AANE’s Winter 2021 Jody Acford Conference Details

This conference is named in loving memory of Jody Acford -- dedicated parent and AANE community & board member.

AUDIENCE: Adults and teens on the spectrum, parents of individuals on the spectrum, and professionals.

DETAILS: This annual AANE conference covers benefits and supports for adults with Asperger and similar autism profiles. This year, AANE has created an expanded, pre-recorded conference for both MA and NY audiences, which will be available to registrants through April 30, 2021. Registrants can select either the MA Edition or NY Edition below. Registration closes April 16, 2021.  If there is an interest in accessing both editions, please contact janet.barbieri@aane.org

Financial assistance is available and no one will be turned away for the inability to pay. To inquire about financial assistance, contact events@aane.org.

 

Thank You to Our Platinum and Gold Conference Sponsors!

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MASSACHUSETTS EDITION

Register For MA Edition

Click the titles below to learn more about each presentation.

A Roadmap of Federal, Massachusetts, and Private Services for Adults on the Spectrum
Michele Cantara, Co-Director of Adult Services, AANE

Adults on the spectrum can take advantage of many public, federal, and state benefits programs, and they can tap into a number of private services as well. This session gives adults and their families an overview of what’s available, the high-priority services for common scenarios, and a roadmap for learning more from this conference about the benefits programs most critical to them.

Michele Cantara is the Co-Director of Adult Services at AANE and is the mother of a young man with ASD who takes college classes and works part-time. Michele spent 35 years in the high-tech industry. Now she applies her consulting and change management skills to parent coaching and support groups at AANE. Michele works with adults over 22 and their families and often handles questions about public benefits programs, as well as civil and criminal legal issues.

Housing 101
Cathy Boyle, Autism Housing Pathways

This presentation is “Housing 101.” Thinking about housing introduces families and individuals to the range of state and federal funds available to pay for housing and supportive services. Some examples are given of how these can be combined with private funding to create housing opportunities.

Cathy Boyle is the president of Autism Housing Pathways, a non-profit organization that works with people with developmental disabilities and their families to identify housing options. A commissioner of the Winchester Housing Authority and a member of the Winchester Housing Partnership Board, she has successfully completed 60 hours of HUD housing counseling training. Cathy holds a certificate of graduate studies from UMass Boston in adapting curriculum.

Health+Care: Taking Ownership Over Wellbeing
Teal Benevides, PhD, MS, OTR/L, Associate Professor, Augusta University

Individuals on the spectrum face several barriers when accessing healthcare. Navigating the healthcare environment, communication, and healthcare providers’ lack of understanding of patients on the spectrum are common barriers. This presentation will share strategies and resources to help address common barriers to care and support wellbeing in adulthood.

Teal Benevides, PhD, MS, OTR/L is an occupational therapist, researcher, wife, and mother. Currently, she serves as an Associate Professor in the Department of Occupational Therapy and in the Institute of Public and Preventive Health at Augusta University. Dr. Benevides is committed to fostering access to services and supports for individuals on the autism spectrum, and working to achieve better health outcomes and participation in meaningful life activities. Dr. Benevides has received numerous grants from agencies including the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) and the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI). In her current work, Dr. Benevides aims to address the most pressing medical and mental health priorities faced by the autism community in collaboration with autistic partners. An extension of this work aims to understand and reduce racial/ethnic disparities in care for individuals on the autism spectrum in Georgia. Dr. Benevides received her PhD from Virginia Commonwealth University in 2014 and is a proud alumna of Thomas Jefferson University and the College of William and Mary.

Health Care Coverage for Adults with Autism 
Amy Weinstock, Director, Autism Resource Center

Focusing on health care coverage for adults on the spectrum, this workshop will include information about Private Insurance, MassHealth, keeping a dependent on a parent’s policy, Medicare, and how Social Security affects coverage.

Amy Weinstock is the Director of the Autism Insurance Resource Center at the University of Massachusetts Medical School’s Eunice Kennedy Shriver Center, and an instructor in the medical school’s Department of Psychiatry. She has an extensive background on insurance issues related to autism and has played a key role in passing several significant pieces of autism insurance legislation in Massachusetts, including the groundbreaking 2010 law requiring health insurance to cover medically necessary treatment for autism.

Legal Planning and Alternatives to Guardianship
Ken Shulman, Day Pitney & Barbara Jackins, Attorney Legal Planning for Special Needs

This workshop will focus on estate planning, which is important to ensure an adult child of long-term financial security and to make sure that financial systems are in place to protect both assets and any benefits an adult may be receiving. The workshop will also discuss alternatives to guardianship that are appropriate for adults with Asperger profiles.

