Session Descriptions & Speaker Bios

Additional sessions and speakers are being added continually.  Please check back periodically to see the lineup as speakers are confirmed.  
Keynote Sessions:

Wallace Davis

Session Title:  Are You Having a Good Life?

Session Description:  It’s a very personal question. From past struggles to the unknowns of the future, how are we really doing? As life’s journey continues, there are things we can do differently to better ensure that we will, indeed, have a good life. And this effort extends to other people in our life as well. What can we do to make sure that those we work with experience a good life as well? Join Dr. Davis as he shares his strategies, personal insights, and encouragement gained from forty-one years as a CEO of a large non-profit supporting people with developmental and intellectual disabilities. 

Speaker Bio:  

Wallace Davis retired as the President and CEO of Volunteers of America Southeast this past summer, after providing leadership for this affiliate for more than 40 years. He is a graduate of Samford University and New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, with a Bachelor of Science in Education, a Master of Theology and a Doctor of Philosophy in Psychology and Counseling.  He is a Licensed Professional Counselor and a certified Supervisor.

Wallace has served as pastor, interim pastor, teacher, author, CEO, and counselor in a span that began more than 50 years ago. He continues as speaker, counselor, writer, and mentor.

For over 21 years Wallace’s “Uplifting Moments” have been featured on four local radio stations during the weekly morning drivetime and one local CBS television station on Sunday mornings in Mobile, Alabama. He has also authored two books based on those experiences, Uplifting Moments, and Uplifting Moments II—365-day devotional books.

Wallace and his wife, Barbara, have four adult children and nine grandchildren. 

Alice Brouhard

Session Title:  There’s an App and Alexa for That…Technology Solutions for a Self-Determined Life! Or I didn’t know I could do that!

Session Description:  Technology has transformed many aspects of our lives, from tablets to smartphones to smart speakers to aid in communication, to assist in keeping schedules, to connect with others and to even creating a smarter home! Unfortunately, many with ID/DD have been left out of this technology transformation - not because of lack of interest, but rather uncertainty in how to begin to utilize this tech.

Alice will share how an iPad and two apps, and now Alexa, can provide technology solutions to aid in day-to-day independent living and in connecting with others!

Alice’s daughter, Kara, has been living a self-determined life, in her own house, for over 14 years with the use of a $1.99 app and an $18.99 app!  Most recently they have discovered the power of “Alexa.”  Alice will tell their story and offer hints and tidbits of how you too can find “an app for that!” and ask “Alexa, what can you do?”

Speaker Bio:  Alice Brouhard RN is a champion of the use of technology, especially tablet technology, to assist individuals  with memory and cognitive challenges.  She has worked tirelessly to set up a system that allows her daughter who sustained a serious TBI to live independently despite significant disabilities. 

She has served on the Colorado Assistive Technology Coalition through the University School of Medicine.  She has spoken nationally and internationally at conferences and events on the use of high tech and low-tech solutions to promote self-sufficiency.  Alice is a founding member of Colorado based “Families at the Forefront of Technology”

She has developed and taught classes at Colorado Mountain College on the use of iPad and iPhones.  She has been a TEDx  speaker and has been featured in journals and publications for her technology solutions.

Alice, and daughter live in Glenwood Springs, Colorado.  They have been honored, along with Alice’s late husband and Kara’s Dad, Jim with the Garfield County Humanitarian Service award – “Inspiring Hope”

Thane Dykstra

Session Title:  A River Flows Through Us: Some Paddling Lessons from Positive Psychology

Session Description: “No matter how full the river is, it still wants to grow.”  African Proverb

The Positive Psychology movement was founded by Martin Seligman in 1998. In contrast with mainSTREAM psychology which has focused extensively on mental illness, maladaptive behavior, and negative thought patterns, Positive Psychology is centered on “the good life” and the factors that promote well-being. The session will focus on key domains that are relevant to well-being as identified by Seligman in his 2011 book, Flourish. These areas include: Positive Emotion, Engagement, Meaning, Relationships, and Accomplishment (PERMA). Contemporary researchers have also emphasized the importance of lifestyle habits related to physical health. The session will provide an overview of Positive Psychology and will walk paddle attendees through Positive Psychology interventions that may be useful to persons with intellectual and developmental disabilities and those who support them.

Speaker Bio: Thane Dykstra has been President and CEO of Trinity Services since 2018. Prior to this, he served as Clinical Director and Director of Trinity’s Behavioral Health program.

Thane has written numerous professional publications related to his field of study, and he has presented extensively at national conferences and invited trainings. His current professional interests include contextual-behavioral therapies such as Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT), Functional Analytic Psychotherapy (FAP), and Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT). He is especially interested in applying these models in work with persons who exhibit challenging behavior. Thane’s interests also include the assessment of risk for persons with intellectual disabilities. Most recently, Thane has been involved in integrating Positive Psychology into person centered planning and recently co-authored a book with Art Dykstra entitled: A New Plan – Using Positive Psychology to Renew the Promise of Person Centered Planning.

Thane holds a bachelor's degree from Valparaiso University and a doctorate in Clinical Psychology from the University of Nevada, Reno. In addition, he completed his pre-doctoral internship at Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island. While at Brown, he served as an assistant project coordinator at the university's Center for Alcohol and Addictions Studies.

Within Illinois state agencies, Thane has served on steering committees and work groups for the Department of Human Services (DHS)–both the Division of Mental Health and the Division of Developmental Disabilities–and the Department of Children and Family Services. He was appointed by the Governor to the state’s Quality Care Board, an advisory committee for the DHS Office of the Inspector General. Thane is a past president of the Illinois Association for Behavior Analysis and is currently on the ANCOR Board of Representatives.

Thane and his wife Kim live in Chicago's south suburbs. They enjoy spending time with their family, camping, hiking, fishing and relevant to this talk, paddling.

 Tony Di Vittorio

Session Title:  Called to Greatness

Session Description:  Why do you do what you do? Why do you work so hard? Why do you get back up when you are knocked down? Why do you remain hopeful when all seems hopeless?  In our work… Is it because the rules that are written prescribe your extraordinary effort? Is it because the laws of the recent past require it? Is it because your compensation rewards it? Or is it something more, something basic at our core.  In our work… Is it the need to be helpful to others? Is it the need to have meaningful work? Is it gaining a sense of accomplishment? Or is there something more, something that touches the sacred in our response.  Our journey…A path stumbled into, chosen or called to?

