Dr. Temple Grandin – June 1st Only
11:00 AM Opening Speech; 4:00 PM Book Signing; 5:00 PM Keynote Speech
Dr. Temple Grandin is one of the most well-known autistic public figures. In her innumerable publications, she describes navigating her challenges and investing deeply in her interests. She achieved considerable academic success, earning a doctoral degree in animal science from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. By focusing on her unique abilities, she went on to revolutionize animal science and create significant positive economic, quality, and safety improvements in the agriculture and livestock industries. She has become a leading advocate supporting the empowerment of people with autism, creating programs emphasizing the need to nurture strengths in educational and vocational programs for individuals on the autism spectrum.
Derek Paravicini – June 1 Concert at Qualcomm Hall 5:00 pm – 7:00 pm
Derek was born premature, at 25 weeks. Derek is blind as a result of excessive oxygen therapy in the neonatal ICU. He also has Autism and learning disabilities. At age two, his nanny gave him an old keyboard, and soon he demonstrated a fascination for music and sound. Derek has absolute pitch or “perfect pitch” and is able to learn a piece after hearing it only once. By the age of four, Derek had taught himself to play a large number of complex pieces on the piano. With no visual models to guide him, his technique was chaotic, yet his enormous potential was recognized by professor Adam Ockelford, then a music teacher at Linden Lodge School for the Blind in London. Adam and Derek have worked together very closely ever since.
Derek’s natural affinity for jazz, pop and light music soon became evident; together with his improvisatory talents, ability to play in any key, and flair for performing in public.
Derek first shot to fame when he was nine, playing jazz with the Royal Philharmonic Pops Orchestra at the Barbican. Many TV appearances followed, all over the world, including CBS’s prestigious “60 Minutes.” Derek has performed at Buckingham Palace and various prestigious venues. He now tours with Adam Ockelford all over the world. After his breathtaking performance last year at the Mainly Mozart Festival, we absolutely had to invite him to return this year! He will be improvising and taking requests directly from the audience.
Adam Ockelford, PhD. – Presenter, June 1 with Pianist Derek Paravicini
Dr. Ockelford is the lifelong mentor of Derek Paravicini, the brilliant autistic pianist who will be performing on June 1st at Qualcomm Hall. Dr. Ocekelford has had a lifelong fascination for music, as a composer, performer, teacher, and researcher. While attending the Royal Academy of Music in London, Adam started working with children with special needs including Autism – a number of whom, he noticed, had special musical abilities too – and he became interested in how we all intuitively make sense of music, without the need for formal education. Adam pursued this line of inquiry and gained a Ph.D. in music at Goldsmith’s College in London in 1993, in which he set out his ‘zygonic’ theory of musical understanding. This theory has proved a valuable tool in music theory and analysis, in investigating musical development, and exploring interaction in music therapy and education. Adam is Secretary of the Society for Education, Music, and Psychology Research (‘SEMPRE’), Chair of Soundabout, an Oxfordshire-based charity that supports music provision for children and young people with complex needs; and founder of The AMBER Trust, a charity that supports visually impaired children in their pursuit of music. Adam will be speaking about his journey with Derek during Derek’s live performance June 1st from 5:00 pm-7:00 pm.
Thomas Iland, CPA, DTM – EMCEE, June 1 & 2
Autistic Award-winning public speaker, one of only 4000 “Distinguished Toastmasters” in the world, author of Come to Life: Your Guide to Self-Discovery, which offers strategies for the transition into adulthood on the autism spectrum, including knowing and nurturing strengths and interests, obtaining employment, creating and maintaining relationships, and much more. Tom will be the Emcee of our symposium.
Grant Manier, Artist – Introduction, June 1; Panelist, June 2; Art Expo, June 1 & 2
Grant is an award-winning autistic artist who channeled his “obsession” for paper into Eco-Art, an innovative art form. He is passionate about the environment, art, and Autism advocacy. He brings his art exhibit and literacy program into schools and organizations teaching the importance of environmental responsibility. Grant creates extraordinary collages using thousands of pieces of recycled calendars, magazines, posters, puzzles and more. From an owl made from movie posters to dolphins crafted with applesauce lids, Grant is raising the awareness and beauty of recycling. He authored a new children’s book: Grant the Jigsaw Giraffe and friends. Visit Grant’s website here.
