the University of Missouri and master’s from Lincoln University with an emphasis in Administration. Dawn has received awards throughout her career in relationship to post-secondary transition. Dawn demonstrates a passion in the field and continues to pursue positive post-secondary outcomes for students.

Dawn Hesse

MU Pre-Employment Transition

Columbia, MO

Amy is an Assistant Director of Transition and 511 Services with Missouri Vocational Rehabilitation. She has over 12 years in the field of disability related and transition services. Amy has earned her bachelor’s degree in Psychology at Truman State University and her Master’s in Social Work at Saint Louis University. She is also a Licensed Clinical Social Worker in the State of Missouri.

Amy Siekerman

Assistant Director, Transition & 511 Services Missouri Division of Vocational Rehabilitation.

St. Louis, MO

Breakout Session

What’s Up with WIOA?

MU Pre-Employment Transition Service (Pre-ETS) offers no-cost pre-employment transition services provided to Missouri public school students with disabilities. These services are designed to make an impactful difference for more students at an earlier age which will lead to better coordination, enhanced communication, stronger collaboration, and increased successful post-school outcomes. This presentation will familiarize participants with the Federal Workforce Innovation and Opportunities Act (WIOA), school age services, sub-minimum wage settings, and increasing awareness around strengthened agency partnerships.

I have a passion for fitness and helping people of all age’s reach their goals. I attended Lindenwood University where I competed on a National level for 2 years. In 2010, I graduated from Lindenwood with a bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education, as well as received my master’s in education in 2014 with an Emphasis in Autism. I spent 8 years teaching in a private school for children with Autism, this is where my second passion was born. I fell in love with being a part of teaching these children with multiple diagnoses functional life skills that will set their future up to be as independent as possible. Over time, I noticed there was a high need for these individuals to move their bodies and found a way to bring my two passions together! I am currently a Level-1 Certified Cross-Fit trainer at Cross-Fit O’Fallon, where I train classes and one-on-one sessions of all ages and fitness levels. My passion is to help people learn to love the process of bettering themselves through functional fitness.

Stephanie Hoffman

Lead Trainer

O'fallon, MO

Breakout Session

Benefits of Functional Movement in Cross-Fit & Autism

My passion is to help people learn to love the process of bettering themselves through functional fitness.

Carolyn Mank is currently an Instructor and Certified Nurse Midwife for the Department of OB/GYN at Saint Louis University School of Medicine/SSM St. Mary’s Heath Center. She has facilitated Centering Pregnancy groups at St. Mary’s Health Center and is passionate about Trauma-Informed Care. As a parent of a child with special needs, her passion for midwifery care coalesced with supporting other parents who have children with different abilities. She currently facilitates a Special Needs Parenting group in St. Louis.

Carolyn Mank

St. Louis University

St. Louis, MO.

Breakout Session

Circling Up: Parenting Support Groups

For parents and caregivers of children and adults with special needs, the social and physical stressors can feel isolating. Evidence has shown that among this population there is an increase in adverse health and social outcomes for caregivers and parents.

Jennifer Medsker received her Bachelor of Arts degree in Psychology from Huntington University in Huntington, Indiana. She is the Center Director for Lindamood-Bell Learning Processes’ St. Louis Learning Center. Ms. Medsker’s mission is to see students' lives changed and spread Lindamood-Bell's passionate belief that all children and adults can be taught to read and comprehend. For the last thirteen years, she has held various positions within Lindamood-Bell while being based in the Indianapolis, IN, Petosky, MI, Stillwater, MN, and Sydney Australia Learning Centers, working directly with hundreds of individuals with learning difficulties, including those with dyslexia and autism spectrum disorder.

Jennifer Medsker

Lindamood-Bell

St. Louis, MO.

Breakout Session

The Imagery-Language Connection:

Improving Comprehension for Children with ASD

This presentation examines three sensory-cognitive functions—concept imagery, phonemic awareness, and symbol imagery—which affect language-processing skills, such as comprehension and reading. Many young children experience decoding spelling, or comprehension difficulties that may be the result of weaknesses in these underlying sensory-cognitive functions.

