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2023 Fall Conference and Resource Fair

October 27, 2023 @ 9:00 am - 3:15 pm

Click here to register!


Register today for the 2023 Autism Society of Iowa Fall Conference being held on Friday, October 27, 2023, at the Sheraton Hotel- West Des Moines.

Conference Agenda

9:00 a.m. – Welcome

9:05 a.m. – Challenging Behavior in Autism:  Evidence-based Approaches and Recent Research with Matthew O’Brien, PhD, BCBA-D

10:30 a.m. – Break and Resource Fair Opens

10:45 a.m. – Living with Autism – Panel of Adults Facilitated by Sue Askeland, MA, CCC-SLP with Leo Bird, Brad Biren, Rachel Bussan, Mike Dierdorff, Brian Johnson, Sam Junck, Abby Niederhauser, Jacob Pleggenkuhle

12:00 p.m.  – The Stephen Tsai Award for Excellence in Education

12:05 p.m. – Lunch Provided – Deli Buffet including assorted meats, pulled BBQ pork, cheddar, Swiss and pepper jack cheese, salad greens, deli salad, kettle chips, soup du jour. Vegetarian, Vegan, and Gluten Free Meals are Also Available – Please ask for a card for these at the registration desk.

– Resource Fair Open

Afternoon Breakout Sessions:

Des Moines Room

1:30 p.m. – Ideas and Examples for Parents and Childcare Workers with Dr. Kelly Pelzel, PhD,  Sue Askeland, MA, CCC-SLP, and Kristin Hanson, MA, BCBA, LBA

  1. Setting timers and limits
  2. Designing play spaces
  3. Creating Picture Schedules
  4. Writing Social Narratives
  5. Toilet Training
  6. Other helpful ideas

Webster/Clayton/Marion Rooms

1:30 p.m. – Executive Function Skills:  High School and Beyond – Jenny Brodell MA, CCC-SLP

  1. Attendees will name 3 broad areas of executive function skills to build in preparation for independent living, job readiness, and/or post-secondary schooling.
  2. Attendees will describe 2 practice strategies related to each of the following areas: time management, transportation planning, and budgeting.
  3. Attendees will be able to create a plan to self-advocate for needs within a job or post-secondary setting.

Chambers Room – (First Room in the Hallway)

1:30 p.m.  – Question Time with the Doctor – Suzanne Bartlett Hackenmiller, M.D.

  1. Preparing for an appointment
  2. Calming strategies
  3. Discussing personal topics
  4. Q&A Session

2:15 p.m. – Break and Resource Fair Open

Des Moines Room

2:30 p.m.  – Caring for the Family Member who Requires 24/7 Care for Safety Panel facilitated by Dr. Todd Kopelman

Panelists:  Josh Cobbs, Rich Hahn, Mary Roberts, Sarah Schrader

Webster/Clayton/Marion Rooms

2:30 p.m. – Ideas and Strategies for Navigating Middle School for the Student with Autism – Ann Krogan, MA, CCC-SLP, BCBA and Kim Thomas

Chambers Room – (First Room in the Hallway)

2:30 p.m. – Understanding the Sensory Needs of Someone with Autism – Danielle Hubby, OTD, OTR/L, CEIM

  • Attendees will be able to describe how sensory information is processed in the brain
  • Attendees will name three ways that our senses are used to understand and feel safe within our environment
  • Attendees will learn to think critically about the differences in sensory processing and apply that information to themselves and other relationships
  • Attendees will better understand when OT intervention may be necessary for an individual with Autism experiencing sensory dysfunction


2:30 p.m.  – Networking for Adults with Autism

3:15 p.m. – Conference Concludes

5:30 p.m. – Silent Auction Begins

6:00 p.m. – Live Auction Begins


Speakers for the 2023 Fall Conference

Matthew O’Brien, Ph.D., BCBA is an Associate Professor of Pediatrics at University of Iowa Stead Family Children’s Hospital. He completed his doctorate in Psychological and Quantitative Foundations from the University of Iowa and completed postdoctoral fellowships in neuropsychology and behavioral psychology at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics. Dr. O’Brien serves as the Director of Biobehavioral Services and Director of Research and Psychology for the Iowa LEND program. He has received funding from the National Institutes of Health since 2015 for research related to severe and challenging behavior and communication. Dr. O’Brien conducts research related to functional analysis of severe and challenging behavior for individuals with autism and other neurodevelopmental disorders.  Matthew is an active member of the Autism Society of Iowa Board, assisting annual with the Autism Advocacy and Acceptance Day at the Iowa State Capitol.

