2024 Virtual Down Syndrome Speaker Series

Dismantling Ableism: Empowering Individuals with Down Syndrome to Thrive


Tuesday, February 20


Full Life: Setting our Kids Up to Thrive as Adults

Speaker: Amy Julia Becker, mother of an individual with Down syndrome

In this session, author Amy Julia Becker will offer practical steps parents can take to equip and empower their children with Down syndrome as they move toward adulthood. She will share her own experience as the mother of a teenager with Down syndrome, and she will provide tools for parents to connect with community support, promote a mindset that assumes each person can learn and grow, and plan for a meaningful future. 


More Alike Than Different

Speaker: David Egan, self-advocate with Down syndrome

Born with Down syndrome, David is an eager advocate, author, and leader for people with intellectual disabilities at the local, national, and international levels. He will share his experiences and highlight what made it possible throughout his journey to follow his dreams and advocate for others.

Thursday, February 22


Empowering Emotional Regulation and Prosocial Behaviors

Speaker: Sarah Schmitt, Behavioral & Educational Consultant

This presentation will equip you with valuable information on what behavior is telling us, why behavior happens, how to respond to dysregulation and escalation, and how to reduce triggers or episodes in the future. We will explore different types of behavior and discuss practical strategies to respond to each type. We will also develop an understanding of effective strategies for responding to dysregulation and escalation, including de-escalation techniques and ways to provide support.


Fostering Independence

Speaker: Dana Halle, Co-Founder & Executive Director of the Down Syndrome Foundation of Orange County California

In this session, we’ll explore strategies to nurture independence at home and in academic settings. Proactive planning establishes clear expectations and practices, benefiting students throughout their academic journey and easing their transition to post-secondary opportunities.

Tuesday, February 27


Assistive Technology: Supporting Independence

Speaker: Dr. Anya Evmenova, George Mason University

Assistive technology including innovative artificial intelligence tools can be the game-changer you are looking for to support independence in your middle schooler as they move on to high school and beyond. Come to learn about the existing and upcoming tools available for students and their parents/caregivers.


Competence, Autonomy & Relatedness

Speaker: Kendal Swartzentruber, Brandon Stees, self-advocate with Down syndrome

The key to empowering individuals with disabilities to thrive independently is to develop self-determination. Learn how to foster the three psychological needs of competence, autonomy and relatedness in your child with disabilities through the VDOE I’m Determined framework and the perspective of a self-advocate living with Down syndrome.

Thursday, February 29


Know What to Ask: Advocating for My or My Transition-Age Child’s Long-Term Needs

Speaker: Holly Peele, Northstar Career Academy

Holly Peele serves as the Director of Northstar Career Center, a school promoting the self-determination of young people with disabilities through career training. She has been advocating for individuals with disabilities for 29 years.


Just Human: The Quest for Disability Wisdom, Respect, and Inclusion

Speaker: Arielle Silverman, Disabled activist, Social scientist, and Author

In this talk, Dr. Arielle Silverman shares experiences growing up with a congenital disability as reflected in her memoir, Just Human. She will share guidance on ways to honor the dignity and individuality of all people, including those with a body or mind that is different from the norm, and practical lessons on how we can all move to the “disability justice” stage of inclusion.

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