Agenda Coming Soon

Our Wonderful HOST - Sarah Cody - WTNH 8 News

For more than 20 years, Sarah Cody has been sharing stories about interesting places and inspiring people throughout Connecticut.


Sarah is the weekend morning anchor at News 8. She also produces and reports two weekly segments, 8 Things To Do This Weekend and Connecticut Families. She loves meeting folks around the state who advocate for their kids while raising awareness about important topics. 


Widening her repertoire, Sarah just wrote a book called Around Every Corner of Connecticut, which includes travel information for those of all abilities.  The book will be out in late summer!  She often participates in events with Benhaven, Autism Services & Resources Connecticut and ACES.  She’s honored to be here today.


Sarah lives on Connecticut’s gorgeous shoreline and enjoys combing the beaches with her husband, Paul, sons Sam and Ben, and rescue dogs, Lucy and Jack.

Sarah Cody
Anchor & Reporter
8 Elm Street
New Haven, CT 06510
FB: @sarah.cody.10
Insta & Twitter: @sarahcodymedia

Speaker Workshops

Focus Autism Spectrum Unplugged Panel (Self Advocates) with special guest Chase Taylor

Alan Taylor
Autism Dad and ACT Jams Productions, president

Pay it Forward Panel

Alan Taylor, loving husband of Helen Taylor and father of Chad and Chase Taylor ( a 24 year-old young man on the autism spectrum).  Alan, along with Helen, is the founder of the Western Connecticut Autism Speaks Walk which raised over $1,000,000 in 10 years.  The walk was garnered by Autism Speaks as an example of a successful community-engaged walk event and was duplicated with other walk events. Alan has also received many community awards.

Al is the president of ACT Jams Productions — with the mission of “Keeping Great Music Alive!” – and is the founder and chairman of the Brass City Jazz Fest since its 2018 inaugural event in Waterbury, Conn.

Al also is producer of the syndicated weekly radio program “The Groove Show” that airs on Smooth Jazz/ New York, 102.5 FM WJTI Smooth Jazz/Milwaukee, Smooth Jazz/, 100.7 FM The Wave Daytona, and more.

Al is an artist consultant, host, and producer of contemporary jazz concerts and assistance producer for CD101.9 New York.

He also has co-produced the Boscov’s Berks Jazz Fest Al Taylor’s Artist Spotlight in the Cheers Lounge – and has hosted Chris “Big Dog” Davis-produced concerts since 2019.

Christine Faressa Sun, Moon & Stars - President and Chairman of the Board

Forum Committee and Pay it Forward Panel

Christine Faressa became the founder of Sun, Moon & Stars in January 2016 when she established the Supper Club as a way for families with children on the autism spectrum to an enjoy dinner at a local restaurant. Supper quickly grew into support groups and activities for families. 

Christine’s son, who was diagnosed with Autism as a toddler, continues to be her driving passion as she seeks to create a bright future for him and other children on the Autism Spectrum. Her collaborative nature and determination have resulted in enhancing hundreds of lives through in-person events and activities, such as support groups, adaptive soccer and basketball, pumpkin picking, holiday parties, hiking, art, martial arts, and the Starfish Swim Club — an adaptive swim safety program for children with ASD taught by Swim Angelfish-trained instructors.

In 2020, SMS established Project Puzzle Piece (PPP), a fundraiser highlighting Autism Awareness Month (April) and designating a beneficiary. In the past, 100% of campaign proceeds have benefited Watertown Unified Sports, the SMS Reaching 4 the Stars Scholarship, and the Jumpin’ Jacks playground sign. In 2023, PPP funds provided sensory kits and training to the Watertown PD. 

Christine collaborates with local businesses for special events as well as evergreen fundraisers and products.

She has served as an Advocacy Ambassador for Autism Speaks, has volunteered for dozens of committees and is currently serving on the Watertown Schools Board of Education. 

She has a masters’ degree in business administration with a certificate in financial management for non-profits. She has extensive sales and marketing experience with almost 3 decades in medical device sales, and lives in Watertown with her husband, Mark and son, Domenic.

