Speaker Bios

Angela Sulfaro-Menconi, PhD- January 2019


WEBINAR: This webinar will introduce Angela’s Vlog series and will also review the basics of scientific principles, and tips and tricks we can use when we are looking at scientific articles. 

BIO: Angela is a trained Cultural Anthropologist with interests including Poverty and Homelessness, Gender and Sexuality, and Chicana Feminism. She spends her time helping her autistic son understand and learn adaptive skills for life in a neurotypical world. She strongly supports autistic self-advocacy and seeks to learn all she can from autistic adults.

Lori Conroy- February 2019


WEBINAR: This webinar focus on the ins and outs of the IEP process. During Lori’s 29 years as a teacher she has written hundreds of IEPs and in her role as a TOSA (Teacher on Special Assignment) she helped mediate challenging IEP meetings.

BIO: Lori Conroy, MEd has been teaching for 29 years. She earned her bachelor’s degree in elementary and special education from Northern Arizona University and her master’s in early childhood education, also from NAU. She taught general education for several years at the beginning of her career but for most of her career Lori has served as a special education resource teacher and a teacher in an integrated preschool program. She spent four years out of the class room as a Teacher on Special Assignment (TOSA) in the Kyrene Exceptional Student Services Department. In that role she supported the integrated preschool program and the special education programs at several elementary and middle schools. During her career Lori has written hundreds of IEPs and in her role as TOSA she helped facilitate challenging IEP meetings. Lori has great expertise in the entire IEP process- from working with staff to help them develop effective IEPs for their students to meeting with parents to help guide them through the IEP process. Her true passion is working with her preschool students and families helping support her students’ academic and social growth and working with the student’s parents to help them understand the IEP process and have a positive first experience in the public school setting.

Melanie Issacs- March 2019


WEBINAR:  This webinar will introduce members to Pal Experiences. Pal is on a mission to help families impacted by autism and related “non-visible” disabilities have more frequent and more successful away-from-home experiences by customizing tools commonly used in behavioral therapy for sports teams, museums, restaurants, healthcare and more. By building a network of Pal Places TM  we strive to reduce the 70% isolation rate that families currently experience when living with someone with autism (National Autistic Society). Our communities are for everyone and by partnering with forward thinking business we are creating a place where everyone gets to go. I would love to share with you how we came into this journey, how we help our current partners and where we plan to take Pal.

BIO: Melanie studied Zoology at the University of Wisconsin- Madison and Marine Biology at Western Illinois University. After working in the zoo and aquaria industry she saw the opportunity venues had to be more inclusive for guests with autism and related disabilities. Melanie founded Pal Experiences to achieve this next level of accessibility, partnering with venues to build communities where everyone gets to go.

Erika Villanueva- April 2019

WEBINAR: Erika Villanueva has 20 plus years of experience as a travel consultant, is a Certified Autism Travel Professional thru IBCCES and also a Certified Accessible Travel Advocate thru SNG. She specializes in helping families with special needs children to travel. This webinar will focus on traveling with your special needs kids.

BIO: Erika Villanueva has 20 plus years of experience as a travel consultant. After her son was diagnosed with autism she shifted the focus of her business to cater to families with special needs children. Since then she has been helping many families to plan their vacations. HOW DO YOU DO THIS (Minimize the stress by catering to each family’s own needs and wants and using lots of written communication so there are no misunderstandings and so that there is clear, informative direction).

If you need a travel agent please contact her at Viajes To Go Vacations (www.viajestogo.com) or email her at Erika@viajestogo.com

Jennifer Montgomery- May 2019

WEBINAR:“You Can’t Pour from an Empty Cup”

“Exploring the mental, emotional, and physical benefits of practicing self-care.  As a group we will discuss how to take care of ourselves so we can best take care of our children and loved ones.”

BIO: Jennifer graduated from the University of Southern California in 2002 with a Master’s Degree in Social Work. Jennifer has extensive experience and knowledge in working with children and adolescents in the education system. For the past fifteen years, she has provided individual, family, and group counseling.  Specialties include Autism Spectrum Disorders, Mood Disorders, ADHD/Executive Functioning Deficits, Obsessive-Compulsive Disorders, and Communication Disorders.

Matthew Wells- June 2019

WEBINAR: Matthew Wells will talk about how you can create a comprehensive financial strategy for you and your loved one.

