Our Speakers

Lindsey Biel, OTR/L

Professional Background:
Lindsey Biel is a pediatric occupational therapist with a private practice in New York City where she evaluates and treats children, adolescents, and young adults with sensory processing issues, autism spectrum disorders, and other developmental challenges. She is co-author of the award-winning Raising a Sensory Smart Child: The Definitive Handbook for Helping Your Child with Sensory Processing Issues, with a foreword by Temple Grandin and the author of Sensory Processing Challenges: Effective Clinical Work with Kids & Teens. She teaches “sensory smarts” to parents, teachers, therapists, doctors, and other professionals across the country. Visit www.sensorysmarts.com and www.sensoryprocessingchallenges.com for more information.
Session Description:

Sensory Smart Strategies for Real-Life Challenges

This session, presented by occupational therapist and bestselling author Lindsey Biel, will empower attendees, parents, professionals and others to help kids, teens, and adults with autism and sensory issues to feel and function at their best.  From real-life “sensory diet” activities that help self-regulate to managing sensitivities to sound, sights, touch, smell and more, this session will provide sensory smart strategies that can help immediately.

Ryan Blair
Professional Background:
In March 2013, Ryan Blair released the paperback version of his #1 New York Times Best Seller, Nothing To Lose, Everything To GainHow I Went From Gang Member To Multimillionaire Entrepreneur. Uncensored and raw in his account of growing up in the face of adversity, Blair effectively imparts lessons learned from obstacles he faced and provides a road map for entrepreneurial success. Blair is no ordinary businessman: he’s a master of personal reinvention.  Ryan has also had to adapt as a single parent of his son with autism, and will share his deeply personal journey to being the best parent he can be.
Session Description:
A Single Father’s Perspective on Raising a Child with Autism

There is a high divorce rate associated with autism, and having experienced what it was like not to have a father myself, I am even more determined to be a better father to my son than the example that was given to me. Not only am I a single father of a child that was diagnosed with autism when he was two years old, but I am the CEO of a multi-national company. Balancing the needs of my family with work has been a unique challenge, one that has required me to learn special skills to adapt and continue to be the best parent I possibly can. I know there are many others in the community that face much harder circumstances than I have, but I’d like to share my insights with you, in hopes that what I’ve learned will help more single parents and families endure.

Manuel F. Casanova, M.D.
Professional Background:

Dr. Manuel Casanova has been trained in the medical specialties of Neurology, Psychiatry and Neuropathology. His focus of interest is Autism Spectrum Disorders for which he writes a popular blog on the subject (corticalchauvinism.com). He has been a plenary speaker in dozens of presentations around the world and has received numerous awards including 2 honorary doctorates and invited lecturer positions in several universities. His work on Transcranial Magentic Stimulation (TMS) and autism won a EUREKA award from the NIH due to the innovative and significant nature of the research. As of 2016 he is the president-elect of the International Consortium of Autism Institutes. Dr. Casanova has written some 250 peer reviewed articles, 100 book chapters, edited 6 books, and has 400 congress presentations.

Session Description:

Repetitive Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation and ASD

Multiple studies from our laboratory have shown the presence of a malformed cerebral cortex in autism spectrum disorder (ASD). These malformed areas vary in severity and location from patient to patient but they all offer a defect of inhibition capable of explaining some of the symptoms observed in ASD, e.g., sensory abnormalities and seizures. Given the radial nature of some inhibitory elements within the cerebral cortex it is possible to implement a therapeutic intervention aimed at up-regulating their activity. According to Faraday’s Law a changing magnetic field tangentially applied to the cerebral cortex preferentially induces an electric current in those conductors that are located perpendicular to the same. We have used this principle to treat high-functioning ASD patients with low frequency (0.5-1.0 Hz) repetitive Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (rTMS) in different clinical trial for 6, 12, and 18 week sessions. Our initial studies in ASD have shown marked improvements in motor symptomatology, attention, and electrophysiological indices for perceptual binding, compulsion and coherence of information processing. Other groups, using rTMS and different outcome measures, have reported similar positive results. Repetitive Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation appears to be an effective way of treating autism by targeting some of its core pathology.