Speaker Bio:  Tony Di Vittorio has served as the President/CEO of Clearbrook since January 2017. Prior to that he was the Executive Director of Blue Cap in Blue Island for eight years. Before taking on that role he was program director at Trinity Services in New Lenox for sixteen years. Tony serves as the Past President of the Board of Directors for the Illinois Association of Rehabilitative Facilities (IARF) the trade association for providers of services for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities and mental health issues. He also serves on the Autism Task Force and is a member of The Institute on Public Policy for People with Disabilities.

 Preconference Sessions:

Karyn Harvey

Session Title:  Trauma-Informed Supports for People with IDD – The Path to Healing

Session Description:  This session will provide an in-depth look at trauma in the lives of people with IDD and the effects of that trauma. The biological, psychological and social effects will be explored. Next, there will be a discussion of healing. Three components of healing will be reviewed: safety, connections and empowerment. The Positive Identity approach will be introduced as well. Therapeutic interventions will be explored and a variety of tolls that can be used by professionals or paraprofessionals will be shared.

1. Participants will be able to identify sources of trauma for people with IDD.
2. Participants will be able to identify the positive identity development approach.
3. Participants will be able to utilize workbooks that develop a positive sense of self.

4. Participants will be able to utilize the happiness assessment.

Speaker Bio:  Karyn Harvey has worked as a clinician in the field of intellectual disabilities for over 30 years. She has her Ph.D. in Applied Developmental Psychology from the University of Maryland. She has published articles about therapeutic interventions with individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD), workbooks for individuals with IDD and two books. Her first book, Positive Identity Development was published in 2009 and Trauma –Informed Behavioral Interventions, published in 2011. Her third book, Trauma and Healing will be released in 2022 by AAIDD. She is the director of program development and training for the Park Ave Group practice where does both individual and group therapy. In addition, she regularly conducts trainings on trauma informed care and coping with Covid for both state and individual organizations throughout the country and in Canada.

James LePage

Session Title:  A Practical Guide to Supporting People with ID/DD & Mental Illness:  

Session Description:  This session will be broken into four distinct topics:  1.  Diagnosis of Neurodevelopmental Disorders: Discussion of DSM-5 (Diagnostic & Statistical Manual) Criteria for Neurodevelopmental Disorders including Intellectual Disability, Learning Disabilities, and Autism Spectrum Disorder; 2.  Psychopharmacology: Summary of the indications, contraindications, mechanisms of action, and adverse effects of psychotropic medications relevant to the treatment of individuals with Neurodevelopmental Disorders; 3. Behavioral Techniques: Modalities of therapy and managing behavior in the outpatient setting, milieu management in the acute inpatient, residential, or group home setting; 4.  and, Team Dynamics: Members of the treatment team and their roles and qualifications, and tips for effective communication with team members.

Speaker Bio: James R. LePage, Jr., DO, MS is a board-certified Psychiatrist working for AltaPointe Health Systems in Mobile, AL as a staff psychiatrist, working as independent contractor for BHG at an outpatient opioidtreatment facility, and serving as Chief Fellow of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry. He attended the University of Tennessee, Knoxville for his B.S. in Mathematics and M.S. in Math Education, after which he taught math at the college and high school level, including work with students with special needs. He
later attended medical school at the Alabama College of Osteopathic Medicine where he was founder of the Neurology/Psychiatry Student Interest Group, and served as President of the Psychiatry Student Interest Group Network, a national position. During Residency, he served as the American Psychiatric Association Area 5 Resident-Fellow Member Representative, and as Chair of the Assembly Council of Resident-Fellow Members. He has a special interest in neurodevelopmental disorders as well as childhood trauma.

Tony DiVittorio, Sheila Lullo, Hollis Gorrie, Carl La Mel

Session Title:  The Challenge and Opportunity of Leadership Transition in a Human Service Organization

Session Description:  Change…It’s just the way it is! Life, like the seasons of the year is always changing. In the life of an organization there is always inevitable changes. Someone is hired. Someone else moves up to a position of greater responsibility. Someone leaves due to a change in a life situation. Someone retires. Changes in managers, Directors of Programs and Presidents & CEOs are all inevitable in the life of an organization. This presentation will not only share the common experience of these transitional moments and offer personal perspective but will focus on seeing transitions of this type not just as a challenge but see transition as an opportunity for renewal. 

Speaker Bio:  Tony Di Vittorio has served as the President/CEO of Clearbrook since January 2017. Prior to that he was the Executive Director of Blue Cap in Blue Island for eight years. Before taking on that role he was program director at Trinity Services in New Lenox for sixteen years. Tony serves as the Past President of the Board of Directors for the Illinois Association of Rehabilitative Facilities (IARF) the trade association for providers of services for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities and mental health issues. He also serves on the Autism Task Force and is a member of The Institute on Public Policy for People with Disabilities.

Speaker Bio:  Sheila Lullo, Clearbrook’s Executive Vice President is responsible for the overall operation of adult services at Clearbrook. She began her career serving individuals with developmental disabilities as a house parent in the Chicago area, including opening the first group home for children in Illinois. Ms. Lullo joined Clearbrook in 1979 as a Licensed Social Worker. In 1980, Lullo helped establish Clearbrook’s first residential group home. While living in Irvine, California from 1988-1990, she served on the Board of Directors for the city’s child welfare agency before returning to Clearbrook. Along with overseeing many programs, Ms. Lullo initiated and developed many of Clearbrook’s adult services operational processes including quality outcome measures. She has been instrumental in the expansion of services, including the Employment Services Program which partners with businesses to provide vocational training and employment, CHOICE Services which offers community based, choice driven day services, and Pursuit which offers community based social and recreational day services in partnership with NWSRA. Ms. Lullo has taken the lead on many large grants during the past several years which have focused on developing leadership skills among managers and curriculum developed for Community Day Services.  Graduating from Western Illinois University with a B.A. Early Childhood, Ms. Lullo later attended the University of Chicago where she earned an M.A. Social Work with an Administration emphasis. In addition to being a member of various professional organizations, Lullo has taught Disability Studies at the college level and has served on the statewide Quality Committee for 10 years and currently serves on the statewide DD Advisory Committee.

