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19th Annual Autism Society of Greater Phoenix Conference

Empowering Parents and Professionals​

October 19-20, 2018

Ability 360
5025 E Washington St
Phoenix, AZ 85034

Presented By Our Title Sponsor



  • Behavioral Track – discussion on Relationship Development Intervention, Floortime, ABA and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
  • Legal Track – discussion on special education, inclusion, the DDD/AHCCCS appeals process, ABLE, special needs trusts, SSI and guardianship
  • Speech Track – discussions on aug com devices, Apraxia, social groups and PEERS.


  • Speech Track – with Pamela Crooke who is a national leader and speaker for Social Thinking
  • Medical Track – with national speakers Dr. Amy Serin, Dr. Frye, Dr. Sidney Rice and Jim Adams, Phd
  • Teen/Young Adult Track with discussion on transportation, apps and technology for success, a panel discussion on services available for adults and a panel of adults answering questions on living successfully.


Thank you to our sponsors and exhibitors who made this conference possible. We are grateful for your support.






The Arizona Speech-Language-Hearing Association is approved by the Continuing Education Board of the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) to provide continuing education activities in speech-language pathology and audiology. See course information for number of ASHA CEUs, instructional level and content area. ASHA CE Provider approval does not imply endorsement of course content, specific products or clinical procedures.

This course is offered for up to .6 ASHA CEUs (intermediate level, Professional area)

Agenda - Friday, October 19

Parent Track - Classroom A - Upstairs


How To Build A Dream Team

Presenter: Kerrie Mallory-Thompson
Break - Visit Exhibitor Fair

How to Access and Maximize Behavioral Health Services in Arizona

Presenter: David Jefferson
Lunch - Catered by Jason's Deli - Visit Exhibitor Fair

Everything You Need to Know About Empowerment Scholarship Accounts

Presenters: Kathy Visser & Julie Batt
Break - Visit Exhibitor Fair - Closes at 3

How to Optimize Your Child’s Potential

Presenter: Cynthia Macluskie

Behavioral Track - Conference Room A - Downstairs


Relationship Development Intervention™~ Guiding your Child through Developmental Milestones

Presenter: Kim Isaac-Emery
Relationship Development Intervention™ (RDI®) is a comprehensive family-focused program that supports the development of social, emotional, and cognitive development. The program teaches parents how to scaffold life experiences and situations so that they will provide a ‘just right challenge’ for their child. Through this process, the child learns that he or she can experience challenge and success. Based on the most current brain, developmental, autism, and outcome research we have learned that many families of children with autism and concluded that children with autism are unable to take part in the Guided Participation Relationship (GPR) because the autism has derailed the ‘feedback loop’ between child and caregiver. The RDI program is valuable for parents who have children of ALL ages.
Break - Visit Exhibitor Fair

“The Power of Relationships: Using Floortime to help children with autism engage with others with warmth, joy, and a sense of wonder.”

Presenters: Terry Matteo, Phd. & Patricia Steffen-Sanchez
Lunch - Catered by Jason's Deli - Visit Exhibitor Fair

ABA in an inclusion setting

Presenter: Michelle Mackey
Learn about the benefits of inclusion, the possible prerequisites for placement in an inclusion classroom, what learning can look like in an inclusion classroom and how social skills can develop in an inclusion setting both naturally and through intervention .
Break - Visit Exhibitor Fair - Closes at 3

Anxiety Speaks: an understanding of how anxiety impacts individuals on the Autism Spectrum, and pathways to treatment

Presenter: Paul Carollo

Examining how Anxiety impacts daily functioning, and creates challenges to developing healthy connections to people, places and new situations.

Speech Track - .55 Speech Professional Development CEU's Available - Classroom B - Upstairs


AAC: From Evaluation to Implementation

Presenters: Staci Neustadt and Sarah Hale
Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) systems provide a way for people to communicate when oral communication is difficult. One option is a speech generating device which provides voice output. Through new technology and social media, people now have more information and access to AAC than ever before. This is both exciting and overwhelming. AAC: Evaluation to Implementation will provide you with tools and knowledge to better understand the process to receive an AAC system that works for you or your family member as well as what to do with the system once you receive it.
Break - Visit Exhibitor Fair

When Children With Autism Have Apraxia

Presenter: Anita Werner

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.

Lunch - Catered by Jason's Deli - Visit Exhibitor Fair

Making Friends: Why is it hard and how can we help?

