Featuring both nationally recognized speakers as well as local and regional experts in the fields of assistive technology and innovative practices in disability disciplines, our 45+ speakers bring a wealth of experiences and insights to share with participants.
Below is an alphabetical listing of the conference presenters, with each speaker’s biography.
Sean A. Bear earned his B.A. from Buena Vista University in 2002, majoring in psychology/human services. He also double-majored in mental health counseling and vocational rehabilitation at Drake University’s graduate program for two years. He is a member of the Meskwaki Tribe (located in Tama, Iowa) and has worked with Native Americans with substance use disorders for many years. He is an Army veteran of nine years, honorably discharged from the 82nd Airborne. He has worked as an administrator/counselor in EAP, as well as a counselor in adolescent behavioral programs, substance abuse treatment, and in-home family therapy. He has experience building holistic, Native American-based curriculum, as well as implementing it.
Janice Bradford is a Rehabilitation Services Supervisor at Arizona Department of Economic Security Vocational Rehabilitation.
Teresa Brewington is the Program Manager for the National American Indian & Alaska Native Mental Health TTC – K- 12 School Supplement. She is an enrolled member of the Coharie Tribe and a descendant of the Lumbee Tribe. She holds a Master’s in Educational Leadership, a Master’s in Business Administration, and 36 credit hours towards a Master’s in Counseling. She has held positions as a director at several mental health agencies and worked as a school guidance counselor serving mostly Hispanic/Latino students. She has also served as a foster care agency supervisor, where she worked directly with the Salt River Pima Indian Community placing Native American children in foster homes
James Brinton, M.A., CCC-SLP works for Eyegaze Inc. and speaks internationally on the application of eye gaze technology to clinical populations. He focuses on how to facilitate successful eye gaze sessions by discussing common challenges and solutions using the Eyegaze Edge SGD. James has practiced as a speech-language pathologist for 10 years.
Jennifer Bucich is a member of the US Education team focusing on K12 classroom technology solutions for AZ, TX, and NM. She has over 17 years of experience working with Education Customers. As a mother of a child with ADHD and Asperger’s she is passionate about accessibility in the classroom and ensuring every child has the opportunity and the tools to thrive in their environment. At Microsoft, Jennifer’s responsibilities include being a trusted advisor to our customers as they embark upon their digital transformation journey. This includes showcasing the “One Microsoft” Education platform through the use of Windows 10, Minecraft Education Edition, and Microsoft Teams.
With over 31 years of experience, Mo is a practiced professional in the field of special education providing services and support to those with disabilities and their families. She managed autism programs and services for over 6,000 students as Director of Autism and Intellectual Disabilities at Chicago Public Schools. Mo’s additional experience also includes special education teacher, autism itinerant and special education administrator. Mo is a dynamic, international speaker and well-respected authority on autism, intellectual disabilities, adult services, behavioral strategies, educational supports, and more.
Julia Cremona’s educational career includes experiences with providing habilitation to children with autism spectrum disorders, teaching students with emotional disabilities at a private day school, working as a resource teacher, a school psychologist, lead school psychologist, and now an exceptional student services director. She has had the privilege of working in areas such as social emotional learning, trauma informed practices, and diversity, equity, and inclusion. Julia is passionate about removing barriers from students and educators to allow for maximum student growth while focusing on both academic achievement and mental well-being. She believes humility, compassion, and relationship building are the foundations for learning and fulfillment in life.
Tom was the Program Supervisor for the Maniilaq Tribal Vocational Rehabilitation Program 2006-2019. He is a Tribal member of the Native Village of Kiana. He spent two years working at “Mavsigviq”, A Place for Healing, a culturally based Wellness camp located in a remote setting that incorporated traditional values and the subsistence lifestyle to promote wellness and recovery. Tom and his wife, Jeanne have lived in the NW Arctic region of Alaska for the past 40 years teaching school and working with the disability community. They have raised their 6 children in the village of Kiana on the Kobuk River.