Joel Anderson, Artist – Live Painting, June 1; Art Expo, June 1 & 2
Joel is an artist and ambassador with autism, known as The Artist of Smiles from Fallbrook, California. He is also an author, international speaker and philanthropist. He is a sought after keynote speaker, who has spoken in Peru, China, Canada, and across the United States. Joel creates his art in acrylic, mixed media, digital media, animation, and video production. One of Joel’s favorite projects was being hired to create his animation “How Germs Spread”, now used across Africa to encourage safe water habits. Joel’s art has been featured at many museums and galleries, including The California Museum in Sacramento; H.H. Dorje Chang Buddha III Cultural & Art Museum in Covina; The Soho Gallery for Digital Art in NYC; The Art Works in Washington DC; The Rancho Sante Fe Art Gallery. Joel will be painting live on stage and will be showing and selling his work at our Art Expo. Proceeds will go toward his initiative “Smile Bags” to fill backpacks with art supplies for children. To learn more about Joel visit his website here.
Kristine Barnett – Presenter, June 1; Panelist June 2; Book Signing June 1 & 2
Kristine’s son Jacob was diagnosed with Autism in early childhood. Today, Jacob is an Astrophysics researcher at the Perimeter Institute in Waterloo, Ontario. Early on, armed with a background in early education, Kristine chose to nurture Jacob’s fascination with numbers, letters, and patterns on the wall. She did the same for many autistic children in her community at her own home. Kristine Barnett wrote a best-selling memoir, The Spark: A mother’s Journey of Nurturing, Genius, and Autism detailing her approach to educating children with autism. She will share her insights as a mother and early childhood educator of children with Autism.
Darold Treffert, MD – Presenter, June 1
Dr. Treffert is a psychiatrist, researcher, and world-renowned Autism and Savant Syndrome expert. Over the last 50 years, he has met and learned from remarkable individuals across the breadth of the Autism spectrum, including artists, mathematicians, poets, authors, and musicians. At the Treffert Center (service of Agnesian HealthCare, member of SSM Health) and the Treffert Academy, children with Autism and neurotypical children learn together, in a supportive environment where individual strengths are identified and nurtured early on. Dr. Treffert and his team invite individuals, families, and communities worldwide to focus on strengths rather than limitations, especially as it applies to children and adults on the autism spectrum. Dr. Treffert will be sharing his invaluable insights through a video “The Savant Syndrome: Those Incredible Islands of Genius.”
Diego Peña – Presenter, June 1; Book Signing, June 1
Diego Peña is an 11-year-old child with autism who is already a published author and active advocate spreading autism acceptance and awareness through his writings and presentations. Diego uses an iPad, letter board, and a keyboard to communicate. His first published book, Anatomy of Autism: A Pocket Guide for Educators, Parents, and Students shatters misconceptions about autism and is a best seller on Amazon-Kindle.
Edlyn Peña, Ph.D. – Presenter (with son Diego Peña), June 1
Associate Professor and Director of Doctoral Studies in Higher Education Leadership at Cal Lutheran, mother of Diego Peña. She is an award-winning researcher who studies social justice issues for students with disabilities, particularly autism, in the preschool through higher education pipeline.
Matteo Musso & Annette Musso – Presenters, June 1; Panelists, June 2; Book Signing June 1 & 2
Matteo is a brilliant young poet who has autism. He could not speak for the first 11 years of his life. Through the window of music, under the tutelage of music therapist Susan Rancer and the insights of his mother Annette, Matteo started communicating with the world through a letter board system called Halo RPM. Matteo emerged as a witty, soulful, insightful poet, author, and artist. Matteo has a much deeper, much more vivid appreciation of music, due to synesthesia. After attending a concert at the San Francisco Symphony, he sent them a letter describing his appreciation of their music. It was so profound that Tim Higgins, principal trombonist, took it and put it to music. Thus was born a beautiful musical masterpiece. Matteo deems himself a “voice for the silent ones.” His poetry addresses music, the arts, friendship, inclusion, anti-bullying, and disability rights awareness. He has spoken at many national and international conferences, including an address to the United Nations. He leads a YouTube channel and programs a weekly episode entitled “Mondays with Matteo.” His first published book, Handbook of Us: Understanding and Accepting People with Autism, gives incredible insight and tips on raising and befriending an autistic child or adult.
