Schedule & Sessions

Conference Schedule

Tuesday, March 20
12pm – Registration/Meet and Greet
1pm – Breakout Sessions
2:15pm – Break
2:45pm – Breakout Sessions
4:30pm – Large Group Session
5:30pm – Day Ends
8pm – Social Event

Wednesday, March 21
9am – Registration
10am – Opening Keynote
11:30am – Lunch
12:30pm – Breakout Sessions
1:45pm – Break
2:15pm – Breakout Sessions
3:30pm – Snack Break
4pm – Reflection Sessions
5pm – Day Ends
7pm – CLUE-Social Night

Thursday, March 22
8:30am – Doors Open
9am – Breakout Sessions
10:15am – Break
10:45am – Launch Session
12pm – Conference Ends

Conference Sessions & Workshops

Adaptive Language and Encouraging Excellence: Communication Training
Those with disabilities work so hard to fit in our society, and so often we tend to forget how to fit into theirs. That is where the ALEX method comes in. Working to create a more inclusive world by using adaptive language to break down communication barriers that separate us. In this interactive breakout session, we will look at the ten steps that are the ALEX method and discuss how to apply them to everyday life. This is helpful for teachers, parents, employers or anyone who interacts with someone who has a disability. (Beginner, Inclusion Philosophy)

Presenter: Lori Fierro, Creator of ALEX Programs, Life Skills, LLC. Lori is a traveler, a speaker, an advocate, a yoga teacher, and a life skills coach for those with disabilities. She is the owner and creator of The ALEX programs.The programs consist of one on one life skills, group workshops, and communication training. Some of her one on one clients include Tim Harris owner of Tim’s Place and Brent Anderson author of Unintentional Humor. Her group workshops have been taught in numerous disability groups where they discuss life skills and independence in a fun environment. She has taught the ALEX communication training in nonprofits and companies training their employees on inclusion and working with the disability community. Lori believes that everyone, no matter their abilities deserve a life that is full of fun, adventure, and love.

Everyone is Inventive!: An Accessible Toolkit for Families
Spark!Lab, a hands-on invention space for kids and families at the National Museum of American History, believes that everyone is inventive! Over the past year and a half, the Spark!Lab staff have worked in collaboration with the Smithsonian’s Office of Accessibility to ensure when we say “everyone” we mean “everyone”, and create an inclusive and accessible atmosphere for learners of all styles and physical abilities to problem solve and engage in the invention process. Project managers will present and share a toolkit of accessible resources, lessons learned and key takeaways you can use for your classrooms and informal learning spaces. (Beginner, Inclusion Philosophy)

Presenter: Laurel Miller, Spark!Lab and Public Programs Manager, Lemelson Center, Smithsonian National Museum of American History. Laurel Miller is the manager of Spark!Lab and the Lemelson Center’s public programs. As part of the Education staff, she oversees the rest of the Spark!Lab team and volunteer corps that help facilitate meaningful and innovative experiences for visitors of all ages. She is excited to see the next generation of inventors get inspired in Spark!Lab. Laurel earned her Bachelors in Art History from the George Washington University and her Masters in Museum Education and Leadership from the Bank Street College of Education. Her particular interest is in how museums and hands-on spaces encourage family learning and engagement. Before joining the Lemelson Center, Laurel coordinated public programs at the Smithsonian American Art Museum and brings a more interdisciplinary approach to thinking about invention and innovation. 

Lessons Learned the Hard Way While Building Community Through Play
In this session lessons will be shared that were learned from a successful citywide, public/private, initiative which resulted in the complete reconstruction of 96 Denver Public School playgrounds in Denver and a newly begun community-based schoolyard initiative in Philadelphia. Attendees will see similarities and differences, as well as challenges and opportunities. An extensive literature review on the benefits of rebuilding schoolyards with community; the benefits of green spaces in otherwise highly urbanized settings; and economic benefits of rebuilding city infrastructure specifically on and around schoolyards grounds these two initiatives. In addition, quantitative, qualitative, and mixed-methods research findings from 1998-present will be shared in an effort to expand a growing body of research focused on active living, social and environmental justice, greened schoolyards, and participatory community-based schoolyard design. And finally, attendees will learn strategies for moving forward in a complex and politically charged world. This session will include examples of both successes and failures when planning and designing and funding built works in the public school realm in two very different urban settings. (Intermediate)

