2021 PA Community of Practice Conference


2021 PA Community of Practice Transition Virtual Conference

Navigating the Future: A Lifetime Trip
August 11-12, 2021
Registration is currently closed.
2021 PA Community of Practice Conference Brochure

Welcome Video


Credit Verification Survey

In order to earn credit for attendance, you must complete the survey that can be found in the “Surveys” tab on the left of the Chime App by August 19, 2021. For each session you attend, you must record the unique code that will be given at that end of the session. For your convenience, we have provided you with a form to keep track of your session codes. The form may be accessed in the Survey tab.  You will need these codes to complete the survey. In order to receive credit, you must have session codes for the entire day.

You may also access the survey by pointing your camera to the QR Code below.

With the health and safety of our participants in mind, the 2021 Pennsylvania Community of Practice Transition Conference will be held as a virtual event. While this year’s format will be different, the goals remain the same – to bring together a diverse community of stakeholders to share information, explore resources, and gain knowledge regarding successful practices in secondary transition.

Virtual Platform - Chime Live Features:

  • The event platform grants access to session information, speaker bios, and the virtual Exhibit Hall.
  • Conference attendees can personalize their schedule and take notes during sessions.
  • The post-conference survey can be accessed at Continuing Education Credits.
  • Handouts, when available, will be found at the bottom of each session page.
  • "About this App” contains tutorials for different aspects of the app.

Throughout this 2-day conference, participants will learn how to be proactive in planning their “lifetime trip” while “filling their suitcases” with valuable resources and strategies to help youth take ownership of their future.

Opening Keynote:  Kerry Magro

Dr. Kerry MaKerry-Magro-photo.jpggro has become a role model in the disabled community. Non-verbal at 2.5 and diagnosed with autism at 4, Kerry has overcome countless obstacles to get to where he is today. Dr. Kerry Magro is an award winning national speaker, best-selling author, movie consultant and advisor, and Founder & CEO of KFM Making a Difference, a non-profit corporation focused on disability advocacy and housing.
Today Kerry travels the country sharing his story and inspiring others to define their lives and their dreams in the best way they can. He has spoken at over 1000 events including TEDxTalks and Talks at Google. In his spare time, he hosts a Facebook Page called Kerry’s Autism Journey where he does on-camera interviews highlighting people impacted by a diagnosis to breaking down barriers in the community. His videos have been watched over 35 million times. Kerry’s best-selling books include:
Defining Autism From The Heart, Autism and Falling in Love, and I Will Light It Up Blue! 

Check out Kerry's Tik Tok preview

Closing Keynote:  David Harrell


David-Harrell-photo.jpgDavid Harrell is an international award-winning actor, speaker, and disability advocate, residing in New York City.  Most recently he has been seen in a featured Guest Star role on the new CBS drama “THE CODE”. He has guest starred on television series “Bull” and “Law and Order: SVU” and performed in the 2015 ABC Discovers New York Talent Showcase. He produced and starred in the short film The Siblings Liebencrantz; winning “Best Filmmaker” in the 2017 Easterseals Disability Film Challenge. His short film Lefty & Loosey won “Best Film” in the 2016 Disability Film Challenge and “Best International Actor” in the 2016 Focus on Ability Film Festival in Sydney, Australia. David also continues to work as an actor for Only Make Believe, an organization that provides interactive theater for children in hospitals around the NYC area. As a Disability Advocate, he has worked as the Accessibility and Outreach Director for the Raleigh Ensemble Players in Raleigh, North Carolina, the Disability and Programming Associate for Inclusion in the Arts in New York City and currently serves on the advisory board for the Queens Theater’s Theater for All initiative.

Meet Your Closing Keynote Speaker

9:00 a.m. – 10:00 a.m. - Opening Keynote Presentation

KN1.   What Happens to Children with Disabilities When They Become Adults

Disability does not end at the age of 18. In this keynote presentation, you will hear a first-person perspective on how an autistic adult successfully navigated the transition to adulthood. Kerry will share his experiences with creating a transition plan and the practices he used for navigating post-secondary, employment, and guardianship.  
Kerry Magro, Best Selling Author and Autism Consultant                                                             
Breakout Session 1 - 10:15 a.m. – 11:15 a.m.

