Amy Gravino

Portrait of Amy Gravino

Sexuality and the Spectrum
February 23 (Pre-Conference) | 9:00 a.m. | Ballroom

Individuals on the autism spectrum are sexual beings, yet they are usually not taught the necessary skills to be successful in sexual and romantic relationships. This session, which features a woman on the autism spectrum sharing her firsthand perspective, will dispel some of the myths and misconceptions surrounding autism and dating, discuss the potential for using ABA to teach dating skills and the challenges involved with teaching these skills, and offer strategies and resources to help parents and clinicians begin conversations about relationships and sexuality with their family members and clients.

About Amy Gravino

Amy Gravino is an autism sexuality advocate and relationship coach for 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. Ms. Gravino obtained her master’s degree in applied behavior analysis from Caldwell University in 2010 and currently serves on the boards of directors for Specialisterne USA and Yes She Can, Inc., as well as on the scientific advisory board for Simons Foundation Powering Autism Research. Ms. Gravino has spoken twice at the United Nations for World Autism Awareness Day and has given TED talks and other presentations to audiences worldwide on a variety of topics related to autism, with a special focus on autism and sexuality. 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.


Anne Kirby

Portrait of Anne Kirby

Suicide Risk and Prevention: Listening to the Autistic Community
February 24 | 10:30 a.m. | Ragan Theatre

People on the autism spectrum are highly likely to experience suicidal thoughts and are at an increased risk of dying by suicide. In this Charlie Garlick memorial session, Dr. Kirby will provide an overview of current research evidence on suicide risk in the autistic community and insights learned from autistic people and mental health providers she has interviewed as part of an ongoing research study. Her research is conducted in partnership with autistic community members, working together toward suicide prevention for the autistic community.

About Anne Kirby

Dr. Anne V. Kirby is an associate professor in the Department of Occupational and Recreational Therapies at the University of Utah, with an adjunct appointment in the Department of Psychiatry. She is an occupational therapist that specializes in autism research, specifically in suicide risk and prevention for the autistic community. In partnership with the Academic Autism Spectrum Partnership in Research and Education (AASPIRE), she currently leads a National Institutes of Health grant to promote suicide prevention for the autism community. She also does research for Utah’s Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring Network (ADDM) site and serves as a senior deputy editor for the peer-reviewed journal Autism in Adulthood.


Caleb Stanley

Jane Carlson

Promoting Generative Language

February 24 | 3:15 p.m. | SC 206 A, B, C

Individuals with autism and related disabilities often have deficits in their verbal repertoires, which can impact their language and communication skills. Although traditional methods for increasing verbal behavior and other language skills have been effective, a common barrier when targeting language skills is that such responses often lack variability and generativity. One strategy that has been effective for facilitating the development of generative language is by incorporating teaching methods that allow for emergent responses to be emitted. The overarching aim of the session is to provide an overview of strategies that can be used to increase generative language skills by programming for emergent responses. The session will discuss the several methods and procedures that can be used to facilitate the emergence of generative language. Furthermore, discussion will also be allocated to outcomes resulting from the incorporation of such procedures. Implications and clinical consideration relating to the application of these methods will be discussed.

About Caleb Stanley

Dr. Caleb Stanley is currently an assistant professor in the Applied Behavior Analysis program at Utah Valley University. Dr. Stanley graduated with a master’s and PhD degree in Behavior Analysis & Therapy from Southern Illinois University. Dr. Stanley is a doctorate level Board Certified Behavior Analyst and has nearly a decade of experience working as a behavior analyst in both research and clinical capacities. Dr. Stanley’s primary area of expertise is concerned with understanding variables related to the development of complex language and cognition using contemporary behavior analytic approaches. Dr. Stanley has published over 40 publications inclusive of articles in peer-reviewed behavior analytic journals, textbooks, and several book chapters related to his area of expertise. Much of his clinical experience has been devoted to the application of contemporary behavior analytic procedures and principles, such as those rooted in relational frame theory, to individuals with autism to teach complex language. Recently, he has sought to understand how such procedures can be applied to neurotypical individuals as well. Dr. Stanley intends to continue this line of research and clinical work, but also expand it to determine how relation frame theory influences other complex behaviors.


