Conference Series – November 2016

Towards Tomorrow; unlocking the potential within


The age-old saying that it takes a village to raise a child still rings true today. Despite modern advances and technological breakthroughs, nurturing a child and supporting them to achieve still relies on a dynamic cohesion between parents, educators and specialists.

The Towards Tomorrow conference, proudly presented by Inclusive Directions, offered a celebrated array of keynote national and international speakers who are regarded as leaders in their field.

This conference series proved to be our most successful yet in engaging educators, disability and childcare workers and local families on a range of key topics impacting on the disability support sector.

Thank you to all that attended.

For a copy of the presentations please select the links below.

Keynote Speakers

The conference will feature an array of nationally and internationally recognised speakers including


Chris Ulmer (Adelaide, Pt Pirie and Mt Gambier) - Teacher, Speaker and Founder of Special Books by Special Kids

Engaging Neurodiverse Individuals: The Power of Acceptance and Positivity

We each have a profound power within us, that when harnessed correctly, can enable us to form meaningful relationships with anyone, neurodiverse or otherwise. The fear that comes from not knowing how to access this power, has detrimental impacts. We've all seen the effects first hand through bullying and the isolation of the neurodiverse community from the rest of society. In order to create a world of universal acceptance, we have to get past the fear of the unknown and our pre-disposition with labels. I have made it my life's mission to normalize the diversity of the human condition by showcasing how a little understanding, positivity, and acceptance can make a better world for all.

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Dr Michelle Garnett (Adelaide and Mt Gambier) - Clinical Psychologist and Founder and Director of 'Minds & Hearts'

Assisting neurodiverse people, to overcome their strong emotions of anxiety, depression and stress

Children and adolescents with an Autism Spectrum Disorder have difficulty with the comprehension, expression and regulation of emotions, resulting in high levels of anxiety, stress, anger and/or depression and subsequent effects on family, teachers, friends and peers. Conventional strategies that encourage emotion management for typical children do not seem to be as effective with those who have an Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). The child's quality of life, self-esteem and well-being will be influenced by their ability to manage emotions and difficulties with emotion management can lead to being suspended and having a notoriety that will affect the attitude of teachers and peers as well as the attitude of the child to themselves. Through over two decades of working with children and adolescents with ASD and their families and schools, Michelle has discovered, developed and evaluated emotion management strategies based on Cognitive Behaviour Therapy and mindfulness techniques that have proven to be effective in assisting children with ASD to learn about, and manage, their emotions from anxiety to love and affection.

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Mark Le Messurier (Adelaide) - Teacher, Counsellor and coach to young people and their parents.

A diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder; how does that feel for parents, what's best and what can educators do?

These kids don't make ideal students, siblings, sons or daughters. They're often not willing to instantly comply, cooperate and learn our way. In the beginning, they can be reactive, anxious, over sensitive, too teary, too aggressive, too obsessional, too rigid, and find it hard to fit in, share and wait. While early identification and interventions are best, there's an insidious temptation to see the child as 'broken' or 'in deficit' and an over focus on topping up what's missing. Mark wants to highlight the ASD journey in the context of seeing each child as a whole, healthy human being with vast potential. Hindsight teaches us that time, maturity, some targeted skill building and loving connectedness are prime collaborators for growth. Join Mark as he shares the everyday experiences of others who have faced, and are facing, what you face as educators and parents. The aim is to provide a personal and contemporary insight into ASD, and how best to deal with the tricky emotion and behaviour that often accompany it. He'll share their real-life learnings in a bid to establish the best 'can-do principles'. What binds us together is that each of us has been touched by Autism. Oddly, Autism is a distinctly different experience for each of us because how we view it, work with it and be with it, is truly a reflection of our personal values. Yet, if we fail to see the potentials in kids - with or without Autism - we shouldn't be surprised when they give up and can't find anything good about themselves. The truth is that we each have real parts to play as members of a compassionate village.

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Chris Varney (Adelaide and Pt Pirie) - Founder and Chief Enabling Officer of I CAN Network

Rethinking Autism: Bringing out the AWE in AWEtism

Chris' personal I CAN story will share his reflections on the mentors he enjoyed growing up with Asperger's Syndrome. In particular it will focus on the key things his mentors (including family, friends and teachers) did to help him get the best out of his Autism and live life with an 'I CAN' attitude. Chris will also share about the journey to create I CAN Network, Australia's first social enterprise founded by people on the Spectrum. I CAN is a movement of people driving a rethink of Autism, from 'I Can't' to 'I CAN'. Despite being only two years old, it has already mentored 230 young people on the Spectrum and partnered with 15 schools and three universities. This presentation will use stories from the I CAN Network. It will share an insight into what mentors on the Autism Spectrum are doing in businesses, universities and schools to empower young people with Autism to have an 'I CAN' attitude and inspire their peers with the awe in AWEtism.

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Malcolm Mayfield (Adelaide) - Founder and Managing Director of Autism STAR Pty Ltd.

Looking beyond the behaviour screen for the true potential of autistic individuals.

Too often behaviour demonstrated by autistic children and adults is misinterpreted as an example of the person's autism. This perception could not be further from the truth and can lead to the individual's potential being limited both from internal and external influences. This presentation aims to explore behaviour and then reveal what could be occurring behind the behaviour being projected through use of examples from the presenter and from the audience. When we learn the language of autism, then we can work together for our individual and communal success.

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Dr David Armstrong (Mt Gambier) - Active researcher and lecturer in the School of Education at Flinders University.

Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and Challenging Behaviour This thought-provoking presentation will:

  • Help you to better understanding challenging behaviours for children with ASD and other developmental disabilities
  • Identify ideal features of positive behaviour support (PBS) in a setting/service
  • Highlight mindblindness & other common features of developmental disabilities & their connection to what we observe
  • Convey the core principles of functional behaviour assessment
  • Critically appreciate the limits of a focus on children's behaviour, suggesting ethical, inclusive and effective alternatives
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Christian Parente (Pt Pirie and Mt Gambier) - Senior Developmental Educator, Inclusive Directions

Positive Behaviour Support

Christian is a Developmental Educator; completing his degree with Honours at Flinders University and awarded the Disability Studies Student Award. Christian has a strong passion for Positive Behaviour Support and prides himself on implementing a holistic and person-centred approach. Christian recently supported the Program Manager of Life Without Barriers in Tasmania with a significant quality improvement project, whereby Christian focused on developing and implementing Behaviour Support Plans, providing mentoring and workshops in active support and best practice in how to support and advocate for people with disability. Returning to Adelaide, Christian was nominated for the Dot Mills Developmental Educator Award and in addition to his role with Inclusive Directions; he is part of the teaching team at Flinders University in Positive Behaviour Support and a committee member of the Developmental Educators Association Inc. (DEAI).

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