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2021 Autism Society of Iowa Fall Conference

November 5, 2021 @ 9:00 am - 4:00 pm

2021 Autism Society of Iowa Fall Educational Conference

Virtual via Zoom 

Featuring Keynote Speaker Mikle South, Ph.D

To register, click here.


Autism Society of Iowa 2021 Fall Conference

9:00 a.m. – Introductions

9:00 – 10:15 a.m. –”New things, new people, new places: looking for the origins of anxiety in autism.” presented by Mikle South, Ph.D.

10:15 a.m. – Break

10:30 – 11:45 a.m. – Autism Panel – Panel of Adults with Autism Share Their Stories

11:45 – 12:30 a.m. – Lunch Break and Information from Conference Sponsors

12:30 – 1:30 p.m.

  1. Dating and Maintaining Healthy Relationships presented by Dave Hamlin and Lindsay Nebeker
  2. Autism and Feeding Issues presented by Linda Cooper, Ph.D.

1:30 p.m.  – Break

1:45 – 2:45 p.m.

  1. “Can’t even see the sun: depression and risk for suicide in autism” presented by Mikle South, Ph.D.
  2. Communication for All – AAC Devices presented by Patty Kann, SLP

2:45 p.m. – Break

3:00 – 4:00 p.m.         

  1. Self-Regulation: An Individualize Journey presented by Liz Delsandro, M.S., CCC-SLP


1) To explore strategies for self-regulation.

2) To consider tenets of trauma-informed care when working on self-regulation.

3) To recognize the importance of collaboration or teaming when developing an individualized plan for self-regulation.

4) To identify environmental considerations/structure that can promote regulation of emotions.

  1. How Exceptional Ability Influences the Autistic Student – Twice Exceptional presented by Jake Michaelson, Ph.D. and Susan Assouline, Ph.D. and New Autism Academy at the University of Iowa for Autistic College Students with Amanda Berns, Ph.D.


Conference Speakers

Susan Assouline. Ph.D.

Susan G. Assouline is the director of the Belin-Blank Center, holds the Myron and Jacqueline N. Blank Endowed Chair in Gifted Education, and is a professor of school psychology.  Prior to joining the University of Iowa, she completed a two-year post-doctoral fellowship with the Study of Mathematically Precocious Youth (SMPY) at Johns Hopkins University.  This experience was the impetus for investigations and programming related to academic talent in elementary students and academic acceleration as an intervention for advanced students.  Throughout her career, she has been especially interested in the psychological principle of individual differences, which serves as a platform for the Belin-Blank Center’s research in the area of twice-exceptionality (highly able students with learning disabilities or social impairment).  She received the National Association for Gifted Children (NAGC) 2016 Distinguished Scholar Award, the 2018 University of Iowa Award for Faculty Excellence, and the 2019 University of Iowa Leadership in Research Award.

Amanda Berns, Ph.D.

Dr. Amanda Berns is a Licensed Psychologist at the Belin-Blank Center’s Assessment and Counseling Clinic and team member for the Academy of Twice Exceptionality, in the College of Education at the University of Iowa.  She attended the University of Iowa while obtaining her Bachelor of Science in Psychology, Education Specialist, and Doctor of Philosophy in School Psychology, and where she gained experiences working in schools, outpatient clinics at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics, the local homeless shelter, and in children’s homes through the Early Access Autism Resources Team at Grant Wood Area Education Agency.  She also completed an iLEND fellowship and externships at Nisonger Center and St. David’s Center, and she held an assistantship providing mentorship to talented and gifted college students at Belin Blank Center, as well.  Dr. Berns attended a predoctoral internship at Devereux Advanced Behavioral Health and a postdoctoral fellowship at The Counseling Center of Nashua.  She also worked in the public schools as a traveling school psychologist and Autism Consultant, as well as in outpatient settings at Wisconsin Early Autism Project (WEAP).  In addition to having a wealth of clinical experience across these settings, Dr. Berns has particular expertise in assessment and intervention services for individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), and research background in social-emotional experiences of those who are twice exceptional, with high cognitive abilities and ASD, in particular.  She is grateful to support individuals who have unique gifts and challenges at the Belin-Blank Center’s Assessment and Counseling Clinic and as a team member for the Academy of Twice Exceptionality.

