The Help Group Hosts 25th Annual Summit: Virtually Bringing Together Distinguished Experts from Across the U.S.


On Friday, October 15th and Saturday, October 16th, The Help Group virtually convened more than 30 leading experts in the areas of autism, learning disabilities, and ADHD for its 25th annual Summit. In its second year as an online event platform, the Summit continued its tradition of disseminating valuable insights into cutting-edge research and evidence-based best practices for more than 300 professionals and parents.

The Summit was chaired by Dr. Barbara Firestone, Help Group President & CEO and Founder and Dr. Robert Bilder, UCLA Semel Institute’s Michael E. Tennenbaum Family Distinguished Professor of Psychiatry & Biobehavioral Sciences and Psychology, and Chief in the Division of Psychology at UCLA David Geffen School of Medicine.

Dr. Firestone opened the morning convocation by marking the 25th anniversary of the Summit and honoring the memory of Dr. Paul Satz, founder of the groundbreaking neuropsychology program at UCLA’s Semel Institute and with whom she established the conference 25 years ago. Expressing the importance of this year’s virtual event, Dr. Firestone remarked, “The Help Group decided to continue its tradition of the Summit that offers important information to educators, therapists, parents and students. We decided to produce a virtual conference that was greeted by a spirited response from our distinguished, invited presenters and our many attendees.” Acknowledging First 5 California for its major sponsorship of this event, she expressed her thanks for First 5 CA’s support over the years and for its important and impactful mission that means so much to so many children and families. As always, she dedicated the proceedings to the children.

Conference co-chair, Dr. Bilder welcomed attendees from his office at UCLA. Dr. Bilder recognized the cadre of distinguished presenters this conference brings together and the caliber of their presentations. He spoke of the innovative partnership between UCLA and The Help Group, and commended The Help Group’s commitment to excellence throughout the pandemic. “I take great pride in our collaborative endeavors with an organization that has always been at the forefront in serving young people with special needs and their families. Throughout the Covid-19 health crisis, The Help Group has worked tirelessly to improve the quality of life for young people with special needs served by its many schools and comprehensive mental health and therapeutic programs.”

Dr. Susan Berman, Help Group Executive Director and Co-Founder, shared the poignant moment this past May when The Help Group re-opened its doors to its young people and their families. “After more than a year of distant learning and telehealth services, we were thrilled to be able to re-connect in person. Although the complexities of navigating COVID have been intense, we have been unwavering in our commitment to ensure the safe return of over 2000 young people and staff.”

The two-day conference was packed with 29 sessions, including six keynote presentations by David Amaral, PhD, Jack Fletcher, PhD, Maria Luisa Gorno Tempini, PhD, Stephen Hinshaw, PhD, Connie Kasari, PhD and Matthew State, PhD. As always, our full line-up of presenters provided attendees with important insights into basic and applied research, and evidence-based best practices in assessment, intervention and treatment. Additionally, they also offered practical strategies for coping, and for adapting approaches to care in response to the pandemic.

Our thanks to each of the presenters for providing their expertise, and the perspectives shared with us from their significant work.