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Kids & Dreams Autism Conference

Thank you to all who attended the 4th Annual Kids & Dreams Autism Conference on August 24th!  The conference, featuring Dr. Temple Grandin as our keynote speaker, was a big success with nearly 500 people in attendance!


Kids & Dreams Autism Conference

Thank you to all who attended the 4th Annual Kids & Dreams Autism Conference on August 24th!  The conference, featuring Dr. Temple Grandin as our keynote speaker, was a big success with nearly 500 people in attendance!

Who should attend?

Families and anyone who desires to understand more about Autism Spectrum Disorders and Options.  CEU's are available for professionals.  

About Our Conference

The Kids & Dreams Foundation's goal is to present a conference with a variety of resources, options, and topics related to Autism Spectrum Disorders.  Everyone's autism experience is unique and what works for one, may not work for all.  Whether you learn something for today or are able to save the information for a later time, we hope you gain something new by attending.  We hope by attending you will gain new information that will help an individual with autism progress.

Registration is closed for this event

2018 Conference Speakers



Temple Grandin, Ph.D., is the most accomplished and well-known adult with autism in the world. Now her fascinating life, with all its challenges and successes, has been brought to the screen with the HBO full-length film Temple Grandin, starring Claire Danes.

Dr. Grandin is a speaker who inspires and motivates others through her story. She didn't talk until she was three-and-a-half years old, communicating her frustration instead by screaming, peeping, and humming. In 1950, she was diagnosed with autism and her parents were told she should be institutionalized. She recounts “groping her way from the far side of darkness” in her book Emergence: Labeled Autistic, a book that stunned the world because until its publication, most professionals and parents assumed that an autism diagnosis was virtually a death sentence to achievement or productivity in life.

Even though she was considered “weird” in her young school years, she eventually found a mentor who recognized her interests and abilities. Dr. Grandin later developed her talents into a successful career as a livestock-handling equipment designer, one of very few in the world. She has now designed the facilities in which half the cattle are handled in the United States, consulting for firms such as Burger King, McDonald's, Swift, and others. As a result, in 2016, she was inducted into the James Beard Foundation's 'Who's Who of Food and Beverage in America'—a cadre of the country's most accomplished food and beverage professionals.

Dr. Temple Grandin currently works as a professor of animal science at Colorado State University and speaks around the world on both autism and cattle handling.

Dr. Grandin has been featured on NPR and major television programs, including the BBC special The Woman Who Thinks Like a Cow, ABC’s Primetime Live, The Today Show, Larry King Live, 48 Hours, and 20/20 and has been written about in many national publications, including Time (she was included in the magazine’s annual “2010 Time 100” List of the world’s most influential people), People, Forbes, US News and World Report, and The New York Times. Among numerous other recognitions by the media, Bravo did a half-hour show on her life and she was featured in the best-selling book Anthropologist from Mars.

Dr. Grandin's current best-selling book on autism is The Way I See It: A Personal Look at Autism and Asperger’s. She also authored The Autistic Brain: Thinking Across the Spectrum, which won the Goodreads Choice Awards for Best Nonfiction. Other books that she has written include Unwritten Rules of Social Relationships; Animals Make Us Human; Animals in Translation; Thinking in Pictures; and Emergence: Labeled Autistic. She has also produced several DVDs.

Kristen Larsen
"Encouraging and Empowering Our Kids to Become Effective Self-Advocates"

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Kristen Larsen, Executive Director of the Nebraska Planning Council on Developmental Disabilities, is an energetic, proactive advocate for individuals with developmental disabilities and their families.  Her passion for developmental disability advocacy is a result of years of personal experience as an advocate for her 24 year-old son, Carl, who has autism and an intellectual disability.  Serving as Carl’s advocate within the education  and the home and community based waiver services system, as well as within the community led to her pursuit of a career that focuses on helping individuals and families who face the obstacles, challenges, and rewards that having a disability may pose. Promoting self-advocacy is a foundational component to helping her son and others who experience disabilities live meaningful lives.


Melinda Henson, M.Ed, BCBA
"Making a bid for a happy kid- Behavior Intervention Demystified"


NE ASD Network, University of Nebraska-Lincoln
Melinda Henson is a Board Certified Behavior Analyst.  She received her Master’s degree in Special Education with an emphasis on autism education through the University of Missouri and completed her Behavior Analysis coursework through Florida Institute of Technology.  Her career has included positions within University, State Agency, home and school settings supporting individuals with autism across the life span.  Her primary clinical interests are in the areas of early childhood education, functional behavior assessment and supports, assessing and creating intensive verbal behavior programs, building collaborative teams in school settings, and delivering effective staff development and training procedures.  She is a strong advocate of evidence-based treatment programs for individuals with autism spectrum disorders. 

 Matt McNiff, Ph.D. & Brenda McNiff, Ed.D.
"The Problem isn't the Game, it's the Playbook: How having a Child with Autism Changed our Lives"

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Matt McNiff, Ph.D. – Matt McNiff is the special education director and a behavior consultant with the Educational Service Unit No. 5 in Beatrice, NE where he works with nine school districts to help teachers and administrators develop programming for children with special needs.  With almost 25 years of experience in the field, Dr. McNiff has worked with thousands of students with behavioral challenges and grades ranging from early childhood to high school and transitional programming.

