2019 Love & Autism Speakers

Becca Lory Hector

Advocate, Consultant, Speaker, Author

BECCA LORY HECTOR, CAS, BCCS was diagnosed on the autism spectrum as an adult and has since become an active autism advocate, consultant, speaker, and author. With a focus on living an active, positive life, her work includes autism consulting, public speaking engagements, writing a monthly blog, Live Positively Autistic, and the bi-weekly podcast that she co-hosts, Spectrumly Speaking. Becca has published multiple articles about life on the autism spectrum with the goal of spreading acceptance, understanding, and encouraging self-advocacy. She spent four years supporting the autism community in the non-profit sector in her work for grass-roots organizations that provide resources and services directly to individuals on the autism spectrum.

Becca left non-profit to pursue dual certifications as a Certified Autism Specialist (CAS) and Cognitive Specialist (BCCS). Becca also sits on the Board of Directors of Different Brains and the Foundation for Life Guides for Autism, the Community Council of AASET (Autistic Adults and other Stakeholders Engaged Together), as well as, the Scientific and Community Advisory board of SPARK for Autism. Becca is a proud contributing author of Spectrum Women: Walking to the Beat of Autism and serves as an Assistant Editor and Feature Writer at Spectrum Women Magazine.

An animal lover with a special affinity for cats, Becca spends most of her time with her partner, Antonio Hector, and their Emotional Support Animal (ESA), Sir Walter Underfoot.

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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.

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Cassandra Nelson

Artist, Advocate

Cassandra Nelson is an artist, advocate and founder of Exceptional 2 Infinity, a San Francisco based agency focusing on neurodivergent creatives and getting them work. She lives and works in the SF Bay Area with her partner and two children. After 15 years of working as a Forensic Analyst in a Bay Area crime lab, she switched gears to pursue a new life using her passion for art. Her current roles combine her favorite creative interests with her practical skills, now working as a painter, photographer, public speaker, promoter and facilitator.

Swimming in an alphabet soup of neuro differences, Cassandra openly identifies as autistic, ADHD, a synesthete, SPD and CAPD. She utilizes her neuro traits to promote the work of herself and other neurodivergent creatives through online and in-person channels, workshops, and speaking events. Through strategic initiatives, her company is connects creatives to social supports, helping build financial stability through their work, and aiding organizations in developing in-house neurodivergent culture through the creative arts.

Born into an artistic family and raised in Santa Cruz, California, Cassandra has been studying and creating various forms of art since she was a child. She creates oil paintings, writings, videos and photography out of her home based studio. As an artist, a neurodivergent human, and queer person, much of her artwork explores the nuance in these identities and their intersections. While peering through a multiplex lens of the neurodiversity perspective, she documents human transcendence. Her works celebrate the sensory filled and sensually rich experiences of neurodivergent folk.

Cassandra is currently writing her first book, Neurodivergent Creatives. Her book examines the lives of everyday neurodivergent creatives, the role of individual sensory experiences and how this engages authentic human connection. Follow her creative journey on her Instagram blogs: @neurodivergentcreative and @ex2infinity.

Session - The Friendship Hypothesis; What Makes a Friendship Work.

John Marble

Advocate, Speaker, Writer

John Marble is the founder of Pivot and is a writer and speaker on innovation, autism, and neurodiversity.

In 2009, he was appointed by President Obama to the United States Office of Personnel Management. There, his work focused on workforce development, innovation, and incorporating into government services the best practices and thinking of Silicon Valley. In addition to his White House service, he has served as an advisor and aide to Secretary Hillary Clinton, Senator John Kerry, and Vice President Al Gore. John lives in San Francisco.

He is autistic.

Session - The Friendship Hypothesis; What Makes a Friendship Work.

DJ Savarese

Activist, Poet, Optimist 

DJ Savarese is an activist who works to make literacy-based education, communication, and inclusive lives a reality for all nonspeaking people through artful advocacy, teaching, and community organizing (www.Listen2Us.net).

