Speakers for the 2017 Empower Autism Conference: Autism & the Pursuit of Happiness

Elizabeth J. (Ibby) Grace, Assistant Professor of Education at National Louis University, runs the Tiny Grace Notes blog and is an editor on i.e.: inquiry in education and NeuroQueer. Her inquiries now are focused on performance, culture, and activism, and her writing can be found among other places in the books Loud Hands, Both Sides of the Table: Autoethnographies of Educators Learning and Teaching With/In [Dis]ability, and Criptiques. Ibby currently serves on the boards for Society for Disability Studies and Autism National Committee, and is working on an edited anthology with Amy Sequenzia called Typed Words, Loud Voices.
Ibby lives in the suburbs of Chicago with her lovely wife and two magnificent sons.Email Ibby – ibby (at) disstudies (dot) org

Scott Kramer is the program director and founder of the GCA Centre for Adult Autism, a program of the Chattanooga Autism Center in Chattanooga, TN. Scott founded GCA in 2010, after going to nonprofits in downtown Chattanooga asking about autism support groups for autistic adults.  GCA facilitates support groups and social events in Greater Chattanooga and North Georgia.  Scott is a board member of the Autism Society of Georgia, where he also serves as the Chair of the Adult Advisory Board of ASG.  GCA and ASG are collaborating together to bring social events to the Metro Atlanta area (and throughout Georgia) for autistic adults and young adults. Recently, Scott joined the advisory board of the Virginia Tech Center of Autism Research (VTCAR) in Blacksburg, VA.  He and other VTCAR board members will be discussing how to bring increased services to the rural autism communities of Southwest Virginia and North Georgia.   
M.S.Ed, The University of Kansas
BS.B.A., University of Tennessee at Chattanooga
B.S., Purdue University
Website – GCA Centre for Adult Autism www.gcaspies.org
Email – scott.kramer@chattanoogaautismcenter.org

April Jagger retired after teaching for 30 years in Georgia public schools and is now a stay-at-home mom and gram. However,  Scott and April believe that their greatest accomplishment is the loving and supportive relationship they have shared for over six years.  The strength of their relationship has allowed them to endure many losses and life changes, including becoming a new family of eight (two adults, three children, and three grandchildren).  Their differently-abled family includes a child on the autism spectrum, a child with an emotional disability, and a grandchild with neurological birth defects.
M.Ed., University of Tennessee at Chattanooga
B.Ed., University of Tennessee at Chattanooga

Jade McWilliams is an autistic self-advocate who wants autistic people to be able to live in ways that make them feel happy, comfortable and satisfied. Jade considers themself a “maker” and loves to create beautiful things with their hands. They also love science fiction and is a big fan of “Star Trek,” “Planet of the Apes” and Frank Herbert’s “Dune” books. Jade can be reached via email at: jjademcwilliams@gmail.com. 
Preferred Pronouns: They and Them

Ben Mason is an innovative commercial designer, professional, and husband. He currently owns and operates an independent media production studio in WNC, offering support to local businesses and startups. Diagnosed on the spectrum as a young adult, Ben is an outspoken community advocate. He speaks publicly on ASD-related topics, and has helped organize and execute successful crowd-funded projects for the ASD community.

Patti Digh has written 8 books on global diversity and living mindfully, has worked and traveled in over 60 countries, has served on the President’s Committee on the Employment of People with Disabilities, and has learned more from her transgender Autistic son than from any of those other experiences. Patti is the founder of The Art of Activism and Life is a Verb Camp, and is currently writing a book on the history of normalcy with her husband, John Ptak.

Catherine Faherty was introduced to autism in 1984 by her first autism teachers – her students in one of the original autism programs in North Carolina. She has been a TEACCH therapist, teacher trainer, mentor, and ally; serving all over the world. She has written three books which have been translated into ten languages; one has been hailed as “a classic in the field of autism”; another one awarded the Autism Society of America 2009 Book of the Year. Her passion has been to identify and provide ways to support mutual communication between the autistic and non-autistic communities; and in helping people communicate their authentic selves and in becoming effective self-advocates. Catherine has been a great supporter from the first year of our “Autism and the Pursuit of Happiness” conference!

Sylvia van Meerten started Empower Autism in 2010 and started this conference in 2014. She is proud of how much assistance she has offered families and individuals, and humbled by how much she’s learned along the way. She has created several overnight camps for young people on the autism spectrum, and she finds joy in learning from their fresh new perspectives. She also loves to teach other neuro-typical folks to respect and appreciate autistic people.

Register for the conference here

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