October 13th-14th, 2018

San Diego, CA

2018 Love & Autism Speakers

Clay Marzo & Jill Marzo

Profesional Surfer/Free Surfer

Clay Marzo is a professional surfer, widely regarded as one of the best in the world. Eleven-time world champion Kelly Slater called him the best surfer of his generation.

From childhood it was obvious that Clay Marzo’s single-minded focus on surfing was unique, his skills otherworldly. But the deeper reasons for this obsession didn’t become clear until his teens, when Marzo was diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome/high functioning Autism. Clay’s fascination with surfing and little regard for much else suddenly had a biological explanation. Marzo’s elusive character and ability to hyper focus made him a surfing phenom winning 17 NSSA titles by the age of 16, one being the prestigious National Surfing “Open Men’s” where he was not only the youngest to ever win but Clay also is a record holder for being the only one who has ever scored 2 perfect 10”s in their final winning heat.

Accolades of his surfing began to roll in, ESPN Television interviews, X GAMES, Water Man of the Year, Surfers Poll Awards, over 10 Magazine covers, numerous articles in Surfer, Surfing, Rolling Stone, Outback and so on. The Worlds Cup and on and on… All this hype spurred a documentary film titled “Clay Marzo: Just Add Water”. This film went on to win the Sundance Film awards in 2008. Followed by a book in 2015. More accomplishments to follow: Water Man of the year and Maneuver of the year at The Surfer’s Poll Awards, he has been featured in over 10 magazine covers and numerous articles including Surfer, Surfing, Tracks, Rolling stones and Outback to name a few. Following the documentary came a book that got released in 2015 called “Just Add water.” Marzo’s elusive character and ability to hyper focus made him a surfing Savant

Surfing with soul, passion, and creativity, Clay thrives in the water, but outside of it, he struggles, like so many in the spectrum. Clay increasingly withdrew from the competitive surfing and the limelight but is still widely regarded as one of the best free surfers in the world and a you tube/Viemo sensation. Today Clay Marzo is seen surfing the North shore of Maui and continues to chase this passion and the peace he can only find in the ocean, riding the waves.

Jill Marzo Clark is the mother of three and has spent the last twenty-nine years in Lahaina working as a masseuse, interior designer and entrepreneur. She was introduced to the autistic community in 1998 when her son a professional surfer Clay was diagnosed as being in the spectrum. She has since engaged with autism awareness groups, doctors, authors and parents across the country sharing joys and trials of having an autistic child.

 Session - Surf Sessions & Life Lessons: Living Your Best Life

    This professional surfer is one of the industry’s most recognizable talents. Clay and his mother Jill will share candidly through video, interview, and conversation about what it’s like to be authentically autistic and one of the world’s best surfers.

Prof. Melanie Yergeau

PhD., Author

Melanie Yergeau is an Associate Professor of English at the University of Michigan, where she teaches classes in disability studies, rhetoric, and digital humanities. Her book, Authoring Autism: On Rhetoric and Neurological Queerness, was published by Duke University Press in 2017. Active in the neurodiversity movement, for many years she served on the boards of the Autistic Self Advocacy Network (ASAN) as well as the Autism National Committee (AutCom).

 Session - Autism and Empathy

    Associate professor, author, researcher and neurodiverisity activist will correct pervasive myths around empathy and autism while defining a new framework for neurodiversity. Discover the limitations of Theory of Mind.

 Breakout Session - What Is Neuroqueer?

    Historically, everything autism has been pathologized. Learn how language can create messages of brokenness and how to support new messages of wholeness, love, and self-acceptance for all those with the diagnosis of autism.

Michael Ryan Andolsek

Fashion Designer

Michael Ryan Andolsek, was born in Landstuhl, Germany on June 20, 1991 to William and Mary Andolsek. As a child, he quickly developed a fixation with the fashion world that has lasted into adulthood with immense intensity. At age 17, he began studying all the basics of the industry at the Salt Lake Community College Fashion Institute. Two years later he moved on to study abroad with Parsons The New School For Design in Paris, France. He continued his mentorship in the art and practice of draping under Cecile Pelous, a retired Master Draper for notable couture houses like Christian Dior and Nina Ricci. He was then accepted to study at the prestigious École de la Chambre Syndicale de la Couture Parisienne. Still not diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder at this point, a year in Paris proved to be too much for his unresolved personal difficulties.