Linda Cooper-Brown

Linda Cooper-Brown has provided clinical services for 29 years for children with feeding difficulties who have not learned to eat, and children who have oral aversion or severe picky eating, with and without diagnoses of autism spectrum disorder. This includes evaluation as part of a multidisciplinary clinic and therapy. She has presented at regional and national meetings on feeding and eating challenges and
has written and contributed to research articles on feeding issues and to book chapters, with her most recent being, Cooper-Brown, L. J., Kerwin, M. L, Williams, K. E., (2019). Feeding. In Hupp, S. (Ed). Pseudoscience in Child and Adolescent Psychotherapy: A Skeptical Field Guide (pp. 189-205). New York: Cambridge University Press.  Dr. Cooper-Brown joined the faculty at the University of Iowa in 2008 and received her PhD in School Psychology in 1991.  She is a clinical professor of Pediatrics, Clinical Psychology Director Division of Developmental and behavioral Pediatrics at the Stead Family Department of Pediatrics at the UI Stead Family Children’s Hospital.

Elizabeth Delsandro, M.S., CCC-SLP

Elizabeth (Liz) Delsandro is a speech-language pathologist and clinical associate professor with the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She has had the privilege of partnering with individuals who are neurodiverse and their families for more than 30 years.

David Hamrick

David Hamrick is a meteorologist with the National Weather Service who is an active advocate for individuals with autism and Asperger’s Syndrome.  Diagnosed with autism at the age of three, he explains to parents, educators, and professionals about how autism has personally influenced him and offers advice about best practices when dealing with those who have autism and how to make life better for them.  In addition to general life topics, he also lectures on dating and romance, special interests, sleep issues, education, and employment.  David’s wife, Lindsey, also has autism and they have been in a successful relationship since 2005.

Patty Kann

Patty Kann, M.A., CCC- SLP, received her undergraduate degree and M.A. from the University of South Dakota in Speech Language Pathology in 1996 and 1998 respectively. She has worked in the medical setting in Long Term Care, Inpatient, NICU, Outpatient, and in school settings. Patty has completed extensive continuing education in Childhood Apraxia of Speech, Complex Communication Needs, and Autism Spectrum Disorders. She was on the Nebraska Educational Service Unit #1 Autism team for 10 years. She currently works for the Northwest Area Education Agency in Sioux City, Iowa where she has been a member of the Autism team, the Assistive Technology team lead, and is currently serving in the role of Specially Designed Instruction (SDI) Best Practice Coach. Patty is a member of the American Speech Language Hearing Association.

Jacob Michaelson

Dr. Jake Michaelson is a Roy J. Carver associate professor in psychiatry and neuroscience and the division director of computational and molecular psychiatry at the University of Iowa. His lab uses advanced computational approaches to study the effect of genetic variations on the development of 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 Universitat Dresden in Germany in 2010. After his time in Germany, he joined the lab of psychiatric geneticist Jonathan Sebat at UC San Diego, where he completed his postdoctoral training and published several of the earliest papers dealing with whole genome sequencing in autism. In 2013 he joined the faculty at the University of Iowa, and his current research is supported by NIMH, NIDCD, the Simons Foundation, and the Brain and Behavior Research Foundation.

Lindsey Nebeker

Lindsey Nebeker is a Development Specialist at the Autism Society of America and remains actively involved in music, photography, and freelance presenting. She was born in Tokyo, Japan, and spent the first eleven years of her life residing there with her family. She received her autism diagnosis at age 2 from the UCLA Department of Psychiatry during a visit to the United States. Lindsey is also a sibling of an autistic adult with high-support needs, and she is strongly focused on the message of presuming competence for all people regardless of their labels. She has served on several boards and advisory panels for organizations including the Autistic Women & Nonbinary Network and Felicity House, and she Is a current member of the Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee (IACC). She holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Music Technology (minor in Photography) and holds a certificate for the Partners in Policymaking Advocacy Leadership Training Program. Lindsey has appeared in Glamour, Good Morning America, NPR, and the Emmy-nominated documentary Autism in Love. When she is not reporting to her full-time job positions, you can find her engaged in her passions of traveling, Japanese culture, documenting her life through photography, and composing pieces on her 1909 Steinway.

Mikle South, Ph.D.