Crystal Emery

Portrait of Crystal Emery

Positive Predictions of Postschool Success
February 24 | 10:30 a.m. | Centre Stage

Students with disabilities, including autism, face many challenges in transitioning to adulthood after they exit the school system. Much research has been done to identify services and experiences that will support a successful postsecondary transition for students with disabilities. In this session, we will discuss the top predictors of postschool success as well as postsecondary transition resources available in Utah. This session will offer information and insight relevant to professionals and families alike.

About Crystal Emery

Dr. Crystal Emery has worked as a transition professional for young children and adolescents for over 25 years. She has a master’s in special education with an emphasis in secondary transition and a doctorate in disability studies through Utah State University. She is certified as an early intervention specialist, a coach for early childhood professionals, an employment specialist, and a customized employment professional. She currently works for the Utah State Board of Education’s postsecondary transition team as the state systemic improvement plan specialist and facilitates the Statewide Collaborative on Postsecondary Transition, which aims to improve post-school outcomes for students with disabilities. She enjoys presenting to professionals and families alike.

Jane Carlson

JaNae Hakes

Recognizing Quality ABA Programs
February 24 | 2:00 p.m. | Ballroom

The number and variety of ABA service providers is growing in our state. It can be difficult to identify a provider who will be a good match for a particular consumer. This session will review key indicators of quality services and how to identify a behavior analyst who is a good match for your needs. Topics will include program types, staffing structures, scope of competence vs. scope of competence vs. scope of practice, social validity and ethical guidelines.

About Jane Carlson (PhD, BCBA-D, IBA, LBA, LP)

Dr. Carlson is a licensed psychologist and Board Certified Behavior Analyst (Doctoral) with more than 35 years of experience working with children and adults with autism and other developmental disabilities. Dr. Carlson began her career as a special education teacher and received her PhD in clinical psychology from SUNY Stony Brook, under the mentorship of Dr. Edward Carr. Dr. Carlson has held leadership roles at a number of programs serving individuals with ASD, including The Groden Center in RI, and The May Institute in MA. She served as an expert panelist on the National Standards Project, a review of evidence-based practices in the treatment of autism. She served as Education Director of the Autism Center at Virginia Commonwealth University and as Assistant Professor in the Department of Psychiatry. She has directed the Autism Inclusion Project at the Developmental Disabilities Institute in Smithtown, NY, providing technical assistance and training to public schools to build capacity to serve students with ASD. Dr. Carlson has mentored graduate students and served as adjunct faculty at Fitchburg State College, Northeastern University, Salve Regina University, and the University of Massachusetts at Dartmouth. Dr. Carlson is currently Assistant Professor in the School of Education at UVU where she directs the Melisa Nellesen Center for Autism, coordinates the MEd in Applied Behavior Analysis, and teaches in the Autism Studies program. Dr. Carlson has presented her work at national and international conferences and her publications have been translated for international audiences.


Jennifer Call

Portrait of Jared Morris

Building a Community of Belonging
February 24 | 2:00 p.m. | SC 206 A, B, C

About Jennifer Call

Jennifer Call is an experienced educator and practitioner in the field of autism and developmental disabilities. She has a bachelor's in special education from Texas A&M University and a master's in special education, low incidence disabilities, and autism from Sam Houston State University. Jennifer is currently a lecturer of autism studies at UVU, where she teaches undergraduate students about applied behavior analysis and autism. Before coming to UVU, she worked as a special education teacher, a parent training conductor, a clinical director for in-home ABA services, and a BCBA for a residential treatment center. She was awarded the UVU Faculty Excellence Award in 2022.


Jessica Cauchi

Portrait of Jessica Cauchi

Teaching Skills Related to Sexuality to Learners of All Ages
February 23 (Pre-Conference) | 1:45 p.m. | Ballroom

This presentation will emphasize the importance of teaching skills related to sexuality to learners with autism spectrum disorders early in their lifespan. It will review how to break down complex skills into teachable components, which will make it easier to target the complex skills when appropriate. Specifically, we will discuss skills related to independence, autonomy, and safety. 

Autism and Sexuality: A Panel Discussion
February 23 (Pre-Conference) | 3:00 p.m. | Ballroom

Sexuality education supports autistic individuals in developing healthy relationships, self-advocating for personal needs, and recognizing unsafe situations. Yet, we often find ourselves unprepared to discuss sexuality education topics. Join us for a conversation with leaders in the field on how to have open, meaningful dialogue about autism, sexuality, and self-advocacy.

