Understanding the Puzzling Pieces of Autism
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2017 ASI Fall Educational Conference – West Des Moines

November 3

Friday, November 3   8:30am

Steve Silberman

Join us at the 2017 ASI Fall Educational Conference featuring keynote speakers Luke Y. Tsai, M.D. and Steve Silberman author of “NeuroTribes: The Legacy of Autism and the Future of Neurodiversity.”

To register online, click here.




8:30am – Welcome and Announcements – Todd Kopelman, Ph.D., Autism Society of Iowa President

8:45am – 10:00am – Follow up Medical Studies of Autism Spectrum Disorders – What does the Comprehensive Review Show and What is the Future Directions of Treatment? Presented by Luke Y. Tsai, M.D.

10:00am – Resource Fair Opens

10:15am – 11:30am – NeuroTribes:  The Legacy of Autism and the Future of Neurodiversity.  A groundbreaking book that upends conventional thinking about autism and suggests a broader model for acceptance, understanding, and full participation in society for people who think differently. Presented by Steve Silberman

11:30am – Noon – Stephen Tsai Award and Hometown Hero Awards

Noon – Lunch provided, including tables for those with Autism and Families of Newly Diagnosed Children and Resource Fair Open.

12:45pm – Book Signing with Steve Silberman

1:00pm – 2:00pm – Breakout Sessions

  1. Autism and Genetics – What does the latest research tell us? – Presented by Jacob Michaelson, Ph.D.
  2. Navigating Iowa’s System of Care: First Steps Following a Diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder – Presented by Peggy Swails, MSW, LMSW
  3. Understanding the New Iowa Autism Insurance Legislation – Presented by Judith Ursitti, CPA

2:00pm – Book Signing with Steve Silberman

2:15pm – Resource Fair Ends

2:15pm – 3:15pm – Breakout Sessions

  1. Sensory Processing and Behaviors in Those with Autism Spectrum Disorders – Presented by Emily Monahan, OTR/L and Lauren Poeppe, OTR/L
  2. How to Develop a Social Skills Program in Any Environment – Presented by Tanager Place

In 2014, the Tanager Place Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) team set forth to develop ‘Social Skills Groups’ programming and opportunities through the agency’s outpatient clinic. Quickly the team realized that as the developed more formal programming, a large ‘wait list’ for Social Skills groups emerged. As the ASD team at Tanager continued to develop and expand the agency’s social skills group offerings, the team additionally developed more informal groups for autistic children on the ‘wait list’ and their siblings. These groups provide opportunities for social learning and social experiences with an emphasis on exploring interests/talents.

This presentation will provide an overview of practical tips, strategies, and ideas for the implementation of social skills learning groups with specific emphasis on the following:

  • Background/Overview – Evidence Based Practice for social skills programming
  • Identify group facilitators
  • Scheduling/format for groups
  • Environmental and visual supports
  • Proactive and Positive Behavioral supports
  • Parent and family training
  • Generalization
  • Resources

3:30 – 4:30 Breakout Sessions

  1. Pros and Cons of non-medical interventions for Autism Spectrum Disorders from a Psychiatrist’s Point of View – Presented by Luke Y. Tsai, M.D.
  2. Sharing our Stories of Living with a Family Member who is Significantly Impacted by Their Autism, Including Self-Injurious and Aggressive Behaviors – Panelists: Erin Enyart, Joe and Elise Joyce, Glenda Koehn, Mary Roberts: Facilitated by Todd Kopelman, Ph.D. BCBA, and Matt O’Brien, Ph.D. BCBA
  3. Understanding the New Iowa Autism Insurance Legislation – Presented by Judith Ursitti, CPA

4:30pm – Conference Concludes

6:30pm – ASI Benefit Auction – Tickets are $10.00 at the door and everyone is welcome. This is a family friendly event with a silent and live auction, along with raffles.



Luke Y. Tsai, M.D.