BIO: Three of Matt’s immediate family members were diagnosed with autism or traumatic brain injuries; Matt knows how important attention to detail in financial advising is for families with differently abled children.  Through education, networking, and creative, comprehensive financial strategies, he has helped many families navigate a pathway for their future and the future of their children.  Matt’s favorite part of his work is watching the sense of security settle over his clients as he presents solutions.  Practitioners of servant-leadership, Matt and his team at Renaissance make the growth and well-being of others their priority. Please feel free to reach out to Matt via phone (623)282-9422 or email, Matt.Wells@rfconline.com

Gayle Nobel – July 2019



Parents of kids with autism, especially moms are pretty good at  survival. We do what we have to do but after awhile,  it may be with struggle and strain. Struggle and strain comes at a cost and ultimately affects our health and ability to be there fully for our loved ones.

I firmly believe that deep down we would like to do more than survive, We would like to THRIVE. And the good news is, at our core,  we all have within us everything we need to thrive.

But we may be feeling too overwhelmed, tired, stressed, busy or confused to know where to begin and take the first step.

This webinar is devoted to Self Care but we will go deeper than that. Some things we will explore:

Where does your experience come from?

(Hint: it’s not where you may think)

The source of well being and resilience.

(Hint: There’s nothing you have to find outside yourself to experience these.)

Where do overwhelm and stress really come from?

(Hint: Again, not where you think.)

What are some tools that can help you be a better version of yourself?

You’re the best expert on you… what seems to help your busy mind slow down?

I will offer some different ways of understanding self care, some tools, and some support in knowing what feels right for you.


I have been walking this walk for 35 years with my son who has severe autism. I have written 3 books on living well with autism.  They focus on my experiences and rather than being child centered, they are parent centered. In my second book, Breathe: 52 Oxygen-Rich Tools for Loving and Living Well with Autism, I share tools that can be done in 5 minutes or less.

Rebecca J. Sanders – August 2019


General information about wills, trusts, powers of attorney, the probate process,  and planning with special needs trusts. Important planning considerations for those will a special needs beneficiary.


Rebecca J. Sanders is an estate-planning attorney licensed in Arizona. For the last six years, Rebecca has focused her practice on: estate planning, planning for special needs, trust administration, and probate matters. Prior to founding her law firm, Rebecca had the privilege of working as Of Counsel for several estate planning law firms here in the Valley.

Rebecca is a frequent community speaker on estate planning and probate related issues at events across Arizona. She is a member of the Probate and Trust Law Section of the State Bar of Arizona and a member of the Estate Planning Section of the Maricopa County Bar Association.

Rebecca is an Arizona native and grew up on a small farm in Palo Verde, Arizona. She completed her undergraduate degree at Northern Arizona University in Psychology. Rebecca attended Washburn University School of Law and distinguished herself by earning Certificates of Concentration in Estate Planning and Tax Law.

Michelle Reed-Harris – September 2019


Michelle is the founder of American Exceptional Students Association (AESA). Her webinar will talk about her company and the special education needs of our community.


Michelle is the founder and CEO of American Exceptional Students Association (AESA), has been an educational advocate for over 10 years. She is the mother to six including surviving quadruplets. Her compassion and frustration with doctors led her on a special-needs quest. You can read her other posts at www.aesa.group, and you can also find her in her Facebook group at IEP/504 Assistance.

Denise Voight- October 2019


Denise’s webinar she will discuss how you can apply scientifically proven food and nutrition therapies to improve the health, learning, and behavior in your children.


Denise is a Clinical Nutritionalist with a Masters of Science in Human Nutrition and Functional Medicine specializing in Nutritional Intervention for autism spectrum disorders and ADHD. Her passion for studying nutritional biochemistry for the past 20 years emerged from her own son’s struggle with ADHD.

Her website is www.denisevoight.com.


Michele Thorne- November 2019, March 2020


A guide to Surviving the Holidays. We all know that holidays can be a stressful time for special needs families. Michele will offer tips and tricks to surviving the holidays with your special needs family.


Michele is a Certified Autism Specialist, the founder of D.A.M.E.S. (Differently Abled Mothers Empowerment Society), and the mother of two children who have been diagnosed with autism.


