Schedule

12 April

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Speakers

Sponsors

Exhibitors

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Judy Bass, CEP

Certified Educational Planner
Bass Educational Services
Judith S. Bass, CEP is an internationally recognized expert in the field of college placement for students who learn differently. For the past 18 years, Ms. Bass has provided comprehensive college and post-secondary planning for students who learn differently.

Ms. Bass has developed CollegeWebLD, a one-stop source of information on college disability services at over 400 colleges in the US.

Ms. Bass is the current Chair of the Commission on Credentialing for AICEP (www.aicep.org) and is a past Board Member of the Independent Educational Consultants Association (IECA). She also serves as a consultant to several independent high schools in the Washington, DC area.

Ms. Bass is a contributing author in the recently published book, Navigating the Transition from High School to College for Students with Disabilities. Her articles have appeared in numerous magazines, including Washington Parent and ATTENTION Magazine.

Ms. Bass received her undergraduate degree in Spanish and Education from Stony Brook University, earned a Graduate Level Certificate in College Counseling from UCLA and holds the designation of Certified Educational Planner.

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David Black, PhD

Director, Pediatric Neuropsychologist
Center for Assessment And Treatment
Dr. David O. Black is a pediatric neuropsychologist and director of the Center for Assessment And Treatment (CAAT). He internationally recognized expert in autism spectrum and related disorders. Dr. Black specializes in the assessment of complex childhood disorders, including learning differences, attention and executive functioning disorders, and social and self-regulatory problems.

His assessments are comprehensive, integrated, and individualized, emphasize strengths, and capture the nuance that makes each person unique. Dr. Black is recognized for his work on the transition to adulthood and unique challenges inherent in that transition.

Prior to founding the Center for Assessment And Treatment, Dr. Black was a researcher in the Pediatrics and Developmental Neuroscience Branch at the National Institute of Mental Health, NIH. His research examined factors that contribute to the best outcomes among children and adolescents with autism spectrum disorders.

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Matthew Bogin, Esq

Attorney
Law Offices of Matthew Bogin
Matthew B. Bogin has been helping families with special needs members throughout the D.C. metropolitan area for over thirty-five years. He is well respected for his championing the varying rights of special needs clients. Currently his particular focus is ensuring that families with special needs members complete and review planning to ensure a successful future for these children. Because that calls for specialized knowledge and expertise, Matthew is ideally suited to assist clients in the area of special needs trust, estate planning, and guardianship.

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Kim Brown

Intermediate Division Head
The Lab School of Washington
Kim Brown leads a division of 94 fifth and sixth grade students with Learning Differences through a differentiated instructional program that integrates the arts and hands-on exploration. She supervises and evaluates the performance of 25 instructional staff members and coordinates program delivery with specialists on an interdisciplinary team.

Kim has 33 years as a public school employee, primarily with Fairfax County Public Schools: 9 years as a teacher of students with Specific Learning Disabilities at the elementary, middle and high school levels and 24 years as a school-based administrator at the high school and elementary levels.  She was an elementary principal for 17 years at 2 different elementary schools.

Kim has a Master of Education from the University of Virginia and a Bachelor of Arts degree from Guilford College.  She is certified in District of Columbia with Administrative Services Credential/K-12 grade level, certified in Virginia as an Elementary Principal and Secondary Principal, and Teacher of students with Specific Learning Disabilities and Intellectual Disabilities, K-12.

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Mary Dickerson, PhD

Head of Lower School
McLean School
Dr. Dickerson has been a school administrator for over twenty years in public and private schools. Dr. Dickerson holds a Bachelor of Music Education from the University of Kansas, a Master's degree from Harvard University in Educational Leadership, and a PhD in Educational Leadership from Boston College.

She is currently the Head of Lower School at McLean School. In addition, she teaches graduate level classes to aspiring school leaders.

She has experience teaching music education and violin, and has used music as a vehicle to support children who learn differently. It is her passion to find out how children learn and to support them in the classroom with excellent teachers, strategies, and resources.

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Whitney Ellenby

Author, Founder of Autism Ambassadors
Autism Ambassadors
Whitney Ellenby is a former US Department of Justice, Disability Rights attorney whose writings have been published in The Washington Post, law review periodical and the U.S. DOJ website. She is the author of “Divinity vs. Discrimination: Curtailing the Divine Reach of Church Authority,” Golden Gate University Law Review (1996)), as well as an amicus brief on behalf of the U.S. DOJ Disability Rights Division regarding discrimination against mo bility-impaired individuals in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

She is the proud parent of a son with Autism and founder of “Autism Ambassadors,” a charitable venture through which she runs exclusive recreational events for over 600 families impacted by Autism in the Washington, DC/Maryland area.

She is an expert on Autism and has testified before the Maryland Senate, and serves on the University of Maryland Autism Spectrum Disorder Advisory Board. Whitney’s expertise is steeped in her extensive disability law background and over 10 years of serving children, teens and adults with Autism through her “Autism Ambassador” events. Her “Ambassador events” have been featured in local TV news, The Washington Post and Bethesda Magazine.

Whitney was most recently honored with a “Community Leader” award for her advocacy and dedication to the disability community of Maryland. She has what she describes as a “healthy obsession” with all things Autism.

