Keynote Address

Special Education Law for Educational Therapists
Part 1: 10:00 AM - 11:30 AM CDT
Part 2: 11:45 AM - 1:15 PM CDT

Peter Wright, Esq.

Special education law can be confusing to parents, educators, advocates, and even some attorneys. In this keynote presentation, Pete Wright will explain how educational therapists and allied professionals can best help their clients navigate special education law and its legal complexities. He will provide an overview of Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE), the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and SectiUnderstanding Tests and Assessmentson 504 of the Rehabilitation Act (Section 504). Pete Wight will also discuss evaluations, eligibility and educational need, the Individualized Educational Plan (IEP), IEP teams and placements. Pete Wright will provide compelling examples of issues commonly faced by families when navigating the special education process. He will further explain how educational therapists can help parents and clients emotionally prepare for school meetings. Attendees will come away with a clear understanding of how to best support families in this complex process.

Participants will be able to:

  • List and define the key terms relevant to special education law
  • Summarize the history of IDEA and Section 504
  • Determine resources available for supporting families in the IEP and 504 Plan process and the legal avenues available to ensure students get appropriate support
  • Explain the IEP process and how to ensure that goals and objectives are meaningful and measurable
  • Apply tactics and strategies to ensure effective advocacy

Disclosure: Financial – Presenter has an ownership interest in and receives a salary from Harbor House Law Press, Inc.; AET has paid a fee to Harbor House Law Press, Inc. for the presenter’s services as a speaker. Non-Financial – No relevant relationships to disclose.


Friday Sessions

Understanding Tests and Assessments
2:15 PM - 3:45 PM CDT

Peter Wright, Esq.

Assessments are a necessary part of the process of securing special education services for students. Although essential, the assessment process can be intimidating and confusing to parents and students. In this presentation, attendees will learn about composite scores and how to use pre- and post-tests to measure progress, as well as the difference between norm-referenced and criterion-referenced tests. Attendees will also learn how to interpret the results of Wechsler Intelligent Scale for Children (WISC), a commonly used intelligence test, index, and subtest scores. Pete Wright will provide the tools necessary to help demystify the assessment process. Educational therapists and allied professionals will learn how to determine if a comprehensive assessment is necessary for their students. Pete Wright will explain the strengths, weaknesses, and potential problems with specific psychological, academic, and neuropsychological tests, as well as legal requirements for the administration of those assessments. Finally, participants will learn how small differences between tests can result in large differences in scores, and how to use that information to help students receive special education services. 

Participants will be able:

  • Explain strengths, weaknesses, and potential problems with certain assessments
  • Describe how tests and measurements document progression and regression
  • Identify how specific assessments can be used to secure additional accommodations in the IEP or 504 processes

Disclosure: Financial – Presenter has an ownership interest in and receives a salary from Harbor House Law Press, Inc.; AET has paid a fee to Harbor House Law Press, Inc. for the presenter’s services as a speaker. Non-Financial – No relevant relationships to disclose.


The Impact of the Educational Therapist's Therapeutic Relationship on Learning
2:15 PM - 3:45 PM CDT

Sheryl Pruitt, MEd, ET/P

The stated goal of educational therapy, according to AET, is to foster the development of self-confident, independent individuals who feel positively about themselves and their potential as lifelong learners. How do educational therapists achieve this goal? It is well understood relationships that build trust are the cornerstone of educational therapy. The therapeutic relationship established by the educational therapist with his/her student allows the student to persist in the face of adversity. Another distinguishing feature of the educational therapist’s skill set is the ability to apply a breadth of strategies that positively impact a student’s performance. Finally, the educational therapist must educate the student and family to help clarify any misconceptions about the impact of the diagnosis on learning.

Participants will be able to:

  • Describe the nature of the relationship with the student as a therapeutic relationship that allows the student to be available to learn
  • Clarify why negative behavioral responses are due to an inability to meet educational demands
  • Explain the reeducation process that accompanies educational therapy to clarify and resolve the incorrect attitudes and beliefs of the student and family
  • Describe the impact of undiagnosed disorders (e.g., anxiety, depression) on learning
  • Apply strategies used by the educational therapist, including alternative teaching techniques

Sheryl K. Pruitt, MEd, ET/P, is the Clinical Director of Parkaire Consultants, a multidisciplinary clinic serving complex neurologically impaired individuals. Sheryl Pruitt is a co-author of Teaching the Tiger; Tigers, Too and its supplements, Challenging Kids, Challenged Teachers, and an educational chapter in the Oxford Press medical book Tourette Syndrome.

Disclosure: Sheryl Pruitt has an ownership interest and receives royalties from Parkaire Press and Woodbine House. No relevant non-financial relationships to disclose.


