Session Descriptions & Speaker Bios

Keynote Sessions:

Wallace Davis

Session Title:  Are You Having a Good Life?

Session Description:  It’s a very personal question. From past struggles to the unknowns of the future, how are we really doing? As life’s journey continues, there are things we can do differently to better ensure that we will, indeed, have a good life. And this effort extends to other people in our life as well. What can we do to make sure that those we work with experience a good life as well? Join Dr. Davis as he shares his strategies, personal insights, and encouragement gained from forty-one years as a CEO of a large non-profit supporting people with developmental and intellectual disabilities. 

Speaker Bio:  

Wallace Davis retired as the President and CEO of Volunteers of America Southeast this past summer, after providing leadership for this affiliate for more than 40 years. He is a graduate of Samford University and New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, with a Bachelor of Science in Education, a Master of Theology and a Doctor of Philosophy in Psychology and Counseling.  He is a Licensed Professional Counselor and a certified Supervisor.

Wallace has served as pastor, interim pastor, teacher, author, CEO, and counselor in a span that began more than 50 years ago. He continues as speaker, counselor, writer, and mentor.

For over 21 years Wallace’s “Uplifting Moments” have been featured on four local radio stations during the weekly morning drivetime and one local CBS television station on Sunday mornings in Mobile, Alabama. He has also authored two books based on those experiences, Uplifting Moments, and Uplifting Moments II—365-day devotional books.

Wallace and his wife, Barbara, have four adult children and nine grandchildren. 

Thane Dykstra

Session Title:  A River Flows Through Us: Some Paddling Lessons from Positive Psychology

Session Description: “No matter how full the river is, it still wants to grow.”  African Proverb

The Positive Psychology movement was founded by Martin Seligman in 1998. In contrast with mainSTREAM psychology which has focused extensively on mental illness, maladaptive behavior, and negative thought patterns, Positive Psychology is centered on “the good life” and the factors that promote well-being. The session will focus on key domains that are relevant to well-being as identified by Seligman in his 2011 book, Flourish. These areas include: Positive Emotion, Engagement, Meaning, Relationships, and Accomplishment (PERMA). Contemporary researchers have also emphasized the importance of lifestyle habits related to physical health. The session will provide an overview of Positive Psychology and will walk paddle attendees through Positive Psychology interventions that may be useful to persons with intellectual and developmental disabilities and those who support them.

Speaker Bio: Thane Dykstra has been President and CEO of Trinity Services since 2018. Prior to this, he served as Clinical Director and Director of Trinity’s Behavioral Health program.

Thane has written numerous professional publications related to his field of study, and he has presented extensively at national conferences and invited trainings. His current professional interests include contextual-behavioral therapies such as Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT), Functional Analytic Psychotherapy (FAP), and Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT). He is especially interested in applying these models in work with persons who exhibit challenging behavior. Thane’s interests also include the assessment of risk for persons with intellectual disabilities. Most recently, Thane has been involved in integrating Positive Psychology into person centered planning and recently co-authored a book with Art Dykstra entitled: A New Plan – Using Positive Psychology to Renew the Promise of Person Centered Planning.

Thane holds a bachelor's degree from Valparaiso University and a doctorate in Clinical Psychology from the University of Nevada, Reno. In addition, he completed his pre-doctoral internship at Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island. While at Brown, he served as an assistant project coordinator at the university's Center for Alcohol and Addictions Studies.

Within Illinois state agencies, Thane has served on steering committees and work groups for the Department of Human Services (DHS)–both the Division of Mental Health and the Division of Developmental Disabilities–and the Department of Children and Family Services. He was appointed by the Governor to the state’s Quality Care Board, an advisory committee for the DHS Office of the Inspector General. Thane is a past president of the Illinois Association for Behavior Analysis and is currently on the ANCOR Board of Representatives.

Thane and his wife Kim live in Chicago's south suburbs. They enjoy spending time with their family, camping, hiking, fishing and relevant to this talk, paddling.

 Tony Di Vittorio

Session Title:  Called to Greatness

Session Description:  Why do you do what you do? Why do you work so hard? Why do you get back up when you are knocked down? Why do you remain hopeful when all seems hopeless?  In our work… Is it because the rules that are written prescribe your extraordinary effort? Is it because the laws of the recent past require it? Is it because your compensation rewards it? Or is it something more, something basic at our core.  In our work… Is it the need to be helpful to others? Is it the need to have meaningful work? Is it gaining a sense of accomplishment? Or is there something more, something that touches the sacred in our response.  Our journey…A path stumbled into, chosen or called to?

