Child advocates ask presidential candidates: What about kids?

Child group continues election year campaign of awareness, advocacy for kids

WASHINGTON – Voices for America’s Children, the nation’s largest network of multi-issue child advocacy organizations, asked answers from the 2012 candidates and their parties on pressing issues facing American children.

“More than one in five American children lives in poverty,” said Bill Bentley, president and CEO of Voices for America’s Children. “Now is the key time to get answers from the 2012 candidates on how they’ll work to give these children a fair shot.”

Voices for America’s Children (Voices) sent letters to Democratic candidate President Barack Obama and Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney urging them to declare a clearer stance on child and family issues and to formally seek the advice of child advocates. Specifically, Voices recommended the following actions:

  • Establish a child policy committee within your campaign;
  • Present a children’s platform which offers your vision as president and describes the federal government’s role to ensure child health, safety, early learning and development, educational success, family economic security, equal opportunity, and nurturing and growth;
  • Advocate for a portion of one of the presidential debates to be devoted to addressing child and family policy and equipping the next generation to lead the United States and the world.

Voices also wrote to each party’s platform committee, asking that party platforms review the child advocacy group’s latest report, Securing America’s Future: Children and the 2012 Election, and consider the federal policy questions that have so far gone unanswered.

“Children are 24 percent of the population and 100 percent of our future,” said Charlie Bruner, executive director of the Child & Family Policy Center, Voices’ member in Iowa. “Yet only a tiny fraction of our national political debate addresses children’s issues.”

Only 2 percent of the 2012 presidential primary debates were about children, according to a Voices report released earlier this year. The report found that out of the more than 1,000 questions asked, only 17 pertained to children’s issues. Child welfare, abuse, safety, health access, early education and other issues were all but ignored, the authors found.

“On the campaign trail, the candidates have kissed many babies, yet given few concrete details about how their policies will benefit children,” said Roy Miller, president and founder of The Children’s Campaign, Voices’ Florida member. “Child advocates this year are leading the charge to get the parties and the media talking about issues like child health, poverty and safety.”

“Prosperity for our country is meaningless unless we create opportunity for all children to succeed, regardless of race or income,” said Eileen Garcia, chief executive officer of Voices member Texans Care for Children. “Yet the presidential candidates make little mention of the ways to close gaps and raise the bar for all children. We’re calling on the candidates to establish child policy committees, seek the guidance of child experts, and work to improve outcomes for all children.”

Voices’ nationwide 2012 campaign for kids has included congressional and gubernatorial candidate forums focused on children’s issues in Georgia and New Hampshire, respectively; launch of the initiatives “Vote for Kids New York” and “Make Kids Matter” in Pennsylvania; op-ed about importance of electing pro-child candidates published in The Salt Lake Tribune; and election advocacy toolkits developed in Arizona, Colorado, Illinois, Ohio, Washington, Wisconsin and many other states.

As the nation’s largest network of multi-issue child advocacy organizations, Voices for America’s Children (Voices) has been on the forefront of every major child policy victory for the past quarter-century. With 62 members nationwide, Voices speaks up for kids, and mobilizes and advocates for public policies to improve the lives of all children, especially those most vulnerable, throughout the United States. Visit us at Voices is a founding member of the Children’s Leadership Council, a coalition of more than 50 leading national policy and advocacy organizations.

For Immediate Release: Contact: Roberta Heine,, (202) 380-1781
August 23, 2012 Casey Labrack,, (202) 380-1784

ChildWise Board member, Schylar Canfield participates in annual CASA awards

Annual CASA Awards Presented at CAN Conference

CASA of Montana recently recognized the people who work for abused and neglected children in district courts around the state. At the annual Prevent Child Abuse and Neglect Conference in Helena, Supreme Court Justice Jim Rice presented awards to the CASA Judge, Director, Volunteer Advocate of the Year, and Child Protection Services Worker for 2012.

