If you are thinking about submitting a proposal to the Milestones National Autism Conference, don’t hesitate! I attended the Milestones Conference for the first time in 2013 and had the honor of hosting a workshop on behalf of the Academic Support Center (ASC) at Notre Dame College. This speaking engagement not only allowed me to share my experience and recommendations for helping students on the spectrum transition from college to career, but provided me the opportunity to connect with other professionals and educational resources. I haven’t missed a conference since and my colleagues and I continue to attend and submit proposals each year.
Whether you are speaking or attending, this conference has much to offer. I encourage my colleagues, students and their families to attend. The Milestones Conference offers attendees access to current, evidence-based content and the opportunity to interact with professionals, family members and individuals with ASD. This wide range of attendees and presenters allows for a variety of information and perspective sharing. I always make sure to attend at least one workshop that is hosted by a panel of individuals with ASD. Who better to teach me on how best to support my students than straight from the source!
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Couldn’t come to the conference? No worries, we’ll fill you in. Four of Milestones’ own presented at the conference this year on a variety of topics:
Milestones Administrative Assistant and self-advocate Molly D. Dann, presented two workshops, one with the Cuyahoga County’s Good Life Ambassadors program where safety in the community was discussed, and another sensory-focused workshop with two other self-advocates wherein panelists shared their personal experiences coping with sensory issues.
Beth Thompson, Program Director, did a conversational session with Carl Brass, Executive Director of Monarch LifeWorks, on how to make ethical decisions when working with adults on the autism spectrum. They discussed when how federal rulings like the Olmstead Act impact providers when weighing decisions about protecting the adults they serve and letting them have their own autonomy in decision-making.
Milestones Early Intervention/School Age Coordinator Nathan Morgan did a total of three workshops! He started the conference out with a session sharing tips and suggestions for families to follow after receiving a new diagnosis of autism – Nathan reviewed common evidence-based therapies, how to access them, and how to work with school districts. Nathan then served as a moderator on the Straight from the Source: Autism at Work panel, where he led a discussion with four other adults with ASD about their path to employment. Nathan and Molly then closed the conference with another staff advocate and Milestones volunteer, Grace Blatt, where they shared their practical strategies for dealing with common sensory issues.
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Speech-language pathologist Nicole Gerami has served children in public schools, clinical settings and private practice for more than two decades. A Milestones 2017 honoree of the Community Innovator Award, Nicole is the founder of Friendship in Teams (FIT™), a groundbreaking program for children with autism. In its 10th year, FIT is Northeast Ohio’s only social skills program where children learn valuable social thinking, conversation and self-regulation tools in a fun, movement-based environment. FIT has branched out to include a Cleveland east and west side operation, as well as a Middle Tennessee branch. Together, these programs serve hundreds of children with autism and other disabilities.
Nicole is also founder and owner of Nicole Gerami, LLC, where she and her staff treat children with autism in individual and small group therapy. She is a member of the adjunct faculty in the Department of Communication Sciences at Case Western Reserve University and Cleveland State University where she trains graduate students in communication sciences so that they can learn her methodologies and help children on the autism spectrum.
Fully licensed by both the Ohio Board of Speech Pathology and Audiology and the Ohio Department of Education, Gerami is also a certified member of the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) and a frequent lecturer for the Ohio Speech-Language-Hearing Association, Milestones, Northern Speech Services, and the University Hospitals of Zürich in Switzerland.
Gerami is in the process of publishing her next book in Switzerland about helping children with autism learn to engage in conversation and narratives.
How do you feel your efforts have impacted the autism and special needs community?
I have dedicated my career to helping children on the autism spectrum. Through my publications in the US and Switzerland, lectures, and the development of both my private practice and the FIT Program, I have created a broad range of therapy services for children with autism. This has allowed me to reach approximately 200 children and families per week. My passion for helping children to communicate effectively and to maximize their ability to improve their social skills has spurred my creativity in designing new and exciting programs where children can thrive among their peers.
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