Alexander Davenport is an adaptive sports specialist and is the founder of Northern Arizona Adaptive Sports Association. His love for snowsports is matched only by his passion for making it accessible for everyone. At his core he is an educator who loves making connections with people. He graduated from NAU and holds a Rocky Mountain Trainer Accreditation from Professional Ski Instructors of America. Alexander has been an integral part of creating accessible, therapeutic adaptive and inclusive experiences in Northern Arizona and continues to dedicate himself to inclusive recreation expansion in his community. Before discovering his enthusiasm for adaptive recreation, Alexander was honorably discharged from the United States Marine Corps.
Del Monte, Brenda
Brenda Del Monte is a speech language pathologist and an assistive technology evaluator and facilitator. She worked as an SLP in Washington State public schools for 7 years. She is a consultant through her own private practice, Technically Speaking, and contracts with Advanced Therapy Solutions where she does therapy and AAC evaluations/trainings. She has presented her knowledge at Closing the Gap (2016, 2017), her collaborative research on accessing AAC at ATIA (2019) and a variety of topics at AzTAP over the years. Brenda Del Monte is a co-founder of Believe Beyond Ability, a non-profit organization that evaluates, determines, provides, and trains those with multiple disabilities on assistive technology to increase independence.
Margaret Egan, a licensed Physical Therapist (PT) works at the Arizona Department of Education as an Assistive Technology Specialist. In this position she supports the assistive technology needs of public and charter schools in southern Arizona. Prior to joining Arizona Department of Education, Margaret worked in the public schools as a PT for 28 years supporting special education students, teachers and staff using a variety of assistive technology tools and strategies.
Jamie Emanuel (Lumbee Tribe descendant) is a native of Robeson County, North Carolina. She worked with the University of North Carolina-Pembroke for many years as a Program Assistant with the Psychology and Counseling Department. She received a B.A. from UNC-Pembroke in Sociology and a B.S. in Marketing and Communications, as well as her M.S. from Winston-Salem State University in Rehabilitation Counseling, with a focus in rural VR counseling, and holds a Certified Rehabilitation Counselor license. Jamie is a Vocational Rehabilitation Specialist with the University of Northern Arizona’s Institute for Human Development Department, within the American Indian Vocational Rehabilitation Training and Technical Assistant Center.
Kelly is a self-employed consultant in assistive and educational technology. She is a Special Educator and has a Masters in Educational Technology with emphasis in Rehabilitation/Special Education. Since 1986 she has presented to schools, universities & families in 48 states & internationally on augmentative communication, computer access & electronic literacy. Her website www.kellyfonner.com
George Garcia is Executive Director of Southwest Institute for Families and Children, supporting people with disabilities through empowerment, advocacy, and knowledge. For the past 14 years George has worked on the state and national level developing youth mentoring programs, facilitating self-advocacy groups, and creating technical assistance centers for self-advocacy groups. Paralyzed from the shoulders down since age 12, he has personal experience living with a disability and navigating the challenges this poses. Currently, George is project director of the Supported Decision-Making Pilot Project, in partnership with Arizona Center for Disability Law and The Arc of Arizona, promoting use of SDM as an alternative to legal guardianship.
“In Tlanextia in Tonatiuh!” – May your sun be brilliant! My name is Rene Garciaguirre, Northeast Arizona Campus Coordinator with Supporting Inclusive Practices in Colleges (SIP-C) through the Institute for Human Development @ Northern Arizona University. In my role with SIP-C, I engage with students and their circles of support in Northern Arizona to foster an atmosphere of inclusion on college campuses. My academic interests center on Mentorship, Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion efforts in higher education. I have a Bachelor of Arts from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, a Master of Arts from Northern Arizona University, and I am currently pursuing a Master of Education in Higher Education Leadership @ Northern Arizona University.
Shelley Haven is a certified Assistive Technology Professional (ATP) and Rehab Engineering Technologist (RET) who specializes in matching students with appropriate technology. Her consulting firm, Technology to Unlock Potential, serves families, educators, and schools both online and in person with a focus on learning differences, ADHD, and executive functioning. During her 34 years in assistive technology, Shelley previously directed AT for Stanford University’s Office of Accessible Education and helped create the Schwab Learning Center at Stanford for students with learning differences and ADHD. She also teaches an online college course for UCSC Extension titled “Assistive Technology for Learning Differences”.