Judge Stewart Stadler of the 11th Judicial District was named as the CASA Judge of the Year for service on behalf of children, volunteers and the Flathead CASA programs. Judges appoint CASA volunteers to advocate for the best interest of the child, often as a Guardian ad Litem. Nominated by CASA volunteer and past board president Joyce Funda, Judge Stadler started the Accountability Court in the Flathead. He had a vision of creating an option within the traditional adversarial system for families in crisis. No money has been allocated for this court and it continues to operate as an integral part of the dependent/neglect case process with no additional funding. Families are often reunified sooner or parents come to realize that relinquishment is best for the child. Ms. Funda notes that Judge Stadler has been directly responsible for changing the institutional culture to reflect the critical importance of the welfare of the children.

CASA of Missoula Executive Director LaNette Diaz with CASA of Montana Board President Schylar Canfield and Executive Director Ellen Bush

Justice Rice honored Executive Director LaNette Diaz of the Missoula CASA Program in as the CASA Director of the Year. LaNette has served three years as executive director of CASA of Missoula. Volunteer numbers have increased from 27 to 70 active volunteers. She hired an outside consultant to complete an organizational assessment of how to improve CASA. She also began a fundraiser called Mad Mudder that raised about $13,000 last year. LaNette’s team-building skills, her extraordinary intellect, and her “can do” attitude were noted by her employees and colleagues. Judge John Larson wrote, “Lanette has demonstrated a commitment to consistent, fair, and focused decisions to help our local CASA program. Her positive attitude and collegial manner of approaching difficult issues is one that I wish could be easily replicated.”

Volunteer of the Year Gloria Trevizo of Yellowstone CASA with CASA of Montana Board President Schylar Canfield and Executive Director Ellen Bush

The next CASA award was given to Volunteer of the Year Gloria Trevizo of Yellowstone CASA. Gloria has advocated for 15 children in the last 3½ years in Yellowstone county. She goes above and beyond and approaches everything in her life with the same dedication and determination. Program coordinator Melissa La Roque writes that Gloria has helped train her in the CASA system. She was a great mentor to some of the new class members and a model volunteer. She made sure that the children in her case were safe and in the same foster home, plus she helped to get services for the foster children. She encouraged their involvement in extracurricular activities and never gave up on the mother in the case. She met with the teen and encouraged her to the right things. Gloria’s award was also featured in the Billings Gazette.

Child Protection Specialist of the Year Jacqui Poe with CASA of Montana Board President Schylar Canfield and Executive Director Ellen Bush

Finally, we have a new award this year. Child Protection Specialist of the Year Jacqui Poe was nominated by CASA director Ann Schilling of 6th Judicial District CASA in Livingston. Ann said of Jacqui, “She is the most dedicated, organized, compassionate, and straightforward CPS worker. You always know exactly where she stands on an issue while at the same time she is very willing to explore different ideas on how to be best serve a child’s needs.” Jacqui has worked for eight years in Livingston with many CASA volunteers that are all impressed by how she handles her cases.

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ChildWise Institute Board member, Dr. Robert Anda is impacting children and families all across the nation!

States moving ahead on Adverse Childhood Experiences surveys, meetings, practices

Dr. Robert Anda explaining life to “12-year-olds” at
Iowa’s first ACEs Summit in Des Moines.

Last week, nearly 800 adults — human services professionals, educators, judges, business leaders, philanthropists, and policy makers – sitting in a room in Des Moines, Iowa, imagined they were 12 years old. At the request of the speaker, half stood up. These kids are regular smokers, the speaker, Dr. Robert Anda, told the audience. All of those of you who are seated do not smoke, he explained. The half that are standing also have high ACE scores (ACE = adverse childhood experiences). That means that they have experienced or are living with four or more of the following:

  • sexual, physical or verbal abuse;
  • physical or emotional neglect;
  • a parent who is diagnosed mentally ill or who is addicted to alcohol or another drug;
  • a mother who is regularly beaten or verbally abused;
  • a family member who is in prison;
  • the loss of a parent through abandonment or divorce.