Speaker Bio:  Tony Di Vittorio has served as the President/CEO of Clearbrook since January 2017. Prior to that he was the Executive Director of Blue Cap in Blue Island for eight years. Before taking on that role he was program director at Trinity Services in New Lenox for sixteen years. Tony serves as the Past President of the Board of Directors for the Illinois Association of Rehabilitative Facilities (IARF) the trade association for providers of services for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities and mental health issues. He also serves on the Autism Task Force and is a member of The Institute on Public Policy for People with Disabilities.

 Preconference Session:

Karyn Harvey

Session Title:  Trauma-Informed Supports for People with IDD – The Path to Healing

Session Description:  This session will provide an in-depth look at trauma in the lives of people with IDD and the effects of that trauma. The biological, psychological and social effects will be explored. Next, there will be a discussion of healing. Three components of healing will be reviewed: safety, connections and empowerment. The Positive Identity approach will be introduced as well. Therapeutic interventions will be explored and a variety of tolls that can be used by professionals or paraprofessionals will be shared.

1. Participants will be able to identify sources of trauma for people with IDD.
2. Participants will be able to identify the positive identity development approach.
3. Participants will be able to utilize workbooks that develop a positive sense of self.

4. Participants will be able to utilize the happiness assessment.

Speaker Bio:  Karyn Harvey has worked as a clinician in the field of intellectual disabilities for over 30 years. She has her Ph.D. in Applied Developmental Psychology from the University of Maryland. She has published articles about therapeutic interventions with individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD), workbooks for individuals with IDD and two books. Her first book, Positive Identity Development was published in 2009 and Trauma –Informed Behavioral Interventions, published in 2011. Her third book, Trauma and Healing will be released in 2022 by AAIDD. She is the director of program development and training for the Park Ave Group practice where does both individual and group therapy. In addition, she regularly conducts trainings on trauma informed care and coping with Covid for both state and individual organizations throughout the country and in Canada.

Breakout Sessions:

Caitlin Bailey

Session Title: The Fundamentals of Organizational Transformation

Session Description: Our field is always changing, and it’s important that organizations and supports for people with disabilities continually transform to ensure that we are providing effective and person-directed services. During this session, led by the National Leadership Consortium, attendees will learn fundamentals and core strategies to help them embrace and lead transformation. We will answer questions like:
• How do organizations begin a transformation process?
• What are barriers to change what we should look out for?
• How do we gain buy-in and support for change from key stakeholders?
• What does successful transformation look like?
Professionals working in all levels and roles in an organization will gain useful knowledge and concrete practices that they can take back to their agencies to enact meaningful change and transformation that can improve the lives of the people we support.

Speaker Bio:  Caitlin Bailey, PhD is the Co-Director of the National Leadership Consortium, she has worked with the Consortium since 2010. In her role as Co-Director, she leads the development and coordination of all research and evaluation projects as well as technical assistance and support to organizations and disability sector leaders. Caitlin also co-leads all strategic planning initiatives for the National Leadership Consortium. Caitlin brings significant knowledge and experience in research and evaluation, training, development, and facilitation of leadership development programs for the disability service sector, the Department of Labor, and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. Caitlin has served on the Boards of Directors for the National Alliance for Direct Support Professionals, as well as the Alliance for Citizen Directed Supports. 


Tiffany Kragenbrink & John Pingo

Session Title: Leader's Quest: Lessons every leader should know and how to teach them.

Session Description: Why do we love going to movies and playing games but dread sitting in training? Can we take the psychological mechanisms that make movies and games fun and apply them to training? Yes, we can! That’s where Leader’s Quest comes in! What is Leader’s Quest? It’s an epic two-day learning adventure designed to get staff started on their journey to becoming organizational leaders. This two-hour interactive seminar will teach you how to build your own Leader’s Quest. The techniques you’ll learn can also be applied to any training topic to create engaging and effective learning experiences for your staff.

