RE:CON 2023

Sessions and Presenations
at This Year’s re:con


re:con 2023 Presentations and Summaries

LUNCH KEYNOTE – Change the Course of Your Life With These 10 Good Habits

PRESENTED BY:  Jordan Levin

Sometimes, what it takes to change your life for the better are just little yet meaningful changes. Jordan Levin enumerates ten good habits that can elevate your life. He explores the beauty of looking inward and the fulfillment of serving and connecting with others. Jordan also injects his own reflections to this topic as a deaf person, providing interesting anecdotes of how he copes with his disability. He looks back on his formative years, focusing on becoming the motivated man today who inspires others to move forward.  

BREAKFAST KEYNOTE – The Power of Inclusive Communities

PRESENTED BY: Katie Oswald

We will explore what life is like from the perspective of someone who is largely excluded from society, including the mental health impacts like depression, anxiety, and suicidality. We will discuss inclusion as prevention and how powerful it is for an individual just to have a place where they belong. Rethinking barriers – We are used to thinking of barriers as physical, but there are different types of barriers, including noisy and/or chaotic environments and expectations of verbal communication. We will discuss barriers and how to remove them. Inclusion isn’t just about the workplace, school, and business settings. It is a way of being in the world that each of us as an individual can choose to embrace. She will provide tangible strategies for being more inclusive in our daily lives. She will include a blend of her personal experience as an autistic individual, experience from leading a group for autistic adults, and learnings from current research.

View Presenter Bios

Learn more about the presenters, their background, education and experience.

Presenter Bios

LUNCH KEYNOTE – Diversity, Equity and Inclusion; What, Why and How



This workshop will focus on ways of integrating prevention tools in assisting individuals who live with differing abilities and those professionals who support them. Bystander intervention programs often do not consider the unique lived experiences and challenges of those from these communities. This training is built on the foundations of MCEDSV’s Great Lakes model: trauma informed, survivor centered, and intersectional. This training will cover the foundational understanding of what sexual violence is, with recognition to the intersectionality of those from these communities. Trainers will then walk through both peer-to-peer bystander intervention techniques and professional policy and procedures that encourage prevention of sexual violence.

This training if done in person or virtually will take into account neurodivergence, differing lived experiences, and learning styles. This will include 508 compliance for all materials given out.

HIDDEN :: PRESENTATION TRACK: Independent Living/Disability Specific

BREAKFAST KEYNOTE – Vulnerable Leadership



This workshop will focus on ways of integrating prevention tools in assisting individuals who live with differing abilities and those professionals who support them. Bystander intervention programs often do not consider the unique lived experiences and challenges of those from these communities. This training is built on the foundations of MCEDSV’s Great Lakes model: trauma informed, survivor centered, and intersectional. This training will cover the foundational understanding of what sexual violence is, with recognition to the intersectionality of those from these communities. Trainers will then walk through both peer-to-peer bystander intervention techniques and professional policy and procedures that encourage prevention of sexual violence.

This training if done in person or virtually will take into account neurodivergence, differing lived experiences, and learning styles. This will include 508 compliance for all materials given out.

HIDDEN :: PRESENTATION TRACK: Independent Living/Disability Specific

Assistive Technology For Mutual Support and Recovery

PRESENTED BY: Norman G DeLisle Jr

There are an increasing number of digital tools available that people with lived experience of IDD, SMI, and SUD can use to support and expand their life skills and recovery. This presentation focuses on emotional self-regulation, executive function support, and personal safety apps and tools.  Apps that focus on significant symptoms in IDD, SMI, and SUD will be reviewed, and participants will be linked to a curated and updated list of additional app and support possibilities.

Business is our customer too!

PRESENTED BY: Craig Saunders, Gary Holik, and Lisa Stanley 

Since the implementation of the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA), some Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) agencies have struggled to serve business customers or recognize the subject matter expertise VR has to offer. We will answer the following questions; How can we build long term relationships with business? What services can be offered? What value these services have to both business and to our shared job seeking customers.