Brittnie Hebnes, a technology training specialist located in Arizona with over 25 years of experience in the education industry as an educator, administrator, and educational consultant. I hold degrees in both Secondary Education and Communication Studies, specializing in both Technology Integration/Digital Learning and Curriculum and Instruction. My expertise includes: working with and delivering professional development, training, coaching, and mentoring on various technology platforms; designing, deploying and evaluating sustainable short and long- term professional development plans for both technology and curriculum/instruction; curriculum and technology audits; and developing professional development platforms for various educational curriculum companies. My passion and roots in technology and education extend back to my upbringing as the daughter of a retired Superintendent and first Grade teacher. I love all things Microsoft and have experience working with the Office platforms since the early 2000s. I love SKYPE IN THE CLASSROOM; I am deep into learning about all things gaming and Esports; and my favorite Microsoft shirt sports a Microsoft Forms logo! I was recently recognized as a Microsoft Innovative Educator Fellow and look forward to connecting about all things Microsoft in Education with educators, districts, and MIEEs.
Christy Hegebush was a special education teacher serving students with low incidence disabilities for over 20 years before coming to the Arizona Department of Education. She has her undergraduate degree from Northern Arizona University in general education and special education. Her Masters of Legal Studies is from Arizona State University.
Krista is a multimodal communicator and lifelong user of AAC, She utilizes a PRC-Accent with Unity 144 and PicSeePal as a light-tech housing solution for her alternative and augmentative communication needs. Krista has provided AAC mentoring, training, and support in teletherapy, classrooms, day-treatment programs for adults and various Virtual Social Groups including Kate Ahern’s AAC Voices and Out and About. Krista has presented at many conferences around the nation sharing her experience as an AAC user and a model for other AAC users.
Krista is a mom of a 9-year-old son. In addition to raising her son and working, she is a student at Arizona State University pursuing her Bachelor’s Degree. Krista is also enrolled in the SLPA program at Estrella Mountain College. She plans to be the first SLPA who is an AAC user.
Jules Hyde, STARS (Scottsdale Training and Rehabilitation Services) Employment Program Director- Jules began with STARS in 2014. Starting as a direct support coach in the STARS GSE program, he quickly found he had a passion for the industry. Using that passion and energy he was able to grow the employment program and himself. Growing the STARS GSE employment partners from 3 to 13 in a few years. In that time holding supervisor, outreach, recruitment, and manager positions. Always striving to improve employment services for our community and the IDD population. Most recently in cooperation with VR, developing and implementing an Employment First Initiative for the STARS organization. Truly living the STARS motto, “Changing lives through opportunity.”
Keith Jackson of EyeTech Digital Systems has over 16 years of eye gaze research, design, implementation and delivery experience. Keith has helped thousands of clients around the world to maintain the ability to communicate with their family and friends, spend more time in the workplace and live more independent lives. Keith has an MBA from Arizona State University and lives in Phoenix, AZ with his wife and four kids.
Jeanmarie has over 35 years experience in the field of special education. She began her career as a special education teacher in the Boston area before moving to Phoenix, Arizona. Jeanmarie earned her master’s degree in special education and holds a graduate certificate in Assistive Technology Applications from CSUN. Her many roles in special education include Special Education Teacher, Program Specialist, Assistive Technology Specialist and Adjunct Instructor at Grand Canyon University and Northern Arizona University. She is passionate about advocating for students with disabilities, mentoring new teachers and providing training for parents and educators in an effort to make the world a more inclusive environment for everyone.
Kim, Sang Hee
Sang Hee Kim began her career as a Special Education teacher. Her passion is to advocate for the needs of diverse learners, and to serve adults, more specifically teachers. This passion has led her to various leadership positions including Director for Special Education and presently the Director for the Girls Innovation Academy where she leads a school that encourages and propels young girls to be leaders and learn more about STEM related fields. She also serves as a faculty member for Special Education Learning Experiences for Competency in Teaching (SELECT) where she teaches various courses from Trauma Informed Practice to Differentiating Emotional Disabilities and Behavioral Disorders. She enjoys mentoring, coaching, training leaders and teachers to successfully navigate challenges and opportunities. Her style as a facilitator is to ensure participants are well informed while enjoying what they learn.