A-01.  Dual Diagnosis Transition  

Transitions can be difficult. Participants will discuss changes and work on small step goals to achieve the big dream goal of transition from high school with someone who has been there. Dual Diagnosis Transition is designed to help individuals go from a non-organic transition to a more organic transition.      
Katherine Mullins, Peerstar, LLC         

A-02.  Getting to Know Blindness and Visual Services

Staff from the Office of Vocational Rehabilitation, Bureau of Blindness and Visual Services will provide information on the Vocational Rehabilitation Program, Independent Living Services for Older Blind Program, Specialized Services for Adults Program and Specialized Services for Children Program. An emphasis will be on Pre-Employment Transition Services.
Natalie Barbush,
OVR, BBVS, Harrisburg
Amber Phillips, OVR, BBVS, Wilkes Barre

A-03.  Real World Hacks for Independent Living       

Learn how to define what independent living could people with disabilities. Participants will learn about assistive technology, tools, and gadgets that exist to support accessibility, and even some of the non-conventional ways to use everyday objects around
the house in new ways.
Matthew Flanagan,
The George Washington University
Katie Smith, Disability Options Network
Tammy Thompson-Cooke, PaTTAN East
Handout 1
Handout 2

A-04.  Work Incentives Planning & Assistance (WIPA)

It is important for you to proactively manage your benefits as you work. There are several key work incentives that you may utilize while you’re in school and working. During this session, the presenters will discuss the many changes that could occur with benefits throughout the transition process and how they can provide support.
Martine De Lorenzo, Disability Rights Pittsburgh
 Jenni Kistler, Goodwill Keystone Area
Joy Smith, AHEDD            



A-05.   Career Paths to Successful Employment:  Commonwealth Technical Institute at HGAC         

Staff from the Hiram G. Andrews Center and Commonwealth Technical Institute (CTI) will highlight CTI and support services available for youth, discuss credentials that can be obtained to enhance employment opportunities and highlight the externship and on-the job experiences incorporated to improve job outcomes. The session is intended for families and youth.
Joseph Smolko,
Hiram G. Andrews Center
Martin Tran, Hiram G. Andrews Center


A-06.  Treat Yourself! A Young Adult Guide to Mental Health and Self-Care   

Through conversation and engaging activities, youth participants will learn about self-care techniques such as gratitude journals, meditation, mindfulness, and more. Participants will learn to recognize their need for support and where to go for resources.
Melissa Guardado-Eastridge, The George Washington University
Alexandra McKenna, The Ridge School of Montgomery County
Khaleya Spence, PEAL Center


11:30 a.m. – 12:30 p.m. - Breakout Session 2

B-01.  Improved Outcomes for Work Discovery Students by Incorporating the PAES® Lab Experience            

During this session, the presenters will showcase the innovative connections between traditional and non-traditional employment training programs. These training programs develop and strengthen students’ work skills to increase their opportunities for competitive job placement after graduation.  
Lyn Marchwinski,
Westmoreland Intermediate Unit 7          
 Mary Petrina, Westmoreland Intermediate Unit 7
Jason Stragand, Westmoreland Intermediate Unit 7


B-02.  The Focus on Friendship: How to Develop Meaningful Social Programming Through Life Transitions

Transitioning to young adulthood contains many hurdles, including navigating new situations and changes in social dynamics. The Friendship Circle of Pittsburgh will present their hybrid model of young adult social activities, and how to create opportunities for meaningful social interaction and friendships that support autonomy, leadership, and long-lasting connection.
Paige Eddy, The Friendship Circle of Pittsburgh
Sara Pelikan-Cato, The Friendship Circle of Pittsburgh
Emily Vogt, The Friendship Circle of Pittsburgh


B-03.  Financial Education: The Foundation for Employment and Independent Living  

Financial education is the foundation for employment and independent living. Presenters will demonstrate how to use its newly redesigned and fully accessible financial education website, www.StudyMoney.us and the accompanying educators’ guide.              

