5th Annual Southeast Adult Autism Symposium

2021 Speaker Information

Read below to find out more information about the speakers and presentations we will feature at this event. 

Lisa Morgan
Suicide Prevention for the Autistic Community

Link to PowerPoint used for this presentation

Description: Suicide is a leading cause of premature death for autistic people. Studies have shown autistic people have unique risk factors for suicide. Also, suicide warning signs used for the general public do not meet the unique needs of autistic people. This presentation will explain why autistic people need suicide prevention resources written specifically for them. Participants will gain an understanding of how to support an autistic person in crisis.

Learning Objectives:

1) Identify the three unique risk factors of suicide for autistic people.

2) Explain considerations to be taken when using the general warning signs of suicide.

3) Describe how to support an autistic person in a suicidal crisis.

Speaker Biography

Lisa is a certified autism specialist with a master's degree in the Art of Teaching in Special Education. She is a self-employed consultant in crisis supports for the autism community.  Lisa is the founder and co-chair of the Autism and Suicide committee of the American Association of Suicidology.  Lisa is an autistic adult and survivor of suicide loss. She is the author of two autism-specific suicide prevention resources being used nationwide.

John G. Huisman, Esq.
Attorney with Pierce and Huisman, PLLC
Legal Issues with Autism

Link to PowerPoint used for this presentation

Description: Families with an autistic member face a myriad of legal questions, and this presentation will deal with many of them. From immediate planning for Healthcare directives and Powers of Attorney to long-term issues involving Special Needs Trusts, reversing guardianship or conservatorship, get your legal queries answered. The program will also address ABLE Accounts, Tax issues and so much more. Bring your questions!

Speaker Biography

Pierce & Huisman focus their practice on Estate Planning, Elder Law, Wills & Trusts, Probate, Conservatorship, Special Needs Trusts, Business Formation (LLCs, corporations and partnerships), Business Succession Planning, Business Transactions, Entrepreneur Law, Start-ups, Nonprofit & Tax-exempts, Prenuptial Agreements, Employee Benefits/Retirement Plans and Tax law, among others.  The Firm provides an exceptional degree of excellence in the law practice and its superb personal attention to individuals, families and businesses in handling their legal matters at its present offices at 4513 Hixson Pike, Suite 109, Hixson, Tennessee  37343 – phone (423) 648-4303. 


John Huisman has extensive experience during his 16-year career in the areas of Business Transactions, Entrepreneur Law, Litigation, Workers’ Compensation, Probate, Elder Law and Estate Planning law areas. After over nine years practicing primarily litigation, Mr. Huisman opened his own law practice focusing on helping entrepreneurs and small- and medium-sized businesses with business formations, structuring, and transactions.  Most recently, Mr. Huisman spent over a year as Vice President and General Counsel of a local import and distribution business. Mr. Huisman uses this hands-on experience, along with his litigation experience, to better counsel business and individual clients with the knowledge of what it takes to help businesses grow and succeed.

Breanna Kelly


Navigating the Mental Health System

Link to PowerPoint Used for this presentation

Description: Mental health challenges and diagnoses can be more common for autistic individuals. Unfortunately, access to appropriate services can be limited to non-existent. This presentation will explore the importance of mental health supports and provide practical tools on how to navigate accessing services. Participants will leave with an improved understanding of supports available, how to access them and how to advocate for their needs when working with mental health providers.

Learning Objectives: Participants will be able to:

1) Describe mental health and wellness and why it is important

2) Identify various types of mental health supports and interventions

3) Learn tips and obtain resources for accessing mental health services

4) Describe ways to advocate for their treatment when working with mental health providers.

Speaker Biography

Breanna Kelly is the owner and lead clinical consultant of Synergy Behavior Consulting, LLC. Breanna is a licensed clinical social worker and board-certified behavior analyst. Breanna served in various positions within the community, clinical and academia setting. These roles include: a community researcher and behavior specialist in the School of Public Health at Georgia State University, inpatient social worker, behavior specialist on the mobile crisis team, community therapist and a behavior clinician. She has also served in coordinator of the Autism Plan of Georgia Conference for several years. Breanna has served autistic individuals of all ages for more than 10 years. Her areas of expertise include co-occurring diagnoses, crisis intervention, autism spectrum disorder, behavior intervention, skill development, and program development. Breanna was inspired to create SBC after seeing a need for social and behavioral supports that were comprehensive, individualistic, and humanistic. She was particularly focused on this type of support for individuals with complex trauma and behavioral needs.