About Jessica Cauchi

Dr. Jessica Cauchi, BCBA-D, CPBA-AP, is a behavior analyst who has worked with people on the autism spectrum for over 20 years. She resides in Ontario, Canada, and is the clinical director of Atlas Behaviour Consultation. Dr. Cauchi received her PhD in applied behavior analysis from Endicott College. She is interested in meaningful programming, rapport and assent, progressive ABA, and research and clinical practice in curriculum development and effective teaching practices in sexuality skills for persons on the autism spectrum.


Julie Swanson

Portrait of Julie Swanson

Yes to Sexuality in the IEP
February 23 (Pre-Conference) | 10:30 a.m. | Centre Stage

The sexual landscape can be difficult to navigate for many autistic adolescents on the precipice of adulthood, yet the vital skills to navigate sexuality are rarely included in students’ Individualized Education Programs (IEPs). In fact, it’s not unusual for parents to be told these sensitive issues are not the responsibility of the IEP team. This presentation will review how sexuality falls into the three major adaptive domains (Conceptual, Social, and Practical) and provide participants with steps on how to incorporate skills around sexuality into the IEP along with the legal arguments to support them.

About Julie Swanson

Julie Swanson is a special education advocate and the parent of an autistic adult. She is passionate about improving outcomes in adulthood for autistic students. This passion grew into her social media platform, The Life Skills Lady (@lifeskillslady), where she promotes the ten domains of life skills and how they can improve quality of life for an autistic individual. Julie is also the author of Your Special Education Rights: What Your School District Isn’t Telling You and the companion website, a video-based website that helps parents understand their rights under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.


Laurie Bowen

Portrait of Jared Morris

Building a Community of Belonging
February 24 | 2:00 p.m. | SC 206 A, B, C

About Laurie Bowen

Laurie Bowen has worked with and learned from individuals and families living with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) for 20+ years. She serves as Associate Director for the Melisa Nellesen Center for Autism at UVU, focusing on Community Outreach. She has served as Chair of the Autism Conference Planning Committee for the past several years. She has worked to support programs designed for transition aged individuals with ASD, including Passages and Educational Coaching, among others. She also teaches in the Autism Studies program at UVU. She is a Board-Certified Behavior Analyst and is completing her PhD from University of Northern Colorado in Special Education. She was awarded the Autism Hero Award from Autism Resources of Utah County Council in 2020.


Marette Monson

Portrait of Laura Smith

Keeping Your Head Above the water: Self-Care for Caregiver Fatigue
February 24 | 12:45 p.m. | Ballroom

Marette draws from personal experiences caring for several family members who are on the spectrum and combines it with her clinical knowledge in compassion fatigue to present some real tips for recharging when experiencing burnout and caregiver fatigue.

About Marette Monson

Marette Monson, LCSW, is a nationally certified expert in treating compassion fatigue. She was mentored by Dr. Eric Gentry and trained as a compassion fatigue educator by the Figley Institute. Marette has twenty years of experience working as a mental health therapist for individuals on the spectrum and their families in Utah. She currently owns a practice in Salt Lake City called The Center for Counseling Excellence.


Molly Dellinger-Wray

Portrait of Molly Dellinger-Wray

Fostering Healthy Relationships aand Abuse Prevention for People with Disabilities
February 23 (Pre-Conference) | 12:30 p.m. (2 hour session) | Centre stage

Please Note: This is a 2-hour session. People with disabilities experience abuse at much higher rates than the nondisabled population. This presentation will explore practical strategies to promote abuse prevention and foster healthy relationships for everyone, but especially for those with disabilities. We will discuss why abuse exists at such high rates, how abuse differs, and what to do if someone discloses an unhealthy relationship.

About Molly Dellinger-Wray

Molly Dellinger-Wray (she/her) is a member of the Partnership for People with Disabilities, a University Center for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities. She earned her master’s degree in special education from the State University of New York at Buffalo and began her career as a special educator for children with significant support needs and autism. Molly was endorsed as a facilitator of the Positive Behavior Support (PBS) Project in 2007 and co-leads Home and Community PBS, a network of the International Association of PBS. For the past 15 years, she has assisted children and adults with intellectual and development disabilities navigate issues surrounding violence, abuse, sexual assault, and neglect through efforts like Leadership for Empowerment and Abuse Prevention (LEAP). Molly regularly contributes to published academic journals and Parenting Special Needs Magazine and is a certified trainer for Person-Centered Thinking and Stewards of Children. Her goal is to help everyone enjoy healthy relationships.


