APRIL 23-24, 2020 • Greenville, SC
You’re invited to attend the 4th annual Converge Autism Conference.
Springbrook Autism Behavioral Health invites professionals from across the nation to converge for two days of presentations and breakout discussions covering a wide range of topics related to Autism—from diagnosis, behavioral health, and treatment and therapy results.
Our A-list of speakers will represent a variety of fields including Occupational Therapy, Behavioral Analysis, Special Education, Speech and Language Pathology, and Youth Psychiatry. In addition, we are proud to announce that best-selling author, Ron Suskind will be a keynote speaker at the autism conference! It would be our honor to host you at Converge 2020.
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Space is limited! Early Bird Registration is now open. Follow us on social media to stay up to date!
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Day 1 Tentative
7:00-8:00 – Registration/Refreshments
7:45-8:00 – Announcements
8:00-9:00 – Keynote I
Effective Interaction Techniques for People with Autism — Dr. William Killion, Ph.D., BCBA
9:00-9:15 – Break/Networking/Visit Vendors
9:15-10:30 – Keynote II
Autism and Happiness: From Neurodiversity to Neuroharmony — Dr. Peter Vermeulen, PhD
10:30-10:45 – Break/Networking/Visit Vendors
10:45-12:00 – Keynote III
Autism Treatments: Debunking the Myths— Dr. W. Matthew Fisher, MD
12:00-1:30 – Networking Lunch
1:30-2:45 – Techniques to Assist Children in Crisis:
Dr. William Killion, PhD
Dr. Peter Vermeulen, PhD
Dr. W. Matthew Fisher, MD
Brandon Clark, BCBA
Susan L. Senator, MA
Deanne DeThomas, MS OTR/L
Dru Filter, MS CCC-SLP
2:45-3:15 – Break/Networking/Visit Vendors
3:15-4:45 – Breakout Session
Professional Track: Dr. Peter Vermeulen, Phd — Autism as Context Blindness, Absolute Thinking in a Relative World
Parent Track: Susan L. Senator, MA, Author — Transition to Adulthood: What it Feels Like to the Family/Strategies to Help
Education Track: Dr. Matthew Fisher, MD, Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist — How to Handle Behaviors in the Classroom
Day 2 Tentative
7:00-8:00 – Registration/Refreshments
7:45-8:00 – Announcements
8:00-9:15 – Keynote I
You Can’t Make Me: Proactive Strategies for Positive Behavioral Change — Dr. Jim Ball, Ed.D, BCBA-D
9:15-9:45 – Break/Networking/Visit Vendors
9:45-11:00 – Keynote II
Life, Animated: A Tale of Autism & Hidden Potential — Ron Suskind, Pulitzer Prize-Winning Journalist, Best-Selling Author
11:00-11:30 – Break/Vendors/Networking
11:30-1:15 – Networking Lunch
Meet Ron Suskind — Book purchase and signing
1:15-2:30 – Breakout Session
Professional Track: Deanna DeThomas, MS OTR/L and Shelia Dickerhoof, COTA/L — Regulation Station: Regulating Behaviors Using Evidenced Based Sensory Activities
Parent Track: Natalie Mullis, Music Therapist-Board Certified — Using Music at Home: Tools for Behavior Management from a Music Therapist
Education Track: Dr. Jim Ball, PhD — The Use of Video Modeling for Learners with Autism
Professionals are eligible for up to a total of 8 CE hours from both days of the conference. The following are agencies we have applied for CEUs from and are pending approval. This list will be updated for the 2020 Summit as approvals are received:
- PENDING: National Board of Certified Counselors
- PENDING: SC Occupational Therapy Association
- PENDING: S.C. Board of Examiners for Counselors,
Therapists, & Psycho-Educational Specialists
- *Greenville County School District (*Teachers attending can submit for credit through the
county’s normal process)
- SC Board of Nursing
- SC Board of Social Workers
- PENDING: SC Board of Examiners in Speech-Language Pathology and Audiology
(May submit for national credit to the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association)
- PENDING: National Council for Therapeutic Recreation Certification (NCTRC)
If you are interested in earning CEUs, make sure to pick up a CEU packet in the registration hall and fill out all evaluations for credit. Approved CEUs will be emailed after the conference has ended.
