Harriet Able, Ph.D. is a parent and professional in special education. She is a faculty member in the School of Education at UNC- Chapel Hill where she directs the masters and doctoral programs in Early Childhood Intervention and Family Support and Applied Developmental Sciences and Special Education, respectively. She is the recipient of numerous professional development grants from the U.S. Department of Education focused on diversity, inclusion, and translational research.
Check back often, new speakers are added weekly.
School of Education/UNC-Chapel Hill
Rosemarie Allen, EdD, has served as a leader in early childhood education for for nearly 4 decades. Her life's work is centered on ensuring children have access to high quality early childhood programs that are developmentally and culturally appropriate. She is currently an Assistant Professor in the School of Education at Metropolitan State University of Denver. Rosemarie has served in directorship roles with the Colorado Department of Human Services where she was responsible for the state’s child care licensing program, the federal child care assistance program, the redesign of the state’s quality rating and improvement system, the implementation of the State’s professional development plan, and assisted in the creation of Colorado’s early learning guidelines. Rosemarie is a faculty member with the Pyramid Equity Project, is a respected keynote speaker, and has the distinct honor of being appointed as a “Global Leader” to represent the United States at World Conferences across the globe. Rosemarie earned her B. A. from California State University, Master’s of Education from Lesley University and Doctorate Degree in Leadership for Equity in Education from the University of Colorado, Denver.
The Joshua School
Jaclyn Bauer is a graduate student at the University of Denver working on her master’s degree in Early Childhood Special Education. Originally from Chicago, she began working with children as a yoga teacher in Chicago Public Schools. Now, as a Lead Teacher at The Joshua School, Jaclyn has gained experience working with children who are exceptional in so many ways.
Director of Family and Community Engagement Content Management
Child Care Aware ® of America
Mindy Bennett has worked in the field of Early Childhood for 24 years. She received a B.S. in Elementary Education and in Early Childhood Education with an endorsement in Kindergarten from Ball State University and graduated with her Masters of Education in July of 2015.
She spent over 20 years working in the Indiana Child Care system. She began her work as a pre-K and Kindergarten teacher. While in Indiana Mindy’s work included leading Central Indiana’s Child Care Resource and Referral agency and the Statewide Child Care Resource and Referral Network.
Mindy has worked on a national level for over 10 years. She served on Child Care Aware® of America’s Membership Council, Public Policy Committee and the Board of Directors. In July of 2018 Mindy joined the staff at Child Care Aware ® of America. Mindy is currently the Director of Family and Community Engagement Content Management.
Berman , Karen
Senior Manager of Illinois Policy
Ounce of Prevention Fund
Karen Berman is Senior Manager of Illinois Policy at the Ounce of Prevention Fund. She manages the early childhood systems building and advocacy work in IL, and brings expertise in special education to IL, Chicago and national efforts. Most recently, Karen has focused on IL's Race to the Top Early Learning Challenge grant. She serves on the IL Interagency Council on Early Intervention and Early Learning Council and co-chairs the Systems Integration and Alignment Committee. She worked at the Chicago Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights where she represented children and families on education, disability, and juvenile justice issues.
Brillante , Pamela
William Paterson University
Dr. Pamela Brillante is an Associate Professor of Special Education at the William Paterson University of New Jersey, as well as a consultant to school districts on developing quality inclusive early childhood practices. Dr. Brillante is the author of the 2017 NAEYC book The essentials: Supporting young children with disabilities in the classroom and other books and journal articles, and has presented at many national, regional, and local conferences.
Director Research Analysis and Communication
Office of Early Childhood Development, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
Amanda Bryans has worked in the Office of Head Start, Administration for Children and Families, Department of Health and Human Services since 1999. During that time, she has led efforts to improve the quality and effectiveness of program services through regulations, research, program monitoring and training and technical assistance. She currently is the Director Research Analysis and Communication, Office of Early Childhood Development, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Amanda has a BS from Cornell University in Human Development and Family Studies and an MS from the State University of New York at Albany in Educational Psychology, Measurement and Statistics. She has worked for Head Start for 25 years including five years as a Disabilities Services and Education Coordinator, and five years as the Director of the Head Start program in Albany, NY.
Carrillo-Carrasquillo, María Heysha
Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools
Heysha Carrillo is a bilingual educator, and a masters student at UNC-Chapel Hill, specializing in Early Childhood Intervention and Family Support and funded by a U.S. Department of Education grant focused on the preparation of inclusion facilitators in early childhood. She is currently a preschool teacher and has previous experience in elementary ESL and Dual Language teaching.
Early Childhood Technical Assistance (ECTA) Center
Debbie Cate is a technical assistance (TA) specialist with the Frank Porter Graham Child Development Institute (FPG) at the University of North Carolina (UNC) with the Early Childhood Technical Assistance Center (ECTA) and the IDEA Data Center (IDC). Her current work supports states in collecting, reporting and using data to inform and improve state systems provision of Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, (IDEA) services for young children and their families.
FPG Child Development Institute, UNC-Chapel Hill
Camille Catlett is an independent consultant at the Frank Porter Graham Child Development Institute. Her recent work has focused on preparing personnel to work with young children who are culturally, linguistically, and individually diverse. Since 2000, Camille has developed and shared practices and resources to grow the capacity of early childhood and early intervention professionals to be comfort-able, confident, and capable to support each and every young child, with emphasis on enhancements to higher education programs.
Coleman, Mary Ruth
Senior Scientist, Emeritus
FPG Child Development Institute
Mary Ruth Coleman, Ph.D. is a Senior Scientist, Emeritus, at the FPG Child Development Institute, at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She directs Project U-STAR~PLUS (Using Science, Talents and Abilities to Recognize Students – Promoting Learning in Underrepresented Students). Her projects have included: ACCESS (Achievement in Content and Curriculum for Every Student’s Success, a National Significance Project funded by OSEP and applications of RtI for young children through the Recognition & Response Project sponsored by the Emily Hall Tremaine Foundation. Dr. Coleman has numerous publications including the 14th Edition of the seminal textbook, “Educating Exceptional Children” by Samuel A. Kirk, James J. Gallagher, Mary Ruth Coleman (2015). She has served three terms on the Board of Directors for the Association for Gifted (TAG), one of which she was President; three terms on the Board of the National Association for Gifted Children (NAGC); and two terms on the Board of Directors for the Council for Exceptional Children (CEC). She was president of the CEC in 2007.