Luke Y. Tsai, M.D. is Adjunct Professor of Psychiatry, University of Nebraska College of Medicine; Professor Emeritus of Psychiatry and Pediatrics, University of Michigan Medical School; Research Scientist Emeritus of Rackham Graduate School, University of Michigan College of Literature, Science, and the Arts; Visiting Professor, Beijing Medical University, China; Visiting Professor (2009-2011) of Education, Oakland University School of Education and Human Services, Michigan; Diplomate in Psychiatry and Child Psychiatry certified by the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology; Fellow of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry; Editorial Board member of Research in Autism Spectrum Disorder; Editorial Board member of Journal of Mental Health Research in Developmental Disabilities; Guest Editorial Board member of Formosan Medical Journal; Guest Editorial Board member of Journal of Taiwanese Psychiatric Association; American Psychiatry Association DSMIV Contributor (Disorders Usually First Diagnosed During Infancy, Childhood, and Adolescence- Pervasive Developmental Disorder s); American Psychiatry Association DSM-5 Clinical and Public Health Review Committee Peer Reviewer; Former Chief of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry Division at the University of Kansas Medical Center as well as at the University of Michigan Medical Center; Former Founder and Director of Developmental Disorders/Autism Program of University of Kansas Medical Center and University of Michigan Medical Center; Former Co-Chair and current member of Panel of Professional Advisors of Autism Society of America. Dr. Tsai received his medical degree from Taipei Medical University in Taiwan and completed his residency training in general psychiatry and fellowship in child and adolescent psychiatry at the University of Iowa Hospitals. He has held academic and professional appointments at the University of Iowa College of Medicine, the University of Kansas School of Medicine, the University of Michigan Medical School and College of Literature, Science, and the Arts, and Oakland University School of Education and Human Services. Dr. Tsai is a scholar, a researcher, a teacher, a father of a young man with autism, and a friend of individuals with Autism and related disorders. He has received awards and honors for his work with individuals with neuropsychiatric disorders. He has been selected by his professional peers as one of the Best Doctors in America. He is much sought after nationally and internationally as a speaker, consultant and researcher. He is widely published and his publications include more than 93 articles and 46 books author of Taking the Mystery out of Medication in Autism/Asperger Syndromes and Raising our son with Autism – A family’s 40-year journey which has been translated into both the traditional and simplified Chinese editions and published in Taiwan and China. His research interest includes: diagnosis and classification of Pervasive Developmental Disorders/Autism Spectrum Disorder, genetic, neuroimaging, and psychopharmacological studies of developmental disorders including autistic and Asperger disorders.


Steve Silberman

Steve Silberman is an award-winning science writer whose articles have appeared in Wired, the New York Times, the New Yorker, the Financial Times, the Boston Globe, the MIT Technology Review, Nature, Salon, Shambhala Sun, and many other publications. He is the author of NeuroTribes: The Legacy of Autism and the Future of Neurodiversity (Avery 2015), which Oliver Sacks called a “sweeping and penetrating history…presented with a rare sympathy and sensitivity.” The book became a widely-praised bestseller in the United States and the United Kingdom, and won the 2015 Samuel Johnson prize for non-fiction, a California Book Award, and a Books for a Better Life award. It was chosen as one of the Best Books of 2015 by The New York Times, The Economist, The Financial Times, The Boston Globe, The Independent, and many other publications, and is being translated into 13 languages. The feature film rights have been acquired by Paramount Studios and Lorne Michaels. In April 2016, Silberman gave the keynote speech at the United Nations for World Autism Awareness Day. He has given talks on the history of autism at Yale, Harvard, MIT, Oxford, the National Academy of Sciences, Queen Mary University, Apple, Microsoft, Google, the 92nd Street Y, Imperial College London, the MIND Institute at UC Davis, and many other major institutions. His TED talk, “The Forgotten History of Autism,” has been viewed more than a million times and translated into 25 languages. His article “The Placebo Problem” won the 2010 Science Journalism Award for Magazine Writing from the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the Kavli Foundation, and was featured on The Colbert Report. His writing on science, culture, and literature has been collected in a number of major anthologies including The Best American Science Writing of the Year and The Best Business Stories of the Year. Silberman’s Twitter account @stevesilberman made Time magazine’s list of the best Twitter feeds for the year 2011. He is proud to be a member of the PEN American Center.


Jake Michaelson, Ph.D.

Dr. Jake Michaelson is an assistant professor in the department of psychiatry at the University of Iowa. His lab studies the effect of genetic variations on the development in the brain, with specific applications in autism and language impairment. He earned his B.S. and M.S. in biological engineering at Utah State University before earning his PhD in computational biology at the Technische Universität Dresden in Germany in 2010. After his time in Germany, he joined the lab of noted psychiatric geneticist Jonathan Sebat at UC San Diego, where he completed his postdoctoral training and published several important papers dealing with genome informatics and the genetics of autism. In 2013, he joined the faculty at the University of Iowa, and his current research is supported by the National Institutes of Health, the Simons Foundation, and the Brain and Behavior Research Foundation.