Throughout his childhood, no thought of autism was on anyone's mind, despite many clear indicators. He made a sudden move back from France to Salt Lake City, which prompted the Andolsek family to seek medical analysis. Immediately, mental health professionals at the University of Utah Neuropsychiatric Institute concluded that Michael Ryan Andolsek, 21 years old, was indeed a person with autism. He claims that his diagnosis has only helped him, and does not necessarily wish he had been given it sooner. He continues to heavily focus on his strength in creating. Composing music, drawing, painting, designing interiors, and building the Andolsek Company are what fill the days of MR ANDOLSEK.

 Session - Loving Beauty

    Autistic clothing designer and social change maker, Michael will temp our senses with his colorful high fashion designs. Watch him draw a design and enjoy a special presentation of his unique women's apparel that lets us glimpse into how he appreciates all things aesthetic.

Marcelle Giamona Ciampi (also known as Samantha Craft)

M.Ed., Author

Samantha Craft (aka Marcelle Ciampi) is best known for her prolific writings found in her well-received blog and book, Everyday Aspergers. She is the founder of Spectrum Suite LLC and has worked as Lead Job Recruiter and Community Manager for ULTRA Testing (a technology company with a neurodiversity hiring initiative). Craft was the Community Achievement Award Recipient at the 2017 ANCA World Autism Festival. A professional educator, Craft has been published in peer-reviewed journals and been featured in autistic literature. Some of her works, especially The Ten Traits, have been translated into multiple languages. Her list of traits for females on the autism spectrum has been shared in counseling offices around the world.

 Session - The Courage to Be You: Living a Be • YOU • itful life

    • We all want to live from a place of purpose and nurture our loving relationships. This experiential workshop will guide participants through several activities towards values centered living.

Presented with Rebecca Bass-Ching & Dr. Jenny Palmiotto.

 Breakout Session - Opportunity Makers

    Discover self-empowerment tools through the Know-Now-Net Method and 5 A’s of Community Inclusion. Take away logical action steps to create tools for self-advocacy, inclusion, and leadership.

Daniel Wendler

M.A., Author, Speaker

Daniel Wendler is the author of the books Improve Your Social Skills and Level Up Your Social Life as well as the website ImproveYourSocialSkills.com. Daniel's commitment to help others find social success was born from his own search for connection. With Daniel's quirky personality and awkward behavior, his childhood was full of rejection, bullying, and loneliness. After he was diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome, Daniel began teaching himself social skills from the ground up. When he then started reaching out to other “outsiders”, he discovered he was not alone in his search for connection, and that the best way to find a place to belong was to create that place for someone else. Today, as an author, speaker, and clinical psychology doctoral candidate at George Fox University, he works to help others make that same discovery.

 Session  - How to be a Friend

    Author and seasoned Love & Autism speaker, Daniel Wendler will talk friendship with his best friend Kyler Shumway. Learn strategies that everyone (autistic and neurotypical) can use to make new friends or deepen the friendships they already have.

 Breakout Session  - "You Belong"

    • Love & Autism just for Teens!

Find out more here

Kyler Shumway


Kyler Shumway, MA, is the author of The Friendship Formula, a book dedicated to helping teens and adults find friendship by being better at it. Kyler is a doctoral student in clinical psychology at George Fox University completing his clinical internship at Baylor Scott & White Health in Temple, Texas. He is a sought-after speaker for organizations like The American Psychological Association and The Collaborative Family Healthcare Association. He is an advocate for the Autism community and scientist with a mission of translating mental health research into something digestible for kids and families. He and his best bud, Daniel Wendler, will take the stage at Love and Autism to speak about their deep friendship, with an additional breakout workshop for youth called "You Belong!" Kyler's research focuses on the effects of psychotherapy in the brain and the impact of social isolation on wellbeing. He has a passion for helping youth succeed and feel connected, with a background as a school counselor and collegiate track coach. In his free time, he enjoys lifting weights with his best bud Daniel, cooking food with his wife Mary, and playing video games.

 Session  - How to be a Friend

    Kyler Shumway will talk friendship with his best friendDaniel Wendler. Learn strategies that everyone (autistic and neurotypical) can use to make new friends or deepen the friendships they already have.

 Breakout Session  - "You Belong"

    • Love & Autism just for Teens!

