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

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