So, at the very least, these kids, the smokers, are dealing with the effects of those adverse childhood experiences — anxiety, depression, and difficulty concentrating, he explained. Nicotine makes those effects disappear….for a little while. And when they come back, what makes them go away again? Another cigarette.

Anda asked the people who were sitting to give those who were standing a round of applause for “figuring out a biochemical coping strategy”.

The lesson: Instead of asking a smoker, or someone who’s morbidly obese, or an alcoholic, or a workaholic — all who have figured out their own strategies to relieve depression or anxiety — “What’s wrong with you?”, a more accurate question is “What happened to you?”

This was Iowa’s first ACEs Summit, where community leaders from around the state learned about research on the impact of toxic stress on early brain structure and its lifelong impact on health outcomes. Anda, co-founder of the CDC’s Adverse Childhood Experiences Study, presented the study’s findings that link ACEs with depression, anxiety, suicide, chronic diseases and disabilities that affect people in their workplaces, homes, schools and communities every day.

(l to r) Dr. Mariannette Miller-Meeks, director of
the Iowa Department of Public Health; Laura Porter,
director of the Washington State Family Policy Council;
and Dr. Robert Anda, co-founder of the CDC’s Adverse
Childhood Experiences Study

The leaders also obtained some advice on how to implement ACE concepts from Laura Porter, director of the Washington Family Policy Council. She described how Washington communities have integrated ACE concepts over the last 10 years into children’s crisis nurseries, teen centers, public health departments, police departments, juvenile justice, and schools. She invited Iowans “to rethink their mental models on how to solve child and family problems, but also social problems like child abuse, domestic violence, and substance abuse.”

Sonni Vierling, state coordinator of the 1st Five Healthy Mental Development Initiative, announced that Iowa is planning on joining 18 other states that, since 2009, completed ACE Surveys through their Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS). According to the CDC, the BRFSS is the world’s largest state-based telephone health survey. It has been tracking health conditions and risk behaviors since 1984. Surveys are being done every month in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and Guam. The BRFSS is how we know our smoking rates have declined over the last 20 years, while our obesity rates have skyrocketed.

After Iowa’s ACE survey is completed, Anda and Dr. David Brown, an epidemiologist who worked on the CDC’s ACE Study, will be doing the analysis, which Vierling anticipates being published next year.

“The experience of other states tells us that Iowa-specific ACEs data will offer a powerful new way to structure state and local planning around human-service systems, public health campaigns and public policy,” she said.

Of the 18 states that have completed surveys, at least four are implementing ACE concepts. These include Maine, Vermont, Washington and Wisconsin. This summer, I’ll be featuring posts about individual states’ activities and status based on Iowa’s State ACE Response Project, as well as interviews with representatives from states that have completed ACE surveys, but have yet to analyze the data. Even though New York, Illinois, Arizona and Iowa haven’t done ACE surveys, they have efforts underway to educate people about ACEs and projects that implement ACEs.

Wisconsin, which did an Adverse Childhood Experience Survey in 2010 and published its analysis earlier this year, is beginning to carry out the recommendations in its report, including creating a position for a “trauma & adverse childhood experiences coordinator”.

In 2009, BRFSS ACE surveys were done in five states — Arkansas, Louisiana, New Mexico, Tennessee and Washington. The Wisconsin report compared its results with those five states and the CDC’s ACE Study, which is labeled “Kaiser” in these charts, because the study’s participants were members of the Kaiser Permanente health maintenance organization in San Diego, CA.

The states’ ACE survey results are fairly comparable. They are notably different from the CDC’s ACE Study involving Kaiser members in the sexual and verbal abuse categories. That may be because the survey that Kaiser members did was a 200-question survey on paper that people filled out at home, while the BRFSS state ACE surveys are telephone surveys in which people talk with a person who asks them several questions.

For more details about the Wisconsin ACE survey, you can download the report: WisconsinACEs. It’s well written, very interesting, with colorful charts and graphs, and features stories of individuals who experienced ACEs when they were children, and describes how those experiences affected their lives.

