Strands explore specific educational topics in depth through a series of conceptually and developmentally linked sequential sessions. Join in the discussion of important topics with experts in the field by attending all sessions in a strand, or choose one or two that interest you most!

You are eligible to earn Professional Development Hours (PDHs) for each strand session you attend.

Wednesday, April 19

Thursday, April 20

Friday, April 21

Saturday, April 22

Strand A: Setting the Stage for Learning: Research-Based Strategies for Preparing Young Children With ASD to Access Instruction
Wednesday, April 19, 1 p.m.-4:30 p.m.

Leaders: Mandy Rispoli, Purdue University, West Lafayette, INWendy Machalicek, University of Oregon, Eugene; Sarah Hansen, University of Georgia, Atlanta; Tonya Davis, Baylor University, Waco, TX

Mandy Rispol
Wendy Machalicek
Sarah Hansen
Tonya Davis






The prevalence of young children diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is increasing at astonishing rates. These youngsters are in need of high equality, intensive early intervention. This strand session will present current research and best practice for preparing young children with ASD to access and benefit from instruction. Topics include: (a) understanding parent-implemented interventions, (b) teaching joint attention skills, (c) implementing multi-tiered systems of

support in early childhood classrooms, and (d) providing systematic instruction to maximize child learning. Within each of these topic areas, we will summarize the literature to date, highlight recent research, present guidelines for implementing these practices, and provide opportunities for applying the concepts to case studies. This strand will focus on diversity with respect to disability, cultural, and linguistic diversity within the population of children with ASD, and children with ASD living in poverty. The interventions we will present are cost and time effective on a pivotal early social communication skill that may be completed by natural change agents in everyday settings. Portable and effective interventions show promise for increasing the dosage of services received by children living in poverty or experiencing other risk factors.

View Strand A sessions

Strand B: Because the School Bus Comes Everyday: Why Implementation Matters for Teachers and Leaders
Thursday, April 20, 9:45 a.m.-2 p.m.

Louis Danielson

Leader: Louis Danielson, American Institutes for Research, Washington, D.C.

This strand will provide a practitioner-friendly overview of concepts from Implementation Science. Presenters will help practitioners apply these concepts to their work to improve learning outcomes for all students, including those from diverse backgrounds and historically marginalized groups. This strand is important, as implementation has been referred to as a problem that resists permanent resolution (Churchman, 1967, as cited by Cook and Odom, 2013, p. 138) and research indicates that even the most effective practices or programs will not achieve their intended outcomes if they are not implemented effectively (Fixsen, Naoom, Blase, Friedman, & Wallace, 2005). Despite this complexity, practitioners are rarely taught what constitutes effective implementation (Cook & Odom, 2013).

Throughout strand sessions, staff from national technical assistance centers, institutions of higher education, and state and local teams will draw explicit connections between implementation science concepts and their collective efforts to put practices into place.  If teachers and leaders are expected implement effective practices to improve learner outcomes, they should understand what effective implementation entails and how to engage in successful implementation efforts.

View Strand B sessions

Strand C: Differentiated Instruction in Action:  Classroom Strategies for Student Success
Thursday, April 20, 1 p.m.-4:30 p.m.

Jordan Shurr
Darlene Perner

Leaders: Darlene Perner, Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania; Jordan Shurr, Central Michigan University, Mount Pleasant 

Individual learners can vary greatly from one another.  They each have unique learning profiles that consist of various cultural and learning backgrounds, as well as different strengths, needs, and interests.  This strand will examine how professionals in both general and special education can use differentiated instruction (DI) to meet the various learning needs in today’s diverse classrooms.  Each session will build on the who, what, when, where, why, and how of DI by addressing topics such as who can benefit from DI, what it is, when and where it should occur, why it should be used, and how it should be used.  The first session within this strand will include an overview of DI by the authors of the recently published, CEC-DADD Prism book, Differentiating Instruction in the Inclusive Classroom: Strategies for Success.  Evidence-based strategies with examples that have been used to include students with complex learning needs in classroom instruction will be presented in the second session.  The third session will focus on describing specific techniques for implementing professional development on DI for preservice and inservice general and special education teachers.

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Strand D: Disproportionality in School Discipline
Thursday, April 20, 9:45 a.m.-2 p.m.

