Skip to main content

NADSP is pleased to share our schedule of events for the 2023 NADSP Annual Conference. Sessions are subject to change. 

Annual Conference Day 1 September 8, 2023

6:30 AM - 8:30 AM

Pre-Conference Registration Sponsored by Elevance Health

8:30 AM - 11:30 AM

Pre-Conference Sessions Sponsored by Elevance Health

Session 1:
Pre-Conference Session A

Session One: Clinical Pearls in IDD healthcare for the Direct Support Professional

Description: Clinical pearls are small bits of free-standing, clinically relevant information based on experience or observation relating to health and wellness. Direct Support Professionals are often the first line in recognizing health destabilization for people they support. This pre-conference session will feature a discussion of several “pearls” relating to commonly noted health issues in people with IDD and how DSPs can assist in early recognition and prevention and health destabilization. Topics covered will include quality of life for people with IDD, sexuality, abuse and neglect, end-of-life decision-making, aging with disabilities, the importance of documenting a baseline level of functioning, and a discussion of the top preventable causes of illness and death called “The Fatal Five Plus.” These conditions include aspiration, constipation, dehydration, seizures, sepsis, and gastroesophageal reflux.

Session 2:
Pre-Conference Session B

Session Two: The Home and Community Based Services Settings Rule and What Direct Support Professionals Need to Know 
In 2014, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) at the Department of Health and Human Services issued the Home & Community Based Services (HCBS) Settings Rule to require that every state ensure that services delivered to seniors and people with disabilities living in the community – outside of institutions – meet minimum standards for integration, access to community life, choice, autonomy, and other important consumer protections. The HCBS Settings Rule was created to expand the availability of community-based services that maximize autonomy and choice for individuals with disabilities, and to address the problem of institutional-like settings receiving scarce HCBS dollars. After a few delays, the Settings Rule has been more fully implemented since March 2023. 
The NADSP wants to make sure that direct support professionals (DSPs) are aware of these new standards and their important role in making sure that the people they support have access to the opportunities that are promised in these new federal regulations.

This pre-conference session is geared for direct support professionals and will provide the information and foundation of person-centered practices and helping people with making informed decisions.

Session 3:
Pre-Conference Session C

Session Three: E-Badge Academy: Making It Work
This session will feature short presentations from three IDD provider organizations who are successfully utilizing the NADSP E-Badge Academy to provide a path to national certification for the DSPs and Frontline Supervisors they employ. While NADSP’s Director of Certification and Accreditation will be onhand coordinate the presentations and answer questions, the primary focus of this presentation will be how these three organizations successfully implemented the E-Badge Academy in their own organizational cultures.

8:30 AM

Full Conference Registration Opens

12:00 PM – 12:45 PM

Welcome, Opening Remarks, Hingsburger Humanitarian Awards Presentation

12:45 PM – 2:00 PM

Keynote One

Session 4:
Keynote One: ‘You Don’t Know Me Until You Know Me’

Presented by Dr. Mykee Fowlin 

Sponsored by DirectCourse

To varying degrees, we all wear masks. We are conditioned to hide our true selves, out of fear of being rejected and/or judged. We are taught to devalue or ignore our pain, as if its utility is better served hidden than exposed. 

But what if this approach is ultimately to our detriment, not our survival? What if our authentic self is all we have, and our pain is the gift that we use to change this world? And imagine, as a foundational premise, we are raised and trained to celebrate differences, as an inclusive process, not just a tolerable one. 

In his one-man presentation, ‘You Don’t Know Me Until You Know Me’, Dr. Mykee Fowlin takes the audience on an experiential journey, having them reexamine core precepts that were taught to us from as early on as 1st grade. He uses many of his gifts – humor, performance art, poetry, storytelling, psychology, theatrical monologues, and his personal journey – to create a moving experience for all who are open to this evolution. 

He hopes that all audience members will leave his performance with that wonderful, awakening feeling of beauty: the beauty within one’s self and the beauty within others; the celebration of our differences, and the acceptance of our shared experiences. 

