KEYNOTE: Amy Gravino

Portrait of Amy Gravino

9:00-10:15 a.m.

Autism is defined as a lifelong developmental disability that affects communication, social skills, and behavior, yet the image of autism that we see both in the medical community and popular culture tends to be almost entirely of children. By painting autism as something that only happens in childhood, we overlook and ignore a simple yet incredibly important truth: that autistic children grow up and become autistic adults. This presentation interweaves the limited knowledge that we have of autism in adulthood with one young woman’s personal story, and the journey her parents and she embarked on after she received the diagnosis of autism at age 11. Strategies for fostering interdependence in individuals on the spectrum will be discussed, as well as ideas for talking about and planning the future with, rather than for, your autistic children and clients.

Amy Gravino, MA, is an autism sexuality advocate and relationship coach in the Center for Adult Autism Services at Rutgers University. She is also the president of A.S.C.O.T Consulting, which offers autism consulting, college coaching, and mentoring services for organizations, schools, individuals on the autism spectrum, and their families. Amy is an international speaker who has given TED talks, spoken twice at the United Nations for World Autism Awareness Day, and presented worldwide to audiences on a variety of topics related to autism, with a dedicated special focus and research on the subject of autism and sexuality. Ms. Gravino obtained her master’s degree in applied behavior analysis from Caldwell University in 2010 and currently serves on the Boards of Directors of Specialisterne USA, Yes She Can, Inc. and the Golden Door International Film Festival of Jersey City, as well as the Scientific Advisory Board of Simons Foundation Powering Autism Research (SPARK). She is an award-winning writer whose work has been featured in “Spectrum,” the leading online news source for autism research, “Reader’s Digest,” special education textbooks, and other outlets. Visit to learn more.



Dr. Mark R. Dixon, BCBA-D

Portrait of Mark Dixon

10:30-11:30 a.m.

The presentation will showcase a variety of ways to bring ACT (Acceptance and Commitment Therapy) into K-12 classrooms. Dr. Dixon will showcase a variety of implementation techniques, from single-student interventions to school-wide cultural change processes. Get ready for an interactive presentation where you too will learn about the six behavior change processes of ACT, how to use them yourself, on yourself, and the students you work with.

Dr. Mark R. Dixon, BCBA-D, is professor and coordinator of the behavior analysis and therapy program at Southern Illinois University. His interests include the study of complex verbal behavior, gambling addiction, and organizational behavior management. Mark has published 10 books and over 200 peer reviewed journal articles. He has served as Editor of Behavior Analysis in Practice and The Analysis of Verbal Behavior, associate editor for the Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis and the Journal of Organizational Behavior Management, and as a reviewer for over 20 non-behavioral journals. Dr. Dixon has generated over $2.5 million in funding to infuse behavior analysis within local schools and treatment facilities and create a behavioral therapy clinic for persons suffering from autism and related conditions. Mark's research and/or expert opinions have been featured in Newsweek, Time, The New York Times, National Public Radio, “This American Life,” “Bill Nye Saves the World,” a New York Times best seller, and regional affiliates of ABC, CBS, and PBS.



Dr. Terisa Gabrielsen

Portrait of Terisa Gabrielsen

10:30-11:30 a.m.

This session will briefly recap current knowledge, clinical experience, and first-person accounts of autism that are often not identified until later in life because of multiple barriers to identification. Delayed identification is likely to have significant impact on social and emotional development and well-being as well as long-term life-course effects. Areas of concern, interpretation of assessment results, and supports will be discussed.

Dr. Terisa Gabrielsen is a school psychologist and the graduate program coordinator for the school psychology training program at BYU. She received her PhD from the University of Utah following internships in Davis School District and the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP). She was a post-doctoral fellow at the Center for Autism Research in Philadelphia and also coordinates the Autism Enhanced training track for the Utah Regional Leadership Education in Neurodevelopmental Disabilities (URLEND) program in Utah, Wyoming, Idaho, Montana, and North Dakota. She is currently co-authoring a book on assessment of females and other atypical presentations of autism with a team from the University of Washington, CHOP, and the University of Utah.


Aimee Lagone, Maria Baldwin & Richard Petersen

Portrait of Aimee Lagone
Portrait of Maria Baldwin
Portrait of Richard Petersen

10:30 a.m.-11:30 a.m.