Emily Monahan, OTR/L

Emily Monahan, OTR/L earned her Bachelor of Arts in Psychology in 2011 and her Masters of Occupational Therapy in 2012, from Saint Ambrose University in Davenport, IA. She began her career as an Occupational Therapist at Central Rehabilitation in West Des Moines, IA. While there, she had the opportunity to work with a variety of clientele in their homes and daycare settings. In 2013, Emily followed her passion of working with children and joined the outpatient pediatric rehabilitation team at ChildServe in Johnston, IA. She is currently the Outpatient Autism Team Lead and involved with various Autism programming including; intensive treatment in the Autism Day Health Program, organizing and conducting Project ImPACT parent education course for families of young children with Autism, social and life skills groups for children with Autism and she joins a multi-disciplinary team to conduct an Autism Diagnostic Clinic. As a member of the ChildServe’s Autism Team, Emily enjoys sharing her knowledge about Autism Spectrum Disorder and her experience working with children on the Autism Spectrum.


Lauren Poeppe, OTR/L

Lauren Poeppe, OTR/L graduated from the University of Missouri with her Bachelor of Health Sciences in 2009 and her Master of Occupational Therapy in 2011. She has worked at ChildServe, a non-profit organization focusing on pediatric rehabilitation, since 2011 and has been on ChildServe’s Autism Team since 2012. Lauren participates in multi-disciplinary Autism Diagnostic Clinics, Project ImPACT parent education program for young children with Autism, social/peer groups for children with Autism, provides occupational therapy for children in the Autism Day Health program which serves children with Autism from 2-6 years of age, and fulfills management duties in ChildServe’s Autism Intensive program. Lauren has attended numerous Autism trainings and conferences, including certification in administering the Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule (ADOS-2), the gold standard in diagnosing Autism Spectrum Disorders, the STAR Institute Level 1 Advanced Mentorship: Diagnosis & Treatment of Sensory Processing Disorder, and implementing the STAR (Strategies for Teaching based on Autism Research) curriculum. Lauren shares her passion for working with children with Autism, and experience on the Autism Team at ChildServe by providing education and mentorship to staff and students regarding Autism Spectrum Disorders and Sensory Processing.


Mary Roberts

Mary Roberts is a Behavioral Health Consultant and the Autism Center Coordinator at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics. She is also the parent of two young adults, both of whom are significantly affected by autism, and the President and Co-founder of The Village Community, a 501c3 disability service provider located in Johnson County, which works to provide a cooperative model of learning and working for young adults with developmental disabilities.


Peggy Swails, MSW, LMSW

Peggy L. Swails, MSW, LMSW, is a Program Manager with the Division of Child and Community Health, Child Health Specialty Clinics at The University of Iowa. She has worked on various projects related to Iowa’s children and youth with special health care needs (CYSHCN), including the Iowa Regional Autism Assistance Program (RAP) and the Early Hearing Detection and Intervention (EHDI) program. Peggy has a background in program development and program evaluation with a strong emphasis in strengthening inter-agency and inter-organizational partnerships to address the needs of CYSHCN and their families and to enhance systems of care. Peggy is also a parent of an adolescent with Juvenile Myoclonic Epilepsy.


Judith Ursitti, CPA

Judith Ursitti is director of state government affairs at Autism Speaks. She has worked with stakeholders across the country over the past decade to pass, implement enforce and expand meaningful legislation requiring autism insurance coverage for evidence based therapies. She also is actively involved in the implementation of Medicaid coverage in multiple states. She has been working on these issues in Iowa since 2009 and is thrilled to see the broadening of coverage. She lives in Massachusetts with her husband and two children. Her son Jack is diagnosed with ASD.


Conference Information

Rooms have been reserved for the conference at the Sheraton Hotel and will be held until October 13, 2017. The hotel is located at 1800 50th St. West Des Moines, IA. Please call 515-223-1800 for assistance.

Continuing Education Units

The Autism Society of Iowa is an accredited sponsor for CEU’s for Social Work #300 and Speech Language Pathology #191. This conference offers 5.5 credit hours of SLP CEU’s and 5.5 credit hours of SW CEU’s.

ADA Accommodations

If ADA Accommodations are needed for you to attend the conference, please contact the Autism Society of Iowa by October 1, 2017.


November 3
Event Category:


Kris Steinmetz
(515) 327-9075


Sheraton West Des Moines Hotel
1800 50th St
West Des Moines, 50266 United States
+ Google Map
(515) 223-1800