A 2017-19 OSF Human Rights Initiative Youth Fellow alum, he is also the co-producer of the Peabody award-winning, Emmy-nominated documentary Deej: Inclusion Shouldn’t be a Lottery, which unearths discrepancies between insider and outsider perspectives of his lived experience as an alternatively-communicating autistic person (www.Deejmovie.com).

DJ is the author of the chapbook A Doorknob for the Eye and has published poems and prose in The Iowa Review, Seneca Review, Prospect, Bellingham Review, Nine Mile Magazine, Autism in Adulthood, Stone Canoe, and wordgathering.com. “Passive Plants,” a lyric essay published in The Iowa Review, was named a notable essay in the 2018 Best American Essays. Samples of his writing can be found on his personal website.

Before moving to Iowa City, he graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Oberlin College in May 2017 with a double major in Anthropology and Creative Writing.

Session - What Do I Love? Being Me in a Hopeful World

My life is a journey in which I’m making a life that is mine. I will use my somatics film “What Do I Love?” to show how I help myself learn to become aware of myself and of what I need in order to manage myself. I’ll introduce practices I strive to incorporate throughout my life and make visible what helps me thrive and grow in a world that looks hopeful to me.

Melanie Boudreau


Melanie Boudreau graduated with highest honors from the University of Texas, School of Allied Health, with a BS degree in medical technology. Melanie became an ASCP certified medical technologist, but after parenting two children with neuropsychiatric challenges, she wrote Toppling the Idol of Ideal: Raising Children with Hidden Disabilities to encourage parents.

In 2018, Melanie founded Relationship Restoration Strategies (RRSAutism.org) under New Horizons Foundation which exists to increase the quality of life for children with autism and their caregivers in nations or regions with little access to effective intervention. RRS serves to benefit people with Autism Spectrum Conditions by introducing caregivers to Relationship Development Intervention (RDI®), remediation crafted to develop Mindful Guiding Relationships as a means to promote cognitive development.

​Melanie was a presenter at the 5th World Autism Organisation International Congress 2018 joining representatives from many nations, and the Pan African Congress on Autism, April 2019. Melanie is passionate about inclusion and acceptance and now travels to rouse community leaders in the Global South to more fully embrace families impacted by disabilities.

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David Finch

Author, Speaker

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.

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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 - "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 - "You Belong"

Love& Autism just for teens! Find out more here. 

Marcelle Ciampi

Advocate, Author, Speaker

Marcie is best known for her writings found in the well-received blog and book Everyday Aspergers. A professional educator, she has been featured in various literature, including peer-reviewed journals, Autism Parenting Magazine, The Mighty, Art & Autism, and Different Brains. Marcie serves as a Senior Recruiter and Outreach Specialist at ULTRA Testing, a technology company with a neurodiversity hiring initiative, and is a business consultant for Uptimize, Neuroguides, and other agencies. Coauthor of Spectrum Women: Walking to the Beat of Autism, Marcie speaks globally on the topic of employment and self-empowerment. Her company, Spectrum Suite LLC, celebrates neurodiversity through education.

Diagnosed with Aspergers in her early-40s, Marcie’s works have been translated into multiple languages, with her list of traits for females on the autism spectrum shared in counseling offices around the world. Since 2012, she’s had the opportunity to correspond with over 10,000 individuals who identify as autistic. Her blog, Belly of a Star, features her paintings and drawings, and over 100 poems and spiritual writings.

Some of Marcie’s recent appearances include Mix 96 radio, The 2019 EACE Annual Conference, The 2019 Washington State Employment Law & Human Resources Conference, and The Southwest Washington Autism Conference. She resides in Olympia, Washington, USA. Marcie can be reached at myspectrumsuite.com and [email protected]

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Breakout Session - Transitions/Empolymnet & Late Diagnosis - I think I'm autistic... Now what?