Find out more here

Noah Cummins


Noah Cummins is a Singer Songwriter from Park Ridge Illinois. Since the age of five, singing and performing has been his passion. Noah studies commercial music at Belmont University while writing and performing in the Nashville circuit. He has sung the national anthem for the Chicago Cubs, Bulls and White Sox. This tenor singer-songwriter has multiple genres and his repertoire. Noah has had music in his life since he was born and perfects his with many professionals. He is looking to debut a new EP in September.

 Session  - Musical Performance

    Autistic singer-song writer, Noah Cummins will jam with our master of ceremony, David Finch, in a conference closing that will sure to have you on your feet.

Jeremy Sicile-Kira

Intuitive Artist, Author

Jeremy Sicile-Kira is an award-winning intuitive artist who communicates by typing. When he was a young child, his family was given no hope for his future. Nonetheless, Jeremy graduated high school in 2010 at age 21 with a full academic diploma. To help others with autism transition to adulthood, Jeremy co-authored a book, A Full Life with Autism (Macmillan).

Jeremy has synesthesia – he sees emotion as color. In August 2012, Jeremy began to tell others about his dreams: dreams that he was painting the emotions of people into colorful abstract portraits. One night he dreamt that he painted ten of his paintings and had an art show. Jeremy was encouraged to make this dream come true, and began to paint in real life. In April 2016 his first curated solo art show held in San Diego was covered by local and national media, resulting in a sold-out show and 24 private commissions. Currently, Jeremy meets clients at his art studio in San Diego or via skype, and then paints their portraits. According to Jeremy, “My ability to paint the colors I see in my dreams is the greatest gift I have.” For more information, go to Jeremysvision.com.

 Session  - Dreams of Love & Autism

    Nationally recognized local artist will paint live while telling his story through video. Jeremy who communicates by typing is a author, advocate and award winning artist who translates other people's emotions and mood into beautiful works of art.

Alex Koeppel

Musician - Piano

Alex was diagnosed with autism at an early age. Alex drives to work and is a wonderful piano player mastering musical pieces and cover songs. He enjoys playing a variety of music, including Ragtime, classical, Billy Joel, Beatles, Vince Guaraldi jazz pieces, and movie themes. He's posted over 100 hits on his YouTube channel "PianoMagnet3." Alex frequently visits Disneyland and enjoys playing piano on Main Street. When Alex isn't playing piano, he can be found working at AMC Theaters in Otay Ranch.

 Session  - Musical Performance

    Gifted local pianist, Alex Koeppel will perform songs we know and love.

Sally Pla


Sally J. Pla is an award-winning author of books for young people.

THE SOMEDAY BIRDS (HarperCollins 2017) -- Winner of the 2018 Dolly Gray Children's Literature Award. Junior Library Guild Selection for 2017. 2017 Nerdies Award winner. A New York Public Library Best Children’s Book of 2017.

STANLEY WILL PROBABLY BE FINE (HarperCollins 2018) -- Junior Library Guild Selection for 2018. Starred review from Kirkus.

BENJI, THE BAD DAY, & ME (Lee & Low 2018) -- Coming this fall.

Sally has worked as a business journalist and in public education. She is an #ownvoices writer who believes in kindness, respect, and the beauty of different brains. We are all stars shining with different lights.

She lives with her family and a big fluffy dog in San Diego, where she’s hard at work on the next book.

 Session - An Unexpected Journey: On Novel-Writing, Autism, and Self-Love

    I started writing a children's novel, writing as the mom of an autistic son. But along the way, I started realizing that I was writing from a different place altogether. This is the story of how writing a book helped rewrite the story of my whole life. How it strengthened me, and brought me to self-acceptance and love.

 Breakout Session - Creative Writing and Self-Love

    Self-Expression is an act of Self-Love! And creative writing enhances self-understanding. Telling imaginative stories is how we learn -- about the world, about each other, about ourselves. So... let's get writing! Hints, tips, and fun exercises to help you uncover the joy in writing and storytelling.

Morénike Giwa Onaiwu

Morénike Giwa Onaiwu is a community advocate, writer, Christian, mom, and educator. American-born to immigrant parents, Morénike is a Black Autistic woman in a multicultural, neurodiverse family of color and a firm supporter of human rights and neurodiversity. She has several years of program management experience and is involved in a myriad of social justice activism endeavors including including HIV-related advocacy, disability rights, learning via technology, research, gender and racial justice, and promoting inclusion.

