Summit 2019 Brings Together Leaders in The Field & Presents ‘Shining Star Award’ to Help Group Teacher
On Friday, October 25th and Saturday, October 26th, The Help Group convened 30 leading experts in the areas of autism, learning disabilities, and ADHD for our annual Summit at the Skirball Cultural Center. Year after year, this premier conference disseminates valuable insights into cutting-edge research and evidence-based best practices for professionals and parents.
The Summit is chaired by Dr. Barbara Firestone, Help Group President & CEO; Dr. Peter C. Whybrow, UCLA Semel Institute Director; and Dr. Robert Bilder, UCLA Semel Institute Chief of Medical Psychology-Neuropsychology and Tennenbaum Center Director.
At the morning convocation, Dr. Firestone kicked off the conference by welcoming guests and expressing her gratitude to the distinguished group of presenters.
Tom Komp, Help Group Vice President, opened the luncheon proceedings, and remarked, “The Help Group has always been committed to excellence, and the Summit is a leading example of this excellence and a reflection of The Help Group’s strong university affiliations that help further research and practice.”
Dr. Firestone was then joined by Co-Chair Dr. Bilder at the podium to share some of the history of The Summit, established in 1997, and to discuss the ongoing partnership between UCLA and The Help Group.
Dr. Firestone then welcomed Dr. Susan Berman, Help Group COO, to the podium to share some exciting Help Group news with attendees. Dr. Berman announced the recent expansion of The Help Group into Orange County with the opening of both STEM3 Academy and The Learning Center at a new campus in Irvine; the establishment of Kaleidoscope, a groundbreaking new program for LGBTQ+ youth, including those with autism, ADHD, LD and other social and emotional challenges; and the relaunching of The Help Group’s Silverlining – a resale boutique and student vocational learning center.
Dr. Firestone was then joined at the podium by Bradley Shahine, Director of Public Affairs at The Help Group, to acknowledge the Summit’s major sponsor, First 5 California, and media sponsors, LA Parent and NBC4.
In a truly inspiring part of the luncheon, Dr. Firestone welcomed Emily Werman, a former Help Group student and current Help Group teacher, to the stage to speak. Emily told her personal story of hope and resilience, saying, “Having autism has made me the person I am today. Although, life seems more difficult than it does for my peers, I realize it has been a gift. I know what it is like to feel broken, and I know what it is like to overcome challenges. I have been able to use those feelings, and my experiences to help others and make the world a better place.”
Emily received a standing ovation, and was joined on the podium by Dr. Firestone, Sara McCracken, Director of Early Education at The Help Group, and Pamela Clark, Director of Autism Schools at The Help Group, to receive the ‘Shining Star Award’ for her many accomplishments, and her dedication to making a difference in the lives of children with autism.
The Summit featured 29 sessions, including keynote presentations from Dr. Catherine Lord on “Looking Backward From Adult Outcomes in ASD to Move Forward”; Dr. Stephen Hinshaw on “ADHD: Everything You Need to Know (in One Hour)” on Friday and “Mental Health and Stigma: Silence and Pain vs. Openness and Thriving” on Saturday; Dr. Mathew State on” Autism and Genetics: What We Know Now and Why It’s Important”; and Dr. Jack Fletcher on “Major Advances in Understanding Learning Disabilities: The Importance of Instructional Response.”
“Summit presentations are the TED Talks of special education,” one attendee remarked.
And, a clinician said, “This year’s Summit was the best one ever! The quality of the presenters was superb. All of them were very intelligent, knowledgeable speakers. It’s a fantastic, informative conference.”
Our thanks to the tremendous Summit speakers for their expertise, and for sharing such thought-provoking presentations.