Kristen Kelnk is a retired OT who has been an Out and About member since 2003 and her favorite O & A activities are Christmas caroling and Nature Hunts at the White Tanks. She is an aunt to 2 nephews and 5 nieces. Her favorite color is purple. Kristen is an adventurer who participates in adapted snow skiing and kayaking with Daring Adventures. Having Studied Occupational therapy at Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center, Kristen is recognized in Who’s Who of College Students at TX Tech University.
Jeremy Legaspi is an ASHA certified speech-language pathologist (SLP) and Regional Consultant for PRC. He received his B.S. from Arizona State University in 2003, his M.S. from Northern Arizona University in 2005, and graduate certificate in Assistive Technology from Northern Arizona University in 2013. Jeremy is the Central and Northern Arizona regional consultant for Prentke-Romich Company. He also teaches an Augmentative and Alternative Communication graduate class for Northern Arizona’s Assistive Technology Certificate Program. He is licensed by the state of Arizona and is a member of ASHA, ArSHA, and ArSHA AAC Committee member. Jeremy has extensive experience assessing and treating children with a variety of complex communication needs.
Our keynote speaker, Jennifer Longdon is one of two elected members of the Arizona House of Representatives serving LD 24 which covers Central Phoenix and South Scottsdale. She holds a leadership role for her Caucus, serving as Assistant Democratic Leader. She is a Phoenix-based speaker, writer, and activist. Jennifer worked for three years as the content coordinator, chief writer and editor of LivAbility magazine, an Arizona-based quarterly lifestyle magazine. Longdon previously served as Chair for the Phoenix Mayor’s Neighborhood Advisory Council, the State Independent Living Council of Arizona, Arizonans for Gun Safety, and Public Impact Advisory Panel to the Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation. She has been profiled in AZ magazine, the Phoenix New Times, the Washington Post, Salon, Mother Jones and Rolling Stone.
Longdon is a TEDx and Ignite presenter. She is the recipient of the MASK UNITY award (2013), City of Phoenix Impact Volunteer Award (2013) The MLK Celebration I Have a Dream Award (2014) and the National Association of Social Workers, AZ Chapter Citizen of the Year (2014).
Paralyzed in a random shooting in 2004, Jennifer is an outspoken advocate for people with disabilities and strengthening laws to curb gun violence.
Lydia MacKay is a licensed and certified Speech-Language Pathologist who has worked with individuals with a variety of communication needs in school, clinic and home settings. She has worked with learners with Autism Spectrum, Developmental Delays, Visual Impairments, and Multiple Disabilities. She has specialized in Augmentative Communication, Social Communication, and Assistive Technology. Lydia uses her license in Behavior Analysis to promote collaboration among providers who serve individuals with complex communication and behavior challenges.
Mike is the Director of the Richard West Assistive Technology Advocacy Center at DRNJ and the 2017 ISTE Inclusive Learning Network Outstanding Educator. Mike is a RESNA Certified Assistive Technology Professional with 30 years experience. Mike is an adjunct professor at Ramapo College of New Jersey where he teaches courses for Masters level educators in Assistive Technology and Universal Design for Learning.
Mike serves on both the CAST Accessible Educational Materials and Center on Inclusive Technology and Education Systems (CITES) Advisory Boards. Mike is one of the co-authors of the ISTE book Inclusive Learning 365: Edtech Strategies for Every Day of the Year. For details visit https://inclusive365.com/
Staci R. McCauley, M.Ed., M.S. CCC-SLP, began her career 20 years ago as a National Board Certified Teacher, reading specialist, and literacy coach before becoming an SLP. Ms. McCauley has a master’s degree in Special Education with an emphasis in reading disabilities from University of Florida, and a Master of Science in Speech Language Pathology from NAU. Since 2018, Ms. McCauley has worked for NAU’s Institute for Human Development in their Assistive Technology Center. She currently also works for a school district in the Phoenix area full time. Ms. McCauley is passionate about literacy and AAC, and instructs NAU’s graduate level course, DIS 524: Assistive Technology and Literacy. She also volunteers as chair of ArSHA’s AAC committee.
Sakénya McDonald, MA, ABD, is the Program Manager of the Supporting Inclusive Practices in Colleges (SIP-C) program. In this role, Sakénya engages with local organizations to identify and apply evidence-based strategies to better assist adults with disabilities to transition to postsecondary environments. As a doctoral candidate, Sakénya’ s research examines the experiences of dual-exceptional girls of color and the impacts of psycho-social factors, such as systemic apathy, on their educational experiences. Sakénya serves as a Commissioner for the City of Flagstaff’s Commission on Inclusion and Adaptive Living and is President of the Flagstaff Kennel Club. Her passions include travel, dancing, and roller derby.