Morénike's executive experience includes board membership of a number of national disability, advocacy, and family service organizations, chairperson of both a large HRSA-funded local planning body and an international NIH-funded community research network, and leadership roles within various entities, including Autism Women’s Network and the Autistic Self Advocacy Network. She has presented at a number of peer-reviewed conferences and was awarded the "Advocating for Another: Health Activist of the Year" 2014 WEGO Health Award and the "Service to the Self-Advocacy Movement" 2015 ASAN Award.

Morénike has written for and/or been featured in numerous blogs, magazines, books, and other platforms. She often draws from her personal experiences as a late-diagnosed Autistic adult, a person of color, an Autistic parent of Autistic and non-Autistic children, and a survivor of intimate partner violence. In addition to writing, she is one of the editors of a groundbreaking anthology on autism and race.

Currently balancing her roles as a professor at a state college and as a doctoral student in an educational leadership program, Morénike considers herself a "lifelong learner" who is constantly growing and changing, hopefully for the better! She considers her wonderful children (biological and adopted) to be her greatest accomplishment.

 Session  - More Than Meets the Eye

    Morénike will share how her experience as a late-diagnosed Autistic adult and being a person of color has shaped the conversation about autism.

 Breakout Session  - Racialized Autism: Discussions of intersectionality and Aut

    Universal themes related to the intersectionality of race and autism will be explored in this timely workshop.

David Finch

Author, Speaker

2018 Love & Autism Master of Ceremonies

David Finch is a humorist, public speaker, and author of the acclaimed New York Times best-selling memoir, The Journal of Best Practices. Married in 2003 and diagnosed five years later with Asperger syndrome, David has committed himself to relentless self-improvement, sometimes to a comical extent. David has written for The New York Times, Huffington Post, and Slate, and he writes a relationship blog for Psychology Today. But his greatest accomplishment by far has been learning how to thrive as a family man.

 Session - What Would David Finch Do?

    David will open up our morning with a funny and endearing story that will make you laugh while speaking to the power of self-acceptance and Love & Autism. Mr. Finch will also engage each presenter in a moderated discussion following each presentation.

 Session - Lie Better and Other Essential Skills

Gavin Martin

Musician - Drummer

Gavin Martin is a sweet, high energy, intelligent boy, who also happens to be diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder, sensory processing disorder, and a receptive/expressive language disorder. Gavin’s love for music started at a very early age and has turned into a passion for playing drums! He received his first drum set in 2014 for Christmas and hasn’t stopped playing since! Gavin takes drum lessons three times a week and also plays with a band in St. Louis. He loves performing on stage and hopes to become a professional drummer when he grows up!

 Session  - Musical Drum Performance

    Rock out with Gavin Martin, our 9-year old drummer who shows us the power of positive autistic identity through his high-energy drum set.

Alix Generous Lancaster & Roy Lancaster

Alix Generous is the founder of Generous & CO, a VR development company dedicated to helping the lives of those with autism. Generous grew up in Bethesda, MD and did not speak until she was six. At 12, she received an autism diagnosis. She is a survivor of childhood and institutional abuse but more importantly, she is a champion for the neurodiverse, a gifted healer, and a strong advocate for children and their families. In 2016, she graduated from the University of Vermont with a degree in psychology and molecular biology. She’s interned with the Medical University of South Carolina researching neuropathic pain and at Tufts Medical School, where she volunteered her time as a neuroscience lab technician studying traumatic brain injury. She speaks all over the world on autism & has given a TED talk that’s been viewed over 1.6 million times. She lives in Los Angeles with her husband, Roy, and her St. Bernard Chauncey. She works as a music & arts therapist for disabled youth when she’s not working on her company. She is currently fundraising to develop an application that allows nonverbal autistics to communicate clearly with the world around them.

 Session - A Love That Endures: Newlyweds with Autism

    These newylweds will discuss how they have grown their love while contending with some of the hurdles that face neurologically mixed partnerships.

 Breakout Session - Learning To Love Myself, Quirks and All

    Alix Generous first captured our hearts in her wildly popular TEDtalk. She will do it again by letting us in to her formidable struggle to accept, appreciate, and fully love the person that she is; quirks and all.

Jack Arnold & Michael Cox


 Session  - For Shizzzle Our Friendship is Aight: Lessons Learned in a Decade of Friendship

    • Get real friendship tips from two young men who started their friendship in an unlikely place.

Presented with Dr. Jenny Palmiotto

Rebecca Bass-Ching


 Session - The Courage to Be You: Living a Be • YOU • itful life

    • We all want to live from a place of purpose and nurture our loving relationships. This experiential workshop will guide participants through several activities towards values centered living.

