Subscribe to stay informed of xMinds events, opportunities for advocacy, relevant news articles, and regional programs, lectures, and workshops to help parents and educators improve the educational experiences of students on the autism spectrum.

"... the most important considerations in devising educational programs for children with autistic spectrum disorders have to do with recognition of the autism spectrum as a whole, with the concomitant implications for social, communicative, and behavioral development and learning, and with the understanding of the strengths and weaknesses of the individual child across areas of development."
—Educating Children with Autism2001

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Subscribe to stay informed of xMinds events, opportunities for advocacy, relevant news articles, and regional programs, lectures, and workshops to help parents and educators improve the educational experiences of students on the autism spectrum.

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"... the most important considerations in devising educational programs for children with autistic spectrum disorders have to do with recognition of the autism spectrum as a whole, with the concomitant implications for social, communicative, and behavioral development and learning, and with the understanding of the strengths and weaknesses of the individual child across areas of development."
—Educating Children with Autism2001

Speaker Events

Fall 2014 - Spring 2015

Wednesday, September 17, 2014
Organize and Connect for Success
Speakers: xMinds Board Members

Join xMinds’ president, Staci Daddona, and vice president, Monica Martinez, for a presentation on organizing your child’s educational records. Handouts will be available with contact information for key offices and administrators within Montgomery County Public Schools, as well as forms for you to use to summarize your child’s school information and to create communication and discipline journals.

Research has shown that the best way to beat stress is to share your feelings with someone in the same situation. There will be plenty of time after the presentation to connect with other parents of children on the spectrum in all grades. Bring your concerns and hear how others have helped their children transition to a new teacher or new school. 

Finally, the tables will be stocked with information from our professional members about their services and upcoming programs and workshops. We look forward to hearing your ideas for speaker meeting topics and social events. This meeting is free and open to the public.
Download handouts from this presentation

Download MCPS Administrator and Staff Contact Information

Thursday, October 2, 2014
Helping Students with Written Expression
Speakers: Esther Goetz, M.A., CCC/SLP, and Katherine Hartley, The Katherine Thomas School

Why is the writing process such a struggle for many children on the autism spectrum? These students have a lot to say, but struggle to get their ideas on paper. This presentation will explain how writing demands impact children on the spectrum and how parents and teachers can help. An overview of a creative writing strategy that has been used in the third and fourth grade classroom at The Katherine Thomas School will be presented with suggestions that parents can try at home.

Download PowerPoint handout from this lecture
Download handout from Dr. Janet Sturm's lecture

Esther Goetz has her Masters degree in Speech-Language Pathology from Hunter College in New York City. She has been a practicing clinician in New York and Maryland since 1995, specializing in work with children on the autism spectrum and children with learning disabilities. She is currently beginning her tenth year as the Senior Speech-Language Pathologist for the Lower and Middle School at The Katherine Thomas School in Rockville, Maryland.

Katherine Hartley has been working with children with special needs for more than ten years. She is finishing her Masters degree from Johns Hopkins in Special Education and is a certified special education teacher in grades K–8 through the state of Maryland. She is currently beginning her eighth year teaching third and fourth grades at The Katherine Thomas School in Rockville, Maryland.


Tuesday, October 14, 2014
Technology Tools to Enhance Independence and Learning
Speaker: Dr. Katharina Boser, Ph.D.

This presentation will focus on technology to help students with “output,” including verbal and written communication, expression, and executive functioning/organization, as well as “input,” or comprehension. The best technology tools for helping students navigate social environments will also be reviewed, as well as behavior management and tracking technologies to aid both students and educators. The presentation will address student needs across the spectrum, from nonverbal with/without a cognitive disability to highly verbal students with average or above average abilities.

The discussion of technology tools will be framed in a manner similar to the book Technology Tools for Students with Autism, co-edited by the presenter, using Universal Design for Learning (UDL) as a way to understand best practices for teaching and learning. Areas that will be highlighted include social and emotion regulation, data collection and behavior management tools, language and communication, and reading and writing. An extensive set of online resources and video demonstrations of the technologies will be provided.

Download PowerPoint handout from this lecture
Download resource list from this lecture

Katharina Boser received her Ph.D. from Cornell University in developmental and cognitive psychology. She completed a postdoctorate at the University of Maryland studying language rehabilitation using computing technologies for patients with aphasia. In 2000, she joined the research faculty at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Cognitive Neurology where she studied language/attention training and number/visual cognition in children with autism until 2005. She has conducted research on social robots and usability research for developing teaching software for use with children with autism and other cognitive and/or learning issues with a technology company called Anthrotronix, in Silver Spring.