Susie Daily, Pennsylvania Assistive Technology Foundation
Hilary Hunt, Hilary Hunt Financial Education Consulting
Katie Smith, Disability Options Network        
Susan Tachau, Pennsylvania Assistive Technology

Handout 1
Handout 2

B-04.  Virtual Reality: Providing Transition Services During a Pandemic    

School closures due to the pandemic put a stop to many things, but not the requirements to provide transition services to students with disabilities. Community instruction, internships, and work-based learning had to be reimagined. This session will focus on the creative solutions schools can utilize to offer transition services in a virtual setting.  

Beth Ann Fanning, Office of Vocational Rehabilitation
Jacki Lyster, PaTTAN East
Kaitlin Salvati, Office of Vocational Rehabilitation
Melissa Wert-Thrush, Office of Vocational Rehabilitation          


B-05.  Growing Equitable College Opportunities        

When some people are excluded, we all are excluded. This session introduces you to four fully inclusive, person-centered college, and college preparation initiatives. With belonging and acceptance at the core of each of these initiatives, discover why the doors of higher education are opening and how students walk through those doors and become university students. Participants will learn how students prepare and thrive on college campuses, and what life-long outcomes emerge.

Onek Adyanga, Millersville University        
Jan Bechtel, Millersville University             
Mariya Davis, Texas A&M University - San Antonio
Jennifer Dawson, Devereux SPARC                  
Cherie Fishbaugh, West Chester University      
Ali Hrasok, Lehigh Carbon Community College
Patrick Kelley, Texas A&M University - San Antonio
Eric Lopez, Texas A&M University - San Antonio
Michelle Mitchell, Lehigh Carbon Community College
Thomas Neuville, Millersville University     
Curtis Ostrowski, Ostrowski Consulting
Gavin Watts, Texas A&M University - San Antonio   

Handout 1
Handout 2
Handout 3
Handout 4

B-06.  Transition Considerations for Students with Mental Health Needs         

Students with mental health needs often require transition services and activities that look very different from their peers.  During this session, participants will explore barriers and solutions to successful secondary transitions for students with mental health needs. Professionals, families, and students are invited to this discussion of best practices and resource sharing. 
Susan Lombardi, Chester County Intermediate Unit
Michelle MacLuckie, Chester County Intermediate Unit
Tracey Sterling, Chester County Intermediate Unit


12:30 p.m. – 1:30 p.m. - Lunch – Watch Party
Opening Doors to College; Inclusive Postsecondary Education for Students with Intellectual Disabilities
Hundreds of colleges across the United States are opening doors for students with intellectual disabilities. This 36-minute Dan Habib film “Opening Doors to College” shows how students like Missy, Curtis, Janet, and Fudia are leading this inclusion revolution as they immerse themselves in the entire college experience.

1:30 p.m. – 3:00 p.m. - Breakout Session 3

C-01.  Community Resource Mapping Workshop     

Just like traditional maps that lead us from point A to B, Digital Community Resource Maps can support students and families in moving from where they are now to their many goals down the road. During this workshop, all attendees will have the opportunity to participate in a hands-on and step-by-step activity of building their own virtual community resource map with Google's MyMaps application. Digital maps aren't just for directions. Getting connected to the campus and community while in high school, and continuing to build that network throughout life, is a driving force behind postsecondary success for individuals with disabilities.
Matt Flanagan, The George Washington University



C-02.  Navigating Relationships With A Disability

Relationships will be possible for some within our disability community. In this presentation, you will learn some best practices from those who have a disability and are dating or married! Topics that will be discussed include levels of intimacy, effective communication practices, and much more!

Kerry Magro, Best Selling Author and Autism Consultant        

Fab Labs - C-03. - C-06 - Youth Only - Cancelled

Up to 10 youth, with active consent with OVR, have the opportunity to experience firsthand, the tools needed to develop the practical and critical thinking skills to be inventors and innovators of the future.

7:00 p.m. - 8:15 p.m. - Youth/Family Activity

Zoomed out?! So are we! Come hang with us anyway for some fun, games and to meet other families across the state!
This event is sponsored by PYLN, NTACT, and the PEAL center.  More information will be available on the PaTTAN website closer to the conference.  