Presented with Marcelle Giamona Ciampi & Dr. Jenny Palmiotto.

Quincy Tafoya


 Autistic & Proud: A Musical Performance by Quincy Tafoya

    Quincy Tafoya, is an 11 year old social change activist and long time Love & Autism fan. Nicknamed “the Canary,” he will use his musical talents that have helped him uncover his own strength and resiliency.

Breakout Speakers

Jenny Palmiotto

Founder of Love & Autism

Jenny Palmiotto is a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist and certified RDI program consultant. She uses well-researched treatment methods including Emotionally Focused Therapy (EFT), Relationship Development Intervention (RDI), Behavioral and Brief Models. She has extensive training and a decade of experience treating individuals on the autism spectrum.

She specializes in serving persons with invisible social deficits. She also has advanced training in working with couples that are longing to reconnect with on another. She is currently a 4th year doctoral student at Alliant International University. She received her masters from University of San Diego.

 Session - The Courage to Be You: Living a Be • YOU • itful life

    • We all want to live from a place of purpose and nurture our loving relationships. This experiential workshop will guide participants through several activities towards values centered living.

Presented with Marcelle Giamona Ciampi & Rebecca Bass-Ching

 Session - For Shizzzle Our Friendship is Aight: Lessons Learned in a Decade of Friendship

    • Get real friendship tips from two young men who started their friendship in an unlikely place.

Presented with Jack Arnold & Michael Cox.

 Breakout Session - Resilient Parenting: Tools to move away from Blame, Shame and Anger

    When we are hurt and scared, we often go to blame, shame and anger. These emotional responses don't serve us or our children. Explore these emotional triggers and learn new ways to respond.

 Breakout Session - Conversations about Love & Autism

    So many ideas swirling through your head? Have a few questions? Want to get the inside track to next year’s event? Join Jenny to have a casual conversation about Love & Autism.

Lisa Burgess

Associate Marriage and Family Therapist

Lisa is a Developmental Therapist with FGTC, and is also a registered Associate Marriage and Family Therapist, as well as an Associate Professional Clinical Counselor. She has worked with clients of various ages, ranging from toddlers to adults, and has experience working in a variety of mental health settings. Throughout her time as FGTC, Lisa has developed a passion for helping families build strong relationships through RDI, and aspires to use her knowledge to make an impact in the world.

 Breakout Session - Finding Your People: A place for Conference Connections

    Have real conversations with new people or strengthen old connections in this unstructured social gathering.

David La Frenz

David LaFrenz is an autistic man raising his autistic child with their other parent who also happens to be autistic. Not learning he was autistic until adulthood, David embraces his unique neurology. He is passionate about serving others through his work as a volunteer and board member for various advocacy organizations.

In addition to his advocacy work and dedication to dynamic parenting, he is fulfilled by his professional presence within the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) as a driver license examiner. David has conducted tens of thousands of driving tests in his near decade of service to the motoring public and is an expert in examining the driving patterns, behaviors, skills, and abilities of all types of persons. He understands fully the unique needs of autistics in navigating the many facets of traffic and driving. Also, in his service to the DMV David serves on its Disability Advisory Committee analyzing, interpreting, and implementing policies to better meet the needs of all disabled Californians.

 Breakout Session - Driving while Autistic: Being your Best Self Behind the Wheel

    David, a driver license examiner with the Department of Motor Vehicles, Driving is anxiety provoking for many. Learn practical tips to overcome fears about getting behind the wheel so you can get out on the road.

Kasey Connors

Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist

Kasey specializes working with children and pre-adolescents. She focuses on helping through transitions in early life, by supporting young people in finding their voice and sense of self. Through being authentic, empathetic, and transparent, Kasey provides a safe space for her clients to discuss obstacles they face which may inhibit positive growth.

Kasey is a creative and nature inspired individual who believes in the power of making art and being in-tune with nature as guides to healthier functioning. By engaging and guiding her clients through the process of creating art and being in tune with nature, Kasey focuses on the importance of perspective taking and having tangible creations to aid in discussion of depression, communication issues, self-awareness, and relationship problems. Kasey received her Master’s degree in Marriage and Family Therapy specializing in Art Therapy from Notre Dame de Namur University in Belmont California.

