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Date: Wednesday, July 17th, 8:30 am – 3 pm.

Location: Metro Tech 1900 Springlake Drive, Oklahoma City 73111

Unlock the power of inclusive communication at the 2024 inaugural Inclusive Communication Conference, hosted by the Autism Foundation of Oklahoma, Beyond the Spectrum OK, and the Down Syndrome Association of Oklahoma. The one-day conference aims to bring together K-12 educators, providers, and caregivers for a comprehensive discussion on communication in various forms, particularly addressing the challenges faced by individuals with disabilities and complex communication disorders in academic settings.

Featuring keynote speakers, breakout sessions, panel discussions, and resource vendors from both the nonprofit and for-profit sectors from all over the state of Oklahoma!

Registration for attendees is FREE, but space is limited, so make sure to register today!

Conference Schedule:

8:30 am – 9:00 am: Check-in, Light Refreshments

9:00 am – 9:30 am: Welcome and Opening Remarks

9:30 am – 10:15 am: Keynote Speaker

  • Title: Empowering Every Voice: Four Principles of Inclusive Communication
  • Speakers: Dr. Michele DeBerry and Beth Lane, MS, CCC-SLP

10:30 am – 11:30 am: Breakout Session

    • Option 1: “The Arc@School: Advocating for Your Student” (Breakout Room C)
    • Option 2: A Holistic Approach to Using Assistive Technology” (Breakout Room D)
    • Option 3: “Spelling to Communicate” (Breakout Room G)
  • Option 4: “Hearing Health Matters” (Breakout Room E)
  • Option 5:  “Improve Communication Within an IEP Team” (Breakout Room H)

11:30 am – 12:15 pm: Lunch and Networking

12:30 pm – 1:30 pm: Breakout Session

    • Option 1: “The Age Of Inclusion” (Breakout Room D)
    • Option 2: “Improve Communication Within an IEP Team” (Breakout Room H)
    • Option 3: “Hearing Health Matters” (Breakout Room E)
  • Option 4: “The Arc@School: Advocating for Your Student” (Breakout Room C)
  • Option 5: Panel Discussion: “Exploring Inclusive Communication Strategies” (Breakout Room G)

1:45 pm – 2:45 pm: Breakout Session

    • Option 1: “Beyond Accommodations: Fostering Success in the Community and Workplace” (Breakout Room B)
    • Option 2: Panel Discussion: “Exploring Inclusive Communication Strategies” (Breakout Room G)
  • Option 3:  “Listening Through Barriers: Understanding Various Types of Hearing Disorders” (Breakout Room C)
  • Option 4: A Holistic Approach to Using Assistive Technology” (Breakout Room D)
  • Option 5: “Improve Communication Within an IEP Team” (Breakout Room H)

3:00 pm – 3:30 pm: ABLE Tech Presentation

3:30 pm: Closing Remarks and Survey

Key Note Address

Empowering Every Voice: Four Principles of Inclusive Communication

Inclusion is not only about ensuring access to classrooms—it’s about creating environments where every child, regardless of their communication abilities, feels valued, understood, and empowered to participate fully in their community. We will discuss four foundational principles of inclusion for children with communication challenges. By embracing these four principles, participants will leave motivated with the knowledge, skills, and resources needed to create truly inclusive environments where every child can thrive. Join us in this empowering session as we work together to unlock the full potential of every voice.


Dr. Michele DeBerry

Director, Oklahoma Autism Network

About Michele:

Dr. Michele DeBerry is a Clinical Assistant Professor in the College of Allied Health at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center. Michele is the Director of the Oklahoma Autism Network and the Lee Tolbert Center. Throughout Michele’s 30-year career in speech pathology, she has enjoyed many diverse opportunities to work alongside families and professionals to help individuals with disabilities.

Beth Lane, MS, CCC-SLP

Clinical Assistant Professor, University of Oklahoma College of Allied Health

About Beth:

Beth Lane, M.S CCC-SLP has been a Clinical Assistant Professor at the Oklahoma University College of Allied Health since 2019. She currently serves as the SLP Clinic Coordinator and the Director of the Interprofessional Language Enrichment and Pre-Kindergarten (ILEAP) program. Prior to coming to OUHS, she worked in the public schools for over 20 years. Her special interest is autism spectrum disorder in the preschool population.

Break-Out Sessions

The Arc@School: Advocating for Your Student


The Arc of Oklahoma has a long-standing history of advocacy for students and families. We are proud to bring The Arc@School, a fully formed advocacy curriculum, to Oklahoma. Families and community members are able to learn the laws and policies surrounding special education, and how to advocate specifically for the language and communication needs of the student. We will work together to demystify the language surrounding special education accommodations and modifications to ensure better learning and language outcomes.

Learning Outcomes:

  • Families will have a clear understanding of the language surrounding special education.
  • Families will understand the navigation of the special education system.
  • Educators can gain insight into how families can better advocate for their students.