Jon Meyers is Executive Director of The Arc of Arizona, a position he has held since 2013. Jon’s background in the non-profit sector spans nearly 30 years and ranges from the arts and education to social services and animal welfare. Prior to joining The Arc he held development and executive positions with, among others, The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society; Arizona State University/ASU Foundation; Thunderbird School of Global Management; and Ronald McDonald House Charities. He began his professional career in the External Relations office at NASA Ames Research Center in Mountain View, California. Jon is a graduate of Santa Clara University with degrees in Theatre Arts and History. He lives with his wife and three sons in Anthem, Arizona.
Janna Murrell became a volunteer with Raising Special Kids in 1998, after experiencing firsthand the value of Parent to Parent support when her son was diagnosed with cerebral palsy. After working with families in the nonprofit arena for 12 years Janna joined the staff at Raising Special Kids in 2008 and has worn several hats; Family Support Specialist, Director of Family Support and Education and now Assistant Executive Director. Janna is a Credentialed Peer Parent Support Partner; and BHT, Certified Trainer of the ASQ 3 and ASQ se, Accredited Provider of Level 4 Group Stepping Stones Triple P, Certified Trainer for Serving on Groups That Make Decisions and Certified completion of the Standards of Quality for Family Strengthening & Support.
Dr. Caroline Musselwhite is an assistive technology specialist with more than 30 years of experience working with children and adolescents with severe disabilities, in a variety of settings, including Head Start, developmental day programs, and the public schools. She has also taught courses at several universities, including West Virginia University, and Western Carolina University.
Dr. Musselwhite has authored a number of textbooks including Emergent Literacy Success, Communication Programming for Persons with Severe Handicaps, and Reading Activities Project for Older Students. She has presented thousands of workshops throughout the world, and is a founding member of the Board of Directors for the International Society for Augmentative and Alternative Communication (ISAAC).
Amanda Nolasco has been in the education field for 22 years where she has served as an English teacher, School Counselor, Department Chair, Counselor Facilitator – CTE and is currently the School Counselor Specialist for the Arizona Department of Education. In 2012 she was selected as the Outstanding CTE Counselor of the Year for ACTEAZ. She has served as the Assistant Chair and Chair for Arizona School Counselors Association (AzSCA) and Vice President and Secretary for the Association for Career and Technical Education Arizona (ACTEAZ).
Dr. Wendy Parent-Johnson is Executive Director of the Sonoran Center for Excellence in Disabilities and Professor (Dept. of Family & Community Medicine, COM-Tucson) at the University of Arizona. She has 36 years experience in supported and customized employment, school to work transition, and Employment First policy and practice. Her research, teaching, and grant work focuses on health care transition, health disparities, interdisciplinary health science education, and integration of health and employment. She is Editor of the Journal of Rehabilitation and a member of the Editorial Board of the Journal of Vocational Rehabilitation, the Developmental Disability Network Journal, and Journal on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities.
Pastora Carson, Diana
Diana Pastora Carson, M.Ed. has been an elementary educator for over 30 years, and co-teaches a disability studies course at San Diego State University. She is a consultant and educator on diversity as it relates to disability and is the author of several articles and books including Beyond Awareness: Bringing Disability into Diversity Work in K-12 Schools & Communities, and children’s book, Ed Roberts: Champion of Disability Rights. Her disability awareness work has earned her statewide PTA recognitions in the areas of advocacy and outreach, as well as her school’s designation of Teacher of the Year. Aside from her TEDxTalk, Diana has been featured in several articles and podcasts. She served two terms on the Board of Directors of Disability Rights California, and currently serves as a board member of Disability Voices United. Diana credits her passion for this work to her brother, Joaquin, who endured years of segregated schooling and subsequent institutionalization. She takes the most pride in knowing that after many years of fighting for his release, Joaquin now lives a life of self-determination, inclusion and quality, in the community, as her next-door neighbor.