Rosa C. Martinez, PhD., BCBA-D – Presenter, June 1; Panelist, June 2; Book Signing June 1 & 2
Dr. Martinez is the President of Strokes of Genius, Inc. a non-profit organization that empowers individuals with Autism who have an interest or talent in art by providing inclusive professional art studio classes and workshops to TRAIN THE TALENTSM.
The TTTSM courses are geared toward individuals who are beginning or emerging artists in all age ranges (youngsters to adults). Strokes of Genius, Inc also provides an accredited TTTSM Instructor Certification course for art teachers or art therapists interested in teaching art to individuals with autism. Dr. Martinez empowers artists on the autism spectrum in many ways, including curating art exhibitions featuring their work in the United States and internationally. She has worked with world-renowned autistic savants, including Donna Williams, Stephen Wiltshire, George Widener, Gregory Blackstock, Ping Lian Yeak and many others to create awareness about nurturing abilities. Dr. Martinez has taught Education courses at the College of Staten Island, Long Island University, Touro and Hunter College. She has lectured and presented at various conferences regarding Autism and has been instrumental in establishing therapeutic and educational programs and schools for young children with Autism in New York City.
Amoako Buachie, Artist – Live Painting, June 1; Art Expo, June 1 & 2
Brooklyn-based Amoako Buachie is an artist with autism and a profound gift and love for painting that started at age 2. He is attending with Dr. Rosa Martinez, president of Strokes of Genius, Inc. Amoako was raised by his mother, Akosua Mainu, who migrated to the U.S from Ghana in 1986. At age 5, Amoako would use his Magna-Doodle pad to draw characters from his favorite Warner Bros. cartoons. His art teacher at school, Ms. Lacey, noticed that he had a special gift and helped him develop his skills as a painter. In 2010 and 2011, Amoako’s paintings “My Friend Andre” and “Day Dreamer Boy” won the NYC Department of Education Art Competition. In 2013, the McCarton Foundation featured several of Amoako’s paintings at the Port Authority of New York. He was nominated for the 2013 Genius of Autism Award. In 2014 Amoako won the prestigious VSA contest entitled “The Journey” and his art was displayed at the Smithsonian and various museums throughout the United States. In 2018 his art was featured at the World Autism Awareness – “Don’t ‘Dis’ the Ability” exhibition in New York City. Amoako will be painting live on stage and at the expo, he will share his work, his story, and will be selling some of his paintings.
Thomas Fabricius, MD – Presenter, June 1. Panelist, June 2
Physician, Author of Autism and the Savant Hypothesis: The Evolution of Human Cognition and Mind which “sheds an interesting light into the nature of the origin of our special human cognition in a way that can only be appreciated through understanding autism.” Dr. Fabricius provides both Family Medicine and Autism Evaluation Services at the Treffert Center (service of Agnesian HealthCare, member of SSM Health). He will be speaking to us about Hyperlexia in individuals with Autism, and how to harness that unique decoding strength.
Bryan Mischler, MSW., LCSW. – Presenter, June 1; Panelist, June 2
Bryan Mischler is a senior Autism therapist at the Treffert Center (service of Agnesian HealthCare, member of SSM Health). He has worked for more than 20 years as a therapist serving children, teens and young adults with Autism and other neurodevelopmental conditions. He believes in celebrating individual neurodiversity as well as assisting with challenges, with a special focus on strengths and talents. He received his bachelor’s degree in Psychology from the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh and his master’s degree in social work from the University of Wisconsin – Green Bay. He is a licensed clinical social worker, research assistant, and psychotherapist. He has been dubbed “the gift whisperer” by Dr. Treffert, for his ability to identify and nurture individual interests and strengths. Bryan and his colleague Vivian Hazell will be presenting about strength-based transitions to adulthood on the autism spectrum.