Ken Shulman is an attorney at the firm of Day Pitney, LLC. His general estate planning practice includes estate planning and related issues for elders and for families who have disabled children. He is a former board member of the Massachusetts Chapter of the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys. Ken regularly speaks to consumer groups, professionals in the field, and others interested in issues related to aging, disability, advocacy, financial planning, and the preservation of government entitlements. He has served as a board member for several human service agencies, including the Greater Boston ARC, and has also served as a consultant to the Massachusetts Office of Handicapped Affairs, the Massachusetts Disability Law Center, and the Massachusetts Mental Health Legal Advisors Committee. He is past-chair of the Elder and Disability Planning Committee of the Boston Bar Association, He is a past member of the Board of AANE and current a member of the Executive Advisors Committee. He also served on the Combined Jewish Philanthropies Committee on Disabilities and on its Committee on Caring and Social Justice. Ken frequently represents clients in guardianship matters and often serves as a trustee for families. Ken is the co-author of Managing a Special Needs Trust: A Guide for Trustees (DisAbilitiesBooksPress, LLP., 2019). Ken is a graduate, with distinction, of Northwestern University and earned his J.D. from Boston University School of Law.

Barbara Jackins is an attorney in Lexington, MA. For over 40 years, she has been assisting people with disabilities and their families with guardianship, housing, special needs trusts, and public benefits. She has written several books on disability-related topics, most recently Legal Planning for Special Needs in Massachusetts: A Family Guide to SSI, Guardianship, and Estate Planning (2017); Managing a Special Needs Trust: A Guide for Trustees (co-author with Ken W. Shulman and Richard S. Blank, 2020), and Moving Out: A Family Guide to Residential Planning for Adults with Disabilities (co-author with Dafna Krouk-Gordon, 2013). Barbara is the parent of an adult son with special needs.

Employment and Social Security Benefits
Kathryn Collins-Wooley, PhD

When competitive employment is not an option, most will turn to Social Security for disability benefits -- either supplemental Security Income (SSI) or Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI). This session will summarize these benefits and cover the adult Social Security application process.

Kathryn Collins-Wooley, PhD is a psychologist in private practice in Hingham. She has been a medical consultant to Disability Determination Services for the past 22 years. Kate has spoken widely about benefits for adults with disabilities and has written several articles for AANE on this topic. Kate currently sits on the Program/Conference Committee as well as the Strategic Planning Committee at AANE. She is the parent of an adult with ASD.

Lesley University, Threshold Program
Ernst VanBergeijk, PhD, MSW, Director of the Threshold Program

Learn more about the Threshold Program at Lesley University, a non-degree post-secondary program for young adults with diverse learning, developmental, and intellectual disabilities. For more than 35 years, they have been helping students navigate life with confidence.

Ernst Oliver VanBergeijk, PhD, MSW has 30 years’ experience in the special education and social service fields. As a social worker, he has conducted special education evaluations, designed individualized education programs, crafted behavioral treatment plans, and provided counseling, advocacy, and crisis intervention for students. He also has developed and implemented parent training curricula. Dr. VanBergeijk has conducted NIH funded research on the impact Asperger Syndrome has on family functioning while working as a research associate at the Yale Child Study Center in the Autism Clinic. His current research and practice interests are in the area of transitioning higher functioning individuals on the autism spectrum to postsecondary educational settings, independent living, and the world of work. For over a decade he served and the Associate Dean and Executive Director of New York Institute of Technology Vocational Independence Program. Currently, he is a Professor and Director of Lesley University Threshold Program which is the nation’s oldest post-secondary comprehensive transition program for students with a variety of disabilities. Dr. VanBergeijk is also a field editor for the Encyclopedia of Autism and a peer reviewer for the Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders among other publications. He holds a Doctor of Philosophy in social work from Columbia University, and a Master of Social Work and bachelor’s degree in psychology from the University of Michigan.

College Internship Program (CIP)
Mary Sokolowski, PhD, Admissions Coordinator

This presentation will cover the services offered by College Internship Program (CIP). CIP is one of the most comprehensive programs in the world for assisting young adults with learning differences to succeed in college, employment, and independent living.

Mary E. Sokolowski, PhD is the Admissions Coordinator at CIP’s Berkshire center and has worked in the field of post-secondary education as an instructor and administrator for over twenty years. Most recently she served as adjunct faculty at Anne Arundel Community College in Annapolis, Maryland as well as at a number of colleges and universities in Rhode Island. Dr. Sokolowski previously worked as Director of Federal Relations at SUNYBinghamton and Director of Community and Government Relations at Salve Regina University. Mary has a passion for working with students with learning differences. In the classroom, she engages in student-centered and multimodal teaching and learning. As an administrator, Mary seeks to build bridges between various constituencies and to be able to communicate effectively with diverse individuals and groups.