Laura Plummer, MA, CRC, ATP is the Assistive Technology Program Coordinator for the Wisconsin Department of Health Services. In this position she oversees Wistech, Wisconsin’s Assistive Technology Act program, the iCanConnect program, and collaborates with program partners to ensure comprehensive AT programs are available for individuals with disabilities.
Her experience includes conducting assistive technology assessments in the areas of hearing loss, vision loss, and communication. She provides technical assistance to stakeholders, connects consumers to programs and resources and conducts trainings on assistive technology at the local, statewide, and national levels. Ms. Plummer has both Bachelors and Masters Degrees in Deafness Rehab.
Matthew Press is an occupational therapist and assistive technology practitioner. He has practiced in the field of occupational therapy since 1999 and has focused in assistive technology since 2002, earning his ATP credentials along the way. Matthew regularly presents at state and national conferences. He has taught courses in assistive technology at Adventist University, Northern Arizona University, AT Still University, and the University of Florida. He has served as an Assistive Technology Specialist for the department of education in both Florida and Arizona. He currently works in the Peoria Unified School District as a full-time member of the Assistive Technology team.
Amanda Race, originally a Navy brat all her childhood, moved to Fairbanks in 1986 to attend the University of Alaska and never left. Ms. Race has a BA in Art and minor in Education, K-8. Ms. Race received her master’s degree in Rehabilitation Counseling from Western Washington University (WWU) in December 2007 through a Rehabilitation Services Administration (RSA) scholarship and holds a current Certification for Rehabilitation Counselors (CRC) through September 2023. Ms. Race has over 29 years of experience working with consumers with intellectual developmental disabilities, 22 of those years have been working at Tanana Chiefs Conference (TCC). Ms. Race has successfully written several years of State of AK community disability grants and three five-year American Indian Vocational Rehabilitation grants. Ms. Race joined the NAU AIVRTAC in February 2021 as a Content Expert. Her primary duties at TCC consist of overseeing Tribal Vocational Rehabilitation operations, staff supervision, authorizing project expenditures, managing project budgets and grants, monitoring, and reviewing all consumer case progress, providing vocational rehabilitation case services by maintaining a case load, and serving as a consumer advocate.
Lorie is a champion for competitive employment and Employment First and is a Certified Work Incentives Counselor, Certified Employment Support Professional, and AZ APSE Board member. She created an Employment Program for rural counties within Eastern Washington State, including serving the Spokane Tribe of Indians and Colville Confederated Reservations. Under her direction, 5 Job Specialists became Certified Employment Support Professionals and 4 became certified in Person Centered Planning. At the Sonoran Center for Excellence in Disabilities, she focuses on Work Based Learning Experiences for students with disabilities and virtual work experiences and work supports as the landscape of employment changes due to the COVID-19 Pandemic.
Lauren is a special education teacher with fourteen years experience supporting learners with complex needs. She has an undergraduate degree in special education and Master degrees in Curriculum & Instruction and Special Education. She also holds an advanced certificate in assistive technology. She is an adjunct faculty instructor at Saint Xavier University, Chicago. She is a full-time high school teacher in suburban Chicago. Her experience includes supporting students using augmentative and alternative communication, alternative access, comprehensive literacy instruction and providing access to the general education curriculum. Lauren has presented on various topics in special education for local, state and national conferences.
Jason Silva is a faculty member at Northern Arizona University. Jason teaches two graduate-level courses in the SELECT program (Exceptional Children in Regular Programs and Methods & Materials in Special Education). Jason is also the Exceptional Student Services Director at New School for the Arts and Academics Middle and High School in Tempe, Arizona. Jason is married with three children, enjoys photography, filmmaking and traveling with his family.
Danika Stampfel, M.A., CCC-SLP, graduated NAU with a Bachelor’s of Science in Interdisciplinary Studies, Speech – Science and Technology with Minors in Special Education and Psychology. She went on to earn a Masters of Science in clinical speech-language pathology from Northern Arizona University. She currently works at North Valley Pediatric Therapy in North Phoenix working with patients from birth through adulthood. She is also an AAC evaluator and trainer for Northern Arizona University’s AAC Evaluation and Training Program. With over four years of experience, she specializes in various AAC devices and access methods for clients who have complex communication needs. She also volunteers with ArSHA, Arizona’s Speech Hearing Association.