Mikle South is Professor of Psychiatry and Director of the Emory Autism Center at Emory University in Atlanta, which provides clinical service and research focused on inclusion for individuals, families, and communities throughout the lifespan. He received a BA from Yale University followed by a PhD in Child Clinical Psychology at the University of Utah, working with Dr. Sally Ozonoff. He returned to Yale for postdoctoral training in developmental neuroimaging then spent 14 years in the Psychology Department at Brigham Young University. His research program is focused on understanding the interaction of anxiety and autism in brain and behavior, and recent studies of sleep in autism and risk factors for suicidal thoughts and behaviors in young adults. Dr. South’s professional practice specializes in assessment and diagnosis of autism with a special interest in how autism presents in girls and women. He loves playing soccer and eating proper pizza.



Leo Bird

Leo Bird was diagnosed with autism when he was three years old. Unlike some other people with autism, he overcame bullying and alienation as an eighth grader and had a more supportive group of classmates. He also has had a more successful job search than others. Leo was inspired to write about his life in an interview for an internship for people with disabilities in college when the recruiter said he could educate people about autism. Leo thought he could do that by using the true storytelling techniques he learned in his Writing Short Stories class. After sharing his stories he learned neurotypicals face some of the same challenges he does. He prefers people first language over identity first language and prefers high and low support needs over high and low functioning autism.  Leo lives in downtown Des Moines and works at the United States Post Office.

Rachel Bussan

Rachel Bussan works full-time as a Collection Services Specialist at West Des Moines Public Library. Providing equitable access to information is Rachel’s passion. Skilled at sifting through large amounts of data, discerning patterns, and finding lost things. Diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder and Bipolar 1 disorder at age 26, Rachel is a firm advocate for disability rights. Creative and geeky to the extreme. A fan of anime and steampunk. Rachel loves making costumes and will try any crafting activity at least once.

Brian Johnson

After years of uncertainly, Brian Johnson was diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome as a sophomore in high school.  Since his diagnosis, he has been a member of the Siouxland Autism Support Group in Sioux City, Iowa.  In 2004,he graduated from Lawton-Bronson High School in Lawton, Iowa as valedictorian of his class.  In 2008, he graduated summa cum laude from Morningside College in Sioux City, Iowa, earning a Bachelor of Arts in mass communications.  He currently lives in Bronson, Iowa and works in Moville as a copy editor for a regional newspaper called The Record.   Since graduation, Brian has presented his story to numerous groups of parents, teachers, paraprofessionals, college students and others who are working with and learning about people with autism.  For the past several years, he has also been involved in an organization called “The Human Library.”  This past spring, he joined the Autism Society of Iowa as a board member.

Abby Niederhauser

Abby Niederhauser is an autistic adult who was diagnosed at age 18. She is an artist and loves to paint and draw her favorite pop culture subjects and participate in local art shows. Abby also enjoys collecting vintage toys and video games, puzzles, filmmaking and editing videos, advocacy work, and driving around in her hand painted van. Abby documents her art and hobbies on social media as Abby’s Rad Art.

Marie Ugorek

Marie C Ugorek is an autistic ADHDer with hEDS and an assortment of secondary mental illnesses. In the two years since she sought professional diagnosis of her neurodivergence, Marie has been fortunate to be able to focus full-time on reprocessing four decades of life with the goal of growing into a healthy, unapologetically neurodivergent identity. She is supported in this by her husband, dogs, and cat, who live with her in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.

Alex Wehrspann

Alex is an Associate engineer for Rite-Hite Environmental Enclosures division, as well as a consulting engineer for Badger Airbrush and Fluid exchange solutions (FXS) through his company Wolfmann Designs LLC. and resides in Dubuque. His hobbies include tinkering, building stuff, and restoring antiques. He was diagnosed at 18 years old and has been a self-advocate since then.



The Autism Society of Iowa is an accredited sponsor for CEU’s for Social Work #300 and Speech Language Pathology #191.  This conference offers 6.0 credit hours of SLP CEU’s and 6.0 credit hours of SW CEU’s.

Additional Sessions

Additional pre-recorded sessions will be offered for those who register, including:

  • What Does Research Show About Sleep and Autism– Jacob Michaelson, Ph.D.
  • Strategies and Resources to Support Learning at Home– Sue Askeland
  • Social Emotional Learning – Leslie Rogers, SLP & Kirsten Smith, SLP


Thank you to our 2021 sponsors!

Thank you to our 2021 exhibitors!

Click here to view exhibitor folder


November 5, 2021
9:00 am - 4:00 pm
Event Category:


Autism Society of Iowa