Presenters & Session Topics

Sunday – Oct. 22
Presenter: Jenn Osen-Foss – Featured Speaker from   

Self-Esteem for Kids with Learning and Attention Issues
Positive self-esteem can make a big difference for children with learning and attention issues. When children value themselves, they’re more likely to stand up for themselves and ask for the help they believe they deserve. When they’re confident and secure about who they are, they’re better able to face and manage their learning challenges. Learn practical strategies that can be used with your students to help them develop and maintain positive self-esteem.

Jenn Osen-Foss, M.A.T., is an instructional coach at Clear Creek Amana High School in Tiffin, Iowa. In this role, she uses her broad teaching experience to support teachers in improving student learning using strategies such as differentiated instruction, interventions and co-planning.
Presenter: Jeffrey Raun, Connect the Dots 4 Life, West Des Moines        Presentation Handout
“Financial Strategies for Families with a Person with Special Needs”
We believe every parent with a person with Special Needs has lain awake worried what will happen to their loved one when they are no longer around.

The challenges can be overwhelming. In general:

  • People with Special Needs have higher medical costs, lower income-potential, and often need specialized services compared with those who do not have a Special Need. Getting and keeping appropriate benefits and services is crucial to functionality and basic Quality of Living.
  • In order to receive services, a person with Special Needs is required to qualify financially. Lack of income-potential or assets results in a disproportionate number in poverty. No one wants that.
  • People with Special Needs often must maintain non-countable assets of <$2,000 on the 1st day of every month in order to maintain their benefits. Managing this is critical.
  • While living, parent(s) regularly provide the funds and environment to support the Quality of Living they want for their loved one.
  • Parents are often overwhelmed, confused and/or discouraged by the complexities, misinformation and misunderstandings so common in the Special Needs community.

What happens when the parents are no longer living? For example:

  • If parents die without a will, then the state divides the estate equally among the children (jeopardizing the safety nets for the person with Special Needs).
  • If their will, retirement accounts, life insurance, annuities, or other beneficial assets name the person with Special Needs as the beneficiary, then, once again, they are jeopardizing the benefits.
  • Failure to have the proper legal documents can result in not only jeopardizing benefits, such failure also often results in Medicaid being 1st in line to receive inheritances.
  • Failure to define and fund legacy strategies results in not enough to supplement the person with Special Needs so they can maintain the desirable Quality of Living.
  • Failure to plan early enough often means parents miss big opportunities.

At Connect the Dots 4 Life, we are financial professionals who help parents:

  • Financially support the desired Quality of Living (especially long-term) for their loved one with Special Needs,
  • Not make mistakes that could jeopardize their benefits or the money itself, and,
  • Plan properly for all three stages of their own financial life.

Iowa, over 30 Providers/ Associations, 2,000 front-line personnel and parents of a person with Special Needs have participated in this presentation. We will provide handouts that support a clear process, education on the programs and services available, as well as planning strategies and tools.
Presenter: Liz Cox, Executive Director, Prevent Child Abuse Iowa , and board member, West Des Moines Community Schools
“Building Resiliency – Connections Matter”
Across the country and here in Iowa, schools are recognizing and responding to the variety of traumatic experiences students may encounter in their lives, either at school, home or in their neighborhoods. A growing body of research shows that the trauma of these adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) can stifle how the brain develops as well as impact how students perform in school, and later, in the workforce. At this session you’ll learn effective strategies schools can put in place to understand the impact of traumatic experiences; to effectively support students; and to engage communities.

Connections Matter is an initiative designed to engage community members in building caring connections to improve well-being. Research shows that communities connected through caring relationships have better physical and mental health, increased workplace productivity and school success, and less crime and homelessness. Greater social connectedness also strengthens families from the start to reduce the likelihood that child abuse will occur.

The Connections Matter initiative is led by Prevent Child Abuse in collaboration with partners statewide. It responds to data that reveals child abuse and household dysfunction is common among Iowans and a major indicator of higher rates of chronic disease, mental illness, risky behaviors and reduced life expectancy among adults.  Read the 2016 Iowa Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) Report.
Richard C. Brown, Jr., M.D., Medical Director, Child and Adolescent Services, Jackson Recovery Center, Sioux City, Amy Eaton, Special Education Strategist, Northwest AEA, Sioux City, and Julie Elbert, LISW, Director of Clinical Services, Catholic Charities, Sioux City
Autism Spectrum Disorder: Treatment Success in the Academic Setting”
With the ever-increasing knowledge of pervasive developmental disorders, it imposes the need for an understanding of the social problems, maladaptive behaviors, and the unique cognitive deficits that the Autistic Student and their teachers face.  Not only will this session provide an understanding of the Autism Spectrum Disorder, but it will demonstrate the symptomatic presentation, address realistic expectations, suggest positive and workable interventions and stimulate the development of creative interactions in the school setting.  The panel will encourage and entertain mindful questions to address the successful intervention with students impacted with this disorder.