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ChildWise helping to bring attention to at-risk youth

May 16, 2012 12:00 am – By PEGGY O’NEILL Independent Record

At-risk youths have a new team on their side. The Helena-based ChildWise Institute is a nonprofit organization that works to improve the lives of vulnerable children through education, awareness and advocacy.

The ChildWise Institute was created by Intermountain but operates with its own staff and board of directors. The organization helps children by providing parents, policy makers and healthcare and education professionals tools they can use to help better the lives of those in their care.

ChildWise recently presented a conference in Helena, “Structural Family Therapy,” which drew more than 80 attendees from around Montana. And in September, ChildWise will hold a conference on autism and Asperger’s disorder, which will feature speakers Patricia Wright, the national director of Autsim Services for Easter Seals, and Ellen Notbohm, author of “Ten Things Every Child with Autism Wishes You Knew.”

According to Todd Garrison, the executive director of ChildWise, Intermountain was looking for a way to increase awareness of at-risk youth and tools and training available to people who care for them.

“Relational poverty is a nationwide epidemic,” Garrison said. “There is a lack of leadership to address it. We’re hoping to be the catalyst of change. We’re choreographing what needs to be done.”

Garrison said that ChildWise would like to pull together a model of best practices and treatment for at-risk youth for Montana that could eventually be used nationwide.

“Mental and physical health issues have no borders,” Garrison said. “ChildWise has no borders either.”

In addition to Garrison, the ChildWise staff includes Morgan Adams, who manages the permanency program, which is a project focused on reducing the disruptions foster and adoptive children experience when placed with caregivers. The program provides training curriculum and support for foster and adoptive parents to increase the probability of permanent placement of a child.

Beginning this fall, an online course through the University of Montana will be offered called relational development. The course will cover strategies that help children who, because of early childhood experiences, find it difficult to connect with others.

Also part of the small ChildWise staff is Cathy Huntley, who handles communication and conference organization.

“You don’t need a huge staff to do what we want to do,” Garrison said. “It just takes the right people.”

The Dark Knight Rampage

by Elizabeth Kohlstaedt, Ph.D.

It is impossible to know what caused the young, intelligent man, to hoard weapons, die his hair red and storm into a movie theater killing others. By accounts, his back ground was upper middle class with connected parents and fine schooling and high intellect. We hear that he was a bit of a loner, and that he had an odd voice on his answering machine.

We do know a few things: intelligence doesn’t equate to mental health. We are often shocked when someone who is bright and creative is also depressed or anxious or deviant. We also know that odd or destructive behavior does not always mean mental illness. Sexual predators like Jerry Sandusky can have dual lives – one part normal philanthropist, another part compulsions that harm in others while convincing himself that he loves those young boys and. This isn’t mental illness; it is self-deception.

We are all capable of convincing ourselves that destructive behavior is justified. We can all have dark nights of the soul. We are all capable of harboring and nurturing dangerous fantasies that aggrandize ourselves and convince ourselves of the vileness of others. These, after all, are the dynamics of war.

So what keeps most of us from mass murder or serial molestation of others? It is the foundation of relationship with others who know us completely, the bad and the good. It is keeping all of ourselves out in relationship and not hiding the dark corners from ourselves or others. It is mindfulness that keeps us aware of our own pain and can reach out to the pain of others. It is true, honest relationships, even when those relationships are painful and disappointing that keep us from living in the dark night of our own souls.

As parents, grandparents, teachers, therapists, physicians, nurses, social workers, and judges… we need to be child-wise. Being child-wise is bringing the wisdom of knowing what is true and what is right, coupled with a true understanding of the need for children to have healthy relationships.

In these days of instant electronic communication, sound bites and television shows that revel in the humiliation of others, it is difficult to remember how to relate to other human beings. As parents, we have to be present for our children and guide them in meaningful relationships; help them see a balance when they are hurt; be living models of succeeding through humility and hard work, not through demonizing those who don’t agree with us or who choose a different path. As parents, we need to guide our children in meaningful relationships that will allow them to become successful adults.