Charting The Seas of Resource Navigation: A Glimpse into Collaborative Practices & Barrier Resolution

PRESENTED BY: Chris Smith, Deb Balk

Have you ever worked with someone who was motivated to achieve a goal, but found it difficult to overcome barriers? Have you had someone ask you for help finding resources in their time of need? If you have every provided resources or knowledge to help empower someone, then you may be a Resource Navigator. This presentation aims to dive into the art and power of resource navigation, provide tools and strategies, as well as share experiences and successes. Members of the Goodwill of Greater Grand Rapids Resource Navigation Team will present and provide insight into the process of navigating the at times rough seas of finding resources of individuals in need. With collaboration amongst community partners, the path towards guiding people to the resources they need can make the journey much easier. Come join us to see how resource navigation is vital to the success of the people we serve and how you may be a Resource Navigator yourself!

Collaborative Approaches to Provider Relationships

PRESENTED BY: Adam Jenovai, Sally Smolinski

OCHN, along with a vocational provider, will present on approaches to collaboration to best meet needs of people receiving service. This presentation will provide an overview of:
1. OCHN provider meeting structure to ensure dissemination of information.
2. OCHN and provider workgroups used to implement new rate structures, etc.
3. OCHN strategies for provider engagement.
4. A provider’s perspective of the contractual relationship with OCHN.

Diversity, Equity and Inclusion for People We Serve.

PRESENTED BY: Susan Salhaney, George Winn

Disability inclusion ensures all individuals regardless of their abilities are able to participate in social, vocational and health promotion activities. While strides have been made in diversity, equity and inclusion for many populations, individuals with a disability are a population that have often not been represented in these efforts nor their voice included. Through understanding DEI principles, barriers to inclusion in community, vocational and health access and strategies to support and include individuals with disabilities in inclusion actions.

Diving Into Intersectionality to Ensure Best Practices and Fostering an Inclusive Work Environment 

PRESENTED BY: Carrie Branch and Rene Dell 

We are going to take a deep dive to explore intersectionality in the workplace. This session will include a hands on approach to really digging into the topic of DEI in the work place. This will include a period of guided self-reflection, action steps to walk away from the presentation with, a review of policy changes that can help to foster a more inclusive environment and will end with resources and next steps. 

Empowering DSP’s in a Positive Working Environment


A diverse panel of DSP’s from across the workforce will discuss their experiences and views regarding empowering workplaces.

Empowering the Community: Generative AI’s Role in Advancing Inclusion and Opportunities

PRESENTED BY: Scott Caesar 

Generative AI is revolutionizing the way we interact with technology and information. For the disability community, these innovations present unique opportunities and challenges. This session will delve into the ethical, practical, and empowering aspects of implementing generative AI in serving individuals with disabilities. Through real-life success stories, best practices, and interactive discussions, we’ll explore the potential of AI in creating a more inclusive future.

**Audience Takeaways**:

– An understanding of the potential of generative AI for the disability community.
– Ethical considerations to bear in mind when implementing AI solutions.
– Inspiration from success stories and practical applications.
– Ideas for future collaborations or initiatives involving generative AI and the disability community.

Fostering an Ethical Workplace Culture

PRESENTED BY: Menachem Hojda, LMSW

People who work in the non-profit service sector are increasingly seeking workplaces that reflect their values and honor their ethics. This workshop will examine how leaders can review their policies, procedures, and leadership styles to attract and maintain employees that uphold the values of the organization and foster ethical behavior in the workplace.

Gesher Human Services’ Creative Expressions Program

PRESENTED BY: Craig Nowak and Nathan Volz 

Gesher Human Services’ Creative Expressions Program partners with community organizations like the College for Creative Studies, Detroit Symphony Orchestra, Detroit Opera, Matrix Theatre, and more, to develop arts education, enrichment, and opportunities for people with mental health challenges and intellectual & developmental disabilities. We focus on all creative disciplines, from visual arts, music, and literary arts to performing arts and dance. Our participants hone their skills with a variety of classes led by our creative partners whereafter, we help them find opportunities so they can develop themselves artistically and fulfill their own professional creative goals. Creative Expressions artists have exhibited their art at the Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit, Gallerie Camille, and Detroit Contemporary to name few. They’ve performed music on top of the Detroit Opera House, in the Detroit Symphony Orchestra’s Max M and Marjorie S Fisher Music Center, and several other places throughout the community. Our participants have danced with professional choreographers during theatrical plays. They’ve walked in runway shows. And several have had their writing published. The presentation will delve into these sorts of participant accolades, their connections to our Creative Expressions Program, how we’ve managed to develop relationships with so many magnificent creative community partners, and how other organizations can mirror the success of our program within their own respective communities. 