Can Kids Be Gifted If They Have a Learning Disability? Supporting Twice-Exceptional Children
4:00 PM - 5:30 PM CDT

Moderated by: Cynthia Z. Hansen, MEd, ET/P

Panelists: Susan Baum, PhD; Holly Kincaid, EdD; and Patricia Kimathi, MA, ET/P, EdD

To understand the twice exceptional (2e) learner, one must understand the characteristics of gifted learners with a potential for high achievement, coupled with the impact of one or more learning disabilities, and the subsequent challenges these unique learners face. The resulting question for educators, parents, and allied professionals is how can we best serve 2e learners? To address this question, Cynthia Hansen will moderate a panel of experts to discuss the diverse range of twice exceptionalities, the impact of cultural diversity on identification, and those practices known to positively influence the 2e learner’s intellectual, physical, social, and emotional well-being. In addition, panelists will discuss how parents, allied professionals, and educational therapists can best supplement 504 and IEP planning meetings and other educational discussions through informative, strength-based data: environment vs. non-negotiables and dual-differentiation vs. skill-building with interests. Audience questions and comments are encouraged.

Participants will be able to:

  • Describe the unique characteristics of gifted abilities when accompanied by one or more learning disabilities
  • Develop an understanding concerning practical adaptations for the intellectual, social, emotional, physical, and creative environments essential for a twice-exceptional learner’s success
  • List and discuss methods that can improve a learner’s self-awareness when guided by strengths that are specific to the individual
  • Identify the environments that hinder twice exceptional students from being identified
  • Explain the limited legal safe guards for twice exceptional students and how to advocate for them

Cynthia Z. Hansen, MEd, ET/P, is an educational therapist in private practice serving gifted and creative individuals with executive function delays, ADHD, dyslexia, and complex learning profiles. Cindy Hansen consults with schools, facilitating professional development and parent workshops on issues facing gifted and twice-exceptional learners and on paths that build strength-based learning environments. She is currently president of the Tri-County GATE Council in Southern California.

Disclosure: No relevant financial or non-financial relationships to disclose.

Susan Baum, PhD, is the Director of the 2eCenter for Research and Professional Development at Bridges Academy and Provost of the Bridges Graduate School of Cognitive Diversity in Education. In addition, Dr. Baum is Co-Director of the Joint Commission on 2e Education and spokesperson for the Special Interest Group on 2e Education for the National Association for Gifted Students.  She is the co-author of To be Gifted and Learning Disabled.

Disclosure:  No relevant financial or non-financial relationships to disclose.

Holly Kincaid, EdD, is President of the Montana Association for Gifted and Talented and the Coordinator of Gifted Education (K-12) for the Sun River Valley School District where she also serves as an Advanced Placement Educator in Mathematics and English for 9-12 graders.

Disclosure: Financial – No relevant relationships to disclose. Non-financial – Works as a volunteer teacher and speaker for Sun River Valley Schools.

Patricia Kimathi, MA, EdD, ET/P has an educational therapy practice in Los Angeles, where she specializes in working with gifted/talented and twice-exceptional children. Her career as a teacher spans pre-K through 12th grade and includes her current position as a fieldwork instructor at Loyola Marymount University. She is co-founder of the Central Cities Association for Gifted and Talented Children.

Disclosure: No relevant financial or non-financial relationships to disclose.


Memory Strategies that Enhance Executive Functioning Skills
4:00 PM - 5:30 PM CDT

Regina G. Richards, MA, BCET

Executive functioning skills are crucial for today’s students, and the use of memory strategies is one way to improve them. A wide variety of activities serve as memory facilitators with key features clustering into four categories: active learning, structured activities, systematic presentations, and sensory modalities. This presentation will examine strategies for teaching the components of memory, including sensory, working, short-term, and long-term memory, and will explain how these memory functions impact students’ learning. The brain’s development of language and the importance of linking phonology, orthography, and morphology when teaching reading will also be discussed. Strategies that implement multisensory techniques and recognition before retrieval will be presented. Best practices concerning mnemonics, movement and music, and visual organizers will also be reviewed.

Participants will be able to:

  • Name major components of the brain using a hand model and list their functions
  • Describe the key components of memory and how they affect students’ learning
  • Apply a variety of strategies to enhance students’ memory skills
  • Develop suggestions for helping students create memory hooks to improve retrieval of information

Regina G. Richards, MA, BCET, is an author, speaker, and an educational therapy instructor at UC Riverside. She is a former school director specializing in multisensory programs for language learning disabilities. Regina has held several volunteer positions with the Southern California Tri-Counties Branch of the IDA, including president, vice-president, and treasurer.

