6th Annual Southeast Adult Autism Symposium
2022 Speaker Information

Read below to find out more information about the speakers and presentations we will feature at this event. More names will be added soon!

Sean Boogard
When to Cleve, When to Leave

Description: Many people on the autism spectrum are often confused with how neurotypicals communicate mixed messages. One example would be when a neurotypical person claims to be friends with a person on the spectrum and the person on their spectrum takes them at their word, only to be let down. This presentation will examine the differences between these communication and behavior styles. 

Learning Objectives:

1) Notice patterns in neurotypical behavior that are honest, devious, or misleading.

2) Realize that dishonest people are commonplace and losing a friendship with them is not a loss.

3) Learn how to engage in balanced and healthy interactions and avoid unhealthy interactions.

Speaker Biography

Sean Boogaard is an autistic adult who advocates for others on the spectrum.

Sandra Bruce
Founder and Executive Director of Autism Improvised

Social Stories for Grown-Ups


Description: Remember those social stories you had when you were a kid? You’ve grown up now, and so have social stories! Discover how improvised role play can grow self-confidence by approaching social situations, whether casual or work-related, more flexibly and creatively. Decode the unspoken rules of social interaction, and reduce social anxiety. We’ll even have some fun playing with some reality-based scenarios, all in a safe and supportive space.

Learning Objectives:

1) Identify three common challenges many adult autistics have in social interactions.

2) Describe improvised role play and how it can help resolve these challenges;

3) Demonstrate at least one relaxation exercise to help alleviate social anxiety.

Speaker Biography

Sandra Bruce is the founder and director of Autism Improvised, Inc., PEERS certified, and an autism grandparent. She started Autism Improvised in 2009, serving ages 10 to adult by using improvisation to address the social communication challenges of autism. Autism Improvised programs include Shenanigans Improv and Code Breakers.

Michele Louzon

Self-Care and Development of Executive Functioning Skills: The Keys to Success for Autistic Adults

Description: Michele will talk about how self-care and development of executive functioning skills directly affect success potential in autistic adults.

Learning Objectives: Participants will be able to:

1) Pinpoint self-care modalities that speak to them and learn about various executive functioning honing methods.

2) Learn about studies that speak to the health benefits of self-care and hear about the TEACCH study that isolated executive functioning as the key to success in autistic adults.

3) Identify the difference between self-care and selfishness and how things like yoga and meditation can change the neural networks of the brain creating growth and reorganization.

Speaker Biography

Michele has a Master's degree in Counseling and is the Executive Director of Arms Around ASD, which she started out of her basement in 2014. The program provides services for autistic people, their families, caregivers, and professionals who work with them, regardless of age, ability, or income.

Jamie Mackintosh, BA and Alyce Benson, LCSW

Strategies to Overcome Common Communication Barriers

Description: This training provides an overview of common communication barriers between autistics and neurotypicals. The benefits of communication and the negative impact that communication difficulties can have on everyday lives will be shared. This training will provide proactive strategies to improve communication and discuss the need for support at both individual levels and broader societal levels.

Learning Objectives: 

1) Describe common communication barriers for autistic adults.

2) Understand the impact on relationships with family, friends, and professionally.

3) Identify at least three proactive strategies to improve communication.

Speaker Biography

Alyce Benson is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker with over 25 years experience working with adults, adolescents, and children with developmental disabilities and co-occurring mental health disorders. She received both her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in social work from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. Ms. Benson currently works at the Chattanooga Autism Center providing individual, family, and group therapy to persons impacted by Autism, and at the National Center for START Services as an associate project facilitator.

Nancy Rogers, AS, 2017 Partners in Policymaking Graduate

The True History of Autism

Description: This presentation will examine the history of the genesis and evolution of the diagnosis and public perception of autism, including why so many adults could not be diagnosed in childhood, why females are so overlooked, why Identity vs. Person First is such a controversy, and what is Neurodiversity activism.

Learning Objectives: 

1) Understand why getting an autism diagnosis can be difficult for adults, females, and BIPOC children.

2) Learn how to find supportive online communities online and in real life.

3) Learn how to get involved in autism advocacy.

Speaker Biography

Nancy Rogers is a 2017 Partners in Policymaking graduate with a long history of autism advocacy and performing volunteer work for the Chattanooga autism community. She also has an AS degree with a concentration in history.

Kell Todd, McMahan Law Firm

Social Security Disability

Description: This presentation will examine the basics of the Social Security SSI and SSDI programs, including the application process, eligibility, and time frames.

Learning Objectives: 

After listening to this program, participants will understand the basics of the SSI and SSDI programs, which one is best to apply for their loved one with Autism, what to expect during the application process, and how an attorney can help secure this public benefit. Also, attendees will receive an introduction to in-kind income and how it affects payments.

Speaker Biography

Kenneth L. “Kell” Todd IV grew up in Dothan, Alabama. He then attended Auburn University where he graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Business Management in 2012. Kell attended law school at the University of Alabama School of Law. Kell obtained his Juris Doctor in 2015. He would go on to complete an LLM degree with a concentration in Business Transactions at the University of Alabama School of Law in 2016. Kell joined the McMahan Law Firm in 2016.


He currently practices civil litigation, including motor vehicle collisions, premises liability, workers’ compensation, and Social Security Disability Insurance cases. Kell is licensed to practice law in Tennessee and is admitted to the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Tennessee. He is a member of the Chattanooga Bar Association and the Tennessee Trial Lawyers Association.

Corey Raburn

The Basics of Tennessee Vocational Rehabilitation

Description: This presentation will examine the basics of the Tennessee Vocational Rehabilitation Program. Attendees will learn how adults with disabilities can work toward gainful employment through specialized programs and supports offered through Voc Rehab.

Learning Objectives: 

Through this session, participants will be able to navigate the intake process of Voc Rehab, understand the types of programs and services that Voc Rehab has to offer and understand the Individual Plan of Employment that will help an Autistic Adult find and maintain gainful employment.

Speaker Biography

Corey is a field supervisor with Tennessee Vocational Rehab services.