How Differentiation and Human-Centered Engagements Shape Best Practices

PRESENTED BY: Kaily Kraft, Dr. Sam Evalt, Alvin Brewer

Although interventions for individuals with disabilities provide vital strategies and lessons, the humanizing connection provides the enhanced support individuals need. The presentation highlights practices and strategies that MSU STEMM-Up Career Pathway Coordinators engage with individuals. Presenters will examine best practices of how individualization shapes a human-centered design that promotes trust and growth. The presenters will address the following questions:

In what ways do STEMM-Up Career Pathway Coordinators, CPCs, shape best practices through a human-centered design and collaboration?

How do CPC practices differentiate with set curricula?

How do human-centered pedagogies supplement and enhance ASSET’s Big10 Practices?

Igniting Your Personal Fire to Avoid Burnout and Achieve Your Goals. A Guide To Self-Care and Goal Setting! 


We are living in a world where many companies are short staffed and more responsibilities continue to fall on the current team. Burnout and mental health struggles seem to be at an all time high. We will be digging into how you can make self-care a priority. This will allow you to show up in all aspects of your life as your best self. And then we will dive into goal setting. We will explore how you can set goals that can help bring you to the next level. The commitment displayed with help to eliminate burnout and crush your goals. You must strive to find balance in all aspects of your life and set your priorities. You deserve to live your best life and it is essential for everything to be balance and that you have your tool box you can take with you to set you up for success!

Insights Into Action: Harnessing the Power of Data & Storytelling to Transform I/DD Services

PRESENTED BY: Sean Luechtefeld, Ph.D., CAE

The organizations and professionals delivering services that enhance the lives of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD) understand all too well the recruitment and retention challenges that have defined the direct support workforce for nearly three decades. To build a more sustainable service delivery system, significant investments will need to be made by policymakers and regulators at all levels of government.

But how do we make the case for such transformative investments in I/DD services, especially given heightened polarization and the very same resource limitations that created the crisis in the first place? As the leading voice in Washington for community I/DD providers, ANCOR has found two essential ingredients—comprehensive data and transformational stories—to be instrumental in making the case for investments that strengthen services. Our success in combining these two essential ingredients has led to support from unlikely legislative champions and is moving the needle when it comes to political will for investing in the federal Medicaid program.

In this session, the presenter will help participants tackle both sides of the equation to understand at the strategic and tactical levels how to combine powerful data with compelling stories to fuel effective advocacy using tools that can be applied in a range of other helpful contexts as well (e.g., fundraising, community outreach, etc.). First, participants will learn how they can leverage the Case for Inclusion—a repository of data and advocacy resources created by ANCOR in partnership with United Cerebral Palsy—to help audiences understand the scope of the challenges we face. Then, participants will use a framework for storytelling that they can put into practice immediately to identify, shape and share stories that compel action.

By the end of the session, participants will feel confident in collaborating with their colleagues back home to create a game plan for inspiring meaningful action wherever it’s needed.

LGBTQ+ in the workplace

PRESENTED BY: Margaret Avery

This presentation will focus on why allyship matter, how to talk about sexual orientation in the workplace, importance of pronouns, discrimination, the lavender ceiling, etc.

Navigating Uncomfortable But Necessary Conversations 

PRESENTED BY: Shonda Rushing 

I have found that one of the most difficult things for people to do personally and professionally is just tell the truth for various reasons. They think how others will feel about what needs to be said. They think about how they feel about how what they say will be perceived. They consider the laws of connection and do not want to disconnect themselves. And oftentimes the truth is lost somewhere in the middle. But no freedom is gained until the truth is exposed and nothing changes until it is understood. 

Policy Priorities for the Michigan Legislature 

PRESENTED BY: Todd Culver, Malcolm Kletke, and key representatives 

Todd will facilitate a panel discussion with Malcolm Kletke of MHSA, one of Michigan’s leading multi-client lobbying firms, and key representatives from the Michigan legislature. Each will identify current policy priorities, discuss the legislative landscape, outline upcoming budget expenditures, and look ahead to an important election year in 2024. 