Disclosure: No relevant financial relationship to disclose. Non-financial relation for professional contract for books published.


Saturday Sessions

A Multidimensional Approach to Improving Self-Regulation and Academic Skills of a Child Diagnosed with ADHD
Part I: 9:30 AM - 11:00 AM CDT
Part II: 11:15 AM - 12:45 PM CDT

George McCloskey, PhD

The executive control difficulties associated with ADHD often make it difficult to acquire reading and writing skills in the early elementary grades. Therefore, helping children with ADHD to develop the levels of automaticity required to learn to read and write proficiently is essential, and requires a multidimensional approach that targets specific skills, draws on evidence-based remedial techniques, collaboratively establishes goals, addresses motivation and behavior and monitors progress. Motivation is greatly enhanced when game-like formats that draw on the most salient interests of the student are used. Similarly, the effective use of behavior management techniques is necessary to establish reward contingencies and reinforce only desired behaviors, though the use of these techniques must be tempered with the need to maintain a positive relationship with the child and sustain motivation for practicing skills as needed. This workshop concludes with an in-depth case study presentation demonstrating the application of the multidimensional approach with a 7-year-old child diagnosed with ADHD, who exhibited reading and writing deficits.

Participants will be able to:

  • Describe executive control deficits associated with ADHD
  • Explain the relationship between executive control and motivation
  • Describe a multidimensional approach to remediating reading and writing deficits

George McCloskey, PhD, is a professor and Director of School Psychology Research in the School of Professional and Applied Psychology of the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine and holds Diplomate status with the American Academy of Pediatric Neuropsychology. Dr. McCloskey developed a comprehensive model of executive functions that can be used to guide assessment and intervention. Dr. McCloskey is co-author of The Day Frankie Left His Frontal Lobes at Home (2021).

Disclosure: Financial – Presenter receives royalties from: Schoolhouse Educational Services for the McCloskey Executive Function Scales; John Wiley & Sons for co-authoring Essentials of Executive Function Assessment; Routledge Press / Taylor & Francis for co-authoring Assessment and Intervention for EF Difficulties; and Better Brains Publishing for co-authoring The Day Frankie Left His Frontal Lobes at Home. Non-financial – Presenter is a member and participant on the professional advisory board of the Learning Disabilities Association of America and a member and participant on the professional advisory board of AET.


Austin Spectrum Disorder: Current Research and Implications for Educational Interventions
9:30 AM - 11:00 AM CDT

Fred Volkmar, MD

Major changes in treatment for individuals with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) include evidence-based interventions and increased awareness leading to an earlier diagnosis and better outcomes. Children with ASD do not learn in the same way as typically developing children learn. They often have problems with organization, processing, attention, auditory cueing, and time. Providing supports to help the individual compensate and experience success is paramount. Our goal as educational therapists and allied professionals is to minimize the negative impact of ASD on our students, while maximizing developmental gains. In this presentation, Dr. Volkmar will examine current understanding of biological and genetic mechanisms in ASD, including the implications of research on educational intervention. Functional behavioral assessment, visual supports, modeling, reinforcement, and social narratives will be discussed.

Participants will be able to:

  • Explain the source of behavioral difficulties in children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD)
  • Deliver effective educational interventions for students with ASD
  • Describe the basic aspects of visual supports
  • Recognize the needs of individuals with ASD who demonstrate higher cognitive functioning

Dr. Fred Volkmar is a child psychiatrist and professor at Yale University and Southern Connecticut State University and the former director of the Yale Child Study Center. Dr. Volkmar is the editor-in-chief of the Journal of Autism and Developmental Disabilities, and has coauthored with Lisa Wiesner, A Practical Guide to Autism: What Every Parent, Family Member and Teacher Needs to Know, Essential Clinical Guide to Understanding and Treating Autism, and Healthcare for Children on the Autism Spectrum: A Guide to Medical, Nutritional, and Behavioral Issues.

Disclosure: Financial – Presenter receives royalties from Springer Nature Publishing, Guilford Press, Cambridge University Press, and Wiley. Non-Financial – No relevant relationships to disclose.


