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Speaker Series

Speaker Series Recordings

As a helpful resource, we will be offering a recorded version of some of our Speaker Series programs. See below for current offerings.

Speaker Series Playback

  • DSAP and the Down Syndrome Center of Western PA partnered for a virtual Lunch & Learn Speaker Series to learn about topics related to Down syndrome. On Friday, February 9 Dr. McCormick presented "Transitional Care in Down Syndrome " Read below to learn more about his presentation.

    Dr. McCormick directs the Healthy Transitions Program of the Down Syndrome Center of Western PA. During this presentation, he describes this program and his Holistic and Longitudinal approach to supporting and preparing young adults with Down syndrome and their families on their journey into adulthood. To watch the presentation click here.

  • DSAP and the Down Syndrome Center of Western PA partnered for a virtual Lunch & Learn Speaker Series to learn about topics related to Down syndrome. On Thursday, January 25 Dr. Vellody presented "Lab Interpretation in Down Syndrome: Take It with a Grain of Salt."

    Lab interpretation is challenging for physicians and other providers but in this era of open access to medical chart information, patients and caregivers often get the lab results before the person who ordered them! Many times, there are many foreign sounding words followed by numbers highlighted in red or followed by exclamation points. Are these results of concern? Are they expected? What is a caregiver to do? During this session, Dr. Vellody discusses the common labs that are often sent routinely for people with Down syndrome and provides guidance on their interpretation. To watch the presentation click here.

  • During this presentation, our speaker, Dr. Patton, discusses special education terminology and acronyms.

    It can be very difficult to navigate the world of special education, especially as a new parent/caregiver. It seems all the wordy documentation thrown at parents/caregivers looks a lot like alphabet soup. Do you know that your child will need a NOREP after an ER, which will then drive their IEP that hopefully places them in their LRE that ultimately provides them FAPE? And by the way, did you sign the NOREP? What does all that really mean? Dr. Patton’s training will help participants understand all those letters and how best to manage the associated documentation.

    Dr. Jess Patton experiences the world of special needs as a parent and a professional. In addition to her twenty years in education, she is also the founder and president of Sense of Connection, a nonprofit serving the autism community, as well as the owner of Patton Advocacy & Consulting, LLC. With her extensive experience, Dr. Patton understands parenting and working with children who have special needs can be filled with the most rewarding moments intertwined with some extremely difficult struggles. Using humor and a unique flair, she enjoys sharing her story with the intention of helping other parents and professionals.

    To watch the presentation click here.

  • During this presentation, our speaker, Diane Perry, discusses advocating for your child with an IEP in school. She also explains the process and strategies for educational advocacy, discusses effective ways to collaborate with your IEP team, and identifies dispute resolution options.

    Diane Perry has over twenty years of education, advocacy and family leadership under her belt. She is the Family Resource Specialist for the PEAL Center in Philadelphia. In addition to her work at PEAL, Diane serves as Member of the State Special Education Advisory Panel. Diane’s son David, 30, received special education services; he recently graduated college, is working part time, and serves on 2 boards; SAU1 (Self Advocates Unites as 1) and the Sean King Fund for Inclusive Education.

    To watch the presentation click here. To access the speaker's slideshow, click here. Diane Perry shares additional resources with links included below:

    -Introducing Your Child to the School Community Using a “Student Snapshot” Format
    -Supplementary Aids and Services resource from PaTTAN
    -Achieving Inclusion: Strategies for Creating Inclusive Classrooms for ALL Students

  • During this presentation, Dr. Jess Patton provides the foundational knowledge of sensory processing as found in the chapter she authored, Sensory Processing Disorders and Sensory Friendly Classrooms: Can They Become the Norm?, in the textbook entitled, Contemporary Issues in Special Education (Rineer-Hershey & Mild, 2020). Dr. Patton also provides a more in-depth look at how specific sensory input is processed, as well as strategies to address these specific areas. Lastly, Dr. Patton provides time for questions and more specific knowledge points for participants. To watch the presentation click here.