Jane El-Dahr

Professional Background:

Jane M. El-Dahr M.D. is Head of the Section of Pediatric Allergy/Immunology/Rheumatology at Tulane. She attended Jefferson Medical College, did her Pediatric Internship at Yale-New Haven Hospital, and completed her residency training and Allergy-Immunology-Peds Rheumatology fellowship at the University of Virginia.

Session Description:


ABCs of Immunity and Inflammation in ASDs 

This talk will cover the basics of the immune system and discuss issues including allergies; immune dysregulation in the blood, GI tract and brain found in those on the autism spectrum, and touch on some therapies that may be of help.


Desiree Kameka

Professional Background:

Desiree Kameka has been working at the Madison House Autism Foudnation since 2009, and previously developed and ran programs for teens on the autism spectrum at her alma mater, the University of Miami’s Center for Autism and Related Disabilities. Her current work focuses on researching housing issues, advocating on issues related to autism in adulthood, and presenting her work at local and national gatherings. She visits many locally developed residential communities and social enterprises across the USA to highlight their unique victories and learning curves while sharing stories of residents with autism and other developmental disabilities. Desiree is also the project lead for Madison House’s interactive Autism Housing Network. Her passion is empowering autistic adults and parents to create a future that is exciting and life affirming.

Session Description:

Explore How Local Communities are Addressing the National Housing Crisis… and So Can You! 

With the dearth of local housing and support options, individuals on the autism spectrum and their families are transforming into community organizers to create the future that they seek. Instead of a “one-size-fits-all” licensed facility or risking fluctuations in the housing market, families are creating intentionally designed housing options while learning to navigate the maze of public funding for person-centered supports. The goal is to create stability of a home setting, and ensure access to adequate supports and friendships in their communities.

Don’t be intimidated or believe it’s not possible! Take Desiree’s virtual tour around the country and “visit” locally developed opportunities that started with conversations around someone’s kitchen table. Hear the stories behind the development of shared living in single-family home options, neurodiverse cohousing, supportive housing initiatives, and agrihoods.

Learn how to navigate the Autism Housing Network (AHN) from its creator! The AHN offers opportunities to explore and share the best ideas in housing from across the country. Desiree will highlight how to effectively use the AHN Housing and Resource Directories, show you how to setup your custom-built housing toolkit, and get your questions answered in the AHN Forum.

You do not need to reinvent the wheel – come explore how to create the future housing you seek!

Raun K. Kaufman


Professional Background:

Raun K. Kaufman is the Director of Global Education and former CEO of the Autism Treatment Center of America®.  In his work with families, children, and professionals from around the world, he brings a distinctive qualification to the realm of autism treatment—his own personal history.  As a child, Mr. Kaufman was diagnosed with severe autism and recommended for lifelong institutionalization.  Instead, his parents developed The Son-Rise Program®, which enabled their son to completely recover from his autism.  Now an international speaker, writer, teacher, and graduate of the Ivy League’s Brown University with a degree in Biomedical Ethics, Mr. Kaufman bears no traces of his former condition (and is the subject of a best-selling book and NBC television movie).  He has written articles featured in journals such as The Autism File and Good Autism Practice and has been interviewed by media such as National Public Radio, BBC Television, Fox News Channel, The London Telegraph, and People Magazine. He was awarded “Best Presenter” at the AutismOne National Conference. The softcover edition of his new book Autism Breakthrough: The Groundbreaking Method that has Helped Families All Over the World was released earlier this year.

Session Description:

Autism Revolution: Breakthrough Strategies for Parents

Raun K. Kaufman, author of the new book, Autism Breakthrough, provides concrete, outside-the-box strategies you can implement now for your child’s immediate gain.  With humor and inspiration, Raun recounts his own story of recovery and outline some crucial yet often-overlooked aspects of autism and its treatment. Using the step-by-step structure of his book (endorsed by NAA President Wendy Fournier: “I learned more about my daughter from reading this book than I have through all the others I’ve read over the 11 years since her diagnosis.”), Raun details some innovative techniques you can use today to help your child: move beyond stimming (without you stopping or discouraging your child’s behavior), learn new skills (without you having to push or pressure), and, most especially, to form meaningful, caring relationships with others.