Beth Lambert, M.S. BCBA, LBA

Pay it Forward Panel

Beth is a retired Board Certified Behavior Analyst and Licensed Behavior Analyst (CT and NY)
who has a decade of experience working with autistic students ages 3 to 16. 

She received her
Master of Science degree from Central Connecticut State University and completed her Graduate Certificate in Applied Behavior Analysis at the University of Saint Joseph. Beth taught middle school language arts and math for ten years before taking a break from her career to raise her sons, one of whom is on the autism spectrum. Beth is a past President of Connecticut Families
for Effective Treatment (CT FEAT).

Jeff Forte, Esq. , Forte Group Law, LLC

Making Sense of Connecticut’s New IEP, Page by Page and Pay it Forward Panel

The Connecticut State Department of Education implemented a new IEP form and data collection system. Special education attorney Jeffrey Forte, JD of Forte Law Group will walk you through the new form, page by page, and explain what you need to know to be a knowledgeable member of your child’s PPT team.

Jeff Forte, Esq. is a special education attorney, juvenile defense attorney, certified child advocate and founding partner of Forte Law Group LLC. Forte Law Group is one of only a very few law firms within the state of Connecticut that is dedicated to exclusively representing families and children with special needs. Our firm handles your child’s PPT meetings, mediations, and due process actions against your child’s school district. For more information visit or listen to our podcast LetsTalkSpedLaw.

Forte Group Law, LLC is also a Social Chase Good Sport Sponsor

Donna Swanson MSN, CS, APRN is the founder and executive director for FOCUS Center for Autism

Pay it Forward Panel

Donna Swanson MSN, CS, APRN is the founder and executive director for FOCUS Center for Autism as well as the Chief Administrator of the Fresh Start School. Donna has over 45 years of experience in nursing and human services and has a RN from Hartford School of Nursing, a BS in Psychology from Southern Connecticut State University and a MSN in Psychiatric Nursing from the University of Saint Joseph. She received her APRN certification from Hartford Hospital and is a member of the American Nurses’ Association and certified by that organization as a Clinical Nurse Specialist in Child and Adolescent Psychiatric Nursing.


As founder and executive director of FOCUS Center for Autism, Donna manages all residential, clinical and educational programs. She is also the creator and moderator for the FOCUS Autism Spectrum Unplugged Panel, which through its presentations provides hope and inspiration to individuals, families and service providers of the autism community.


James C. McPartland, Ph.D

The Benefits of Autism Research

James C. McPartland, Ph.D., is the Harris Professor of Child Psychiatry and Psychology at the Yale Child Study Center. He is a child psychologist and Director of the Yale Developmental Disabilities Clinic. 

Dr. McPartland is also a Director of the Yale Center for Brain and Mind Health, Co-Director of Team Science at the Yale Center for Clinical Investigation, Director of Undergraduate Studies at the Child Study Center, and the Principal Investigator of the Autism Biomarkers Consortium for Clinical Trials, a US-based effort to identify biological markers to support intervention research in autism. 

Dr. McPartland’s research group investigates the brain basis of autism to develop new ways to improve diagnosis, treatment, and, ultimately, the quality of life for autistic people and their families. Dr. McPartland has published 6 books and over 200 scholarly works on autism and related topics and is active in public scientific communication, with his clinical and research activities featured in media, such as the A&E series, The Employables, and news outlets, such as the New York Times. He currently chairs the Scientific Advisory Board of the Autism Science Foundation.

Julie Swanson

The 10 Areas of Life Skills and How to Incorporate them into Your Child's IEP. ​

Life skills are widely recognized to be a major predictor for improving quality of life and increasing independence for individuals with autism.   We need life skills to meet the demands of everyday life, yet too many vital life skills for our students.  

About Julie

Join Julie Swanson, The Life Skills Lady, and learn about the 10 areas of life skills and how you can incorporate them into your child’s IEP.  You’ll also receive Julie’s life skills cheat sheets to help you advocate for your child in your IEP team meetings.