Jessica Belokas, MA, BCBA, LBA
The ability to make friends and develop social relationships is an important component of life and contributes to overall well-being. This presentation will discuss challenges with establishing and maintaining social relationships across the lifespan. Practical strategies to foster social skills in learners of all ages will be discussed.
Break - Visit Exhibitor Fair - Closes at 3

The PEERS Curriculum

Presenter: Nicole Matthews
PEERS Curriculum aims to teach participants how to make and keep friends, and to teach parents strategies for coaching their teens or young adults as they practice new skills in their natural environments. This presentation will describe the components of the PEERS curriculum, describe individuals for whom the PEERS curriculum is an appropriate treatment, and report findings from a study conducted at the Southwest Autism Research and Resource Center (SARRC).

Legal Track - Conference Room B - Downstairs


The Changes in AHCCCS and How to Advocate for EPSDT Services in the Health Plans

Presenter: Cynthia Macluskie
Break - Visit Exhibitor Fair

Why Inclusion Matters for Students with Autism

Presenter: Susan Marks
This presentation will introduce the significant evidence supporting inclusive practices for students with autism, the basic principles and legal requirements of placement in the least restrictive environment, and important considerations for ensuring that inclusive practices are implemented by the school.
Lunch - Catered by Jason's Deli - Visit Exhibitor Fair

The Basics of Guardianship, Special Needs Trusts, and the ABLE Act Including an Update on Legislation

Presenters: Emily Kile, Esq. and Jennifer Kupiszewski, Esq.
Break - Visit Exhibitor Fair - Closes at 3

ABCs of Special Education Law: Advocate Better for your Child

Presenters: Hope Kirsch and Lori Kirsch-Goodwin
In this workshop, we will provide a comprehensive overview of the laws applicable to special education so that parents can better understand their child’s rights and their rights as parents. We will walk you through the laws that govern what schools must do, and what you can do to ensure that your child is receiving the education to which he or she is entitled in public schools and charter schools. Key topics to be discussed include eligibility, evaluations, placement vs. location, IEPs v 504s, how to prepare for RED, MET and IEP meetings, communication techniques and dispute resolution.

Agenda - Saturday, October 20

Speech Track - .6 ASHA CEU's Available for Speech Paths - Conference Rooms A & B - Downstairs


Social Thinking Across the Home and School Day: The ILAUGH Model

Presenter: Pamela Crooke
Break - Visit Exhibitor Fair

Social Thinking Across the Home and School Day: The ILAUGH Model

Presenter: Pam Crooke
Lunch - Catered by Jason's Deli - Visit Exhbitor Fair - closes at 1 PM

Social Thinking Across the Home and School Day: The ILAUGH Model

Presenter: Pamela Crooke

Social Thinking Across the Home and School Day: The ILAUGH Model

Presenter: Pamela Crooke

Medical Track - Classroom A - Upstairs


Autism and Screen Time: Increasing Connections in a Disconnected World

Presenter: Jennifer Montgomery

Examining the social, emotional, and cognitive impact of screen time and strategies to implement at home and within the family system.

Break - Visit Exhibitor Fair

Science Behind Autism: Future of Diagnosis and Treatment

Presenter: Dr. Richard Frye
Autism spectrum disorder affects almost 2% of children and continues to increase in prevalence. The cause of autism is still unknown but we are learning about the abnormalities in the biological system of the body that are disrupted in individuals with autism. This evolving science has the potential to allow us to develop quantitative tests that will help with diagnosis and early detection as well as provide targets for novel treatments. This talk will outline some of the cutting edge science on autism and provide examples of some of the promising new therapies based on this science.
Lunch - Catered by Jason's Deli - Visit Exhibitor Fair - Closes at 1

Childhood Postinfectious Autoimmune Encephalopathy: what is the connection between infection, the immune system and psychiatric illness

Presenter: Sydney Rice, MD
CPAE is a condition in which prepubertal children develop obsessive-compulsive disorder after an infection. This response can occur in children with any medical background and treatment includes both anti-inflammatory medications and behavioral/psychiatric treatments. This presentation will review our present understanding of the condition and treatment options.

GI and Nutritional Treatments for Autism

Presenter: Dr. James Adams
This presentation will focus on two recent major studies. The first study is on the use of Microbiota Transfer Therapy to treat gastrointestinal problems in children with ASD. The study resulted in an 80% reduction in GI symptoms, and a substantial reduction of autism symptoms, with benefits lasting well after treatment stopped. The second study is a 12-month study of a comprehensive nutritional treatment for children and adults with ASD. Treatment included a special vitamin/mineral supplement, essential fatty acids, Epsom salts, carnitine, digestive enzymes, and a healthy allergen-free diet. There were many major improvements in the treatment group compared to the control group, including substantial increases in non-verbal IQ and large gains in developmental age.