Service Animals 101

PRESENTED BY: Christa Martin, MRC, CRC

Navigating the difference between service animals, emotional support animals, and the laws and regulations that impact individuals with disabilities use of them at work, at home, in public, etc. is not always easy for rehabilitation professionals or for their clients. This is a highly interactive session that engages participants and tests their current knowledge of this subject, particularly how it relates to the ADA and employment, as well as the CRCC Code of Ethics. Canine Companions for Independence and Assistance Dogs International will be highlighted as well! (Specific CRCC Code of Ethics addressed include sections: A.2., C.1., D.1., D.2., D.3., and M.1.)

Skill Building in a Post-COVID World

PRESENTED BY: Alics Dillard and Shannon Kelley

In a post COVID world, adults with Cognitive and Developmental Disabilities have been faced with skill loss and a lack of social opportunities. Using a multidisciplinary transition model, Goodwill of Greater Detroit (GGD) is training adults with developmental disabilities on a variety of career pathways and helping them to lead independent and socially fulfilled lives. GGD teaches life skills, digital literacy and work-ready skills to people with cognitive disabilities. Our program prepares its users for a tech-driven society and aligns independent living goals to project-based learning. This increases positive employment outcomes and enables participants to be more independent in their lives.

State Vocational Rehabilitation Agencies – National Perspective & Priorities

PRESENTED BY: Bill Robinson

WIOA and the joint implementing regulations placed new demands on State Vocational Rehabilitation Agencies. It has been 7 years since the regulations were issued and nine years since the legislation was passed. Since that time there has been unprecedented burdens placed on the VR system. Over 80 directors have retired or left. Post-covid, attracting qualified staff has created additional stress on agency services. The Council of State Administrators of Vocational Rehabilitation (CSAVR) has initiated a series of strategic objectives to address these challenges. In this session, you will learn how VR at a national level is focusing on creating an environment and strategy to engage customers, stakeholders, and staff.

The Art of Supervision: Reflecting on Supervisors Qualities in Clinical Supervision.

PRESENTED BY: Asmau Ayub, Narae Yu

Supervision is an essential component of the counseling profession. Served beyond the gatekeeper role, most supervisors are motivated to provide their supervisees with the best possible support. This intent makes it essential to assess the qualities and competence that supervisees convey into the supervisory relationship. An important aspect of the art of supervision relates to how the supervisor’s personality interacts with their professional predisposition, and how this evidently plays out with their supervisee’s competence. In this presentation, we will discuss some strategies and tips for supervisees to effectively communicate with their supervisors.
Suggestions are made that address the difficulties that arise while matching supervisors with their supervisees. We provide recommendations on incorporating the necessary and relevant strategies to achieve seamless assimilation. Our goal is to bridge the gap between the complexities of personality and professional predispositions and highlight some effective modalities and strategies when matching supervisees with supervisors. We believe that this will improve the effectiveness of the supervisory relationship, provide a more useful platform for full engagement, learning, and transformation in the context of clinical practice, and ultimately, lead to better client outcomes. 

Transition: What You Need to Know


Young adults who have IEPs face uncertainty when planning the transition out of the school system. This presentation will review each step in the transition to adulthood, including IEP transition planning and how to access the services available to young adults with disabilities. The goal of this presentation is to increase awareness of services and organizations that support young adults in the transition process. The target audience includes self-advocates, family members of people with disabilities and service providers. 

Unconscious Bias: Overcoming Ethical Obstacles While Increasing Multi-Cultural Competencies

PRESENTED BY: Christa Martin, MRC, CRC

This session will assist rehabilitation professionals in overcoming ethical obstacles involving unconscious bias by increasing multi-cultural competencies and providing “best practices” in accordance with the CRCC Code of Ethics. Many clients with disabilities are impacted by unconscious bias in the workplace and within service settings such as ours.

We have an ethical obligation to reduce our unconscious bias, so as not to serve as an additional barrier to clients obtaining gainful employment or putting your professional relationship at risk. This interactive presentation will demonstrate how to overcome this obstacle including, but not limited to: differentiating conscious versus unconscious bias, various examples of unconscious bias, identifying ethical risks and implications for professionals, tangible methods to identify and address our own unconscious bias, etc. We will end with a facilitated discussion because hearing from other professionals within the field is the best way to find new ideas and resources for assisting our clients, both consumers and employers!

(Specific CRCC Code of Ethics addressed include the founding values, six core principles of ethical behavior, and sections A.1., A.2., A.4, B.1., D.2., D.3., and M.1.)