Brenda McNiff, Ed.D. – Brenda McNiff is the administrator for the Educational Service Unit No. 5 in Beatrice, NE.  Dr. McNiff has had a long history of working with children with special needs as a high school teacher, guidance counselor, principal, transition specialist, professional developer and special education director.  Dr. McNiff’s research has focused on communication between school districts and families with the IEP process and she has a passion for creating innovative ways to bring schools and families together to work as partners to improve programming for students with special needs.

Both Brenda and Matt share a life with two talented and energetic young boys, Jackson and Ben.  At the age of 1 year, Ben was diagnosed with classic autism and he opened their world to a new view point by being parents of a child with special needs.  Their journey has led them to a better understanding of how to improve communication and establish partnerships between schools and families to receive the best services possible for special needs students.  Together, they enjoy the opportunity to share their story with other families and professionals in order to show the value of what working together can do to change the life of one.

Conference Schedule

8:00 - 8:45AM        -   Registration & Sign-In
8:45 - 9:00AM        -   Kids & Dreams Welcome
9:00 - 9:45AM        -   Kristen Larsen "Encouraging and Empowering Our Kids to Become Effective Self-Advocates"
9:45 - 10:15AM     -   "Dream Big Spotlights"
10:15 - 10:45AM   -   Break
10:45 - 11:30AM   -   Melinda Hanson "Making a Bid for a Happy Kid - Behavior Intervention Demystified"
11:30 - 12:15PM   -   Matt & Brenda McNiff
12:15 - 1:15PM     -   Lunch Break
1:15 - 2:45PM        -   Dr. Temple Grandin - KEYNOTE
2:45 - 3:15PM        -   Break
3:15 - 3:45PM        -   "Dream Big Spotlights"
3:45 - 4:00PM        -   Speaker Q&A


Conference Sponsors

Previous Autism Conference Pictures

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Kids & Dreams Foundation

Kids & Dreams Foundation

The Kids & Dreams Foundation was founded in November 2013. 

The Kids & Dreams Foundation provides support to children of all ages and their families dealing with autism, bullying and other challenges faced by today's children. We seek to enrich the lives of the kids by locating and providing the resources that will help each reach their full potential in life.

The foundation will introduce you to...

  • Importance of your child's diet
  • Neurofeedback & other therapy services
  • MAPS Doctors
  • Biomedical possibilities & treatments
  • Anti-Bullying programs
  • Social Stories
  • Other Autism & Bullying services

By providing….

  • Assistance
  • Resources
  • Educational Conferences
  • Financial Support
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Aaron's Story

My wife, Kerri, and I have adopted five children. Trae, our middle child, has autism. He was developmentally delayed and did not walk or talk until he was 2 ½. At the age of three, he was diagnosed as being on the Autism Spectrum. Over the next couple years, Trae began a variety of therapies to help him progress and develop. It was during this time, Trae began having intense meltdowns and pulling his hair out, which was very out of character from his laid back personality.  His pediatrician at the time told us Trae was the way he was, and that he would not change.  Well, that was not good enough for us!  After researching, we decided to remove dairy products from his diet.  One day later, Trae was a completely different child.  We were concerned about what he would eat because he was very picky. Dairy was the majority of what he ate; however, this dramatic change gave us the incentive to continue.  He is still dairy free at 10 years of age.  A couple years later, we attended a seminar about autism and nutrition. This was very timely for us because we were considering removing gluten from his diet as well. This seminar also educated us on the biomedical approach to treating autism. We were able to find a doctor that had several hundred autistic patients. We made the appointment and decided on a variety of biomedical tests, which would show allergies and food intolerances, allow the doctor to determine what vitamins and supplements his body needed, and to monitor his intestinal tract and treat accordingly.  Since we began this journey, Trae has made leaps and bounds! He is now in the fifth grade and doing excellent academically, interacting better socially, and sees the world in a refreshingly different way. The combination of therapy services, diet, and biomedical treatment has helped Trae blossom into the kid he is today!


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Amy's Story

My son, Peyton, was nine years old before he was diagnosed as being autistic.  At age five and prior to the diagnosis, I drove him to therapy weekly (two hours round trip), so he could receive hippotherapy, occupational, and physical therapy to address his sensory needs.  These services were not covered through insurance.  I was a single mother at the time, and due to lack of funds, they only lasted one summer. Since preschool, Peyton had been receiving physical and occupational therapy. Our family moved when he was in 2nd grade, and the new school would no longer provide these services to my son.  Even after the diagnosis of autism, he was not able to receive the services because he did not qualify.  As Peyton entered the fourth grade, he began to report being bullied at school.  This was discussed with staff and administration, and they seemed to be trying to help take care of the situation.  When the administration changed at the school, the bullying worsened in fifth grade after his diagnosis of high-functioning autism.  Peyton entered middle school where the bullying only increased.  He had chronic stomach aches, did not want to attend school, and withdrew even more.  The school responded to the bullying by having him be bused home early each day.  We have since moved to a new town. Peyton is now 15 and in the ninth grade, where he is thriving and doing very well.  He now receives physical therapy each week and is improving.  He enjoys school and is no longer bullied.  The school is receptive to his needs and does everything they can to ensure Peyton is safe and ready to learn. 




