April 22-25, 2024

The TAP N2 Hope (formerly the TAP Symposium) is a virtual event that will take place over four days, April 22-25, 2024. Three presentations will be given each day starting at 11 am CDT. You will only need to register for one event, as the same link will work for all presentations.

*NOTE CEs will NOT be available at this year’s symposium

Schedule of Presentations

Igniting the Spark of Innovation for Interdisciplinary Autism Evaluations

An interdisciplinary approach to diagnosing autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is frequently recommended as best practice. This presentation will describe how an interdisciplinary team was ignited by the need in a rural community for comprehensive evaluations of individuals with suspected ASD. The need sparked the pursuit of innovative funding and the formation of an interdisciplinary team of professionals from different settings to provide differential diagnosis and comprehensive recommendations. 


Presented by:

Susan Bane, OTR/L, RT holds degrees in Occupational and Recreational Therapy. She has spent her 40-year career in Occupational Therapy identifying and addressing children’s and adult’s sensory processing abilities and challenges. She has provided direct service and consulted for individuals in home and school based, community based and institutional settings. She has been a guest lecturer in community and college settings and co-planned and programmed professional continuing education training and workshops. She has served on community boards and committees focusing on child development and wellness from a sensory processing perspective.

Trina Becker, M.S., CCC/SLP is a professor at Eastern Illinois University in the Communication Disorders and Sciences Department. She specializes in alternative and augmentative communication and is the instructor of the courses Augmentative and Alternative Communication, and AAC for Beginning Communicators as well as other courses related to speech sound disorders and advanced clinical techniques. She also serves as a clinical supervisor for diagnostics and therapy sessions with the AAC population. Ms. Becker has over 20+ years working with children with autism in the early childhood and primary grades, specifically working with children with complex communication challenges. Ms. Becker serves as a consultant to schools, families and other professionals, and has presented to parent and professional groups at the local, state, and national level.

Jennifer Buchter, Ph.D., MSW, is a special education professor with almost 30 years of professional experience in the fields of social work, early childhood, and early childhood special education.  Her experiences include teaching play and social skills, communication, and supporting the inclusion of young children with disabilities in schools and communities.  Her background in schools and communities includes designing instruction and environments, supporting and training teachers, coaching families and caregivers, parent advocacy, assessment in ADOS diagnostic clinics, and writing IFSPs and IEPs. Research related to individuals with Autism include supporting social communication with preschoolers using video modeling, training teachers to implement communication and social opportunities in daily routines and activities, examining Part C efforts to identify and support young children birth- three with suspected Autism, and supporting communication using assistive technology (AT) and alternative and augmented communication (AAC).

 Reagan Carey, BCBA is the Director of The Autism Program at CTF IL. Reagan has 25 years in supporting people with disabilities and autism spectrum disorder. She holds a Master’s of Science in psychology and is a Board Certified Behavior Analyst. Reagan is also a parent of a transition aged youth diagnosed with autism. She is a graduate of the Partners in Policymaking class funded through the Illinois Council of Developmental Disabilities (ICDD) and had the opportunity to oversee a portion of the Southern Illinois Transition Project that focused on person centered planning and resources to youth ages 14-27 years and their families through the ICDD.

 Kathleen Hecksel, M.D., is a child and adolescent psychiatrist at Sarah Bush Lincoln Health Center in Mattoon, IL. She is also clinical assistant professor of child psychiatry at the University of Illinois at Chicago in the Rural Student Physician Program of Peoria and adjunct assistant professor at Southern Illinois University School of Medicine. She received her medical degree from Mayo Clinic School of Medicine. She completed residency and fellowship training in general psychiatry and child and adolescent psychiatry at the University of Michigan and the University of Minnesota, respectively. She maintains a full time community-based outpatient child psychiatry practice and assists with diagnostic evaluations at the Autism Center at Eastern Illinois University. Clinical interests include: rural access to pediatric mental health services, the multi-disciplinary treatment of autism and the impact of trauma on child mental health.