Dr. Brown has practiced psychiatry for over 40 years with 28 years in the area of Adolescent Residential Care.
Jill Leet-Otley, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Education, Luther College, Decorah, and education majors McKenzie Carney, Megan Oliver, and Carley Sullivan
“What Does Mindfulness Have To Do With Learning Disabilities?”
Programs utilizing mindfulness are proliferating in schools across the country. Is this just a fad or is there research supporting the use of mindfulness in schools? In this presentation we will provide a synthesis of the research on the use of mindfulness as an intervention, with particular emphasis on outcomes for students with learning disabilities, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, and executive function issues. In the second half of the presentation, we will lead participants through some mindfulness exercises including deep breathing, body scans, and simple yoga poses. Participants will leave with resources and ideas to incorporate mindfulness into their teaching practice to better meet the needs of students with learning and attention issues.

Format: A PowerPoint will be used to present the research, which will be followed by audience participation in mindfulness exercises. Time for questions and discussion will conclude the presentation. Handouts will be provided.
Brittany Busch, Sioux City
“Mental Health with Essential Oils”
This presentation will educate people on understanding the parts of the body that impact our mental health, as well as the connectedness of our whole body to our mental health. With the support of essential oils, different self-care and coping mechanisms will be taught and experienced, allowing people to feel empowered knowing there are other options for supporting their mental health.
Presenter: Bill Stockton, Luther College, Decorah
Effective Collaboration Between Parent and Teacher”
Students with Learning Disabilities have two major sources of assistance, guidance, and motivation. Both parents and teachers fulfill these roles and the most effective results for a child occur when meaningful collaboration exists. The presenter has participated in over 4,000 parent-teacher meetings observing that ineffective communication is the most common block to productive collaboration. The good news is that a number of simple, yet highly beneficial techniques are available to increase positive communication and collaboration during parent-teacher meetings. Their value depends on a conscious, continual usage. Usage by one party tends to have a positive influence upon the communication patterns of the other party.

In this presentation demonstrations and mini practice sessions will be the major techniques used. There will be explanations, but no lecture. Participants will receive multiple handouts with specific, easy to employ positive communication aids.

The presenter has conducted numerous workshops on conflict resolution between parents and school staff and is a trained mediator.
Presenters: Steve and Debbie Loger, Loger Comfort Dogs, Odebolt
“Sharing Love and Learning”
The Logers own three shelties and make comfort visits to nursing homes, schools, libraries and Gigi’s Playhouse for Down Syndrome Awareness.  During their breakout session, they will discuss how they trained their dogs, what led them to visit schools, what the visits to schools and libraries entail and some of the many joys they’ve experienced over the years with students and their dogs. They will also share some of the books they read with the students, some of the activities the students have shared with them and some of the cards and letters sent to them and their dogs from the students. They also plan on sharing some comments from teachers whose classes they visit.
Sunday Evening Special Event: Joey I.L.O.,            OPEN TO THE PUBLIC – TICKET INFORMATION
“Laughter is the Best Medicine”
Joey was named the regional winner of the Sierra Mist Search for the Next Great Comic and appeared on NBC’s Last Comic Standing Season 5, his first year as a working comedian. Ten years later Joey’s still performing his family friendly, high energy, award winning comedy better than ever – touring coast to coast and currently performing in Branson, Missouri.
More about Joey  