Meghan Murphy

Associate Marriage and Family Therapist

I have spent my career working in the field of autism and other various developmental disabilities. Over the past many years, I have witnessed the value of strengthening the family unit as a whole, as a vital piece of a child’s success and growth. Therefore, as a certified RDI consultant and Marriage and Family Therapy Intern, my approach has consisted of providing a safe, comfortable environment in which I can support each member of the family in their relationships with each other, as well as with themselves.

I specialize in working with children, adolescents and adults with autism and co-occurring disorders such as anxiety or depression. I also have a particular interest in working with couples or individuals who are impacted by a diagnosis.

I firmly believe in the importance of collaborating with my client and am constantly learning and growing from each experience a client shares with me. I ensure that I view each client as an individual and support them to find the right level of challenge necessary to experience growth.

 Breakout Session - Getting Creative: Deepening Emotional Expression in Autistic Individuals

    Discover and practice meaningful ways to increase emotional literacy in our homes. Find new ways to make emotions safe and understood.

Terri Colachis


 Breakout Session - Launching with Love & Dignity

    When Teri found herself exploring living arrangements for her autistic daughter, she was met with discouragement and even disgust when the word “group home” was used. She has forged a new path for her daughter and countless others through her political activism, advocacy and heart made of gold.

Klara Placek

Associate Marriage and Family Therapist

Klara received her Master’s degree from Alliant International University and is completing her PsyD in their Couple and Family Therapy program.

Klara believes that learning to reach towards our loved ones, rather than away from them, can improve many other aspects of our lives, such as resiliency, self-esteem and intimacy. Thus, Klara’s goal in therapy is to help families, couples, and individuals improve their relationships and ability to connect to others.

Klara is trained in Emotionally Focused Therapy and works from an attachment perspective to promote compassion and understanding in relationships, in order to change negative patterns of interaction. In addition, Klara models empathy, authenticity and transparency to create a safe environment, with no judgment, where clients can feel, heard, validated and comfortable.

Klara has experience working with mental health diagnoses, such as Depression and other Affective Disorders, Anxiety Disorders, Schizophrenia Spectrum Disorders, Substance abuse and Trauma. Klara seeks to help clients process difficult emotions and understand their behaviors, as well as, develop more beneficial and safer coping strategies.

Klara is currently working with children with autism and is being trained in Relationship Development Intervention (RDI). RDI is a treatment model designed to improve the quality of life for individuals with autism by promoting dynamic thinking, flexibility, emotional development and social relationships.

Julie Hattaway

Associate Marriage and Family Therapist

Julie Hattaway is a marriage and family therapist intern specializing in individual, couple, and family therapy. Julie earned her master’s degree from Alliant International University and is currently completing her PsyD in their Couple and Family Therapy program.

Julie maintains a curious attitude to create an environment where clients feel safe and free of judgement. Julie creates a comfortable therapeutic environment through her use of compassion and humor. Julie believes that all individuals, couples and families are unique and tailors treatment to each client’s issues in a way that is adaptable and promotes growth. Julie operates from a strength based approach that encourages the use of existing tools and resources to identify solutions and create change.

Julie is trained in Emotionally Focused Therapy and utilizes an attachment framework to create emotional closeness and eliminate negative interaction patterns

Julie has experience working with couples looking to improve their communication, increase connection and intimacy, reduce conflict, and who are adapting to various life stages such as dating, preparing for marriage, growing families, divorce, and launching.

Julie is currently working with children and adolescents diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder and is being trained in Relationship Development Intervention (RDI). Using an RDI lens, Julie guides clients to develop a strong sense of competence and trust in themselves while expanding their interactions with the world around them.

 Breakout Session - Strengthening Couple Relationships: Deconstructing the Dance

    Develop your very own relationship map to help you navigate distance, emotional triggers, and conflict in our intimate partnerships. May attend with or without your partner.

Amber Hasbun

Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist

Amber is a licensed marriage and family therapist who specializes in providing counseling to individuals, couples, and families. She is particularly passionate about helping individual and families cope with and overcome a traumatic event/s and the negative emotional responses associated with traumas. She enjoys collaborating with clients to overcome depression, anxiety, feelings of decreased self-worth, low self-esteem, and those who feel marginalized or devalued within their relationship, family, or their larger social system.

Amber is kind, warm, compassionate and empathetic. She believes change starts when clients feel accepted and safe; therefore works to ensure these are present in the client-therapist relationship. Through the use of Contextual, Attachment, and Narrative Therapy approaches, Amber helps clients achieve a higher state of emotional and mental well-being.