  • Strategies for Increasing Your Child's Personal & Environmental Safety - Held on April 18, 2023
    Strategies for Increasing Your Child's Personal & Environmental Safety - Held on April 18, 2023

    Our speaker, Dr. Tarin Santamaria, MSEd, PsyD, is a licensed psychologist and state & nationally certified school psychologist with the Down Syndrome Center of Western PA. Parents may need additional proactive and preventative strategies to reduce the risks and increase personal and environmental safety of their children who may have deficits in the areas of language and cognitive function, which may limit understanding of safety. Additionally, wandering/elopement behaviors can be found in children and adults with a dual diagnosis of Down syndrome and autism (DS-ASD). Dr. Santamaria's presentation provided caregivers and community members with information and ideas to facilitate the implementation of interventions to reduce the risk of unsafe situations. This presentation was not recorded, but you can access Dr. Santamaria's safety resources handout by emailing info@dsapgh.org. If you'd like to schedule an appointment with Dr. Santamaria at the Down Syndrome Center of Western PA, call 412-692-7963 option 1.

  • Benefits of Being Busy: Starting Strategies for 0-10yo - Held on March 8, 2023
    Benefits of Being Busy: Starting Strategies for 0-10yo - Held on March 8, 2023

    Our speaker, Dr. Stacy Taylor, from Advance Behavior & Learning helped attendees learn ways to keep teaching and have fun with their little ones. Prevention is key when thinking about problem behaviors. Once you understand how behaviors start, you can consider ways to stop them before they even begin. Knowing some behavior basics and ways to use the environment to your advantage is a great way to start things off right. When we increase engagement and learning, we can promote more positive behaviors at home, at school and in the community. There are great benefits to being busy. To access resources on this topic from Advance Behavior & Learning please email info@dsapgh.org.

  • Our speaker, Jennifer Stoyer (Community and Charitable Trust Coordinator), discussed how to apply for Achieva's Residual Funds and how the funds may be used to provide supplemental support and services for children and adults with disabilities who are unable to pay for the services or supports on their own. Watch the recording here. To apply for Achieva's Charitable Residual Program click here. To learn more about the Cecil and David Rosenthal Memorial Fund and apply, click here. If you have questions, contact the Residual Account Coordinator at 412-995-5000 ext. 493 or jstoyer@achieva.info.

  • Amy Guthrie (Disability Advocate and Family Supports at Achieva) and Nancy Murray (Senior Vice President of Achieva and President of The Arc of Greater Pittsburgh) discussed college programs for students with intellectual disabilities, along with available resources to help plan and pay for college. You can watch the recording here.

  • Learn how to promote literacy development for individuals of all ages! Our speaker, Kayla Pavlock, M.S., CCC-SLP, brings a unique insight to reading acquisition through a language-based lens. She is a speech-language pathologist who is currently pursuing an additional Master's degree in reading and literacy with a reading specialist certification. Attendees will build their toolkit of specific strategies they can utilize to make reading fun and functional at home, school, and socially. Click here to view the recording of Kayla's presentation and to access links to free resources. Some additional resources recommended by our speaker include a free game that she often recommends to families as well as a great link to several videos breaking down reading readiness skills, which can be found here.

  • Let’s talk all things nutrition with our speaker, Althea Bradley, MPH, RD, LDN. We will explore the differences between picky and problem eaters and talk about ways to help manage common GI concerns like constipation and reflux. Bring all your questions for an opportunity to learn how food (and supplements) can transform your child’s overall health and wellness. As a registered dietitian, Althea loves helping families find realistic solutions that enable them to eat healthy foods and live active lifestyles. She also provides Early Intervention services through Positive Steps both in Allegheny County and surrounding counties like Beaver, Butler and beyond. Listen to the recording here.