Julie Swanson is the parent of an adult with autism and a special education advocate.  Her career as an advocate grew out of her own advocacy efforts for her son.  

She is the founder of, a website devoted to the critical link between life skills and improved outcomes in autism and other disabilities.  Julie is also the author of Your Special Education Rights: What Your School District Isn’t Telling and the companion website, a video-based website that helps parents understand their rights under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. 

You can follow Julie @lifeskillslady on all social media.

Walt Glomb

Beyond the PPT: Life After High School - How will your autistic child live after high school?

Walter Glomb is the Executive Director of the Connecticut Council on Developmental Disabilities and dad to Nick, an adult who lives with Down syndrome. For more than three decades Walt has advocated for the full inclusion of individuals who live with developmental disabilities in school and community. He has served the Connecticut Down Syndrome Congress and on numerous state boards, councils and committees. Walt earned his Bachelor of Science from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Master of Science from Colorado State University.

Grace Clark - S.O.A.R founder

Pay it Forward Panel

Grace Clark is a proud wife and mother of three young adults, including her youngest son who has inspired her advocacy work in the autism arena for two decades. 

She is founder of S.O.A.R. (Spectrum Opportunities in Arts and Recreation), a program for youth and young adults with autism; has been the keynote speaker at the Connecticut State Capitol for Autism Awareness Day; and given numerous talks on the topic in the news media and presentations at events. 

A native of Kingston, Jamaica, Grace is also a broadcast-print journalist who has written her own column about autism for the Hartford Courant, Journal Inquirer and Northend Agent’s newspapers. Grace is also a stage actress and director, and is currently developing children’s books and other creative projects to highlight autism voices and stories. She thanks The Social Chase and Helen for her support and the opportunity to share her experience on this life journey.

Lisa Candera
The Autism Mom Coach

What is Self Care, Anyway?

In this interactive presentation, Lisa Candera (aka the Autism Mom Coach) will teach you the difference between real and faux self care and provide you with 3 tangible tips and strategies you can implement immediately with minimal time and at no cost. 

Bye bye bubble baths and pricey massages, hello REAL self care.

Lisa Candera (aka The Autism Mom Coach) is a full-time single mother of a teenage son with severe Autism and OCD, certified life and grief coach for moms raising kids with Autism, creator of the Resilient Autism Mom Program (RAMP), host of The Autism Mom Coach podcast, and the Chief Compliance Officer of Cigna Investments, Inc.

In RAMP (her 1:1 coaching program), Lisa teaches moms of children with Autism how to fight like hell for their children, without burning out.  She does this by teaching her clients how to conquer the Autism Mom Big 3: Stress, Anxiety and Burnout, so that they can go the distance for their child.

Lisa also serves as a board member of Sun, Moon and the Stars, Inc., a Connecticut-based non-profit for Autism families and writes a column for the Autism Services and Resources Connecticut’s monthly newsletter.

To connect with Lisa and learn more about her coaching program, start here:

To subscribe to Lisa’s weekly mailing list, so you can receive support in your inbox, go to and wait for the pop up.

To join the Resilient Autism Mom Facebook group, click here.

To schedule a complimentary consultation for Lisa’s 12 week coaching program, click here.

Darlene Borre
Microbusiness - Yes, they Can Do It.

Darlene Borre is a Vocational Innovator for the Microbusiness Program at Futures Inc where she develops individualized microbusinesses for young adults with intellectual disabilities.

She believes that an individual’s quality of life can be  improved through employment. Darlene received her BS at Ithaca College, her JD at New England Law School and her MSL at Vermont Law School.


Steven L .Rubin, Esq - Drazen and Rubin Law
ABLE accounts and Special Needs Trust

Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Agency on Aging of South-Central Connecticut, Past President of CTNAELA

Former board member of the Life Care Planning Law Firm Association.

A neurodiversity and special needs planner and advocate.  Attorney Rubin has a personal connection to the issues his clients face, having been a caregiver, advocate, and provider for his mother. She was diagnosed with ALS while he was in law school.