College Autism Spectrum
Jane Theirfield Brown, EdD, Director of College Autism Spectrum

This program will cover the services offered by College Autism Spectrum. College Autism Spectrum is an organization whose purpose is to assist students with autism and their families. They specialize in College Counseling (helping students find the right college) and work/career readiness (skill building for interviews, jobs, and work skills.)

Jane Thierfeld Brown, EdD is Director of College Autism Spectrum, former Assistant Clinical Professor at Yale Child Study, Yale Medical School, and former Director of Student Services at the University of Connecticut School of Law. She has worked in Disability Services for 40 years. She holds an Ed.D from Columbia University, Teachers College, and received an honorary Doctorate of Letters from Muhlenberg College in 2020. Dr. Brown consults with many families, students, school districts, and institutions of higher education. Dr. Brown has appeared on Good Morning America, CBS News, and NPR. She has co-authored “ Students with Asperger’s: A Guide for College Professionals,” (2009) Published in Japanese 2017, “The Parent’s Guide to College for Students on the Autism Spectrum,” (2012) and “Behavior Management and Self-Regulation,” (2012) along with many textbook chapters and articles. She received the Ron Blosser Dedicated Service Award from AHEAD in 2019. Dr. Brown is married and has three children, the youngest being a 28-year-old son with Autism.

Massachusetts Rehabilitation Commission (MRC)
Sheryl Cruz, MA, Unit Supervisor, MRC Connect & Kaitlin Morrissette, MA, Unit Supervisor, MRC Connect

This workshop will focus on the variety of services and supports that the Massachusetts Rehabilitation Commission (MRC) can provide adults with an autism profile, including vocational assessment, career counseling, interviewing skills, and more. The workshop will also include a discussion of balancing work with benefits.

Sheryl Cruz, MA holds a Master's degree in Rehabilitation Counseling, is currently a Unit Supervisor for MRC Connect, and has been with MRC for eight years.

Kaitlin Morrissette, MA holds a Master's degree in Rehabilitation Counseling, is currently a Unit Supervisor for MRC Connect, and has been with MRC for seven years.

Forward Motion Coaching
Barbara Bissonette, Certified Coach, Forward Motion Coaching

This presentation will review the innovative and successful coaching program, Forward Motion Coaching, in helping adults with autism profiles obtain and sustain employment.

Barbara Bissonnette is a certified coach and the Principle of Forward Motion Coaching. She specializes in career development coaching for individuals with Asperger’s/Autism. She is the author of the award-winning Complete Guide to Getting a Job for People with Asperger’s Syndrome; the Asperger’s Syndrome Workplace Survival Guide; and Helping Adults with Asperger’s Syndrome Get & Stay Hired.

Barbara also offers consultations to parents, professionals, and employers. Training includes the Asperger’s/Autism Employment Coach Certification for professionals and Employment Success for Individuals on the Autism Spectrum for vocational rehabilitation specialists.

Prior to coaching, Barbara spent more than 20 years in business, most recently as Vice President of Marketing and Sales. In addition to first-hand experience hiring and managing people at all levels, she understands the challenges of Asperger’s/Autism and focuses on practical strategies for employment success. Barbara earned a graduate certificate in Executive Coaching from the Massachusetts School Professional Psychology (now Williams James College) and is certified by the Institute for Professional Excellence in Coaching.

MGH AspireWorks
Laura Sears MS, NCC, Career Counselor/Program Coordinator, Aspire Works, MGH

This presentation will review the innovative and successful programs of Aspire Works, MGH and how these programs help adults with autism profiles obtain and sustain employment.

Laura Sears, MS, NCC, Career Counselor/Program Coordinator, Aspire Works, MGH  is a trained mental health counselor who started in the field by helping to create a peer mentoring program for young adults with autism at the New York University Child Study Center. She holds a master’s degree in Counseling with a specialization in working with individuals with developmental disabilities. Laura has worked as a crisis clinician and mental health counselor for adults with mental health challenges.  She served on the management team at a community mental health center in Vermont before joining the Massachusetts General Hospital Aspire team. Laura currently serves as the Career Counselor and the Aspire Works Program Coordinator for MGH Aspire Works. She is a member of the MGH Council for Disability Awareness and serves as the chair of the Disability and Inclusion Committee at the Lurie Center. Laura is passionate about helping teens and young adults grow through valuable workplace experiences. She enjoys consulting with supervisors at companies in the Greater Boston area to help them support their neurodiverse employees.

Transition to Work, Jewish Vocational Services
Micah Fleisig, Transitions to Work, Jewish Vocational Services

This presentation will review JVS's Transitions to Work, the innovative and successful training, coaching, and job placement program. Transitions to Work enables adults with autism profiles to obtain and sustain employment.