Scott’s personal mission is to transform a person with disabilities’ lifestyle at home and in the community into one that is safe, connected and collaborative with families. His business acumen ties to his experience as a financial planner, a business owner and a family care giver. Scott managed one of the Inc. 500’s Fastest Growing Financial Services Companies. His oversight included multiple geographies and 100 consultants. Scott developed and coordinated a comprehensive training program, as he has for SmartCare the past several years.

Scott Mosher

Founder and President, CMO

SmartCare

St. Peters, MO

Breakout Session

SmartCare for Assistive Technology:

Profound Insights to Reshape Daily Life

SmartCare captures a person’s activities of daily living continually, creating weekly wellness reports and daily stories. This allows for an independent quality of life for individuals as well as offers peace of mind for families and provides solutions to the growing challenges facing supportive living. Our technology provides 24/7 insight into the activities in the home that matter and can transform relationships and care. Individual’s families, guardians, and other interested parties may be allowed 24/7 access to monitor real time daily activities all while keeping the individuals privacy, integrity, and autonomy intact. Come hear stories of individuals who live better and more independently, thanks to SmartCare. And, we’ll report how it changed the lives of their families and friends.

A. Melissia Riddle, Esq. is the founding member of Riddle Law Group located in Chesterfield, Missouri. She received her Bachelor of Business Administration in Finance from the University of Texas at Austin in 1990, and her Juris Doctorate from the University of Texas School of Law in 1993. Melissia’s practice focuses on special needs planning, estate planning, probate and trust administration, and trust and estate litigation. Melissia has written and lectured extensively on the topics of guardianships, trust and estate litigation, trustee liability, and probate practice and procedure. She is a member of the Missouri Bar Association, the Colorado Bar Association, and the Texas Bar Association. She was named as a National Association of Professional Women’s Executive Woman of the Year for 2013. Melissia previously served on the Board of Directors for CASA in El Paso, Texas, for St. Louis OASIS, and currently serves on the Board of Directors of the Adam Morgan Foundation. This affiliation has led Melissia to a committed desire to assisting families with children with special needs in planning for their futures.

A. Melissia Riddle, Esq.

Founding Member of Riddle Law Group

AMF Board Member & Secretary

Chesterfield, MO

Breakout Session

Guardianship Alternatives:

Practical, Less Restrictive, Less Expensive Means to Assisting Adults with Special Needs

This session will examine the need for guardianships and conservatorships and the legal effects of same upon the rights of an individual. For many, simple alternatives can be utilized to avoid the necessity of obtaining guardianship of an adult child which are much less expensive, restrictive and intrusive, while also allowing the child to maintain all of his or her legal rights. Powers of attorney and other simple releases preserve all of the adult child’s rights, while allowing parents access and decision-making authority. In addition, there are no court costs or litigation fees, so the cost is a fraction of that in establishing a guardianship thorough the courts.

Todd Streff is the Executive Director of the Skills Center which is the first of its kind vocational training facility for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities. He is Board Certified and a Missouri Licensed Behavior Analyst who has a Master’s in Applied Behavior Analysis. Since 1994 he has been providing services to a variety of populations including children and adults with autism, dual diagnosis, traumatic brain injury, and typical development. His specializations are in the areas of early intervention for autism, training of school staff and parents, addressing challenging behaviors and startup of new training programs for individuals with disabilities. He has presented at state and national conventions, served as an adjunct faculty, and has conducted many workshops, staff trainings and invited lectures in the United States and internationally. He serves on the Missouri Association for Behavior Analysis board and chairs the Missouri Behavior Analyst Advisory Board.

Todd Streff

BCI Skills Center

St. Charles, MO

Breakout Session

Skills Center:

First of its kind Vocational Training & Job Placement!

The Skills Center is a first of its kind training and direct job placement center for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities which is designed to close the competitive employment gap!