In the upcoming weeks it will be interesting to understand the nature of this young man’s relationships. Who knew him? Who avoided him? Who stayed in connection with him? This will tell us as much as any diagnosis or any second guessing about his motivations.

I wonder, were other people ChildWise with him?


Elizabeth Kohlstaedt, Ph.D., is a licensed psychologist and has been the clinical director of Intermountain for over 21 years. She has served as adjunct faculty at Syracuse University, and has trained medical interns from Upstate New York Medical Center, and psychology, social work, and counseling interns from across Montana. Dr. Kohlstaedt has appeared on Prime Time Live, National Public Radio, and in the Los Angeles Times to discuss attachment disorders and has trained staff, parents, and professionals across Montana.Licensed Psychologist, Montana and New York.

Why They Do What They Do 2012 – TRAINING COMPLETED.

A ChildWise Community Learning Seminar

Distressed youth present a powerful repertoire of emotional and behavioral difficulties. They are often misunderstood. “Why They Do What They Do” and “Sustaining Empathy”, with featured speakers Elizabeth Kohlstaedt, Ph.D. Clinical Director, and Jim Fitzgerald, M.P.A. Chief Executive Officer of Intermountain, address the early formation of unhealthy patterns and provide principles for education, parenting, and treating these children.

Where: Kalispell, MT Hilton Garden Inn
Time: 9:00 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.
Cost: $75 (see below)

The training registration fee is $75, please add an additional $25 if you wish to claim continuing education credits (Up to 5.5 CEU credits and OPI renewals are available for social workers, therapists, psychologists and educators). For more information contact Cathy Huntley, Conference Coordinator, at 406-457-4816.


Difficulties associated with failure to master significant developmental stages and domains are often associated with insecure attachment and are compounded through childhood and adolescence. Attachment disruptions compromise normal childhood development and give rise to complex emotional and behavioral difficulties in many special needs youth. These special needs youth are often misunderstood, leading to poor assessments, misguided interventions and multiple academic and out-of-home placements that fail.

Participants will understand the interface of attachment and developmental processes. They will also learn the origin and assessment of emotional and behavior difficulties and central issues that must be addressed to foster change and growth.

This presentation will focus on attachment and developmental theory and will address:

  • The developmental origins of emotional and behavioral difficulties in children.
  • The interface between attachment and developmental processes which give rise to emotional and behavioral difficulties in personality formation.
  • How skewed developmental processes compound and exacerbate emotional and behavioral difficulties across time.
  • A way of seeing children that determines who we can be for them.

If you have any questions, please contact Cathy Huntley, Conference Coordinator, at (406) 457-4816 or e-mail:

Autism & Asperger’s Disorder Fall Conference 2012 – TRAINING COMPLETED

Helping Children by Integrating Strategies for Therapy, Education, Health and Community.

Where: Great Northern Hotel, Helena, MT
Time: Fri. 9:00AM – 4:30PM, Sat. 8:30AM – 4:45PM
Cost: 1 Day: $99 2 Days: $175

Session Schedule

Friday, September 28th

  • 8:15am – 9:15 am Registration
  • 9:15 am – 9:30 am Welcome
  • 9:30 am – 10:30 Ellen Notbohm
  • 10:30 am – 10:45 am Break
  • 10:45 – 12:00 pm Ellen Notbohm
  • 12:00 pm – 1:30 pm Lunch
  • 1:30 pm – 3:00 pm Patricia Wright
  • 3:00 pm – 3:15 pm Break
  • 3:15 pm – 4:30 pm Patricia Wright

Saturday, September 29th  Registration 8:00 – 8:30 am

Breakout Sessions 1, 2, 3  *Each Session repeated three times*

  • Transition into Adulthood 8:30 – 9:30 am / 9:45 – 10:45 am / 11:00 am – 12:00 pm
  • Insurance Providers Q & A 8:30 – 9:30 am / 9:45 – 10:45 am / 11:00 am – 12:00 pm
  • Ellen Notbohm – Roundtable Discussion 8:30 – 9:30 am / 9:45 – 10:45 am / 11:00 am – 12:00 pm