Speaker Bio:  Hollis Gorrie received her Bachelor of Arts in Psychology from Illinois State University and Master of Arts in Counseling Psychology from the Illinois School of Professional Psychology.  Hollis Gorrie began her career at Clearbrook in 2001 in the Employment Services Department. She then moved into Clearbrook’s Home Based Program, creating the program to be the largest provider of Home Based Services in the State of Illinois. In 2020 she developed a Behavioral Health Service line for Clearbrook and now oversees Clearbrook’s 2 Community Mental Health Centers. Most currently she serves as Vice President of Programs, overseeing Clearbrook’s Home Based Services, Respite, Supportive Housing, Community Employment, and Behavioral Health & Counseling programs.

Speaker Bio:  Carl M. La Mell, is the past president of Clearbrook and Victor C Neuman.  He now provides consulting services to a number of other organizations. A Chicago native, he grew up in an entrepreneurial family where he developed his work ethic at an early age. La Mell had several business ventures where, as a hands-on businessman, he ran all aspects from direct customer interface and employee development to managing the bottom line. He shifted his career to serve individuals with developmental disabilities when he joined Victor C. Neumann Association as the Chief Financial Officer in 1979. Shortly afterwards, he assumed responsibility for day-to-day operations, then later CEO. La Mell joined Clearbrook in 1996A DePaul University graduate with a B.S. in Management Economics, La Mell is a well-known advocate for those with developmental disabilities. He is active in numerous county, state and national organizations such as being a member (former chairperson) of the Illinois Statewide Advisory Council on Developmental Disabilities.

Jennifer Hodges, Stephanie Behlke-Leigh, Trina Sieling, Christina Chavez & Anne Ward

Session Title:  Person-Centered Planning: Trading Compliance for Commitment

Session Description:  Although the importance of Person Centered Planning has been discussed for decades, “getting it right,” continues to be a challenge. In this session, core principles of person centered planning will be presented. Basic principles of Positive Psychology including the six elements of well-being will be highlighted as part of a framework for strengthening Person Centered Planning. The session will introduce attendees to a recently developed phone / tablet app, My Plan to Flourish, which incorporates elements of Positive Psychology in its personal plan format. Participants will engage with the app by developing their own Plans to Flourish (including goals). This process will allow for reflection and deepen future application as it relates to providing supports for people with disabilities. Goal-setting across levels of individual support needs will be explored. Although some of the challenges of Person-Centered Planning will be considered, the session will explore methods to ensure integrity in the process and success at both the individual and organizational level. Attendees will leave this interactive session with a renewed commitment to their own journeys, as well as to the people they support.

Speaker Bio:  Stephanie Behlke Leigh Ed.D, LCPC has been in the field of mental health since 1996. For the past twenty years she has been employed at Trinity Services undertaking a variety of roles. Stephanie has served as Trinity’s Vocational Program Director; the Director of Trinity’s Family Counseling Center, Residential Network Director and is a past president of the Illinois Rehabilitation Association, and a Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor. Presently Stephanie is a Network Director with eight community day service programs, school, employment program, home based services, respite services, two support businesses, and equestrian program under her purview. She has a Masters in Marriage and Family Counseling and a Doctorate in Counselor Education Training and Supervision. Stephanie also served as an Adjunct Professor at Argosy University (2011-2019) teaching courses in Career Development, Marriage and Family Therapy, and Group Counseling Techniques.  Stephanie has spoken extensively in her career, some of the subjects she has covered during her seminars include: Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, leadership skill development, team building, relationship counseling, career psychology, and family systems. In 2016, she was honored to receive the Distinguished Alumni Award from Argosy University and was the keynote speaker at Argosy’s graduation.

Speaker Bio:  Christina Chavez has worked for Trinity Services, Inc. since 2004.  In that time, she has held positions as a Mental Health Professional/Qualified Developmental Disability Professional (QDDP), QDDP Supervisor, and has served as the Director of Quality Management Systems since 2019.  In her current role, Christina is responsible for developing, implementing, reviewing, and improving various systems from a quality management/assurance perspective.  Her work centers on ensuring that Trinity is maintaining a high-caliber of services from both a regulatory perspective, as well as a cultural perspective centered on quality services and supports.  Christina also serves as Trinity’s liaison to the Illinois Office of the Inspector General concerning cases of abuse, neglect, mistreatment, and exploitation, and facilitates and directs all regulatory review and audit processes.  She is involved in many organizational training efforts, some of which includes responsibility for working with new and established DDPs in understanding and executing all aspects of person-centered planning.  In addition, she is a certified Council on Quality and Leadership (CQL) trainer, leading several Personal Outcome Measure workshops per year within Trinity.  Christina holds a bachelor's degree in psychology as well as a master’s degree in Human Services Management. 

Speaker Bio:  Trina Sieling has been in the field of IDD since 1986. She is the Director of Staff Development at Trinity Services, and is responsible for writing, coordinating and implementing direst support, management and leadership training. She joined the organization in 1989. Her past roles include QIDP and residential director. She holds a master’s degree in Psychology, Behavior Analysis from the University of Nevada, Reno. She has been on the Board of Directors for the Council of Quality and Leadership for eight years.

Speaker Bio:  Jennifer Hodges has worked in the field for over 25 years and has been with Trinity Services since 2001. She began her career as a Direct Support Professional, laying a solid foundation for her journey. She then worked as a Qualified Developmental Disability Professional, Associate Director of services for Trinity’s programming nearest Chicago, moving into her current role as a Network Director, in 2006.  Jennifer’s focus has been on growth and development, creating varied residential opportunities for people with disabilities, with a focus on independence, as well as expansion of day services to bridge the gap between community and employment. Jennifer has developed strong systems for her team to ensure planning is at the forefront of all efforts to allow people supported to take the lead in their lives.  As a Licensed Clinical Social Worker, Jennifer finds value in providing opportunities for people to have experience within the field as well and has developed collaborative relationships, by providing master’s level supervision to social work students for over ten years.  Understanding the importance of networking, Jennifer has held a variety of roles on both business and human service committees.  Jennifer has three children that keep her very busy. She also loves to garden, crochet, and “glamping”.  Jennifer holds a Bachelor’s Degree from Loras College and Master’s Degree in Social Work from Aurora University.

