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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. Speakers are listed alphabetically by last name. The complete agenda is available here.

Sean Boogard
When to Cleave, 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.

Kristen Calloway, BS

Conya Mull, ACRE, ECSP

Judy Pate

BCBS - UHC Community - Amerigroup


Aimee Rogers

BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee

Employment Community First CHOICES

Description: Employment and Community First CHOICES is a TennCareSM program for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities. This program is designed to provide the support you need in your own home or in the community. Our services will help you plan for and get a job and live as independently as possible in the community. They will help you do things in the community that you want to do – to help you build relationships and reach your goals. If you live at home with your family, they will also help your family support you in planning for and reaching your goals. We will explain the program from how to qualify to types of services and supports that may be accessed through the ECF CHOICES program with a highlight on services that promote independence.

Learning Objectives: 

1) Know the steps to apply for the ECF CHOICES program.

2) Get an introduction to some of the services the ECF CHOICES program has that promote independence.

Speaker Biographies

Kristen Calloway has a BS degree in Human Services from the University of Tennessee Knoxville. She has worked in the social services sector for 26 years and has worked with children and adults with I/DD in some capacity for most of her career. For the last 10 years, she has worked specifically with the I/DD population. She has worked for provider agencies as a DSP, case manager, and regional director. She currently works with BlueCare as the ECF CHOICES Member Advocate. In this role, she educates the community about the ECF CHOICES program,


Conya Mull has had the wonderful opportunity of building a nineteen-year career working with adults and youth with disabilities in the sphere of Integrated Community Employment. Currently, she serves and works as the Employment and Community First CHOICES (ECF) Member Advocate for the East TN Region. She works as the point of contact for the ID / IDD population receiving TennCare services through the UnitedHealthcare Community Plan of Tennessee. She actively engages with local employers, providers and community partners providing education as to why hiring someone with a disability cultivates a diverse workforce for all abilities. It is important to "ALL PEOPLE" to feel included in their community, accepted by their peers, and have the opportunity to work towards achieving their goals and aspirations. There is no greater disability in life than having the "inability" to see a person for more.


Raissa Chandler, Jamie Mackintosh, BA, and Nathan Zimmerman

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 Biographies

Raissa Chandler is a life-long project manager of various pursuits and mother to adult autistic twins. Her current position is a doer-of-all-things for a boutique marketing firm, Dirt1x, based in Sharpsburg, Georgia. Past project manager positions include corporate training and customer service management for software companies, and environmental and construction management for an oil company. But when she had her twins, life changed to propel her toward advocacy and community building. In 2011, she founded Southside Support for Special Needs Parents, a non-profit focused on building community supports for youth with disabilities on the south side of Atlanta. She brings decades of experiences in disabilities through both her work with Southside as well as through parenting her 20-year-old twins. Parenting has been both her most challenging and most rewarding project to manage.

Jamie Mackintosh is an adult on the Autism spectrum and the Program Coordinator for GCA Metro Atlanta.  Jamie is also a partner with the Georgia College Transition Partnership. Jamie is currently employed as a SWAT Electronic Graphics Operator at Cable News Network in Atlanta, Georgia. Jamie received his BA in Communication from Berry College in April 1997.

Nathan Zimmerman is the Program Director of the GCA under the Chattanooga Autism Center. He has been in this position for the last 3 years but has been active with GCA for close to a decade. He is an avid community supporter, helping other adults with Autism navigate the world of adulting, doing things like teaching others to drive, sponsoring support group meetings on a weekly basis. His favorite part of this advocacy is helping people become independent as adults. He was diagnosed later in life, at age 34. He feels like he’s learned more out of school than through the special education that he received. He lives independently in the Chattanooga area with his dog, Dakota. His favorite interests are in cars and computers. His greatest achievement is creating a software program in to be able to help him overcome dyslexia through translating written text to voice output, way before commercial software was available.

Link to PDF version of presentation

Claire Kraft

Autistic Burnouts and Self Understanding

Description: This presentation will define what burnouts are, identify common symptoms, discuss the long term ramifications and how we can overcome these burnouts through self understanding. This conversation hopefully will help more autistics to not just merely survive but thrive. Understanding burnout triggers is a crucial step to self advocacy. As autistics we are entitled to a safe and happy life.

Learning Objectives: 

1) Recognize some triggers and onset symptoms of burnouts.

2) Learn how to recover from burnouts.

3) Learn how to avoid burnouts altogether.

Speaker Biography

Claire Kraft is an autistic adult and a self-advocate. Last year, she graduated from Lee University with a degree in Political Science with an emphasis in International Relations. Currently, she is a data analyst at HomeServe USA.

Link to PDF version of presentation

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.

Link to PDF version of presentation

Alyce Benson, LCSW and Jamie Mackintosh, BA

Understanding Common Barriers in Communication and Strategies to Support Communication 

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. Jamie Mackintosh is an adult on the Autism spectrum and the Program Coordinator for GCA Metro Atlanta.  Jamie is also a partner with the Georgia College Transition Partnership.

Jamie is currently employed as a SWAT Electronic Graphics Operator at Cable News Network in Atlanta, Georgia. Jamie received his BA in Communication from Berry College in April 1997.

Link to PDF version of presentation

Corey Raburn, Tennessee Vocational Rehabilitation Field Supervisor

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.

Melvin R. Rodgers, D.Min, BCC, ACPE

Being an Adult on the Autism Spectrum

Description: This presentation will focus on some of the strengths and challenges experienced by adults on the autism spectrum. It will highlight the need for creative ways of providing care and comfort for adults on the autism spectrum. Still, I will challenge those of on the autism spectrum to become more assertive in engaging the broader community.

Learning Objectives: 

1) Participants will be able to describe some emotional/spiritual challenges experienced by adults on the autism spectrum.

2) Participants will be able to name effective ways of finding community.

3) Participants will gain awareness of a core/nurture framework for adults on the autism spectrum.

4) Participants will be able to name some spiritual resources available for adults on the autism spectrum.

Speaker Biography

Melvin is a retired board-certified chaplain, Doctor of Ministry/Pastoral Counseling, Master of Divinity/Pastoral Care and Counseling, BA/Religion and Philosophy. He has worked in a hospital setting for thirty years and a mental health setting for five years. He has done individual and family counseling in a pastoral counseling setting for 15 years.

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.

Madison Scott

Regions Bank

Managing Your Money

Description: Participants will learn how to take steps toward a successful financial future, track and decrease their daily spending, and increase their income.

Learning Objectives: 

1) Participants will learn how to understand the budgeting process.

2) Participants will learn how to manage income more wisely.

Speaker Biography

Coming soon!

Kell Todd, JD, LLM

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.

Link to PDF version of presentation

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