Dr. Michael Fowlin, better known as Mykee, is no stranger to the stage. He has been formally acting since age 11, but started creating voices (via prank calling) at age 9. In addition to his talents on stage, he has an undergraduate degree in psychology from Evangel University, in Springfield, Missouri, and in the fall of 2001, he attained a doctorate degree in clinical psychology from Rutgers University. Oddly enough, he suffers from delusions of grandeur, for, while performing, he is convinced that every audience member is his patient. 

His programs combine both his professional acting talents and his psychological training. His mission is to create an atmosphere of worldwide inclusion, not just tolerance, towards all people. He has worked extensively with all age groups in the United States and in other countries. His work has included peer mediation, diversity trainings, gender equity workshops, and violence prevention seminars. 

2:00 PM – 2:15 PM


2:15 PM – 3:15 PM

Breakout Series One

Session 5:
Beyond Compliance: How Engagement will Lead to DEI Success

Presenter: Jonathan Meagher-Zayas, Owner & Chief Strategist, Equity Warrior Strategies

Organizations' commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion continues to increase, but current efforts that only focus on compliance limit its success. Unfortunately, leaders create plans that do not acknowledge the true issues existing and give a voice to all stakeholders, especially DSPs. True inclusion means that everyone in your organization has the opportunity to be involved in the planning process. Without trust, good communication skills, and psychological safety, people will not feel comfortable engaging and providing necessary feedback to help the organization grow. Join this workshop to learn the foundations of engagement in DEI work, a framework on how to identify programs, and a chance to brainstorm with peers on engagement ideas. This session will include a presentation and an opportunity for group breakout discussions.

Session 6:
Social Capital Seminar for Leaders and Supervisors

Presenter: Dr. Al Condeluci

Often when an organization makes a commitment to shift its approach from micro (focus on individual) to macro (focus) on the community, unique challenges unfold for leaders and supervisors.  We are often so used to management from a micro perspective that clear mistakes are made in leading the shift.  This session will look closely at supervisory challenges and suggest ways and means to be more of a "coach" in organizational transformation.

Session 7:
A Collaborative Approach: Dementia Capable Practices and Certification for Direct Support Professionals

Presenters: Kathleen M. Bishop, Ph.D, Co-chair of the National Task Group Education and Training Committee, Consultant, National Task Group on ID & Dementia Practices (NTG), Carol Erzen, Staff Development Executive, Merakey


With funding from the Pennsylvania Office of Developmental Programs and the Polk Foundation, NADSP, NTG (National Task Group on ID and Dementia Practices), and Merakey have partnered to develop a set of electronic badges focused on Dementia Capable Care. The grant was written to create career ladders within the direct support profession, improve person-centered approaches, and develop the skills used in daily practice supporting adults with IDD and dementia. The presentation will provide an overview of the pilot program including the Dementia Capable Care Competencies, updates on progress, and suggestions for adapting this approach to supporting DSPs within your organization. The organizers will be available to answer questions from the audience and discuss future plans for applying this model.

Session 8:
Always Fresh, Always Relevant – Frontline Initiative: Learn more about the Premiere Magazine for Direct Support Professionals.

Presenters: Julie Dahlof Kramme, MA, Co-Editor Frontline Initiative, Researcher, Institute on Community Integration at the University of Minnesota, Chet Tschetter, Co-Editor of Frontline Initiative, Workforce Consultant, Institute on Community Integration

Join Editors Julie Kramme and Chet Tschetter to talk about and reflect on the 2023 issue topics; DSPs Supporting People’s Health and Wellness and DSPs using the NADSP Code of Ethics. This interactive session will include time to learn from other DSPs and Frontline Supervisors, as well as an opportunity to tell your story. Be part of the conversation about fresh and relevant topics for the 2024 issues. We want to hear from you about what is most important for your professional practice! And learn about the new podcast “A Closer Look”, when we dig in deep with the authors!