Speaker Bio:  Anne Ward is Director of Publications for High Tide Press, a publisher of books and media for leaders and practitioners at every level in Human Services. Anne is co-author of High Tide Press publications Power of Voice, a curriculum to help direct support professionals communicate well with people who have disabilities and Words That Lift Us Up, a multi-media resource for organizations to train staff in using person-centered language. She has been writing and presenting in the areas of communications and developmental disabilities for over 20 years, with recent conference presentations for NAQ (National Association for QDDPs), APDDA (Association of Professional Developmental Disabilities Administrators), IARF, and The ARC of Illinois.

Breakout Sessions:

Dustin Wright

Session Title: The History of Remote Supports & Everything You Need to Know to Get Started in a “Social Distancing Support” Era

Session Description: What an amazing time to be providing services and supports to people with disabilities! The technological age we live in is enabling more and more possibilities for everyone and helping us navigate through this crazy social distancing support era. This crash course in Remote Supports will highlight the 18-year history of the services and give you the cliff notes version of “everything you need to know” to start implementing Remote Supports the right way today.

Speaker Bio: Dustin Wright has been supporting people with disabilities for 20+ years. He is proud to state he began this career track as a Direct Support Professional (DSP) while pursuing his education at Purdue University. After graduation, he worked through the ranks and ultimately served as a Director of Program Services for the same organization – overseeing and ensuring services for approximately 300 individuals.

In 2006, Dustin co-founded a remote supports company, Rest Assured, and served as the Executive Director until 2019. In this role he has overseen the provision of remote supports to thousands of people with varying abilities in 24 states.

He is a 2018 Coleman Institute for Cognitive Disabilities and Technology DIGS Grant recipient. Dustin has also assisted the States of Tennessee, Ohio, Maine, the District of Columbia, and other states in developing and modifying Medicaid Waiver regulation and funding structures to include more options for technology enabled supports.

Dustin founded Disability Cocoon in May 2018. He describes it as a disability technology catalyst organization that helps the disability community discover, learn, and implement enabling technology solutions that foster opportunities for increased independence. 

Amie Burke

Session Title:  America Runs on Behavior… and values, choices, empathy, and skill development. Using Person centered Thinking to Develop Behavior Plan

Session Description:  Personal Centered Thinking is at the very center of what we do. Why do we still have plans that do not include values, choices, teaching skills that are important to the person supported? During this session, we will challenge you to think about person centered thinking during the assessment, implementation, and follow up phases of the development of a behavior support plan.

Speaker Bio:  Amie Burke, BCBA received her master’s degree in Applied Behavior Analysis and Therapy from Southern Illinois University. Amie currently serves as one of the Clinical Directors for the Illinois Crisis Prevention Network (ICPN).  Amie has been with ICPN for over 8 years and has been in the field of ID/DD for over 30 years. Her experience is with all levels of disabilities across the lifespan.  Her passions include working with direct support professionals and developing practical interventions for challenging behavior. Amie provides training on evidence-based practices such as Dealing with Challenging Behaviors, Data Collection, Management & Leadership, Caring for the Caregiver, and Empowering DSP’s. Outside of ICPN she likes to sew, spend time with her husband, daughter and two dogs and ride her bicycle. 

Marty Desforges

Session Title: The Enneagram and Qs: Ways to Enhance Professional and Personal Communication

Session Description: The Enneagram is a personality tool that displays nine personality types. It is used in workplaces to enhance interpersonal interactions and communication effectiveness. This presentation will explore the nine personality archetypes and how each type is reflected in healthy and stressed mindsets. Understanding motivations and fears in ourselves and others will help each of us gain greater insights when interacting with others and ultimately help improve communication effectiveness in professional, as well as personal settings.

Note: Do you already know your Enneagram number? If not, it is recommended that attendees take the brief online Enneagram test available at (under Personality Tests tab – free version) before the presentation.

Speaker Bio: Marty Desforges was born and raised in Birmingham, Alabama and now resides in Austin, Texas. She has an undergraduate degree from Samford University in Communication Sciences with a master's degree from George Mason University in Industrial and Organizational Psychology. Marty has been working in the recruiting and employee selection field for more than six years. She has been an Enneagram enthusiast for the past seven years and continues to research and understand the inner workings of the Enneagram.

Mark Klaus, Art Dykstra, Edward Hershey

Session Title:  Join the Journey: Sometimes it’s the journey that teaches you a lot about the destination

Session Description:  Now more than ever there is an increased emphasis on the importance of human capital, today’s leaders are tasked with an increasing number of complex challenges that require actions in tandem. Organizational leaders must think strategically, relationally, and creatively to build high-performing teams and culture. At the higher level, leaders are also responsible for setting and aligning missions, strategy, and vision across an organization. Are you ready to go beyond leadership theory? Join three industry leaders, each at various places on their leadership journey, as they discuss finding your propose, growing to your potential, and helping others. Together these leaders have over 100 years of leadership insight and will share real-life stories and proven advice from world-class leaders who've done it. Their individual perspectives and passion to develop others will help aspiring leaders, as well as seasoned leaders, unleash the potential in themselves and others, and help to cultivate high-performing teams. If you want to make a positive impact on the world, learning to lead better will help you do it. Regardless of where you are at in your leadership journey this season will help to provide you with the tools to be more successful.

Speaker Bio:  Edward Hershey is the President and Chief Executive Officer of Home of Guiding Hands. He assumed his role with HGH on September 1, 2021.  Edward began his career at HGH in 2015 as the Vice President of Operations and was recently promoted to Chief Operating Officer. Edward has 27- years of management experience in directing all facets of business operations, with expertise in operations and project management.  Prior to joining Home of Guiding Hands, Edward worked for Father Joe’s Villages as their Vice President of Operations for 12 years, and for the Employment Development Department where he specialized in Veteran’s needs. Edward served in the US Navy during the Gulf War and was honorably discharged in 1993. He serves on the Board for the California Disability Services Institute, and the California Disability Services Association. He volunteers his time for Boy Scouts of America and the VFW. Edward holds a Master’s Degree in Human Resource Management with a Specialization in Strategic Innovation and Change Management from Colorado State University and a Bachelor’s Degree in Organizational Leadership with a Specialization in Public and Non-Profit Management. Edward is a graduate of the National Leadership Consortium on Developmental Disabilities, a licensed California Contractor, and is a member of the John Maxwell team certified as a leadership coach, speaker, and trainer. He lives in El Cajon with his wife of 16 years Jessica and their three children, Julia, Niko, and Ethan.