Pulitzer Prize-Winning Journalist, Author, Speaker
One of America’s most treasured journalists, best-selling author Ron Suskind brings a Renaissance man’s breadth of knowledge and experiences to the speaking stage. His keynotes and mainstage conversations with notable leaders in the financial world draw upon a career as a Pulitzer-Prize-winning Wall Street Journal reporter. Combining a remarkable ability to simplify complex and high-level subject matter with a gift for engaging, entertaining and genuine rapport with audiences, Suskind’s presentations are a showcase for one of the most talented storytellers of our time. As an author and journalist, Ron Suskind has chronicled the financial world for more than 25 years, covering the last three presidencies, the inner workings of Wall Street, and the ways in which financial decisions and government actions drive economies and shape everyday lives. During that time, he has gained the acclaim and trust of Wall Street and Beltway insiders. He is the author of six best-selling books, including Confidence Men—considered the definitive work on the Obama presidency and the 2008 financial crisis—and The Price of Loyalty: George W. Bush, the White House and the Education of Paul O’Neil. Currently, he serves as the co-host of Freak Out and Carry On, a WBUR podcast that addresses the urgent political issues of our time through a historical lens.
Suskind's works are frequently characterized by his passion for giving a voice to the voiceless. This is evident in his most recent best-seller, Life, Animated: A Story of Sidekicks, Heroes and Autism, which was adapted into an Academy Award-nominated documentary and recently won three News and Documentary Emmy’s. Life, Animated tells the story of his youngest son, Owen, who, after being diagnosed with autism, found a way to reengage with the world around him. Seizing upon Owen’s love of animated Disney movies, the Suskind family re-enacted the films with him, pioneering a now-widely acknowledged method of emulative communication known as Affinity Therapy.
When not writing and speaking, Ron Suskind is a Senior Fellow at Harvard’s Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics, where he serves as a lecturer on narrative and justice. He is also the Founder and CEO of Sidekicks for Autism, which provides a free education app that helps parents deeply connect and communicate with their autistic children. Suskind holds an MA from Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism.
Appealing to both corporate audiences and the education community, Ron Suskind’s keynotes artfully blend monologue with reportage, providing insightful analysis on everything from ethics and leadership to the rise and fall of the U.S. economy to our current political landscape. He also works with clients to creatively and collaboratively customize content to the themes and messages of an event. As one investor forum member commented, “Ron Suskind’s passionate delivery had the audience drawn in from the first word. He is an intelligent, knowledgeable, and extremely dynamic speaker.”
Life, Animated: A Tale of Autism & Hidden PotentialRon Suskind delves deeper into Affinity Therapy, the unique method of emulative communication that the Suskinds developed to help Owen, their youngest son, emerge from the shadows of autism. Owen, despite limited speech, memorized fifty animated Disney movies. Throw him a line; he’d throw back the next one. When the Suskinds realized this, they began speaking in Disney dialogue, turning their house into a stage set where they would play out scenes. Over the years, their son’s speech returned. What’s the lesson? Listen to the patient and let them guide you. Ron focuses on the perspectives of both the caregiver and the patient, addressing the importance of a shared language of imagination and demonstrating how myth, fable and legend still remain humanity’s best pathway to healing.
- • Present the breakthrough Ideas and Therapies that can be used as a pathway to communication.
- • Provide insight in the struggles a family faces when they have a child with autism with communication difficulties as presented in his bestselling book and award winning Disney film, “Life, Unanimated.”
- • Illustrate a model of how utilizing a child’s strong interests can create successful solutions to increasing their communication skills.
Dr. William Killion, PHD
Board Certified Behavioral Analyst, Author
Dr. Killion possesses 40 plus years of direct experience with individuals with developmental disabilities including autism. He possesses a B.S. in Speech Pathology with a minor in Psychology, a M.Ed. in Special Education and a PhD in Developmental Psychology. He is a Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA). He is the author of the Functional Independence Skills Handbook or F.I.S.H. Developmental Program.
Effective Teaching and Interaction Techniques for People with Autism
This presentation will review a number of teaching and interacting concepts that are effective for working with people who have autism. Specific techniques will be provided along with general concepts that can be used in a variety of settings. The focus will be toward functional skills. Areas such as dealing with stereotypic behaviors, using choice productively and pivotal response training will be discussed.
- • The participant will be able to identify at least five instructional strategies that are effective in working with people who have autism.