Professor in the Division of Speech and Hearing Sciences
Department of Allied Health Sciences (AHS) in the UNC-CH Medical School
Elizabeth Crais, Ph.D. is a Professor in the Division of Speech and Hearing Sciences of the Department of Allied Health Sciences in the UNC-CH Medical School. She has 40+ years of experience in working with children and youth with disabilities. Her research interests include ASD identification and intervention, personnel preparation, and implementation of family-centered practices. She is currently an Investigator on grants focused on early identification and intervention for young children with ASD. She has been the Project Director or Co-Director on several OSEP-funded personnel preparation projects at both the M.S. and Ph.D. levels. Dr. Crais is the parent of a youth with disabilities.
Director of Behavioral Health
Lincoln Community Health Center
Carolyn Crowder is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker, Licensed Clinical Addictions Specialist, and Certified Clinical Supervisor with 20 years of experience working with individuals who have mental health and substance use diagnoses. She is the Director of Behavioral Health at Lincoln Community Health Center, a large urban primary care “safety net” provider in Durham, North Carolina that serves approximately 34,000 patients annually. Carolyn supervises MSW students from the UNC School of Social Work and North Carolina Central University School of Social Work, as well as individuals in the community who are working towards full licensure in Social Work and Addictions.
Carolyn has also worked in a variety of other settings over the years, including non-profit and for-profit agencies and State and County government. She has been a part of research teams for multi-site federal research studies with the CDC and with SAMHSA. She is the choir director and pianist for Dukes Chapel United Methodist church in Durham, NC.
de Besche, Johan
MGH Institute of Health Professions
Johan de Besche, DPT has worked with children for more than 17 years as a Physical Therapist, manager, director, and care coordinator in schools, clinics, care centers, preschools and in Early Intervention, both in the US and internationally. He is currently faculty in the Interprofessional Collaboration program at the MGH Institute of Health Professions and Project Coordinator for the Let's Participate! model demonstration project in Boston.
Director of the NC Resilience & Learning Project
Public School Forum
Elizabeth DeKonty holds a master’s degree in social work from UNC Chapel Hill. She has worked as a school social work intern in middle and elementary schools, and as a youth services intern at InterAct of Wake implementing a healthy relationships curriculum in Wake County Schools. Most recently, Elizabeth served as Program Manager at the Center for Child and Family Health with the North Carolina Child Treatment Program, implementing a statewide training program for clinicians and social workers in trauma-focused therapies for children and families. She now serves as the Director of the NC Resilience & Learning Project for the Public School Forum.
Early Childhood Technical Assistance (ECTA) Center
Penny Dell has been in the field of early childhood special education for over 35 years. Her experience includes classroom teacher, itinerant provider, early intervention home provider, regional Head Start consultant, college and university professor, local Part C Director, State Part C Training Coordinator, State Child Find Coordinator, and State 619 Coordinator. She currently is a consultant for the ECTA Center with the Inclusion Cohort and an adjunct professor at the University of Denver.
Education Program Specialist
Office of Special Education Programs, U.S. Department of Education
Tracie's area of interest includes personnel preparation programs that train scholars to serve infants and toddlers with disabilities and their families. She serves on the Early Childhood Team at OSEP and leads several initiatives to support behavioral and developmental screening, inclusion, and Part C/Home Visiting collaboration. She manages a large portfolio of OSEP training grants that prepare scholars at the master’s and doctoral levels.
Assistive Technology Professional
Stacy Driscoll is a RESNA certified Assistive Technology Professional and a New Hampshire certified educator with over 25 years of experience educating students of all ages though most of her experience is with students at the kindergarten to grade three level where she taught as a special educator, elementary teacher, Title I tutor and paraprofessional. Stacy works as a program coordinator with the NH statewide Assistive Technology Program (ATinNH) and as an independent consultant. She is a member of the Council for Exceptional Children and has retained her NH teaching certification in Elementary and Special Education.
Family, Infant and Preschool Program (FIPP)
Kris Everhart is a speech-language pathologist at the Family, Infant and Preschool Program (FIPP) in Morganton, North Carolina. Ms. Everhart has almost 20 years of early intervention experience serving in a variety of roles across an array of settings. Ms. Everhart’s current duties include providing direct services by supporting the families of very young children in their homes and communities, supporting early childhood teachers in their classrooms, assisting with statewide training activities, and providing coach to coach supports for early interventionists using evidence-based practices. As a provider, and a parent, Ms. Everhart consistently embraces and advocates for the inclusion of all learners in regular classrooms.
Favazza , Paddy
Professor of Special Education
Paddy C. Favazza is Professor of Special Education at Stonehill College and Senior Research Fellow at the University of Massachusetts Boston. Her research focuses on attitude development and curriculum to support inclusion of children with disabilities in their development of social, motor and readiness skills. She co-authored Making Friends (2016), a program that supports K-2 teachers in creating a sense of belonging for children with disabilities in inclusive classrooms.