In this two-part session, attendees will be provided an overview of the Utah State Office of Rehabilitation’s (USOR) vocational rehabilitation program. An emphasis will be placed on Pre-Employment Transition Services (Pre-ETS) that are available to students with disabilities aged 14-21 throughout the state of Utah. Pre-ETS are offered through the Utah State Office of Rehabilitation in a variety of formats and include job exploration counseling, work-based learning experiences, counseling on post-secondary opportunities, workplace readiness training, and self-advocacy instruction. Pre-ETS are designed to be "stackable" and can be a valuable step in the transition to employment, adulthood, independence, and the navigation of Vocational Rehabilitation Services. In the second part of this session, a group of leaders from USOR will be answering questions on how to navigate services and individualize those services for a successful employment outcome. This panel will include district directors, transition coordinators, and support services coordinators.

Aimee Langone has worked with people with disabilities in a variety of capacities for over 20 years. Aimee is currently employed as the transition and supported employment coordinator with the Utah State Office of Rehabilitation. She completed her master’s degree in rehabilitation counseling from Springfield College and has worked as a vocational rehabilitation counselor in Georgia, Ohio, and Utah, serving a transition client base in all three states. Aimee has provided case management, conducted vocational evaluations, and performed job coaching for both youth and supported employment in a community rehabilitation program setting.

Handouts for Aimee Langone

Maria Baldwin is currently employed as the Pre-Employment Transition Services (Pre-ETS) program specialist for the Utah State Office of Rehabilitation. She has worked as a VR counselor with a transition caseload in Ogden, South Jordan, and Lehi, Utah. She worked in the transition planning classes at the North Salt Lake campus of Spectrum Academy, a charter school with a focus on serving students on the autism spectrum. She has a master's degree in educational psychology from University of Northern Colorado and a certificate in rehabilitation counseling from Utah State University. She started her career as a music educator, and has provided instruction to students in pre-K through college level classes, including adapted music groups for early intervention preschool classes at the Pingree School.

Richard Petersen is a licensed vocational rehabilitation counselor for the State of Utah. He is a certified rehabilitation counselor and public manager. Petersen completed his undergraduate work at the University of Utah and his master’s in rehabilitation counseling at Utah State University. He has worked for the Utah State Office of Rehabilitation (USOR) since 2002. He has worked as a rehabilitation counselor, counseling supervisor, and for the last nine years as the Provo district director of USOR. Petersen is highly dedicated to the profession of rehabilitation counseling and providing services to persons with disabilities to assist them in reaching their employment goals.


Dr. Lori Peterson

Portrait of Lori Peterson

10:30 a.m.-11:30 a.m.

Simplify the process of developing compliant and purposeful transition IEPs. The Transition Gap Analysis Planning (TGAP) tool walks you through the creation of annual goals that authentically relate to the skills, knowledge, and behaviors needed to close performance gaps to address the demands of the post-school environment.

Dr. Lori Y. Peterson is an associate professor of special education at the University of Northern Colorado. She actively researches in self-determination and transition of youth with disabilities to adulthood, including developing quality transition Individualized Education Programs (IEPs). Dr. Peterson has co-authored several chapters in books such as “Self-Instruction Pedagogy: How to Teach Self-Determined Learning” and “Aligning Transition and Standards-Based Educational Reform.” In addition, she has co-authored articles including “Triangulated IEP Transition Goals: Developing Relevant and Genuine Annual Goals” and “Increasing Self-Determination: Teaching Students to Plan, Work, Evaluate, and Adjust.” Dr. Peterson presents at state, national, and international conferences and workshops on transition IEPs, self-determination, transition resources, and transition assessment.


Dr. Julia Connelly

Portrait of Julia Connelly

12:30-1:30 p.m.

Suicide rates in individuals with autism are alarmingly high, and reasons for suicidal ideation are as vast as the spectrum itself. What are some of the reasons for this? How do we, as clinicians, friends, and family support the person struggling? Are traditional approaches successful or do we need to change how we think about suicide and autism?