Click here to access the Zoom Link

Thursday, August 12, 2021
9:00 a.m. - 9:30 a.m. - Keynote Presentation

KN2.    Working Together as One        

In March of 2021, the Office of Vocational Rehabilitation (OVR) and the Bureau of Special Education (BSE) announced the completion of a revised Memorandum of Understanding (MOU). The goal of the MOU is to strengthen agency partnerships to enhance transition outcomes for students with disabilities through seamless access to services and supports. During this keynote, Directors from OVR and BSE will discuss the partnership and resources available to support the field with their implementation efforts.
Shannon Austin
, Office of Vocational Rehabilitation
Carole Clancy, Bureau of Special Education

9:45 a.m. - 10:45 a.m. – Breakout Session 4
 D-01.  What Can a Center for Independent Living Do for You?

Independence...Finally! For most, transition to independent living does not happen overnight. Everyone needs different types of support. Centers for Independent Living are here to help! Led by individuals with disabilities, we empower others to live as independently as they choose. Join us to learn about skills development, peer support, and more!
Max Colecchi,
Disability Options Network
Leah Gray, Disability Options Network
Katie Smith, Disability Options Network


D-02.  Navigating the Future: LifeCourse, Resources, and Strategies

Navigating the future for students with Intellectual, Developmental Disabilities and Autism can require plenty of planning and strategies. The LifeCourse Framework and tools will be discussed so families will see how having a vision can define their next steps, explore strategies to move forward, and make connections. Resources, creativity, and experiences will be discussed as part of an everyday lives approach.
Heidi Arva,
Office of Developmental Programs       
Tina Dibiaso, PA Family Network              
Heather Easley, Office of Developmental Programs
Steven Goebel, Office of Developmental Programs  
Diana Morris Smaglik, Vision for Equality/PA Family Network
Candida Walton, Office of Developmental Programs              

Handout 1
Handout 2
Handout 3
Handout 4
Handout 5
Handout 6

D-03.  Assistive Technology Hacks for Increasing Independence and Learning

What technology might we consider for individuals seeking supported employment, post-secondary education, or for living independently? In this session, we will consider a variety of technology tools for increasing independence and learning using Assistive Technology (AT) hacks.
Tammy Bertel,
Tammy Thompson-Cooke, PaTTAN East
Bill Ziegler, Bucks County IU 22        

D-04.  Transition Discoveries: Empowering Communities for Change

Transition Discoveries is a multi-step approach for putting youth and families at the center of identifying what works in transition. Hear from community champions about the unique strategies for learning and leadership that they have used to unite young people, families, and stakeholders in the community and data-driven change making. In addition, attendees will learn about potential funding opportunities to join the movement!

Matthew Flanagan, The George Washington University
Cathy Grow, Warrior Run School District   
Joan Kester, The George Washington University
Jacki Lyster, PaTTAN East        
Hillary Mangis, PaTTAN Pittsburgh           
Jaclyn Nagle, Abilities in Motion
Alicia Stone, Pittsburgh Public Schools     


D-05.  Student Technology Experience in Inclusive Higher Education

A panel of college students with intellectual disabilities attending various inclusive postsecondary education initiatives will share their experiences around technology usage and the triumphs/challenges experienced during COVID-19. Program staff will facilitate the panel and provide data from a technology usage survey and how it changed throughout this year.
Ariana Amaya, Gwynedd, Mercy University     
Meghan Blaskowitz, Duquesne University      
Katey Burke, Temple University                       
Morgan Cargiulo, Duquesne University
Jean Hauff, Duquesne University                     
Ann Marie Licata, Millersville University
Alia Pustorino-Clevenger, Duquesne University             

D-06.   Healthy Relationships

Relationships…complicated right? How do you define “a relationship”, and are there different types of relationships? How do relationships develop, and what is healthy or unhealthy? Led by youth leaders, this session will explore these questions and more while creating a safe space of information sharing by youth, for youth.
Pennsylvania Youth Leadership Network 