Parent, Advocate, LMSW, ACSW
Dance of Partnership
Janice Fialka, LMSW, ACSW is a nationally-recognized lecturer, author, and advocate on issues related to disability, parent-professional partnerships, inclusion, raising a child with disabilities, and sibling issues. She is the Special Projects Trainer for Michigan’s Part C Training and T.A. (Early On). Over the past two decades, Janice has shared her unique vantage point as the mother of Micah, her adult son with an intellectual disability and as an experienced social worker of 40 years. Her newest book, What Matters: Reflections on Disability, Community and Love chronicles her son Micah’s groundbreaking journey of full inclusion in school, community, work and live. Special Education Pioneer, Ann Turnbull said of it, “If I could recommended a single book about family life and disability to families and professionals alike, hands down, it is this one. “ Janice's trainings are empowering, deeply engaging, and always practical. For more information, visit: www.danceofpartnership.com
Senior Regional Medical Consultant
CDR, U.S. Public Health Service
Commander Monique Fountain Hanna is a pediatrician and preventive medicine physician in the U.S. Public Health Services, Corp. (USPHS), working in the field of public health for the federal government. CDR Fountain- Hanna completed her bachelors of science degree at Spelman College in Atlanta, Georgia. She went on to complete her medical degree from Case Western Reserve University and masters in public health and business administration from the Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, Maryland. She currently serves as a Senior Regional Medical Consultant in the Philadelphia Field Office for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), Maternal and Child Health Bureau, Division of Home Visiting and Early Childhood Systems. CDR Fountain-Hanna is the Division’s Quality Improvement and Innovation Advisor providing leadership and oversight in the area of continuous quality improvement to the 56 state, territory and tribal grantees implementing evidenced-based home visiting programs for women, infants and families. In this role, Dr. Fountain Hanna oversees the first national home visiting Collaborative Improvement and Innovation Network (CoIIN) as well as awardee implementation of elevated standards for quality improvement in the Federal Home Visiting Program. She also serves as the project lead for the Division’s innovation awards which use evidenced based theory to improve support systems in at-risk communities for families in need. Dr. Fountain Hanna has dedicated both her professional and personal life to serving those in diverse communities across the country who have traditionally had a limited voice to speak for themselves including children, impoverished and disenfranchised populations.
A hundred years from now it will not matter what my bank account was, the sort of house I lived in, or the kind of car I drove... but the world may be different because I was important in the life of a child. ~FOREST E. WITCRAFT
University of Illinois
Susan Fowler is a retired professor in Special Education at the University of Illinois. Her career has focused on providing effective and coordinated services for young children and their families during the early years. In addition to her research, she directed the Illinois Early Intervention Clearinghouse and Early Learning Project, which focused on making information readily accessible to families and providers.
Gallucci , Ruth
Early Childhood Special Education at the Rhode Island Department of Education
Ruth Gallucci has served as Rhode Island’s 619 Coordinator for the last seven years. She coordinates IDEA early childhood special education (ECSE) initiatives relative to child outcomes, EC environments, transition from EI and developmental screening. Ruth has recently introduced “Rhode Island’s Itinerant Early Childhood Special Education Service Delivery Model” and coordinated the creation of the associated professional development and technical assistance supports. She represents early childhood special education on several state committees and serves as Vice-Chair and Executive Council member of the National Association of State Directors of Special Education 619 Affinity Group. Ruth has lead multiple statewide initiatives such as the creation of a comprehensive ECSE assessment system, the development of ECSE core competencies and the design and establishment of a data system for developmental screening results.
Margaret C. Gillis, Ph.D., is an Early Childhood Researcher at SRI International and provides technical assistance for the Center for IDEA Early Childhood Data Systems (DaSy) and Early Childhood Technical Assistance Center (ECTA), working with states to increase their capacity to use data to answer key policy and programmatic questions. Previously, she was a professor of inclusive early childhood education. She has over 15 years of experience in inclusive early childhood, early intervention, and workforce development.
Paul V. Sherlock Center on Disabilities
Amy Grattan has worked at the Sherlock Center on Disabilities at Rhode Island College for the last 10 years. She has provided consultation to the RI State Department of Education in the development and implementation of state initiatives including the Itinerant Early Childhood Special Education service delivery model, RI Early Learning and Development Standards professional development and the Comprehensive Early Childhood Preschool Approval System. Amy teaches at Rhode Island College in the Special Education and Early Childhood departments.
Director of Services
National Inclusion Project
Aron Hall, Director of Programs, coordinates the National Inclusion Project’s Let’s ALL Play partnership programs and trainings as well as ongoing program development. A graduate of N.C. State University, Aron has had multiple experiences in education and recreational programs. Aron is a member of the Advisory Board for the National Alliance for Accessible Golf.
Hawkins , Ronda
Professor of Early Childhood Education
Sandhills Community College
Ronda Hawkins is a dedicated early childhood educator committed to promoting nature play and learning for all young children. Ronda has a Master’s degree in Early Childhood Education and more than 30 years’ experience working in the field. She is currently a professor of early childhood education at Sandhills Community College. She received the NC Children and Nature Coalition Natural Initiatives Award in 2013 in recognition for her leadership work with the NC Play Alliance and NCCAN!
Senior Principal Researcher
Kathleen Hebbeler, Ph.D., is a Senior Principal Researcher at SRI International. She has over 30 years of experience in research and evaluation of education, health, and social programs for young children and their families. Dr. Hebbeler co-directs the DaSy Center and previously directed the Early Childhood Outcomes (ECO) Center, a 10-year effort to build states’ capacity to report high-quality data on outcomes for young children with disabilities and their families
Hemmeter, Mary Louise
Mary Louise Hemmeter is a Professor in the Department of Special Education at Vanderbilt University. She serves as the co-faculty director of the Susan Gray School for Children. Her research focuses on effective instruction, social emotional development and challenging behavior, and translating research to practice. Currently, she is the principal investigator an IES-funded research project focused on the Pyramid Model Intervention and a Co-Investigator on the National Center for Quality Teaching and Learning. Dr. Hemmeter was a Co-Editor of the Journal of Early Intervention, and she completed a five-year term on the Division for Early Childhood's Board during which time she served as President. She is a member of the DEC Recommended Practices Commission.
FirstSchool Frank Porter Graham Child Development Institute
Adam Holland, Ph.D., is a Research Scientist at the Frank Porter Graham Child Development Institute. He is the Director of the NC Early Learning Network, a partnership between FPG and the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction providing early learning communities with professional development and technical assistance to support preschool children with disabilities and their families. Dr. Holland’s research interests center on promoting effective practice in early childhood around teacher-child interactions and classroom management.