Teen/Adult Track - Classroom B - Upstairs


Using Apps & Assistive Technology for Independence

Presenter: Vanessa DiCarlo

Learn how to use apps and other assistive technology to increase independence and help with executive functioning to make life easier for young people with autism.

Break - Vist Exhibitor Fair

Living Successfully with autism Panel Discussion

Presenters: Blair & Jodi Hill and young adults on the spectrum
Lunch - Catered by Jason's Deli - Visit Exhibitor Fair - Closes at 1


Presenter: Deloros Nolan

Valley Metro bus and light rail can take you school, your job, entertainment and many places around the Valley…learn how! Some of the topics to be covered: Overview of the transit system, How to plan your bus/light rail trip, Fare policy – Youth & persons w/ disabilities and senior citizens get a reduced fare, Bus and light rail feature, Accessibility on vehicles, Neighborhood circulator, Dial-A-Ride and ADA certification.


Tips on a successful Transition Program

Presenter: Kathleen McClanahan

Teens Need Transition (TNT) is a program that focuses on a holistic, strength-based, multidisciplinary approach to assist young adults in creating and implementing an appropriate and successful transition vision and plan. TNT achieves this by promoting both youth voice and choice in the transition planning process to increase self-advocacy.


Partners in Transition

Presenter: Betty Shoen will lead a team of experts

This presentation from the Arizona Community of Practice on Transition is a collaboration from the State agencies (Department of Economic Security, Division of Developmental Disabilities, Rehabilitation Services Administration; Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System, Behavioral Health Services, Department of Health Services, Office for Children with Special Health Care Needs, for example) who provide services to youth with special needs as they move from secondary school to adult life. Each agency representative will cover the basic eligibility information for agency services, and talk about the types of services available to those who qualify, plus how to gain access for your youth with special needs.

Featured Speaker

Pamela Crooke

PhD, CCC-SLP, Chief Strategy Officer

Pamela Crooke has co-authored, with Michelle Garcia Winner, five award-winning books related to Social Thinking: Socially Curious and Curiously Social, You Are a Social Detective, Social Fortune or Social Fate, Social Town, and their most recent book geared to adults, Social Thinking at Work: Why Should I Care? She and Winner collaborate on writing articles and blogs that appear on the Social Thinking website and in a wide array of publications.


James B. Adams, Ph.D.

Director of the Autism/Asperger’s Research Program at Arizona State University

James’ research focuses on the medical causes of autism and how to treat and prevent it including the areas of nutrition (vitamins/minerals, essential fatty acids, carnitine, digestive enzymes, special diets), oxidative stress, gut problems, gut bacteria, toxic metals, and seizures. He has published over 150 peer-reviewed scientific articles, including 35 related to autism. He is also the President of the Autism Society of Greater Phoenix, the President of the Autism Nutrition Research Center, the co-leader of the Scientific Advisory Committee of the Autism Research Institute, and chair of the Scientific Advisory Board of the Neurological Health Foundation. He has an adult daughter with autism.

Julie Batt

Parent Advocate for ESA Program

Julie Batt is the mother of two children in the Empowerment Scholarship Program, including her 13 year old son with autism. She has been advocating for the ESA and helping others in the program for several years, and currently helps run two Facebook parent support groups serving hundreds of ESA families.  She loves to share her ESA knowledge and how it’s changed her family’s lives.

Jessica Belokas, MA, BCBA, LBA

Clinical Director for Autism Spectrum Therapies

Jessica is the Clinical Director of Autism Spectrum Therapies and has worked with individuals with autism and other developmental disabilities in Arizona for over 15 years. Jessica specializes in teaching executive functioning and advanced social skills. She is passionate about providing quality services, empowering families, and developing excellent teams.

Paul Carollo

Program Manager of the Relationship Based Autism Center at Child Family Support Services

Prior to CFSS, Paul worked for Touchstone Behavioral Health for seventeen years where he was the creator and program manager of the Family Centered Autism Program. Paul holds a B.A. in Sociology and a Master’s of Community Counseling. He has completed his coursework at Northern Arizona University to become a Board Certified Behavior Analyst. He currently holds a certification as a National Certified Counselor and is a Licensed Professional Counselor. Paul has experience working with individual and families with the following challenges: ADHD, OCD, ODD, Autism, and Asperger’s syndrome. Paul is an experienced Functional Family Therapist receiving eight years of training in this area. Additionally, he has experience leading social skills and parent education groups specific to the Autism spectrum. Paul has presented at various conferences on Autism as well as provided consultation to various schools in the valley. Paul has received training to administer the ADIR test. He has completed training to administer the ADOS-2. Furthermore, Paul is trained as a Level I and II trauma therapist. He receives continuing education in the field of Autism.