Dr. Julia Connelly is the founder and clinical director of the autism clinic. She provides psychological assessment services for autism spectrum disorder and related disorders for individuals of any age. She also provides individual and family therapy to address symptoms related to ASD, such as anxiety, depression, school, work, and behavior problems. Dr. Connelly also serves as a consultant for schools, the University Neuropsychiatric Institute, and in legal situations where ASD is a significant component. She grew up in Germany and moved to Utah as a young adult. She is an assistant professor at the University of Utah Department of Psychiatry in the division of child and adolescent psychiatry, and adjunct faculty in the departments of psychology and educational psychology. Dr. Connelly received her BA and BS from the University of Utah in psychology and German language and literature and her MS and PhD from the Department of Educational Psychology. She completed internships in Weber School District and the University Neuropsychiatric Institute (UNI) and her postdoc at UNI and the Neurobehavior HOME program. Her research interests include better understanding autism in females and effective treatment of problems commonly associated with ASD, such as anxiety, depression, and behavior problems.


Vincent Campbell, BCBA

Portrait of Vincent Campbell

12:30-1:30 p.m.

Teaching play skills to individuals with autism is valuable when establishing social skills and decreasing challenging behaviors. While these skills can be taught in a one-on-one setting, they do not always successfully transfer to the natural environment. Thus, there is value in establishing social skills through naturalistic teaching. This workshop will provide an overview of successful naturalistic teaching strategies and highlight components of effective instruction.

Vincent Campbell is a third-year doctoral student in disability disciplines at Utah State University. He received his BS in psychology from the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire and his MS in applied behavior analysis from the University of Southern California. Vincent is a board certified behavior analyst (BCBA) and a licensed behavior analyst in the state of Utah. Currently, Vincent works with Dr. Thomas S. Higbee at the Autism Support Services: Education, Research and Training (ASSERT) preschool. Vincent’s previous experience includes providing early intervention, ABA services to children diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder within schools, homes, and community settings. Vincent’s research focuses on assessing a learner’s prerequisite skills, effective staff and parent training, and the implementation of efficient skill acquisition interventions.



Anne Malbica, BCBA

Portrait of Anne Malbica

12:30-1:30 p.m.

This session will focus on case studies demonstrating the benefits of using the Prevent-Teach-Reinforce (PTR) model of behavior supports in community settings. The PTR method is a team-based approach that cultivates functional behavior competency for behavior novices and enthusiasts alike. Benefits of using the program include standardized, easy-to-follow steps to behavior support, high adaptability and feasibility, increased engagement and ownership of supports, and quality training and coaching throughout.


  • Attendees will be able to identify three ways to adapt the evidence-based practices contained in the PTR program to their specific needs.
  • Attendees will be able to utilize the data-based decision flow-chart outlined in PTR to ensure data-based decisions in practice.
  • Attendees will be able to use the PTR process to create socially valid plans that are feasible for staff, parents, and individuals to implement.

Anne Marie Malbica has a master's in education (emphasis in ABA) from Utah Valley University and is a doctoral candidate in special education at the University of Utah. Prior to her studies, she worked as a direct support professional for adults with disabilities over the course of 16 years. During the course of her studies, she has co-authored articles on intelligence, special education, adaptive and alternative communication devices, and positive behavior supports. Her research has focused on positive behavior supports that are manageable and feasible in community settings. Her current focus is on adapting the Prevent-Teach-Reinforce model for use in adult service settings.



Laurie Bowen, BCBA

Portrait of Laurie Bowen

12:30-1:30 p.m.

Becoming an adult is fraught with complicated learning experiences, and success depends on developing critical life skills that may take years to master. Young adults with autism spectrum disorder often experience a delay during their transition age, as compared to typically developing peers. Skills and competencies can be fostered from an early age to increase possibilities for independence and successful adult navigation. This session will focus on practical tips that can be incorporated into a targeted approach of skill development from early childhood to young adult years.

Objective 1: Attendees will be able to describe the definition of self-determination.
Objective 2: Attendees will learn three reasons why self-determination skills set up someone for success in their adult years.
Objective 3: Attendees will be provided with tools and techniques they can implement as they teach and/or raise individuals with autism spectrum disorder starting in their early childhood.

Laurie is the associate director at the Melisa Nellesen Center for Autism. She has been working with individuals and families living with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) for over 20 years. She loves developing autism specific supports in the community, through partnerships and mutually beneficial relationships that enhance all of those involved. In her current role, she works with UVU students and young adults with ASD in transition-focused support programs such as Educational Coaching and Passages. She also oversees community outreach and the annual UVU autism conference. Laurie is a board certified behavior analyst and has degrees in behavioral science, communication disorders, applied behavior analysis and she is in her fourth year as a special education PhD student at University of Northern Colorado.