Breakout Sessions 4, 5, 6 *Each Session repeated three times*

  • Nutrition for Cognition 1:15 – 2:15 pm / 2:30 – 3:30 pm / 3:45 pm – 4:45 pm
  • Understanding the School’s Responsibility 1:15 – 2:15 pm / 2:30 – 3:30 pm / 3:45 pm – 4:45 pm
  • Communication Strategies – iPad 1:15 – 2:15 pm / 2:30 – 3:30 pm / 3:45 pm – 4:45 pm

Full Course Description:

This conference is designed to expand understanding and awareness of the Autism Spectrum Disorder and develop competencies for mental health professionals, educators, healthcare providers and parents.

Participants will be able to better understand and treat children diagnosed with symptoms on the Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). Information from multiple stakeholders and experts will be presented from: Montana Autism Education Project; Children’s Mental Health; State of Montana Developmental Disabilities; Helena Industries; Blue Cross Blue Shield of Montana; Disability and Veterans Services UM-Helena College of Technology; State of Montana Vocational Rehabilitation and Montana Office of Commissioner of Securities and Insurance.

Course Objectives:

  • Identifying treatments barriers and successful strategies to work around inhibiting factors.
  • Discuss social and emotional factors affecting children and young adults with Asperger’s and Autism Disorders (ASD).
  • Identify ways to collaborate and integrate services from multiple agencies.
  • Therapeutic strategies and interventions for treating youth and supporting their families.

Who should attend?

Educators, Psychologists, Therapists, Mental Health Professionals, Healthcare Providers, Parents.

Continuing Education:

Up to 11 CEU credits total and OPI renewals are available for social workers, therapists, psychologists, educators, and healthcare providers. (*pending state approval)

Friday September 28th, 2012

About the Speakers

Speaker: Ellen Notbohm,
Award Winning Author & Columnist

Presentation Title: Parent View, Child View: Putting Autism in Perspective

Course Description:

Teaching, raising or relating to a child with autism requires taking the perspective of a person whose thinking architecture, sensory perceptions and communication pathways may be very different from ours. Award-winning author Ellen Notbohm, mother of two sons on the autism/ADHD spectrum, will offer guideposts for facing a child’s autism with a healthy and productive outlook, and share a child’s-eye look at the primary characteristics of autism embodied in her book, Ten Things Every Child with Autism Wishes You Knew. Ellen will debunk misconceptions about autism, identifying common environmental, language and social-emotional challenges/characteristics of autism and how adults can modify their own behavior and environment to better communicate with and teach children with autism. Attendees will also
gain a parent’s perspective on the multi-disciplinary network of therapeutic, educational and social services that parents must navigate and manage on behalf of their child with autism, and learn how professionals and family and community members can provide perspective and emotional support to parents of children with autism.

Objectives (as above)

  • To identify common environmental, language and social-emotional challenges/characteristics of autism in children and how adults can modify their own behavior and environment to better communicate with and teach children with autism.
  • To gain a parent’s perspective on the multi-disciplinary network of therapeutic, educational and social services parents must identify, locate and manage on behalf of their child with autism.
  • To learn how professionals and family and community members can provide perspective and emotional support to parents of children with autism.

Speaker Biography:

Ellen Notbohm is the internationally renowned author of one of the autism community’s most beloved books, Ten Things Every Child with Autism Wishes You Knew, and three other award-winning books, including 1001 Great Ideas for Teaching and Raising Children with Autism (with co-author Veronica Zysk), a Silver Medal winner in the Independent Books Publishers Awards. The mother of sons with autism and ADHD, Ellen’s work has demystified autism for millions of families and professionals. Her books and articles have been translated into 19 languages. Ellen is a long-time columnist for Autism Asperger’s Digest, and a contributor to numerous publications and websites around the world. Ellen has a BS in Speech Communication.