Shall We Play a Game? Engaging Reluctant Learners through Gamifications and Game-Based Learning Activities
11:15 AM - 12:45 PM CDT

Bonnie Massimino, MEd, BCET

Despite the knowledge that repetition is imperative for mastery, many students with learning disabilities, ADHD, and executive functioning challenges lack the motivation to engage in challenging or tedious tasks. One way to improve learning outcomes and increase desired behavior is through the incorporation of gamification and game-based learning activities. This workshop will explore learning and motivational theories and their applications  student engagement and motivation toward goal-directed behaviors. The core features and benefits of incorporating gamification and game-based learning activities for students with learning challenges and reluctant learners will be identified. The primary focus will be on choosing, designing, and implementing goal-directed interactive and engaging activities to enhance learning objectives that relate directly to educational therapy goals. Customizable examples that can be utilized in both in-person or e-learning settings, have free and low-cost options, and can be applied to a variety of learning objectives and age/grade levels will be shared.

Participants will be able to:

  • Explain the impact of gamification and game-based learning activities on student engagement and motivation toward goal-directed behaviors
  • Describe how to analyze and evaluate features of interactive activities to determine appropriateness in relation to educational therapy goals
  • Synthesize knowledge of activities to support the development of tools that enhance the customization of activities for specific educational therapy goals
  • Develop and expand resources related to in-person and virtual motivators that engage learners through gamified incentives and activities

Bonnie Massimino, MEd, BCET, is a certified special education teacher and reading specialist with over twenty-five years of experience working with children and adults with learning disabilities, attention disorders, and executive functioning challenges. 

Disclosure: No relevant financial or non-financial relationships to disclose.


Branching Off On My Own: A Journey into Private Practice Amidst a Pandemic
1:45 PM - 2:45 PM CDT

Sam Tolkin, BS

Do you have questions about how to start an educational therapy practice? Sam Tolkin will address the many business decisions necessary when conducting virtual vs. in-person educational therapy sessions. Business practices involving goal setting, accounting, insurance, marketing, and record keeping protocols will be discussed, as well as when you should consider consulting a financial advisor. Suggestions around how to best market your practice will be shared. Technology options, including what software to use to support your practice will also be presented. In addition, the importance of maintaining confidentiality and following AET’s code of ethics will be discussed. This presentation is aimed at helping ET’s feel confident and better prepared to set up and maintain a private practice, while serving clients in an ethical and professional manner.

Participants will be able to:

  • Identify common obstacles that arise when starting a private practice and how to effectively navigate them
  • Compare and contrast different videotelephony options available for remote practice
  • Create a list of resources to support sound business decision making when beginning a private practice

Sam Tolkin is a graduate of the Educational Therapy program at UCR. He is currently a research assistant at Southern Connecticut State University and the owner of The Learning Navigators, LLC.  Prior to starting his own virtual ET practice in the middle of the Covid-19 pandemic, Sam was the assistant director at Freudigman and Billings, LLC.

Disclosure: No relevant financial or non-financial relationships to disclose.


How to Foster Executive Functioning at School and at Home
1:45 PM - 2:45 PM CDT

Sean McCormick, MEd

Executive function is a set of complex cognitive processes that enable students to plan, sustain attention, remember instructions, organize and problem solve, as well as juggle multiple tasks successfully. The negative impact of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and executive function (EF) impairment on students’ performance has left educators and parents in search of answers. This presentation will focus on the presenter’s experience with students whose primary learning challenges were related to executive function deficits. The four-step process explicitly teaches students to utilize the following steps: prioritization (identification of required tasks), planning (time management and chunking), performance and sustainability of attention (task initiation) and communication (engaging stakeholders such as teachers and family) to obtain the desired results. Identifying “to-do’s” using prioritization to promote organization and planning and allowing students more autonomy for self-advocacy significantly improved students’ abilities to manage EF challenges.

Participants will be able to:

  • Understand the seven domains of executive functioning
  • Explain the link between executive functioning challenges and AD HD
  • Describe the positive changes brought about by a replicable process

Sean McCormick, MEd, education specialist is the founder of Executive Function Specialists which helps students and families navigate the special education process. Sean also hosts the Earn More Tutoring podcast, where he interviews educational therapists who have built flourishing practices and businesses.

Disclosure: No relevant financial or non-financial relationships to disclose.


The Susan Fogelson Ethics Panel
Part I: 1:45 PM - 3:45 PM CDT
Part 2: 4:00 PM - 5:00 PM CDT

Moderatored by Judith Brennan, MEd, BCET, FAET
Panelists: Daniel Franklin, PhD, BCET; Orli Lahav, MA, BCET; Wendy Lamoreaux, MEd, BCET; and Stacy Rotter, MA, BCET

Educational therapists periodically encounter practice dilemmas that must be handled ethically and effectively. Have you ever struggled to resolve a disagreement with a parent, teacher, or allied professional? Do you find it difficult to manage boundaries when faced with a parent who demands excessive time and drains your emotional energy? What useful information might you learn by analyzing your feelings about that parent? Who can you consult for advice and support?