Denise Whitford
Russell Skiba

Leaders: Russell Skiba, Indiana University Bloomington; Denise Whitford, Purdue University, West Lafayette, IN 

Discipline disproportionality has been occurring in schools across the nation at unacceptable rates, most predominantly impacting students in special education, students of color, and students from economically disadvantaged backgrounds. We will highlight recent findings and discuss the implications, current policies, and evidence-based practices in the field. Audience members will be encouraged to engage in dialogue and further the discussion about disproportionality long after they have left the strand sessions.

Five leaders in the disproportionality field from across the U.S. will focus on in-depth content coverage regarding disproportionality in school discipline as it relates to students in special education, students who are culturally and linguistically diverse, students from economically disadvantaged backgrounds, and student gender.

The four sessions will be sequentially linked and useful for practitioners, researchers, and policy advocates. Presentations include an overview of the topic area, as well as discussions on access to education and implications of educational inequality, discipline and disproportionality policy, and evidence-based interventions and practices for improving outcomes for students, to include restorative practices and My Teaching Partner.

View Strand D sessions

Strand E: Providing Special Education and Related Services in the Urban Environment
Thursday, April 20, 9:45 a.m.-3:15 p.m.

Constance F. Lyttle

Leader: Constance F. Lyttle, Drexel University, Philadelphia, PA

Over 40 years ago, Congress passed PL 94-142 to, among other things, encourage families and educators to work together to afford positive outcomes for all students, including those with disabilities and in all environments, including in urban settings. Progress has been steady, but slow. To compound efforts, all too often the advantages and benefits of living and learning in an urban environment and attending urban schools are overshadowed by the media’s fascination with negative sensational incidents. Rather, urban settings are brimming with persons of rich and diverse cultures, abilities, gender, race/ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, and socio-economic status. In this strand, presenters will share initiatives and practical strategies; and discuss the challenges and solutions that encourage administrators’, teachers’ and families’ efforts to celebrate, discern, and meet the distinct individualism of students in the contemporary urban schoolhouse.

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Strand F: UDL Policy and Practice in 2017
Thursday, April 20, 1 p.m.-4:30 p.m.

Jose Blackorby

Leader: Jose Blackorby, CAST, Inc., Wakefield, MA

Universal Design for Learning (UDL) has grown to become a widely recognized framework for designing instructional experiences to address the wide variability in learner needs and characteristics. It is cited in the new Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), the Individuals With Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), the Higher Education Opportunity Act as well as the National Education Technology Plan and the Education Technology Developers Guide. In the United States  and internationally, interest in developing UDL education and implementation solutions is rapidly growing among policymakers, educators, parents, curriculum developers, and technology developers.  The framework, based on educational and neuroscience research, is increasingly applied across the P-16 age range, for both general and special education students, in schools, universities, museums, and media, and in wide ranging content areas from socio-emotional learning (SEL), literacy, and STEM.  This strand will provide participants with a broad overview of current developments in UDL including (1) the latest information on policies at the international, national, state, and local levels; (2) current status and future needs of UDL research; (3) new populations (e.g., early childhood); contexts (e.g., international), tools and applications of UDL; and (4) new implementation approaches, strategies, and challenges in a variety of settings.

View Strand F sessions

Strand G: IDEAs That Work: U.S. Office of Special Education Programs
Friday, April 21, 9:45 a.m.-2:30 p.m.

Renee Bradley
Larry Wexler

Leaders: Larry Wexler and Renee Bradley, Office of Special Education Programs, U.S. Department of Education, Washington, DC

Again this year the U.S. Office of Special Education Programs has put together a Research to Practice strand.  As in the past years, this strand will include a variety of critical issue topics in special education and early intervention highlighting the transfer of the best we know into classrooms, natural environments, schools, and communities.  Well known presenters from around the country, supported by the IDEA Part D National Programs, will present evidenced-based findings, practices, and technology that will lead to improved outcomes for children with disabilities and their families.  Each session will begin with an overview to set the national context for the topical issue.  Sessions will include an overview of current evidence, next steps in practice, and resources for follow up.  Sessions are designed for practitioners, school and district leaders, early intervention providers, and teacher trainers and are designed as stand-alone sessions so you can attend one or all of them.  Time will be scheduled for question and answers and resources will be shared in each session.

