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Presenters in Autism and Special Education Worth Your Time and Money

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Greetings from Vegas where I am currently attending the Applied Behavior Analysis International Autism conference and had the opportunity to attend a workshop by Linda LeBlanc on teaching receptive vocabulary skills to children with ASD.  Some amazing stuff that I will share in a blog post in the future so stay tuned for that.

As promised, I am following up my last post about annual conferences that are great to attend for quality information about autism with a post about speakers that are definitely worth seeing.

In addition, we have a giveaway going on that you just might be interested in for sports.  I’ve contributed some products you can enter to win and there will be more about that at the end of this post. More about that later.

Frequently my school clients will ask me about speakers coming to their town and whether they are worth seeing.  So, I decided to make a list and hopefully you can add some in the comments.  Let me preface it by saying there are many, many amazing speakers out there who are incredibly knowledgeable about autism and special education in general.  Furthermore, there are many speakers out there who are very knowledgeable but can be deadly dull to listen to.  These are speakers that I would say you should jump on a plane, register for the conference and be sure to hear at least once in your career…particularly if they are coming somewhere in your area.  These are speakers that I make a point of seeing, usually more than once, if they are ever at a conference I am at because even though I’ve been doing this a long time, I always learn something from them.  Also, they are in no particular order, so don’t think that because one is listed first and another last that it is reflective of their importance.

Paula Kluth.  If you are an educator working in the field of education and struggle, as I think many of us do, with inclusion, you should definitely seek out presentations by her.  Her blog and resources there are also really helpful.  She has great books on teaching literacy to students with ASD as well as great resources on inclusion.  Her perspective and talks about inclusion, in particular, and the way we teach children on the spectrum is incredible and she is a dynamite speaker to boot.

Temple Grandin. If you have never had the opportunity to see her and especially if you have limited opportunities to meet adults on the spectrum who are making their way successfully in a neurotypical world, you should definitely try to attend one of her presentations. If you don’t have that opportunity, you can watch her DVDs and read her books.  And of course you can also watch the movie about her from HBO (if you haven’t seen it it’s fantastic!).

Brenda Smith Myles.  Brenda is a friend but before she was a friend I went to several of her talks.  She is an amazing speaker and her understanding of folks with ASD as well as her ability to convey information about educating them is impressive. She presents on a wide variety of topics but one of the areas she is probably best known for is her work on social skills and the hidden curriculum.  If you have the chance to see her, you definitely should.

Michelle Garcia Winner.  I have loved Michelle’s work in social thinking since I discovered her years ago.  I had the opportunity to see her as a keynote speaker many years ago and more recently attended a 3-day workshop by her.  She is a fabulous speaker and anyone who can keep me engaged for 3 solid days has to be amazing.

B.J. Freeman.  BJ is a psychologist who has been diagnosing individuals with autism for longer than she will let me tell you.  I am lucky enough to call her a friend and to have spent time with her.  Her perspective on diagnosis and assessment is not to be missed.  She is a very entertaining speaker and an icon in the field.

Jim Partington.  Many of you may know Jim from his publication of the Assessment of Basic Language and Learning Skills (ABLLS) and the companion volume for teaching communication to children with autism.  Jim has amazing videotape of how to facilitate communication and language skills in everyday activities.  His discussion of the use of reinforcement is also incredible.  He is a pretty laid-back speaker but he is definitely someone worth seeing at some point in your career, particularly if you work with young children just working on communication.

Diana Browning Wright.  I have seen Diana primarily at the annual LRP conferences, but I go to see her every year I am there.  She has more energy than anyone I’ve ever met and she translates it all into her presentations.  I’ve seen her speak on behavioral support as well as including students with special education needs into general education settings.  Her experience in those areas is vast and she is wonderful at helping folks understand appropriate behavioral supports, particularly for populations like those with emotional disabilities.  She isn’t autism specific but everything she talks about clearly can apply to students with ASD.

George Sugai.  He is another one who is not autism-specific but is definitely worth seeing for his talks on positive behavioral support and addressing challenging behaviors in school.  He is an excellent dynamic presenter and shares real data in a meaningful way that hits home with educators.