 Cori More, PhD, BCBA is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Special Education at Eastern Illinois University. As a board-certified behavior analyst, Dr. More is interested in providing intentional practices and increasing communication to address the diverse needs of clinical and school settings.  Her research focus is on inclusive practices that expand access to the general education curriculum for students with extensive learning needs as well as for students from diverse populations. She is a member of several national organizations, and is involved in service at the state, local and national levels.

Jacki Tish, MS, CCC-SLP, is a clinical instructor in the Communication Disorders and Sciences Department. Her master’s degree in communication disorders and sciences is from Eastern Illinois University. She currently supervises undergraduate and graduate student clinicians providing speech/language evaluation and therapy services to members of the community at EIU’s Speech-Language-Hearing Clinic. She is also a member of TAP’s Multidisciplinary Autism Evaluation team and conducts autism evaluations with members of the community. She has previously participated in supervision of departmental graduate student research projects. Her clinical experience is primarily in the areas of early language development/disorders and autism spectrum disorder.

 Rudyard Watson, SLP is a licensed speech-language pathologist with 16 years of experience in various settings (i.e., hospitals, schools, and skilled nursing). He is a faculty member in the Eastern Illinois University Communication Disorders and Sciences department, where he serves with the Autism Evaluation Team. Mr. Watson holds a Master of Science in speech-language pathology from EIU and is working toward his doctorate in adult career and education development at Valdosta State University. Mr. Watson is a clinical instructor in the Communication Disorders and Sciences department, focusing on college-age students with autism. He is certified and trained in the administration of the Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule-2 (ADOS-2), with his research focus on the areas of social communication, executive functions, and camouflaging with autistic adults.

Toward an Understanding of Emergent Responding Procedures in Practice: Preliminary Investigations   


Research has demonstrated the utility of instructive feedback (IF) as a method to produce emergent verbal behavior. Instructive feedback is a teaching strategy in which nontarget stimuli are presented in learning trials to increase the efficiency of instruction (Carroll & Kodak, 2015). Researchers have investigated differences in secondary target acquisition when inserting the secondary targets in different configurations of the learning trial (e.g., antecedent, consequence). Findings have shown minimal differences in efficacy irrespective of the configuration (e.g., Vladescu & Kodak, 2013). However, no studies to date have evaluated participants’ preference for feedback delivery. As such, the current study replicated previous research by comparing the efficacy and efficiency of IF when presented as antecedent or consequence feedback and included a preference measure for feedback delivery for 2-3 children with autism spectrum disorder. We included some procedural modifications such as incorporating probes throughout intervention to attempt to determine when secondary targets were acquired and measured participants’ echoic behavior to evaluate its role in the emergence of the secondary targets. Preliminary findings indicated that neither participant demonstrated acquisition of the secondary target; thus, we made individualized procedural modifications which resulted in increases in the secondary target for both participants compared to baseline levels. We discuss the clinical implications of our results related to past research, emergent verbal behavior, and participant choice.


Presented by:

Connor Eyre, M.S., BCBA, Southern Illinois University Carbondale
Connor recently graduated with his master’s in behavior analysis and therapy from SIUC in Fall 2023 and soon after became a Board-Certified Behavior Analyst. Connor plans to attend a Psy.D program in clinical psychology in Fall 2024 and aspires to open his own clinic focused on caregiver training for individuals with disabilities. Connor has worked with young children at the CASD for 2 years in which he has become an integral member of the team.