Office of Early Learning and School Readiness at the Ohio Department of Education
Sophia Hubbell currently serves as Assistant Director and 619 Coordinator in the Office of Early Learning and School Readiness at the Ohio Department of Education. She began working for the state in 2013 as the Early Learning Challenge Grant Assessment Coordinator and was responsible for coordinating the development and implementation of Ohio’s Early Childhood Comprehensive Assessment System in collaboration with the state of Maryland. Her prior experience includes teaching preschool through grade 3, teaching pre-service teachers, and consulting with districts on early childhood assessment.
Research Assistant Professor
University of New Hampshire
Betsy P. Humphreys is a Research Assistant Professor at the University of New Hampshire, Training Director for the NH-ME Leadership Education in Neurodevelopmental Disabilities Program, and Adjunct Assistant Professor of Pediatrics at the Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth College. Betsy's career spans 30 years and includes developing and implementing early childhood special education services for young children with developmental disabilities in inclusive Part B and Part C, Head Start, childcare, and preschool programs. At UNH, she teaches undergraduate and graduate classes in best practices in early childhood special education. She maintains an Experienced Educator Certificate (K-3) from the State of New Hampshire, Department of Education.
Betsy’s research focuses on testing evidence-informed interventions for young children with developmental disabilities and examining leadership frameworks that support cross-systems collaborations for health and education professionals.
619 Exceptional Children Preschool Coordinator for North Carolina
State of North Carolina
Vivian James is North Carolina’s state coordinator for the Preschool Exceptional Children Programs with funds from Section 619 of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. Vivian works closely with, and helps coordinate services across, all the state agencies that serve young children and their families. She chairs and serves on inter-sector work groups addressing suspension and expulsion, integrated systems of care, and transition to Kindergarten.
Division of Early Childhood (DEC)
Peggy Kemp, Executive Director of the Division for Early Childhood (DEC), is a recognized leader and tireless advocate devoted to quality services to families of young children with disabilities and the professionals who serve them. She guides DEC’s strategic direction and oversees daily operations. Peggy has experience as a direct service provider as well as a local, state and national leader and her life experiences as a family member of persons with disabilities fuels her passion to support policies that enhance the lives of families.
Kennedy, Elizabeth (Betsy)
Elizabeth (Betsy) Kennedy is a speech language pathologist with a special interest in assistive technology. She is the AT coordinator for a large school district preschool program in Delaware where a new child-specific planning tool was developed and field tested in coordination with Dr. Milbourne’s project.
Manager of School Outreach, Summer Camps, and Nature Play
North Carolina Zoo
For the past nineteen years, Linda has worked in the Education Division at the North Carolina Zoo. Linda manages the Zoo’s School Outreach, Summer Camps, and Nature Play programs. She also leads professional development trainings for educators. Linda received her MA in Play and Playwork from the University of Gloucestershire in England. Linda partners with regional communities to encourage and support children and their families’ playful engagement with nature in their local neighborhoods. Linda is committed to advocating for play and exploration opportunities for all children and can often be found playing outside.
Johnston County Public Schools Preschool Program
Kris Kling is an Inclusion Specialist with Johnston County Public Schools Preschool Program in North Carolina, with a BK license and Bachelor of Science in Child Development/ Child Life Specialty. She has specialized working knowledge in educating children with identified disabilities in their general education classrooms. Since 1994, she has worked in a variety of early childhood settings as lead teacher, assistant director, and as an Exceptional Children Itinerant Teacher. She is passionate about the relationship between regular and special education and providing the knowledge and skills other professionals need in order to provide effective embedded practices within their learning
Kozlowski , Jani
Professional Development Coordinator
National Center on Early Childhood Development, Teaching and Learning at Zero to Three
Jani holds an MA in Child Development and has worked in the Early Care & Education field for over 25 years. She currently serves as the State Professional Development and Inclusion Coordinator for the National Center on Early Childhood Development, Teaching and Learning at Zero to Three. Previously, she provided technical assistance to support Early Head Start – Child Care Partnerships and State Professional Development system leaders as part of her roles with two other National Training and Technical Assistance Centers at Zero to Three. During her time working at the state level in North Carolina, Jani was the Program & Policy Resources Section Chief at the Division of Child Development. She has also worked as the Early Education Specialist for Smart Start with the NC Partnership for Children, provided technical assistance to Head Start programs in Region V, served as the Education/Disability Services Coordinator for Michigan Migrant Head Start, taught community college courses and was a Pre-K teacher many years ago! In her spare time, Jani likes to get into adventures with her family, soak up the sun, read and travel.
Early Development and Learning Resources Work Group for the Delaware Department of Education.
Jim J. Lesko, EdD, Technical Assistant Lead, Preschool Development Grant Technical Assistance Center with AEM Corp and Manhattan Strategies Group. Dr. Lesko was Director, Office of Early Learning, Delaware Department of Education, overseeing a diverse division of early education services for children birth through kindergarten. Dr. Lesko has 40 years of experience in early education as a state and local school administrator, consultant, technical assistance specialist, and itinerant and classroom-based educator.
Advanced Implementation Specialist
FPG Child Development Institute, UNC-Chapel Hill
Chih-Ing Lim, Ph.D. is co-leading the inclusion team on the National Center on Early Childhood Development, Teaching, and Learning (NCECDTL) and the Early Childhood Recommended Practice Modules project (RPM). She also continues to maintain a series of online professional development resources on inclusion, CONNECT courses and modules. She has expertise in online module and resource development, technical assistance to faculty and PD providers, and evaluation of professional development resources.
Early Learning Sensory Support Program for Children with Visual Impairments in the Office of Early Learning, NC Department of Public Instruction
Becky has a B.A. in music from Agnes Scott College and a M.Ed. in Music Therapy from the University of Georgia. She practiced as a music therapist for 7 years, but returned to school for an M.A. in Special Education. She found the field of VI purely by accident upon being hired by the Governor Morehead Preschool in 1998. She received certification in visual impairment in 2000, and in 2004, received National Board Certification in VI from the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards. Becky is also a certified Infant Toddler Specialist, and has experience working not only as an early childhood TVI, but also as a K-12 TVI. Becky is currently a lead teacher, for the Early Learning Sensory Support Program for Children with Visual Impairments in the Office of Early Learning, NC Department of Public Instruction
Education and Training Specialist
Kids Included Together (KIT)
Anna began working with individuals with disabilities in 2002 as a teacher assistant in a public school program for young adults. This was the start of a now long-felt passion for supporting inclusion in her community. Since graduating with a Master’s Degree in Social Work from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Anna has provided training, consultation and technical assistance related to inclusion for out-of-school time providers worldwide.