Susan Askeland graduated from the University of Nebraska with a master’s degree in speech language pathology. She worked for Northwest AEA in Sioux City as a speech language pathologist and a member of the autism resource team for 37 years. In 2013 she moved to eastern Iowa where she worked as an autism consultant for Grant Wood AEA until her retirement in 2017.

Susan continues to be actively involved in the autism community. She is a board member of the Autism Society of Iowa and a past board member of the Corridor Autism Resource Expo (CARE) and the Awesome Autism Awareness and Acceptance Art Project. Susan also facilitates several support groups that currently meet on Zoom.

Suzanne Bartlett Hackenmiller, MD, FACOG, ABOIM is an OB-Gyn and integrative medicine physician and is the mother of two children including a twenty-three-year-old son with autism. She divides her time between Iowa and Arizona seeing patients through MercyOne Waterloo OB-Gyn and serving as lead physician for Chopra Whole Health in Carefree, Arizona. She is a past president and former longtime board member of the Autism Society of Iowa. Suzanne is the award-winning author of The Outdoor  Adventurer’s Guide to Forest Bathing, published in 2019 and  A Friend Like John, Understanding Autism, published in 2011.

Jenny Brodell is a speech-language pathologist and Clinical Assistant Professor at the University of Iowa in the Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders. She also holds an appointment at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics where she participates in interdisciplinary autism diagnostic evaluations. Jenny has extensive experience working with families and individuals in the area of autism and pediatrics.  She has developed and run life skills groups and individual therapy with a focus on executive function skills for the past 9 years.

Josh Cobbs is Director of Employment Initiatives at Autism Speaks. His work encompasses leading day-to-day operations and implementing Autism Speaks’ employment ecosystem of services and supports. His past work includes serving as a vocational counselor for the State of Iowa, working with post-secondary institutions on transition and employment programs for individuals with barriers, and founding an autism center. Cobbs twice provided testimony to the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies on access to telehealth treatments. Serving as Chairperson of the Iowa Governor’s Council on Autism for almost four years, Cobbs helped spearhead access to care and improving outcomes for Iowans. He resides in Iowa with his wife and three children.

Rich Hahn is the father of a 21-year-old son with Autism, OCD and Schizoaffective Disorder. Rich’s son was diagnosed with Autism at the age of three.  He has worked extensively with Iowa schools and waiver services to navigate the world of raising a child with severe challenging behaviors for the last 18 years. Rich has been involved with Autism Society of Iowa, Autism Speaks and has also served on the board for the Iowa Autism Speaks Walk.  He lives in West Des Moines.

Kristin Hansen, M.A, BCBA, LBA Kristin is the CEO, Founder, and Clinical Director of Axis. She is a Licensed and Board-Certified Behavior Analyst, and received her Bachelor’s degree in Psychology from Grand View University and her Master’s degree in Child and Adolescent Psychology with a specialization in Applied Behavior Analysis from The Chicago School of Professional Psychology. Most of Kristin’s clinical experience has been focused on the early detection and intervention of autism spectrum disorder and specializing in early intervention. She has completed advanced training in the administration of the Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule (ADOS) and has experience testing toddlers and children for autism spectrum disorder. She is on the Board of Directors for the Autism Society of Iowa, on the Autism Expert Panel for the Iowa Regional Autism Assistance Program.

In her free time, she enjoys spending time with her husband and 3 children, reading psychological thriller novels, listening to true crime podcasts, going to major league baseball games, attending concerts, and coaching her children’s sports teams.