Monday– Oct. 23
KEYNOTE PRESENTATION: Connie Parr, Learning Disabilities Association of America Past President, Montgomery, IL   
“Mental Health in the Classroom: What to Know, What to Do, and What Not to Do!”
Each child is different in his/her own way. Many do not learn due to the “norm” that is taught in colleges. Why is that child staring out of the window? Why does the child in the back crawl under the coat rack and stay there? There are many mental health reasons that make children do what the teacher might think is rebellion. Come and find the possible causes and what you can do!
Jessica Gordon, Midwest Regional Field Manager,   
“Homework: The Struggle is Real”
When it comes to kids with Learning and Attention Issues, homework can be especially frustrating. Jessica Gordon from Understood, a partner organization of the National Center for Learning Disabilities, will provide strategies to make homework less stressful, how to create a more conducive environment to complete assigned work and how parents can recharge after homework time is over. Teachers will also learn some helpful techniques to pass on to students and information to take into consideration when assigning homework.
Presenter: Sandy Schmitz, Iowa Reading Research Center, University of Iowa   
“How can we PROPeL schools forward in their efforts to improve literacy outcomes for students with LD?”
This session will present a data analysis framework developed by the Iowa Reading Research Center (IRRC) called Practitioners and Researchers Overcoming Problems in Literacy (PROPeL).  The framework involves building the capacity of teachers and building leaders to define their literacy challenge when working with students who have learning disabilities, identify the root cause of that challenge, identify the research-based practices to address the challenge, develop progress monitoring benchmarks, create a SMART goal, implement an improvement plan, monitor the fidelity of implementation, and conduct continuous evaluation of the outcomes.
Presenters: Dr. Ryan Allen and Dr. Meghan Nelson, Lumin Therapy, LLC, Sioux City   
“Just Breathe: Cultivating Mindfulness in Young People”
The Dalai Lama once said, “If every 8 year old in the world is taught meditation, we will eliminate violence from the world within one generation.” One doesn’t have to take this spiritual leader’s word for it, though. Experts in early childhood education, doctors, and mental health professionals have already begun to weigh in on the many benefits of a mindfulness practice in young people. The fact of the matter, whether we as parents, teachers, childcare providers and supporters want to admit it or not, is that our kids are monumentally stressed out. The constant test-taking in schools and the over-committing in sports and clubs and lessons out of school, coupled with a generally more disjointed home life and an over-reliance on technology, is producing a generation of children who are missing golden opportunities to cultivate their critical thinking, communication, and resilience skills. And they’re screaming at us for help! This is where mindfulness training comes in. In this session we’ll focus on how individuals who work with young people can develop the skills to teach kids to use their brain, breath, body, and balance to discover the peace and love we all have within and how to share it with others. ”
Presenter: Flora M. Lee, LMSW, Special Education Strategist, Northwest AEA, Sioux City
“Exploring the Impact of Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACES) Upon Student Learning”
This session will explore how childhood trauma impacts student learning, social, emotional, physical and behavioral health upon our students and children. It will increase the participants’ knowledge of ACES (Adverse Childhood experiences) and provide practical strategies to support students and children.
Presenters: Dr. Ryan Allen and Dr. Meghan Nelson, Lumin Therapy, LLC, Sioux City  
“Using the Body to Heal the Body: Mindful Resilience for Trauma Recovery”
Summary: We are walking around carrying invisible wounds no one else can see. Traumatic experiences, whether as the victim of a crime, a soldier on a battlefield, or a first responder answering a call for help, all carry with them potentially toxic residues that can imprint us deeply in our lives and in our relationship to others. This session is designed for those individuals (or those who work with individuals) who want to stop coping with life and start living it. We’ll explore the nature of trauma and how it impacts us symptomatically, but also how these symptoms can be mediated through the practice of breathing exercises, meditation, mindful movement, guided rest, and gratitude. Yoga is not necessarily therapy, but it certainly has therapeutic value. Licensed mental health workers and clinicians already overwhelmingly recognize the merits of a yoga practice as a complementary healthcare treatment. By bringing breath into the body, we practice the kind of self-regulation skills needed to engage in evidence-based trauma processing therapies, like CPT (Cognitive Processing Therapy), PE (Prolonged Exposure), and Equine Therapy, for example. When we can learn to stop, think, observe, and plan, we can begin to return to that home that is our truest Self, that being full of peace, of love, and of light.
Presenter: David Tilly, Ph.D., Deputy Director and Administrator, Division of Learning and Results, Iowa Department of Education, Des Moines
“Iowa’s ESSA (Every Student Succeeds Act) Plan: Opportunities”
This session will provide an overview of Iowa’s submitted ESSA plan and the opportunities provided for kids, families, schools and communities.  Specific emphasis will be placed on the opportunities for students with learning challenges – including those with Learning Disabilities.  Time will be provided for discussion with the audience.
Presenter: Alan Heisterkamp, Ed.D., Director, Center for Violence Prevention, University of Northern Iowa, Cedar Falls
Utilizing Peer Mentors (High School) to Prevent Bullying and Gender Violence”This session will provide an overview of the Mentors in Violence Prevention (MVP) model and how it is being utilized in over 20 high schools across the state of Iowa to create safe, inclusive and positive school cultures. Through interactive discussions and hands-on activities, participants will learn how bystander education increases all students’ abilities to recognize early warning signs of harm and abuse among their peers, as well as their willingness to safely and courageously respond and intervene in a timely manner.
Presenters: Kayla Fay and Mary Jo Coleman, Hinton Middle School, Hinton
“Co-Teaching: Testimonial from SPED and Gen Ed Teachers”
This presentation will discuss the different types of co-teaching, as well as express the benefits and struggles that come with co-teaching. Personal testimonies will be shared of the presenters’ experiences in co-teaching last year. Lastly, suggestions will be identified for districts to better prepare more teachers to be adequately informed and trained to co-teach successfully.