Micah Fleisig is Manager of the Transitions to Work Program at JVS in Boston. Transitions to Work provides internship training and job placement with major employer partners like CVS, Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital, and Whole Foods. The program has placed 63% of its interns in paid, permanent positions with more than 87% of those retaining their jobs at least three months. Any individual with a disability is eligible who has a desire to work and is between 16-35 years. Micah has been working with Transitions to Work since its start in November 2011. In addition to Transitions to Work, Micah helps lead JVS’s Career Coaching services for individuals who are funded by the Department of Developmental Services and Massachusetts Rehabilitation Commission. Micah holds a Master’s in Education (M.Ed) and has spent 20 years supporting individuals in a variety of settings.

LifeNet
Jay O’Brien, MPA, Director, LifeNet, Asperger/Autism Network (AANE)

This workshop is a presentation on AANE’s case management program, LifeNet. It is a private pay, independent living support program for adults with Asperger’s or similar autism spectrum profiles. LifeNet is designed to offer peace of mind that an adult on the spectrum will be supported as they navigate adulthood by a devoted team from the trusted AANE non-profit organization.

Jay O’Brien, MPA oversees the design, development, and sustainability of the LifeNet program, and is responsible for operations, human resources, marketing, technology, legal, budgeting/finance, and quality assurance. Prior to leading LifeNet, Jay was co-founder and director of a nonprofit information provider for families of individuals with autism and other developmental differences. Jay received an MPA from Harvard Kennedy School, where he was a Harvard Alumni Public Service Fellow, and a BA from Holy Cross College.

LifeMAP
Jessica Sales Cohen, JD, Director of LifeMAP Partnerships at the Asperger/Autism Network (AANE)

This workshop is a presentation of AANE's Life Management Assistance Program (LifeMAP) -- an intensive, practical, highly individualized life coaching program for individuals with Asperger/autism profiles. LifeMAP is staffed by trained professionals with expertise in Asperger profiles. Coaches help clients use their strengths to identify and overcome the particular barriers they face. The ultimate goal of LifeMAP is for clients to improve their quality of life, increase their independence, and progress toward reaching their full potential.

Jessica Sales Cohen, JD, is the Director of LifeMAP Partnerships at AANE, as well as a LifeMAP coach.  Jessica obtained her BSBA from Boston University School of Management and her JD from Northeastern University School of Law, and has been a practicing attorney since 1997. With her legal background, Jessica has extensive experience advising individuals and families in matters involving disability discrimination, employment, and special education. A native of Boston, Jessica resides in the Metro-west area with her husband, two children, and three dogs. She enjoys yoga, martial arts, reading, and spending time outdoors with friends and family.

Department of Developmental Services (DDS)
Lea Hill, Autism Program Coordinator, DDS- Northeast Region & Maria Stefano, Autism Program Coordinator, DDS- Metro Region

This workshop will discuss the Department of Developmental Services (DDS) eligibility criteria as well as services available for adults with autism spectrum profiles through the DDS.

Lea Hill is the Autism Program Coordinator for the DDS Northeast Region. The position was created in response to the 2014 Autism Omnibus Law which expanded DDS eligibility to include adults with autism regardless of intellectual disability. The role was created to provide support, training, and guidance for the ASD Service Coordinators, Supervisors, and Area Directors for the newly eligible population. Lea also works closely with providers and direct support staff on their training needs, issues, and challenges they are facing while serving adults with autism, and celebrating success along the way.

Maria Stefano, as Autism Program Coordinator for the Massachusetts Department of Development Services Metro Region, helps to support adults with autism. In working with DDS area, regional, and central offices, she maintains and shares information and resources, conducts presentations, collaborates on the design and implementation of new autism services, arranges training opportunities, and serves as a liaison to schools, service providers, and other state agencies.

NEW YORK EDITION

Register for NY Edition

Click the titles below to learn more about each presentation.

Planning 101: How to Maximize Benefits and Services
James Traylor, CLU, ChFC, ChSNC, President, Upstate Special Needs Consulting

This presentation will focus on developing an understanding of how to leverage numerous Federal and State benefits to maximize independent living options.  The intention of this session is to give you a high-level overview of benefits, legal planning, tips for maximizing resources, and frequently asked questions.

James Traylor is a sibling, advocate, and professional who has focused his entire professional career on creating the organization of choice for families planning for a family member with a disability.  He is a national speaker and regularly provides continuing education for legal, financial, and tax professionals on planning for an individual with a disability.  He is the immediate past Chair for the New York State Developmental Disabilities Planning Council, he is a member of the board of directors for the ARC of Monroe County, a member of the Estate Planning Council of Rochester and the Society of Financial Services Professionals (FSP), a graduate of Partners in Policymaking and is a 2009 Rochester Business Journal 40 Under 40 recipient.  He has also been honored as one of our nation's top investment advisors under 40 by Investment News magazine. James has also earned the professional designations of a Chartered Special Needs Consultant (ChSNC), Chartered Life Underwriter (CLU), and Chartered Financial Consultant (ChFC).  When James is not working he enjoys spending time with his wife, son, and two cats affectionately named Dr. Nelson Mandela & Mr. Smokey Robinson.