Manish Goyal, M.S., BCBA, Southern Illinois University Carbondale
Manish is a multiculturally diverse and experienced behavioral scientist from India who is a member of the LGBTQIA+ community, and an international doctoral candidate in the Department of Psychological and Behavioral Sciences at the Southern Illinois University, Carbondale (SIUC). He received his Master’s degree in behavior analysis from Western Michigan University, Kalamazoo, Michigan, under the advisement of Dr. Stephanie Peterson in 2011. Over the past decade, Manish has gained experience in applying behavioral principles and systems analysis to problem solve and influence functional change across a diverse set of population (e.g., age and diagnosis), settings (e.g., group homes vs. Clinic providing mental and behavioral health services), and organizations (e.g., mental/behavioral health clinics and theatre). Manish has provided supervision at the CASD to graduate students seeking BCBA supervision and research experience for the past 2 years.

 Grace Lafo, B.S., B.A., Southern Illinois University Carbondale
Grace Lafo is a second year masters student in the Communication Disorders and Sciences program who is also completing a verified course sequence to become a Board Certified Behavior Analyst. Grace is the current Research Coordinator for CASD, studying augmentative and alternative communication, instructive feedback, and parents’ experiences with the autism spectrum disorder diagnostic process in southern Illinois. A majority of her client experience involves teaching functional communication to children with challenging behaviors. Grace has been at the CASD since she was an undergraduate and has continued to gain clinical and research experience at the CASD.

Lesley Shawler, Ph.D., BCBA, Southern Illinois University Carbondale
Dr. Lesley Shawler is a Board-Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA) and earned her Ph.D. from the Institute of Applied Behavior Studies – Endicott College in 2019 under the advisement of Dr. Caio Miguel. She completed a two-year postdoctoral fellowship at Kennedy Krieger Institute and Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in the Neurobehavioral Unit and Clinical Outcomes department. Dr. Shawler has experience working with individuals with developmental disabilities and mental health diagnoses across the lifespan and in a myriad of settings. Her main expertise includes the assessment and treatment of challenging behavior and teaching verbal behavior to individuals with Autism and other neurodevelopmental disabilities.

Implementing imPACTful parent training


Clinical level staff at The Autism Clinic at Hope are piloting a structured parent training initiative to increase parent involvement in the clinical programming of the clients, as it is well established in peer reviewed publications that parent involvement is integral to overall client outcomes. Additionally, it is widely reported in the field of ABA that parent training CPT codes are utilized at a lower rate, which can be attributed to several factors. Finally, BCBAs often site parent training as a weakness in their clinical practice. Four client families will participate in a 24-week course following the Project ImPACT curriculum with alternating weeks for group parent training and individual coaching sessions.  Dependent variables will be measured via parent and clinician surveys and analysis of authorization data. Hypothesized outcomes are increased usage of authorized codes for parent training, increased clinician confidence in parent training sessions, and increased parent involvement and competence in implementing ABA based treatment strategies in the home.


Presented by:

Becky Nelson, BCBA is a BCBA at The Autism Clinic at Hope and has worked there since May 2020. She graduated with her bachelor’s in psychology from Eastern Illinois University, and her master’s in behavior analysis and therapy from Southern Illinois University (SIU). She has experience in working with caregivers in the child welfare system through her work at Project 12 Ways through SIU. She is very passionate about utilizing ACT and flexible thinking in sessions, skill-based training, and supervision of upcoming behavior analysts.

Felicia Weber, M.S., BCBA, has been with TAC since the summer of 2022 and accrued her fieldwork hours through the clinic. Prior to moving into ABA, Felicia was a special education teacher for 6 years. She has headed many different initiatives at the clinic, such as revamping observations, working on developing more specific discharge criteria, developing a measurable RBT competency assessment, and helping with the switch to Central Reach. She is passionate about communication, AAC use, and relational frame theory.

Not so puzzling: Autism and Social Narratives

Individuals with autism struggle with social deficits and difficulties with change. Learn to help using a social narrative- a short story that uses words/pictures to understand a specific situation, event, place, or person. Participants will leave with a better understanding of how to write and use a social narrative. 


