2019 Conference Schedule

Sign In

8:00 a.m.

Opening Keynote

9:00-10:30 a.m.

Morning Concurrent Sessions

10:40 - 11:40 a.m.

Luncheon and Exhibit Fair Grande Ballroom

11:40 - 12:40 p.m.

Afternoon Concurrent Sessions

12:40 - 1:40 p.m.
1:50 - 2:50 p.m.
3:00 - 4:00 p.m.

Key Note

9:00 - 10:30 am


Introduction, Autism Hero Award 

Autism: The Lived Experience

Jared Stewart, M.Ed.

Room: Grande Ballroom

More Info

Much of the discussion around autism focuses on research into possible causes, cures, and tools for parents and professionals.  And while all of this is wonderful and necessary, it leaves out a tremendously significant piece of the autism "puzzle" -- the lived experience of the autistic person themselves.  If autism is so difficult and complicated for those who work with it, what is it like for those who LIVE with it?  Well, like every person on the spectrum, life on the spectrum is totally unique-- but there are strong threads of similarity.  Jared Stewart, M.Ed., is a professional running a school for adults with autism, a parent of a child with autism, and an autistic person with a lifetime of data points from his own journey to successful adulthood.  In this entertaining and insightful keynote, Jared will empower you to better take the individual's sensory, cognitive, and social-emotional perspectives into account-- and to begin to see Autism from the inside.  Whatever your personal "lived experience" is with ASD, come and learn five simple but powerful principles for transforming how you look at, work with, communicate to, and LOVE someone on the autism spectrum.   

Morning Concurrent Sessions

10:40 - 11:40 am

Building Independence through Photographic Schedules

Thomas Higbee,PhD, BCBA-D


Room: Centre Stage

More Info

Photographic activity schedules are a set of instructional tools that have been shown to improve independence in individuals with autism and related disabilities. In this presentation, participants will learn about current research and procedures for using activity schedules to promote independence at home, school, work and play/leisure.

Safety for Individuals with ASD

Captain William Cannata Jr.

Room: SC 206 A, B, C

More Info

As a parent, care provider, or teacher, what is your role in preparing your loved one for emergency situations? What is your role in informing your local First Responder agencies about your loved one diagnosed with an Autism Spectrum Disorder? How do you go about doing these things?

 This workshop will discuss how to help individuals with ASD to stay safe in emergency situations and from dangerous environments. The learning objectives for the workshop: How to connect with the 911 system; How to prepare emergency information for the individual with ASD; How to prevent wandering and discussing the tools available to locate individuals that have wandered; How to implement safety drills at home and at school.

Spreading The Truth: Busting Myths About Working and Social Security Benefits

Sarah Heuser and Derek Stoker

Room: SC 213 A & B

More Info

There are many myths about working when a person is receiving a Social Security cash benefit, Medicaid or Medicare. By understanding the work incentives currently being offered by the Social Security Administration just might be your “Ticket” in seeking and/or maintaining current employment. Learn for yourself if these tools and accommodations can assist you in becoming more financially independent.

"Why is sleep such a big deal for people with autism?" 

Deborah Bilder, MD


Room: Ragan Theater

More Info

Why is sleep such a big deal for people with autism? Most children and adults with autism experience significant disruption in their sleep. This coincides with measurable differences in the physical marker of the circadian rhythm – melatonin. The ability to manage stress throughout the day is the responsibility of our body’s stress response system called the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis, abbreviated as the “HPA axis”. The HPA axis play a major role in how our mind and body connect. The HPA axis is also directly linked to our circadian rhythm so that disrupting one system will disrupt the other. This talk will describe what these connections are, provide clinical examples of these connections, and emphasize the importance of correcting sleep disturbance in this population to optimize overall functioning and wellbeing.

Luncheon and Exhibit Fair - Grande Ballroom 11:40 - 12:40

For lunch this year, we will be giving all conference attendees gift cards to be used at one of the following locations on UVU campus: 

Chick-fil-A, Costa Vida, Jamba Juice, JDawgs, Mom Fulton's Cafe, Panda Express, Pizza Hut, Subway, Taco Bell, and Wendy's.