Robert Horner.  Rob Horner is another one who is not autism-specific, although he has done quite a bit of work in autism and developmental disabilities.  His main focus now is on positive behavioral support in schools and schoolwide PBS.  I have never seen him talk when I haven’t walked away with ideas spinning in my head and a new set of quotes from the way he explains things.

Peter Gehrhardt.  Peter is a very engaging and knowledgeable speaker but the main reason I have put him on this list is because he talks about topics that no one else really does.  He talks about adolescents and adults and issues in transition and he is one of the few presenters who talk about topics that need to be discussed like adults with disabilities and sexuality.  I encourage even those of you who teach younger students to see Peter if you ever have a chance because it will provide some perspective on what we need to be thinking about long before the kids get to middle and high school.  If you teach older students, it’s a must.  Here is a YouTube video of part of one of his talks.

Finally, let me end with 2 sets of training that I thought were worth including if you have the chance to go to them in addition to those by people above.

Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS) 2 Day Training.  If you are working with students who need augmentative communication and a way to communicate, PECS is a great tool for doing it–see more about why I like it here.  If you can see Lori Frost present it–go, but even if other trainers working directly for the PECS organization are presenting, it is definitely worth going to.  You will come away with a much better understanding of the system and how to implement it than you will get from reading the manual or word of mouth.

The TEACCH 1-week Training.  It’s an awesome training that will really help you think about how you present tasks and arrange your classroom with teaching students with autism in mind.

I also would like to think that I am a worthwhile presenter but I don’t know that I would put myself in a category with all of these folks.

So, I know there are others that I am leaving out that when someone mentions them, I’m going to kick myself (and then I”m going to come back and edit this post as if I never left them out).  I am also going to probably update this post as I think about more and more great speakers–and hopefully get to see some of them.  If you have a favorite speaker or training that you think is a must-see, please share in the comments.  I will probably update this post when I have an ah-ha moment and realize who I have forgotten.

Until then, though, I want to share a giveaway with you!  Gabrielle Dixon from Teaching Special Thinkers has put together this giveaway with lots of sports-related products from the stores of a number of special educators.  I’ve included two resources in the giveaway.  Click the picture to check them out of TPT and then enter below in the Rafflecopter to win!  Winners will be announced Sunday!  Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

8 thoughts on “Presenters in Autism and Special Education Worth Your Time and Money”

  1. Hello, Thanks for introducing me to some Facebook pages that I didn't know about. The link for Creating and Learning didn't work for me from your giveaway link.

  2. I'll keep those suggestions in mind. Temple Gradin is going to be here in a couple weeks, you've inspired my to purchase those tickets! A colleague of mine spoke with her at a conference a while ago and had an opportunity to meet her in the airport when leaving the conference. I love hearing her stories.

    You AUT-a Know

    1. Oh, let me add my favorite training (I've attended twice, with the same presenters, shockingly). The STAR training is fantastic. I love their curriculum and I came away with new strategies the second time I attended, it is very much worth it.

  3. Thank you for sharing such a great list! I am constantly impressed with the dedication and pure commitment of teachers of students with Autism. I have been working to educate my self futher and these are great resources. Thanks again!

    I also nominated you for a Liebster Award. You can find out more about the rules here:

    Thank you again! I enjoy reading your posts so much.


    Teaching from Beyond the Desk

  4. Great List Chris! Not a training but a great event hosted buy the Ohio Center for Autism and Low Incidence, OCALI CON ( has quickly become a favorite for me! They have some great keynote speakers and tons and tons of research presenters, product exhibitors, and continuous networking and idea sharing opportunities. It is located in Columbus Ohio, and this year will be be on Nov. 16-18. I have met and networked with many great educators and other professionals from all over the US and abroad. had a ton of great FREE resources and training modules that I highly recommend!


      Josh, absolutely…I can’t believe that OCALI wasn’t on my list…I think it’s on my conference list in another post. I love it and will be there this year!

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