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Jennifer Engel Fisher

Associate Director
Weinfeld Education Group
As Associate Director, Jennifer serves as an educational consultant for students in elementary through high school, conducting observation, reviewing records, and attending school meetings. She is also responsible for the Advocacy division of WEG, which involves ongoing training of our thirteen advocates. Additionally, Jennifer runs our School Selection and Organizational Coaching divisions of WEG. Jennifer consults with schools, providing them with training on effective instructional strategies and methodologies.

Jennifer earned her B.S. from the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, and her M.S. in Special Education from Johns Hopkins University. Jennifer taught in both self-contained and inclusion settings in Howard County Public Schools, Maryland. She served a variety of student populations including students with AD/HD, Learning Disabilities, Autism Spectrum Disorder, Intellectual Disabilities, and those with an Emotional Disturbance diagnosis. Jennifer was also the Learning Resource Specialist at the Lowell School in Washington, DC. She consulted with teachers to support students with a wide variety of special needs as well as the gifted population. Her expertise in a variety of methodologies, including Orton-Gillingham, allows her the broad knowledge needed to work with a variety of populations.

Her current Board positions include: Board President of Washington Independent Services for Educational Resources (WISER), Academic Excellence Chair on the Board of Creative Minds International Public Charter School in DC, and Board Member of the International Dyslexia Association, Maryland Branch. Jennifer has co-authored two books; Take Control of Asperger’s Syndrome: The Official Strategy Guide for Teens with Asperger’s Syndrome and Nonverbal Learning Disorders and Take Control of Dyslexia and Other Reading Difficulties. Jennifer is also a contributing author of School Success for Kids with ADHD.

Jennifer provides advocacy and expert witness services at WEG.

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Fran Gage

Special Educator Paraeducator
MCPS
Fran Gage has 10 years experience with the special education department in Montgomery County - both in pre-school autism and middle school learning disability programs. From these professional experiences, along with raising her own twice exceptional child, who was privileged to be part of the GT/LD program, she has now focused her attention on changes at the legislative level appearing before the Ways and Means Committee on several occasions.

She is the founder of a 501 (c)3 charity, Suicide Resistance Foundation - Solidarity With Ayla, geared to making meaningful mental health changes, such as creating better ratios of student to mental health counselors in all academic venues.

Fran has a B.S degree in Legal Studies and a M.S degree in Business.

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Sarah Harte, LICSW

Clinical Outreach Coordinator
The Dorm
Sarah earned her Bachelor of Science in psychology from Northern Arizona University and her Master of Social Work from New York University with a specialty certification in Clinical Supervision. Sarah has close to two decades working with young adults in the field of social work and collegiate mental health.

Sarah serves as the Assistant Director for Outreach at The George Washington University’s Counseling & Psychological Services. Her hybrid role centers on expert clinical care and the development and implementation of campus-wide outreach. Sarah is an Adjunct Lecturer at the Columbia University School of Social Work and has previously worked with University of Maryland, Barnard College and Semester at Sea.

Sarah joined The Dorm in 2018 with the unique mission of developing strategic opportunities for increased awareness of The Dorm. Sarah believes strongly in the opportunity to further integrate collegiate professionals and stakeholders with The Dorm to protect the investment of university education while ensuring that students have the supports necessary to thrive.

Sarah spends her time outside of work taking long walks with her dog, Sundance. She also loves to travel the world, try new restaurants and cook at home.

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Gretchen Holtzinger Levine

Transition Specialist/Teacher
The Katherine Thomas School
Ms. Levine assists students to plan and obtain services for transition from high school to post secondary life, both as a transition teacher with Katherine Thomas School and through her work with Eric A. Levine and Associates.

She has presented at local, state and national conferences on a variety of topics related to inclusion, self-direction, transition planning and customized employment for individuals with disabilities.

As a Supervisor and Director of The Arc of Frederick County's Local Services Program, Gretchen was able to implement many new initiatives to enhance community support for children and adults with developmental disabilities.

Gretchen worked with The Way Station, in Frederick, a psychiatric rehabilitation program, to help develop employment programming for people with developmental disabilities and mental illness. Gretchen focused on individual outcomes through customized employment planning, and the use of local, state and federal funding streams for staffing of these services.

Ms. Levine earned a bachelor's degree in Special Education from Hood College and her Master of Arts Education and Human Development at The George Washington University and is a certified Special Education teacher.

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Sarah Finch Jackson

Instructional Specialist - Twice Exceptional
Montgomery County Public Schools
Sarah grew up in MCPS, graduating from Gaithersburg High School. After, she attended Roanoke College, and received her BA in Environmental Policy and Political Science. After working in a outdoor education with the Girl Scouts, and science education with the Science Museum of Western Virginia, and the IT world, she earned her M.A.T. in Secondary Social Studies Education from Hollins University. While there, she specialized in environmental education through a social studies lens.

In 2010, she then moved back to MCPS and began working in the Bridge Program at Hoover Middle School. She received my M.S.Ed. in Special Education, with endorsements in Gifted Education and Advanced Methods of Differentiation and Inclusion. In 2014, Sarah began working at Northwood High School where she taught in and coordinated the GT/LD program for four years. Sarah is currently an Instructional Specialist in the Division of Accelerated and Enriched Programs, where she specializes in working with twice-exceptional students, their teachers and developing programs. Sarah is also married and has a two-year-old daughter.

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Hayley Jacobson

Independent Educational Consultant
Weinfeld Education Group
Since 2011, Hayley Jacobson has worked as an Independent Educational Consultant with the Weinfeld Education Group successfully advocating for the needs of her clients. Hayley helps parents of special needs students to identify and seek out appropriate services for their children. She has advocated for those with ADHD, Emotional Disabilities, Autism Spectrum Disorders, FASD, Specific Learning Disabilities and Twice Exceptional students (GT/LD).

Hayley also serves as the School Selection Specialist for the group. In this role Hayley evaluates and recommends both public and private school options for parents trying to determine the correct placement of their children based on their individual needs.

Hayley is also a trained ADHD coach and provides coaching support to students with ADHD, guidance to parents, and has facilitated ADHD support groups for children. This includes working with adolescents and young adults to identify and teach appropriate strategies to strengthen executive function skills and to improve self-advocacy skills.

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Clay Kaufman

Head of School
The Siena School
Clay Kaufman,co- Head of School at The Siena School, is a longtime educator in the Washington, D.C. area.

As a teacher and administrator he has implemented hands-on, experiential learning and developed integrated curricula in the humanities and math/science for students with learning differences.

Mr. Kaufman has been selected for a variety of leadership roles, including: the E.E. Ford Fellowship for private school leadership; the Fulbright Teacher Exchange Program in Ankara, Turkey; an d the National Endowment for the Humanities Independent Scholars program.

He is a former board member of Sheridan School in Washington DC, and has presented workshops five times at the NAIS annual conference on the subject of skills and strategies for students with learning differences that are valuable for all students.

He has run training sessions and served as a consultant at numerous DC area public and private schools.

He holds a B.A. in American Studies from Yale University, and a Master's from Georgetown University.

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Joseph Kavitski

Head of School, Rockville
Fusion Academy
Joe earned his Masters of Arts in Art Therapy from New York University. He worked with adolescents in the juvenile justice system, adults struggling with mental illness, older adults with Alzheimer’s and Dementia, and spent time working at a clinic for men with physical and cognitive disabilities in Ghana. Later, he became a program manager for a NYC based non-profit organization specializing in 3D computer animation as a means to serve at-risk youth, teaching and running therapy groups in all five boroughs of New York City.

He has guest lectured at the School of Visual Arts in Manhattan and served as adjunct faculty at New York University’s Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development. He currently serves as Head of School at Fusion Academy in Rockville, an accredited private school providing one-to-one education and personalized learning for grades 6-12.

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Devin Goozh Kesterman

Kindergarten Teacher
Bethesda Elementary School
Devon Goozh Kesterman has been teaching for over 20 years in both public and private school settings, from nursery school through high school. Devon attended Georgetown University where she earned a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology. After teaching for a few years in Maryland and Tennessee, Devon attended Columbia University Teachers College where she earned her Masters of Education in Curriculum and Teaching. She is currently a kindergarten teacher at Bethesda Eleme ntary in Montgomery County.

As a teacher in an inclusion model school, Devon has experience teaching all types of learners and working alongside the parents during the school year. She has experience teaching students with multiple special needs, Rett Syndrome, ADHD, Autism Spectrum Disorder, Down's Syndrome, Emotional Disturbance Diagnosis, Developmental Delay and Intellectual Disabilities. She works to continuously incorporate strategies, resources and activities that engage all of the learners in her classroom.

Although she has taught in the upper grades, Devon truly loves working in Early Childhood maintaining her kindergarteners sense of wonder and curiosity. In the classroom, she enjoys the process of discovering how each child learns best in order to help her students reach their individual potential. Devon hopes to find ways to encourage independence and responsibility as the kindergarten year progresses, developing a sense of confidence and a love of learning in all of her students.

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Connie Lorentzen

Advisory Committee
Fairfax County School Board
Connie Lorentzen was born in Washington D.C., received a B.S. in Secondary Education from the University of Maryland.  Following graduation, she taught school on Maryland for a decade.

She is married and has three children; two of whom are twice exceptional.

She served for over a decade on the Fairfax County Council of PTAs and since 2004 have advocated, with Fairfax County Public Schools, for improved awareness and services to better meet the academic, social emotional and functional needs of 2e learners.

She currently serves on the Fairfax County School Boards Advisory Committee for Students with a Disability.

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Deborah Lourie

Director of Admissions
Chelsea School
Director of Admissions, Debbie Lourie, Ms. Lourie is a Licensed Certified Social Worker - Clinical (LCSW-C) with 12 years of service to Chelsea School. Previously serving as admissions Director at Katherine Thomas School, Debbie has a proud career with social work in educational environments and leading individual & group therapy for social, emotional, and learning disabled youth. She is responsible for ensuring that each and every applicant will thrive at Chelsea, and their pr ofile is a match for Chelsea’s mission.

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Dave Mullen

Head of School
The Nora School
David Mullen, M.Ed., has led The Nora School since 1991, instituting many new and innovative programs. Most recently, The Nora School has created a school-wide mindfulness curriculum to help students more skillfully self-regulate in the face of stress. The Nora School serves students in grades 9-12 who are bright but have not thrived in larger settings.

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Lorrie Ness, PhD

Child & Adolescent Psychologist
Ness Psychological Services
Lorrie Ness is a clinical psychologist in Silver Spring whose practice specializes in providing comprehensive testing and counseling to students and adults facing educational challenges. She received her B.A. in psychology from the University of Massachusetts, Boston and her Ph.D. in clinical psychology from the University of Tennessee.

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Michael Orleans

Senior Advisor
NFP/Meltzer Group
Michael came from the Washington Financial Group and joined the Meltzer Group in 2005 and has been an integral part in the growth of their retirement, employee benefits and insurance divisions.

Michael was recognized as a Special Care Planner from the American College and MassMutual in 2009. Recently, Michael achieved the Work Incentive Practitioner (WIP) designation from Cornell University. These designations enable Michael to assist individuals and families to navigate and manage the complexities regarding future care, government benefits, and financial needs that come with planning for a child/adult with special needs.

The lifetime planning for a child/adult with a disability can be daunting. Michael’s inspiration to focus on special needs planning stems from his personal struggles in planning for his daughter, Danielle, who has autism.

Having a sense of pride in the community, Michael has served on numerous boards including Community Services for Autistic Adults and Children (CSAAC) and The Meltzer Group Employee Giving Fund. Michael also serves as Board President of Shared Horizons; a pooled special needs trust in the D.C. metro area. Shared Horizons provides trust and fiduciary services for people with disabilities.

Volunteering time is also of paramount importance as Michael was honored as Volunteer of the Year for Cornerstone Montgomery in 2017 and he is currently a Representative Payee for Every Mind, formerly known as Mental Health Association of Montgomery County.

He has spoken at numerous events focusing on special needs families and planning for the future. He has spoken at CSAAC, Muscular Dystrophy Association, Autism Speaks, The Ivymount School and many other organizations.

Michael is a third generation Washingtonian and graduate from the University of Maryland. He resides in Bethesda, Maryland with his wife Linda and daughter Danielle.

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Chase Phillips

Senior Vice President
Merrill Lynch
Chase Phillips focuses on developing and implementing advanced financial strategies for families, businesses, and individuals, including those with long term disabilities and special needs.

Starting with Merrill Lynch in 2008, Chase concentrates on clients’ primary concerns: preservation of capital, tax minimization, and lifetime cash flow needs. To help ensure that customized strategies are developed for his clients, Chase works in conjunction with families’ Estate Attorneys and CPAs to establish multi-generational wealth strategies, frequently in tandem with philanthropic techniques.

In addition, Chase's practice has a specific focus on improving the financial well-being of individuals living with special needs regardless of their age or disability. This includes customized financial strategies for families with special needs loved ones, including; Special Needs Trusts, Pooled Special Needs Trusts, Conservatorships, Guardianships, Charitable Trusts, Generational Skipping Trusts and a variety of Family Trusts.

In 2017 and 2018 Chase was recognized by Forbes/Shook as one of "America's Top Next-Generation Wealth Advisors."

Chase graduated from The University of Wisconsin-Madison with a BA in History. While at Wisconsin, Chase a member of the Men’s rowing team where he was the coxswain of the Men’s Varsity 8. He was also selected to the 2005 and 2006 United States National rowing team where he represented the USA at two World Rowing Championships in Japan and Belgium; bringing home a bronze medal for the USA in 2005.

He volunteers at Quality Trust for Individuals with Disabilities where he sits on the board as chairman. Quality Trust is an independent, non-profit advocacy organization focused on improving the lives of children and adults with disabilities and their families. Chase also serves on the Investment Committee for Children's National Medical Center in Washington, DC.

He resides in Arlington, VA with his wife, Beth Roszkowski, daughter, Grace and son, James.

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Janet Price

Dir, Admissions & Outreach
College Living Experience
Janet Price is the Director of Admissions and Outreach at College Living Experience in Rockville, MD. Janet has nearly 10 years previous experience as an educational advocate, and has co-authored two books, Take Control of Asperger’s Syndrome, winner of the 2010 Legacy Book Award, and Take Control of Dyslexia, as well as numerous articles. She has been a guest lecturer for graduate programs in special education and autism at Towson University and America n University and wrote the course content for an online graduate level class in special education advocacy. She has presented at national conferences on a variety of topics related to special education advocacy and transition. Janet holds a B.A. from The George Washington University.

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Debbie Reber

Author, founder TiLT Parenting
TiLT Parenting
Differently WiredDebbie Reber is a parenting activist, NY Times bestselling author, podcast host, and speaker who moved her career in a more personal direction in 2016 when she founded TiLT Parenting, a website, weekly podcast, and social media community for parents like her who are raising differently wired children. The TiLT Parenting Podcast has grown to be a top podcast in iTunes’ Kids and Family category, with more than 500,000 downloads and a slate of guests that includes hi gh-profile thought leaders across the parenting and education space. Debbie’s newest book is "Differently Wired: Raising an Exceptional Child in a Conventional World."

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Rhona Schwartz

High School Director
The Katherine Thomas School
As an administrator and a classroom teacher, Ms. Schwartz has more than 35 years of experience working with children and adolescents with learning disabilities, autism, intellectual disabilities and other health impairments. Ms. Schwartz designed and has led the KTS high school program since its inception in 2005. Throughout her career, Ms. Schwartz has nurtured collaborative relationships with funding sources, institutions of higher education, and other community organizations and agencies to maintain a high quality program.

Prior to joining KTS, Ms. Schwartz was for 10 years an assistant head of high school and later Director of Tutoring at a private school for special needs students. Mrs. Schwartz earned her Master’s degree in Special Education from Columbia University's Teachers College in New York.

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Rick Silver, MD

Psychiatrist & Director
The THRIVE Center
Rick Silver, M.D., is a psychiatrist and the director of the Thrive Center for ADHD and Comprehensive Mental Health Care, which provides programs for failure to launch young adults. Dr. Silver is committed to multi-modal treatment approaches, well versed in theoretical understandings of ADHD and related issues such as failure to launch, and a dynamic speaker and thoughtful practitioner who connects easily with audiences as well as with individual patients.

Dr. Silver obtained his undergraduate degree from University of Michigan, a master’s degree in public health from The Johns Hopkins School of Public Health, and his medical and psychiatric training at the University of Maryland School of Medicine.

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Katherine Theobald

Director of High School
Commonwealth Academy
Katie Theobald is the Director of High School at Commonwealth Academy overseeing the academic programs and faculty in grades 9-12. She enjoys working to create a positive and engaging High School experience for students and their families.

Before starting that position last year, she was the Academic Dean. She monitored student academics, helping to provide students with extra strategies for success and working with teachers to assist them in supporting students in the classroom.

Ms. Theobald joined C/A in 2005 as a Middle School Math and Science teacher. She transitioned to teaching High School Math and Science and served as Math Department Chair. She continued to teach High School Science through the 2016-2017 School Year and served as Chair of the Science Department for seven years.

Prior to joining C/A, Ms. Theobald worked in the education departments of two zoos. As an intern at the Indianapolis Zoo, she supported the summer teen program and helped to develop the zoo’s interpretation materials. At the Cincinnati Zoo she led overnight programs for students, including outdoor lessons, animal demos and building tours.

It was while working at the zoos that Ms. Theobald discovered how much she enjoyed sharing her love of science with children. She dropped her plan to pursue a doctorate in Biological Anthropology and decided to pursue a career in science education.

Katie Theobald holds a Master’s degree in Science Education from Montana State University and has an undergraduate degree in Biology (minor in Chemistry) from Xavier University. Katie was named C/A Teacher of the Year in 2010/11.

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Sarah Wayland, PhD

Special Needs Care Navigator, Parenting Coach, RDI Consultant
Guiding Exceptional Parents
Sarah C. Wayland, Ph.D. is the owner and founder of Guiding Exceptional Parents, LLC. Her work focuses on providing parents with the tools they need to help their children with ADHD, autism spectrum disorders, learning disabilities, giftedness and other challenges that make it hard to function in school or at home.

She teaches parenting classes as well as classes on parent self-care.

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Rich Weinfeld

Executive Director
Weinfeld Education Group
Richard Weinfeld directs Weinfeld Education Group, LLC, a group of over 25 educational consultants, located in Maryland, Washington DC, and Virginia. In addition to directing the work of the company, Mr. Weinfeld provides direct special education consultation services to
families of students with special needs. Mr. Weinfeld also provides extensive parent and staff training and consults with schools about appropriate programming for students.

Rich has long been an advocate for quality educational programs for all students. Twenty-six years of his thirty-year career, with Montgomery County (Maryland) Public Schools, were spent in a variety of leadership roles in special education. Mr. Weinfeld has expertise in working with students with a wide range of disabilities including learning disabilities, autism spectrum disorders and emotional disabilities. He served as Montgomery County’s first full-time
coordinator of programs for students who are simultaneously gifted and learning disabled.

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Val Wise, PhD

Adjunct Professor
Johns Hopkins University
Dr. Valaida L. Wise (Val) is an adjunct professor at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland. An educator for almost 20 years, Val received a Bachelor’s degree in developmental psychology from Syracuse University, an M.A.T. from Trinity College, Washington D.C., and holds a doctorate in Education from George Washington University.
A Brava award winner, Val has lectured nationally and internationally, most recently on the topic of early childhood education at Tanjian University and other provinces in China. She has presented at a variety of conferences including, National Association of Independent Schools (NAIS) Education Diplomacy, Children’s Trust, etc. Val has written several articles on educational leadership in early childhood as well as Montessori Education. Her article: A Critical Absence in the Field of Educational Administration: Framing the (Missing) Discourse of Leadership in Early Childhood appears in the International Journal of Educational Leadership Preparation. She is a trustee on several professional and independent school boards. Val is married with 3 children.

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Joan Wittan

Founder, Independent Educational Consultant
College Consulting Collaborative
Joan Wittan works with students with a wide variety of learning differences and loves the challenge of finding and building on their strengths and maximizing their potential. She has expertise working with twice-exceptional students and a broad and in-depth knowledge of colleges with appropriate learning supports and programs. Joan has developed materials and processes to help students prepare to be independent and successful individuals and find the right post-secondary fit.

Joan has extensive experience with the education community serving on multiple committees through Montgomery County Public Schools, the Board of the GTLD Network, and as a Board member for the Independent Educational Consultants Association. She has both interest and experience in the intersection of education (MCPS) and business through work for the Montgomery County Business Roundtable on Education.

Joan is a founding member of The College Consulting Collaborative which provides individualized planning, preparation, and placement for students with learning differences (offices in the DMV, Charleston SC, and San Francisco CA)

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Commonwealth Academy

2-Day Sponsor
Commonwealth Academy offers an exceptional college preparatory program that serves average to gifted student in Grades 3–12. Our students have varying learning styles and many struggle with ADHD and Executive Function challenges. They benefit from small classes and individualized instruction designed to address learning differences. Our welcoming community provides an environment that celebrates students by appreciating their unique talents, challenging them appropriately and supporting their areas of need. Students in every grade are empowered to reach their highest achievement levels, reflective of their true potential. Our caring and experienced faculty upholds a school culture that fosters both academic risk-taking and social success for our students. Commonwealth Academy students graduate prepared for the challenges of college, career and life pursuits.
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McLean School

2-Day Sponsor
Where Others See Disabilities, McLean Sees Gifts.

McLean School transforms lives. Our small classes and Abilities ModelTM prepare bright students K-12 including those with dyslexia, anxiety, attention and organizational issues for college success.

Help Your Child Discover Their Strengths.

McLean School
Transformative
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Fusion Academy

2-Day Sponsor
Fusion Academy in Rockville, Maryland, is much more than an accredited private middle and high school for grades 6-12; it’s a revolutionary community of learning where positive relationships and one-to-one classrooms unlock the academic potential in every student and create opportunities for emotional and social growth.
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The Auburn School

2-Day Sponsor
The Auburn School, an integrated program built for student success, weaving together our social skills program and challenging academic curriculum. Our schools serve intellectually curious students with challenges in socialization, communication, and organization.

Auburn integrates art, music, social learning, occupational therapy, study skills, and organizational techniques into core academic subjects. We have campuses in Virginia, DC and Maryland

The Auburn School's Camp Aristotle summer camp provides a fun, stress free environment for students with social and communication challenges. Exciting activities, based on weekly themes, are carefully designed to foster friendships, self awareness, exploration, and social success.
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The Dorm

2-Day Sponsor
Since 2010, our mission has been to guide young adults ages 17 to 35 towards independence through evidence-based clinical therapies, community support and practical skill building.
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The Treatment & Learning Centers

Tote Bag Sponsor
The Treatment and Learning Centers is a private, non-profit organization founded in 1950 in Rockville, MD that annually serves nearly 2000 children and adults with a wide range of special needs. Our mission is to improve the lives and expand possibilities for individuals with disabilities through offering a family of services within one organization.

We serve families from Montgomery County, Howard County, Frederick, Washington DC, and northern Virginia.
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Chelsea School

Chelsea School is a nonprofit special education school for students with language-based learning difference. We are college preparatory program for students in grades 5-12.
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Commonwealth Academy

2-Day Sponsor
Commonwealth Academy offers an exceptional college preparatory program that serves average to gifted student in Grades 3–12. Our students have varying learning styles and many struggle with ADHD and Executive Function challenges. They benefit from small classes and individualized instruction designed to address learning differences.

Our welcoming community provides an environment that celebrates students by appreciating their unique talents, challenging them appropriately and supporting their areas of need.

Students in every grade are empowered to reach their highest achievement levels, reflective of their true potential. Our caring and experienced faculty upholds a school culture that fosters both academic risk-taking and social success for our students.

Commonwealth Academy students graduate prepared for the challenges of col lege, career and life pursuits.
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Eagle Hill School

Eagle Hill School is a co-educational college preparatory boarding school that provides an individualized education for students identified with language based learning (dis)abilities including Dyslexia, Dysgraphia and ADHD (inattentive type). Eagle Hill is an IB World School that offers the International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme in addition to our traditional high school diploma.
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FlexSchool

FlexSchool is the learning community for gifted and twice-exceptional learners from grades 5 through 12, with a curriculum for post-graduate students as well.

If traditional school environments have not been a good fit for your student, please join us to learn about our philosophy of embracing differences and meeting students where they are. We accept students gifted in one or more areas, including those who have challenges ranging from dyslexia to ADHD to ASD to social anxiety.

We are a strength-based program, focused on helping students develop their gifts and talents with the assistance of our expert educators.
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Fusion Academy

2-Day Sponsor
Fusion Academy in Rockville, Maryland, is much more than an accredited private middle and high school for grades 6-12; it’s a revolutionary community of learning where positive relationships and one-to-one classrooms unlock the academic potential in every student and create opportunities for emotional and social growth.
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GTLD Network

The GTLD Network is an organization of parents of twice exceptional children, and the educators and clinicians who work with them. The strength of the GTLD Network is its members, who support parents as they navigate the school IEP and 504 process, provide infomation about the strengths and needs of 2e kids, and advocate for greater understanding and school support.
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Law Offices of Nicole Joseph

The Law Offices of Nicole Joseph provides representation for families negotiating the special education process including identification, IEP or 504 development, progress monitoring, team meetings, and mediation or appeals, as well as appeals and support through the school discipline process.
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Summit Camp

Summit's Camp, Travel, and Weekender programs provide therapeutic recreation for children and teens that have social learning and executive function skill deficits.
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The Auburn School

2-Day Sponsor
The Auburn School, an integrated program built for student success, weaving together our social skills program and challenging academic curriculum. Our schools serve intellectually curious students with challenges in socialization, communication, and organization.

Auburn integrates art, music, social learning, occupational therapy, study skills, and organizational techniques into core academic subjects.  We have campuses in Virginia, DC and Maryland

The Auburn School's Camp Aristotle summer camp provides a fun, stress free environment for students with social and communication challenges. Exciting activities, based on weekly themes, are carefully designed to foster friendships, self awareness, exploration, and social success.
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The Chidren's Guild

The Children's Guild...
Empowering children with the vision to see, the courage to try and the will to succeed.
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The Dorm

2-Day Sponsor
Since 2010, our mission has been to guide young adults ages 17 to 35 towards independence through evidence-based clinical therapies, community support and practical skill building.
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The Kingsbury Center

The Kingsbury Center provides a transformative educational and social experience for children and adults with learning differences. The Center uses action research to ensure best practices.
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The Lab School of Washington

The Lab School of Washington is an innovative learning community fostering scholarship and creativity in 1st through 12th grade students with language-based learning differences. In an environment of inquiry and hands-on exploration, Lab School students learn to advocate for themselves as they become engaged and compassionate members of a global society.
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The Siena School

The Siena School, proudly celebrating its 13th school year, was recently named as Washington FAMILY Magazine's best special needs school three years in a row. Siena is a co-ed day school serving bright college bound students in grades 4-12 with mild to moderate language-based learning differences. Sign up for a Wednesday tour at 9:30am.
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The Treatment & Learning Centers

Tote Bag Sponsor
The Treatment and Learning Centers is a private, non-profit organization founded in 1950 in Rockville, MD that annually serves nearly 2000 children and adults with a wide range of special needs. Our mission is to improve the lives and expand possibilities for individuals with disabilities through offering a family of services within one organization.

We serve families from Montgomery County, Howard County, Frederick, Washington DC, and northern Virginia.
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Weinfeld Education Group

Solutions & Strategies for Student Success

We are a child centered team of special education experts who work collaboratively with all involved professionals to design and review individualized plans, helping each child reach his or her unique potential.
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With Understanding Comes Calm

We guide parents of "gifted & distractible" children, mentor 2e adults, train teachers and collaborate with clinicians on how to bring out the best and raise self esteem in 2e kids.
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Registration

08:30 AM 09:20 AM

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Welcome & Opening Remarks

09:20 AM 09:30 AM

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CE Workshop - Supporting Optimal Outcomes for a Neurodiverse Community

09:30 AM 11:00 AM

A central challenge of parenting is that as soon as we have mastered one set of challenges, a new set emerges. Most often, these new challenges come at developmental milestones, and it can be harrowing for both providers and parents.

The challenge of creating an evolving treatment plan that supports children and families with neurodiverse backgrounds that may affect learning, emotion and behavior regulation, or navigating the social world as the children grow and mature takes a clear-eyed understanding of the end goal you are working towards. For a young neuro-diverse adult to successfully maximize their abilities to be independent, they must have a comprehensive understanding of their strengths and weaknesses, including the underlying causes for their challenges and the ability to persist in the face of difficulties.

In this seminar, we embrace neurodiversity as we examine the key developmental transition periods from preschool through young-adulthood with a practical focus on understanding how to identify and leverage strengths, uncover and address underlying neuropsychological challenges that impact developmental progress, and illustrate how to pragmatically and practically prepare children and families for adulthood and all stages of development. This seminar is appropriate for mental health and educational professionals, including assessors, therapists, and tutors working with developmental differences.

Learning Objectives:
  • Identify the strengths of the individual that make them ready for the next stage.
  • Identify the challenges that may interfere with success at the next stage
  • Identify the strategies they will use to address and overcome the challenge
  • Identify effective strategies for promoting independence, responsibility and resilience in children with differences.

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Networking Brunch

11:00 AM 11:30 AM

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CE Workshop - continued

11:30 AM 01:00 PM

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Registration

08:00 AM 09:00 AM

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Conference Welcome

09:00 AM 09:10 AM

Speakers

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Keynote: Differently Wired: Raising an Exceptional Child in a Conventional World

09:10 AM 10:30 AM Auditorium

Today one in five children is neurodivergent, or what Debbie calls “differently wired,” yet this ubiquitous population is stuck growing up in a world that don’t embrace their gifts, talents, and the modern-day evolution they represent.

In her keynote address, Debbie will share ten powerful “tilts,” a.k.a. practical ideas to help parents, professionals, and educators shift their thinking and actions in a way that will help them not only feel more confidence and peace in supporting the atypical children in their lives, but meaningful contribute to a new paradigm where differently wired kids are seen and embraced in school and society, ensuring that the future is abnormal in the best possible way.

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1A - Readiness for Kindergarten

10:35 AM 11:35 AM

As students move into today’s kindergartens, they face significant academic demands, as well as social and behavioral demands.

This panel of early childhood experts will discuss the indicators of readiness for this first great academic transition and how parents can help their children begin to launch successfully.

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1B - Readiness for Middle School

10:35 AM 11:35 AM

Traditional middle school programs present a huge set of demands for students. The executive functioning challenges of dealing with multiple classes and multiple teachers, who have different systems and expectations, present a significant challenge for many students. Middle school is also a time of significant social challenges.

This panel of middle school experts will discuss the ways parents and professionals can support students during this time of transition.

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1C - Readiness for High School

10:35 AM 11:35 AM

Typical high school programs place significant pressure on students, who are faced with earning credits toward graduation and with the pressure of getting ready for college and/or the world of work.

This panel of experts will discuss how parents can begin to launch students towards independence during this important period.

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Lunch & Exhibit Hall

11:40 AM 01:10 PM

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2A - Launching 2E Students

12:25 PM 01:10 PM

Your child is almost finished with high school and now they are thinking about what is next. The options for twice-exceptional kids can be tough to figure out because their asynchronous development means they have the ability to shine in some areas, while simultaneously struggling to master other skills like executive functioning, reading, and adaptive skills.

In this presentation, you will learn about some of the options for life after high school, how to set your child up for success, and how to support and collaborate with your young adult to help them make sensible choices that will lead to a rich and fulfilling life.

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2B - Launching Students with Autism

12:25 PM 01:10 PM

So begins the turbulent ride of one parent’s decision, crafted in despair and desperation, to abandon traditional interventions for her autistic son in favor of a “hands on” approach of repeatedly exposing her son to real-world settings. Autism Uncensored is an unrestricted portal into the mind of someone who had no intention of sacrificing her career or life for Autism, unaware of the many ways it would irreversibly redefine both. As she clarifies at the outset, “this is not the story of a miraculous breakthrough or recovery,” Zack is still very much autistic and always will be. It is instead the true, real-time account of her decision to allow Zack to indulge in the very behaviors that formal therapies sought to extinguish, to disclose Zack’s diagnosis in public settings, and to repeatedly e xpose him to real-world situations and override his tantrums regardless of public ridicule or scorn.

Autism Uncensored goes where no other book dares—revealing the private disgrace and self-blame about having a “defective” child; the near disintegration of marriage; the failure of the traditional behavioral interventions; and the mercenary way in which service providers prey on parents’ desperation for a cure. It is a personal manifesto about how a socially integrated life is attainable regardless of whether a child overcomes the major limitations of Autism, sparking a new conversation which goes beyond simply accepting persons with Autism for who they are, but considers pushing them beyond their comfort zones to learn who they are capable of becoming. An unstoppable ride with jolting twists and turns, Autism Uncensored will leave you exhilarated, informed and still gasping for air.

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2C - Launching Students with Mental Health Challenges

12:25 PM 01:10 PM

Three pinnacle questions come to mind when students are being placed in classroom settings:
  1. Do we really know how to look at our students?
  2. Have evaluative tests become so standardized that we use the results to assume mental stability is equal to high scores? and;
  3. What protocols, if any, ARE currently in place when emotional suffering is suspected?

Our society has been programed quite well to attend to physical ailments. But, we are also programmed to not intrude on emotional ailments.

In addition, along with the curriculum guidance, are the mainstream teachers guided on what to look for to see if student is suffering? What are they to do if there is that suspicion or are they simply looking the other way due to fears of legal ramifications?

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3A - Launching at Every Age and Stage

01:15 PM 02:15 PM

A central challenge of parenting is that as soon as we have mastered one set of challenges, a new set emerges. This workshop will assist parents to support their neurodiverse children through the many transitions of childhood and adolescence while taking the long-view of working toward having confident, happy young adults ready to take on the challenges of adulthood.

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3B - Diploma vs. Certificate

01:15 PM 02:15 PM

As academic demands have increase in our schools, many parents have been advised to to take their children off the diploma track and have them pursue certificates instead.  This panel of experts will explore the implications of choosing each of these paths, as well as parental rights within this process.

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3C - Employment and Independent Living

01:15 PM 02:15 PM

Two of the ultimate goals of special education are to prepare students for employment and independent living. For those students who need support with entering the world of work and in preparing to live on their own, there are agencies and supports that can help make this a reality.  This panel of experts will discuss how parents can successfully launch students who need extra support in these two crucial areas.

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4A - The Struggling to Launch Young Adults: From Failure to Success

02:20 PM 03:20 PM

Parenting the struggling to launch young adult can be an arduous task, as these individuals try to meet the challenges of finding a clear identity, separating from family, and developing a sense of intrinsic motivation. Parents often feel at a loss to understand why their child has reached an impasse where jobs, school, friendships and emotional stability seem impossible to reach; and powerless to help their child make healthy changes. This presentation will answer some of the more pressing questions at this developmental stage, including the roots of failure to launch, interventions that can be used at home to shape more age-appropriate behaviors, what kind of help to seek from professionals and how to find the emotional support as parents so necessary to successfully deal with this life stage. Ample time will be provided to address specific concerns from participants.

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4B - Readiness for College

02:20 PM 03:20 PM

It’s never too early to begin thinking about college! This panel of experts will share information and strategies so that families can help prepare students for a successful college transition. Participants will learn to identify potential concerns; promote independence; foster necessary academic, social, and emotional skills; and identify the best fit college and supports for their student. With planning and practice, students can become college ready and launch successfully.

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4C - Readiness for Financial Independence

02:20 PM 03:20 PM

The Panel of three financial planners will discuss steps parents can take to help ensure their children, when they become young adults, will have the knowledge and techniques necessary for financial independence. The Panel will also discuss ways for parents to provide financial resources to their children that will help them launch.

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Launched! A Panel of Young Adults Discussing What Worked

03:25 PM 04:30 PM

All of the speakers of this year’s Diamonds conference will present information about how parents and professionals can prepare students to launch successfully.

In this culminating panel, hear from the young adults, themselves, about what worked for them, in school and at home, to help them be the successful adults they are today.

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Closing Remarks, Silent Auction Winners

04:30 PM 04:45 PM

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