Amber received her Master’s in Marriage and Family Therapy in 2011 from Alliant International University and is pursuing a Doctorate of Psychology (PsyD.) in Marriage and Family Therapy, also from Alliant. Amber also works at the Naval Center for Combat & Operational Stress Control (NCCOSC) at the Navy Medical Center in Balboa in the development and implementation of a program designed to increase quality of care for active duty service members.

 Breakout Session - Boundaries about our Bodies: Teaching Safety through the Life Span

    Discover the skills necessary to keep your child safe, how to approach difficult topics, and help your child to take more responsibility of their safety.

 Breakout Session - Practicing Self-love Now and at Home

    The struggle is real! Practice ways to meet your struggle with kindness, understanding, and how to build moments of self-compassion in everyday life.

Rupert Issacson

Founder of Movement Method and Owner of the Horse Boy Foundation

Rupert is the creative force behind Horse Boy, Rowan is his mentor, teacher and muse. Together all aspects of Horse Boy begin with them and from there the wider team helps to develop each aspect of the Horse Boy Programs. Rupert has also been mentored by Dr. Temple Grandin and other adult autists. What makes Rupert unique among autism practitioners is that from the get go he thought and still seeks direct mentorship from the population he serves.

Rupert Isaacson was born in 1967 in London to a South African mother and Zimbabwean father, and grew up half in London, half on a remote horse farm in the British countryside and also with Africa looming large in his life. Coming from a family of pioneers and adventurers – Russian Jews who went to Africa on his father’s side, British, Dutch and mixed race settlers on his mother’s side – Rupert’s grandparents were journalists, war correspondents, cattle ranchers and artists. His father is an architect and his mother a sculptor. So making your own destiny is something he grew up with. A journalist for the British and American press from the early 1990s (Daily and Sunday Telegraph, Daily Mail, Mail on Sunday, Independent on Sunday, Esquire, National Geographic, Conde Nast Traveller – among others), he has also published several guidebooks to Africa and India, and is he author of three non-fictional memoirs: The Healing Land (a New York Times Notable Book), which tells the story of his family in Africa, and of his own time spent living with the Bushmen of the Kalahari Desert; The Horse Boy (a New York Times and Sunday Times bestseller), which tells the story of his journey across Mongolia on horseback with his autistic son Rowan; and The Long Ride Home, which tells of the three subsequent healing journeys he and his son made to Africa, Australia and the Navajo Reservation, as well as his discovery of how horses can help autism and special needs in general.

Rupert also runs the Horse Boy Foundation, from his New Trails ranch near Austin, Texas, which offers services to autism families, and helps direct several satellite centers offering similar services in North America and Europe. In partnership with Iliane Lorenz he also teaches Horse Boy Method, Movement Method (an kinetic learning program designed for homeschool and mainstream aimed at autism, ADD and ADHD), and other kinetic learning techniques, along with Stress Free Dressage, a way of introducing riders to the higher levels of equitation without being screamed at(!).

A succesful documentary filmmaker – The Horse Boy and Endangerous - and write and conceiver of reality TV shows (The Quest - which aired on ABC in 2014 - was his original concept and he helped produce the show), and in addition his mainstream Hollywood projects include The Horse Boy feature film and The Goth Lords.

A career in human rights runs parallel to all this. In 2004 he founded the Indigenous Land Rights Fund, which helps hunting and gathering tribes gain legal title to their ancestral land and which helped the Bushmen of Botswana win the largest land claim in African history in 2006 - as a result of which he is now banned from Botswana (!).

Finally there is his first love - horses both cross country riding, and classical dressage (he works closely with the Valenca Family in Portugal and studies with Christian Bachinger of the Spanish Riding School of Vienna as well as Christoph Hess of the German FN). A small time breeder of Lusitano horses, Rupert relaxes by reading historical novels, planting trees and drinking beer, especially IPAs. He quite likes wine too. And food.

 Breakout Session - Movement and Nature for Better Connection

    Author, human-rights activist, and loving father to his autistic teenager, Rupert will demonstrate why every one of us benefits from movement and nature. Expect to get moving.

Alex Plank

Founder of WrongPlanet

Alex Plank is the guy behind WrongPlanet.net, the incredibly popular site for individuals with Asperger’s Syndrome and Autism. Both Alex and Wrong Planet have been featured by CNN, The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Los Angeles Times, and Good Morning America. Wrong Planet has more than 90,000 registered members and its discussion forums contain millions of messages.