Business practices can also present ethical dilemmas. Is it difficult for you to set fees or discuss fee collection with clients? How do you represent yourself professionally on your business cards, website, or brochures? How do you adapt your practice to an online format? A panel of Board Certified Educational Therapists will discuss ethical issues that often arise in the practice of educational therapy. The panel will offer anecdotes from private practice and settings such as schools, clinics, and learning centers. The presentation will include ample time for questions and discussion of specific case examples from the audience.

Participants will be able to:

  • Generate solutions when there are disagreements between educational therapists and other professionals or parents
  • Decide when professional consultation is needed in order to understand and maintain boundaries that promote healthy relationships with difficult parents
  • Identify areas of business practice that often present us with practical and/or ethical dilemmas

Judith Brennan, MEd, BCET, FAET, is a former elementary school teacher. She has been in private practice as an educational therapist for over 20 years, working with students from kindergarten through high school. Judy founded the AET Study Group in Ann Arbor, Michigan and has served on AET’s Board of Directors in various capacities, including president of AET. She is currently chair of the Ethics Committee.

Disclosure: No relevant financial or non-financial relationships to disclose.

Daniel Franklin, PhD, BCET, is the author of Helping Your Child with Language-Based Learning Disabilities (2018). He holds a master’s degree from the Harvard Graduate School of Education in Reading, Language, and Learning Disabilities, and a PhD in Education from UCLA. Daniel has over 30 years of experience as an educational therapist, teacher, administrator, and educational consultant. He is the founder, president, and clinical director of Franklin Educational Services, Inc.

Disclosure: Financial – Panelist receives a salary and has an ownership interest in Franklin Educational Services; receives royalties from New Harbinger Publications, Inc. Non-financial – Presenter is a contributor and volunteer for AET.

Orli Lahav, MA, BCET, works both at the Kaiser Permanente Watts Counseling and Learning Center in Los Angeles and in private practice in the San Fernando Valley. She has over 20 years of experience in education and has been working with ET clients since 2012. Orli focuses on elevating the connection between the student and the adults in their life, making sure they feel supported and are able to access their love of learning.

Disclosure: No relevant financial or non-financial relationships to disclose.

Wendy Lamoreaux, MEd, BCET, journey towards educational therapy began as a member of a classroom support team. Her determination to become an educational therapist in order to fully support the needs of her students followed. After over 10 years in private practice, she recently achieved Board Certification. Wendy serves as AET’s Study Group Chair.

Disclosure: No relevant financial or non-financial relationships to disclose.

Stacy Rotter, MA, BCET, holds degrees in Special Education, Child Development, and Psychology, as well as a dual Education Specialist Credential in California. She has dedicated her efforts to the field of education for almost 25 years, from teaching in public and independent school classrooms, and now as an educational therapist in private practice. She is proud to be a Board Certified member of AET and is currently an active member of AET’s Social Justice Committee.

Disclosure: No relevant financial or non-financial relationships to disclose.


Educational Therapists as Social Justice Advocates: Using Neurodiversity to Create Socially Just Schools
4:00 PM - 5:00 PM CDT

Bibi Pirayesh, EdD and Sharmila Roy, PhD

This presentation grew from the work of AET’s Social Justice Group subcommittee dedicated to informing educational therapists (ETs) on issues of social justice and the critical concepts in diversity and inclusion work. As professionals who specifically work with and for marginalized students, ETs are in a unique position to not only become advocates for social justice, but to help parents, classroom teachers and administrators better understand these concepts. In fact, most ETs understand and have been using DEI (Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion) practices long before they became trendy. This presentation will define and operationalize the important social justice concepts at the core of educational therapy and will help practitioners outline the important steps that can be taken to center learning disabilities as a social justice issue in our school systems and our society at large.

Participants will be able to:

  • Define the terms Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) and explain how these concepts are relevant to the public space of classrooms
  • Use their understanding of neurodiversity to promote DEI in schools
  • Understand how to advocate for a culture of difference and diversity
  • Outline the necessary steps for ETs to use their practices as agents for change in their community.

Bibi Pirayesh, EdD, holds a doctorate in Educational Leadership. Dr. Pirayesh is an adjunct professor of education and psychology at Pepperdine University. She is committed to promoting learning disabilities as a social justice issue.

Sharmila Roy, PhD, holds a doctorate in Special Education and is the Program Chair of the Educational Therapy Certificate Program at UCSC Silicon Valley Extension, where she is also an instructor. Dr. Roy is an advocate for the learning rights of children, especially those from marginalized cultural backgrounds.

Disclosure: Pirayesh and Roy have no relevant financial or non-financial relationships to disclose.