Marc Garcia- December 2019


Marc will talk about how Mesa became the first Autism Certified City and what that certification means for families who live in and visit Mesa.  


Marc Garica is the President and CEO of Visit Mesa, is on IBCCES’s executive advisory board, and is the father of a son who has been diagnosed with autism.  


Carole Glenn- January 2020


Let’s have a conversation about Girl Scouts.  I will tell you about our Founder, Juliette Gordon Low and what he belief was for Girl Scouts.  We will also talk about our programs, activities and camps and I will address any questions or concerns you have.  


I have been a part of Girl Scouts for almost my entire life.  They say, once a Girl Scout, Always a Girl Scout.  I enjoy being a part of this program and seeing all the amazing things that our girls are doing.  I am excited to be a part of the preeminent leadership development organization for girls.  One area that I am currently helping to strengthen the relationship between our Council and differently-abled families.  I want to make sure that the families know that Girl Scouts is for ALL girls. 


Staci Neustadt- February 2020


Therapy has evolved over the years not only with new Evidenced-Based Practices to help increase progress but also to include the family more.  A therapist is your resource to help guide your child’s progress.  Family participation and carryover is the real key to progress.  Building open communication between you and your therapist will fuel that journey of progress. 


Staci has been working in the field of Speech-Language Pathology for over 15 years.  While her passion is to empower all of those with diverse abilities, she focuses her passion on helping those on the Autism Spectrum.  She works closely with therapists and  families of users of Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) devices.  Staci believes in working with the whole person and family to help reach full potential.  


Melissa Nytko- April 2020


Self-Care Strategies


Melissa Nytko is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker who currently works as a therapist and owns a Life Coach business in the Chicago suburbs. She earned her Bachelor’s Degree in Spanish and Psychology from Illinois State University and Master’s Degree in Social Work from Arizona
State University in 1999. Upon her graduation from Arizona State University, Melissa continued her advocacy work for sexual abuse and domestic abuse survivors and their children. In 2005, Melissa earned an Illinois License in School Social Work and spent 14 years as a School Social
Worker serving elementary, middle and high school students with special education needs. Melissa specializes in women’s issues, couples/marriage counseling, and teen anxiety/depression. Melissa believes in strong relationship building, while also compassionately treating the whole person and the environment in order to enable change.


Courtney Burnett- April 2020


Grassroot Movements How Everyday People Can Make A BIG Impact 


Courtney works as a speech therapy assistant in her community and also works as an IEP Coach helping families navigate special education. Courtney has a passion for inclusion and accessibility within her community, she volunteers as a parent legislative advocate working to develop local legislation to support people with disabilities.


Morgan Bettis-Pahl- May 2020


Inclusion in the public school setting can be very challenging for all parties, the special education teacher, administration, general education teachers, general education students, and most importantly the student with special needs. I believe that inclusion needs to be a positive experience for the student. By truly knowing the student, a teacher should know a students interests, strengths, and needs, as well as goals that the parents have for their child should be the drive behind inclusion decisions. I believe that inclusion needs to begin as early as possible for all parties involved. The earlier we expose general education students to students with differences, the more acceptance and understanding we as educators can encourage. We are also allowing ALL students to begin building vital relationships early on with their peers that they will spend many years with. As a self contained teacher, I started a reverse inclusion program at the school I work at and I will talk about the outcomes it has had for everyone, including staff. 


My name is Morgan Bettis-Pahl, I am originally from Iowa and moved to Arizona in 2017. My undergrad is in Child and Family Development while my post degree is in Special Education. Before becoming a self contained teacher I worked as an assistant in a middle school self contained classroom for two years. Being a Special Education Teacher is truly my dream job and I am very passionate about the work I do. My little sister was diagnosed with Autism as a first grader, and seeing her struggles and accomplishments as well as the effects it has on a family has really inspired me to do best by my students and their families.


Gabby Barnes- July 2020


What You Need to Know About ABLE Accounts

The ABLE Act of 2014 offers more than eight million Americans with disabilities and their families the ability to establish a tax-advantaged ABLE savings account without fear of losing eligibility for certain public benefits, including health care, Supplemental Security Income payments, housing and food assistance. Many consider the ABLE Act the most significant federal legislation addressing the needs of people with disabilities since passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act. Unfortunately, less than one percent of eligible individuals and families have opened an ABLE account. Join this session to separate fact from fiction and understand how ABLE accounts work. We’ll talk about ABLE in easy-to-understand language using the national ABLEnow program as an example.