Vanessa DiCarlo

Program Director Moriah Cooperative

Vanessa DiCarlo is the Program Director for Moriah Cooperative.  She recently worked as a special education advocate and educational consultant for Susan Marks and Associates. Ms. DiCarlo graduated from Northern Arizona University, where she received a master’s degree in Special Education with an emphasis in inclusive practices, positive behavioral supports, and autism. Ms. DiCarlo worked in typical education settings, in addition to special education settings creating system wide change; and advocating for the inclusion of students with disabilities into typical classrooms by individualizing services such as curriculum modifications, behavior plans, and assistive technology.  Collaborating with various behavioral health  and statewide agencies, she advocated for coordinated services for students.  Ms. DiCarlo  has presented at national and statewide conferences on a variety of disability-related topics, while also consulting with the ADE Support Cadre, and NAU by supervising masters-level teachers in the internship phase of their program. 

Dr. Richard Frye

Child Neurologist with expertise in neurodevelopmental and neurometabolic disorders

Richard received an MD and PhD in Physiology and Biophysics from Georgetown University. He completed a residency in Pediatrics at the University of Miami, Residency in Child Neurology and Fellowship in Behavioral Neurology and Learning Disabilities at Harvard University/Children’s Hospital Boston and Fellowship in Psychology at Boston University. He also received a Masters in Biomedical Science and Biostatistics from Drexel University. He holds board certifications in Pediatrics, and in Neurology with Special Competence in Child Neurology. Dr. Frye is a national leader in autism research. He has authored over 150 peer-reviewed publications and book chapters, and serves on several editorial boards.

He has lead several clinical studies on children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), including studies focusing on defining the clinical, behavioral, cognitive, genetic and metabolic characteristics of children with ASD and mitochondrial disease. He has conducted several clinical trials demonstrating the efficacy of safe and novel treatments that target underlying physiological abnormalities in children with ASD. He is the new Chief of Neurodevelopmental Disorders at the Barrow Neurological Institute at Phoenix Children’s Hospital with the goal of developing a center to evaluation and treat children with neurodevelopmental disorders in order to attain optimal outcomes by integrating cutting-edge precision medicine and research.

Sarah Hales

Speech Language Pathologist

Sarah has been practicing as a pediatric speech-language pathologist since 1995. She completed her Bachelor’s degree in Early Childhood Education at The University of Missouri-Columbia, and then received her Master’s degree in Speech-Language Pathology from The University of Kansas. Sarah has experience treating children of all ages and a wide variety of diagnoses. Her areas of specialty include Early Intervention and Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC). She also has many years of experience successfully treating children with motor speech disorders, such as Childhood Apraxia of Speech (CAS). As an AAC Specialist for the last 11 years, Sarah has extensive experience training families and teams (therapists, teachers, respite/hab providers, etc) who work with individuals of all ages who use high-tech communication (AAC) devices. In addition, she serves as an evaluator for one of the AAC Evaluation Teams in Arizona. In recent years, she has used her AAC expertise to assist adults who have ALS (a.k.a. “Lou Gehrig’s Disease”) who have a need for high-tech eye gaze communication devices. Sarah has presented on AAC-related topics nationally and locally, including at the 2015 National Down Syndrome Congress Convention. She currently serves as the Co-Chair of the Board of Directors of the Down Syndrome Network of Arizona.

Blair & Jodi Hill

Co-founders, Executive Directors of Connect

Professional educators, speakers, entrepreneurs, and experts on autism sharing their unique perspective on autism learned from a lifetime of studying, living with autism and raising two children with autism. We provide autism education for parents, family, professionals and those on the spectrum from the perspective of someone who has lived it. We work with young adults, age 14+, training them in self-advocacy, transitional skills and Vocational skills through Life coaching, classroom, and mentoring. They will be leading the Autism Panel of young adults with autism on Saturday. You don’t want to miss what they have to say!