Kerry Magro

Professional Background:

Kerry Magro, 28, is an award-winning disability advocate, best-selling author, movie consultant, non-profit founder and full-time employee at Autism Speaks. Magro was completely non-verbal until the age of two and a half and was diagnosed with autism at 4 years old.

These days, Magro travels around the country as a motivational speaker and disability advocate. His speeches have included two TEDx Talks. In 2014, he received accreditation from the National Speakers Association as one of the only professionally certified speakers with autism in the country. Those speaking engagements led to a stint in TV hosting his own local cable show called the “Different is Beautiful Show,” which focuses on people who overcome adversity. For his efforts Magro has been featured in major media and worked with amazing brands including Upworthy, HuffPost Live, BBC News, NBA.com, American Express, JP Morgan Chase, Yahoo Parenting, and The Mighty.

Session Description:

I Used to Be Bullied for Having Autism: Here’s When It Stopped 

Bullying can be a lifelong concern for our loved ones with developmental disabilities. This presentation will offer a first-hand account of a young man who was bullied as he was growing up on the autism spectrum. He will share the difficulties of having autism and not being able to express and defend himself. Some causes and effects of bullying on our community and in our schools will be discussed, as well as which behaviors are considered bullying (including cyber bullying). A plan will detail seven steps involved in taking a stand against bullying will be shared that should help self-advocates, families, and professionals. Time will be included for questions and discussion.

Patrick Porter, PhD

Professional Background:

Patrick K. Porter, PhD has been on the cutting-edge of brainwave entrainment for 25 years. His PorterVision MindFit™ balances brain waves while activating neuroplasticity. He is head of mind-based studies at Quantum University and is author of eight books, including Awaken Your Flourishing Brain, and is co-creator of Children’s Opportunity for Brilliance–Autism Series.

Session Description:

How Light and Sound Heals Brain Connections

Did you know that as a parent of a child with Autism there is a strong chance you have PTSD? Learn how the application of light and sound frequency is changing the way we treat the brain and how Heart Rate Variability (HRV) is guiding the science. With the help of over 1000 clinics in 40 countries and the Thinking Mothers Revolution, Dr. Porter has shown that the use of light and sound frequencies can change the way the body responds to treatment and repairs itself. Additionally, you will learn the eight different applications for which the science been most useful—from aiding the brain in overcoming traumatic injury, PTSD, Autism to stress recovery, healthy sleep and more. Finally, you will learn simple steps for applying this knowledge in your life personally or in your healing work with others.

Mary Romaniec

Professional Background:

Mary Romaniec is the mother of a child who recovered from autism by the age of four. In addition to mentoring hundreds of families around the U.S. and the world, her articles about autism have appeared in Mothering Magazine, Autism/Asperger Digest, Autism Today and Journeys Magazine. The articles are also listed on autism related websites. She has appeared on radio and TV programs to discuss the idea of recovery in autism and special needs issues in general.

Mary works as a reporter and lives in Grafton, Massachusetts with her husband, Richard and three children, Theresa, Daniel and David. She continues to be an advocate, writer and speaker in the autism community on a variety of topics.

Session Description:

Why Collaboration Matters in an IEP Meeting

IEP meetings sometimes lack civility to the point that words, emotions and bureaucracy often get in the way of a successful outcome.  Yet, by choosing a different holistic approach, an IEP can and should be collaborative, with the ultimate goal that the child comes out the winner.  In “Why Collaboration Matters in an IEP Meeting,” Mary Romaniec will ditch the rhetoric attached to the IEP process, and demonstrate how a savvy approach can ignite a new understanding of what it takes to be a “team” in every sense of the word.


Dan Rossignol, MD, FAAFP

Professional Background:

Dr. Dan Rossignol, MD FAAFP is a board certified family physician. He 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 55 papers, abstracts, editorials, and book chapters (including those in press) concerning autism and related conditions. Dr. Rossignol has a special interest in autism spectrum disorders, PANS/PANDAS, cerebral palsy, and related neurological and developmental disorders as well as medically complex children and adults. 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). Dr. Rossignol sees patients in both the Florida and California offices.

Session Description:

Ranking Treatments for Autism 

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 better and more informed choices in treatments for their child.