  • Explore the transition from therapy to home by incorporating the techniques used in the clinic for everyday lessons and activities. By using these applications in daily settings, you are able to reinforce the therapy in ways that are interesting and appealing. Learn how to use objects in your home for added layers of learning and help to master new skills for all ages. Come and learn to think out-of-the-box and have fun while helping your loved one reach their greatest potential! Our speaker, La Taasha Byrd is the mother of one daughter, Cairo, who has Down syndrome. She holds a Bachelor of Science degree from Florida A&M University and a Master of Science degree from the University of Central Florida. As the headmaster at Countdown Academy, an online school for parents of exceptional children, she regularly speaks at conferences and advocates for the special needs community at local, state, and national levels. She also chronicles the journey of homeschooling a child with exceptionality in her Facebook blog, Countdown To K. View the recording here.

  • ​Part 2: Barriers to Inclusion - Held on March 23, 2022
    ​Part 2: Barriers to Inclusion - Held on March 23, 2022

    In this 2-Part Series in Session #2, attendees will gain insight and strategies for overcoming barriers to inclusion such as using curriculum adaptations (accommodations and modifications) and important elements of inclusive IEPs. Throughout both sessions, attendees will be given numerous resources and tips on inclusive education. Our speaker, Nicole Eredics is a Board-Certified Inclusive Education Specialist who has spent over two decades supporting students with disabilities in the general education classroom. After years of teaching in fully inclusive, general education classrooms, she now draws upon her experience to write, speak, and consult to various local and national organizations on the topic of inclusion. She is creator of The Inclusive Class blog and author of a guidebook for teachers and parents called, Inclusion in Action: Practical Strategies to Modify Your Curriculum. For more information about Nicole and her work, go to www.nicoleeredics.com. To request a copy of this recording, email email Meredith.

  • Celebrating World Down Syndrome Day, DSAP hosted a virtual dance party and then heard from Davis Mowry, a local 20 year old, sharing with our community about his background, school, work, hobbies, and plans to attend college in the fall. As friends are a big part of Davis's life, he invited his friend Tomas Bird to join the conversation as well. Watch the recording here.

  • Attention self-advocates: Please join this virtual session on March 7 at 7pm where we will discuss how to create well-balanced and mindful eating techniques. Our presenter will be Shannon Frizzell who is a registered dietitian nutritionist currently working with the Adult Down Syndrome Center of Western Pennsylvania. Her role has been to implement nutrition services and improve health outcomes for adults with Down syndrome. She has a background working with individuals with intellectual disabilities through her work with the University of Pittsburgh's Leadership Education in Neurodevelopmental Disabilities (LEND) program. Shannon also currently works as a clinical dietitian at UPMC Presbyterian providing medical nutrition therapy to patients with a wide variety of clinical conditions. Click here to watch the recording.

  • Part 1: Inclusion in Action: Basics and Best Practice - Held on February 17, 2022
    Part 1: Inclusion in Action: Basics and Best Practice - Held on February 17, 2022

    In this 2-Part Series in Session #1, attendees will learn the fundamentals of inclusion and inclusive practice, understand what true inclusion is and isn't, as well as ways for parents, teachers, and schools to support inclusion. Our speaker, Nicole Eredics is a Board-Certified Inclusive Education Specialist who has spent over two decades supporting students with disabilities in the general education classroom. After years of teaching in fully inclusive, general education classrooms, she now draws upon her experience to write, speak, and consult to various local and national organizations on the topic of inclusion. She is creator of The Inclusive Class blog and author of a guidebook for teachers and parents called, Inclusion in Action: Practical Strategies to Modify Your Curriculum. For more information about Nicole and her work, go to www.nicoleeredics.com. To request a copy of this recording, email Meredith.