Jared Stewart, BCBA

Portrait of Jared Stewart

1:45-2:45 p.m.

Do you ever wonder what the future holds for a child with autism? Do you ever feel worried or overwhelmed when you contemplate the complicated path ahead? Come and join our panel of autistic adults as they discuss how they were able to achieve their unique stories of successful independence, and what services and supports were most helpful on their journey. The panel will be live this year, so bring your questions and cultivate your competencies when it comes to adult transition.

Jared Stewart, M.Ed., BCBA, was named the 2011 Educator of the Year by the National Association of Private Special Education Centers, the 2018 Presenter of the Year by the National Association of Therapeutic Schools and Programs, and the 2020 Hero for Autism by the Autism Resources of Utah County. As a Program Director for Provo, Utah’s ScenicView Academy — a transitional school for neurodiverse adults targeting functional independence — he teaches his students to recognize and embrace the strengths of their diagnoses. He is an adjunct professor at Utah Valley University, where he helps run their annual Conference on Autism and assists with the Melisa Nellesen Center’s Passages Program as a life skills instructor and curriculum developer. In 2016 he was appointed by the governor to the Utah Developmental Disabilities Council and currently serves as the Council Chair. Jared has spent almost two decades working with autistic adolescents and adults, and has shared his views on the techniques and mindsets that lead to improved outcomes for these individuals with many local and national audiences. His passion for the subject arises from personal experience: he has numerous family members on the Spectrum, and he was diagnosed with autism himself as an adult. In his rare free moments, Jared enjoys reading, hiking, writing, and spending time with his wife and three children — and adheres to the belief that there is untapped greatness in everyone, regardless of their so-called “disabilities.”


Dr. Cade Charlton, BCBA

Portrait of Cade Charlton

1:45-2:45 p.m.

The COVID-19 pandemic has negatively impacted children with neurodevelopmental disabilities. While remote delivery platforms such as Zoom have been used, they lack options to promote active engagement. Live animation offers a solution. Our research team has analyzed the effectiveness of live animation using Animoji, a communication tool available on iOS devices. We will share the results of these studies on engagement, social skills, emotional expressivity, and empathy.

Objective 1: Attendees will identify behavioral indicators of engagement during social and emotional learning.
Objective 2: Attendees will learn how to use iOS tools including Animoji to create engaging live and static models.
Objective 3: Attendees will examine research results from multiple empirical studies to determine the effectiveness of live animation.

Cade grew up in St. Anthony, Idaho, and is the son of two career educators. He was introduced to applied behavior analysis (ABA) and multi-tiered systems of supports at Utah State University, where he earned his MBA and doctorate in disability disciplines. With just enough knowledge to be dangerous, he worked with several private companies as an ABA service provider and as a consultant with the Center for the School of the Future. These consulting opportunities, coupled with federally and locally funded research projects, provided Cade with new and exciting opportunities to explore the application of ABA to improving supports for individuals with disabilities at school.


Laura Smith

Portrait of Laura Smith

1:45-2:45 p.m.

Too often, parents are using floatation devices as a safety measure around bodies of water. Unfortunately, floatation devices are only as good as they are when they are on and appropriately fastened. When interviewed, parents often assume that it is not possible to teach children with autism water safety skills for the following reasons: their child has too severe behaviors or cannot follow instructions; they are unable to find anyone who can teach swim safety to children with autism; and/or they have attempted several different swim lessons and have not had success. Consequently, parents resort to flotation devices as their only means of protection. It only takes a few seconds for a child to fall into a body of water and drown. According to the National Autism Association in 2001, a California research team found elevated deaths in autism attributed to suffocation and drowning. In 2009, 2010, and 2011, accidental drowning accounted for 91% total U.S. deaths reported in children with ASD ages 14 and younger (Interactive Autism Network Research Report: Elopement and Wandering, 2011). The purpose of this research is to bring awareness to the importance of teaching children with ASD water safety skills, the specific skills that must be taught, the methods used to teach such safety skills, and evidence-based successful outcomes of teaching water safety in children with autism. For the purpose of this presentation, water safety is defined as a child walking into and around bodies of water, following parental safety directives with independence and accuracy, and when being thrown into a swimming pool, a child is able to independently swim to the side of the pool and exit the pool independently and safely.