Speaker: Patricia Wright, MPH, MED, PhD
National Director of Autism Services for Easter Seals

Presentation title: Living With Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD)

As the prevalence of ASD continues to rise, the needs of the autism community continues to grow. From the first experience with screening/diagnosis through educational, vocational and services for adults the decisions families and service providers make effect the quality of life of those living with autism. This session will focus on effective services and supports that promote quality life outcomes. Specific strategies will be discussed with the focus on practical strategies that can be implemented to produce meaningful results. Through advocacy, service delivery and collaboration individuals with autism can receive the services and supports they need resulting in a high quality life.

Course Objectives:

  • Participants will be able to name two resources for meta-analyses of evidence-based practices in ASD treatment.
  • Participants will be able to describe specific treatment strategies to promote quality life outcomes for individuals living with ASD.
  • Participants will be able to apply a quality of life perspective to treatment and evaluation of outcomes for their clients with ASD.

Speaker Biography:

Patricia Wright has a passion for education and advocacy and has dedicated her career to ensuring that individuals with autism are fully-included in society. Her personal mission is to offer the support that makes it possible for people with autism lead meaningful, happy and productive lives. As Easter Seals National Director of Autism Services, Wright leads autism programs for Easter Seals, one of the nation’s largest providers of services for individuals with autism across the life span. She is a member of the Organization for Autism Research’s Scientific Council and is currently a serving on the Executive Committee for the Friends of the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities. Patricia Wright earned her PhD, in education from the University of Hawaii in 2006. She also has a master’s of public health from the University of Hawaii, and a master’s degree in special education from San Francisco State University.

Saturday September 29th, 2012

Session 1: Transition into Adulthood:

Agencies represented from: Montana Developmental Disabilities; Helena Industries; Children’s Mental Health; Vocational Rehabilitation; Disability and Veterans Services UM-Helena College of Technology; Ann Garfinkle, PhD, Associate Professor of Special Education, University of Montana.

Course Description:

Identify key indicators to successful transition into adulthood. Identify unique strengths of young adults affected by ASD. This session will provide clear information delineating transition required under IDEA as well as transition possibilities in the community. Parents and professionals will leave this session with contact information of agencies and support persons in the school district and the community.

Course Objectives:

  • Understand social and emotional needs and available resources and services.
  • Learn self advocacy skills for young adults.
  • Learn about Autism waiver eligibility and process.

Session 2: Insurance Providers:

Speaker: Monica Berber, MD
Medical Director, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Montana
Representation from the Montana Office of Commissioner of Securities and Insurance

Course Description:

Health insurance can be an invaluable resource for families with children with ASD to help make the often high-cost and high-frequency treatments for their child more affordable. This session will help provide tools to assist parents and professionals in navigating the complexities of health insurance and public funded medical care. A brief overview of mandates that require state-licensed health insurers to offer or include coverage for certain benefits or services will be discussed.

Course Objectives:

  • Identify practical and supportive ways to receive insurance assistance.
  • Describe covered services and providers for professional and parents.

Speaker Biography:

Dr. Berner began her Family Medicine career in private practice that included obstetrics, pediatrics, and geriatrics. She was also attending physician at the Lewis and Clark Cooperative Health Center where she provided a broad spectrum of inpatient and outpatient care including inpatient and psychiatric services of St. Peter’s Hospital. Dr. Berner received her medical degree from Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, Texas and completed her family residency at Oregon Health Sciences University in Portland, Oregon.

Session 3: Communication Strategies:

Speaker: Barb Sorenson, BA, Secondary Ed, Special Ed
Special Education Teacher, Whitefish High School

Course Description:

Communication is a need area for all children with ASD. The range of need varies with the child however the use of augmented speech via technology is one way to provide support. This communication breakout will provide information from the viewpoint of a child who cannot speak and provide support in all curricular areas to enhance education and all aspects of communication in-between. This session will discuss and demonstrate the full range of applications available to children no matter their level of communication needs. Also, the breakout will provide strategies for teaching the use of the equipment. Teachers and professionals will learn how interactive technology is revolutionizing the way that some students with ASD communicate. This is an interactive presentation on how to enhance individual learning opportunities for children with ASD with the use of the iPad. A variety of strategies for iPad usage will be suggested to help with organizational skills and help to implement the common core standards to prepare students to be college or career ready. Participants will learn how to help children start connecting, communicating and learning across numerous domains with the use of the iPad as a teaching tool. Attendees are encouraged to bring their iPods, iPads, and iPhones.