View Strand G sessions

Strand H: Creating Reciprocal Family­ Professional Partnerships: Researching Innovative Practice to Increase Student, Teacher, and Family Outcomes
Friday, April 21, 9:45 a.m.-2:30 p.m.

Tracy Gershwin Mueller
Shana J. Haines

Leaders: Shana J. Haines, University of Vermont, Burlington; Tracy Gershwin Mueller, University of Northern Colorado, Greeley

This strand will consist of three sessions related to increasing family­ professional partnerships across the child’s school-age years. Each session will showcase cutting­-edge, research-­based practice while also highlighting innovative programs that are currently implemented by Parent Training and Information Centers (PTIs), Community Parent Resource Centers (CPRCs), school personnel, and families. Each strand will include opportunities for families, agencies who work with families, school personnel who work with families, and researchers to form powerful collaborations for future practice and research.

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Strand I: Quality Indicators for Mixed Methods Research in Special Education: Current and Future Directions
Friday, April 21, 1:30 p.m.-5 p.m.

John Hitchcock
David Houchins

Leaders: David E. Houchins, Georgia State University, Atlanta; John Hitchcock, Indiana University, Bloomington

Since 2005, special education researchers have promoted the use of quality indicators for group experimental/quasi-experimental, single-case, qualitative research designs, and correlational research. This promoted an increase in the quality of special education research. Despite these advances, researchers acknowledge a need for mixed methods research (M-MR) to address the diverse needs of students with disabilities and their teachers that are not met by a singular methodological approach. The need for special education M-MR was therefore highlighted in a Council for Exceptional Children/Institute of Education Sciences feedback document based on the input of national special education researchers. In response to the need for an expanded understanding of special education M-MR, a consortium of researchers met to develop preliminary special education M-MR quality indicators for the purpose of designing and evaluating M-MR special education research studies and grant proposals. Presenters in this strand will provide an examination of M-MR research related to the visual disabilities, secondary transition, emotional behavioral disorders, and teacher professional development needs in special education. The status and future directions of M-MR research in special education will be discussed.

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Strand J: Child Maltreatment: Understanding, Recognizing, Responding, and Preventing in Home, School, and Community Settings
Friday, April 21, 9:45 a.m.-2:30 p.m.

Harold A. Johnson

Leader: Harold A. Johnson, Kent State University, OH

Educators know that they are mandated to report when they suspect that a student is experiencing maltreatment (i.e., neglect or abuse). Most educators lack sufficient understanding of the incidence, causes, indicators, and impact of maltreatment to effectively recognize, respond, report, and support maltreated students. Unfortunately, the presence of a disability serves to both substantially increase the maltreatment risks, incidence, and impact, while simultaneously reducing the likelihood that their maltreatment will be recognized and reported. As the duration and impact of the maltreatment experience increases, student’s health, emotional wellbeing, cognitive performance, interactional skills, and academic achievements are diminished, and school failure, emotional instability, and risky behaviors (e.g., sexual promiscuity, drug abuse, delinquency, suicide attempts, etc.) increase. Therefore, there is a need to not only enhance educators’ ability to recognize and report, but more important, to plan for the maltreatment safety of their students.

Strand 1 focuses upon establishing an awareness and understanding of child maltreatment as it occurs in home, school, and community settings. Strand 2 focuses upon the knowledge and skills needed to observe, report, and respond to child maltreatment on both a national and international level. Strand 3 focuses upon identifying and demonstrating strategies that can be used to prevent child maltreatment.

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Strand K: Northeast PBIS – Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports for All
Saturday, April 22, 8:00 a.m.-11:30 a.m.

George Sugai
Jennifer Freeman
Brandi Simonsen

Leaders: Brandi Simonsen, Jennifer Freeman, and George Sugai, University of Connecticut, Storrs

The NorthEast Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (NEPBIS) strand has two primary purposes: (a) promoting key research-supported content related to multi-tiered systems of support (MTSS) implementation in schools (session 1) and classrooms (session 2) and (b) describing capacity development efforts at the district, state, and regional levels (session 3).  In each session, presenters share examples from NEPBIS Network implementation efforts.

