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

WEBINAR:

TAKE CARE OF YOU (SO YOU CAN BE THERE FOR YOU KNOW WHO)

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.

BIO:

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

WEBINAR:

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.

BIO:

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

WEBINAR:

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.

BIO:

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

WEBINAR:

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.

BIO:

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

WEBINAR:

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.

BIO:

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

WEBINAR:

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.  

BIO:

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

WEBINAR:

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.  

BIO:

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

WEBINAR:

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. 

BIO:

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.  

 

Bo Larsen- March 2020

WEBINAR:

Since 1968, Civitan has been providing life enrichment programs for children and adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Today, the Foundation serves more than 1,400 families across the state and more than 300 individuals per day. Some of the services include Camp Civitan in Williams, four DTA’s, HBCS, Respite services, two thrift stores and other vocational training and employment opportunities.

BIO:

Bo Larsen is the director of marketing and business development for Civitan Foundation in Phoenix. Bo was a board member of the organization before joining the staff in 2017. He brought more than 30-years of communications experience to this role including a background that includes CNN in Atlanta, Banner Health and the City of Peoria. Married since 1988, Bo and Marci have two “20 something” daughters.

 

Courtney Burnett- April 2020

WEBINAR:

Grassroot Movements How Everyday People Can Make A BIG Impact 

BIO:

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

WEBINAR:

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. 

BIO:

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.