Melanie is an Occupational Therapist with 17 years of experience working with kids. She has vast experience utilizing technology to help kids access the world. She has experience with a variety of AAC devices, specializing in kiddos with alternative access methods. She also has developed a power wheelchair training program to help kids move independently. She co-owns a non-profit called Believe Beyond Ability, which utilizes assistive technology and alternative methods to give kids freedom to explore through their environments. Melanie is also the founder of a local non-profit called Gye Di, with a mission to create an indoor recreational facility that is accessible to all abilities, building place where all kids can play.
Michele Thorne is the Executive Director of Care 4 the Caregiver, a resource organization that aims to reduce caregiver burnout and build the resiliency of caregivers of children with disabilities by providing them with easy to access tools that focus on minfulness, education, and community.
Victoria Tosca is a Campus Coordinator and Educational Coach for Northern Arizona University’s (NAU) SIP-C program. Victoria works with students transitioning to college across Northern Arizona and specializes in the Northwest region of the state. Victoria is an NAU Alumni, holding a BA in Psychology and a BA in Spanish, and has a professional background in community behavioral health services and vocational services. Being born and raised in Arizona, Victoria loves the Northern Arizona region and has a passion for fostering connection and inclusion across local communities. She is honored to continue to serve Northern Arizona through this project and share her knowledge with others.
Celina Urquidez is the Clinic & Education Coordinator for the Sonoran Center for Excellence in Disabilities. A University of Arizona alum, she earned a Bachelor of Science (Discipline: Nutritional Sciences) and Master of Public Health with an emphasis in public health promotion. Celina began her career at the University of Arizona while coordinating public school health and wellness grant programs in partnership with the YMCA of Southern Arizona, Pima County Health Department, and local school districts. In her current role at the Sonoran Center for Excellence in Disabilities, coordinates activities for multiple UCEDD programs, such as: Transition AHEAD Roundtable and all trainee interdisciplinary training programs.
Van Hook, Melissa
Melissa Van Hook is an Arizona State University graduate with a BS in Psychology. She is the owner of ASD Maverick Consulting, a business focusing to improve the outcomes for individuals with autism, particularly in achieving meaningful employment. Melissa has 22 years of experience in the world of autism and other disabilities. A Founder of East Valley Autism Network and Chair for the Arizona Developmental Disabilities Planning Council, Melissa has worked closely with others in the autism community to pass several key pieces of legislation, including the autism insurance bill, Steven’s Law. Most importantly, Melissa is the mother of two amazing sons with autism, both of whom have driven her to improve outcomes for people of all abilities.
Deanna K. Wagner, MS/CCC-SLP, is a speech/language pathologist with 30 years of experience providing team-based evaluations, consultations and training in the area of assistive technology with an emphasis on augmentative communication. As a Spanish-speaking member of the TherapyOne Assistive Technology Team, she works collaboratively with therapists, educators and families to achieve goals in the area of AAC selection and implementation. She also provides ongoing AAC training to adults at VALLEYLIFE Adult Day Treatment Program. She has presented at local, national and international conferences. As co-coordinator of Out and About, she leads activities and designs materials (mini books and CD) that support integration of AAC into our communities.
Although Deanna is not able to join us in person at our conference, she is a major contributor to the “Out & About AAC in our Community” presentation. Thank you Deanna!
Brandi Wentland is a speech-language pathologist who specializes in AAC. She provides AAC training and implementation through social groups and ongoing therapy. Brandi has presented courses on AAC at conferences, schools, clinics, universities and privately held events.
Brandi graduated from California State University, Chico in 2014 and is now an adjunct professor for CSU, Chico teaching graduate level courses on AAC. She currently resides in Arizona where she hosts Out & About East Valley, a community group for AAC users and their communication partners. Brandi created and administers various FB groups for AAC including: We Speak AAC and Out & About.
Laura Wooten-LaFranier joined the Arizona Department of Education as an Assistive Technology Specialist in 2020. She started her career in education 21 years ago. She first taught as a general education teacher, and later received her master’s degree and certification in special education. After leaving the classroom, she pursued her goal to obtain a certificate in assistive technology and later provided public school services in the East Valley as an Assistive Technology Specialist.