Autism Research Institute

The Autism Research Institute's mission is to meet the needs of the global autism community through research, networking, education, and support for families and people of all ages on the autism spectrum. 

Autism Society Of America

Provides information, education, supporting research, programs, and services for the autism community. More than 50,000 members and supporters are connected through a working network of nearly 200 chapters nationwide.


This independent site is for education and information about digestive enzymes. There is a large need to provide practical and general information on enzyme therapy for a wide range of uses.

Gluten Free Casein Free (GFCF) Diet

The Gluten Free Casein Free (GFCF) Diet is one of the very first recommendations for children diagnosed with autism. This is because many of the children lack the [dpp4] enzyme that allows them to break down gluten (proteins in wheat) and casein (proteins in dairy). This can cause poor attention, odd behavior, a deficit in socialization skills and poor speech. Consequently, when gluten- and casein-based foods are removed improved behavior, better attention, at times improved speech and an increase in socialization skills can follow.

Medical Academy of Pediatric Special Needs (MAPS)

Inspired by the late Bernard Rimland, PhD., a leader in the biomedical movement, MAPS embodies his vision and direction of physician education and development in the field of ASD care. 

Special Eats

Special Eats to assist others on the healthy path toward embracing gluten and dairy free living. The site is designed to help educate and enable people to find delicious recipes.

Autism Hope Alliance

The Autism Hope Alliance embodies hope for families facing the diagnosis of Autism through education, financial support and volunteerism. It is the first non-profit foundation for Autism to emerge from the natural foods industry.

Talk About Curing Autism

Beginning in 2000, TACA began providing support services to Californians. In 2007, TACA expanded its services throughout the United States. 95% of what TACA offers to families affected by autism is free.

EEG Education & Research Inc

EEG Biofeedback is a learning strategy that enables persons to alter their brain waves. When information about a person’s own brain wave characteristics is made available to him, he can learn to change them. You can think of it as exercise for the brain.

Pediatric Therapy Center

Pediatric Therapy Center was started by two occupational therapists with a passion for helping children with special needs gain confidence and autonomy through physical, occupational, aquatic, and speech and language therapy. Candice Mullendore and Stephanie Adam drew on their vast experience in outpatient, inpatient, and school-based services to help children with special needs, developmental delays, and a variety of other diagnoses including Asperger’s Syndrome, autism, Down syndrome, ADD, and ADHD reach their fullest potential. After years of practice, they saw a great need for a pediatric based therapy center in Omaha that specialized in the unique needs of children. Their vision became a reality in 2008 when Mullendore and Adam opened Pediatric Therapy Center, one convenient location offering occupational, physical, and speech therapy.


Bullying is unwanted, aggressive behavior among school aged children that involves a real or perceived power imbalance. The behavior is repeated, or has the potential to be repeated, over time. Both kids who are bullied and who bully others may have serious, lasting problems

No Bully

No Bully’s mission is to bring innovative, sustainable solutions to bullying and harassment in schools. No Bully® is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization.  It began in San Francisco in 2003 as a collaboration of educators, psychologists and lawyers committed to preventing the current generation of students from enduring the bullying that they experienced when they were in school. Today, No Bully is helping schools in California and across the nation - from Hawaii to Delaware - stop bullying and transform into learning communities which are inclusive of everybody. 

PTI Nebraska

PTI Nebraska is a statewide resource for families of children with disabilities or special health care needs.  PTI Nebraska empowers parents and provides them the knowledge and capacity to improve the education and healthcare outcomes for their children.

Children's Rehab Center

Children’s Rehab Center is committed to providing outstanding care for children in combination with their primary care providers, daycare, school and community services. We are a medically based facility offering 2 locations in Grand Island and Hastings, NE. The Children’s Rehab Center offers Physical, Occupational and Speech Therapy to children on an intensive one-on-one basis. The therapy sessions are designed to allow children to play and have fun while working on developing functional abilities. At Children’s Rehab Center, we believe that children are sensory motor individuals needing complete body involvement and concrete interaction with their environment to maximize learning and mastery of skills. We are designed to assist individuals with developmental disabilities become more independent with mobility, self-help skills, fine motor, communication, vocational tasks and community skills. 

The Spectrum Center

The Spectrum Center for Autism offers behavior therapy services based on the principles of Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA). We are currently serving families in Kearney and the surrounding areas.


I said to the child, reach for the stars. The child replied, I am the star filled with wonder and possibility.
— Dan Wilkins

Sponsor a Camper

Sponsor a Camper

Provide a Camper Scholarship

You can help sponsor a camper through our "Michael Houghton Scholarship Fund".  Click on the image below to be directed to our scholarship funding website.  If you have questions or need assistance please feel free to contact us for assistance.