Presented by: 

Angela Duffy, MS serves as a Senior Visiting Research Specialist at the University of Illinois’ Resource Center for Autism and Developmental Delays (RCADD) in Chicago. Ms. Duffy specializes in designing and implementing interventions, differentiating instruction, and utilizing assistive technology for children with special needs. She received her Master’s of Science in Special Education from Western Governors University, a Bachelor of Fine Arts from Illinois Wesleyan University, and is a licensed Illinois teacher for grades K-9 with an LBS-1 endorsement.

Establishing Early Communication and Play in Young Children with ASD   

This presentation will discuss ways to encourage the development of early communication skills and play in young children with ASD. Additionally, the presenter will discuss how to embed communication opportunities throughout a child’s day, as well as suggestions for books and toys that will encourage engagement.


Presented by: 

Trina Becker, M.S., CCC/SLP is an SLP, professor in Communication Disorders and Sciences, and Co-Director of the EIU Autism Center. She teaches courses in augmentative and alternative communication and speech sound disorders. Her specialty area is AAC as well as early language and speech development. 

Toilet training:  A combination of hard work and consistency

Toilet training children, and specifically children with autism spectrum disorder, has a long history of research into best practices in the field of behavior analysis.  The basic method used today by most behavior analysts, involves the use of heavy reinforcement for eliminating successfully in the toilet.  Participants received large amounts of tangible reinforcement (e.g. edibles) in addition to social reinforcement (hugs, praise) when they voided successfully.  Additional components included planned increases in liquid consumption to increase number of voids per day, extended toilet sits, and reprimands for eliminations that occur outside of the toilet (Foxx & Azrin 1091).  Physical prompts and rapid prompt fading for the toileting routine (e.g., coming to the toilet, sitting compliantly, pulling pants up and down) were also emphasized as essential for long term independence.  Underwear, or elimination alarms, which were developed by the researchers, were also used in this study.  Published research since then has continued to study these components and investigate additional elements that have shown improvements in outcomes.  Wearing underwear rather than pull-ups or diapers during the training process has been shown to decrease eliminations outside of the toilet.  Teaching children to request to use the toilet in addition to initiating toileting independently is also a vital component for independence and maintenance beyond the training period.  Preparation for toilet training should include identification of highly preferred items and activities as well as willingness to place these items on a short deprivation schedule prior to toileting. Extended sits for some learners may also be necessary to reinforce elimination on the toilet.


Presented by:

Kirsten Schaper, M.S., CCC-SLP, BCBA, is dual certified as a speech/language pathologist and board-certified behavior analyst and has provided services for children with autism spectrum disorder since 2004.   From 2004 until 2015, she served as an instructor and clinic director at the Center for Autism Spectrum Disorders at Southern Illinois University – Carbondale where she supervised students providing service in individual and group formats.  She owned and operated her own private practice from 2016 until November 2020, where she treated privately children and through Illinois’s Early Intervention program via in-home services.  In November 2020 she became the clinic site director for The Autism Clinic at Hope in Herrin, IL and then the Regional Director for Southern Il and TN in July 2023.  Ms. Schaper is fluent on many teaching procedures, including naturalistic teaching, discrete trial training, the Picture Exchange Communication System, Phonemic Restructuring of Oral Motor Phonetic Targets (PROMPT), and the Early Start Denver Model.  She is also reliability certified in Modules 3 and 4 of the Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule – 2 (ADOS-2) and has evaluated over a thousand children for the presence of ASD.  Her approach focuses on teaching functional skills that are enjoyable to the child while incorporating developmental sequences and each family’s priorities.

School Consultation: Enhancing Education Environments  

This presentation will provide a BCBA guide and best practices for those who consult within the classroom setting. Having access to a professional who specializes in behavior within the classroom setting can be pertinent to the success of the student(s). Additionally, generalizing skills across settings and people are targeted during ABA therapy and it is imperative that the BCBA and the school staff collaborate on these skills to ensure the success of the child. BCBAs bring a unique skill set to schools, blending expertise in behavior analysis with a focus on individualized interventions to support students with diverse needs. This information has been gathered from a variety of resources, as well as from personal experience as a BCBA consultant within local districts. Based on previous research, there are not many resources available to BCBAs, how best to consult within the schools and how that role should look. By collaborating with educators, administrators, and families, BCBAs contribute to the development and implementation of evidence-based strategies that address challenging behaviors, foster skill acquisition, and promote overall positive classroom culture.