Gabrielle Szarek oversees the St. Louis Arc’s Transition Services, supporting individuals to successfully transition from adolescence to young adulthood (16 to 26 years of age). In this role, Gabrielle effectively deploys supports in the areas of education, employment, independent living and social development. Gabrielle started as an intern with the Arc in 2012 and has worked in Leisure Services and Supported Employment before taking on her role as Director of Transition Services. Gabrielle holds a Bachelor of Science degree in child development and family studies from Missouri State University.

Gabriella Szarek

St. Louis Arc

St. Louis, MO

Breakout Session

Motivation Through Preparation

Transition-age young adults sometimes need extra guidance as they plan for their future. For someone with a disability, the steps and options may seem overwhelming. This presentation will give individuals, families, caregivers and professionals insight into ways to prepare for this transition and how to make it a positive experience.

HI, my name is Ellie Uebel, I am recently married, work at an equine therapy riding center and a support staff for an adult with Down Syndrome. I am also a self-advocate for Asperger’s Syndrome and General Anxiety Disorder. Ellie’s love for animals, especially horses, has led her to volunteer and work at Exceptional Equestrian, a therapeutic horsemanship organization.

Ellie Uebel

Self-Advocate

 AMF Board Member

St. Louis, MO

Breakout Session

Positive Boost of Animal Therapy

This session is about the numerous benefits of animal therapy. Primary focusing on equine therapy, the emotional, physical, and mental benefits. A better understanding of how a simple pet like a goldfish or exposure to animals can give something that humans cannot always: The chance to be heard without any judgement, the chance to be free to express oneself without any regret or remorse.

Michele and Aubrie Westmaas are a mother-daughter team on a mission to change the world one ExtraOrdinary person at a time. Aubrie is a 21-year-old student dreaming of Broadway. Despite a long list of challenges related to Kabuki syndrome, Aubrie is determined to enjoy the same ordinary opportunities and experiences as other young adults. When Aubrie was born, Michele became a full-time learner navigating medical issues, early intervention, special education, and disability rights. Michele has worked in a variety of statewide disability advocacy roles and currently coordinates a community college program for students with developmental disabilities.

Michele Westmaas

Co-Founder/Executive Director/Presenter

Expect ExtraOrdinary, Inc.

Pittsfield, IL

As a student in the Transitional Living Program at Illinois School for the Visually Impaired, Aubrie has the opportunity to grow in her adult independence. Aubrie is determined to enjoy the same opportunities and experiences as her peers. She has been fully included in her neighborhood school for all of her educational career except 2 years when she chose to commute daily to the nearby Illinois School for the Deaf. She returned to several camps every summer, was a top cookie-selling Girl Scout, has received a variety of school awards, was active in her church youth group, and participated in her high school drama productions, Quiz Bowl team, chorus and marching band. Aubrie was recognized as the 2014 Illinois Statewide Transition Conference Student of the Year.

Aubrie Westmaas

Co-Founder/Director of Outreach/Presenter

Expect ExtraOrdinary, Inc.

Pittsfield, IL

Breakout Session

All the World’s a Stage: Be Director of your Own Life!

Self-advocates, do you want to be the writer and director of your own life? Learn how to take charge of your future and build a team of supporters to help reach your goals. After this fun and interactive session, you will be ready to take charge! Allies join us to learn how to support those you love and care for to lead their own lives. Use our strategies to start making a difference tomorrow!

Omar is a Fraternal Insurance Counselor, Certified Long-Term Care Professional and Financial Professional with Thrivent.  At the age of 10, Omar began his life long journey of volunteering and giving of his time and talents towards non-profits.  Currently Omar is on the board of 2 local non-profits and 1 national non-profit.  In addition, Omar is the founder of the Apple A Day program whose mission is to empower lives by awarding an Apple iPad to a child with developmental disabilities every week.  Since its inception in January 2017, over 125 local families have witnessed a transformation in their children’s lives.  Focused on empowering others Omar Maldonado uses his talents to connect faith and finances for good.