Speaker Bio:  Mark Klaus serves as the Executive Director of the San Diego Regional Center (SDRC).  He was appointed to this position by the San Diego-Imperial Counties Developmental Services, Inc. Board of Directors on November 1, 2021.  Prior to joining SDRC, Mark was President and Chief Executive Officer of Home of Guiding Hands (HGH), a community-based provider that supported over 4,000 individuals in both San Diego and Imperial counties. In the decade that Mark lead HGH, he doubled the number of employees, the annual operations budget, and significantly enhanced the geographic area for consumer services. Additionally, Mark served as President and Chief Executive Officer of Charleston Transitional Facility in Champaign, Illinois.

Mark has almost 40 years’ senior level executive experience operating and developing person centered service options for individuals with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities.  He is active in numerous local, statewide and national organizations including the California Department of Developmental Services Statewide (DDS) Task Force, DDS Fiscal & System Reform Workgroup, Department of Healthcare Services Long Term Care Carve-In Workgroup, the Autism Provider Exchange and many others.

Mark is a graduate of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and attended the prestigious Stanford Executive Program for Nonprofit Leaders. He lives in San Diego with Angie, his wife of 35 years. 

Speaker Bio:  Art Dykstra serves as the CEO of the Trinity Services Foundation, a not-for-profit Illinois corporation that provides support to Trinity Services, Inc. through a variety of income producing venues, including legacy giving, asset management, and entrepreneurial activities.  The Trinity Foundation also administers the Cherry Hill Consulting Group of which Art is the Director. It provides management and leadership consultation services to community organizations including many human service providers.

Previously Art served as the CEO for Trinity Services, Inc. (1987-2018), a not-for-profit, non-sectarian social services organization providing state-wide services in Illinois to children and adults who are intellectually or developmentally disabled or mentally ill.

Art grew up in Racine, Wisconsin, attended Bethel University in St. Paul, Minnesota and received a Master’s degree in Clinical Psychology from Bradley University. He has extensive college and university teaching experience, including graduate and undergraduate classes in Human Services Administration, Clinical Administration, Executive Leadership and Public Administration. He is a frequent guest lecturer and conference speaker.

Art has written numerous articles, book chapters, publications and topical monographs. He is the author of Outcome Management, co-authored You Won’t Believe This: Understanding and Managing the Habits of Gossip, From Inquiry to Insight: Preventing Abuse and Neglect, Creating a Positive Organizational Culture and most recently with Thane Dykstra, PhD the January 2020 publication A New Plan: Using Positive Psychology to Renew the Promise of Person-Centered Planning.

Art and his wife, Anita, live in New Lenox, Illinois. They are proud parents of three children and six grandchildren.

Amanda Ripley & Maranda Trahan

Session Title:  Successful Aging: 10 Tips for Meaningful Engagement

Session Description:  A key to successful aging includes meaningful engagement. An active lifestyle with your community, inner social circle, and feelings are the secrets to a high quality of life. We will review service and environmental changes you can incorporate to facilitate meaningful engagement as an individual ages with an intellectual and developmental disability. We will discuss revising goals to identifying environmental improvements. Engagement is a fun behavior to plan, but one that is challenging to produce. By taking time to enjoy the process, we show everyone that meaningful engagement comes from our participation with life and connections with each other.

Speaker Bio:  Dr. Maranda Trahan, PhD, BCBA-D was born in Louisiana and attended LSU as an undergraduate student. She attended Southern Illinois University in Carbondale for graduate school, receiving a master’s degree in Behavior Analysis and Therapy and a doctorate in Rehabilitation. Dr. Trahan completed a postdoctoral fellowship at the Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, MD in Geriatric Medicine and Gerontology. She then started the first ABA clinical practice for individuals with dementia in 2014. In late 2018, Dr. Trahan moved back to Southern Illinois and started work with Abilities Behavior Services. There she serves as the program coordinator for aging-related services, consulting and managing a caseload of senior clients (with and without I/DD). She also develops training materials for clinicians around the country looking to serve our growing population of seniors. Dr. Trahan enjoys being outside, growing vegetables, and spending time with her family and animals.

Speaker Bio:  Amanda Ripley, BCBA is from Chicago and attended Western Michigan University as an undergraduate student. She attended Southern Illinois University in Carbondale for graduate school, receiving a master’s degree in Behavior Analysis and Therapy. Amanda worked in several states, including Michigan, Colorado, and Illinois, providing ABA services to children, adults and seniors. Amanda currently works at Abilities Behavior Services, and co-manages their aging-related programs. She consults with a caseload of senior clients (with and without I/DD). Amanda also helps in the development of training materials for clinicians looking to serve seniors. Amanda is an avid runner and enjoys playing outside with her kids and husband.

Mike Mecozzi

Session Title:  RELAX: Five Strategies to Master Anxiety

Session Description:  Stress and anxiety are on the rise. Every day you are inundated with more information detailing the endless problems around you. Your efforts to calm and relax yourself seemingly cause more stress and worry. In RELAX, you’ll learn five strategies to master anxiety and stress. You’ll discover how to develop a new relationship with worries and fears, so that you can engage in your values and positively support persons with developmental disabilities and/or mental illness.

Speaker Bio:  Dr. Michael Mecozzi is a licensed clinical psychologist, author, and speaker. Dr. Mecozzi and his wife own a private psychology practice, Hope with ME, in the southwest suburbs of Chicago. Dr. Mecozzi specializes in treating young adults and adults experiencing anxiety and stress. From 2016-2020, Dr. Mecozzi was the director of the Trinity Services Behavioral Health Department. During his tenure, the Behavioral Health department secured grants to deliver homeless support services, obtained a grant to deliver mobile crisis services with local police departments, built two new apartment buildings that supported persons with mental illness, co-located therapists in local junior high schools and high schools, and continued to provide residential supports to more than 100 persons with a mental illness and intellectual disabilities.