Speaker Bio: John Pingo is the CEO and Board Certified Behavior Analyst of the Goldie B. Floberg Center based in Rockton, Illinois. He started his career serving people with developmental disabilities over 20 years ago as a direct support professional. Over that time he has held roles in human resources, program administration and many others. During this time, John also earned his Ph.D. in behavior analysis and therapy from Southern Illinois University in Carbondale. John has taught at the college and university level and was formerly an adjunct faculty member for both Southern Illinois University in Carbondale and Aurora University in their behavior analysis and therapy programs. John's professional passions are engineering positive workplace cultures, helping people served achieve empowered lives through applied behavior analysis, mindfulness applications for staff, combating cognitive biases through learning, developing fun, engaging training, and making person-centeredness a reality for people served and staff members.

Speaker Bio: Tiffany Kragenbrink has held multiple positions during her time with the Goldie Floberg Center. Her experiences as a Case Manager, Director of Intake, Communication Specialist, and now Vice President of Staff Development have provided her with a unique perspective learning. Tiffany does not believe that learning is just about Powerpoints and lectures – she uses her imagination and love of superheroes to help create exciting learning opportunities filled with games and competitions. After all, every day is a new adventure - why can't training be the same?

Tina Campanella

Session Title:  Person Centered Guardianship: Myth or Mission???

Session Description: Many people think that the idea of person-centered planning and supports only apply to people who can make decisions without assistance. This may be especially true for parents who have been appointed to this role creating a unique challenge for the disability professional leading the planning team. This session will focus on ways that disability professionals can help parents and guardians to support their family members or charge with disabilities to be an active participant in the planning and decision-making process. We will explore different strategies and approaches though a case study approach based on real planning challenges and real people.

Speaker Bio:  Tina Campanella is an independent consultant with over 40 years of experience working on behalf of children and adults with disabilities in many different capacities. She previously worked as Chief Executive Officer of Quality Trust for Individuals with Disabilities, an independent advocacy and monitoring organization in Washington DC. Prior to that she was part of the team at the Council on Quality and Leadership (CQL) that created the CQL Personal Outcome Measures (POM). She is acknowledged as an exceptional thinker and leader with expertise in program development, person-centered approaches, and service quality management. Ms. Campanella holds a MA degree in Organizational Management and Change and is a passionate about partnering with advocates who have disabilities to promote change.

Amanda Ripley & Maranda Trahan

Session Title:  Successful Aging: 10 Tips for Meaningful Engagement

Session Description:  A key to successful aging includes meaningful engagement. An active lifestyle with your community, inner social circle, and feelings are the secrets to a high quality of life. We will review service and environmental changes you can incorporate to facilitate meaningful engagement as an individual ages with an intellectual and developmental disability. We will discuss revising goals to identifying environmental improvements. Engagement is a fun behavior to plan, but one that is challenging to produce. By taking time to enjoy the process, we show everyone that meaningful engagement comes from our participation with life and connections with each other.

Speaker Bio:  Dr. Maranda Trahan, PhD, BCBA-D was born in Louisiana and attended LSU as an undergraduate student. She attended Southern Illinois University in Carbondale for graduate school, receiving a master’s degree in Behavior Analysis and Therapy and a doctorate in Rehabilitation. Dr. Trahan completed a postdoctoral fellowship at the Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, MD in Geriatric Medicine and Gerontology. She then started the first ABA clinical practice for individuals with dementia in 2014. In late 2018, Dr. Trahan moved back to Southern Illinois and started work with Abilities Behavior Services. There she serves as the program coordinator for aging-related services, consulting and managing a caseload of senior clients (with and without I/DD). She also develops training materials for clinicians around the country looking to serve our growing population of seniors. Dr. Trahan enjoys being outside, growing vegetables, and spending time with her family and animals.

Speaker Bio:  Amanda Ripley, BCBA is from Chicago and attended Western Michigan University as an undergraduate student. She attended Southern Illinois University in Carbondale for graduate school, receiving a master’s degree in Behavior Analysis and Therapy. Amanda worked in several states, including Michigan, Colorado, and Illinois, providing ABA services to children, adults and seniors. Amanda currently works at Abilities Behavior Services, and co-manages their aging-related programs. She consults with a caseload of senior clients (with and without I/DD). Amanda also helps in the development of training materials for clinicians looking to serve seniors. Amanda is an avid runner and enjoys playing outside with her kids and husband.