Dr. Boser was a board member and then Co-Chair of the Innovative Technologies for Autism Initiative for Autism Speaks until 2011. She is a board member of the Atlantic Seaboard Dyslexia Education Center (ASDEC) in Rockville, Maryland. She is the President of Individual Differences in Learning, Inc. (IDL), an educational non-profit in Maryland providing professional development to teachers and parents regarding brain-based teaching techniques and innovative technologies for students with a range of cognitive impairments, including autism and twice exceptionality (2E). In 2009, she produced a set of videos and educational materials for teachers about the strengths and weaknesses of 2E students, called “Walking the Path with your 2E Student.” She presents at national and international conferences on autism technology integration, 2E kids and technology education research, advocates for Universal Design for Learning (UDL) and co-edited the book, Technology Tools for Students with Autism, published by Brookes Publishing in 2013. In 2011, she joined the faculty of the Glenelg Country School in Ellicott City, Maryland as a Computer Science Teacher and Technology Coordinator. She is a Soroban (Japanese abacus) instructor, Lego First Robotics team coach, 3D printing enthusiast, and is involved in the “maker” movement.


Thursday, November 13; 7:00–9:00 p.m.
Safeguarding Your Child's Experience on the Internet

Speakers: Dr. Jamell White, Ph.D., and Andrew McGahan, JSSA

This session will provide tips and tools for a safer and more supportive online experience for your child, teen, or young adult on the autism spectrum. Topics covered will include how technology impacts your child’s social and emotional development; how to protect your child against the dangers of the Internet, social media, cyber bullying, and video gaming; and how to safeguard your child’s persona and experience.

Download PowerPoint handout from this lecture

Dr. Jamell White is a therapist and care coordinator for adults and children with developmental disabilities. She oversees JSSA’s Center for Autism Through the Lifespan, is a collaborative divorce child specialist, and specializes in social skills therapy groups for children with autism spectrum disorders. Ms. White has a bachelor’s degree in psychology from the University of Maryland, a master’s degree in social work from The Catholic University of America, a master’s degree in special education from Johns Hopkins University, and a doctorate from the University of Maryland. Ms. White is a Clinical Assistant Professor of Psychiatry (child and adolescent) with Georgetown University School of Medicine.

Andrew McGahan specializes in working with children and adolescents, foster care and adoption programs, family therapy, and anger management. His areas of expertise are ADHD, bullying, depression and anxiety in children and adults, and Asperger’s syndrome/autism spectrum disorders. Prior to arriving at JSSA in 2004, Mr. McGahan worked in a variety of social service environments, including Gila River Indian Reservation, an after-school outreach program, a nonprofit agency that provides individual, family, couples, and group therapies, and an alternative high school for educationally disabled and behaviorally challenged students. Mr. McGahan holds a master’s degree in social work from Howard University.


Thursday, December 11, 2014
Effective Collaboration and Dispute Resolution 
Speakers: Brian Gruber, Esq., and Ashley Van Cleef, Esq.

How can parents advocate for their children with special needs without adversely affecting their relationship with school staff? What are the keys to effective parent-teacher collaboration? How can disagreements between parents and school staff be resolved to ensure an appropriate education for the student? This presentation will explain informal and formal ways for parents to work collaboratively with educators and resolve disagreements. The session will offer insight into how formal disputes are handled within Montgomery County Public Schools, and how to build relationships with school staff. Both the parent and school-system perspectives will be discussed.

Brian K. Gruber, Esq. is a lawyer in private practice, representing the parents of students with disabilities and learning differences. Mr. Gruber has more than 17 years of experience navigating the IEP process and working collaboratively with school systems to achieve results for his clients. Mr. Gruber regularly participates in IEP meetings, and typically attends over 100 IEP meetings each year. Mr. Gruber is a frequent speaker on the legal rights and advocacy for students with disabilities. Mr. Gruber is a member of the bar of the United States Supreme Court, and has litigated special education cases at the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals, the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, and the federal courts for Maryland and the District of Columbia.

Ashley VanCleef, Esq. supervises the Equity Assurance and Compliance Unit (EACU) of the Montgomery County Public Schools, monitoring and supporting compliance with the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA 2004), which includes the oversight of IDEA dispute resolution mechanisms. Ms. VanCleef started her career as a special education teacher before serving as a school and state level administrator and school attorney. In her current role as supervisor, she focuses the work of the department on creating collaborative solutions for school staff and families with a student-centered focus. Ms. VanCleef also provides training for staff throughout MCPS on federal and state legal requirements. In addition, she is an adjunct faculty member of Morgan State University where she teaches Legal Aspects of Educational Administration and is a frequent guest lecturer for other colleges. Ms. VanCleef serves on the Mental Health Management Authority Board of Directors for Frederick County and previously served on the Commission on Disabilities for Frederick County.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015
Sensory Processing and the Autistic Student
Speakers: Julie Schade, MA, OTR/L and Colette Silver, MS, OTR/L; ITS-Developmental Therapy Services
How do sensory processing issues affect learning in students on the autism spectrum? What sensory obstacles does the school setting present to autistic learners and what accommodations can help children overcome these obstacles. How can a child’s sensory needs be addressed in his or her IEP? As children age, what sensory strategies can they use that don’t call undue attention to their specific challenges?

