2017 Keynote Speaker
Alex was diagnosed with autism at the age of nine and was bullied when he was younger. In his teen years, he searched the internet to locate others like him, but didn’t like the lack of websites for individuals with autism. At the age of 17, Alex created “Wrong Planet” which is an online community for individuals with autism to communicate. He graduated from George Mason University with a degree in Film & Video Studies.
Alex is now an autism advocate, filmmaker and actor. He is known for his consulting work on FX’s “The Bridge” show and even made his on-screen acting debut during season one. He helped actress Diane Kruger develop her character on the show. He worked with her on set every day and played a big part with her performance and to the writers. Alex introduced a variety of tendencies for autism into her character as Sonya Cross, including stimming and awkwardness around eye contact.
Alex also started an Internet television program called Autism Talk TV in 2010 and has traveled the world working on documentaries and spreading awareness through speaking engagements including being the keynote speaker at the Autism Society of America’s National Conference.
Kids & Dreams board member, Amy Sjoholm who has a son with autism, has even had the pleasure to hear him speak in person. She states that “Alex helped me to understand the perspective of someone that experiences similar sensory issues as my son with autism. That greater understanding helped me strengthen my relationship with my son and meet his autism needs better.”
2017 Conference Speakers
Matt McNiff, PhD. – Dr. Matt McNiff is a behavior consultant with the Educational Service Unit No. 5 in Beatrice, Nebraska where he works with nine school districts to help teachers and administrators develop ways to help students with behavior concerns. With over 20 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. He attained his Ph.D. in special education from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, specializing in behavior disorders and autism.
Dr. McNiff specializes in helping teachers to develop programs that will reduce problematic behaviors and increase academic time. His presentations are known for being positive, humorous and engaging and are full of easy to use strategies and examples that can be used quickly with even the toughest to reach children. He also speaks to groups around the nation on how to reduce rude and defiant behavior in children.
Dr. Melissa Kimmerling EdD, MOT, OTR/L is the Program Director for the Master in Occupational Therapy Program at NMC. Dr. Kimmerling has clinical experience in acute care, rehabilitation, skilled nursing, outpatient, and home health. Dr. Kimmerling is also the parent to a special kiddo, enhancing her knowledge of pediatric occupational therapy practice. Dr. Kimmerling serves as the Representative from the State of Nebraska to the American Occupational Therapy Association's Representative Assembly. Dr. Kimmerling has presented her practice research locally, regionally, and nationally and has also been a speaker for community-based organizations. Dr. Kimmerling holds her Master's Degree in Occupational Therapy and her Doctorate in Health Professions Education from the College of Saint Mary. Dr. Kimmerling spent three years in full time academic appointment for College of Saint Mary prior to moving into the consulting role and then Program Director role for NMC.
Jennifer (Jenn) Miller is a special education advocate serving school-aged (5-16) children for PTI Nebraska. PTI Nebraska is a non-profit organization and a statewide resource that supports families who have children with disabilities and special healthcare needs. Their mission is to empower families by increasing their knowledge and advocacy skills so they can better navigate the challenges of the special education system. Jennifer conducts workshops across the state on topics such as IEPs (Individualized Education Programs), PBIS (Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports), Bullying, ADHD, Autism, Self-Esteem, and Improving Communication Between Families and School Professionals. She and her coworkers help parents via phone calls, emails, and in-person meetings, and at the various training events they hold throughout the year. Their goal is to help children and young adults with disabilities reach their fullest potential in school and in life. School personnel and other professionals in the community can also contact PTI for information and support.
Jennifer is married and has three wonderful, energetic children. Her oldest son Gabriel, who has autism and epilepsy, is the one who inspired his mom to become a special education advocate.