3:30 PM – 3:45 PM


3:45 PM – 4:45 PM

Breakout Series Two

Session 9:
Creative Solutions to the Workforce Crisis- Youth Development Program

Presenter Steve Towler, VP of Programs and Business Development, AHRC NYC, Yuliya Khripunkova, Assistant Director, AHRC NYC, Michelle Thomas, Employment Skills Instructor, AHRC NYC, Fatima Howard, Employment Skills Coordinator, AHRC NYC, Alex DeCarlo

Learn about the implementation and outcomes of the AHRC NYC Advance and Earn Youth Workforce Development Program funded by New York City Department of Youth and Community Development. AHRC NYC partnered with NADSP E-Badge Academy to offer youth who have their high school diploma or HSE and are over 18 years old an opportunity to explore employment in the IDD field, obtain nationally accredited Direct Support Professional Certification and prepare for a demanding but rewarding career in the nonprofit industry supporting people with IDD and beyond. Learn how Advance and Earn staff use Relias and Open Future online learning platforms to meet the NADSP Badge Academy educational requirements in addition to 250 hours paid internship to create space for CMS Core Competencies and Code of Ethics practice and testimonial completion. Since its inception in 2020, over 100 NYC Youth completed the program, and many received employment offers at AHRC NYC and other partner agencies. You will be able to hear directly from the recent graduates about the impact the program has made on their life and career choices “… I learned how to support people who have mental health needs or disabilities following the NADSP Code of Ethics. This (experience) allowed me and continues to allow me to promote social justice, change and equality.”

Session 10:
Let's Talk Social Pedagogy: Creating a Higher Quality of Life for DSPs


Presenters: Mette Christiansen, Katherine Raynor LMSW, Director, Concentration in Human Services, Department of Sociology, SUNY New Paltz, Katherine Raynor , SUNY New Paltz


Description: In this interactive workshop, we will elicit the collective wisdom of direct support professionals (DSPs) to draw connections between direct support work in the US and the internationally recognized profession of social pedagogues. A social pedagogy framework provides knowledge and skills focused on empowering DSPs as they work as an integral and respected part of the interdisciplinary team that supports people receiving services. This workshop is targeted to all team members, e.g., DSPs, frontline supervisors, administrators, and clinicians, with a focus on empowering and supporting DSPs. We will illustrate how the collective wisdom of the DSPs are connected to the social pedagogical concepts of Heart, Head, and Hands, Common Thirds, and working in the life space, directly with people across the lifespan. There is a large network of social pedagogues in a variety of practice settings with a broad foundation of theory and practice to draw from. There is power in relationship building and connecting with others who have like-minded values, goals, and skills. The workforce in the US is in crisis, and we need not reinvent the wheel. We assert that social pedagogy empowers DSPs, results in better working conditions, living salaries, and higher quality of life for everyone.

Session 11:
Inclusion Practices -On Boarding Boards

Presenters: Katherine Dunbar, Vice President of Accreditation, The Council on Quality and Leadership

Nationally recognized self-advocate Tia Nelis sums it up perfectly, “The best experiences are ones where you really feel included and where you are not just given smaller, unimportant things to be part of." So how can provider organizations ensure that people with disabilities, direct support professionals, and other non-management staff aren’t just on a committee, leadership team, or a work group, but act as a contributing member? Whether it’s hiring new staff, directing employee training, or influencing organizational decision-making, it's essential that a diverse group of stakholders have a 'seat at the table' in a meaningful role. But where should an organization start? What approaches will promote inclusive practices? How can you ensure these encompass all facets of organizational life? Through this session, you’ll discover how to enact change so that people with disabilities, your staff, and others play a prominent part in various groups. We’ll talk through dozens of different strategies, explore best practices, and reveal the pitfalls to avoid. Attendees will also learn about practical application through real-life examples of organizations that are having success involving inclusive approaches.