Presented by:

Joanna Morrissey, M.S., BCBA, a Site Director at The Autism Clinic at Hope in Springfield, IL, has been working with individuals on the Autism Spectrum in various capacities since 2006. She initially began her career by teaching special education. During her time as a teacher, she began working on her master’s degree in behavioral Analysis and Therapy through Southern Illinois University, Carbondale; Joanna graduated with her Master’s in December 2016. Since beginning her work at Hope, she has served as a clinician overseeing ABA therapy for her caseload, as well as a school consultant with local districts. Her professional interests include organizational behavioral management and supporting children with ASD and their teachers in the classroom.

All ABA are Not the Same: Advances in Relational Frame Theory’s Application in Autism Intervention


It has been 20 years since the conception of relational frame theory (RFT) and recent studies have highlighted its unique application in autism intervention. This symposium will include 1) one basic and one applied study on RFT’s impact on autistic learner’s eye gaze patterns and other biomarkers; 2) an applied study investigating the role of multiple exemplar training in promoting the formation of the abstract concept opposite among autistic learners; 3) one randomized controlled trial investigating RFT’s application in promoting global-level repertoire changes. The implications of RFT and the discourse surrounding ABA’s utility in autism intervention will be discussed.


Presented by:

Dr. Mark R. Dixon, Ph.D., BCBA-D, University of Illinois at Chicago
Dr. Dixon is a Board-Certified Behavior Analyst – Doctorate and a clinical professor at the Department of Disability and Human Development. Dr. Dixon has published 12 books, over 230 peer reviewed journal articles, and delivered 1000s of presentations around the globe. His research and/or expert opinions have been featured in Time Magazine, Newsweek, The New York Times, National Public Radio, This American Life, and Netflix’s series Bill Nye Saves the World. Dr. Dixon cares for individuals and their families impacted by autism and other developmental disabilities through his innovative research that guides practice. He has generated millions of dollars of funding to infuse behavior analysis within local schools and treatment facilities and created multiple clinics for persons diagnosed with autism and related conditions.

 Zhihui Yi, BCBA, University of Illinois at Chicago
Zhihui is a bilingual Board-Certified Behavior Analyst who works with children, teenagers, and their families that are impacted by autism and other developmental disabilities. Mr. Yi is the Clinical Coordinator at CBM and currently oversees the Language and Cognition Program, and the Caregiver Training and Consultation Program. Mr. Yi is dedicated to improving equal access to evidence-based treatment among minority groups and is interested in improving language, adaptive skills, and overall independence among those he works with. His research interests include relational frame theory, language-based interventions, and early intervention for children with autism.

The Building Block of Learning: The Discrete Trial  

The presenter will share student data and scenarios demonstrating the importance of proper operational definitions of problem behaviors, identification of functions of behaviors, replacement behaviors, and reactive strategies that have fostered skill acquisition, improved their availability and quality of education at school, and increased their prosocial relationships at school.