Vivian Hazell, MSE, LPC – Presenter, June 1; Panelist, June 2
Vivian Hazell is a licensed professional counselor at the Treffert Center (service of Agnesian HealthCare, member of SSM Health). She has worked for more than 30 years as both a therapist and an educator serving children and adults with Autism, attending to their unique needs as well as their talents. She received her bachelor’s degree from Ripon College and her master’s degree from the University of Wisconsin – Oshkosh. She is a licensed professional counselor, founder of Beyond Boundaries of Autism, and a charter member of the Governor’s Autism Council. Vivian specializes in helping individuals with Autism and multiple other conditions, including anxiety, depression, and ADHD. Vivian and her colleague Bryan Mischler will be presenting about strength-based transitions to adulthood on the autism spectrum.
Susan Baum, PhD – Keynote Presenter, June 2; Panelist, June 2
Dr. Baum is an educational psychologist with distinct expertise in addressing the emotional needs of “twice-exceptional children” (2e children) – children who are exceptionally gifted and have Autism or other developmental conditions or learning disabilities. Dr. Baum has over 30 years of experience in public schools as a classroom teacher, special education teacher, teacher of the gifted, learning disabilities specialist, and educational consultant. She is the director of the 2e Center for Research and Professional Development, co-director of the Joint Commission on 2e Education and spokesperson for the Special Interest Group on 2e Education for the National Association for Gifted Students. In 2010, Dr. Baum received the Weinfeld Group’s Lifetime Achievement Award for her groundbreaking work in “Twice Exceptional Education.” Dr. Baum is a prolific author, her books include: To be Gifted and Learning Disabled: Strategies for Helping Gifted Students with LD, ADHD, and More and Multiple Intelligences in the Elementary Classroom: A Teacher’s Toolkit. She will be speaking to us about “twice exceptionality”, and about the importance of interest and talent development for all students, including students with Autism.
Assal Habibi, PhD – Presenter, June 2; Panelist, June 2
Dr. Habibi is a Developmental Cognitive Neuroscientist with expertise in the effects of Music Education on brain development. She will be sharing her research and covering the effects of music education on children with Autism. Dr. Habibi’s research at USC’s Brain and Creativity Institute takes a broad perspective on understating child development. She is specifically interested in how early childhood positive interventions, such as musical training, can improve emotion regulation, decision making, academic outcomes, and mental health. She is leading a 5-year longitudinal study, in collaboration with the Youth Orchestra Los Angeles (YOLA), investigating the effects of early childhood music training on the development of brain function and structure as well as cognitive and socio-emotional development.
Michelle Hardy, MT-BC – Presenter, June 2; Panelist, June 2
As a published author and leader in her field, Michelle specializes in evidence-based music therapy for children with autism and other neurodevelopmental disorders. At Cortica, Michelle supervises a skilled team of music therapists, occupational therapists, physical therapists, and speech-language therapists. Michelle received her bachelor’s degree from Loyola University and her master’s in Music Therapy from Colorado State University. Michelle will discuss the role of music therapy for individuals with Autism.
Chantal Sicile-Kira – Presenter, June 2; Panelist, June 2
Chantal’s passion for empowering others and her personal interest in autism has led her to become an autism consultant, an award-winning author, speaker, and leader in the field of autism, adolescence, and transition to adulthood on the autism spectrum. Chantal received her BA in Social Ecology from the University of California at Irvine (UCI). Her first practical experience with autism was at Fairview State Hospital, teaching self-help and community living skills to severely developmentally disabled and autistic adolescents. Then, as a case manager for Orange County Regional Center for the Developmentally Disabled, Chantal provided information and resources to families. Years later, these work experiences would prove invaluable when her son Jeremy (now a young adult and prolific artist) was diagnosed with autism. She has been actively involved in the field of Autism for over 25 years as both a parent and a professional on both sides of the Atlantic. A tireless advocate for those on the autism spectrum, Chantal founded Autism College in order to provide consultation services, practical information and training online about autism. In 2009, Chantal was appointed by the California Senate Select Committee on Autism & Related Disorders to lead the South Counties Autism Regional Taskforce as Co-Chair. She had previously served on the Taskforce on Transitional Services & Supports reporting to the California Legislative Blue Ribbon Commission on Autism.