The NEPBIS Network represents leaders in PBIS from 10 northeast states who collaborate to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of PBIS implementation in northeast schools and districts by enabling communications, information exchange, political visibility, and technical assistance.  Although the NEPBIS network is focused on PBIS implementation, lessons described within these sessions will be relevant to other MTSS implementation efforts (e.g., school climate, academic supports).

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Strand L: Using Universal Design for Learning in Teacher Preparation
Saturday, April 22, 8:00 a.m.-11:30 a.m.

Richard Jackson

Leader: Richard Jackson, Boston College and CAST, Chestnut Hill, MA

In recent years, UDL theory, principles and guidelines have been infused in teacher education programs at universities receiving federal financial assistance (Higher Education Opportunity Act of 2008). State Education Agencies (SEAs) through the processes of program approval and federal compliance reporting monitor how universities specifically address the three principles of UDL. Several State Personnel Development Grants (SPDGs) have also included UDL training as part of their targeted technical assistance to underperforming schools and school districts. Additionally, many SEAs have adopted tiered systems capable of supporting all students through the implementation of RTI, PBIS, and UDL. On the national scene, the CEEDAR Center, a support for teachers and leaders, presents UDL as a tool for school reform.

In this strand, national experts in teacher development will describe how each has responded to the demand for UDL program incorporation. Experts will discuss approaches for collaborating with general education colleagues, modeling of UDL practices, and designing coursework and practicum experiences aimed at enabling all learners to engage and achieve in inclusive learning environments by confronting barriers inherent in traditional “one size fits all” curricula.

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Strand M: Winning the Trifecta of Education While Using Fun, Free, Factual, and Functional Information
Saturday, April 22, 8:00 a.m.-11:30 a.m.

Candace Moore

Leader: Candace MooreShallowater ISD, TX

As curriculum stringencies and budget deficits continue to increase in the school system, there appears to be a rapid decline in direct instruction in social skills paired with decreased opportunities for positive communication exchanges. This decline creates even more difficulties for students with social, intellectual, and financial challenges and leaves parents, teachers, and administrators seeking answers.  For example,

  • What can I do to improve my student’s ability to functionally communicate with peers across all settings?
  • How can we increase collaboration with teachers, educate parents, and increase student participation while making the biggest difference in the shortest amount of time with a small budget?
  • What’s the one thing I should do to help my students with autism spectrum disorders?
  • What’s the one thing I should do to help my students with intellectual challenges?
  • What’s the one thing I should do to help my students who are in poverty?
  • How do I use technology in the classroom?
  • What is executive function?
  • What? How? Where? Why? When? Who?

Participants will learn how to respond to these rigorous questions with a simple, memorable acronym. After attending this session, participants will be able to answer hard questions with fun, factual, free, and functional information.

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Strand N: Cultivating a “College Going” Culture for Students With Intellectual Disability From Middle School Through High School
Saturday, April 22, 8:00 a.m.-11:30 a.m.

Meg Grigal

Leaders: Meg Grigal and Debra Hart, Institute for Community Inclusion, University of Massachusetts, Boston

Although college and career readiness is the north star of transition services, too often students with intellectual disabilities (ID) are systematically excluded from practices that support access to higher education. This exclusion results in fewer effective pathways to quality career outcomes. The economic benefits of attending any amount of college have long been documented for students without and with other disabilities, but few policy leaders and practitioners are aware that recent studies are beginning to reveal similar benefits for people with ID. This strand will bring together researchers involved in OSEP, Investing in Innovation i3, and Office of Postsecondary Education funded initiatives along with practitioners and state legislative and policy leaders who  have created and implemented innovative practices that cultivate college knowledge in special education and transition personnel–all with the ultimate outcome of increasing access and attainment of higher education for students with ID. The sessions will highlight existing practices implemented in a culturally and racially diverse New England state in middle schools, high schools, and colleges/universities in a range of socio-economic climates. Participants will learn about (a) a universally designed college and career game-based curricula for middle school students, (b) evidence-based practices that support college readiness skills, and (c) a statewide model of dual enrollment that supports inclusive access to college coursework and employment during students’ final 2 to 3 years of transition education.

View Strand N sessions

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