- • The participant will be able to identify five concepts for effective interaction with people who have autism.
- • The participant will be able to discuss how the material presented could be applied across a variety of setting and challenges that might occur for the person with autism.
Dr. Matthew Fisher, MD
Child & Adolescent Psychiatry
Dr. Fisher completed his General Psychiatry residency at the University of Texas-Galveston and a Child/Adolescent Psychiatry Fellowship at University of South Carolina. He serves as Medical leader of SpringBrook Autism’s Residential and Outpatient Treatment Program (specializing in treating Autism Spectrum Disorders) and is an authority in minimal medical management of ASD and ASD with comorbidities. Dr. Fisher speaks at Autism Conferences on Medical Overview of Autism Spectrum Disorders, Medication Management for Autism Spectrum Disorders, Myths and Misconceptions in Autism, Autism and Co-Morbid Conditions, and Helping Siblings and Other Children Understand Autism.
Autism Treatments: Debunking the Myth
Through years of private practice and being the medical director of a renowned residential treatment facility for extreme behaviors in autism, Dr. Fisher, a Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist who specializes in autism, has had many tough cases. His experiences have provided an insider’s guide to help families, teachers, and professionals with tips on how to advocate for treatment, partner with physicians, provide help in the classrooms and help the child or adolescent with autism live the best life possible.
Dr. Peter Vermeulen, MSc, PhD
Author, Consultant, Speaker
Dr. Vermeulen has an MSc and PhD in Psychology and Educational Sciences and has worked with people with ASD and their families for more than 30 years. He is the founder of “Autism in Context”, where autism is understood in context, and has written more than 15 books and many articles on autism that have been published in several countries around the world. Dr. Vermeulen is also the Senior lecturer at Autisme Centraal, a training and education center for autism spectrum disorders, and is an internationally respected lecturer/trainer, presenting all over Europe and beyond.
Autism and Happiness: From Neurodiversity to Neuroharmony
With more than 10 scientific articles per day, autism (as synonym for autism spectrum disorder) is just about the most studied condition in the world. However, all the research and all the information about how different, specific and unique autism is, has made us forget that people with autism are not only different, but that they have much more in common with all the other people than we think, especially when it comes to basic needs such as happiness. Accepting neurodiversity is fine, but it emphasizes the differences between people. While it is a big step towards more acceptance of autism, it is only the first step in our commitment to a better world and more well-being for people with autism. We should also focus on what connects people with autism with the rest of the human species: the pursuit of happiness. Happiness has received little attention in the field of autism spectrum disorders. Outcome and effect studies, for instance, rarely take emotional well-being as a desired outcome. And when the focus is on well-being, it is often from a negative perspective, namely the lack of well-being and quality of life in autism. It is time to take a U-turn in our approach and change from an exclusive focus on what makes autism so different and from a negative, clinical and medical approach of happiness in people with autism (lack of distress) towards a shared and positive focus (we all want to be happy). In other words: let’s move from neurodiversity to neuroharmony.
- •Understanding that people with autism, although being differently wired in their brain, have the same needs as everyone, the most fundamental one: well-being.
- • Knowing that well-being is more than having good feelings and that well-being or happiness involves both hedonic (a pleasant life) and eudemonic aspects (a meaningful life).
- •Identifying strategies to increase both the hedonic as the eudemonic aspects of well-being of people with autism.
- •Taking a positive psychology perspective in the approach of autism, i.e. focusing on well-being rather than the lack of it.
- •Reflecting on the extent to which your own practice (teaching, therapy, . . .) focuses on positive strategies aiming at more well-being for your clients/students with autism.
Dr. James Ball, Ed.D., BCBA-D
Consultant, Author, Speaker
Dr. James Ball, a Board Certified Behavior Analyst-Doctoral, is the President/Chief Executive Officer of JB Autism Consulting. He has been in the field of autism for over thirty years providing behavioral, educational, residential, and employment services to children and adults affected by autism. He provides private consultation to organizations, schools, and families regarding staff training, parent training, home support services, classroom design/support, functional behavior assessment and behavior management.