Looking to the Future; Housing Options for People with Developmental Disabilities
John Maltby, Co-Director of New York Housing Resource Center

The session will address why the certified group home system is no longer desirable or sustainable. It will outline the steps that a person with a developmental disability and their family might take in order to create a long-lasting, fulfilling, safe and healthy home. The session will also highlight ways in which people with developmental disabilities and their families can advocate for improved systems and broader housing opportunities.

John Maltby spent 36 years on Wall Street before leaving the industry in 2007. He graduated with an M.S. from the Columbia University School of Social Work in May 2009. He served as the Director of Community Supports and Services at Westchester Institute for Human Development in Valhalla, NY, and as Assistant Professor, Institute of Public Health at New York Medical College. He has taught as an Adjunct Professor at Columbia University in both the Business school and the School of Social Work. John's particular focus for the last several years has been on providing housing options for people with developmental disabilities. He is the author of the "Housing Resource Guide", the "Report to the Housing Task Force" and "What Happens When I'm Gone". All three publications are designed to be accessible to people with developmental disabilities and their families, their advocates, professionals who provide support, and policymakers. John is the creator of the Housing Navigator training program and co-director of the newly created Housing Resource Center. John is an advocate for his son and for all people with disabilities and has served on local and national boards of provider and advocacy agencies for many years.

Affordable Housing
Steve Katz, Executive Director of Aspies for Social Success (AFSS)

This session will address affordable housing-- how to find it, apply for it, and the ins and outs, once you have it. It will also address the importance of self-advocacy, patience, and tenacity to find and secure housing.

Steve Katz, is the Executive Director of Aspies for Social Success (AFSS). He has worked with individuals of all ages and abilities in their home, creating and implementing teaching strategies that increase language, academic, vocational and life skills, helping them lead more independent and productive lives. He has worked in advertising, marketing, and finance. He is also an artist and has studied at the prestigious Art Students League and Parsons School of Design.

Health+Care: Taking Ownership Over Wellbeing
Teal Benevides, PhD, MS, OTR/L, Associate Professor, Augusta University

Individuals on the spectrum face several barriers when accessing healthcare. Navigating the healthcare environment, communication, and healthcare providers’ lack of understanding of patients on the spectrum are common barriers. This presentation will share strategies and resources to help address common barriers to care and support wellbeing in adulthood.

Teal Benevides, PhD, MS, OTR/L is an occupational therapist, researcher, wife, and mother. Currently, she serves as an Associate Professor in the Department of Occupational Therapy and in the Institute of Public and Preventive Health at Augusta University. Dr. Benevides is committed to fostering access to services and supports for individuals on the autism spectrum, and working to achieve better health outcomes and participation in meaningful life activities. Dr. Benevides has received numerous grants from agencies including the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) and the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI). In her current work, Dr. Benevides aims to address the most pressing medical and mental health priorities faced by the autism community in collaboration with autistic partners. An extension of this work aims to understand and reduce racial/ethnic disparities in care for individuals on the autism spectrum in Georgia. Dr. Benevides received her Ph.D. from Virginia Commonwealth University in 2014 and is a proud alumna of Thomas Jefferson University and the College of William and Mary.

Health Care Coverage for Adults with Autism
Amy Weinstock, Director, Autism Resource Center 

Focusing on health care coverage for adults on the spectrum, this workshop will include information about Private Insurance, Medicaid, keeping a dependent on a parent’s policy, Medicare, and how Social Security affects coverage.

Amy Weinstock is the Director of the Autism Insurance Resource Center at the University of Massachusetts Medical School’s Eunice Kennedy Shriver Center, and an instructor in the medical school’s Department of Psychiatry. She has an extensive background on insurance issues related to autism and has played a key role in passing several significant pieces of autism insurance legislation in Massachusetts, including the groundbreaking 2010 law requiring health insurance to cover medically necessary treatment for autism. 

Supported Decision-Making: A Path of Empowerment for Persons with Developmental Disabilities
Hon. Kristin Booth Glen, Director, Supported Decision-Making New York (SDMNY) & Joan Cornachio, NYC Site Coordinator, SDMNY

This presentation, led by SDMNY Project Director Hon. Kristin Booth Glen, and SDMNY Site Coordinator Joan Cornachio, will cover what supported decision-making (SDM) is, where it comes from, and how SDM is an alternative to guardianship that leads to more self-determined, autonomous lives for persons with developmental disabilities. It will include a description of the SDMNY 3-phase facilitation process and how it has been transformative for the participants, lessons learned during the SDMNY 5- year DDPC funded project, how parents and people with DD should think about utilizing SDM, and what's on the horizon for SDM in NY in 2021.