Danielle Hubby is a pediatric occupational therapist working at ChildServe at their outpatient clinic in Johnston. She has been at ChildServe for 3 years and completed her undergrad at Iowa State with a B.S. in Kinesiology and Health, Exercise Science in 2017 where she also minored in Psychology and Child, Adult, and Family Services. She then completed my Occupational Therapy Doctorate degree from Drake University, graduating in 2020. Additionally, she is a certified educator of infant massage and currently working towards her pediatric board certification through AOTA and an infant and early childhood mental health certification through the state of Iowa as well. She has ALWAYS had a passion for working with not only kids but their parents as well. She enjoys reading, spending time with friends and family, and soaking up extra sun while visiting her mother- in – law in Florida. She and her husband are expecting their first child on January 2, 2024!

Todd Kopelman, Ph.D., BCBA – Todd is a licensed psychologist and a board-certified behavior analyst.  He evaluates children, adolescents, and adults for questions about autism spectrum disorder and related neurodevelopmental conditions and provides individual therapy for children and adults as well as parent coaching at Meadowlark Psychiatry.

Before joining Meadowlark, Dr. Kopelman was a Professor in the University of Iowa Hospitals and clinics Department of Psychiatry.  He co-directed the hospital’s Autism Center as well as the Day Treatment Program at The Center for Disabilities and Development.  He has worked collaboratively with schools across Iowa to support students with behavioral challenges, served as Project Coordinator for three federally funded grants investigating the use of telehealth and young children with Autism, and has co-written several journal articles and book chapters.

Dr. Kopelman is an active board member of the Autism Society of Iowa, including serving as its President, and he has helped organize conferences on several topics related to Autism.  He is an Adjunct Professor in the Department of Psychiatry where he continues to teach and mentor graduate students, medical students and psychiatry residents and conducts interdisciplinary autism evaluations.

Ann Krogan and Kim Thomas – Ann Krogan has had the privilege of working in a number of different roles for Des Moines Public Schools:  speech-language pathologist, autism strategist and Board-Certified Behavior Analyst.  Her favorite middle school memory is singing “The Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy” with the Chansonettes at Franklin Junior High in Des Moines.

Kim Thomas has spent her entire career in Des Moines Public Schools:  first as a special education teacher in a center-based autism classroom at McKee Elementary and then as a district autism strategist.  She enjoyed following her former elementary students as they went on to graduate from high school.  Her favorite middle school memory is being elected class vice-president, to the shock of everyone, including herself.

Ann and Kim have had the joy of being coworkers since 2003!  They look forward to presenting on Middle School Strategies and sharing their favorite middle school memory in their bios.

Kelly Pelzel, PhD is a licensed psychologist and a clinical assistant professor working in the University of Iowa Stead Family Children’s Hospital (UISFCH) Child & Adolescent Psychiatry division.  She received her BA from the University of Northern Iowa.  Dr. Pelzel received her PhD from the University of Utah.  She completed her pre-doctoral psychology internship at Primary Children’s Hospital in Salt Lake City.  Dr. Pelzel completed a Leadership Education in Neurodevelopmental and Related Disabilities (LEND) post-doctoral fellowship at the UISFCH Center for Disabilities and Development. She provides assessment and treatment services.  Dr. Pelzel also serves as the clinical coordinator for the UISFCH Autism Center and the psychology consultant for Iowa’s Regional Autism Assistance Program (RAP).

Mary Roberts is the parent of two young adults with profound autism and has worked in the field in a professional and advocacy capacity for three decades. She is an Autism Specialist and Autism Center Coordinator for the University of Iowa Hospitals an Clincs and co-founder/owner of The Village Community, a 501c3 disability service organization. Mary also serves on multiple state boards, including Autism Society of Iowa and the Olmstead Taskforce.

Sarah Schrader is a wife and mother of ten kids; seven of which are on the spectrum. She is passionate about homeschooling, advocating, and writing. Her goal is that when she is gone, it can be said that her influence on the autism community made for a better quality of life for anyone touched by the diagnosis.


October 27, 2023
9:00 am - 3:15 pm
Event Category:


Autism Society of Iowa


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