Kimberly Sanders

Professional Background:

Kim is the President of Ukeru Systems and has worked with children and adults with autism and other developmental disabilities for over 25 years. Kim has served in a series of both hands-on and leadership roles in Grafton facilities, including Case Manager, Direct Support Professional, Residential Administrator and Executive Director, and Executive Vice President. Kim has presented at the national and international level on the Minimization of Restraint and Seclusion model, and she is recognized as an innovator for moving towards a physical restraint free environment at Grafton.  Kim holds a BA in Psychology and a MS in Strategic Leadership.

Session Description:

Minimizing Physical Restraint and Seclusion Initiative: Safety You Can Count (On)

Grafton Integrated Health Network, a private, not-for profit behavioral healthcare facility serving individuals across the lifespan with co-occurring intellectual, developmental and psychiatric disabilities implemented an innovative plan to minimize the use of restraint and seclusion.  Grafton accepted the notion that the use of restraint and seclusion were treatment failures and it was possible to manage emergency situations without the use of such methods.

The results included:
•           Improved client treatment and programming;
•           Reduced physical restraints and seclusions (to include total elimination of seclusion across the organization and elimination of physical restraint in the largest region);
•           Reduced employee and client injuries; and
•           Countless unanticipated emotional and fiscal benefits to the organization.

Over Grafton’s fifty year history, various de-escalation strategies have been utilized.  As with so many of its peers in the industry, when all else failed, physical restraint and seclusion were utilized to maintain safety.  Now, after several years systematically minimizing the use of physical restraints and seclusion, Grafton has had a 97.6 percent reduction in physical restraints, 60.3 percent reduction in client-related employee injuries, 94.4 percent reduction in employee injuries related to a restraint, and a 41.4 percent reduction in workers compensation policy costs.

The lessons that this industry leader learned can help other organizations/systems/schools across the country and the world keep individuals and employees safe while providing effective treatment/education and financial responsibility.

Understand that it is possible to manage physically aggressive behavior safely without utilizing restraint or seclusion.

Chantal Sicile-Kira

Professional Background:

Chantal Sicile-Kira is an award-winning author, speaker, consultant and leader in the field of autism and adolescence and transition to adulthood, with over 25 years of experience as a parent and professional. Her books are:  Autism Spectrum Disorder, Adolescents on the Autism SpectrumAutism Life Skills, What is Autism, and A Full Life with Autism (co-authored with her son, Jeremy, now 26)Her first practical experience with autism was at teaching self-help and community living skills to severely developmentally disabled and autistic adolescents in preparation for their de-institutionalization. Chantal has served on various non-profit and advisory boards, as well as on the California Senate Select Committee on Autism & Related Disorders, and was appointed to serve as Co-Chair, South Counties Autism Regional Taskforce.  Chantal’s recent awards include the 2013 Jo Pike Believe Award from the NAA. For more information, go to www.autismcollege.com.

Session Description:

A Full Life with Autism: How to Prepare for Real Life While Still in School

Preparing our  children and teens- no matter their ability level – to reach their potential and be ready to live as young adults is a goal we all have.  Based on Chantal and Jeremy Sicile-Kira’s book, A Full Life with Autism, Chantal explains how parents (and educators) can best prepare themselves and their child for this important life transition. Topics discussed include what needs to be taught before a child ages out or graduates from school services so they can live, work, or go to college – based on their abilities, strengths and interests; and how to create Circles of Support.

Christopher Ulmer

Professional Background:

Mr. Chris is a special education teacher is Jacksonville, FL.  After spending two years with the same students, he observed a disconnect between his pupils and society.  The intelligence and humor displayed by his students was not typically appreciated by those without special needs experience. For this reason, Mr. Chris started Special Books by Special Kids, a multi-media initiative that is now spearheading a worldwide acceptance movement.

Session Description:

Engaging Neurodiverse Individuals: The Power of Acceptance and Positivity 

We each have a profound power within us, that when harnessed correctly, can enable us to form meaningful relationships with anyone, neurodiverse or otherwise. The fear that comes from not knowing how to access this power, has detrimental impacts. We’ve all seen the effects first hand through bullying and the isolation of the neurodiverse community from the rest of society. In order to create a world of universal acceptance, we have to get past the fear of the unknown and our pre-disposition with labels. I have made it my life’s mission to normalize the diversity of the human condition by showcasing how a little understanding, positivity, and acceptance can make a better world for all.