Course Objectives:

  • Clinicians will be exposed to new technology that will enhance the therapeutic process.
  • Professionals, educators and parents will identify communication nuances that inhibit or enhance understanding.

Speaker Biography:

Barbara Sorenson, is a special education instructor at Whitefish High School, where she teaches vocational life skills and communication skills to students with special needs. She specializes in working with students with autism. In addition to her work in the classroom, Barbara is also an autism consult for the OPI Montana Autism Education Project where she has received specialized training in the field of autism and behavior management, with an emphasis on iPad use. She has a BA in Secondary Education & Special Education and is seeking additional endorsements in Psychology and History.

Session 4: Nutrition:

Speaker: Julia Turner, MMSc, RD, LN
Brain Health Nutrition Expert

Presentation Title: “Nutrition for Cognition”

Course Description:

This workshop will provide participants with an overview of causes and contributing factors in the development of autism from a biochemical perspective, an explanation of the relationship between digestive health and brain function, and an outline of steps to healing through nutrition assessment and intervention.

Course Objectives:

  • Identify potential causes and contributing factors in the development of ASD.
  • Explain the potential negative effects of poor digestive/gut health on brain function.
  • Identify steps to healing through nutrition intervention.
  • Identify autism diets, indications for use, and potential benefits/concerns.

Speaker Biography:

Julia Turner is a registered dietitian and licensed nutritionist with a private practice based in Montana. She consults with clients nationally and internationally to address various health issues affecting all ages through nutrition intervention. She specializes in brain health nutrition, autism, ADHD and related disorders, food allergies/sensitivities and digestive disorders.

Session 5: Understanding the School’s Responsibility:

Speaker: Doug Doty, Masters, Special Ed
Coordinator of Montana Autism Education Project
Montana Office of Public Instruction
(406) 444-6897

Course Description:

The speaker will suggest ways for parents and professionals to collaborate in providing optimal therapeutic services for students.This presentation will review the Individuals with Disabilities in Education Act (IDEA) and the Administrative Rules of Montana. Parents and professionals will be informed of schools requirements providing special education or 504 services.

Course Objectives:

  • Identify the complexities of multiple federal and state regulations including IDEA and Montana Administrative Rules.
  • Review special education requirements for schools.
  • Explore how to successfully advocate for children whether or not special education services are provided.

Speaker Biography:

Doug Doty is the Statewide Coordinator for the Montana Autism Education Project (MAEP) of the Montana Office of Public Instruction. The MAEP has autism specialists and trainers across Montana who provide training and consultation to public schools. Doug has also served as a special education compliance monitor for the Montana Office of Public Instruction (1994-2011), providing technical assistance and training in compliance with state and federal regulations. He has also worked for the Montana Developmental Disabilities Program as a trainer, advocate and compliance officer (1988-1994). He began his career as a behavior specialist and staff trainer at a sheltered workshop for adults with cognitive disabilities and behavioral difficulties. Doug has his Masters in Special Education.

Session 6: Ellen Notbohm – Round Table Discussion (on current & new books)

Speaker: Ellen Notbohm,
Award Winning Author & Columnist

Speaker Biography:

Ellen Notbohm is the internationally renowned author of one of the autism community’s most beloved books, Ten Things Every Child with Autism Wishes You Knew, and three other award-winning books, including 1001 Great Ideas for Teaching and Raising Children with Autism (with co-author Veronica Zysk), a Silver Medal winner in the Independent Books Publishers Awards. The mother of sons with autism and ADHD, Ellen’s work has demystified autism for millions of families and professionals. Her books and articles have been translated into 19 languages. Ellen is a long-time columnist for Autism Asperger’s Digest, and a contributor to numerous publications and websites around the world. Ellen has a BS in Speech Communication.

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