  • Let's Talk About Therapy - An Open Conversation - Held on February 7, 2022
    Let's Talk About Therapy - An Open Conversation - Held on February 7, 2022

    Have you ever wondered what therapy is all about? In this speaker series, we will be opening the conversation to define therapy, learning more about when to ask for help, coping skills and self care, and how to find the right therapist for you. We will hear from Paulette Cantwell, MSCP, LPC, NCC who has worked extensively with individuals, families and children using creative and innovative methods for success. She is currently in private practice where she treats children, adolescents and adults. Ms. Cantwell is also a parent of an adult with Down syndrome and has a passion for working with parents like us. This was not recorded, but email Meredith for additional information.

  • Join us for this this highly interactive webinar where participants will learn:
    - How to recognize productive stress (indeed, not all stress is bad) and use it to your benefit
    - The one tool that can solve (nearly all) unproductive stress
    - How to handle situational stress (IEP meetings, holidays, medical diagnoses, etc)
    Chelle Johnson is a life coach, speaker and mom to two boys (one of whom has Down syndrome). She founded Intentional Transformation to support parents of developmentally disabled children to reduce stress, avoid burnout and create the lives they most want. She has had the pleasure of coaching and speaking to parents all over the world about reducing stress, self care, time management and goal achievement. To view the recording, click here.

  • Strategies and Tools to Use for Sharing About Down syndrome in Your Child's Classroom - Held on October 14, 2021
    Strategies and Tools to Use for Sharing About Down syndrome in Your Child's Classroom - Held on October 14, 2021

    Shannon Striner, one of our Board of Directors and a parent presented in this special Family Connections Session. If you would like to receive a copy of this presentation, email DSAP.

  • The Unlimited Potential in the Journey from Early Intervention to Kindergarten - Held on June 24, 2021
    The Unlimited Potential in the Journey from Early Intervention to Kindergarten - Held on June 24, 2021

    ​Alex Lee is the self-proclaimed ‘coolest guy other than Cristiano Ronaldo to walk the earth’, despite being just a 7th grader at Upper Merion Middle School. His boisterous sense of confidence and fancy title come from the effects of being 100% included at school since preschool. Since coming to middle school, he has received honor roll every single marking period, given keynote speeches every few months or so, and has just been having an awesome time trying to teach the world about the importance of full inclusion in middle school. At age 13, he already has an impressive resume that includes modeling for Toys R Us, doing a TV appearance on a Sprout show, singing opera in Italian on various stages, and speaking at the UN Headquarters in NYC. Isabelle Lee, Alex’s part time assistant and part time sister, is able to tag along for the ride thanks to her brother who continuously provides the most entertaining stories along with the most profound messages. She has been having quite a time getting invited to do keynote speeches at various educational conferences to retell her family’s story and crack some jokes. She has been advocating for inclusion for all students since she was 4 years old and doing keynote speeches since she was 11 years old. This young, naturally gifted public speaker has been having lots of fun in the past 5 years making audiences all over the country laugh and cry with her talks. This session was not recorded.

  • Evolve Coaching - Held on June 15, 2021
    Evolve Coaching - Held on June 15, 2021

    ​​Evolve Coaching supports individuals with disabilities through education, employment, and the arts. Evolve's team of uniquely experienced coaches takes an individualized approach to helping clients create and pursue their post-secondary, work, and personal goals. Coaching is provided via online video chat or in-person meetings, determined on a case by case basis. Co-Founder and Executive Director, Heather Conroy, share more about this program. To listen to the playback, visit here.

  • Just Right Advocacy: Getting Past No and Getting to the Yes -Held on May 6, 2021
    Just Right Advocacy: Getting Past No and Getting to the Yes -Held on May 6, 2021

    Alyson Stover is an assistant professor in the Department of Occupational Therapy the University of Pittsburgh and obtained her juris doctorate in law with a post-graduate certificate in health law from the University of Pittsburgh. Her areas of practice expertise include pediatrics, trauma-informed occupational therapy and holistic approaches to substance use disorder. Dr. Stover is AOTA Board Certified in Pediatrics, and has spent her entire career focusing on increasing the health and wellness and experience of children with special health care needs and their families. She owns a private outpatient pediatric practice north of Pittsburgh and co-founded a non-profit organization that uses occupation to address community, societal and population needs.
    As a pediatric occupational therapist and a health law advocate, Alyson is interested in sharing my knowledge and experience how ways to advocate for children and their families across environments. How do families learn what their rights are and how to families assert their rights in a meaningful way that supports the health and wellness of their child and the family. She would like to share ways that she has worked “past the no” to “get to the yes.” To listen to the playback, visit here.