Afternoon Concurrent Sessions

12:40 - 1:40 pm

Managing Difficult Behaviors in the Classroom and Home

Karen Fairchild, LCSW and Laura Smith, B.A.

Room: Centre Stage

More Info

Ideally students with ASD belong in the classroom with their typical peers. However, this can be challenging if their behavior detracts from the overall learning environment and/or prevents them from being able to learn effectively themselves. As experienced parents and professionals, we will focus on what we know works to minimize and manage difficult behaviors in the classroom. (Many of these principles will also translate very well to the home).


 “Innovative Approaches to Employment—views from autists, non-profits, and employers”

Facilitated by Amy Wadsworth, MS

Room: SC 206 A, B, C

More Info

Unemployment, underemployment and non-participation in the workforce present a monumental challenge for adults on the autism spectrum. It’s estimated that there are about 1.5 million adults with autism in the US, and approximately 80% of them are unemployed, underemployed, or not participating in the workforce.  

Pioneering self-advocates, nonprofits partnering with Vocational Rehabilitation and the Governor’s Office of Economic Development, supports and faculty training in college, influential businesses building Autism at Work programs and innovative individuals who break barriers in a small business setting all come together in this panel to discuss existing barriers to employment and how to eliminate, work around or minimize them. We all must be willing to innovate, collaborate, and broaden our vision to promote and build inclusive environments in the workplace and in society.

Each panelist will share their lived experience with barriers to employment and how their work addresses these barriers and contributes to an inclusive environment. Panelists will also discuss how learned, researched, and innovative methods can be applied to any workplace to benefit the whole community. 

Understanding Women and Autism

Julia Connelly, PhD

Room: SC 213 A & B

More Info

Women being diagnosed with autism are growing in numbers. Many start out on a lonely journey to find themselves and go through many negative experiences with clinicians who do not understand nor appreciate female autism. This presentation will delve into experiences women with autism have shared with the presenter about how their autism affects them, how their autism has bestowed them with gifts most neurotypical women do not have, and how they feel misunderstood by many treatment providers. This presentation aims to help providers and affected individuals feel like they understand each other and “are on the same page”. It also aims to help providers gain more insight into the unique and valuable stories many women have to share and how only they can help providers truly understand what autism is.

Promoting Daily Happiness Among People with Severe Autism Spectrum Disorder: Evidence-Based Strategies

Dennis Reid, PhD, BCBA-D


Room: Grande Ballroom

More Info

This presentation will initially describe evidence-based strategies to identify and validate indices of happiness among people with autism who have challenges describing their private emotions. Next, specific strategies for increasing happiness during daily routines will be offered, including developing good relationships, providing routine choices, and making disliked activities more desirable. How promoting day-to-day enjoyment within support settings can reduce problem behavior will also be discussed.

Power Point

1:50 - 2:50 pm

The Lived Experience- a Panel of Personal Perspectives

Facilitated by Jared Stewart, M.Ed.

Room: Centre Stage

More Info

There are many perspectives when it comes to autism. Much can be learned by listening to those who have a diagnosis themselves. Learn directly from individuals who live with autism every day of their lives. The personal experience adds key elements of understanding only when we listen to one another and work towards solutions together.

Autism and Suicide

Mikle South, PhD

Room: Grande Ballroom

More Info

Recent studies have shown that suicide happens at least 8 times more often in autism than in other groups of people. However, awareness of the risk of suicide in autism remains low. This presentation will review what we know so far including both research data and personal perspectives. I will talk about possible contributions to the risk as well as strategies for preventing suicide and increasing hope.

Feeding Difficulties in Autism Spectrum Disorders

Vanessa Feola, M.Ed, and
Katerra Miller Johnson M.Ed.

Room: SC 206 A, B, C

More Info

Behavioral inflexibility is a core symptom of ASD that can lead to rigid feeding behavior and related anxiety. This presentation will discuss the use of a comprehensive approach to treat complex feeding difficulties in a child with ASD. Treatment incorporated parent training, cognitive-behavioral strategies, and telehealth technology. The results of this study support the adaptation of typical treatments to best fit the idiosyncratic needs of clients.