Alex graduated from George Mason University with a degree in Film and Video Studies. His areas of interest and expertise include public speaking, the Internet, writing, directing, and filmmaking. He lives in Beverly Hills, California. Alex is also a consultant and actor on FX’s hit series The Bridge.

 Breakout Session - 100 tips from 100 Dates

    Autistic people are often given unhelpful dating advice by well-meaning neurotypical people. Alex Plank has figured dating out. His advice actually works.

Seth Schwartz

Special Education Attorney


 Breakout Session - Demystifying Special Education Law: Advocating for Inclusion, Accommodations, and Modifications in Relation to the IEP

    Could your child love school? Sometimes that path towards joyful education starts with understanding your child’s rights. Seth Swchartz will give you a comprehensive guide to creating necessary educational change through the IEP process

Melissa Geiger

Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist

I am a licensed marriage and family therapist who enjoys working with children, teens, and their families who have become off track and out of sync with one another, themselves, or just need a little extra help getting back to where they want to be.

My background is working with youth 5-24 years of age with emotional disturbances including (but not limited to): major depression, anxiety, attachment issues,  ADHD, extensive trauma, adoption, foster, school issues, suicidality, and aggression. I have worked with youth and adults who are part of the LGBTQ community. My office is a safe place where all are accepted and treated with compassion. Some of the treatment modalities I like to integrate during sessions include play therapy, art therapy, theraplay, attachment based techniques, and solution focused. I also have experience working with parents who are finding themselves overwhelmed, burnt out, and struggling to make positive connections with their children.

I am not in this field to tell people what to do, pass judgment or give advice. My goal as your therapist is to listen to you, get to know you as a person, identify strengths, build self- awareness and create a safe environment where positive change happens, hope flourishes, and relationships thrive.

Brian Bovino

Director of Developmental Services at FGTC

Brian Bovino earned his B.A at the University of Massachusetts with a double major in Economics and Finance. He graduated with his Master’s degree in Applied Behavior Analysis from Ball State University and is a Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA). Brian is also a Certified Relationship Development Intervention (RDI) Consultant.

Brian began his work with families and children with Autism Spectrum Disorder in 2004. Prior to starting at the Family Guidance and Therapy Center, Brian specialized in educating parents on how build consistency in parenting practices. He also worked with parents to improve their confidence and helped them explore new learning opportunities available in everyday activities. Brian is passionate about helping parents become an active part in their child’s learning and development. He believes that through everyday routines and leisure activities, each moment is a potential learning opportunity and can be made enjoyable. Since working at Family Guidance and Therapy Center, Brian has worked with families on ways to create more meaningful relationships.

Brian has worked in a multitude of settings including public, private, and charter schools, as well as providing direct care services in home, clinics, and community based settings. Brian has worked with many different populations including individuals in the Special Olympics, juvenile probation, short-term residential facilities, and the healthcare field. Brian lives in San Diego with his wife, daughter and golden retriever.

 Breakout Session - Compassionate Parenting: Gently Teaching Life's Lessons

    Learn practical strategies to limit setting and develop a heart-centered and effective way to approach discipline in your home.

Samantha Alexander

Board Certified Behavior Analyst


 Breakout Session - Parenting from a Position of Intuition & Heart: Why RDI® Works

    In this introductory session, caregivers will learn about RDI, a humanistic, relational and family-focused intervention. You will leave with practical tips and new ways of thinking. Presented with Meghan Murphy.

Register Here

Sponsored By:




Why this price point?
Our conference offers an honorarium and travel accommodations for all main stage speakers! All Love & Autism performers are also compensated for their time. We also value our Love & Autism volunteers, sponsors, and members. Without our community support, we would not be able to host an event like this. With 80%of our speaker identifying as on the spectrum, this is our commitment to fair wages for people with disabilities.

© 2014-2018 Love & Autism. All rights reserved. 619-600-0683. Terms of Use

Website: Alford Creative

Why this price point?
Our conference offers an honorarium and travel accommodations for all main stage speakers! All Love & Autism performers are also compensated for their time. We also value our Love & Autism volunteers, sponsors, and members. Without our community support, we would not be able to host an event like this. With 80%of our speaker identifying as on the spectrum, this is our commitment to fair wages for people with disabilities.

Register Here

Sponsored BY:

© 2014-2018 Love & Autism. All rights reserved. 619-600-0683. Terms of Use.

Website: Alford Creative

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