  • Wife, mother, advocate and author are just a few of the titles that describe Meeka Caldwell. But becoming an advocate isn’t usually something that people set out to do. It’s driven by a deep passion and desire for change. As a new mother of a baby boy with Down syndrome, Meeka quickly noticed a deafening silence around the needs of Black and Brown people within the disability community. What started out as speaking up for her own child, has evolved into speaking out and becoming an advocate for the entire community. Join in the conversation as Meeka talks with our community about her latest book, A Friend Like Anian: The First Day of School and learn more about the importance of representation, inclusion and advocacy. Click here for the recorded session.

  • Special needs trusts and ABLE accounts enable a person with a disability to protect assets that are in their name, while continuing to be eligible for vital government benefits such as Supplemental Security Income and Medical Assistance. Attend this session to develop a basic understanding of how both special needs trusts and ABLE accounts can be used together or separately as part of a future plan for a person with a disability. Our speakers Maria Smith, Director of Education and Outreach and Patty Yerina, Coordinator of Education and Outreach are joining us from the Achieva Family Trust. Click here for the recorded session.

  • Mikayla Holmgren is a model, speaker, and dancer who hasn't let Down syndrome stop her from Dreaming Big! She made history by becoming the first women with Ds to compete in the Miss Minnesota USA pageant - which is also a first for the Miss USA pageant in any state. We were excited to celebrate World Down Syndrome Day with us and for her to inspire others to dream big without limits! Click here for the recorded session.

  • Are you planning for college? Achieva can help you child lay the foundation for success in higher education. We are pleased to offer guidance for students with disabilities around college planning, including how to pay for college, dual enrollment (high school and college), college-focused transition goals, assistance with the application process and so much more. Click here for a recorded session on this topic.

  • We have had many requests to offer this session again that was originally presented on 1/6/21. Dr. Tarin Santamaria, licensed pediatric psychologist with the Down Syndrome Center of Western PA (DSC) will be speaking on the topic "Positive Behavioral Interventions." She will also share strategies and interventions regarding challenging behaviors. Click here for the recorded session.

  • World Down Syndrome Day Toolkits - Held on February 24, 2021

    As World Down Syndrome Day is coming up in March, DSAP wants to help you advocated for acceptance and inclusion at your child's school. In partnering with Common Ground Society, their mission is to educate and empower communities to be more compassionate, accepting, and inclusive of people with disabilities. Our speaker was Larkin O'Leary, who is the founder of CGS, educator, and fellow Mom in our Ds community. Because of it being a copyrighted program, please email us at info@dsapgh.orgto request to view the recording.

  • Dr. Tarin Santamaria, licensed psychologist with the Down Syndrome Center of Western PA (DSC) will be presenting some potty training strategies. Dr. Santamaria works directly with the pediatric patients and has guided families through this process. In her talk, Dr. Santamaria will offer some specialized guidance needed for you and your child with Down syndrome to be successful. Click here for the recorded session. Also, the book she references is Potty Time for Kids with Down Syndrome.

  • With many concerns related to COVID-19 and Down syndrome, we have asked our local experts to host a town hall with our community to educate and answer any burning questions. Dr. Kishore Vellody, Medical Director of the Down Syndrome Center of Western PA, Dr. Andrew Nowalk, Clinical Director in the Division of Infectious Diseases in the Department of Pediatrics at UPMC Children's Hospital, and Dr. Megan Freeman, Infectious Disease Pediatrician and regional COVID expert will host. The recorded audio has been published on the Down Syndrome Center of Western PA's podcast at this link.

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