Kristin Booth Glen is currently University Professor and Dean Emerita, CUNY School of Law, and Director of Supported Decision-Making New York (SDMNY), a five-year pilot project utilizing supported decision-making (SDM) to divert persons with intellectual and developmental disabilities from guardianship and to restore legal rights to those currently subject to guardianship. She was Surrogate, New York County from 2005-2012 where she had jurisdiction over SCPA 17-A guardianships, and Justice of the NYS Supreme Court, and the Appellate Term, from 1986 to 1995 where she had jurisdiction over Article 81 guardianships. She has written important decisions in both areas, served as a Commissioner and then Chair of the ABA Commission on Aging, a Commissioner on the ABA Commission on Disability Rights, an Expert on aging and disability at the Office of the UN High Commissioner on Human Rights, and has written and lectured widely on those subjects. Among her recent publications are Supported Decision-Making, from Theory to Practice: Further Reflections on an Intentional Pilot Project, 13 Albany Govt. L. Rev. 94 (2020); Introducing a “New“ Human Right: Learning from Others, Bringing Legal Capacity Home, 49  Columbia Human Rts. L. Rev 1 (2018); and Not Just Guardianship: Uncovering the Invisible Taxonomy of Laws, Regulations and Decisions that Limit or Deny the Right of Legal Capacity to Persons with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities. 13 Albany Govt. L. Rev. 25 (2020) 

Joan Cornachio is the NYC Site Coordinator of Supported Decision-Making New York (SDMNY). She has been an advocate and private consultant to families of students with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD) and autism in New York and Massachusetts, helping students to access and navigate resources and services through their local school districts. She served as the director of the Berkshire Hills Music Academy Summer Program in South Hadley, MA where she developed and supervised programming for young adults with I/DD in a residential setting. Joan has also enjoyed a long career as a music educator and program director in both mainstream and adaptive settings. She views music as a pathway for awareness and acceptance of disability as diversity, having directed inclusive choirs for young people in performances and showcases. She holds an MS in Education from Syracuse University with a concentration in Disability Studies. As the mother of two children, including a young adult with I/DD, she has witnessed first-hand the viability of supported decision-making as an alternative to guardianship.

NY ABLE Program
Jenna McClosky, Outreach Coordinator for NY ABLE at OSC, Grisel Cuprill Davis, Senior Program Officer for NY ABLE at OSC

The NY ABLE Program is a tax-advantaged savings program for individuals with disabilities and their families to save for their current or long term needs while maintaining their ability to benefit from federal benefits programs such as SSI, SSDI, and Medicaid.  This program offers multiple investment options, including a checking account and debit card option, allowing individuals with disabilities to maintain their independence and have quick and easy access to their own money.

The NY ABLE team from OSC and Ascensus will be discussing program highlights such as:

  • Who is eligible for NY ABLE
  • How you can save and grow or grow your money with a NY ABLE account
  • What Qualified Disability Expense is
  • How to sign up

Jenna McClosky is the Outreach Coordinator for NY ABLE and has been with the program for two and a half years. Jenna started with NY State in 2015 and was working in the non-profit field for several years prior to that.

Grisel Cuprill Davis has worked with Comptroller DiNapoli since 2002, both in the New York State Assembly and the New York State Comptroller’s Office, since 2007. Grisel has had the opportunity to hold numerous positions within the Agency which has expanded her understanding of the unique and important needs of the constituents of the State. She currently works in the Division of Pension Investments and Cash Management as a Senior Program Officer for the NY ABLE and 529 College Savings Programs.

Social Security Disability: Getting Started
Dena Gassner, MSW, PhD Candidate, Director, Center for Understanding

This presentation is designed for persons who are afraid or who are only starting to consider Social Security. Participants will demystify some myths, learn about the hidden expectations, and realize why this system should not be a last resort, but a next step for transition. Real-time exercises to learn how to do this will take place, allowing participants to leave with confidence and determination.

Dena Gassner, MSW, PhD Candidate is an Adjunct Professor in the Autism Certificate Program at Towson University. She is a contributing author to Spectrum Women: Walking to the Beat of Autism ,a national board member for Arc US, and has provided consultative services and given testimony to the Government Accountability Office in Washington and at the UN in Geneva.