Two participants diagnosed with autism, ages three and seven, were enrolled in special day class at their local elementary. Both participants required flotation devices to swim and had no documented swim skills. Per parent report, neither client could tolerate water on their face during showering. Both participants were enrolled in ABA services. Documented behaviors included elopement, tantrum, and noncompliance. The female participant also had a history of physical aggression. With regards to adaptive skill level, both participants scored in the moderately low to low functioning level on their recent Vineland Adaptive Skills Assessment. Using graduated guidance and prompt fading strategies, both participants were water safe within 10 30-minute swim lessons by their BCBA.

Laura Smith is a BCBA with over 20 years of experience in applied behavior analysis and 25 years of experience teaching swim safety. Over the last 15 years, her swim experience has been primarily teaching children with autism how to be water safe. She has a master’s degree in applied behavior analysis from Northeastern University. Laura is currently the director of the ABA Department at a pediatric clinic in Orange County, California, that provides a multidisciplinary approach to treating the whole child. Her specific passions and contributions to this approach include teaching swim safety as well as other important life skills such as toilet training and sleep therapy training. She has found that teaching independence in these three pivotal behaviors creates better family dynamics all around. In her free time, Laura can be found snuggling with her new baby, running, cooking, and traveling all over the world.

JaNae Hakes

JaNae Hakes

1:45-2:45 p.m.

Parenting provides a unique learning experience as the child and parent grow together throughout the years. Parenting a child or children with autism adds unexpected elements along the journey. While each experience is individual and personal, there are some universal components that can benefit other parents who are traveling the autism path. Join us for this engaging panel discussion, as parents with differing lived experiences and perspectives share their stories and ways they have evolved in their skills and competencies as they parent from the autism lens.

JaNae Hakes currently works at ScenicView Academy as a housing specialist. She is a mother of four children, two of whom are on the autism spectrum. She recently served as a co-chair for the Melisa Nellesen Center for Autism Parent Advisory Group. She works hard to promote change and establish communities that encourage belonging.


Jared Morris, BCBA-D

Portrait of Jared Morris

March 5, 2021

11:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m.

This session will provide information about research-based instructional strategies for teaching mathematics to students with autism. Effective and efficient methods and strategies for teaching mathematics to students with autism are critical for preparing them to increase their post-secondary educational and employment opportunities.

The participants will be able to:

  • Evaluate the instructional components of mathematics interventions for students with autism.
  • Design and plan for instruction that uses evidence-based practices with intention.
  • Understand how to meaningfully incorporate effective mathematics interventions in their own schools and classrooms.

Dr. Jared Morris is an assistant professor in the Department of Counseling Psychology and Special Education at Brigham Young University. Jared is a BCBA-D and completed his PhD in special education with a minor in educational psychology at The Pennsylvania State University. He received a master’s degree in special education from the University of Utah. Jared taught students with disabilities in a variety of settings for five years.


Beverly Nichols, BCBA

Portrait of Beverly Nichols

1:45-2:45 p.m.

In this workshop, participants will learn some of the different situations in which using scripts can help facilitate communication. Methods for creating and implementing scripts will be presented, including the various modalities scripts can be delivered and strategies for teaching individuals to use them. Finally, we will demonstrate methods for fading scripts either completely out or so that scripts are less noticeable by others. Methods for creating, implementing, and fading scripts will be presented with the goal that adults on the spectrum could create and use scripts with themselves, caregivers could create and use scripts with their children, and that professionals, educators, and BCBAs could create and use scripts with their students or clients.

Teaching Objectives:

  • Understanding and recognizing the various applications of scripts, across different ages and situations
  • Creation and implementation of different modalities of scripts
  • Understanding and implementation of different methods for fading scripts; such as the fading of words and the fading of aspects (e.g., size) of scripts

Beverly Nichols, MS, BCBA, LBA received her BA in sociology from California State University, Channel Islands and her MS in applied behavior analysis (ABA) from California State University, Northridge. She is a board certified behavior analyst (BCBA) and is currently pursuing her doctorate in disability disciplines with an emphasis in ABA under Dr. Thomas S. Higbee while working at the Autism Support Services: Education, Research Training (ASSERT) preschool. Beverly’s previous experience includes working with children ages 3-14 in clinical, home and school settings. Her current research interests include facilitating independence for individuals with disabilities as well as parent and staff training.