You Can’t Make Me: Proactive Strategies for Positive Behavioral Change
This presentation will discuss the 7 evidence based strategies, described in the book, “Early Intervention: Real Life Questions; Real Life Answers,” authored by the presenter, that have been proven the most effective in teaching students and adults with an autism spectrum disorder. It will focus on teaching of specific skills, reducing challenging behaviors, and building an effective program as outlined in the book, “You Can’t Make Me: Proactive Strategies for Positive Behavioral Change.” It will guide the participant, step by step, through the process of implementing these 7 evidence based strategies in a school based or adult services program. Real life examples will be used. Modifications will be explored that allow this particular program to be effective with students significantly challenged with autism, as well as those students with Aspergers Syndrome. Because of the nature of the presentation, a question and answer period will be provided.
- Goal: Understanding systematic techniques for teaching students on the autism spectrum.
- •Participants will be able to identify 3 reinforcement techniques to assist an individual on the autism spectrum in the learning process.
- •Participants will be able to implement 3 specific teaching techniques that will assist an individual on the autism spectrum in the learning process.
- •Participants will be able to design an individualized teaching program that will assist an individual on the autism spectrum in the learning process.
Susan Senator, MA
Consultant, Author, Speaker
Susan Senator is an author, blogger, journalist, and educator living in Brookline, MA with her husband Ned Batchelder. She has three sons, the oldest of whom (Nat) is 30 and has severe autism.
Ms. Senator is the author of Making Peace With Autism as well as The Autism Mom’s Survival Guide and now, Autism Adulthood: Insights and Creative Strategies for a Fulfilling Life. A journalist since 1997, she has published pieces on disability, parenting, and living happily, in places like Psychology Today, the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Boston Globe, Exceptional Parent Magazine, NPR, Family Fun, and Education Week. Senator has appeared as a guest on the Today Show, MSNBC, ABC News, PBS, NPR and CNN. Her writings on Special Olympics took her to the White House in 2006, to a state dinner for Eunice Kennedy Shriver. Ms. Senator’s blog, publications, and events can be found on www.susansenator.com.
Transition to Adulthood: What it Feels Like to the Family/Strategies to Help
The biggest questions on every autism family’s mind is “what does autism adulthood look like?” and “how can we build a fulfilling life for our autistic adult loved one?” This workshop will take you through the main issues of transition to adulthood and give tried-and-true approaches and perspectives from families who have been there — issues such as creating a vision; building a support network; taking on the learning curve; how to handle the ups and downs and rough spots along the way.
- •How to envision a full life for your autistic loved one: housing, daytime pursuits
- •How to take on the autism adulthood learning curve
- •How to create a community for support and strategies
- •How to regroup when things go awry
- •How to let go a little
Natalie Mullis, MT-BC
Music Therapist, Speaker
Natalie Mullis is a board-certified music therapist with over ten years of experience in the field. Currently serving as the Executive Director for Key Changes Therapy Services, Inc., her background includes working with children and adults with a wide array of medical and mental health diagnoses. Natalie’s passion lies in making music an accessible medium of growth for all who may benefit.
Using Music at Home: Tools for Behavior Management from a Music Therapist
Music is a powerful force in life that most of us are drawn to. Explore how to use music as a tool for at-home behavior management from a board-certified music therapist. You will learn easy to implement music experiences that will help both you and your loved one to navigate difficult behavioral situations, practice relaxation and coping skills, and facilitate appropriate expression of emotions.
- •Participants will be able to differentiate between the therapeutic and recreational usage of music.
- •Participants will be able to identify two music experiences to assist their child in at-home behavior management
- •Participants will be able to identify music types that their child may benefit from utilizing.
- •Participants will be able to identify the difference between music therapists and other music professionals.
Deanna DeThomas, MS, OTR/L
Occupational Therapist, Instructor, Speaker
Deanna is a Board Certified Occupational Therapist. She has a Master’s Degree in Occupational Therapy from Mercy College and a Bachelor’s in Health Science with a concentration in Nursing from Pace University and Mercy College. Originally from New York City, Deanna has 7 years of experience specializing in the treatment of children with special needs ranging from autism spectrum disorder to degenerative ligament disorders in large school districts and pediatric clinics in New York. She has certifications in CAPS (certified aging in place specialist) and Aqua Based Therapy. She heads up the Occupational Therapy program and Aqua Based Pool program at Springbrook Behavioral Health. Her favorite quote “The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.”- Mahatma Ghandi.”