Omar Maldonado

Thrivent Financial

St. Louis, MO

Breakout Session

Making a Difference: Sharing Time, Talent & Treasure

Chances are, you already share your time, talents and treasures. Now find out how to make intentional choices around your generosity that align with your values. Identify the values that are most important to you, explore ways to share your resources to make a difference and create your generosity plan.

I am Emma Eppard, founder of Autistic Able (2017), which provides Rapid Prompting Method Lesson Plans to Teach with Confidence. I am passionate about education holding a bachelor’s in early childhood education and Spanish. Since my son’s autism diagnosis in 2010, I have been reading and researching the best way to give him the most successful and independent life. In 2016, I attended training for Rapid Prompting Method (RPM) and became a RPM practitioner. I have worked one on one with many students of varying diagnosis in implementing this method of education.

Emma Eppard

Founder of Autistic Able

Greenville, Il.

Breakout Session

Our Journey of Rapid Prompting Method for Education and Motor Skills:

Our Children ARE Learning

Rapid Prompting Method is an education method, invented by Soma Mukhopadhyay, that has led to age appropriate education for my 10-year-old son with a diagnosis of severe autism. RPM is for any child with less than age appropriate verbal expression from nonverbal to hyperverbal. RPM goes beyond education to teaching motor skills for self-care, chores, and hobbies. Our children CAN and deserve a well-rounded life. At the end of this session, participants will be able to define RPM, understand the four learning channels, describe the disconnect between the cognitive brain and the body, and realize the importance of both education and motor skills of our children.

Nalini has been in practice since 2003, specializing in Special Needs, Elder Law, Estate Planning and Immigration. She is outside General Counsel for Phinix Group of Companies and serves as Alderperson for the City of Frontenac, Missouri. Her career started off as a corporate lawyer in India for five years before relocating to the U.S. She holds an undergraduate degree in accounting, a master’s degree in law from the University of Mumbai, India, an MBA from Washington University in St. Louis and obtained a JD from Saint Louis University. Nalini volunteers as an advisor to several local nonprofits, including The Arya Foundation, The Hindu Temple of St Louis, and victims of domestic violence. A 2014 graduate of Leadership St. Louis – she is now a member of the Board of Directors for FOCUS St. Louis. She taught Law Practice Management and Immigration Law as an Adjunct Professor at Saint Louis University School of Law. She was the chair of the Missouri Bar Immigration Committee and one of the founding members of the South Asian Bar Association of Metropolitan St Louis (SABA). Nalini is a member of American Immigration Law Association and the Bar Association of Metropolitan of St. Louis, Elder Counsel and Wealth Counsel.

Nalini Mahadevan

Attorney, MLO Law LLC

Clayton, MO.

Breakout Session

5 Things You Didn’t Know About ABLE Account

The presentation will cover the features of ABLE accounts. Find out about the impact of ABLE on public benefits as well as criteria/eligibility for ABLE account and how to use it with a Supplemental Needs Trust.

Casey DePriest, MT-BC, is the founder of Optimal Rhythms, Head of School for ACCESS Academy, and CEO of Integrative Music Therapy in Newburgh, Indiana. Casey has been a board-certified music therapist, specializing in ASD for over 20 years. Casey presents at local, regional, and national conferences and provides consultation and trainings to school districts, medical professionals, first responders, parents, and community members.

Casey DePriest

MT-BC, Founder, Optimal Rhythms, Inc.

Newburgh, IN

Breakout Session

Nonspeaking Autism: The War between the Body and the Brain

This presentation will highlight music, brain, and autism research that is challenging many parents, therapists, and educators, to “rethink” autism. Participants will explore the movement and sensory differences of autism and learn innovative neurologic techniques as support more functional movement, sensory regulation, and reliable communication in individuals with severe autism. This model and these support strategies are proving to change the forecast of educational opportunities, physical and mental healthcare services for individuals who were previously misunderstood, left behind, and underestimated. This presentation is intended to encourage participants to “rethink” autism and create innovative treatments to ameliorate therapeutic outcomes.

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