Building Cohesive Classroom Teams

Christine Reeve, PhD, BCBA-D


Room: SC 213 A & B

More Info

Supervising staff, when you aren’t their boss, and building cohesive classroom teams that work smoothly together can be a huge challenge for special educators.  It is one of those things that doesn’t really get taught much in teacher preparation programs.  But it is possible to build a team that works well together and accomplishes the work of the day with the students with less stress and drama.  This session will focus on processes to help special educators develop teams that work well together to the needs of the students.  During this session, participants will learn methods for creating a collaborative vision for the classroom, keeping the staff’s focus on the students, and developing a well-organized team that implements effective practice across the day.  Strategies for training staff to implement evidence-based practices will also be discussed.


Following this presentation, participants will:

  1. Be able to outline a classroom vision statement.
  2. Discuss methods for collaborating and including staff’s input to the vision.
  3. Outline a classroom zoning plan and access forms and strategies for developing one for their classroom.
  4. Describe methods for giving feedback to staff and creating opportunities for providing training to paraprofessionals in the classroom.

Handouts (zip file)

3:00 - 4:00 pm

Living on the Spectrum: The Intersections of Autism, Gender, and Sexuality

Dorothy Simister, MSW and
Karen Deysher, MSW, MPA

Room: Centre Stage

More Info

As widely recognized, diverse spectrums exist for autism, gender, and sexuality. Yet, have we intentionally considered how these divergent spectrums intersect when it comes to individuals, families, and communities? Please join us in dialogue with panelists as they share their lived experiences as individuals at the intersections of these spectrums by examining how interlocking identities impact one’s life, with particular emphasis on relationships, transition, community integration, employment, resources, and support.

Supporting Social Relationships for Children and Youth with Autism

Crystal Emery, B.S.

Room: SC 206 A, B, C

More Info

There is a great need for children with autism to develop social relationships in school as their neurotypical peers do. Children with autism need extra support to build and maintain such relationships. This session will explore strategies to support social relationships for school-aged children. We will discuss the need for these skills to start early as part of preparing for transition after school.

Treatment of Severe Problem Behavior:  Issues and Supports

Jane Carlson, PhD, BCBA-D

Room: SC 213 A & B

More Info

A significant percentage of people with autism spectrum disorder display problem behaviors that put themselves and other in their environment at risk.  Families identify problem behavior such as aggression and self-injury, as a major factor contributing to residential placement for adolescents and adults with autism.  The treatment of problem behavior can be complicated by underlying medical and psychiatric issues, and by ineffective (though well-meaning) attempts to intervene.  Successful treatment of severe problem behavior is possible but requires expertise and teamwork.  This session will review issues related to persistent problem behavior and provide information about effective interventions.

When it's not just autism: Tips for treatment professionals targeting co-occurring mental health issues.

Marette Monson, LCSW, MBA


Room: Grande Ballroom

More Info

Individuals with autism are just as susceptible to depression, anxiety, and other mental health issues as the general population, yet treatment for these mental health issues is challenging or often overlooked due to the pervasiveness of autism symptoms. Marette Monson, LCSW will share some tips for professionals based on her private practice experience.

Call for Proposals

The Melisa Nellesen Center for Autism along with the College of Humanities and Social Sciences and the School of Education are pleased to present the 9th annual Autism Conference at Utah Valley University on April 12, 2019. Our theme this year is, "The Lived Experience."

Presentations should include the following components:

  • Interest to the Autism Community
  • Relevance to the theme: Increasing Hope, Inclusion and Support through Best Practices
  • Connection to Evidence Based Approaches
  • Presenter is Reputable and Engaging

Our audience includes:

  • Individuals with Autism
  • Families and the Community
  • Educators
  • Professionals

We are no longer accepting submissions for the 2019 conference. 

Contact laurie.bowen@uvu.edu by email or phone 801-863-8759 with questions.