Autism Symposium

October 21, 2021


Virtual Zoom Event

About the Autism Symposium


The Rockland Autism Symposium is administered by the Venture Foundation, LTD, with many thanks to our founder John A. Murphy, our premier sponsor, Inna and Josh Needelman of Mindworks Charitable Trust, and Alison Singer, of the Autism Science Foundation whose generous effort and support, helps keep the Symposium running.

Any net proceeds are used to enhance programs or services provided to individuals with developmental disabilities, including Creative Arts, and Recreational Sports such as adaptive basketball,  swimming, and field sports.


Our format this year will be ≈40-minute presentations (≈30 minutes on the topic + ≈10 minutes on Q&A) on four distinct topics by our guest speakers, each renowned in their field. The four topics intend to provide viewers with knowledge, insights, and useful tools to help cope with the current-normal caused by the pandemic.

The following professionals will be presenting at the Symposium:

Online Registration Opens on October 1st

  • There is no fee for the 2021 Symposium, due to the “virtual venue” and as always, the generosity of our Premier sponsors – MindWorks.
  • The registration will remain open through the day of the event.
  • This event will be recorded and available for viewing on this website by November 4th.
  • The presenter’s contact information will be provided on this site, post-event, for additional questions that may arise.

Speaker Presentations for the 2020 RAS Webinar and the 2019 Slide Shows are available, please click below. Check back in November for access to the 2021 presentations.

Symposium Schedule

8:00 AM

Zoom login opens

8:00 AM

9:00 - 9:10 AM

Welcome & Opening Remarks

Bill Schule
Executive Director, Venture Foundation

9:00 - 9:10 AM

9:10 - 9:50 AM

“Stopping the COVID-19 Pandemic”

Paul A. Offit, MD
Director, Vaccine Education Center, Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, Professor of Pediatrics, University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine

9:10 - 9:50 AM

9:50 - 10:30 AM

“Using Mobile Technology to Help Families Detect Autism Earlier and Improve Their Child’s Outcomes”

Amy Wetherby
PhD, CCC-SLP – Distinguished Research Professor of Clinical Sciences, College of Medicine, Florida State University
Director, Autism Institute, Florida State University College of Medicine

9:50 - 10:30 AM

10:30 - 11:20 AM

“Making SENSE of Issie Senses – Beit Issie Shapiro’s Multi-Sensory Environments (Snoezelen) Methodology”

Ongi Kaplan-Gal
OT, MA Child Development, Beit Issie Shapiro

10:30 - 11:20 AM

11:20 - 11:45 PM

“How New York State Government is Helping the I/DD Community: A Bipartisan Legislative Update”

Senator Elijah Reichlin-Melnick and Assemblyman Mike Lawler
NY State Legislators

11:20 - 11:45 PM


Paul A. Offit, MD

Paul is the Director of the Vaccine Education Center at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia as well as the Maurice R. Hilleman Professor of Vaccinology and a Professor of Pediatrics at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania. Dr. Offit has published more than 160 papers in medical and scientific journals in the areas of rotavirus-specific immune responses and vaccine safety. He is also the co-inventor of the rotavirus vaccine, RotaTeq, recommended for universal use in infants by the CDC in 2006 and by the WHO in 2013. In 2009, Dr. Offit received the President’s Certificate for Outstanding Service from the American Academy of Pediatrics. In 2021, Dr. Offit was awarded the Edward Jenner Lifetime Achievement Award in Vaccinology from the 15th Vaccine Congress and was elected to the Baltimore Jewish Hall of Fame. Dr. Offit was a member of the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, is currently a member of the FDA’s Vaccine Advisory Committee, and is a founding advisory board member of the Autism Science Foundation and the Foundation for Vaccine Research. He is also the author of nine medical narratives: The Cutter Incident: How America’s First Polio Vaccine Led to Today’s Growing Vaccine Crisis (Yale University Press, 2005), Vaccinated: One Man’s Quest to Defeat the World’s Deadliest Diseases (HarperCollins, 2007), for which he won an award from the American Medical Writers Association, Autism’s False Prophets: Bad Science, Risky Medicine, and the Search for a Cure (Columbia University Press, 2008), Deadly Choices: How the Anti-Vaccine Movement Threatens Us All (Basic Books, 2011), Do You Believe in Magic?: The Sense and Nonsense of Alternative Medicine (HarperCollins, 2013), which won the Robert P. Balles Prize in Critical Thinking from the Center for Skeptical Inquiry and was selected by National Public Radio as one of the best books of 2013, Bad Faith: When Religious Belief Undermines Modern Medicine (Basic Books, 2015), which was selected by the New York Times Book Review as an “Editor’s Choice” book in April 2015, