17th Annual Conference


Empowering Parents and Professionals for over forty years

Friday and Saturday October 7th and 8th

Friday Schedule

Professional Tract
9:00-10:00        The Child, the Family and the Doctor-Dr Raun Melmed-Enhancing outcomes through exploring the individuality of the child, the response of families and the role of physicians.

10:00-10:30       Break
10:30-12:00      The Latest and Greatest – Technological Advances in Neuromodulation for Improved Treatment Outcomes-Dr. Amy Serin-Recent developments in quantitative electroencephalogram technology allow us to obtain 3-D images of brain structures that can illuminate brain-based difficulties for children with ASD diagnoses.  Using sophisticated z-score training and real time feedback, Neuropsychologists  can now alter electrical activity and improve functioning in major brain networks resulting in improved social skills, attention, executive functioning, motor control, and mood.  Using her trademark humor and engaging presentation style, Dr. Amy Serin will review the recent developments in this technology and will discuss the science and practice of using these methods to improve global functioning in children, adolescents, and adults with ASD diagnoses.   
12:00-1:00         Lunch
1:00-2:30      Treatment Factors that Improve Outcomes in Autism Services-Dr. Dixon from CARD-Many factors influence treatment outcomes in individuals with autism spectrum disorder. Researchers have discussed the impact of factors intrinsic to the person receiving the services (i.e., age, ASD severity, IQ, etc.); however, little research has been done to explore treatment-specific factors (i.e., dose, supervision, location, etc.). Our research group has recently examined the impact of treatment dose, supervision, and the location of services on the rate of skill acquisition. These factors are discussed in terms of what can be done to improve individual treatment outcomes.
2:30-3:00          Break
3:00-4:30         Executive Functioning: Using ABA to Teach Social Cognition and Executive Function Skills to Children with Autism-Executive function skills are abilities children and adults use to organize, plan and act on information.  These skills are critical brain functions we use when getting organized, planning, initiating work, staying on task, controlling impulses, regulating emotions, and being flexible, adaptable and resilient.  Theory of Mind refers to one’s ability to perceive how others think and feel, and how that relates to oneself. This presentation will provide an overview of the different areas of executive functions and theory of mind, as well as provide methods of assessing deficits. Practical strategies for improving skills in the areas of executive functioning and theory of mind using ABA methodologies for varying levels of functioning will be discussed and demonstrated.  

Speech Track
9:00-10:00   Essential Role of Speech Language pathology in Autism- Kathryn Severson, M.S., CCC-SLP and Courtney Block, M.S., CCC-SLP-This presentation explains the important role of the speech-language pathologist in treating children with autism spectrum disorders including  detailed ways that autism spectrum disorders can co-occur along with other speech and language disorders, including but not limited to: apraxia, language processing difficulties, fluency disorders, and dysarthria.
10:00-10:30  Break
10:30-12:00  What is Apraxia and How to Treat It- Anita Werner MS CCC-SLP-Some children find it is difficult to command their mouth to move the way they want it to, in order to speak correctly. The problem is with the “wiring” or the brain sending the signals to the mouth telling the articulators (i.e., lips, tongue, jaw, etc.…) what to do. This problem is called Childhood Apraxia of Speech and we are finding that more and more children with autism have this speech disorder.  What are the characteristics, how do you know if your child has it, and what is done to help children with autism that have apraxia?
12:00-1:00   Lunch
1:00-2:30    Purposeful Play: Facilitating Social Play for Children with Autism- Nicolette Piano and Lacee Johnson – Participants will learn the definition of play as well as the developmental milestones of typical play and the application to children with autism.  Participants will discover how to promote play at various levels; from the importance of teaching basic play, to tips for facilitating a play date.  Understanding the necessary prerequisites of play will provide a foundation for integrating more advanced language skills and social expectations into interactive group settings.
2:30-3:00      Break
3:00-4:30      Feeding Therapy: Children with Autism Fear New Foods and How Feeding Therapy Can Help- Dawn Winkelmann – Parents and professionals will learn 7 reasons why food neophobia starts, 4 reasons why children with Autism continue to fear of new foods, common mistakes parents make that can cause food refusal as well as tips to overcome food neophobia!

 Classroom Track 1
9:00-10:00    Accommodations: Part of a Successful Inclusion Plan-Ricki Light-While children with Autism all have their own unique set of strengths and needs, many may successfully learn along side of their same aged peers in the general education classrooms with the appropriate set of supports.  Many times, the implementations of appropriate accommodations can make the difference between successful inclusion experiences and frustration.  This session will provide the participants with some accommodations that have been successfully implemented for children with Autism so that they can access the general education curriculum and show their understanding of the skills and concepts. These are of course suggestions and need to be discussed with the individual education team to see if they are applicable to meet the child’s unique set of needs. 10:00-10:30   Break
10:30-12:00  “Why do they do that?” – Michelle Hogan, M.Ed., BCBA & Teresa Toraason, M.Ed., BCBA – Presentation will focus on the function of some of the most challenging behaviors in the ASD classroom. Participants will learn about the functions of behavior and their characteristics along with evidence based practices that can be easily implemented.
12:00-1:00    Lunch
1:00-2:30      Executive Function and Theory of Mind- Practical Interventions for Individuals with Autism- Jessica Belokas, MA, BCBA, LBA Clinical Director for Autism Spectrum Therapies– This presentation will provide an overview of the different areas of executive functions and theory of mind, as well as provide methods of assessing deficits. Practical strategies for improving skills in the areas of executive functioning and theory of mind using ABA methodologies for varying levels of functioning will be discussed and demonstrated.
2:30-3:00      Break
3:00-4:30      Make Social Skills Stick:  Practical Tools And Strategies For Parents- Anita Werner, M.S., CCC-SLP- In our attempt to improve social skills, we expect children to quickly change a behavior that is indelibly etched into their brains but this is actually a long and laborious path to travel as they work to change to “a better way”. We will review the complexities of the process and strategies parents can use to help their high functioning children with Autism Spectrum Disorders.

Classroom Track 2
9:00-10:00    Using Visual Support for Students with Developmental Disabilities-Debra Watson from Sierra Academy-Visual supports—concrete representations of information that is absorbed visually—are one way that educators and parents can help students understand what is being communicated to them. When attending this presentation you will learn about the four common types of visual supports:  visual schedules, information sharers, checklists/organizers, and visual behavior supports.
10:00-10:30   Break
10:30-11:15    An Introduction to an Inclusive Preschool Model: The SARRC Community School-Rachel A. McIntosh, M.A., BCBA-Participants will learn about the Community School model.  The Presentation will review videos highlighting a fun group-wide intervention that taught the preschoolers how to engage in appropriate free play behaviors.
11:15-12:00   Fun at the Farm- Cherise Basques, MS, OTR/L and Angela Troy, MS, OTR/L – Using simple, nature-based sensory spaces and strategies alongside fun and meaningful leisure and vocational activities. Learn how to make a sensory space for your home that incorporates natural materials. These spaces and strategies can be used to create a calming and regulating space for your child. Learn how to incorporate more natural activities in your child’s day and decrease time with electronic based activities. Bonus activities include how to use your own dog in your home therapy program.
12:00-1:00    Lunch
1:00-2:30      Creating Meaningful Social Skills Interventions for Students with Autism in General Education Settings-Vanessa DiCarlo, Special Education Consultant & Advocate-This session will focus on meaningful ideas for social skills interventions that can be seamlessly embedded into general education settings.  Using an individualized but flexible five step model, parents will leave with specific tools, and a planning form that can jump-start your child’s current social skills program.
2:30-3:00      Break
3:00-3:45    Goals Not Guilt- Shawn Davis

To download the PowerPoints please click HERE

3:45-4:30     Dogs in The Classroom-Lorie Crabtree-The ability to work with both service dogs and students is an opportunity that comes around only once in awhile.  Working at a school for children with autism allows me to have these amazing opportunities of bridging different elements together to create a positive environment.  Seeing the joy on the face of my students and staff when the dogs are on campus, brings a smile to my face and warms my heart.

Saturday October 8th
Transition Track
9:00-10:00    Snapshots of Success- Panel Discussion with Kristina DesJardins, Robert Gary, Carmen Guerrero, Tara Mahaffey, and Westlee Nuttall- What happens when our children grow up? Discover the challenges encountered by adults on the autism spectrum as well as their accomplishments as they share their journeys of success in the areas of education, employment, independent living and relationships
10:00-10:30  Break
10:30-11:15  Post Secondary Option: College Bound-Panel disussion with Simon Crawford Academic Director of Northbridge College Success Program and Executive Director pf Chapel Haven West Ken Hosto and Justin D Coller, B.S. Director of Operations for Life Development Institute
11:15-12:00  Post Secondary Option: Vocational- Panel discussion with Gina Griffiths,  MSW Program Director of STARS, Denise Gary Chief Financial Officer of RMG Imaging Artists LLC and Helen K. Wade
Director of Hacienda HealthCare’s Vocational and Day Program Services, Mary Ann LaRoche from SEEDs for Autism
12:00-1:00 Lunch
1:00-1:45   Tips for a Successful Transition-Betty Schoen, MA, ORC Region 1 Transition Specialist Rehabilitation Service Administration.
1:45-2:30     Adult System of Care (Social Security, Nutrition Assistance, AHCCCS, Medicare, Behavioral Health)-Debbie Weidinger
2:30-3:00    Break
3:00-3:45    Transition What’s healthcare Got To Do With it? Rita Aitken Education and Advocacy Manager, Office for Children with Special Heatlh Care Needs
3:45-4:30    Independent Living Options- Panel discussion with Mark Roth of Cottage Management, Jesse Jo Stanton  Program Director of Treasure House Phoenix, David Moise of Independent Living Experience.

Legal Track Track
9:00-10:00    Resolving Special Education Disputes:  Behind the Scenes with a School Attorney, Parent Attorneys and a Former State Complaint Investigator – Heather R. Pierson, Esq., Maureen Ringenoldus, M.Ed., Hope N. Kirsch, M.A.(Ed.) and Lori Kirsch-Goodwin, Esq.- Have you ever had a problem, disagreement or dispute with your child’s school?  Ever wonder whether you have a “case”?  Ever wonder how best to resolve the issue?  This is a unique opportunity to get a behind-the-scenes glimpse of how a parent attorney evaluates your case, how a state investigator investigates, and how a parent attorney negotiates with the school attorney to resolve the issues to avoid Due Process.
10:00-10:30   Break
10:30-12:00  3 Hot Topics in Special Education-Bullying, Discipline and Placement vs Location- Hope N. Kirsch, M.A.(Ed.), Esq. and Lori Kirsch-Goodwin, Esq. –Special education attorneys will walk parents and professionals through the legal ins and outs of three of the most pressing issues that students with disabilities encounter. Parents and professionals will understand the legal rights and protections that both the parents and student have in the areas of bullying, discipline and placement/location decisions, and parents and professionals will improve their advocacy skills and learn how to handle these special education issues and disputes with confidence.
12:00-1:00    Lunch
1:00-2:30      Guardianship, SSI and Special Needs Trust—Navigating the Courts, SSA and the Law Emily Kile, Esq. and Jennifer Kupiszewski, Esq-Learn about the when, why and how of guardianships, SSI benefits and Special Needs Trusts.  This program will give you an introduction to issues that are commonly navigated by families with special needs loved ones.  The attorneys will talk in English (not legalese) about these very important matters.  There is a lot to talk about, so come prepared to listen and learn
2:30-3:00      Break
3:00-4:30      The IEP, the LRE, and Inclusion for Students with Autism- Susan Marks, Attorney at Law and Andrea O’Brien, Special Education Consultant & Advocate– This session will provide an overview of how to ensure the inclusion of students with autism in the least restrictive environment (LRE) through the IEP process. Participants will be introduced to the research supporting positive outcomes of an inclusive education, the IDEA provisions that support inclusive education, and key features of the IEP to support quality inclusive educational services.

9:00-10:00   Testing For and Treating Medical Comorbidities in Autism-Dr. Dan Rossignol-Evidence has accumulated that many children with autism have medical problems (“comorbidities”) that may contribute to their overall autism behaviors. This lecture will review common comorbidities and testing for these problems as well as treatments. Dr. Rossignol will focus on treatments that have stronger evidence in the medical literature and that have been shown to improve the core behavioral features of autism. These treatments will include nutritional supplements and certain medications.  After this lecture, parents will have a better understanding of how to test for comorbidities their child may have and which treatments may be more likely to help their child 
10:00-10:30   Break
10:30-12:00 Ranking Treatments for Autism-Dr. Dan Rossignol-Every child with autism is unique with differing medical problems. Identifying these medical issues is getting less difficult thanks to new research. Dr. Rossignol will discuss a new ranking system categorizing the research behind medications and supplements that have been studied in children with autism. This will enable parents and physicians to make more informed choices in treatments for their child.
12:00-1:00    Lunch
1:00-1:45      Updates on the aetiology and treatment of autism.-  Marco Ruggiero, MD. PhD-We elucidated the role of the recently discovered meningeal lymphatic system in the aetiology and pathogenesis of autism. We propose that inflammation of the deep cervical nodes leads to accumulation of extra-axial fluid in the brain thus leading to disruption of neuronal and glial interconnections. These neurological alterations can be observed with transcranial ultrasonography and may represent the neuroanatomical basis of autism symptoms. Impairment of lymphatic drainage also leads to disruption of the brain microbiome with concomitant chronic inflammation and impairment of the brain immunological defences. We postulate that transcranial ultrasonography may also have therapeutic implications in the field of autism as it is the case in neurological conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease. Finally, we demonstrate how probiotic yogurts may have a role in reconstituting the brain microbiome and re-establishing proper connectivity.
1:45-2:30      Service Dogs Brian Daugherty Manager & Trainer Arizona Goldens LLC
2:30-3:00      Break
3:00-3:45       Seeking Support For Children Who Experience Behavioral Difficulties-David Jefferson-In this session we will discuss how to seek support for children who are experiencing behavioral difficulties.  We will talk about the steps parents can take to get support from their child’s school and through the states behavioral health system.

3:45-4:30     SIT, STAY, COME…and CHANGE MY LIFE FOR GOOD! How Well-Trained Dogs can Change the Lives of Kids and Teens with Autism-Karen Rice-Well trained dogs can make a surprising impact for people on the autism spectrum who want to overcome personal struggles and accomplish important life goals. In this interactive dog-filled session we explore the mysterious human-animal bond, outline the various types of support dogs and how they can help, and offer ideas for using dogs in unique and life-altering ways both at home and in the community.

Social Track
9:00-10:00    Expanding Social Skills through Inclusive Social Opportunity-Brett Bernstein, Executive Director at MORIAH Cooperative & TBA– MORIAH will share practical information with parents, blending current research, strategies, and opportunities to integrate inclusive socialization into the lives of children.
10:00-10:30   Break
10:30-12:00    Breaking the Behavior Code-
12:00-1:00    Lunch
1:00-1:45        Using Social Thinking to Build Social Skills-Cynthia Macluskie
1:45-2:30        Sorting Through Social Skills Groups-Ricki Light-Deciding what social skills training may work best for your child can be a daunting task.  This session will help you to identify components of social skills groups that may resonate with your child’s social –pragmatic needs.  This information may also be helpful in school when your child’s IEP team is wondering what skills should be focused on when writing social pragmatic goals. Participants should also be prepared to share their positive experiences with social skills trainings and groups.

2:30-3:00      Break
3:30-4:30      Formulating and Implementing Social Groups-Jenna Turner, M.Ed., M.S., CCC-SLP and Sondi Wines, SLPA-This presentation will focus on the creation and implementation of social groups.  Topics covered will include how groups are formed, the characteristics of a successful group, and possible topics addressed in social groups.  Attendees will leave with a better understanding of the elements of an effective social group.

check website prior to conference

To download PowerPoints please click HERE

Speakers and Schedule is Subject to Change

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Our Fantastic Speakers

9478331Dr. Raun Melmed, medical director of the Melmed Center and a developmental and behavioral pediatrician, founded Developmental Pediatric Associates, now known as the Melmed Center in 1989. He is a co-founder and the medical director of the Southwest Autism Research and Resource Center. A native of South Africa, he completed his postgraduate studies in Israel, New York City and Boston. He was a fellow with Dr. Mel Levine at the Children’s Hospital in Boston where he was an Instructor at Harvard Medical School. Dr. Melmed is an Adjunct Senior Researcher at the Translational Genomics Institute in Phoenix. He is a member of the Society for Behavioral Pediatrics and the Academy of Cerebral Palsy and Developmental Medicine, the Ambulatory Pediatric Association and he is a fellow of the American Academy of Pediatrics. He is a board certified pediatrician and is also certified as a Diplomate in Developmental-Behavioral Pediatrics. 

Screen Shot 2016-06-27 at 11.57.40Marco Ruggiero was born in Firenze, Italy in 1956. There, he graduated from the School of Medicine, in 1980. He has a PhD in Molecular Biology and a specialization in Diagnostic Radiology. He served in the Army as Lieutenant Medical Officer. In 1984-1986 he worked at the Laboratory of Cellular and Molecular Biology of Burroughs Wellcome Co, where he published a paper sponsored by Nobel Laureate Sir John Vane. He subsequently worked at the National Cancer Institute of the National Institutes of Health of the USA in Bethesda, MD, where he performed research on oncogenes and signal transduction. He returned to Italy as Professor of Molecular Biology at the University of Firenze until his retirement in 2014. In his 36 years of scientific career he published more than 150 peer-reviewed articles and was invited to participate to hundreds of congresses and conferences. Currently, his main research interests are in the fields of oncology, neurosciences and immunotherapy. Two recent peer-reviewed papers were co-authored by Dr. J. J. Bradstreet; they describe the neurological alterations in the brain of autistic children and elucidate the aetiology and pathogenesis of autism opening the way for specific treatments. Together with his wife Dr. Stefania Pacini, who is also MD and PhD, he is the inventor of the probiotic yogurt “Bravo”, and of powerful stimulants of the immune system based on macrophage activating factors.

rossignol picDr. Rossignol received his Doctorate of Medicine at the Medical College of Virginia and completed his residency in family medicine at the University of Virginia.  Coming from an academic background, Dr. Rossignol searched the medical literature looking for a solution after both of his children were diagnosed with autism.  He has made it his mission to research and publish in autism. Since 2006, he has 54 papers, abstracts, editorials, and book chapters concerning autism and related conditions. Dr. Rossignol is a Fellow of the American Academy of Family Physicians (FAAFP) and a Fellow of the Medical Academy of Pediatric Special Needs (FMAPS).

Amy Serin HeadshotAmy Serin, Ph.D. is a Neuropsychologist and owner of The Serin Center, a comprehensive assessment and treatment center for ADHD, learning disabilities, depression, anxiety, gifted intellect, autism spectrum disorders, life stressors, and developmental delays.  Dr. Serin’s comprehensive and integrative care team includes neuropsychologists, psychologists, a developmental pediatrician, counselors, and reading specialists. Dr. Serin is an Arizona native and was Valedictorian (Moeur Award) and Advocate of the Year at Arizona State University in 1996. She obtained Ph.D. from the Fielding Graduate Institute and completed training at Phoenix Children’s Hospital before opening The Serin Center in 2007.  She enjoys presenting at regional and national conferences to parents and professionals on a variety of topics.

Photo Jessica Belokas, MA, BCBA, LBA-Clinical Director for Autism Spectrum Therapies- Greater Phoenix

Jessica is an Arizona native and received her B.A. in Psychology from Arizona State University with a concentration in autism treatment. She received her Master’s degree in Human Behavior from National University while completing her BCBA coursework with the Chicago School of Professional Psychology. A Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA), she has worked with individuals with autism and other developmental disabilities for over 10 years.  Jessica has expertise in advanced social skills, executive functioning, and theory of mind programs. As the Clinical Director for Greater Phoenix, she provides quality services for families and tailors natural and functional ABA programs, meeting the needs of the whole family unit.

Sabrina-DaneshvarSabrina Daneshvar, PhD, BCBA-D=Senior Clinical Director for Autism Spectrum Therapies

Dr. Sabrina Daneshvar is a Senior Clinical Director for AST. She manages services in several regions for AST in the West. Dr. Daneshvar received her Ph.D. in applied developmental psychology from Claremont Graduate University with a concentration in behavioral treatment of developmental disabilities. She is a Board Certified Behavior Analyst-Doctoral. An active member of the autism community, she has served as a member of the Board for the Autism Society of America’s San Diego Chapter, the Director of that board’s Research Committee, and as a member of Area Board XIII, State Council on Developmental Disabilities.

hogan-michelleMichelle Hogan and Teresa Toraason are Licensed and Board Certified Behavior Analysts, who have experience working with children aged 2 to 18 years old, at school, in clinic settings, and at home. Together, they work in the self-contained Autism program at Peoria Unified School District.


DSC_0917[1] (2)Hope N. Kirsch, M.A.(Ed.), Esq.

Hope Kirsch is a licensed special education teacher and 20+ year attorney with the special education law firm of Kirsch-Goodwin & Kirsch, where she practices with her sister Lori Kirsch-Goodwin. Hope has been a special education attorney for over 12 years. Hope Kirsch’s Bio

2014-10-16 13 11 06Lori Kirsch-Goodwin, Esq.

Lori Kirsch-Goodwin founded the special education law firm Kirsch-Goodwin & Kirsch in 2006 with her sister Hope Kirsch. Together they represent students and their families in school related matters, mostly arising under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, and are routinely involved in due process matters. Lori has been a litigation/trial attorney for over 25 years and has had over 30 jury trials.  Lori Kirsch-Goodwin’s Bio

Picture for mom 2Jennifer Kupiszewski, Esq.

Jennifer has an undergraduate degree from Arizona State University in Microbiology in 1997. She entered law school in 1997 on academic scholarship at ASU and graduating in 1999.Jennifer represented the Arizona Department of Economic Security/Child Protective Services Division for six years in juvenile court cases involving dependency, severance and guardianship matters. At the Arizona Center for Disability Law as co-counsel on the class action lawsuit Jason K. v. Eden traveling to all corners of Arizona representing families in obtaining mental health services. Jennifer represented the Maricopa County Public Fiduciary in court cases involving adult guardianship and conservatorships.  Jemifer Kupiszewski bio

Picture for mom 1Emily B. Kile, Esq.

Emily B. Kile is a graduate of the Northeastern School of Law in Boston, Massachusetts. She graduated Magna Cum Laude and Phi Beta Kappa from the University of Colorado, Boulder and holds a Masters Degree in Psychology from Boston College. Emily is the Chair of the Elder Law, Mental Health and Special Needs Planning Section of the Arizona State Bar Association (2012-2013). She is a member of the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys (NEALA), past President of the Arizona Chapter (2008), and a member of the Academy of Special Needs Planners and the Special Needs Alliance.Emily Kile Bio

Screenshot_20160719-144211Nicolette Piano

Nicolette Piano has been the Clinical Director for Speech and Language Services at AZA United since 2012.  Prior to joining AZA United, she was the owner and director of Arizona Pediatric Autism Consultants (APAC), a private practice specializing in language intervention, augmentative communication, oral motor/ apraxia, and facilitating social interactions.  She studied Speech and Hearing Science and has a Master’s of Science in Clinical Speech Pathology.  She is also a Board Certified Behavior Analyst.  She specializes in working with children with autism and their families and has experience working in medical, educational, clinical and home-based settings.

Debra Watland school photo 2016Debra Watland, the Director at Sierra Academy of Scottsdale, brings broad expertise with 36 years of special education experiences to her position. She not only has a passion for her field but a variety of leadership experiences. She was the educational director for Totem Learning Center and Day School from 2009 – 2011.  From 2011 – current, Debra has been the director at Sierra Academy of Scottsdale.  Debra has many successful professional experiences to draw from. She has been local president for The Council for Exceptional Children and served on a Special Education Advisory Board in Maryland. She taught a course for teachers who were continuing professional development while fulfilling their certification requirements for the Maryland Department of Education. Additionally, she worked as a clinical faculty teacher for Virginia Commonwealth University mentoring future teachers. Currently as director, she partners with ASU in supporting their Professional Teacher Preparation Program.

received_10208566720460641Wendi Faircloth and Karen Rice have invested many years in therapy and assistance animal training. Karen is an Occupational Therapist and for 17 years has been the director of a therapy company designed to help kids and teens with unique developmental needs. Wendi is a dog behavior specialist who has trained many types of service animals and sport dogs in her 18 year career. In the fall of 2012, a spirited chihuahua puppy brought Wendi and Karen together.  A year later, they expanded their connection beyond the now well mannered chi to explore the use of professional working dogs in therapy. They were amazed at the results!  Kids were talking, eating, moving and relating in totally new and life changing ways. They went to work designing a sustainable program, and in 2015, they established Raising Hope, Inc.  Wendi and Karen now share their dogs and skills with families and organizations who are ready to reach to achieve impossible things!