Presenter: Bambi Yost, Associate Professor of Landscape Architecture, Iowa State University. Ms. Yost holds two master degrees, one in Landscape Architecture and the other in Urban and Regional Planning, from the University of Colorado Denver where she is completing her PhD in Design & Planning (ABD status). As an Associate Professor of Landscape Architecture at Iowa State University, Ms. Yost teaches a variety of graduate and undergraduate classes including advanced studios, introductory graphics and representation, environmental psychology, research methods, community design and planning, designing for health, and more. Prior to teaching in Iowa, Ms. Yost was an Instructor at the University of Colorado in the College of Architecture & Planning. She taught numerous courses in the Undergraduate Environmental Design Program in Boulder and in the Architecture & Planning Graduate Program in Denver. Ms. Yost’s dissertation research focuses on rebuilt Learning Landscape schoolyards in Denver. Her areas of expertise include schoolyard design, benefits of risky play and risk-taking, benefits of gardening, sustainable and creative stormwater design, and children’s physical environments. For six years, Ms. Yost planned, organized, and led community-based, design-build Learning Landscape projects with Denver Public Schools and the University of Colorado at Denver full-time with Professor Lois A Brink. Learning Landscapes are playgrounds designed to function as public parks, educational facilities, community landmarks, and healthy and safe environments. To date, all of the 98 Denver Public School Learning Landscape playgrounds have been rebuilt and sustained with Denver Community, Partnering Organizations, Denver Public Schools faculty and students, University of Colorado at Denver graduate students, and AmeriCorps Volunteers. Over 58 million dollars has been raised through public and private donations and grants to support the Learning Landscapes. Today, Ms. Yost continues to assist with research for the Learning Landscapes on a voluntary basis. Professor Lois A Brink and Ms. Yost have collaborated extensively over the last 16 years co-authoring papers, co-presenting research findings at conferences, and sharing resources. Recently she began working closely with The Big Sandbox (, other organizations, University Research Centers in NH and CO, and several school communities in Northwest and South Philadelphia where she and her students have created 10 award-winning green schoolyard master plans, design documents, illustrative fundraising materials, and projected budgets with phased implementation plans.

Making the Most of Playtime: Tips for Using Play as a Context for Learning
Description coming… (Beginner, Activities)

Presenter: Jodi Whiteman, Director, Professional Development, ZERO TO THREE. Jodi Whiteman, M.Ed., CEIM, is the Director of Professional Development for ZERO TO THREE. In this position Ms. Whiteman is responsible for advancing ZERO TO THREE’s capacity to offer high quality professional development to the early childhood field. Jodi serves as the project director for many grant funded projects as well as private contracts housed in the Professional Development department. She has a wealth of experience providing professional development and technical assistance on a variety of early childhood topics nationally and internationally. Her past experiences as adjunct faculty at the Graduate School of Education at George Mason University, a bi-lingual speech/language therapist assistant, an infant/toddler child care director, an early intervention specialist, and a certified educator of infant massage informs her work and passion for supporting young children and families. She has authored many professional articles on a variety of early childhood topics including, “Supporting Staff Well Being to Combat Stress and Avoid Burnout.” Jodi holds a B.S. in Speech and Hearing Sciences from the University of Arizona and a M.Ed., in Curriculum and Instruction from George Mason University.

Managing Challenging Behavior
Description coming… (Beginner, Behavior)

Presenter: Kendra McDonald, Director of Clinical Services, Paxton Campus. Kendra began her career in behavior analysis after her son was diagnosed with autism in 2002. Following the successful implementation of his home program, she worked as an in-home ABA therapist for other families affected with autism. She completed her behavior analysis coursework at UMASS Lowell and she has a Master’s Degree in Psychology from The Chicago School of Professional Psychology. She secured her BCBA in June 2014. Kendra emphasizes the principles and teaching procedures of verbal behavior across all teaching opportunities including communication, social skills, and academics. Her interests also include analysis of complex behavior such as remembering, teaching mediating behaviors, and other private events.

Playful Experiences in the STEM Classroom
Description Coming… (Intermediate, Behavior)

Presenter: Dr. Vivien Geneser, Associate Professor, Texas A&M University-San Antonio. Vivien Geneser is an Associate Professor of Early Childhood in the College of Education and Human Development at Texas A&M University-San Antonio, where she has taught since 2007. She teaches undergraduate and graduate courses in Child Development, Early Childhood Curriculum, Creativity and Play, Assessment, Humanities, Foundations, Cognitive Development, and STEM.  She writes about a variety of educational topics and serves as a co-editor of the journal, Early Years, which is published tri-annually by the Texas Association for the Education of Young Children. Dr. Geneser is the recipient of several teaching awards and was recently honored by the Texas A&M University System with a Faculty Teaching Excellence and Research Award.