Kim Isaac-Emery

Autism Spectrum Disorder Specialist

Kim specializes in parent training and in work with teens and adults on the autism spectrum. Kim has been in the field of autism since 1997, with experience as an autism therapist and consultant. As a graduate of both University of Maryland and Capella University, specializing in Psychology (B.S.) and Counseling Studies (M.S.), she is currently serving as private practitioner working with a broad spectrum of clients. She maintains a professional certification in Relationship Development Intervention™ (RDI®) and has been a Certified RDI® Program Consultant since 2005.  While Kim’s private practice, Autism with Excellence LLC, is based in Phoenix, Arizona, she also travels to nine different states within the country consulting with individuals, families, and schools.  Her areas of expertise are Relationship Development Intervention™ Programming, cognitive-behavioral / person-centered therapy strategies with teens and adults on the autism spectrum, parent and teacher education, training, general consultations and program troubleshooting.

David Jefferson

Founder of Parent Support Arizona

David Jefferson is the founder of Parent Support Arizona, an organization that assists families across the state of Arizona by ensuring children and young adults with disabilities are supported as they seek resources through the public-school system, State Developmental Disability System and State Behavioral Health System.  This support is offered through direct advocacy services; parent training; professional development; providing tangible resources and facilitation of parent support groups.

David has devoted the past 10 years of his life to supporting children and young adults with disabilities.  He has done this as a foster parent, adoptive parent, advocate and community leader.  David believes all children deserve an opportunity to reach their full potential and he works hard to offer families and professionals who work with children the resources, support and advocacy they need to ensure these children can excel at home, at school and in the community.

Emily B. Kile

Attorney at Kile & Kupiszewski Law Firm

Emily 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. 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 is Chair of the Foothills Caring Corps. She is licensed to practice law in Arizona. She has been licensed to practice law since 1993. The Supreme Court of Arizona has re-appointed Emily to serve on the Fiduciary Board through December 31, 2016. The Fiduciary Board oversees the approval and discipline of fiduciaries licensed in the State of Arizona by the Supreme Court.Her practice is focused on estate planning and related matters, including Medicaid (ALTCS), VA and long term care planning, special needs planning, guardianship and conservatorship issues and estate settlement/probate.Emily’s niece, Marisa, has Down Syndrome; allowing Emily some insight into issues faced by people with special needs and their families.

Hope Kirsch

Attorney at Kirsch-Goodwin & Kirsch

Hope is an attorney at the Arizona special education law firm of Kirsch-Goodwin & Kirsch where she partners with her sister Lori Kirsch-Goodwin.  Hope is a licensed special education teacher and 25-year litigation attorney. For over 15 years, she has represented students and their families throughout Arizona in all school related matters, from IEP advocacy to Due Process, appeals, 504s and OCR complaints, bullying, restraint and seclusion and personal injury.  The firm handles disciplinary matters (suspensions, long-terms suspension, expulsions) of both special education and general education students, and in higher education as well.  Hope was a special education teacher and special education coordinator for 18 years before embarking on a career in law.  She worked in the New York City public schools in settings ranging from self-contained classes to special education day schools, day treatment programs and hospital programs.  Throughout her career as an educator, Hope worked with students with autism, emotional disabilities and multiple disabilities.  She has written hundreds of IEPs, served as a witness for the NYC Department of Education at due process hearings, and supervised and trained teachers in curriculum, methodology, writing IEPs and behavior management techniques.  She earned a B.S. from Boston University in Special Education in 1975, an M.A. in Special Education from NYU in 1977, and post-graduate work in educational supervision and administration at NYU and Baruch College of the City of New York.  She obtained her law degree from Brooklyn Law School’s evening division while continuing her work in education.  Hope began her law career as a judicial clerk and then as a civil and commercial litigator as she began building a special education practice.  Hope is admitted to the state and federal district courts in NY, NJ and AZ, and the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, and AV® Preeminent™ rated (5.0  out of 5.0) by her peers and judges for the highest level of ethics and professional excellence.

Lori Kirsch-Goodwin

Attorney at Kirsch-Goodwin & Kirsch​

Lori has been a litigation/trial attorney for almost 30 years and has first chaired over 35 jury trials. She obtained her B.A. at Syracuse University and her law degree at the University of Bridgeport (now Quinnipiac University). She is admitted to the state and federal district courts in New York, New Jersey, Arizona and the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. Lori entered the special education arena over 16 years ago when one of her twin boys was evaluated for special education and related services, and has been advocating for and representing other families since. She is an AV® Preeminent™ rated attorney by peers and judges, representing the highest rating in legal ability and ethical standards.  Her legal advocacy ranges from obtaining eligibility for IEPs and 504s, assisting at IEPs, METs and 504 meetings, disciplinary matters, early dispute resolution of matters, due process hearings, and appeals.   Lori brings her litigation skills to the table as well as her sensitivity for the families she represents.