moms-pictureDawn Winkelmann M.S, CCC-SLP (“Ms. Dawn”) is a Speech Language Pathologist, Feeding Specialist and co-author of Making Mealtimes ezpz: Fun Ways to Use the Happy Mat. Her private practice, Spectrum Speech & Feeding (www.SpectrumSpeech.com) keeps her busy when she’s not lecturing across the United States or designing feeding and swallowing products for ezpz (www.ezpzfun.com). She lives in Colorado with her husband and retired therapy dog, Abby.  Ms. Dawn has treated thousands of children on the Autism Spectrum overcome picky eating stages and food refusals, while adding new foods into their diet. Her high success rate can be attributed to her education, experience, sense of humor, and her use of effective feeding products at the family dinner table. You will find Ms. Dawn’s expert feeding advice to be positive and fun as she adapts complicated feeding/swallowing research and makes it practical for parents! Get ready to learn the science behind feeding products and feeding techniques and bring happy family mealtimes back!

ricki-lightRicki Light has been involved in the field of special education for the past thirty-six years. Her first twenty years were spent working as a special educator in public schools in Los Angeles, CA and Toronto, Canada where in addition to being a classroom teacher, she was also a transition specialist, behavior specialist and program specialist. Over the past sixteen years, she has been affiliated with the Melmed Center as has been working in the greater Phoenix area and nationally as a member of multi-disciplinary educational teams in the capacity of an Educational Advocate and Strategist. She also facilitates the Clue Breakers social skills group at the Melmed Center for children and teens with Autism. Ricki holds masters degrees in the areas of counseling and school administration. She also has a Bachelor’s degree  in Education with specialties in special education as well as a Bachelor of Arts degree with a major in psychology. Ricki has presented locally, nationally and internationally on topics related to Special Education and teaching children with various learning, attention, behavioral, social, sensory, academic and communication differences in the Least Restrictive Environment.

Rachel McIntosh, M.A., BCBA-Rachel is a licensed Board Certified Behavior Analyst, BCBA.  While pursuing her B.A. in psychology from UCLA, she became interested in applied behavior analysis while taking coursework taught by Dr. O. Ivar Lovaas.  His passion for the science of behavior and dedication to helping individuals with autism achieve best outcomes inspired Rachel and she has been involved in the field of behavior analysis ever since.  Rachel went on to receive her Masters of Arts in Exceptional student Education from the University of West Florida as well as a certificate in Positive Behavior Support (PBS) form Northern Arizona university.  She is currently is a Senior Clinical Manager and the Director of the Community School, an inclusive, behaviorally based preschool at Southwest Autism Research and Resource Center

for-momShawn Davis is the Principal of Autism Academy in Peoria, Arizona.  She is an experienced educator who has been in the education field for 19 years.  She has a Bachelors Degree in Elementary Education and a Master’s Degree in Educational Leadership and Administration.  She has done Special Education for the past 12 years.  Shawn has 3 children, one who has Autism.  She has a very unique perspective because she is a professional and a parent in the world of Autism.  Shawn has an ongoing passion to help students and parents who have been diagnosed with Autism.  Sometimes as parents, we feel that we have missed the mark.  That’s exactly how Shawn felt as a parent and a professional educator.  However, she has worked diligently to turn that guilt into goals and has seen much success.

John Galle has worked at The Center for Autism and Related Disorders, LLC. for the past 9 years.  John began as a Behavior Therapist, then worked as a domestic and international Case Supervisor before reaching his current position as Director of Remote Clinical Services, New Expansion Offices, Affiliate Programs, and Telehealth.  John’s clinical experience includes a specialization in feeding protocols, and he continues to supervise patients in the Caribbean.  Finally, John is a vital member of the Executive Board at CARD and also a member of CARD Capital, which is an investing platform that focuses on product and service solutions for behavioral health.

  • Remote Clinical Services handles all patients who fall out of range of CARD’s local offices. These families can still receive CARD’s In-home therapy, which will now be transferred to our new Telehealth model.
  • Telehealth gives families the ability to access services regardless of where they are in the world using existing technology.
  • Expansion Services has opened 13 new offices in the last year alone.
  • The Affiliate Program has established centers in Ghana, South Africa, Zimbabwe, Jordan, and Thailand.