Morgan Jacobs

Portrait of Julia Connelly

Queer and Here: Neurodiversity LGBTQ+ Voices
February 23 (Pre-Conference) | 12:30 p.m. | Ragan Theatre

Join us in celebrating and uplifting the voices of queer, neurodiverse students. This panel will highlight students' lived experiences at the intersection of LGBTQ+ identity and disability. Discussion topics will include ways to find community, the co-existence of grief and joy within queerness, and the protective factors that supporters can help foster.

Understanding and Affirming Queerness and Neurodiversity
February 23 (Pre-Conference) | 2:00 p.m. | Ragan Theatre

Neurodiverse individuals, particularly autistic folks, are more likely to identify as LGBTQ+. Having even one accepting adult is a known protective factor for LGBTQ+ youth. This acceptance is especially important for individuals who exist at the intersection of multiple marginalized identities. This panel will address your questions about LGBTQ+ identity and neurodiversity and discuss ways to contribute to a supportive and affirming environment.


Peter Gerhardt

Portrait of Peter Gerhardt

Sexuality: A Lifespan Perspective
February 24 | 9:00 a.m. | Ballroom

About Peter Gerhardt

Dr. Peter Gerhardt is the executive director of the EPIC School in Paramus, NJ, and currently serves as adjunct faculty in the Institute for Behavioral Studies at Endicott College. Dr. Gerhardt received his doctorate from Rutgers University and has over 40 years of experience utilizing the principles of applied behavior analysis in support of adolescents and adults with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) in educational, employment, residential, and community-based settings. Dr. Gerhardt serves as co-chairman of the Scientific Council for the Organization for Autism Research and is on numerous professional advisory boards, including the Cambridge Center for Behavioral Studies. He has authored or co-authored many articles and book chapters on the needs of adolescents and adults with ASD and has presented nationally and internationally on this topic.


Spicer Carr

Jane Carlson

The Rocking Boy: A Personal Perspective of Growing Up with Autism

February 24 | 3:15 p.m. | Ragan Theatre

Join autistic composer-lyricist Spicer W. Carr as he discusses his memories and experiences growing up on the spectrum and performs songs from his new semi-autobiographical musical "The Rocking Boy". After the presentation, stay for a Q&A session where Spicer will answer questions ranging from living with autism, his career, and his artistic process. Please note, "The Rocking Boy" will receive a development production this coming June at UVU, co-produced by the Theatre for Youth and Education Center and the Melisa Nellesen Center for Autism. More information on this production will be given at this presentation.

About Spicer Carr

Spicer W. Carr (he/him) is a New York City-based composer-lyricist specializing in musical theater, opera, and theatre for young audiences. As a queer, autistic writer, Spicer seeks out similarly underrepresented voices and uses his unique perspective to help explore their stories. Current projects include The Four Lost Santas, a comic Christmas opera about performers making it work during the holidays (commissioned by Opera Orlando); The Rocking Boy, a semi-autobiographical children’s musical about growing up with autism and learning to connect and accept others for “all of you”; and Here, a non-linear song cycle that explores grief and the relationships between religious parents and their queer children (commissioned by Cincinnati Song Initiative and The National Association of Teachers of Singing). Other additions in Spicer’s vocal catalogue include song cycles (Dreams, U Up?), musicals (Chance the Snapper, You Were There), and operas (Sabbath, Disillusioned, Touché ). His Instrumental work includes pieces for piano (Of no Concern, Nocturnes for an Insomniac), big band (Lunch Rush), and a violin concerto (Daydreams). Spicer has also written several children’s plays (Who Turned out the Lights?!, Pieces of Eight). Spicer’s work has been developed and performed by Opera Orlando, Quintessence Theatre Group, the TYE Center, Utah Valley University Chamber Symphony, Utah Valley University Jazz Orchestra, Secondary Players, MusiCoLab, Temple University Theater, the Purple Crayon Players, Really Spicy Opera, and Opera Praktikos. Spicer is a graduate of Temple University, where he participated in the inaugural MFA cohort for musical theatre collaboration. Spicer is a proud member of the Dramatists Guild.


Tina Persels

Portrait of Beverly Nichols

New Diagnosis, Now What?
February 24 | 3:15 p.m. | Centre Stage

You are not alone. Come learn with other families about thoughts, strategies, and resources that can guide your child and your family through the next steps after a new diagnosis.