Melvin R. Rodgers


Autism and Aging:  In Search of Community

Link to PowerPoint used for this presentation

Description: This presentation will focus on the challenges and opportunities experienced by adults on the autism spectrum as we seek community. I will explore the strengths and limitations of community and offer a description of some challenges faced by adults on the autism spectrum. This presentation will also explore some personal resources that are available for adults on the autism spectrum.

Learning Objectives: Participants will gain an understanding of some strengths and limitations of community as it relates to adults on the autism spectrum. They will gain an awareness of some challenges experienced by adults on the autism spectrum as it relates to finding and engaging community. They will gain an understanding of some effective ways of finding community. Also, They will have an awareness of some personal resources available to adults on the autism spectrum that can assist in engaging in community.

Speaker Biography

Melvin is an autistic adult and advocate, diagnosed late in life. He has a BA in Religion and Philosophy, a Masters of Divinity in Psychology of Religion/Pastoral Care and Counseling, a Doctor of Ministry Spec. Pastoral Counseling. Member of, Association of Professional Chaplains,(APC) Association of Clinical Pastoral Education(ACPE,PC), Board Certified Chaplain, (BCC). Ordained Minister, Ret.

Joseph F. Cubells


Psychiatric Medications for

People Living With Disabilities

Link to PowerPoint used for this presentation

Description: People affected by autism spectrum disorder (ASD) sometimes benefit from treatment with psychiatric medications. Although no medications have been developed specifically to treat ASD, a variety are available to address anxiety, depression and other challenges frequently encountered by people living with ASD. This presentation will provide an overview of medications that can sometimes be helpful to people with ASD. The speaker will welcome questions and discussion from audience members.

Learning Objectives: Participants will be able to:

1) Describe the different classes of psychiatric medications commonly used to help people living with autism

2) Describe basic aspects of brain structure and function on which medication treatment for psychiatric symptoms is based.

Speaker Biography

Joseph F. Cubells, MD, PhD is an Associate Professor in the Departments of Human Genetics, and Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, at the Emory University School of Medicine, and Director of Medical Services at the Emory Autism Center. He has been on the faculty at Emory since 2004, and prior to that was on the faculty of Psychiatry at Yale University School of Medicine for 9 years. Dr. Cubells received his BA (Behavioral Biology) from Johns Hopkins University, and his MD and PhD (Neuroscience) from the Albert Einstein College of Medicine. He completed his residency in psychiatry at Columbia University/New York State Psychiatric Institute. The Emory Autism Center’s psychopharmacology clinic, which he oversees, follows more than 500 patients and families living with autism and related neurodevelopmental or genetic conditions.

Leah Bauman-Smith & Paige LaSota

Educators and Outreach Specialists

An Intersectional Approach to

Autism & Sexuality Education

Link to PowerPoint used for this presentation


-Reviewing the background on sexual education for people with disabilities.

-Discussing educational strategies with a focus on Autistic people.

-Learning how to have respectful and supportive conversations around sexual health.

Learning Objectives

Participants will learn one-two strategies they can use with themselves or their student/child related to sexual health. They will feel more comfortable talking addressing the topics of consent and boundaries. They will have also at least one new resource they can use to learn more about sexuality education.

Speaker Biography

Leah is an educator and outreach specialist for Mad Hatter Wellness and Sexuality for All Abilities. She loves having the opportunity to teach about consent, healthy relationships, and boundaries to people of all abilities. Leah has been a special education teacher for thirteen years and taught sexuality education in special education classes for over 10 years. She has taught many Autistic students over the years in her sexuality education classes and is looking forward to presenting tips and best practices for this area of education.

Paige is an educator and developer at Mad Hatter Wellness. She teaches the Sexuality for All Abilities Curriculum to individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities and trains support systems on how to support individuals in navigating healthy relationships. Paige has several years of personal and professional experience within the disability community and services- spanning from home-based care to special education classrooms to social programs. She is grateful to present and facilitate conversations around sex education at the symposium.