Martin Eile, Julia
Education Program Specialist
Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP)
Julia Martin Eile is an Education Program Specialist in the Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) within the Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services at the US Department of Education.
Julia has spent her career working in the field of early childhood special education. She began her career as a Vision Teacher at The Jewish Guild for the Blind in New York City. Julia earned her master’s degree in education in developmental disabilities administration from Columbia University Teachers College. After moving to Washington, D.C., Julia served as a State consultant for Part C in Virginia. She joined OSEP in 2001. She is the Project Officer for the new Early Childhood Systems Technical Assistance Center and works on early childhood special education policy issues in the Research to Practice Division of OSEP.
University of Florida
Mary McLean is a Professor in the School of Special Education, School Psychology, and Early Childhood Studies in the College of Education at the University of Florida and is affiliated with the Anita Zucker Center for Excellence in Early Childhood Studies. At the University of Florida, Dr. McLean currently is Co-PI on a research grant funded by the Institute of Education Sciences investigating the impact of professional development on embedded instruction. She is currently Co-PI of Embedded Instruction California, a pilot study of embedded instruction in inclusive early childhood classrooms funded by the California Department of Education, Special Education Division. She has been active in the Division for Early Childhood (DEC) and currently serves as Chair of the DEC Recommended Practices Commission.
Kimberly Meunier is an education consultant with over 15 years of experience in leading and managing new ECED initiatives focused on improving the lives of young children and families. She is an expert on the Abecedarian Approach and has worked in multiple countries (Australia, Canada, Denmark, Jordan, Mexico, Singapore, etc.) and settings to adapt and apply this approach and other research-validated early childhood curricula and programs.
Toni Miguel is a fourth year doctoral student at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Her research interests include early childhood teacher education and supporting teachers in implementing best practices for the inclusion of children with disabilities.
Delaware Early Childhood Assistive Technology Demonstration (DECATD)
Suzanne Milbourne, founder of “fabricATe” - a maker movement approach to acquiring assistive technology devices and tools for young children with disabilities. Dr. Milbourne is the Director for the Delaware Early Childhood Assistive Technology Demonstration (DECATD) five-year, federally funded project awarded in January 2013 to the University of Delaware, Center for Disabilities Studies. She previously served as the project coordinator for the federally funded Tots N’ Tech Research Institute an inter-university collaboration with a mission to provide up-to-date information and resources about adaptations, including assistive technology, to use with infants and toddlers for states, early intervention providers of all disciplines, and families across the country. Dr. Milbourne is the co-author of the highly regarded CARA’s Kit for Preschoolers (2007), its companion 2012 Toddler version and the TAM Technology Fan for Young Children (2006).
Let’s Participate! Project
Susan Mistrett, a national voice on including children birth to eight with disabilities, is currently a senior consultant to the DOE/OSEP funded Let’s Participate! Project, which promotes the selection and use of assistive technology (AT) supports for infants, toddlers and preschoolers with disabilities that will help them actively participate in everyday activities in home, community and education settings. Her work includes weaving concepts of universal design with individual AT supports to ensure the inclusion of all children in natural early childhood settings.
Deputy Executive Director for Early Learning Systems
National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC)
Marica Mitchell, Deputy Executive Director for Early Learning Systems, National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC), is responsible for NAEYC's major efforts in accreditation and professional recognition. As Deputy Executive Director, her portfolio includes public policy and advocacy, accreditation of early learning programs, higher education accreditation and the new Power to the Profession initiative. Marica has over 18 years of diverse experiences in both early childhood classroom and administrative settings. These varied experiences and perspectives inspire her to focus on advancing professional practice, voice and recognition. Before assuming her current role, she served in other leadership positions at NAEYC, the District of Columbia’s Office of the State Superintendent of Education, and the District of Columbia Public Schools.
Doctoral Student in Applied Developmental Science and Special Education
University of North Carolina
Allison Murray-Nikkel is a doctoral student in Applied Developmental Science and Special Education at UNC – Chapel Hill, specializing in inclusive early childhood development and funded by a leadership grant focused on bridging the gap between research and practice. She is a former preschool teacher with previous graduate work in child and family studies and interests in social-emotional development and teacher education.
FPG Child Development Institute at the University of North Carolina
Jen Neitzel, Ph.D. is a Research Scientist at the FPG Child Development Institute. Dr. Neitzel’s work is focused on implicit bias, particularly related to early childhood suspensions and expulsions, and racial equity in early childhood education. Dr. Neitzel has written articles, co-authored book chapters, developed online training modules, and presented extensively at conferences on topics related to implicit bias, suspensions/expulsions, and high-quality early learning environments.
Karen Nemeth, Ed.M. is a consultant and author focusing on improving early childhood education for children who are dual language learners. She has published more than 10 books on this topic and many articles, and speaks at many national and regional conferences every year. She recently co-authored “Teaching emergent bilingual learners with disabilities and challenging behaviors in preschool” with Pamela Brillante in Journal of Multilingual Education Research.
Sr. Training and Technical Assistance Specialist
National Center on Parent, Family and Community Engagement
Jennifer Olson has experience in various settings in the field of early childhood education and care. Her experience includes working with families of children with disabilities and taught coursework in family engagement, language development, and teaming for professionals earning degrees in early childhood special education. She is currently a Sr. Training and Technical Assistance Specialist for the National Center on Parent, Family and Community Engagement.