About Tina Persels

Tina Persels is, first and foremost, mom to Adam, who is 22 years old and lives with multiple disabilities, including cerebral palsy, hydrocephalus, autism, epilepsy, non-verbal speech impairment, and medical complexity. Tina has served as a family advocate and parent consultant for Utah Family Voices for 16 years, where she has worked directly with children and youth with special health care needs. She also works as a parent educator for the Utah Regional Lend Program and as a program coordinator and artist for Kindred Spirits Art. She is a member of several Utah advisory committees, including the Utah Office of Childcare Advisory Committee, the Community Health Improvement Planning Committee, the Utah Department of Health Medical Care Advisory Committee, and the Intermountain Financial Services Advisory Council. She is also an author, editor, and reviewer for the University of Utah’s Medical Home Portal website.


Tom Higbee

Portrait of Cade Charlton

Generative Learning Strategies Delivered via Telehealth
February 24 | 10:30 a.m. | SC 206 A, B, C

The COVID-19 pandemic has limited face-to-face instruction for children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and increased the utilization of telehealth service delivery by clinicians and researchers. Because children with ASD have varying levels of ability to attend to instruction delivered via telehealth, it is important to research, develop, and use effective teaching strategies that will lead to generative learning in this new instruction format. This presentation will discuss current research on telehealth instruction, including overviews of two of the most effective teaching methods: matrix training and instructional feedback.

Promoting Independence for Learners on the Autism Spectrum
February 24 | 12:45 p.m. | SC 206 A, B, C

Promoting independence is incredibly important. When individuals have more independence, they are generally able to access more desirable things in their environment. This session will discuss various strategies for promoting independence within individuals with ASD, including creating activity schedules to promote independent self-care and play skills and using scripts and icons to encourage communication during play and other activities.

About Tom Higbee

Dr. Thomas S. Higbee is a professor of special education and rehabilitation at Utah State University and founder and director of the Autism Support Services: Education, Research, and Training (ASSERT) program, an early intensive behavioral intervention program for children with autism. He is a doctoral-level Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA-D) and a licensed behavior analyst in the state of Utah. His research focuses on the development of effective educational and behavioral interventions for children with ASD and related disabilities, which includes developing effective strategies to teach parents and professionals how to implement such interventions.


Wes Dotson

Portrait of Wes Dotson

Autism and Sexuality Resources - February 23 (Pre-Conference) | 12:30 p.m. | Ballroom
Building Social Relationships - February 24 | 2:00 p.m. | Ragan Theatre

About Wes Dotson

Dr. Wes Dotson is an associate professor for the Special Education Department at the University of Missouri and the director of Applied Behavior Intervention Services at the Thompson Center for Autism and Neurodevelopment. He earned his PhD in behavioral psychology from the University of Kansas in 2010 and spent ten years at Texas Tech University and the Burkhart Center for Autism Education and Research. He has been a Board-Certified Behavior Analyst since 2008 and primarily teaches adolescents and young autistic adults social, relationship development, and other skills needed for successful life outcomes. He also prepares teachers and other professionals to work successfully with individuals on the spectrum.


Worner Leland

Portrait of Terisa Gabrielsen

Teach and Facilitating Consent Skills
February 23 (Pre-Conference) | 10:30 a.m. | Ragan Theatre

Unpublished data from the US Department of Justice indicate that people with intellectual and developmental disabilities are up to seven times more likely to be sexually assaulted than their neurotypical counterparts. In 86% of cases, assaults are committed by a non-stranger. Because of this, it is important to teach this population consent-giving and consent-honoring skills, which are critical not only in the prevention of sexual assault and coercion but also in facilitating safe non-sexual interactions. This presentation will focus on practical considerations for teaching consent, as well as practical strategies for facilitating consent interactions for learners with emergent skill sets.

About Worner Leland

Worner Leland (they/them), BCBA, LBA, currently serves as an educator for Sex Ed Continuing Ed and collaborative writer and presenter with the Assent Lab and the Louisiana Contextual Science Research Group. They have served as the president of the Sexual Behavior Research and Practice special interest group for the Association for Behavior Analysis International and as a researcher and educator with Upswing Advocates. Their work focuses on sex education, assent and consent education, and harm and coercion reduction education in behavior analysis. To learn more about their research, you can contact them at