Jennifer Kupiszewski

Managing Partner at Kile & Kupiszewski Law Firm

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 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 Currently, in private practice since 2007 Jennifer is a Managing Partner with Kile & Kupiszewski Law Firm. Jennifer practices in areas of elder, juvenile, and probate law and navigating cases that as they move through and between these different court systems. Her practice focuses on cases involving adults and children with special health care needs and non-traditional families. Jennifer represents families in matters in which there has been abuse, neglect, and exploitation or when a family member is disabled or incapacitated and estate, trust and financial exploitation litigation. Jennifer currently serves on the Board of Raising Special Kids, the Board of Directors of the Maricopa County Bar Family Law Section, the Board of Directors of the AZ chapter of the National Association of Elder Law Attorneys and is the Chair of the State Bar Elder Law, Mental Health and Special Needs Planning Council. She is also on the Arizona Center for Disability Law’s Protection and Advocacy for Individuals with Mental Illness Council. Jennifer has a strong commitment to family and married into a large polish family. Jennifer is married to Steve Kupiszewski and they have a blended family of five children and one tiny Yorkie.

Dr. Michelle Mackey

Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA-D)

Dr. Mackey is currently the clinical director of Scottsdale Children’s Institute, a school readiness program that uses applied behavior analysis (ABA) methodologies to teach children (with and without disabilities) academic, self-management, play and social skills.   She obtained her doctoral degree in Applied Behavior Analysis from Columbia University. Furthermore, she has previously worked as a general education and special education teacher in inclusion and non-inclusion settings in public schools. For 4 years, she served as the lead teacher of an ABA inclusion classroom in a public-school district in New Jersey.  Throughout her career, she has had over 10 years of experience with working directly with children with autism, intellectual disabilities, learning disabilities, ADHD and other childhood disabilities in private schools, public schools, clinic-based settings, and home settings.

Cynthia Macluskie

Insurance Agent

Cynthia Macluskie is a licensed Health and life insurance agent in the state of Arizona.  She speaks nationally and locally on healthcare, Medicaid and Medicare, the dually eligible and navigating all systems of care successfully.  She is passionate about helping seniors and the dually eligible navigate Medicare. She helps hery clients accurately assess their risk and offset that risk. She currently serves on the Governor’s Advisory Committee for Autism Spectrum Disorder.  She has served on several work groups and committees for a variety of organizations including Division of Developmental Disabilities, Department of Economic Security, AHCCCS and Phoenix Children’s Hospital. She is currently the Vice President of Autism Society of Greater Phoenix  and a board member of Moriah Cooperative. She has successfully passed Autism Insurance Legislation with other devoted autism Mom’s that changed the way healthcare covered Autism services. She also assisted with the successful passage of several Restraint and Seclusion bills that protect children with autism.

Kerrie Mallory-Thompson

Founder AZANOW

Kerrie Mallory-Thompson is a single mom of a little boy named Conor and an adult daughter named Sarah. She is a huge advocate for anything autism, as it directly affects her little boy. As of today, he is considered non-verbal but she works on this every day. She is an employee of Johnson Plastic Plus, the Color Center Manager of the Phoenix location. She runs the lasers as well as UV-LED printers and helps the corporate marketing department when needed. Since February 2012, when her son was diagnosed with autism, she has been running a Facebook/Blog page called “Autism Will Not Define My Son” which chronicles the crazy autism journey that she and her son are on and everything they deal with on a daily basis, both good and bad. She believes that knowledge is power and having the power to spread awareness creates knowledge. Her life with her son is an open book for that reason. In May 2015, she formed a local autism advocacy organization called “Arizona Autism Network of the West Valley”. In January of 2018 she merged her organization with the Autism Society of Greater Phoenix, where she currently sits as the Board Secretary.

Susan Marks

Attorney at Law at Susan Marks & Advocates

Susan Marks is the managing attorney for Susan Marks & Advocates.  Dr. Marks is a Professor Emeritus of Special Education at Northern Arizona University where she taught in the Special Education teacher preparation program and coordinated the graduate certificate in Autism. She  taught courses on positive behavioral supports and inclusive education. She is an Autism Specialist and  a Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA-D). Dr. Marks received her Ph.D. from the University of Oregon in 1995 and has worked in the field of special education and developmental disabilities for more than 35 years.  During those years, she worked in residential programs, rehabilitation programs, and school programs, with a specific focus on autism and individuals with complex needs. Her advocacy interests led her to pursue a law degree, which she completed in December 2014. She was admitted to the State Bar of Arizona in May 2015.