Ostrosky , Michaelene
Head of the Department of Special Education
University of Illinois
Michaelene M. Ostrosky is Head of the Department of Special Education at the University of Illinois. She has been involved in research and dissemination on the inclusion of children with disabilities, social emotional competence, and challenging behavior. Professor Ostrosky is a former editor of Young Exceptional Children (YEC), and the co-editor of several YEC monographs. She co-authored the Making Friends book (2016), which supports the acceptance of individuals with disabilities.
Clinical Associate Professor
School of Education, UNC-Chapel Hill
Sharon Palsha has been studying the Reggio Emilia approach since 1994 when she gave her first presentation on the topic at the Division of Early Childhood Annual International Conference. Sharon’s special focus of research is Reggio Emilia’s approach to children with “special rights”. Sharon’s initial research on this topic was highlighted in the 1997 edition of The Hundred Languages of Children: The Reggio Emilia Approach to Early Childhood Education in the chapter “Children with "Special Rights" in the Schools and Centers of Reggio Emilia.” Additionally, Dr. Palsha has a chapter, An outstanding education for ALL children: Learning from Reggio’s approach to inclusion in the book Teaching and Learning: Collaborative Exploration of the Reggio Emilia Approach. Sharon is currently on the NC Wonder of Learning committee that has brought a third edition of the The Hundred Languages of Children exhibit to Durham, NC. Dr. Palsha has 38 years experience working with children and families. Currently she is a Clinical Associate Professor at UNC-CH where she has worked for 13 years preparing undergraduate students as early childhood educators who will teach young children, ages birth to 5.
Doctoral Candidate in Applied Developmental Studies & Special Education
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Sarah Pedonti has served as an innovative leader in the field of inclusive early childhood education, in roles ranging from inclusive preschool teacher, to Education & Disabilities Coordinator for a large Migrant Head Start delegate in North Carolina. More recently, she left a role coordinating an Early Head Start Child Care Partnership to return to a Ph.D. program in Education. She is currently a doctoral candidate in Applied Developmental Studies & Special Education at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. In her a current role as a doctoral student, she is also a Research Assistant at Frank Porter Graham Child Development Institute working on the National Center for Early Childhood Development Teaching & Learning. In her work with NCECDTL, Sarah supports and facilitate an online community of practice (CoP) dedicated to supporting the learning interests and needs of Head Start Disability Coordinators.
Early Childhood Technical Assistance (ECTA) Center
Mary Louise Peters has been a technical assistance (TA) specialist with the Early Childhood Technical Assistance Center (ECTA). Mary’s work focuses on improving special education services for young children and their families. Her topical expertise includes professional development, collaborative system building, and inclusion. Mary Peters is also a Courage and Renewal Facilitator ® prepared by the Center for Courage and Renewal and has offered reflective experiences since 2009.
University of North Carolina-Charlotte
Michelle Plaisance is an associate professor of TESOL and English at Greensboro College in Greensboro, North Carolina. She works with aspiring educators of non-native English speakers in a wide variety of contexts. Her research interests include equitable access to the core curriculum for early English learners in monolingual classrooms and teachers’ perceptions of ability and grouping.
Speech/Language Pathologist and Autism Specialist
Craven County School District
Alisha Plescher is a Speech/Language Pathologist and Autism Specialist serving Craven County School District. She received her undergraduate degree in Communication Sciences and Disorders from Northern Michigan University, and followed with her Master’s in Speech/Language Pathology at University of Wisconsin. Alisha provided speech and language intervention to school-age students, as well as co-taught in Special Education Early Childhood Classrooms in Wisconsin before moving to her hometown in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. From there, she continued co-teaching and providing Speech/Language Intervention through embedded instruction within special education preschool classrooms. Upon completing her Master’s Certification in Autism Spectrum Disorders from University of Minnesota, Alisha transitioned into the role of Autism Coach for her regional Intermediate School District. During this time, she received the honored Kiwanis Teacher of the Year Award and facilitated increased socialization and independence in her students through identifying their Least Restrictive Environments and utilizing peer to peer supports and more practical transition planning. When Alisha moved to North Carolina she began her work at Craven County Schools, servicing both the Autism Team and speech/language intervention in the schools. Alisha continues to provide intervention within the natural context of her student’s preschool classrooms, collaborating with teams to provide evidence-based, integrative services. In her free time Alisha spends as much time as possible with her husband and two boys, biking, hiking, boating, and loving the North Carolina weather!
Center for Child and Family Policy at Duke University
Katie Rosanbalm, Ph.D., is a Research Scholar with the Center for Child and Family Policy at Duke University. Trained as a child clinical psychologist, Rosanbalm’s work focuses on program implementation and evaluation in the areas of child maltreatment prevention, early childhood systems, self-regulation development, and trauma-informed practices. Rosanbalm is currently leading several projects to enhance long-term outcomes for children with trauma histories: (1) self-regulation skills-building for low-income preschoolers, (2) integration of child mental health supports for children involved with child welfare, and (3) refinement of a model to build trauma-sensitive schools in North Carolina.
Family, Infant and Preschool Program (FIPP)
Dathan Rush is the Associate Director of the Family, Infant and Preschool Program (FIPP). Dr. Rush has published articles and provided training in the areas of coaching, supporting children and families in natural learning environments, and teaming in early intervention. Dr. Rush coauthored the texts Coaching Families and Colleagues in Early Childhood Intervention, The Early Childhood Coaching Handbook, and The Early Intervention Teaming Handbook: The Primary Service Provider Approach.
Acting Director of the Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP)
U.S. Department of Education
Ruth Ryder is the Deputy Director of the Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP), U.S. Department of Education. Ms. Ryder has been in a variety of positions in OSEP since 1988, most recently as the OSEP Deputy Director. In this position, she is providing national leadership in moving special education accountability to a more results-oriented focus. In addition, she is focusing attention on ensuring that the needs of children with disabilities are addressed in the major initiatives of the Department, such as ESEA Flexibility, School Improvement Grants and Early Learning. Prior to joining OSEP, Ms. Ryder was a program administrator for a school district in Washington State with responsibility for an OSERS funded special education demonstration project examining integrated service delivery models for including children with disabilities in general education. She also administered the ESEA Title 1 and Title 2 programs, State-remediation, gifted education, outcome-based education, and State-and district-wide testing programs. Additionally, she was also a special education consulting teacher and a general education classroom teacher.