Laurence A. Becker, PhD – Presenter, June 2
Laurence A. Becker received his Ph.D. in Creative Learning Environments in 1980, from the Union Institute & University. Since 1976, he has worked with several of the world’s greatest artists with autism. Currently, in addition to sharing the work of Richard Wawro, of Edinburgh, Scotland, Dr. Becker works with the art of Christophe Pillault, of France, Ping Lian, of Malaysia/Australia, Kimberly Dixon of Texas, and Erik Warren of Kansas, Grant Manier of Houston and Seth Chwast. In 1983, he produced and hosted the world premiere of the international, award-winning documentary film, “With Eyes Wide Open: Richard Wawro, Savant Artist with Autism.” The film received 3 International and 4 National awards. Since 1985, he has served on fifteen Ph.D. committees as a peer and adjunct professor with The Union Institute & University in such areas as creativity, art therapy, psychology, the humanities, and education. In 2018, Dr. Becker produced his second documentary film, “FIERCE LOVE and ART,” 7 artists, a musician (Tony DeBlois), an author/minister (Ron Sandison), all with autism, and their parents. “FIERCE LOVE and ART” premiered in Austin in 2018. The artists themselves and their families share a special relationship with Dr. Becker, who makes it his mission to make their stories and especially their brilliant work is widely known to the public. Grant Manier who is featured in the film will also be with us in person on the Panel June 2!
Keri Bowers – Presenter, June 2; Panelist, June 2
An activist, artist, filmmaker, writer, and Independent Living Skills facilitator, Keri Bowers is also co-founder of The Art of Autism, and owner of Normal Films. Employing the arts as viable tools-based interventions with her son Taylor beginning in 1988, Keri used painting, music, video modeling, movement, drama, photography with other creative strategies to support Taylor’s physical, educational, social, and life skills development simultaneously using the arts with broader audiences including private clients, and participants in her program designs. Film credits include “Normal People Scare Me,” “The Sandwich Kid,” “ARTS,” and “Normal People Scare Me Too.” Her new film, currently in production, “Desire”, is an anthology film series about love, relationships, sexuality, safety, and disabilities. Book credits include Autism Movement Therapy, Waking Up the Brain; Mapping Transitions to Your Child’s Future; Single Pregnancy, Single Parenting; and, as an editor, The Art of Autism: Shifting Perceptions (by Debra Hosseini). A featured columnist for Autism Asperger’s Sensory Digest Magazine, and occasional blogger, Keri shows how arts-based “power tools A-Z” can help grow academic, social, life skills, and give rise to person-first voices and advocacy.
Susan Rancer, Registered Music Therapist – Panelist, June 2; Book Signing, June 1 & 2
Susan Rancer (B.A., Eastern New Mexico University, 1974) is a Registered Music Therapist in private practice in the San Francisco Bay Area. She works exclusively with children and adults with autism, other neurodevelopmental conditions or learning disabilities. Most of her students have perfect pitch, the majority of whom are autistic. Among her students is Matteo Musso, who is a young autistic poet and public speaker. She currently works with about 50 students per week. Susan has been in practice 43 years. Over those years she has found that perfect pitch and autism both reflect a spectrum of properties, and that people can have perfect pitch and be unaware of the fact. She notes that people frequently have this innate talent yet have no idea they are gifted. In her work, she tries to identify and nurture talent rather than focus solely on challenges. She has experienced first-hand how this approach can positively impact the growth of the whole person and enhance family dynamics. Susan has published two books on perfect pitch that draw from her decades of professional experience. The more recent Perfect Pitch in the Key of Autism was written for the general reader, but is now also in use as a college-level text. Susan has also contributed a chapter to Dr. Darold Treffert’s book Islands of Genius and contributed to research projects at the University of California San Francisco Medical Center and at Stanford University.