Dr. Terry Matteo

Clinical Child Psychologist

Terry Matteo has over 20 years of experience working with young children with developmental disorders and other related psychological conditions.  He is currently a member of the Governor of Arizona’s ASD Advisory Committee and provides diagnostic services and treatment to very young children with autism at Southwest Human Development.  In his private practice, he focuses on diagnostic assessments for autism in older children (over five years) and adults. He was previously the director of the Children’s Developmental Center at Easter Seals/Southwest Human Development and worked with Danny Kessler, MD and other developmental specialists on a multidisciplinary diagnostic team for several years.  He has been a licensed psychologist for 20 years and specializes in developmental and psychological assessments of young children; trauma and attachment work with young children; and the early detection and treatment of autism.  He also completed training in DIR/Floortime and holds a certificate to practice DIR/Floortime with young children and their families.  He also holds an advanced clinical certificate in Infant/Family Practice from the Harris Infant and Early Childhood Mental Health Institute at Southwest Human Development, one of 22 programs around the country – focusing on Infant Mental Health and Child Development.  Prior to moving to Arizona 8 years ago, he served as one of the clinical directors at Child Haven, Inc., a nonprofit children’s mental health and developmental clinic in Fairfield, California.

Nicole Matthews

Research Scientist at SARRC

Nicole earned her Bachelor’s degree in psychology at the University of California, Santa Barbara where she graduated with Highest Honors. She went on to complete her Master’s degree in social ecology and doctorate in developmental psychology at the University of California, Irvine. Nicole’s research interests include improving access to early autism screening and diagnosis, adaptive functioning and cognitive development in individuals with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), and the transition to adulthood for individuals with ASD without intellectual disability. Nicole’s research has been published in multiple peer-reviewed journals, including the Journal of Autism and Developmental DisabilitiesAutism ResearchAutism, and Developmental Science. She was the principal investigator of a randomized control trial of the PEERS curriculum funded by the Organization for Autism Research, and she is a certified provider of the PEERS curriculum for adolescents.

Kathleen McClanahan

Transition Program Supervisor at Touchstone

Kathleen McClanahan joined Touchstone Health Services in December 2016. Her background features several years of experience from the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center and Texas Christian University, where she earned her undergraduate degree in Psychology and Child Development. Kathleen’s education and direct work experience with adolescents and adults with complex needs provides a unique perspective as both a service provider and Program Supervisor of Teens Need Transition.


The Teens Need Transition (TNT) is a program that focuses on a holistic, strength-based, multidisciplinary approach to assist young adults in creating and implementing an appropriate and successful transition vision and plan. TNT achieves this by promoting both youth voice and choice in the transition planning process to increase self-advocacy.

Jennifer Montgomery

Clinical Social Worker

Jennifer Montgomery graduated from the University of Southern California in 2002 with a Master’s Degree in Social Work, following a B.A. in Sociology from the University of Colorado, Boulder.  She became a Licensed Clinical Social Worker in 2005 after relocating to Arizona and has a private practice in Glendale.  Jennifer is trained in EMDR Therapy.  For the past 16 years, she has provided individual, family, and group counseling.  Jennifer has extensive experience and knowledge in working with children and adolescents in the special education system. Her specialties include Autism Spectrum Disorders, Mood Disorders, ADHD/Executive Functioning Deficits, Obsessive-Compulsive Disorders, and Communication Disorders.

Staci Neustadt

Speech Language Pathologist

Staci is a Speech-Language Pathologist with a rich diversity of experience and is an impassioned medical professional with a proven capacity for creativity and innovation in the entrepreneurial sphere. Staci has been working in the field of Speech-Language Pathology for over 15 years.  A graduate of the University of Wisconsin-Madison (BA, Communication Disorders), and Arizona State University (M.S., Speech-Language Pathology), Staci has been proactive in building her skills and understanding, and encouraging the growth of all around her.  While her passion is to empower all of those with diverse abilities, she focuses her passion on helping those on the Autism Spectrum.  As a Certified Autism Specialist she has lead social skills groups, provided individual speech and language therapy for kids with a variety of disabilities and worked closely with families of children that use Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) devices. In 2007, Staci used her experience and research to assist in developing Alexicom Tech’s Augmentative and Alternative Communication apps to assist those with complex communication needs.  Through her company, Alexicom Tech, Staci has spoken at conferences and continues to educate other professionals on AAC.