FPG Child Development Institute, UNC-Chapel Hill
Dr. Ann Sam is a Research Scientist at the Frank Porter Graham Child Development Institute at UNC-Chapel Hill. Dr. Sam’s current work involves developing online, self-paced learning modules of the identified evidence-based practices for children and youth with ASD. She also works on The Efficacy Study for Elementary Learners with Autism Spectrum Disorder (TESELA), a research study that focuses on increasing teachers’ use of evidence-based practices for elementary students with ASD.
University of Washington
Susan Sandall is Professor Emerita from the University of Washington, College of Education. Her scholarly interests are: effective instructional practices for young children with disabilities in inclusive settings, the changing roles of teachers of young children with disabilities, and effective approaches to professional development and knowledge utilization for the early childhood workforce. Now affiliated with the EarlyEdU Alliance, Dr. Sandall was the PI for the National Center on Quality Teaching and Learning and co-PI for the Head Start Center for Inclusion, both funded by the Office of Head Start. She is a member of the DEC Recommended Practices Commission. She is the co-developer of Building Blocks, a framework for effective teaching practices for early childhood.
Family, Infant and Preschool Program (FIPP)
M’Lisa Shelden is the Director of the Family, Infant and Preschool Program (FIPP). Dr. Shelden has coauthored several articles related to early intervention teamwork and book chapters related to physical therapy, personnel preparation and service delivery. She has coauthored several texts, including Physical Therapy under IDEA, as well as Coaching Families and Colleagues in Early Childhood Intervention, The Early Childhood Coaching Handbook, and The Early Intervention Teaming Handbook: The Primary Service Provider Approach.
Professor and David Lawrence Jr. Endowed Chair in Early Childhood Studies
University of Florida
Patricia Snyder is a professor and the David Lawrence Jr. Endowed Chair in Early Childhood Studies at the University of Florida. She is the director of the Anita Zucker Center for Excellence in Early Childhood Studies, which has been a collaborative partner with the Center on the Social and Emotional Foundations for Early Learning (CSEFEL), the Head Start Center for Inclusion, and the National Center for Quality Teaching and Learning (NCQTL). Her research focuses on embedded instruction for early learning, young children’s social-emotional and behavioral competence, instrument development and validation, and professional development. As part of IES-funded research with colleagues on embedded instruction and Pyramid Model practices, she led the development, refinement, and evaluation of the practice-based coaching framework. Dr. Snyder has been involved in supporting inclusion and the implementation of evidence-informed inclusive practices in early intervention and preschool programs for 41 years. She is a former editor of the Journal of Early Intervention and is a member of the DEC Recommended Practices Committee.
Honorary Research Fellow
School Education, University of Roehampton, UK
Elena Soukakou is an Honorary Research Fellow in the School Education, University of Roehampton, UK. Elena has been working in the field of early childhood education for over 15 years as a researcher, early intervention specialist, and consultant in the United States and United Kingdom. She has expertise on models of inclusion in early childhood, inclusive classroom practices, program quality assessment, and professional development for personnel who work with children with disabilities in inclusive and special education programs. Dr. Soukakou has developed the Inclusive Classroom Profile (ICP), a new tool for supporting the quality of inclusive practices in early childhood programs. Elena enjoys working collaboratively with students, researchers, practitioners, and leaders in the field to support the quality of education and care for young children with disabilities and their families.
Svoboda , Cindi
Cindi, parent and advocate. Even though “Autism” isn’t the journey I had planned for my life, it is one I would not change. I have learned so much about patience, acceptance, and so much more from my wonderful son. I am honored to be his mom. He teaches me ”life lessons” every day. . Living with someone with Autism is indeed a journey because it is ever changing. We have an amazing story to share.
Svoboda , DJ
D.J. Svoboda was diagnosed at the age of 3 with Autism Spectrum Disorder with psychomotor retardation which included speech delays and issues with his fine motor skills. He found it difficult to even hold a pencil. Today, D.J. is a dynamic, motivational public speaker, accomplished artist and author with three books to his credit; My Imagiville, The Mupperezmo and the Rainbow, and The Inspirations of Imagiville.
Growing up, D.J. was teased and bullied. These negative experiences inspired D.J. to create the land of Imagiville; a safe place in his imagination where everyone is treated kindly and accepted just the way they are. Through his art, and public speaking he brings Imagiville and the Imagifriends to life and uses them as a vehicle to spread a message of hope, inspiration and awareness that those with autism and special needs are special just the way they are.
Early Childhood Coordinator
Parent Information and Resource Project, PACER Center
Judy Swett is the Early Childhood Coordinator at PACER Center in MN and brings 22 years of experience providing individual assistance to parents of young children. In that role, she provides information and advocacy, and designs and presents trainings to parents and EC professionals regarding early intervention, early childhood special education, inclusion, childcare and the ADA, parent leadership and families as stakeholders. She is also a TA Specialist at the ECTA Center where she participates in tasks and workgroups related to family involvement, the ECTA Systems Framework, Child Outcomes, and Inclusion.
Thompson Whaley, Kathy
Technical Assistance Specialist
Early Childhood Technical Assistance (ECTA) Center and the Center for IDEA Early Childhood Data Systems (DaSy)
Kathy Thompson Whaley is a Technical Assistance Specialist for the Early Childhood TA Center (ECTA) and supports state Part C and Section 619 Coordinators in implementing the IDEA. She co-facilitates a national IDEA early childhood inclusion community of practice and co-coordinates the ECTA Inclusion TA Team and the National Inclusion Cohort Intensive TA initiative. She was one of the coordinators of the National Expanding Opportunities Interagency Inclusion Initiative from 2005 -2012 which provided extensive support to cross-sector state-level interagency teams. Additional content expertise in her portfolio includes her work as the early childhood transition issue specialist and personnel topic chair at the ECTA Center.