Session 12:
Leaving So Soon?: Examining DSP Turnover and Tenure Using National Core Indicators®- I/DD State of the Workforce Survey Data

Presenters: Valerie Bradley, President Emerita, HSRI, Lindsay DuBois, Research Associate, HSRI, Laura Vegas, NCI Director, NASDDDS, Dorothy Hiersteiner Co-Director, NCI®, National Core Indicators, Research Associate, HSRI

What is turnover? What is tenure? These terms are used a lot when discussing the DSP workforce. This presentation will discuss turnover and tenure, examine the NCI-IDD State of the Workforce data on turnover and tenure, and demonstrate the impact of turnover and tenure on workforce stability and quality. We will also discuss innovative strategies to reduce turnover and increase tenure.

4:50 PM – 6:00 PM

 2023 John F. Kennedy Jr. Award for Direct Support Workforce Advocacy & Leadership Presentation and Cocktail Reception

6:00 PM

Dinner on your own

Annual Conference Day 2 September 9, 2023

7:30 AM - 9:00 AM

Registration Reopens/ Breakfast

9:00 AM – 9:15 AM

Welcome and Introductions

9:15 AM – 10:15 AM

Keynote Two

Session 13:
Keynote Two: This Is Not About Me

Presented by Jordyn Zimmerman

Session Sponsored by  Alvarez and Marsal

As a nonspeaking autistic person who was denied access to effective augmentative communication until she was 18, Jordyn Zimmerman has personal experience challenging the educational status quo, which is featured in the 2021 documentary, This Is Not About Me. Technology helped open Jordyn's world and she began advocating for students through a series of presentations. Since then, she has thrived on challenging what is possible in learning spaces and broader communities. Jordyn will kick off Day Two of the NADSP Annual Conference by sharing her journey.

10:15 AM – 10:30 AM


10:30 AM – 11:30 AM

Breakout Series Three

Session 14:
GoodLife Delivered: Solutions to Stabilize the Workforce

Presnter: Dr. Mike Strouse, President and CEO, GoodLife Innovations

Join Dr. Mike Strouse and the team from GoodLife University as we share tangible and meaningful solutions that will stabilize your workforce while improving the lives of the direct support caregivers (DSPs) who make your mission possible. This session will deliver a fast-paced, high level overview of GoodLife U’s evidence-based initiatives for improving the capacity and consistency of your DSP workforce. We will highlight GoodLife U’s 1) recruiting and hiring strategies, 2) training approach and early on-the-job support for new DSPs, 3) five-faucet approach for staffing schedules, 4) pay and paid time-off strategies, 5) replacement staffing and vacancy management strategies, and 6) unique benefit strategies for DSP. We will also present an overview of the metrics we use to assess the quality and stability of our own Kansas workforce of about 350 DSPs, where, as of January 2023 we have zero net DSP openings. Finally, we will deliver a sneak peek at our newest initiatives and briefly share what’s next for 2023 and 2024, including a broad dissemination of GoodLife's Care Connect initiative, which will bring an Uber-like app into the disability industry, delivering a network of highly deployable, mobile caregivers and community access support services.

Session 15:
New York State 's E-Badge Academy Pilot

Presnter: Alison Pingelski, Acting Associate Commissioner, Division of Administration, NYS Office for People With Developmental Disabilities

Direct Support Professionals (DSPs) are the backbone of the New York State Office for People With Developmental Disabilities (OPWDD) service system. OPWDD is celebrating the New York State Direct Support Professionals who are working towards or achieved their Direct Support Professional or Front Line Supervisor Certification(s) through our grant partnership with the National Alliance for Direct Support Professionals (NADSP). OPWDD will share a short video and provide information about several of the Direct Support initiatives focused on recruiting, training and retaining the professionals so integral to improving the experience and outcomes for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD) in New York State.