Lesley University, Threshold Program
Ernst VanBergeijk, PhD, MSW, Director of the Threshold Program

Learn more about the Threshold Program at Lesley University, a non-degree post-secondary program for young adults with diverse learning, developmental, and intellectual disabilities. For more than 35 years, they have been helping students navigate life with confidence.

Ernst Oliver VanBergeijk, PhD, MSW  has 30 years’ experience in the special education and social service fields. As a social worker, he has conducted special education evaluations, designed individualized education programs, crafted behavioral treatment plans, and provided counseling, advocacy, and crisis intervention for students. He also has developed and implemented parent training curricula. Dr. VanBergeijk has conducted NIH funded research on the impact Asperger Syndrome has on family functioning while working as a research associate at the Yale Child Study Center in the Autism Clinic. His current research and practice interests are in the area of transitioning higher functioning individuals on the autism spectrum to postsecondary educational settings, independent living, and the world of work. For over a decade he served and the Associate Dean and Executive Director of the New York Institute of Technology Vocational Independence Program. Currently, he is a Professor and Director of Lesley University Threshold Program which is the nation’s oldest post-secondary comprehensive transition program for students with a variety of disabilities. Dr. VanBergeijk is also a field editor for the Encyclopedia of Autism and a peer reviewer for the Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders among other publications. He holds a Doctor of Philosophy in social work from Columbia University and a Master of Social Work and a bachelor’s degree in psychology from the University of Michigan.

College Internship Program (CIP)
Mary Sokolowski, PhD, Admissions Coordinator

This presentation will cover the services offered by the College Internship Program (CIP). CIP is one of the most comprehensive programs in the world for assisting young adults with learning differences to succeed in college, employment, and independent living.

Mary E. Sokolowski, PhD is the Admissions Coordinator at CIP’s Berkshire center and has worked in the field of post-secondary education as an instructor and administrator for over twenty years. Most recently she served as adjunct faculty at Anne Arundel Community College in Annapolis, Maryland as well as at a number of colleges and universities in Rhode Island. Dr. Sokolowski previously worked as Director of Federal Relations at SUNYBinghamton and Director of Community and Government Relations at Salve Regina University. Mary has a passion for working with students with learning differences. In the classroom, she engages in student-centered and multimodal teaching and learning. As an administrator, Mary seeks to build bridges between various constituencies and to be able to communicate effectively with diverse individuals and groups.

College Autism Spectrum
Jane Theirfield Brown, EdD, Director of College Autism Spectrum

This program will cover the services offered by College Autism Spectrum. College Autism Spectrum is an organization whose purpose is to assist students with autism and their families. They specialize in college counseling (helping students find the right college) and work/career readiness (skill building for interviews, jobs, and work skills.)

Jane Thierfeld Brown, EdD is Director of College Autism Spectrum, former Assistant Clinical Professor at Yale Child Study, Yale Medical School, and former Director of Student Services at the University of Connecticut School of Law. She has worked in Disability Services for 40 years. She holds an Ed.D from Columbia University, Teachers College, and received an honorary Doctorate of Letters from Muhlenberg College in 2020. Dr. Brown consults with many families, students, school districts, and institutions of higher education. Dr. Brown has appeared on Good Morning America, CBS News, and NPR. She has co-authored “ Students with Asperger’s: A Guide for College Professionals,” (2009) Published in Japanese 2017, “The Parent’s Guide to College for Students on the Autism Spectrum,” (2012) and “Behavior Management and Self-Regulation,” (2012) along with many textbook chapters and articles. She received the Ron Blosser Dedicated Service Award from AHEAD in 2019. Dr. Brown is married and has three children, the youngest being a 28-year-old son with Autism.

Customized Employment: Finding a Job That’s Right for You
Fredda Rosen, Executive Director, Job Path & Aimee Althoff, Associate Executive Director, Job Path

It can be hard to find a job--and even harder to find one that really works for you. Customized employment provides tools to pinpoint the skills and talents that you can bring to the workforce and the conditions you need for success. The presenters will talk about how Job Path uses this strategy to work with employers to create jobs that work for the business and that are a good match for the job seeker.

Fredda Rosen is the Executive Director of Job Path and has been a respected figure in the New York State disability advocacy community for more than forty years. Fredda came to Job Path in 1980 as the director of its Staten Island office and became Deputy Director and Director while the organization was a project of the Vera Institute of Justice. In 1999 she led Job Path’s spin-off from the Institute and established Job Path as an independent nonprofit. Fredda has served on numerous boards and advisory groups and presented Job Path’s work at conferences across the country. In 2018, she was honored by the Mayor’s Office for People with Disabilities at their annual Disability Awareness Night at Yankee Stadium. She holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees from New York University.

