Autism Institute

austim2.jpgApril 1, 2023 Autism Conference info
It is the mission of the Autism Institute of Gwynedd Mercy University to support scientifically research-based best practices for individuals with autism. The Institute strives to identify needs, seek appropriate funding and structure, and provide services that utilize the University's resources to contribute to the development and educational progress of persons on the autism spectrum.

Establishing the Autism Institute

Gwynedd Mercy University's Autism Institute was founded by Deborah Schadler, PhD, Assistant Dean of GMercyU’s School of Education. She uses her more than 35 years of experience working with special needs children to develop the most scientifically-researched experiences available in the area.

There are more than one million children on the autism spectrum in America, an epidemic that brings countless concerns and issues for the parents and educators who care for the fastest-growing population of special needs children. Gwynedd Mercy University saw a need to address this issue by educating our aspiring teachers and community members, thus becoming the driving force behind the creation of the Autism Institute.

The Institute’s hands-on workshops, professional development activities, on-site service programs and educational presentations at conferences provide research-based best practices for students majoring in special education, as well as teachers and administrators, parents of children on the autism spectrum and any interested community members.

Hundreds of certified teachers in Pennsylvania have received Act 48 or PQAS credit hours through our programs. All programs emphasize the importance of early diagnosis and treatment of children showing symptoms of ASD, as well as the presentation of evidence-based best practices for use across the lifespan of a person on the spectrum.

The 16th Annual Autism Institute Conference

April 1, 2023
8:00 a.m. - 4:00 p.m.
Register below

See map and directions to Gwynedd Mercy University

The signature offering of the Institute is the annual Autism Conference held each April. The conference is free and provides approximately 15 workshops each of 1 ½ hours in length. These workshops cover a wide variety of professional topics by leading professionals in the area. The Autism Institute is dedicated to assisting in identifying and providing for the needs of the local community. It is open to professionals, preparing professionals, and family members; the event is free and offers ACT 48 credits. Breakfast and lunch is included. 


Breakfast and Registration: 8:00 a.m.

WELCOME: 8:30-9:00 a.m. 

Dr. Schadler, Director, Autism Institute at Gwynedd Mercy University
University Hall Rooms W105 & E107

SESSION I: 9-10:30 a.m. 
Navigating the Special Education System: The Evaluation and IEP Process 
Joe Sulpizio, Esq., Senior Attorney, Cuddy Law Firm
University Hall Room E201

Planning For Your Loved One with Special Needs: What Every Caregiver Needs to Know

Patrick Bergmaier, CFP, ChSNC, RICP, Partner, 1847 Financial
Brian Kelnhofer, Jr Partner, 1847 Financial
University Hall Room W205

Wild Child: Bringing Environmental Education into the Classroom

Marisa Nagele, Manager of Onside Programs, Elmwood Park Zoo
University Hall Room W112

What Can Technology Do for Me? Built-in Features to Support UDL Practices

Tammy Bertel, M.S. Ed, Educational Consultant, PaTTAN
University Hall Room E101

The ABC's of Behavior

Sean Romano, BCBA, Behavior Management Specialist, Consultant
University Hall Room W105

Understanding a Sense of Belonging for Students with Autism Spectrum Disorder
Bria Hoey, Graduate Student, Gwynedd Mercy University
Saint Bernard's Room 12

Removing the Extra Glove: Empowering People with Disabilities to Lead

Bev Weinberg, OTD, MS, OTR/L, Founder and Executive Director, Integrate for Good
University Hall E109

Transition Planning and Autism

JoAnn Rae, Assistant Professor, Adjunct, Dept. of Special Education, Saint Joseph’s University
Saint Bernard's Hall Room 19

Help, Hope & Joy – A Family’s Journey Through Autism

Ben, Sandy, and Glenn Hartranft, Autism Ambassador
University Hall Room E108

Persistent Invisibility: Transitioning the Racial Minority on the Autism Spectrum Through Childhood to Adulthood

Carmen Henderson, Ed.D, LDT-C, NCED, Haddonfield School District Director of Special Education and Sekini Moore, M.S. Ed, LDT-C, Haddonfield School District Learning Disabilities Teacher- Consultant and Child Study Team Case Manager
Saint Bernard's Hall Room 17

What Social Skills do Individuals on the Spectrum Really Need

Jenn Summers, Supervisor of Elementary Special Education, Director of Pupil Services, Pennridge School District and Jill Schweizer
University Hall Room E107

TNS: A Community-Based Non-Profit Facilitating a Path to Work for Individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder
Joshua Fields CEO & Co-Founder The Next Step Programs and Lisa Butler,
Program Manager, Cumberland County, The Next Step Programs
Saint Bernard's Hall SB14

A Session for Kids

Gwynedd Mercy University Preparing Teachers


SESSION II: 10:45-12:15 p.m.

Individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder in the Justice System: A Training for Professionals

Kate Hooven, MS, Justice System Consultant, Autism Services, Education, Resources and Training (ASERT) Collaborative with Drexel University
Saint Bernard's Hall Room 22

Getting Around Montco Independently
Brad Edenfield, Program Leader, The Partnership TMA of Montgomery County
Saint Bernard's Hall Room 18

Creating a successful autistic educational environment
Michelle Hunter, Sassafras Program Director, The Quaker School at Horsham
Saint Bernard's Hall Room 12

Behavior Management Strategies to Use in the Classroom and at Home

Sean Romano, BCBA, Behavior Management Specialist, Consultant
University Hall Room W105

CHOP Hospital School Program; Individualized Supports for Hospitalized Children with Autism
Kerri Ann Flanagan, M.Ed, Education Coordinator, The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia
Stephanie Endres, M.Ed

University Hall Room E108

Inclusion & Universal Design Works Everywhere! Including our Brewery!

Kelly Weiss, Perkiomen Valley Brewery
University Hall Room W112

Preparing for college: Raising Expectations in High School
Christa Fisher, Enrollment and Student Services, Gwynedd Mercy University
Sarah Rittenhouse, Gwynedd Mercy University
University Hall Room E109

Holistic Behavioral Modifications

Jackie Breault M.A. LBS, Educator/Mobile Therapist/Behavior Specialist Consultant, Autism Specialist
University Hall Room E107

Nonspeakers Can Communicate, Just Not with Our Mouths: The Self-Advocate Experience!

Benjamin Crimm, Brian Foti, Sarah Ackerman, Gregory Tino, and Will Stephanou: The Self-Advocates of SEEN (Spellers Empowering Education for Nonspeakers)
University Hall Room W206

MIRROR ME: A Virtual Reality-based Movement Intervention for Social-Emotional Development in Neurodiverse Students
Karen DeHaven, MA, BC-DMT, LPC, AHA! Studio for Integrated Therapies LLC, and Michael Stauffer, Vizmoo LLC
Saint Bernard's Hall Room 17

A Session for Kids
Gwynedd Mercy University Preparing Teachers

LUNCH 12:15 – 1:30p.m. UNIVERSITY HALL

SESSION III: 1:30-3:00 p.m.
Pathways to Independence – High School and Beyond
Abby Martucci, Program Director, Families CCAN and Sara Crimm, Director, Families CCAN
University Hall Room E201

Managing Encounters with the Health Care System When Your Child has Autism: Communication, Coaching and Coping
Danielle Scott-Griffith MSW, LSW, Executive Director, Kelly Anne Dolan Memorial Fund and Beth Ely, PhD, RN, Nurse Scientist Consultant
Saint Bernard's Hall Room 19

UDL and Multiple Media for Engagement and Communication Online
Michelle Simms, EdD, Director of Instructional Technology, Teaching and Learning Technology, Gwynedd Mercy University
University Hall Room E101

Benefits of Horse/Human Interactions
Christine Hanebury, Executive Director, Sebastian Riding Associates and Jenny Dec, Equine Director, Sebastian Riding Associates
Saint Bernard's Hall Room 14

Teaching Your Autistic Child to Drive? How to Improve Your Experience and Their Performance in Easy Steps
Michael Mercadante, Ph.D Cand., Owner & Instructor, Modern Driver Institute
University Hall Room W205


This is a time period where the attendees can socialize, mingle, and connect with others, as well as reflect and absorb the information gathered from events throughout the day

Finding vision and voice to advocate for families and students: Perspectives from the field
Mary Manlove, Instructional Coach at Palmyra Area School District, Graduate Student, Millersville University and Ann Marie Licata, Ph.D., Assistant Professor at Millersville University

Tell the story of treatment with Outcomes for Behavior Analysis and Therapy Partners: Where we are and where we want to be
Lynn Santilli Connor, BCBA, LCSW, Executive Director, Behavior Analysis & Therapy Partners

*Conference subject to change.
ACT 48 credits granted.
The conference is funded by the Montgomery County Child Development Foundation.
The conference is sponsored by the Council for Exceptional Children of Pennsylvania.


Registration Instructions

1. Register here

2. View the scheduled presentations and descriptions

3. Select one presentation per session (e.g… Session One: Sean Romano, Session Two: Michelle Hunter, Session Three: Michael Mercadante)

4. If attending for the full day, each attendee will have three tickets in their cart

5. Please do not select duplicate tickets per person. Because of limited space, duplicated tickets will be deleted

6. FOR ALUMNI: This year, we are excited to present an alumni VIP luncheon (12:15 pm - 1:30 pm) at the conference for the first 100 alumni participants who register! If you are an alum and would like to attend, please add this ticket to your order.

7. Complete registration by entering contact information and submitting order.

8. You will receive a confirmation email as well as virtual tickets, from Eventbrite, after completion of your order.

FOR LAW ENFORCEMENT: We will be offering a session for law enforcement professionals and paraprofessionals titled, Individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder in the Justice System: A Training for Professionals. If you are interested in this presentation, it is scheduled for Session Two, 10:45 am to 12:15 pm.

We have a lot in store for this year's conference, including interactive sessions and/or vendors and a period for you to socialize, mingle, and connect. We hope to see you!


If you have any questions, comments, or concerns about the Autism Conference, please contact

To collaborate with the Institute or learn more about it, please contact:
Dr. Deborah Schadler
215-646-7300 ext. 21160

Explore GMercyU's Special Education programs on our School of Education page.

Explore GMercyU's Integrated Studies program.