Dennis Dixon, PhD, is the chief strategy officer at the Center for Autism and Related Disorders, the world leader in providing treatment solutions for persons with autism spectrum disorder.  He received a PhD in clinical psychology from Louisiana State University with a focus on developmental disabilities and completed his postdoctoral fellowship at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine where he specialized in the treatment of severe challenging behaviors. He also serves as the executive director of Autism Research Group, a nonprofit organization focused on improving the lives of persons ASD and their families through science.  His research focuses on the use of technology and big data analytics to improve the treatment outcomes and quality of life for individuals with ASD.

Rita Aitken has been with the Office for Children with Special Health Care Needs, Bureau of Women’s and Children’s Health,  Arizona Department of Health Services, for over eight years;  originally as a Parent Advisor, then moving into the Education and Advocacy Manager position she currently holds.  Rita has developed and provided training and presentations through organizations, agencies and professional conferences regarding best practices around the provision of care for children and youth with special health care needs and their families.  For over twenty-five years, she has worked with children and families both professionally and personally, in education, non-profit organizations and public health.  Rita is the parent of two adult children with special health care needs and disabilities.

Anita Werner, M.S., CCC-SLP speech-language pathologist, founded Pediatric Speech and Language Specialists in Scottsdale, Arizona in 1989. She maintains an active clinical practice and also owns Lexis Preparatory School- a school for children who learn differently. Anita’s comprehensive experience includes evaluating and working with individuals with a wide range of speech, language, social communication and learning challenges.

Kathryn Severson, M.S., CCC-SLP, has more than ten years of experience working with children with autism. For the past five years, she has been a speech-language pathologist at Pediatric Speech and Language Specialists in Scottsdale, Arizona. Prior to this, she provided ABA services to children with autism at the Southwest Autism Research and Resource Center in Phoenix, Arizona. Kathryn is passionate about working alongside parents, teachers, and other professionals to meet the needs of each individual child.

Courtney Block, M.S., CCC-SLP, has been working with children with autism and their families for over nine years, beginning as a habilitation-communication provider. Further, she has five years of experience as a speech-language pathologist. She has worked with children in Bay Area schools and has been providing individual and group services for more than three years at Pediatric Speech and Language Specialists in Scottsdale, Arizona. Courtney prides herself in making treatment functional and motivating for all individuals.

Brian Daugherty-CEO & Trainer
Brian is the CEO, Main Trainer, & Chief Pooper-Scooper. He is an Arizona Native that graduated from McClintock High and ASU with a Bachelor of Science Degree in Business. Brian and his family started in this industry as Puppy Raisers and trainers over 20 years ago and have worked with and trained hundreds of service dogs and worked with thousands of service dog teams. He has served on various Boards of Directors; expert witness in trials; and worked with State and Federal legislators on service dog issues and legislation. Brian along with his mom Debbie, and sister Shelley started Arizona Goldens LLC in 2006 to provide high quality service dogs with exceptional customer service to Adults and children with disabilities.

The Raising Hope Team-Wendi Faircloth and Karen Rice have invested many years in therapy and assistance animal training. Karen is an Occupational Therapist and for 18 years has been the director of a therapy company designed to help kids and teens with unique developmental needs. Wendi is a seasoned dog behavior specialist who has trained many types of service animals and sport dogs since she began her career in 1998. In 2013, Wendi and Karen teamed up to explore the use of highly skilled, professional working dogs in therapy. Last September they established Raising Hope, to share their dogs and skills with people and organizations who dream big!

Lorie Crabtree-I have always had a passion for animals.  My love for working with children has come in more recent years.  I was very excited to be accepted as a volunteer puppy raiser for Guide Dogs of the Desert in 2006.  Within the program, we have nurtured and prepared many dogs for their service career. I can’t tell you how much fun it is for me to mix two things I love, teaching children and handling dogs. The ability to work with both service dogs and students is an opportunity that comes around only once in awhile. Working at a school for children with Autism allows me to have these amazing opportunities of bridging different elements together to create a positive environment. Seeing the joy on the faces of not only students but staff when the dogs are on campus, brings a smile to my face and warmness to my heart!