Erin Shepherd, M.Ed

The Arc of Oklahoma

About Erin:

Erin Shepherd is a career educator in the field of special education, having earned her B.A. in Deaf Education from the University of Tulsa, and her M.Ed from Northeastern State University. As a parent of children with autism and navigating her own hearing loss, Erin is a passionate advocate for the language and communication needs of students in the public school system. Erin is currently serving the community of people with developmental disabilities as the Special Education Coordinator for The Arc of Oklahoma.

Improve Communication Within an IEP Team


Communication within an Individualized Education Program (IEP) team can be a challenge between time availability, workload and the dynamics within the team. Frequently communication comes down to the day of a team meeting and often communication between all members if lacking. In this session, IEP team members, including the family and student, learn about the principles and tools offered through Charting the LifeCourse. The session will offer ample time to work with the LifeCourse tools and see how they can enhance communication between all team members. Those attending this session will learn how supporting conversations with the family and student will enhance personal and professional motivation to achieve a goal. All participants will leave with resources and printed tools to take back to work within their own IEP team with the goal of enhancing and improving communication between all members.

Learning Outcomes:

  • Describe the Charting the Life course tools used for communication within an IEP team
  •  Identify the LifeCourse tool (One-page) used to relay what is important to the student and important for the student along with what others like and admire about the student
  • Prepare (or start) the LifeCourse Trajectory to enhance communication and understanding within the IEP to obtain short-term and long-term goals of the student and family

Wanda Felty

Assistant Director, Center for Learning and Leadership

About Wanda:

Wanda Felty is the Assistant Director at the Center for Learning and Leadership, Oklahoma’s University Center for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities (UCEDD), and Core Faculty Mentor for the Oklahoma LEND program. Well before the birth of her middle daughter, 35 years ago, Wanda was an advocate and supporter of people with disabilities. After the birth of her daughter, advocacy became her passion. For the past 20 years, Wanda has been a professional in the field of family advocacy and systems change. She serves on many state advisory boards and works nationally to improve the system and services for people with developmental disabilities and their families. She
has spoken nationally and internationally on topics of family-professional partnerships and involving those with lived experience in the educational teaching process. Wanda is considered one of the leading experts in Oklahoma on state policy for people with developmental disabilities.

Heather Pike

Associate Director, Oklahoma Family Network

About Heather:

Heather Pike’s heart for individuals who have disabilities and special health care needs comes from being a parent. She is the Associate Director for the Oklahoma Family Network (OFN), Family to Family Health Information Center, and Parent to Parent organization, where she has worked for over 20 years. Her position at OFN allows her to support others and connect with remarkable families and organizations across the state and country. Her favorite part about her job is being surrounded by a superior staff in addition to supporting and encouraging families to “start where they are, use what they have and do what they can”. She is a Partners in Policymaking Graduate and a LEND Fellow. She currently serves on the Center for Learning and Leadership (CLL) Family Leadership Council, LEND Family Mentor, Hearts for Hearing Board of Directors, Oklahoma Communities of Practice State Team, as well as many other committees and councils.

Listening Through Barriers: Understanding Various Types of Hearing Disorders


Individuals with and without intellectual and developmental disabilities will likely experience hearing loss in their lifetime. This session will focus on types and degrees of hearing disorders including temporary and permanent types of hearing loss, tinnitus, and sound sensitivities such as misophonia and hyperacusis. Hearing disorder management will be discussed.

Learning Outcomes:

  • Identify permanent versus temporary types of hearing loss
  • Describe tinnitus symptoms and management techniques
  • Define misophonia and hyperacusis and how they are treated

Dr. Suzanne Kimball

Professor of Audiology, Undergraduate Program Director, Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center

About Suzanne:

Dr. Suzanne Kimball is a professor of audiology and the undergraduate program director in the Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. Dr. Kimball received her Master’s degree in audiology from the University of Memphis and her Doctor of Audiology (AuD) degree from the University of Florida. She joined the faculty at OUHSC in 2010. Dr. Kimball has held teaching positions at Illinois State University, Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center and Nicholls State University. Dr. Kimball’s research
interests are in the area of tinnitus and sound sensitivities. Dr. Kimball supervises graduate audiology students in their clinical practicum and sees patients through her private practice at OUHSC.

Hearing Health Matters


Hearing loss, whether permanent or temporary, impacts the language development of children every day. Whether a child is learning to communicate through talking, signing, or AAC, maximizing a child’s potential to grow receptive language through listening is still possible. With the hearing technology available in 2024, children are able to utilize optimize hearing with virtually any type of hearing challenge. Today’s session will focus on the statistics of hearing loss, the recommendations from the American Academy of Pediatrics regarding hearing healthcare for children, and the services available at Hearts for Hearing to support children and families.

Learning Outcomes:

  • Participants will name 3 statistics of hearing loss affecting communication in children with diverse needs
  • Participants will identify 3 recommendations for hearing assessment from the American Academy of Pediatrics
  • Participants will identify 3 ways that children with hearing loss can be supported in Oklahoma

Dr. Crystal Smaldone

Pediatric Audiologist, Hearts for Hearing

About Crystal:

Dr. Crystal Smaldone is a pediatric audiologist graduating with her Doctor of Audiology Degree from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She received her Backer of Science in Biology from Brigham Young University. Crystal spent three years in the North Carolina Leadership Education in Neurodevelopmental and Related Disabilities (LEND) program at UNC
Caroline Institute for Developmental Disabilities. Her research and training as part of this program provided her with specialized skills to better serve infants, children, and adolescents with developmental disabilities or other special considerations. She currently specializes in serving children with hearing loss and their families alongside individuals of all ages with cochlear implants and bone-conduction hearing technologies.