Unlocking Excellence in Direct Support Professionals 

PRESENTED BY: Kimberly Pietrylka-Miller, Jason Kaszubski, Andrea Davis 

Join us for an enlightening presentation that delves into the DSP Tiered Credentialing Program. As a dedicated provider in the field of human services, New Horizons is excited to showcase the unparalleled benefits and opportunities this program offers for both direct support professionals (DSPs) and organizations alike. 

New Horizons partnered with National Alliance for Direct Support Professionals (NADSP) to provide a structured framework for DSP professional growth. We will discuss the DSP credentialing program design, the training platforms used, describe the various credentialing levels/tiers, share success stories and the challenges. 

Using Virtual Reality-Guided Meditation to Support Work Engagement and Well-being of Workers with Disabilities

PRESENTED BY: Sarah George, Hung Jen Kuo, PhD, CRC, LPC, Michael Laird

The employment rate for people with disabilities is disproportionately low compared to those without a disability. Whereas legislative efforts and vocational rehabilitation services have improved this unbalanced situation, challenges remain. Moreover, even when individuals with disabilities are employed, their retention rate is far from optimal. Research indicates that employee burnout and poor mental health are associated with poor employment retention. To tackle this challenge, proactive attention to employee psychological well-being should be addressed. In this study, we explored how guided meditation in a virtual reality head-mounted display could help workers with disabilities improve their job satisfaction, work engagement, mental health, and overall quality of life. A virtual reality (VR) technology was chosen for its immersive features that allow first-time meditators to submerge themselves into an artificial world and escape from the work environment. 25 participants with physical and mental disabilities working in a warehouse setting at Peckham participated in the study. Each participant completed a five-minute daily VR-guided meditation for three days during their break-time at work. In this presentation, we will discuss the participants’ experience using VR-guided meditation, the feasibility and efficacy results of the study, and future considerations.

Voting with Disabilities in Michigan 

PRESENTED BY: Rachel Prevatt 

A conversation on the rights and experiences of voters with disabilities and what we can all do to promote accessible voting for all Michiganders. 

Voyaging Towards Bright Vocational Horizons: Leveraging Assessment Tools with Precision and Mapping A Career Voyage: The Skillful Use of Assessment Tools for Positive Outcomes

PRESENTED BY: Dessie Johnson MA, CRC, CEAS, Toni Jordan

Discussing and examining assessment tools and their usage to navigate successful vocational outcomes.

We Are All Advocates: Strategies for Legislative Engagement 

PRESENTED BY: Todd Culver, Malcom Kletke 

Engaging face-to-face with your government officials and their staff is the single most powerful advocacy strategy you can pursue. Along with co-presenter Malcolm Kletke of MHSA, one of Michigan’s leading multi-client lobbying firms, Todd will discuss the basics of legislative advocacy – keep it to 2-3 key points; make it personal and tell your story; and know your ask. Examples of relevant advocacy topics will include direct care workforce wages, and behavioral health and employment service funding. This session will help attendees be more comfortable and better prepared to engage with legislators, so together we can shape public policy in Michigan. 

Youth Leading The Charge for Inclusive, Integrated Employment

PRESENTED BY: Mary Shehan, Amanda Van Tubergen and YEAH Ambassador Hosts

For many families, their youth’s transition to adulthood is an uncertain time. Where will they work? Where will they live? Will they have friends and be able to do things they enjoy? Families of youth with significant barriers to employment may not be able to envision in the community for their sons and daughters. Professionals may steer youth into the most available jobs rather than support them to explore a wide variety of career options. Youth Employment Ambassador Hosts (YEAH) will co-present with staff from Michigan Developmental Disabilities Council on ways to incorporate youth in the charge to promote inclusive, integrated, employment, by teaching their peers to become leaders of their own journey.

Stay tuned for details on additional sessions.

Thank You to our Sponsors!


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re:con Awards

BOOM is a statewide award ceremony recognizing individuals with a disability who have excelled. The goal of the BOOM Awards is to provide stereotype-busting role models for people with disabilities.

Boom Awards

logo apex awards

The apex awards recognize outstanding achievement in the following categories: Outstanding Employer, Outstanding Community Partner, Transformational Leadership, and Lifetime Achievement.

Apex Awards