He graduated from the University of Connecticut with a Bachelor’s Degree in Political Science, and from Widener University School of Law in Pennsylvania. Attorney Rubin has passed the Bar in Connecticut, New York, and Florida and is a member of various professional organizations. His practice focuses on elder law, special needs planning, estate planning, estate administration/probate, Title XIX (Medicaid) planning/eligibility, as well as Life Care Planning. This includes business continuation, disability and trust planning/administration, and related tax matters. Office: 203-877-7511 245 Cherry Street, Milford, CT 06460

Dr. Nichole Collins
Self-Advocacy: Helping your loved one find their voice and use it effectively

Disability Services Dr. Nichole “Nickie” Collins comes to us with a B.S. in psychology from the University of Connecticut, a M.S. in behavior analysis from Northeastern University and a Ph.D. in Organizational Leadership from the Chicago School of Professional Psychology.

She is also a Licensed Behavior Analyst in the State of Connecticut and is a national Board Certified Behavior Analyst. Dr. Collins has dedicated her clinical work to supporting individuals with neurodivergent profiles including those with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), acquired brain injury (ABI), executive function deficits, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and intellectual disabilities across school, clinic, home, and community-based settings. She believes that the science of behavior is a key part of a multidisciplinary understanding leading to effective support for individuals in meeting their goals and improve their quality of life.

Though Dr. Collins worked with preschool and elementary age students in her early career, life and professional opportunities have led her to thrive for the advancement of collaborative support for adult populations. She served as the clinical supervisor of a large adult services organization where she guided teams through the development of a system wide Positive Behavior Support framework and behavior analytic practices to provided better support for staff and individuals they served. She later went on to develop a line of services that supported older teens and adults with ASD and ABI in the state for individual supports and group social supports.

Dr. Collins is a PEERS® certified instructor which has allowed her to provide social skill instruction to adolescents and adults to help them build meaningful relationships in their own communities. She has guided her team to implement this specialized curriculum to reach individuals across the State of Connecticut. Additionally, Dr. Collins has received training in Charting the Life Course framework to improve person-center planning in supporting individual care planning. Dr. Collins has professionally presented to a wide range of stakeholders including ASD Waiver for CT-DSS, various school systems across CT, state-based conferences in CT and MA, and at national conferences such as NARMH and ABAI.

She has also worked as an adjunct professor at the University of Saint Joseph. Dr. Collins maintains memberships in Brain Injury Alliance of Connecticut, Association of Behavior Analysis International, and various local behavior analytic groups. Dr. Collins enjoys diversity in her professional and private life. She enjoys spending time with her 2 daughters, her husband, her 4 dogs, and her menagerie of farm animals. She completed her program at the Connecticut Culinary Institute in 2009 and is the co-founder of Small Town Pride- CT with one of her children in 2022. Nichole D Collins [email protected] [email protected]

Casey Brophy / Transcend ABA Benefits of ABA therapy for families

Transcend ABA is a non for profit ABA company that was started by families that had children with autism. They are focused on providing services that help families as a whole.Jessica is one of our dedicated BCBA’s who has been working with Transcend as a behavior technician and then as a BCBA. She works tirelessly to ensure that her clients, family and staff are receiving the services and support they need.Casey is one of our Program Managers who has been working in the field for several years. She is passionate about supporting families and staff.Our website is

Wendy Tyson-Wood

Hello, I am Wendy Tyson-Wood, a motivational speaker, trainer, and small business technical assistance coach. I own a 8a certified Small Business and work with City, State, and Federal agencies in both corporate and non-profit industries. 

I hold a Bachelor of Science Degree in Accounting with Master level courses. In addition, I possess 40 years of professional experience in Accounting, Finance, Information Technology and Community Engagement. My work is fueled by my dedication to civil rights advocacy and community engagement. 

I strongly believe in the significance of every individual’s voice. Furthermore, I currently hold a leadership position as the NAACP Greater Waterbury Branch President (Adult Branch). Please reach out to me for further insights into my professional journey