Erin Weierbach, PEAL Center

Handout 1
Handout 2
Handout 3

11:00 a.m. - 12:00 p.m. – Breakout Session 5
E-01.   Breaking Down Silos: Partnerships for Supporting Employment First   

The Office of Developmental Programs, Office of Long-Term Living, and Pennsylvania Workforce Development Board are committed to supporting “Employment First.” Learn about employment initiatives, how these organizations work together, and how similar partnerships at the local or regional level may benefit people with disabilities in your community.
Ed Butler,
Pennsylvania Department of Human Services
Laura Cipriani, Pennsylvania Department of Human Services
James Martini, Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry

Handout 1
Handout 2

E-02.   Deeper Dive: Family Engagement Forum       

The Family Engagement Panel guides participants navigating the special education and transition planning through their educational journeys. Participants have an opportunity to engage with experienced families in this interactive session that focuses on building networks, the family’s role in the IEP, and resources for families and educators.
Lorie Brew,
PEAL Center
Joan Kester, The George Washington University
Tammi Morton, PEAL Center        


E-03.   Out of the Box Transition Planning

Learn about some of the ways teams have been working on transition goals during the pandemic. Whether you’re at home or in school, there are countless ways to stay engaged and focus on the future! Presenters will share ideas and resources to help think outside the box for transition planning!
Alicia Stone,
Pittsburgh Public Schools
Erin Weierbach, PEAL Center


E-04.   Pandemic Silver Linings: Leveraging Transition Coordinating Council Resources During the Pandemic        

Members from regional Transition Coordinating Councils will be led through a facilitated discussion on the lessons learned as cross-agency stakeholder groups during the COVID 19 Pandemic to function and maintain community and professional connections. The audience will take away practical solutions to use with their organization that transcend the pandemic.
Hillary Mangis,
PaTTAN Pittsburgh
Colleen Rios, Bucks County IU 14


E-05.  Managing Change in the Transition from High School to College

Transition means change. Change often requires individuals to think about things and do them differently than they did before. Using the five stages of Jeff Hiatt’s ADKAR® change framework, the presenters will help students and parents plan for a successful college transition using the five building blocks of Awareness, Desire, Knowledge, Ability, and Reinforcement.

Linda S. Lantaff, Kutztown University of Pennsylvania
Jennifer Osinski, Bucks County Community College


 E-06.  Tier 3 Intervention- RENEW        

The Resilience, Empowerment, Natural Supports, Education and Work (RENEW) process focuses on students who are in danger of dropping out of school or in danger of not graduating with their same-age peers. During this session, the presenters will share their experiences serving as mentors for students and how the RENEW process worked for them.
Raquel Burns,
Intermediate Unit 20
Jennifer Fuller, East Stroudsburg Area School District
Sal Lapadula, East Stroudsburg Area School District
Mary Kate Lee, East Stroudsburg Area School District


12:30 p.m. - 1:30 p.m. – Closing Keynote

KN3.    Navigating a Two-Handed World…Single-Handedly        

David Harrell tells a universal story about a not so ordinary life. In his engaging closing keynote, David will deliver a hilarious and insightful look at navigating the world with a disability. We all face difficult circumstances in our personal and professional lives. We may face limitations placed on us by our peers, by our superiors, or even by ourselves, but in the midst of those circumstances we have the choice to not be defined by those limitations. We can find our own path, celebrate our differences, and take creative control of our lives. Not allowing our circumstances, no matter what they are, to peel away the core of our humanity.    

David Harrell, International award-winning actor, speaker, and disability advocate

1:45 p.m. - 3:15 p.m. – Bonus Fab Lab Sessions – Youth Only - Cancelled
E-07.   Fab Lab – Youth Only

Another session for up to 10 youth, with active consent with OVR, to experience firsthand, the tools needed to develop the practical and critical thinking skills to be inventors and innovators of the future.

E-08.   Fab Lab – Youth Only

Another session for up to 10 youth, with active consent with OVR, to experience firsthand, the tools needed to develop the practical and critical thinking skills to be inventors and innovators of the future.