Download handouts for this presentation

Julia (Julie) Schade, MA, OTR/L is a pediatric occupational therapist with over 10 years of experience meeting the Occupational Therapy needs of various children and their families in a variety of settings; including private practice, early intervention, and school-based programs. She received her undergraduate degree in psychology and education from Boston College in 1995 and a master of arts in Occupational Therapy from New York University in 1999. As both an occupational therapist and the mother of two young boys, Julie knows firsthand the challenges of raising children and navigating the complex world of child growth and development. She is certified in administering the Sensory Integration and Praxis Tests (SIPT) and is trained in Therapeutic Listening. In addition, she has taken extensive steps towards a continuation of her education through relevant coursework in sensory processing, including The MORE Program, Sensory Defensiveness and the Wilbarger Therapressure program, The Alert Program, Assessment and Treatment for Praxis, and Visual/Vestibular Assessment and Treatment. She has additional training in Social Thinking.

Colette Yglesias-Silver, MS, OTR/L received her BFA in Dance from The Juilliard School in 1975 and her Occupational Therapy Degree from Shenandoah University In 2001. She has worked for the public school system in both the elementary and the preschool programs (PEP) and began working at ITS in 2006. Colette is certified in Sensory Integration Theory and Treatment, The Integrated Listening Systems (iLS), Therapeutic Listening, The Listening Program (TLP) and is also certified to Administer the Sensory Integration and Praxis Tests (SIPT). Colette's advanced training includes the Wilbarger Protocol, the SOS Approach to Feeding, Managing Visual Deficits, the Astronaut Training, and work toward Masgutova Neuro Sensory Motor Reflex Integration (MNRI) certification. Colette focuses on the assessment and treatment of preschool and school age children with a variety of developmental issues including global developmental delay, autism spectrum disorders, learning disabilities, sensory regulation and processing disorders, visual and fine/gross motor difficulties. Colette traveled to Kuwait several times last year to lecture and teach Sensory Integration to therapists and special educators.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Math Strategies for Students on the Autism Spectrum
Speaker: Jean Hickey, M.Ed.
This presentation will focus on math skills that are a part of the MCPS curriculum and will help parents to bridge the gap between what is being taught in class, what is identified in the Common Core, and what your child needs to understand right now in order to move forward. Specific strategies for translating the requirements of Curriculum 2.0 into something students on the autism spectrum can understand will be provided. 

Jean Hickey, M.Ed., has worked with children ages 3–21 with significant learning needs for more than 25 years. Her experience includes the range of academic skills in addition to community, vocational, and life skills instruction. Jean develops a hands-on, fun and individualized approach for each child and provides parents with information and skills to support their child. In addition to individual instruction and parent support, Jean also consults with team members and coordinates the focus of support among school-based and private therapists and teachers. She received her Bachelors degree from Boston College with a focus on low-incidence disabilities and a minor in Speech Therapy. She received her Masters degree in Special Education from the University of Maryland. Jean has shared her skills in classrooms in England, Morocco, and Botswana, and has spoken on reading and math instruction for children with special needs at the Fragile X International Conference and the Learning Disabilities Association of Montgomery County.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Public Safety for Autistic Children and Youth
Speaker: Scott Campbell, Board Member, Parents of Autistic Children of Northern Virginia (POAC)
Download a flyer
People with developmental disabilities such as autism are up to seven times more likely to come into contact with law enforcement than the general population. Autistic children and youth may not respond well in emergencies or be able to communicate important information (even if they are verbal). Due to stress, they may not respond to commands, or they may be perceived as suspicious or a threat because of their unusual actions. Unfortunately, their interactions with law enforcement can have tragic consequences, as we’ve read in the media about the cases of Ethan Saylor in Maryland and Neli Latson in Virginia.

Since the vast majority of first responders and law enforcement officers receive little to no training in the characteristics and best practices for individuals with autism, it’s imperative that parents are proactive in using strategies that can help minimize the risk that their child will be a victim of bullying/crime or have negative interactions with law enforcement. This presentation will inform parents and other community members of essential strategies and resources to keep children and youth on the spectrum safe. 

Scott Campbell is the vice president of POAC (Parents of Autistic Children) in Northern Virginia, and the proud father of a boy with autism. He has conducted hundreds of trainings for first responders and law enforcement officers across the United States and presentations for parents.


Improving the educational experiences and outcomes of students on the autism spectrum in grades K-12

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