Dolores Nolan

Community Relations Coordinator at Valley Metro

Dolores has more than 18 years experience in educational outreach.  Prior to joining Valley Metro in 2000 to do presentations on the transit system, she did presentations on art for Phoenix Art Museum where she is still a docent.  Dolores’s mission is to promote all transportation modes and to increase usage by communicating the benefits of Valley Metro’s services and programs to any group.  Valley Metro staff is available for presentations to schools, businesses, human services organizations as well as participation in general community events.  This outreach helps inform all members of the Valley of their transportation choices.  Valley Metro involves youth in the transit system in creative ways like the Cool Transit STUFF Art Contest for third graders and the Design a Bus Wrap Contest for high school students where their artwork is showcased on a large scale. Dolores practices what she preaches by taking the bus and sometimes light rail to work.

Dr. Sydney Rice

Professor of Pediatrics in the University of Arizona Department of Pediatrics

Dr. Rice holds a bachelor’s degree from Stanford University, a doctoral degree in Medicine from the University of Arizona, and a master’s degree in health evaluation sciences from the University of Virginia. She completed a fellowship in developmental pediatrics at the University of Virginia. She has been on the pediatric faculty at the University of Arizona since 2005.  She has cared for children with disabilities and their families for over 20 years and is dedicated to improving care and service systems in the state of Arizona. She is the Co-Director of the Childhood Autoimmune Encephalopathy Program at the UA, a program supported by the National Institutes of Mental Health. The program has both a clinical and research focus.

Betty Schoen

Region 1 Transition Specialist for DES RSA

Betty Schoen is the Region 1 Transition Specialist for the Department of Economic Security Rehabilitation Services Administration. She provides technical assistance and consultation for transition planning and VR (Vocational Rehabilitation) services to Public Education Agencies in Maricopa, Gila, La Paz, Mohave, Coconino, Yavapai, Navajo, and Apache counties of Arizona. She provides training and assistance to transition counselors in Region 1 Vocational Rehabilitation field offices. She works with the Arizona Community of Practice on Transition to facilitate training and other activities of the CoPT. She attends transition related events at schools and provides informational presentations to groups and organizations about how VR works.

Patricia Steffen-Sanchez

OT & Asst Professor at Midwestern University

Patricia Steffen-Sanchez has been a pediatric Occupational Therapist for 41 years.  She is a clinician, educator and researcher.  She currently is assistant professor for the Occupational Therapy Department at Midwestern University/Arizona Campus and has developed the pediatric track of the curriculum.  She owned a pediatric private practice in Aptos CA for 28 years prior to moving to Arizona. Pediatric Therapy Center is a family centered practice that incorporates OT, PT and Speech Pathology for children with various physical, mental and emotional challenges.  She utilizes a variety of assessment/treatment strategies that includes sensory integration,, DIR/Floortime, Visual and Auditory processing, hippotherapy and trauma informed care. Patricia has just become Board Certified in Pediatrics with the American Occupational Therapy Association.

Kathy Visser

Parent ESA Advocate

Kathy Visser is a parent of a daughter 11 and a 14 year old son with special needs, who are Arizona Empowerment Scholarship Account recipients. Her son Jordan was one of the first 75 students to receive the ESA in its first semester, he qualifies for the ESA program through diagnoses of CP and Autism. Her daughter receives the scholarship as a sibling of a qualified student. Her family has used the scholarship funds at first for private school placement and now are in our 7th year of customizing an education from home. Kathy is a co-moderator of the Arizona ESA Networking and Arizona ESA Families Facebook groups. Kathy attended the University of Northern Colorado and graduated with a degree in music education. She has taught band, choir, general music and private lessons from preschool through 12th grades in Colorado, Alaska and Arizona. She has worked as an instructional assistant in the regular classroom as well as a classroom volunteer. She served as a trumpet player in the Army National Guard and the active Army in Colorado, Virginia, Alaska and Arizona. Those duties included performing at schools, working with students in clinics and teaching leadership courses.

Anita Werner

Pediatric Speech and Language Specialists

Anita, who founded Pediatric Speech and Language Specialists in 1989, has more than 30 years of experience as a speech-language pathologist. She maintains an active clinical practice with the goal of providing the most advanced, effective speech and language therapy available anywhere. In addition to specializing in social communication difficulties, Anita has extensive experience in the treatment of individuals with receptive/expressive language disorders, speech disorders, auditory/language processing disorders, childhood apraxia of speech and executive function difficulties