Presented by:

Melissa Pohl, BCBA has been working with individuals with autism spectrum disorder since 2006 implementing principles grounded in Applied Behavior Analysis. Her time has been spent amongst a variety of settings and populations including Prek to grade 12 aged individuals, in private therapeutic day schools, public schools, homes, hospital and clinical settings. Since 2011, she has supported students with disabilities and problem behavior in the public-school systems. Majority of her career has been spent in schools, looking at behavior reduction for individual students and training staff members and parents in positive behavior supports. Her bachelor’s degree is from Towson University and her master’s degree from American University were completed in the field of clinical psychology and she completed her fieldwork and coursework in Behavior Analysis from Florida Institute of Technology in 2013. She has had the humbling experience of helping students in Maryland, Illinois, and providing supervision to aspiring Behavior Analysts. She was chosen as Teacher of the Year by the Arc of Southern Maryland and Support Person of the Year from Calvert County Public Schools. She is fortunate to be blessed with a loving husband, two children, 8 and 6 and currently serve as the Behavior Analyst supporting the school district where they live and they attend. One fun fact about me is I make my own Kombucha and accidentally got my husband addicted. We joke that I should open a Kombucha company

Early Intervention: Resources and Information for Families and Professionals


Early intervention is authorized through Part C of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). It is the system that serves infants and toddlers from birth to 3 years of age and their families. This system is available in all 50 states, but systems can vary significantly. In Illinois, the lead agency is the Department of Human Services and families can access the system through local Child and Family Connections offices. The presenter will use a variety of methods to engage participants, i.e. presentation slides, videos, and resource sharing. Participants will have the opportunity to review materials, share experiences, and ask questions.


Presented by: 

Chelsea Guillen, M.S. is the Early Intervention Ombudsman with the Early Intervention Training Program (EITP) at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. As the Ombudsman, Chelsea promotes high quality Early Intervention practices which support state and federal principles of Early Intervention by working with Bureau staff, Child and Family Connections (CFC) offices, Early Intervention Partners and providers to ensure system-wide fidelity to Early Intervention laws, policy, practice and procedure. She also collaborates with other systems and specialists in the State (e.g., serves on committees) on issues related to the field of early intervention and early childhood special education. She currently serves as an Early Childhood Technical Assistance aRPy Ambassador. Chelsea holds a bachelor’s degree in Psychology and a master’s degree in Child Development with an Infancy Specialization. She has worked in early intervention for more than 25 years and participated in early intervention as a parent. Her professional interests include improving child and family outcomes, implementing recommended practices, ensuring equitable access to, and participation in, early intervention services, and using data and evidence-informed strategies to inform systemic change. Her central belief in the importance of partnering with families to enhance their competence and confidence in meeting their children’s needs guides all of her work

ABA Applications in the Home  


Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) focuses on increasing appropriate behavior by breaking skills into small, teachable units and can be used to teach replacement behaviors in order to decrease maladaptive repertoires. ABA can be used across settings, especially in a child’s natural environment.


Presented by:

Leigh Grannan, M.S., BCBA has worked as a Board-Certified Behavior Analyst for 20 years. Specializing in providing therapy services to children with autism spectrum disorder, Leigh has worked in multiple settings including both clinic and home. She has focused on functional communication using picture exchange and developing independence in daily living skills including intensive toilet training.

Essential Executive Function Skills for Post-Secondary Education Demands


This one-hour course will describe executive dysfunction in students with autism spectrum disorder as it applies to self-regulation in academics. We will explore common accommodations and modifications for executive dysfunction often provided during high school, but which may or may not be provided in college.  Key executive functions and strategies that support transition to post-secondary education demands will be identified.


Presented by:

Jill Fahy, PhD, is the director of STEP (Students with Autism Transitional Education Program) and professor in the Department of Communication Disorders & Sciences at Eastern Illinois University. Ms. Fahy is a nationally well-known speaker on executive functions, co-author of two books and several articles on the assessment and treatment of executive dysfunction. She also teaches graduate courses in aphasia, right hemisphere dysfunction, EFs and cognition, and medical grand rounds.

About us

The Autism Program of Illinois (TAP) Service Network is a collaboration of 5 universities and 10 organizations that together operate 20 centers across the state. As a network, TAP is able to offer services that respond to the unique needs of different communities across Illinois.


The Autism Program of Illinois

Hope Pavilion
5220 S. 6th Street,
Suite 2300B

Springfield IL 62703