Gabriella (Gabby) Barnes serves as Marketing Associate for ABLEnow, the national tax-advantaged disability savings program administered by Virginia529. With accounts in all 50 states, ABLEnow is one of the fastest-growing ABLE programs in the country. Gabby is honored to help build this entirely new financial product that can empower millions of Americans with disabilities to save for their future – just like everyone else. Gabby holds a Bachelor’s Degree from Hampton University and lives in in Richmond, Va.


Lauren Bolander- July 2020


Lauren Bolander is a Habilitation Field Supervisor for Arizona Autism United. She is a certified Sibshops facilitator, working with adolescent siblings of children with autism and other disabilities. Sibshops are recreational events designed to help children connect with other likeminded kids who share a similar story. Arizona Autism United began offering the Sibshops program in 2015.



Lauren has worked within the disability community for over 16 years, working to train habilitation providers and working directly with individuals on the autism spectrum. Lauren assists families in obtaining resources and supports families in managing challenging behaviors and creating effective goals within the home.


Kathy Denious – July 2.0 2020


How to embrace homeschooling your child with with amazing tips and tricks from this top notch educator.  


With a Master of Education in Special Education, Certificates in Standard Cross-Categorical Special Education (K-12) and Structured English Immersion Endorsement (K-12), and several sessions at the Landmark Summer Institute for Educators, Kathy has the educational pedigree to succeed with an enormous spectrum of students with learning challenges.  She has also spent over 10 years volunteering and teaching in special education classrooms around the Valley and has been a private special education teacher since 2014.

What her resume does not tell you is how dedicated she is to transforming your child from struggling, unhappy, and frustrated with school to a thriving, smiling, confident student.

Kathy lives in Scottsdale and has two nearly-adult sons, one of whom continues to tackle his own learning differences every day.


Clair Louge – August 2020


Getting Back into Your Wise Mind: How to Interrupt Stress

How does stress negatively impact your life? This workshop will delve into the body’s natural response to stress, and use this as a lens for understanding the impact of trauma on human thinking and behavior. Participants will learn simple stress-reduction techniques they can use anywhere, and learn how to help others cope with stressful situations.


Claire Louge is the Executive Director of Prevent Child Abuse Arizona, a statewide non-profit organization that collaborates, educates and advocates to strengthen families and protect children.

Claire obtained her Bachelor’s degree in Human Development from Cornell University and her Masters of Education in Human Relations from Northern Arizona University. Claire is also a Certified Trauma Support Specialist through the Arizona Trauma Institute, certified by the National Alliance of Children’s Trust and Prevention Funds to teach the Strengthening Families™ Protective Factors Framework, and an authorized Stewards of Children® facilitator. She is a graduate of the American Express Leadership Academy at the ASU Lodestar Center and is also an AmeriCorps VISTA alumnus. She also volunteers her time to create and produce live action role playing adventure events for teens. Claire regularly offers workshops and keynote addresses at conferences throughout Arizona.


Megan Selvey – August 2.0 2020


 Megan is a lawyer at Bivens and Associates who specializes in guardianship and conservatorship. She will talk to us about the process and things to consider when choosing guardianship.


Megan Selvey is an attorney licensed in Arizona and California. Megan’s legal practice includes estate planning, special needs planning, long-term care planning, guardianships, and conservatorships. She regularly advises clients on matters related to protecting wealth and providing for loved ones with special needs, as well as clients receiving or anticipating receiving public benefits.

Megan graduated summa cum laude from Arizona State University. She then attended the University of San Diego’s School of Law in California. Megan loved San Diego, but chose to return to her hometown of Phoenix, Arizona to practice elder law near her friends and family. Megan is a third-generation Phoenix native and has strong ties to the Phoenix community.

Megan volunteers with several non-profit organizations. She is a member of the Professional Advisory Committee to Southwest Autism Research and Resource Center (SARRC). She is a member of the Planned Giving Professional Advisory Council for ValleyLife, a non-profit organization serving individuals with disabilities to enhance their quality of life. Megan also supports and volunteers with other incredible organizations that provide valuable services to the special needs community in Arizona.