Parker Vanegas

Director of Listening and Spoken Language, Hearts for Hearing

About Parker:

Parker is a speech-language pathologist, listening and spoken language specialist, and Director of Listening and Spoken Language at Hearts for Hearing. She earned her B.A. in Clinical Psychology at the University of Oklahoma, and her M.A. in Speech-Language Pathology at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center. She has worked in early intervention in both a clinical and a counseling setting.

Heather Smith

Director of Development, Central State Community Services Oklahoma, Inc.

About Heather:

Heather Smith is an expert in inclusive communication, focusing on engaging and supporting diverse groups of young people. She has over ten years of practical experience in alternative school settings, where she has developed and implemented innovative teaching strategies to help students aged 14 to 21 succeed in achieving high school graduation. These strategies are customized to meet each student's unique needs, creating an environment where every learner can thrive. Following this, Heather served as a Director at the YMCA for six years, further refining her skills in leadership, program development, and community engagement. In this role, she successfully managed initiatives that promoted inclusivity and accessibility, benefiting a wide range of participants. Heather currently holds the position of Director of Development at Central State Community Services Oklahoma, a nonprofit organization dedicated to providing daily residential support to individuals with developmental disabilities. In this role, Heather continues to advocate for inclusive practices and effective communication, ensuring that all individuals receive the support they need to lead fulfilling lives.

The Age of Inclusion

Inclusive Communication for Youth with I/DD During Transition Ages

Learning Objectives:

  • Honor and support each person’s unique voice
  • Overcome communication barriers in vocational settings
  • Boost self-advocacy skills in young adults with I/DD

Spelling to Communicate

An alternative form of communication for nonspeaking, minimally speaking or unreliably speaking individuals.

Learning objectives:

  • Understanding apraxia vs intellectual disability
  • What is spelling to communicate?
  • Who is a candidate for spelling to communicate?

Miranda Lawrence

Founder, The Spellers Collective

About Miranda:

Miranda Lawrence is a former educator in Edmond public schools where her passion for teaching and
inclusive education began. After her own son was diagnosed with autism, she started the journey to accessible communication for him. After many years of speech therapy he still had few words and mounting frustration. In 2020 she read a book about a young man who was able to communicate his thoughts at age 18 for the very first time using a letterboard and keyboard to spell out every word. Diving in headfirst, her own son began spelling to communicate. After years of experience and observation of other practitioners, she became a trained Spell to Communicate practitioner and is growing a local community of spellers at The Spellers Collective in Edmond. Spell to Communicate teaches nonspeaking,
minimally speaking, and unreliably speaking individuals the motor skills necessary to spell and type as a robust and fluent form of communication.

Aaron Milligan

Director of AT Clinical Assessments and Individual Planning and Co-Owner, Grey Matters Alliance

About Aaron:

Aaron Milligan is a certified and licensed Occupational Therapy Assistant. He graduated from Meramec Community College with an Associates Degree in Applied Sciences. While working through school, Aaron began working as a rehabilitation technician at the age of 19 and continued his work, through the years, in Acute Hospital Rehabilitation, Geriatric rehabilitation, Long Term Care, Home Health, Administration of Rehabilitation Facilities, and Wheelchair and Medical Equipment Sales. In 2018, he joined Gray Matters Alliance, a telehealth monitoring systems company that's mission is to help individuals be more independent and safer in their own environment. He is now Co-Owner of GMA and has brought growth to our mission providing different remote supports and new enabling technologies to the forefront of our company.

A Holistic Approach to Using Assistive Technology

Learning Objectives:

  • Understanding a multidisciplinary approach when using AT
  • Understanding a holistic approach when using AT

ABLE Tech Special Presentation

Did you know that Oklahoma ABLE Tech has assistive technology devices that you can take out on loan? Or did you know that we have a financial loan program to help Oklahomans with disabilities purchase assistive technology or modify their vehicles or homes? These are just two of the programs Oklahoma ABLE Tech offers to meet our mission, which is “to improve the lives of all Oklahomans by providing assistive technology (AT) devices and services, financing opportunities, digital accessibility services, advocacy, and education.” In this session, you’ll learn about our programs and how you or someone you know can use them.

Lyssa Prince, MLIS, CPWA

Assistant Director, Digital Accessibility, ABLETech

Conference made possible on behalf of:

This project is provided and funded in part by the Developmental Disabilities Council of Oklahoma, supported in part by a grant from the U.S. Administration for Community Living, Department of Health and Human Services, Washington D.C. 20201. Grantees undertaking projects with government sponsorship are encouraged to express freely their findings and conclusions. Points of view or opinion do not, therefore, necessarily represent official ACL policy.

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