Shelia Dickerhoof, COTA/L
Therapy Assistant, Instructor, Speaker
Sheila is a Nationally Certified and State Licensed Occupational Therapy Assistant and Clinical Instructor. She has an Associate in Arts and an Associates of Science in Occupational Therapy Assistant from Greenville Technical College. As a college student, Sheila interned at Springbrook Behavioral Health Systems. She returned to Springbrook BHS as the Occupational Therapy Assistant and Clinical Instructor. Sheila is currently continuing her education by pursuing her Bachelors of Psychology at Southern New Hampshire University. Sheila has 25 years of experience in the health care field and specializes in working with children and young adults on the autism spectrum. “You have to have empathy for your patients and celebrate the small victories. That is what makes a mental health professional great at what they do.” Sheila has been married to her best friend Brian for 20 years. She is an active alumni member of Phi Theta Kappa International Honor Society where she helps to support college students. “I am passionate about the accessibility of education and ending the stigma of Community College.”
Brandon Clark, BCBA
Board Certified Behavioral Analyst, Author
Brandon Clark is a Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA) and is completing his doctorate degree in psychology. Brandon began his career in the field of Applied Behavior Analysis in 2010. Since then he has worked in treatment schools, private settings, crisis intervention settings, day program facilities, and owned a private practice for several years. Brandon is the author of the book, The Misfits; Told by a Behavior Analyst, detailing a collection of experiences from the treatment school where he first started. Currently, he is a member of a Human Rights Committee, and serves as a board member for Lowcountry Autism Foundation.
Dru Filter, MS CCC-SLP
Dru has been a Speech Language Pathologist since 1996. She received her undergraduate degree in Speech Language Pathology from Radford University and her Masters in Speech Language Pathology from Old Dominion University in Norfolk, VA. She has worked in inpatient, outpatient and home health positions specializing in the areas of feeding and swallowing, childhood apraxia of speech, and the medically fragile population. Dru is new to Springbrook, but has worked with many children with autism in all settings throughout her career.
Make Your Plans To Join Us at this year’s Converge National Autism Conference.
Converge 2020 is geared towards professionals in all fields relating to Autism.
However, we invite parents and students to attend as well. Attendees may include Licensed Social Workers, Licensed Independent Therapists, Certified Counselors, Teachers, Mental Health Workers, Occupational Therapists, Board Certified Behavioral Therapists, and Speech and Language Pathologists, and Nurses. Attendance is limited to 600. Register early to take advantage of early bird rates.
Tickets now on sale!
Follow us on social media @SpringbrookBHS (Twitter. Instagram, and Facebook)
Parents and Families in need of financial aid to attend the conference are encouraged to contact the Autism Family Education Fund and apply for a scholarship.
Mecklenburg County, NC Residents may submit an application for financial assistance to First in Families:
Mecklengburg First in Families Application
There are First in Families assistance centers in each NC County, so please contact your individual center for assistance in NC outside of Mecklenburg County.
The Greenville Convention Center (formerly the TD Convention Center) will be hosting the 2020 Converge National Autism Summit. They are located near downtown Greenville at 1 Exposition Dr., Greenville, SC 29601.
Looking for accommodations near the convention center? We are pleased to partner with the Hampton Inn Greenville/I-385 Haywood Mall in order to give our guests a discounted rate during the summit, starting at $119.00 plus tax.
Book a room!
Or if you prefer a different location, view a preliminary list of hotel rates or click below to search a map of nearby hotels!
2020 SponsorsHIPS and Vendors
Interested in vending for Converge 2020? Would you or your company like to be a sponsor for our summit? Contact us via the form below. If you are interested in vending or being a sponsor for the summit, please download the vendor/sponsorship packet below.
Vendor Booth Giveaway
This year at the National Converge Autism Conference on April 23-24, 2020 , we will be giving out one (1) free vendor booth to someone who has been diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). This is a fantastic opportunity to gain exposure as over 400 conference attendees are expected! If you would like to be entered into the booth giveaway, fill out the vendor packet provided in the link above and email the form along with your contact information, product/service information you wish to promote or sell, and supporting documentation of ASD diagnosis that is of public knowledge (DO NOT SEND PERSONAL MEDICAL RECORDS) to [email protected]. Vendor submissions can be for-profit and non-profit vendors. We will be drawing the winner on March 17, 2020. This opportunity is limited to vendors who have been diagnosed on the Autism Spectrum. Good luck on your entry, we look forward to seeing you there!