Kim Vargas, MS. – Panelist, June 2
Kim Vargas is an educator and administrator at Bridges Academy, a college prep school in Studio City, CA, serving twice-exceptional (2e) students, who are gifted and also have learning disabilities. She is also the site administrator at the Bridges 2e Center for Research and Professional Development, a first-of-its-kind multi-disciplinary hub where professionals, scholars, and practitioners combine expertise to enhance understanding of the growing population of 2e students. Kim received her bachelor’s degree from the University of Southern California Rossier School of Education and her master’s degree in Special Education for the Gifted and Talented at California State University, Los Angeles. Kim taught in the South Pasadena Unified School District as the visiting teacher for students requiring in-home educational services. She attended Cal Poly University at Pomona to acquire a special education teaching credential for mild to moderate learning disabilities. Kim will share her insights on identifying and nurturing 2e children, who are often misdiagnosed and feel like they don’t “fit” in common educational programs.
Anne Torsiglieri – Panelist, June 2
Anne is an Associate Professor in the Department of Theater and Dance at University of California Santa Barbara. She is a graduate of Princeton University and The Juilliard School. In addition to professional acting both on and off Broadway, she volunteers teaching theatre and drama to young adults who are on the Autism spectrum. She wrote and regularly performs an autobiographical play entitled “A TRAIN” centering on her personal journey as a mother alongside her son who is diagnosed with autism. “A TRAIN” was awarded Best Production at the United Solo Festival in 2017. It has also been performed at The Los Angeles Skirball Center and at Playmakers Rep in NC. In the play, through a mother’s search for insight, her life is changed forever, learning to see the world, her son, and the very nature of happiness with clearer eyes. Anne will share insights into her own journey, as well as the complex effects of theatre training and drama on individuals with Autism.
The Interactive Panel on June 2 opens with the University of Exeter’s Exploring Diagnosis Project featuring artists from the Art of Autism
Steven Kapp, PhD., and Jean Harrington, PhD., of the University of Exeter’s Exploring Diagnosis Project, will be panelists on June 2. The research group describes itself as follows: “We are a research team based at Egenis, part of the University of Exeter in the UK. Our research explores the role that diagnosis plays in society and in medicine, using the diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder as a case study. On the way, we aim to celebrate and value the abilities and attributes of the neurodiverse community. With more and more people being diagnosed with autism, it is important to ask why, if, and how, diagnosis is of benefit. We carry out our research through listening to the views and experiences of adults who have a diagnosis of autism. We also work with clinicians’ hearing about how they make decisions when diagnosing autism via our partner organisations.”
Steven Kapp, PhD. – Opening Panelist, June 2
“Conceiving of Autism as another expression of human existence.”
Dr. Kapp identifies as an autistic scholar on autism. He is a Research Fellow, at the University of Exeter (UK) and long-standing advocate for people with neurological differences. He aims to improve the quality of life of people living with disabilities through better understanding, acceptance, and support. Kapp advised autism’s diagnostic revision in the DSM-5, substantially influencing both the main criteria and accompanying text. His forthcoming book entitled Autistic Community and the Neurodiversity Movement features activists’ contributions to the neurodiversity movement.
Jean Harrington, PhD., – Panelist, June 2
Dr. Harrington is a Research Fellow at the University of Exeter (UK). She is now Project Manager for the Public Engagement element of ‘Exploring Diagnosis: Autism and the Neurodiversity Movement’. Her role is to bring to fruition the production and screening of short films on the Diagnosis and Treatment of Autism and Neurodiversity. She also carries multiple other roles which allow her to focus on the social impact of developments in medicine and genomic sciences and to explore the power of emerging medical terminology and its impact on disciplinary fields and the general public.
Chi Ling Wu is a 28-year-old autistic musician. He plays mostly by ear. Music plays a large part in his life. Chi Ling plays piano, cello, Chinese dulcimer, drum set, keyboard, bass, saxophone, and recently started taking lessons on the accordion, and violin. Chi Ling won a silver medal in “International Piano Festival for People with Disabilities” which was held in Vienna last year. He also won 3 gold medals from Youth Focus on piano, cello, and dulcimer for continuous 3 years. And a gold award from Chinese Music competition. Chi Ling is now volunteering at both Santa Teresa and Santa Clara Kaiser Permanente Hospitals, and Valley Medical Center as a lobby musician. He also goes to many senior homes. Playing music for people who are suffering is the main goal in his life. Chi Ling wishes to heal the world with music.
Alexander Preutting is an autistic pianist and saxophone player from Poway California who recently performed at Carnegie Hall.