Aimee Althoff is the Associate Executive Director of Job Path and leads their employment initiatives. She came to the organization in 2005 and is responsible for the growth and development of our customized employment work. She is a talented practitioner and supervisor and mentor to a staff of more than thirty. Aimee plays a key role in Job Path’s technical assistance work and has helped scores of staff from other organizations learn about and practice customized employment. She holds a master’s degree in special education from Teachers College.

Spectrum Strategies
Debra K. Solomon

Why would someone on the autism spectrum use a private coach? Join this presentation and hear Spectrum Strategies Founder, Debra Solomon, discuss the many applications of coaching. Debra’s presentation will outline the different strategies she employs to help her clients, emphasizing the importance of coaching tailored to the needs of the particular individual, and building a relationship of trust with each client. Debra will share her own special approach to coaching and how her background and relationships are used to support her clients’ goals.

Debra K. Solomon is the Founder of Spectrum Strategies and a New York University-certified Life and Career Coach working with young adults with Asperger’s and other learning differences. As a parent of a young adult with Asperger’s, Debra is personally aware of the issues and challenges faced by her clients and shares what she has learned on her journey with her son with others.

At Spectrum Strategies, Debra works with both the individual and the family to facilitate the transition from high school to college or the workplace. Through individual and group coaching, Debra provides the support and tools necessary for her clients to build a solid foundation for a successful and fulfilling future in both their work and personal environments.

Debra is on the Board of Directors of Yes She Can, Inc., a non-profit organization dedicated to helping women with autism, as well as the Advisory Board of Autism Communities, a non-profit organization based in Long Island, New York that helps provide independent, safe and inclusive living environments for adults with autism. Debra was also chosen as one of the 2017 Long Island Business News Top 50 Most Influential Women in Business, an award that recognizes Long Island’s top women in the areas of business, education, government, and non-profit.

Debra maintains offices in Manhattan and on Long Island. She also conducts coaching sessions remotely for clients throughout the country.

LifeNET
Jay O’Brien, MPA, Director, LifeNet, Asperger/Autism Network (AANE)

This workshop is a presentation on AANE’s case management program, LifeNet. It is a private pay, independent living support program for adults with Asperger’s or similar autism spectrum profiles. LifeNet is designed to offer peace of mind that an adult on the spectrum will be supported as they navigate adulthood by a devoted team from the trusted AANE non-profit organization.

Jay O’Brien, MPA oversees the design, development, and sustainability of the LifeNet program, and is responsible for operations, human resources, marketing, technology, legal, budgeting/finance, and quality assurance. Prior to leading LifeNet, Jay was co-founder and director of a nonprofit information provider for families of individuals with autism and other developmental differences. Jay received an MPA from Harvard Kennedy School, where he was a Harvard Alumni Public Service Fellow, and a BA from Holy Cross College.

LifeMAP
Jessica Sales Cohen, JD, Director of LifeMAP Partnerships at the Asperger/Autism Network (AANE)

This workshop is a presentation of AANE's Life Management Assistance Program (LifeMAP) -- an intensive, practical, highly individualized life coaching program for individuals with Asperger/autism profiles. LifeMAP is staffed by trained professionals with expertise in Asperger profiles. Coaches help clients use their strengths to identify and overcome the particular barriers they face. The ultimate goal of LifeMAP is for clients to improve their quality of life, increase their independence, and progress toward reaching their full potential.

Jessica Sales Cohen, JD, is the Director of LifeMAP Partnerships at AANE, as well as a LifeMAP coach.  Jessica obtained her BSBA from Boston University School of Management and her JD from Northeastern University School of Law, and has been a practicing attorney since 1997. With her legal background, Jessica has extensive experience advising individuals and families in matters involving disability discrimination, employment, and special education. A native of Boston, Jessica resides in the Metro-west area with her husband, two children, and three dogs. She enjoys yoga, martial arts, reading, and spending time outdoors with friends and family.

Making State Benefits Work for You
Leslie Feinberg, New York Resource and Referral Specialist, Asperger/Autism Network (AANE)

Individuals eligible for services and supports through the New York State Office for People with Developmental Disabilities (OPWDD) may be interested in learning more about self-direction as a potential option for accessing state benefits. For many, self-direction can offer opportunities to individualize services to meet support needs. If you are considering self-directed services or are interested in learning more about self-direction, this presentation is for you!

Leslie Feinberg is the New York Resource and Referral Specialist at AANE and the founder of Supporting Our Young Adults Network (SOYAN) which she created to meet the needs of parents in the community whose children utilize NYS self-directed services so they may lead a self-determined life.

Office of Persons with Developmental Disabilities (OPWDD) Self-Direction
Michelle Giuliano, Director of Self-Direction, OPWDD

Office of Persons with Developmental Disabilities (OPWDD) Eligibility
Dr. Alison Herchenroder, Director of Eligibility, OPWDD