Dr. Mecozzi graduated from the Illinois School of Professional Psychology in 2008 with his Psy.D. in clinical psychology. Dr. Mecozzi’s path to become a psychologist was anything but direct. Dr. Mecozzi’s initial ambition was to practice as an attorney. During his first year of law school, Dr. Mecozzi experienced significant anxiety and panic. Through this painful experience he discovered that his true passion is to support people who are experiencing emotional and physical pain, which led Dr. Mecozzi to pursue his doctorate in clinical psychology.

In 2013, High Tide Press published Dr. Mecozzi’s first book, “The Other Side of Pain: Discovering Meaning When Life Hurts.” In the book Dr. Mecozzi highlights how our most painful moments can illuminate what matters most to us.

Dr. Mecozzi enjoys reading, speaking, traveling, and spending time with his lovely wife Aimee and their two children.

Leanne Mull

Session Title:  It Starts By Saying Hi! Diversity and Inclusion Training for People Served

Session Description:  It Starts by Saying Hi! is an interactive class created in response to the challenges faced when talking with people receiving services about the importance of understanding people of different races, religions, sexuality, and ability. The class was created with input from people receiving services, self advocates, leadership, DSP’s and QIDP’s at traditional organizations supporting people with I/DD. Learn the importance of a proactive plan for teaching people who receive services to embrace diversity and treat everyone with respect.

Speaker Bio:  Leanne Mull has been supporting people with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities to achieve their dreams since 1999. In her previous career as a corporate trainer and business manager Leanne hired someone who used a job coach and that experience completely changed the course of her life. She spent the next 15 years at a traditional agency in a variety of roles ranging from job coach to QIDP, Day Services Manager to Director of Employment and Advocacy, and everything in between. Leanne believes that the key to meaningful lives for people who receive services is to encourage, empower and enlighten the staff who work for them. As co-director of Blue Tower Solutions, Inc. Leanne fulfills that dream as an international speaker, writer and consultant improving organizations and systems supporting people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

Leanne is a partner in the Central and Northwest Illinois Epilepsy Resource and Supports grant and works as an educator for Home Visitors sharing best practices for working with parents with disabilities. Leanne’s advocacy work includes creation of the Weekly WOW meetings an online support and learning group meeting with people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Most recently Leanne and a self advocate with disabilities created the diversity and inclusion training “It Starts with Saying Hi!” for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

Leanne holds a BA in Psychology and Master’s in Healthcare Administration.

Amy Tabor

Session Title:  All Aboard: Having the Best Trained Staff in Human Services

Session Description:  Staff Training. Is your organization thinking about re-evaluating, redesigning, or redefining the staff development process? Disability professionals know firsthand the connection between well-prepared staff and effective supports for people. It’s imperative! Today, some service providers are considering external systems to complete their staff training needs and achieve compliance in a seemingly cost-effective manner. But at what real cost to the organization? What is lost when staff development efforts are exported to others less familiar with the organization? Join Amy Tabor as she shares “train-ing” approaches to developing a customized, in-house Learning and Development program that will work for your staff and reflect the organization’s unique culture while reinforcing its all-important mission, vision, and guiding principles.

Speaker Bio:  Amy Tabor has worked in the human services field for more than three decades. She began her career as a behavior specialist in a residential setting for people with autism and has held a variety of positions within organizations -- including case management, program evaluation, staff development, and executive leadership. Much of her work has been dedicated to the prevention of abuse, neglect, and exploitation of vulnerable people, and, specifically, the importance of Human Rights Committees. As President of Organizational Dimensions, Amy travels extensively working with provider agencies throughout the U.S. and beyond, to enhance service effectiveness within these organizations. She regularly presents at local, state, and national conferences where she shares her knowledge, experiences and perspectives on a variety of topics. She holds two degrees in Sociology completing undergraduate work at North Central College and graduate work at Northern Illinois University. Additionally, Amy is an accomplished writer who continues to create new resources to assist organizations in their efforts in providing high quality, effective services to vulnerable populations.


Stephen Sutter

Session Title:  Person-Centered Planning Gets a Fun and Fun and Fresh Makeover

Session Description:  This session explores best practice strategies, tactics and tools that could both meet documentation requirements AND result in a plan that helps set the individual’s path to flourish and live their best possible life. This interactive session will include: 1) Open Discussions of the topics presented, 2) Case Studies, and 3) Live demonstrations of three Person centered planning tools. 

Speaker Bio:  Stephen Sutter is president and founder of CreateAbility Concepts, Inc. Sutter has an extensive background in human services for people with intellectual developmental disabilities and those recovering from a brain injury.

Sutter also has been the Principal Investigator on 9 state grants, and 35 Federal grants with the NIH, NDILRR, and a section of the USDA that is dedicated to helping people with special needs in rural settings. Each of these projects were focused on the research and development of enabling technology to help people with intellectual disabilities.

Sutter has a degree in Electrical Engineering from Purdue University, where he minored in Computer Science, and developed technology that was used in the cargo bay of two space shuttle flights. Prior to founding CreateAbility, Sutter had a successful career at Hewlett Packard, which included living in Germany as he managed a section of the company in Europe.

Sutter chairs the Cognitive/Sensory special interest group at RESNA and is a frequent presenter on enabling technology. He helped launch the first mobile health (mHealth) island within the medical community at the HIMSS conference in 2014 and co-teaches classes at Indiana University to help masters students learn about enabling technology.

He has helped 9 CAPSTONE student teams in the final semesters of their graduate programs.

Under Sutter’s leadership, CreateAbility has donated over $70,000 to national and global humanitarian efforts, such as assisting victims of natural disasters and the current war in the Ukraine. In addition, CreateAbility has donated replacement enabling technology to those with special needs whose devices were destroyed in these tragic events. 

JIllian Gonzalez & Jaimie O'Leary

Session Title:  Combat Caregiver Burnout and Boost Moral 

Session Description:  Are you struggling to maintain a motivated and dedicated workforce? Has your turn over increased, but your ability to train and onboard new hires has not? Join us for a robust discussion on various strategies to not only hold your staff accountable, but build a compassionate and motivated team. 