Professor, Researcher, and Advocate
Ann Turnbull is a researcher, professor, and advocate. She co-created the Beach Center on Disability at The University of Kansas; she is a Distinguished Professor Emerita of that university; she’s published over 300 peer-reviewed articles, chapters, and books. She’s been acknowledged by the National Historic Preservation Trust in Developmental Disabilities as one of 36 people who changed the course of history for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities in the 20Th Century (Rud shares that honors, too). But she’s more: She’s constant, not seasonal. She enlightens you in so many ways when you end your search with her. She’s the partner who trusts you from the very first moment you encounter her, and she’s the vessel for your instinctive trust. She’s the scholar who challenges you: “Now that you have learned something, so what? What will you do to make a difference with what you know?” She’s all color on the outside, and all integrity and honesty within. She’s kind, and utterly candid. Come here her candor about “truths” she and Rud have learned over five decades to not only survive but prevail.
Rud Turnbull is an 80-year old lawyer, the best kind: he’s a lapsed lawyer. He also has lapses in his memory; the more recent the event, the less he remembers – except that he probably enjoyed himself immensely and hopes you did, too. He’s been a professor, advocate, and researcher; he’s covered a lot of ground – written some 300 publications in nearly 20 areas of disability policy, drafted not a few federal and state laws, and testified in Congress on a half-dozen or so issues. He reassures us that he’s competent enough to remember what counts: it’s not the publications, laws, and witnessing. it’s the experiences. He wants us to paraphrase T. S. Elliot: “Rud’s old enough to have had the experience and not to have lost the meanings.” Rud says he’ll bring those meanings to the conference: “Eliot added these words immediately after those you just read: ‘And approach to the meaning restores the experience in a different form.’ I hope I can restore some of your experiences and perhaps even their meaning, by telling you a few of mine.”
Valenchis , Rebecca
National Center for Early Childhood Development, Teaching and Learning (NCECDTL) and AEM Corporation
Rebecca Valenchis has over 15 years of experience in education and possesses a continuum of teaching, technical assistance and project management expertise across a variety of settings. She has worked at the state level assisting senior staff in developing and implementing policy; at the county level evaluating and supporting children with disabilities and their families; at the school level teaching in kindergarten through fifth grade; and at the classroom level collaborating with colleagues to provide high-quality instruction; and at the child level using data to drive instruction and promote successful outcomes. Rebecca has a solid background in the development of educational policy and is grounded in the practical application of proven educational strategies and support services for all students – especially our youngest learners with disabilities. In her current role at the National Center for Early Childhood Development, Teaching and Learning (NCECDTL) and AEM Corporation, one of Rebecca’s responsibilities is to provide technical assistance around using virtual platforms to offer and extend staff development and training opportunities for early childhood professionals.
Early Childhood Technical Assistance (ECTA)
Megan Vinh, Ph.D., is an Advanced Technical Assistance Specialist at the Frank Porter Graham Child Development Institute at University of North Carolina Chapel Hill. Dr. Vinh currently serves as the PI of the STEM Innovation for Inclusion in Early Education (STEMI2E2) Center, the Co-PI of (ECTA), and the evaluation lead for the (DaSy). Dr. Vinh provides leadership, technical assistance, and evaluation support around improving state early intervention and early childhood special education service systems, increasing the implementation of effective practices, and enhancing outcomes of these programs for young children and their families. She also works to ensure young children with disabilities participate in and benefit from high-quality STEM teaching and learning. She specializes in program evaluation and systems change around access and equity issues, including reducing early care and education suspensions and expulsions and increasing high quality inclusive opportunities. Dr. Vinh also serves as President-Elect of the Executive Board.
Inclusion Collaborative at Santa Clara County Office of Education
Kathy Wahl is the Director II of Inclusion Collaborative at the Santa Clara County Office of Education. She has worked for the Inclusion Collaborative since 2014, being involved in the development and implementation of the EPIC Credentialing Program and the State Annual Inclusion Conference held at the Santa Clara County Office of Education (SCCOE). Kathy has worked for SCCOE since 1995, starting as a Nutrition Consultant and then as an Early Childhood Special Education Teacher/Nutritionist for the SCCOE Early Start Program. Kathy has worked with teachers, students and families across the county in center based and home based programs and now currently supports local districts and agencies in creating inclusion programs. She has taught at local community colleges, developed inclusive training tracks for community colleges and worked for many community agencies in Santa Clara County. Kathy earned her B.S in Dietetics and Food Administration at California Polytechnic State University and her M.A in Early Intervention Services, Special Education Program from Santa Clara University. Currently, Kathy is a Commissioner for First 5 Santa Clara.
Professional Development Provider and Manager
Constance Walker manages and oversees the services/contracts of agencies that provide technical assistance/consultation to early childhood programs to support and maintain children with special needs that include: medical, developmental, social/emotional/behavioral challenges. This program provides prevention/intervention services to the teacher on behalf of children with special needs. The goal of this program is to maintain children with special needs in a stable early childhood setting by developing/enhancing the skills of the teacher/provider. Constance continues to provide professional development in the community around working with children with special needs and supporting boys in the early childhood setting. She says that the work she does is her occupassion!!
Sharon Walsh currently provides consultation to state and local agencies on the implementation of Part C and Part B of IDEA She works as a consultant on the federally funded Early Childhood Technical Assistance Center (ECTA) and the Center for IDEA Early Childhood Data Systems (DaSy). Sharon also serves as the Governmental Relations Consultant for the Division for Early Childhood of the Council for Exceptional Children (DEC) and the IDEA Infant and Toddler Coordinators Association (ITCA), which is the national association representing the state Part C lead agencies.
Senior Scientist and Director of Outreach
FPG Child Development Institute, UNC-Chapel Hill
Pam Winton, a Senior Scientist and the Director of Outreach at FPG Child Development Institute, has been involved in research, outreach, professional development, and scholarly publishing related to early childhood for the last three decades. Currently, she is the director and PI of CONNECT, a national center focused on bringing an evidence-based practice approach to professional development in key early childhood content.