Session 16:
Hello It's Me: A Resource for Connection

Presenter: Karyn Harvey, PhD., Psychologist, Author, Trainer, Speaker

This presentation will be in three parts. The first part will explore the importance of friendships as well as relationships with significant others for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities for three aspects: healing from trauma, developing a positive sense of self and fostering resiliency. The second part of the presentation will be the presentation of educational materials designed to support people with IDD in acquiring relationships, critical decision making and discernment skills. These materials are illustrated stories with choices and lessons in simple and accessible language that can be used as both teaching tools and interactive entertainment. Finally, the last section will be the presentation of a dating app called “Hello, it’s me.” This App is designed to support the making of friends and the discovery of significant others. There are protective mechanisms in place as well as opportunities for play and interaction. This App will be demonstrated in the presentation

Session 17:
Sexuality & Self Advocates

Presenter: Katherine McLaughlin, Sexuality Educator and Trainer, Elevatus Training

People with developmental disabilities are often left out of the conversation about sexuality, almost as if they are incapable of having thoughts, feelings, and needs. In reality, they, too, are sexual beings that need information and skills for making healthy decisions about sexuality and learning ways to stay safe as they navigate relationships. One of these skills is the ability to be a sexual self-advocate.

DSPs are often someone people with I/DD turn to when learning about this topic, but DSPs often don’t feel prepared. In this workshop, we will learn what is sexual self-advocacy, examine what beliefs, knowledge and skills are needed to be a sexual self-advocate, and explore ways to support others in speaking up for what they want and need and become strong sexual self-advocates.

11:30 AM – 11:45 AM


11:45 AM – 12:45PM

Breakout Series Four

Session 18:
Arte - Developing Artists, Enhancing Our Community

Arte is a inclusive art work space developed by Adjoin in Imperial County, CA. The Imperial County is predominantly Hispanic and low income. Innovative programming options that teach and facilitate the development of entrepreneurship have been nonexistent. In 2022, Adjoin set out to build a program that focused developing an artist community in Imperial County. Its intention for the space was to build an environment of creative expression that helps its clients communicate their experiences both positive and negative through the artistic medium of their choosing, builds confidence by developing a new skill, creates real and inclusive relationships around the appreciation of art and develops a conduit for our clients to market and sell their artwork and profit from its sale.

This presentation will provide insight into the program's development, lessons for its early execution, and provide participants a view of what it takes to lift up a underserved community and provide innovative service options.

Session 19:
Healing from Pandemic Trauma

Presenter: Renee Settles-Bean, Consultant, WISE, LLC

Trauma impacts individuals and organizations. These past few years has had a traumatic impact on DSPs, the individuals they support, families and organizations. Participants will come away from this workshop with a framework that speaks to trauma from a perspective of its impact on organizational culture and the new ways we can approach the business of Human Services.

Session 20:
How Safe Is Your Team?

Presenters: Bonnie McHugh, Knowledge, Acquisition and Transfer Specialist, Optimae LifeServices, Molly Mackey, Knowledge, Acquisition and Transfer Specialist, Optimae LifeServices,

Teams that are perceived as psychologically safe perform better, have lower turnover and are more innovative. In this session, you will learn the keys to building and leading psychologically safe teams in your organization. You will walk away with four tangible steps to building a psychologically safe team as well as other resources.

Session 21:
Direct Support as a Tool of Justice

Presenter: Syard Evans, CEO, Arkansas Support Network

Direct Support Professionals (DSPs) and provider agencies must be able to understand the systems of oppression and marginalization that influence the lives of the people they support in order to leverage their own power to empower those individuals' lives meaningfully and effectively. Providers and DSPs can use their knowledge of systemic oppression and the NADSP Core Competencies and Code of Ethics to address the negative effects of systemic oppression on the people they support. This session will provide participants with the insight and tools necessary to ensure that the direct support they provide is liberating and empowering and serves as resistance to the oppressive systems all around us.