During this session we will begin with a focus on the challenges you are facing in your organization as you lead your teams. These discussions will help to guide the rest of the conversation where we will focus on how to fill your gaps. We will collaborate on various strategies that help with not only retention and moral, but also how to adequately train and provide support to a large number of new hires. One area we intend to focus on is starting all new hires off on the right foot, and how to combat new hires coming in to a less than ideal environment and avoiding a negative starting point. Different strategies related to building moral and training a team with varying experience and seniority will also be a fixture in this conversation. 

Speaker Bio:  Jillian Gonzalez has been with El Valor since 2013. Jillian attended undergraduate school at Illinois Wesleyan and Law School at DePaul College of Law. After law school, Jillian worked as a Labor Law attorney before joining the Organization. Since joining El Valor, Jillian has transitioned to oversee the adult programs, fundraising, HR, and legal for the Agency. Jillian assisted her team in opening the El Valor’s first new residence for adults in over 10 years and has assisted as a Qualified Intellectual Disabilities Professional during staffing shortages.

Jillian is passionate about ensuring that adults with unique needs have access to all the same opportunities as traditionally functioning adults. She assists in guardianship needs for those served at El Valor and believes all families should have access to assistance regardless of income or language access. In her spare time, Jillian spends time with those close to her and enjoys to travel.

Speaker Bio:  Jaimie O’Leary joined El Valor in 2018 as a Qualified Intellectual Disabilities Professional. Jaimie graduated from Northeastern Illinois University and worked in Special Recreation and Special Education roles prior to joining El Valor. During her time at El Valor, Jaimie has transitioned into the role of Residential Manager ensuring all of El Valor’s residents have access to community integration, quality programming, and case management supports.

Jaimie led the residential team during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. As the pandemic has evolved, Jaimie has focused heavily on supporting the residents return to normalcy. As the leader of the program, Jaimie actively seeks community integration opportunities that meet the needs of the each individual living with El Valor.

Jaimie is an avid hiker and traveler with a sense of adventure. During her spare time she can often be found hiking at a national park, kayaking in Michigan, or running a marathon. 


Aimee Morrison & Steve Grieger

Session Title:  From Institution to Inclusion

Session Description:  Inclusion today is more than just an educational model, it’s a bold philosophy for our time.  Join us for a multi-media presentation linking yesterday’s reform of the mental health system to today’s realities, dreams and challenges to remain relevant in the special-needs field.  Through pictures, video clips, and first-hand experiences, we will share tales of society’s evolution on the road to person-centered success, and consider “moving forward toward a future of possibilities.”

Speaker Bio:  Steve Grieger has been a featured presenter at conferences for both the National Association of QIDPs and Developmental Services Network, Inc., discussing subjects as diverse as Alzheimer’s Disease, self-advocacy, independent living, board-and-care innovations, learning from his mistakes on the job, marriage for people with intellectual disabilities, and perspectives on long-term leadership. 

This year Steve celebrates his 40th year as a Qualified Intellectual Disability Professional/Administrator for the Home of Guiding Hands in El Cajon, California, where he supervises four community group homes for people with developmental disabilities.  He currently serves on several employee committees and task forces.  Steve is also the author of the book Challenged: A Tribute (One man’s true story of caring for, laughing with and learning from people with special needs), a personal memoir based on 30 years’ experience in the special-needs field, which was awarded Best Memoir by the San Diego Book Awards Association in 2012. 

Steve’s varied accomplishments include chef, playwright, screenwriter and teacher, but it is his longevity as a caregiver and administrator in the special-needs field of which he is most proud.

Speaker Bio:  Aimee Morrison is a Seattle native, who resides in San Diego, California. She currently works as a Case Manager at Home of Guiding Hands, where she has been employed for over 12 years. She provides services to twelve women with intellectual disabilities, and serves on several other employee committees and task-forces.

Aimee is currently pursuing her degree in Integrative Psychology, with a focus on human services and the non-profit sector. The mother of an active and athletic ten-year-old son, she enjoys attending his sporting events with her husband and family. Her hobbies include home renovation and improvement projects, interior design, and animal rescue. She has facilitated the updating of several homes within her agency, tailored to the residents’ personal preferences and interests.

Aimee’s proudest achievement is her 27 years of continuous advocacy for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. She has a broad range of experience within the field. She started out as a young direct service provider. In the span of her career, she has worked as a production skills specialist, respite contractor, community inclusion coordinator, supported employment facilitator, independent living counselor, and community care licensed administrator.

This will be Aimee’s second time attending and presenting at the NAQ conference.

Ashley McReynolds

Session Title:  Navigating the Criminal Justice System: How DDPs can help ensure access and justice.

Session Description:  People with I/DD must receive justice in the criminal justice system whether as victims, witnesses, suspects, defendants, or incarcerated individuals. They should not experience discrimination or mistreatment in any justice system. They should also have meaningful access to criminal justice services and programs. As a DDP you play a vital role in ensuring access to justice. This session will help you gain knowledge and confidence of the Criminal Justice System, and the role you play as a Liaison.

Speaker Bio:   is a Program Director for The Arc of Louisiana, an advocacy organization for individuals with disabilities and their families.  She has 11 years of experience working in the disability field As a Program Director. Most of my work focuses on developing trainings, implementing trainings, and providing technical assistance in the areas of Criminal Justice, Healthcare, Education, and Supported Decision Making. I am on multiple state and national stakeholder groups, and have presented at both state and national conferences. I am also involved in state and federal level systems change and public policy advocacy promoting and improving supports and services for people with disabilities and their families. 

Patrick Lane

Session Title:  Improving Person-Centered Practices with Technology

Session Description:  The pandemic dramatically changed service delivery for people with I/DD, requiring a rapid transition to connected technology such as eLearn, Zoom, and cloud-based applications. Significant concerns were common as to whether the technology was adequate or even counter-productive in offering supports that were truly Person-Centered. Advocates with the The Learning Community worked to identify and address barriers. Moreover, we considered how this shift could improve Person-Centered Practices. We were pleased to discover eLearn could increase exposure. Online training could measure participant retention, and cloud-based applications made real-time collaboration easy. Join us as we talk about Improving Person-Centered Practices with Technology.