David J. Hall

Founder of NeuroGuides

David is the CEO and founder of NeuroGuides, a non-profit organization that provides business consultations and life coaching for autistic people around the globe. His team works closely with autistic individuals to engage, equip, and encourage autistic adults to lead successful lives. David is also the co-founder of Spectrum Lights Inclusion Summit, created to connect and empower individuals on the autism spectrum. With over 20 years of senior leadership roles in worldwide non-profit organizations, he brings keen insights and unique experiences to the neurodiversity table.

A father to three autistic persons, and on the autism spectrum himself, David is passionately focused on guiding neurodivergent persons to discover their strengths and to enjoy meaningful lives. Known as a relentless optimist and encourager, David speaks together with autistic advocate Samantha Craft at various national events.

David’s organization is partnered with the Aspergian, a writers’ platform that documents the autistic experience through the lens and work of autistic individuals. A 5th generation native Texan, David now resides in the Pacific Northwest. David can be reached at neuroguides.org and [email protected]

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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 - Rising Strong

Breakout Speakers

Amy Marchado

Session - Seeds

Terri Colachis

Session - Transition

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.

Session - Developing a growth mindset for you and your loved one

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.

Session - Self-guided Reflection and De-compression: Unwind, Regroup, and Attend to your emotions

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.

Session - Planting seeds to grow: Experiential workshop on how to use RDI® intervention in any activity

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.

Session - My kid doesn't listen to me/talk to me... Now what?

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.

Session - When your child needs more: Attending to the mental health needs of your young child/teen

Jessica Hobson

Clinical Psychologist

Dr. Jessica Hobson is Clinical Director of the Family Guidance and Therapy Center, Petaluma. She is a licensed clinical psychologist and lecturer in the Psychology Department at Sonoma State University (2013 – present), after working in London as a Senior Research Fellow at the Institute of Child Health, University College London (2002 – 2013). She provides diagnostic assessments and therapy for individuals and families, alongside service learning experiences in the local community with students at Sonoma State University, to support families and children on the autism spectrum.
Jessica has been working with children with autism and their families since her first year in college. She earned her PhD in Child Clinical Psychology from the University of Miami (1996 - 2001), supervised by Dr. Peter Mundy now at the MIND Institute in California. Her research and clinical interests include joint attention, symbolic play, and parent-child interaction, with a focus on autism spectrum conditions and early typical development. She has published academic papers on diverse topics in ASD including comorbid psychiatric symptoms, sensory processing differences, social anxiety, neurocognitive profiles, and Relationship Development Intervention (RDI).

Session - Love as connection: exploring micro-moments of positivity resonance in parent-child interaction.

In this presentation, I will share clinical and research examples from two related approaches: Relationship Development Intervention (RDI) and a parent-toddler class entitled Joint Attention Guiding Attuned Relationships (JAGuAR), to support recent theories re-defining love as momentary states of connection (Fredrickson, 2013). For children on the autism spectrum, it can be more challenging to create and sustain these states of positivity resonance, which are grounded in biological synchrony and mutual responsiveness. Nevertheless, we can create conditions to enhance these interpersonal states, thus opening out our development to new possibilities.

Samantha Alexander

Board Certified Behavior Analyst

Samantha received a B.S. in Psychology and a B.A. in Anthropology at the University of Pittsburgh along with a certificate in Latin American Studies. She went on to earn a Master’s degree in School Psychology from Western Carolina University and is a Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA).

Samantha began her work with children and families in the school setting in 2007 then transitioned to non-profit early intervention. Prior to starting at the Family Guidance and Therapy Center, Samantha focused on organizational quality and coordination across multiple early child mental health and developmental intervention programs. Since working at Family Guidance and Therapy Center, she has initiated her training to become a Certified Relationship Development Intervention Consultant and continues to support children, families and organizational quality goals. Samantha specializes in blended programming that incorporates developmental, relational, and behavioral components to meet individual child and family needs.

Samantha is the wife of a recently deployed active duty sailor, toddler mom and online retail aficionado living in East County with a motley assortment of plants and pets. She particularly loves LARGE iced coffees and 2-day shipping.

Session - Limit setting and boundaries at home (because star charts are not enough)

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