12:45 PM – 1:30 PM

 Lunch (Provided by NADSP)

1:40 PM – 2:40 PM

Breakout Series Five

Session 22:
Providing the "Right" Support for the Direct Support Workforce

Presenter: Monica Robinson, Associate Vice President of Workforce Advancement, New York Alliance for Inclusion and Innovation and Chester Finn, Special Advisor, New York State Office for People With Developmental Disabilities

Human service work is all about providing the “right” support. Many outstanding Direct Support Professionals (DSPs) are promoted into leadership positions without the proper training or the understanding that whom they support has shifted from those receiving services to those who are providing services. Quality doesn’t only happen at the point of interaction between the DSP and the person receiving support but also between the Frontline Supervisor (FLS) and the DSP. You could say they’re two sides of the same coin. When DSPs and FLSs don’t work in partnership with one another or the “right” support is not provided, it directly impacts the outcomes for those receiving services. We’ll hear stories from self-advocates who have seen and felt the misunderstanding that occurs between DSPs and FLSs and examine ways to look at those situations differently.

Session 23:
Caring For Yourself In The Face of Difficult Work

Presenter: Rachel Jacob, Regional Lead, Regional Centers for Workforce Transformation (NY) and NADSP E-Badge Review Specialist

Our work can be very satisfying, but it can also take its toll on our mental wellbeing. Work can be overwhelming. Our challenge is to take good care of our feelings and thoughts by monitoring how we use them. The most resilient workers are those that know how to turn their feelings to work mode when they go on duty, but off-work mode when they go off duty. This emotional agility is an effective coping strategy! It is a way for human service professionals to offset how much energy they expend, by focusing on building resilience, fostering strengths, and encouraging self-care. By focusing on building your strengths and carrying out self-care activities, you are contributing to your behavioral, cognitive, physical, spiritual, and emotional resilience. This resilience and satisfaction with your work, is also what allows you to face another day!

Session 24:
The Art of Advocacy

Presenter: BJ Stasio, Disability Rights Advocate and Co-Vice President, Self-Advocacy Association of New York State (SANYS)

BJ Stasio’s  journey as an advocate and civil rights activist is not a program, it is a way of life. BJ’s journey through his life wouldn't happen without the help of his direct support professionals and the community network he has created.  The Art of Advocacy is something that BJ has crafted and you will learn how important it is as a direct support professional to assist the people you work with to reach their goals. BJ has become a renowned disability and civil rights advocate which has defined his life.

Session 25:
"Problem Behaviors" = Unmet Needs

Presenter: Bradley Wyner, Director of Training, Rose Mary Center

People act out when their needs aren’t being met. When we see problem behaviors, they are just the “tip of the iceberg.” If we can figure out the needs underneath, we can address (and prevent) most challenging behavior. By combining trauma-informed care, mental wellness, and DSP ethics, we can see the person behind even the most challenging behaviors. This session will focus on practical strategies to help understand, respond to, and prevent “problem behaviors” by recognizing and meeting the underlying needs of the people we support.

2:40 PM – 2:55 PM


3:00PM – 4:00 PM

Closing Keynote

4:00 PM – 4:15 PM

End of Conference

Session 26:
Keynote Three: Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion and Direct Support Professionals 

Presented by Dr. Pascal Losambe, Co-Founder, Chief Content Officer, Synergy Consulting Company


Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) work has gained a lot of attention over the past few decades. Organizational leaders, employees, and practitioners are interested in learning how to attract diverse talent and create inclusive environments that will result in positive outcomes for an organization. The core of DEI work is understanding that diversity-the representation of different identity groups in an organization-in itself does not lead to the success of an organization. Rather, fostering a culture and climate of inclusion and belonging that engages and leverages the creativity, strengths, and potential of each employee is what gives tremendous benefits. Constructing an inclusive culture starts with a strong mission and vision that guides the attitudes, norms, behaviors, and practices of individuals and groups of people functioning in the organization. The essence of equity and inclusion is valuing people and empowering them to contribute their ideas. Furthermore, equity and inclusion involves creating systems within an organization that affords individuals from all walks of life, cultures, identities, and backgrounds the opportunity to thrive. Join Dr Pascal as he brings this all home in a passionate and heartwarming endnote to the NADSP Conference. 

Detected timezone