Speaker Bio:  Patrick Lane has over 15 years working in the field of Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities. He has extensive experience in case management, project oversight, and is a certified AAIDD Supports Intensity Scale Specialist. He is presently a Person-Centered Practices Mentor by The Learning Community for Person-Centered Practices and supervises Person Centered Services for IntellectAbility. He holds a MA from Mercer University. He resides in Woodstock Georgia and has three adult children.

Leah Bauman-Smith

Session Title:  Sexuality Education for People with Developmental Disabilities

Session Description:  A study done by the Justice Department in 2017 reported that, people with intellectual disabilities are seven times more likely than their peers to experience sexual assault.  Mad Hatter Wellness is working to lower that statistic by supporting sexual health for this population through conversations, education, and awareness.

This presentation will address the teaching of boundaries, the concept of consent, and the difference between public and private behavior – among other important topics.  In addition, the following strategies will be discussed: 

● Answering difficult questions

● Tips for Inclusive sexuality education

● Tips for providing trauma informed sexuality education

● Resource share

Speaker Bio:  Leah is an educator and outreach specialist for Mad Hatter Wellness and Sexuality for All Abilities. She loves having the opportunity to teach about consent, healthy relationships, and boundaries to people of all abilities.  Team building, self advocacy and radical self love are three areas that Leah feels very passionate about and has lots of experience teaching. Leah has been a special education teacher for fifteen years and taught sexuality education in special education classes for over 10 years.

Tim Williams

Session Title:  Scrub the Negative: Three Steps to Promoting the Positive in Yourself and The Workplace

Session Description:  Do you find that bad experiences push aside the positive both in your own thought processes and in the places where you work? Too often we look at the removal of the negative as the path to wellbeing while the answer is more often the development of the positive. Appreciating how much is and can go right is the necessary step needed to move from despair to optimism. Forget the bad – make it useful. This session provides immediate insights into seeing the positive, cultivating the positive and using the positive. Filled with solid, factual information laced with humor, you should feel less stressed and more hopeful when you walk out of this session.

Speaker Bio:  Timothy Williams received his B.A. from Bethel College and his M.A. and Ph.D. from the University of Minnesota. He has taught courses in conflict management, organizational communications, labor relations and negotiations at Hamline University, the University of Minnesota, Southern Oregon University and Portland State University. At Portland State he developed and taught courses in human resource management, labor relations, labor negotiations and labor contract administration for the Division of Public Administration, Mark O. Hatfield School of Government.

He is an experienced key note speaker and seminarist, having presented more than 2,000 one and two-day training programs on such topics as leadership, employee discipline, supervision, labor relations, performance management and other HR topics.

Dr. Williams is a practicing dispute resolver with forty-eight years experience as a mediator, ombudsperson, facilitator, fact-finder and arbitrator. During that time he has worked to resolve both labor and construction disputes. He has experience with public and private organizations designing and implementing dispute prevention/resolution systems.

Over the last twenty-six years he has helped design and implement executive level partnerships, corporate strategic partnerships and has facilitated more than 300 project specific partnering sessions. He has applied the partnering principles to promoting cooperative labor relations in work with a number of labor and management clients throughout the Pacific Northwest.

Dr. Williams is the author of numerous articles and the book Gossip! You Won’t Believe This which he wrote with Arthur Dykstra and Elaine Porterfield.

He is a member of The Labor Education Research Association (LERA) and the National Academy of Arbitrators (NAA).

 Round Table Discussions:


Mike Mecozzi

Session Title:  Self-care for the caregiver

Session Description:  In this roundtable discussion, we share ideas, tips and maybe even some life hacks for developing self-care. Supporting and helping others is a rewarding mission, but it can also be tiring and stressful. Let’s learn from one another on ways we can reenergize ourselves so that we can continue helping others.

Speaker Bio:  Dr. Michael Mecozzi is a licensed clinical psychologist, author, and speaker. Dr. Mecozzi and his wife own a private psychology practice, Hope with ME, in the southwest suburbs of Chicago. Dr. Mecozzi specializes in treating young adults and adults experiencing anxiety and stress. From 2016-2020, Dr. Mecozzi was the director of the Trinity Services Behavioral Health Department. During his tenure, the Behavioral Health department secured grants to deliver homeless support services, obtained a grant to deliver mobile crisis services with local police departments, built two new apartment buildings that supported persons with mental illness, co-located therapists in local junior high schools and high schools, and continued to provide residential supports to more than 100 persons with a mental illness and intellectual disabilities.

Dr. Mecozzi graduated from the Illinois School of Professional Psychology in 2008 with his Psy.D. in clinical psychology. Dr. Mecozzi’s path to become a psychologist was anything but direct. Dr. Mecozzi’s initial ambition was to practice as an attorney. During his first year of law school, Dr. Mecozzi experienced significant anxiety and panic. Through this painful experience he discovered that his true passion is to support people who are experiencing emotional and physical pain, which led Dr. Mecozzi to pursue his doctorate in clinical psychology.

In 2013, High Tide Press published Dr. Mecozzi’s first book, “The Other Side of Pain: Discovering Meaning When Life Hurts.” In the book Dr. Mecozzi highlights how our most painful moments can illuminate what matters most to us.

Dr. Mecozzi enjoys reading, speaking, traveling, and spending time with his lovely wife Aimee and their two children.

John Lovett

Session Title: A Tune Up!

Session Description: Let’s face it. The work of Qs, case managers, and support coordinators is challenging. Feeling overwhelmed? Don’t wait for the check engine light to come on! Come to this session and get recharged while you learn useful personal strategies to stay organized, prioritize responsibilities, and navigate responsibilities effectively. John will share practical approaches to getting it all done while being present for the people you support.

Speaker Bio: John Lovett is the Alabama State Director for Benchmark Human Services. He earned his doctorate in Health Services Administration from the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) with an emphasis on improving access to care for marginalized populations. He applies a systems approach to assist states in solving complex healthcare problems with innovative solutions.

In his current role, Dr. Lovett serves as the senior director responsible for the overall direction and coordination of Alabama’s behavioral health crisis and IDD capacity building projects. Most recently, Dr. Lovett played an integral role in helping Alabama develop and open three crisis centers throughout the state and continues to partner with Alabama to develop the state’s crisis system of care.