Preventative Strategies and Techniques to Build an Inclusive Day Camp Culture
Description Coming… (Intermediate, Inclusion Philosophy)

Presenter: Lisa Drennan, Associate Director of Inclusion, South Shore YMCA. Lisa joined the South Shore YMCA in March 2014 as the first-ever Association Director of Inclusion. She currently serves as the National Co-Chair of the YMCA of the USA’s Diverse Abilities Working Group. Prior to the Y, she came from a 30 year career with New England Village in Pembroke, MA, where she served as the Director of the Sollar Wellness Center, offering aquatics, fitness, music, art, and education specifically designed to meet the needs of people with developmental disabilities. Lisa graduated from Saint Michael’s College in Vermont with a Psychology degree. She lives with her family in Pembroke and is an avid fitness enthusiast who enjoys outdoor adventure activities.  

Theatre for All Abilities: Utilizing Theatre to Improve Social Skills
Lights, camera, action! Learn how musical theatre is empowering, confidence-building, and brings everyone together during this up-out-of-your-chair session. Walk away with a dozen ready-to-go lesson plans to implement with your group; adjustable to all abilities and ages. Singing, acting, and dancing are for everyone… let’s go on with the show! (Intermediate, Activities)

Presenter: Katie Mann, CEO/Co-Founder, 4th Wall Backstage. Katie Mann is a certified teacher with a masters degree in Special Education. In addition to being a trained American Sign Language interpreter, she has worked extensively as a dancer, choreographer, and theatre program director, designing curriculum for well over a decade. Co-founding the 4th Wall family has brought all of Katie’s passions together.

Introduction to Workplace Accommodations 

For inclusion practices to truly take root at any organization, they can’t just be a program-specific concern. Inclusion should be an organization-wide effort, from the top to bottom, from youth programming to workplace processes. How do you create a workplace that’s inclusive and accessible to all? This training provides an overview of the process of developing a more inclusive workplace, starting with building an inclusive attitude among staff and leading all the way to making accommodations for staff. The training covers many of the most common forms of workplace accommodations, and provides resources and tips for workplaces struggling to find and implement affordable accommodations.

Presenter: Steve Slowinski, National Inclusion Manager, has been working at PYD since early 2012. He has a B.A. from Gettysburg College in a self-created major focusing on youth with disabilities, and he is currently pursuing a Masters in Nonprofit Leadership at Wheelock College. Steve has worked with youth with disabilities for the past 10+ years. In college, he spent a semester in Denmark studying their child care practices for children with disabilities. He has also interned with the child life team at Connecticut Children’s Medical Center, and has volunteered for many years as a camp counselor and mentor to youth with disabilities. When he’s not at work, Steve enjoys hiking and camping, following baseball, and geeking out over all things sci-fi/fantasy.


9 Tips for Marketing to Youth with Disabilities 

Stop me if this sounds familiar: you’ve put effort into designing your program or organization to be inclusive of people with disabilities, and yet, none show up! What do you do? How do you ensure you’re marketing to individuals with disabilities in a way that lets them know, “Hey! We’re a welcoming place that you should check out”? In this training, participants will learn more to make their marketing inclusive and welcoming to youth with disabilities and their families. You’ll learn about inclusive language, alternative formats, accessible website design, and more. If you want people with disabilities to feel welcome at your organization, your marketing is a key priority that you can’t neglect!

Presenter: Steve Slowinski, National Inclusion Manager, has been working at PYD since early 2012. He has a B.A. from Gettysburg College in a self-created major focusing on youth with disabilities, and he is currently pursuing a Masters in Nonprofit Leadership at Wheelock College. Steve has worked with youth with disabilities for the past 10+ years. In college, he spent a semester in Denmark studying their child care practices for children with disabilities. He has also interned with the child life team at Connecticut Children’s Medical Center, and has volunteered for many years as a camp counselor and mentor to youth with disabilities. When he’s not at work, Steve enjoys hiking and camping, following baseball, and geeking out over all things sci-fi/fantasy.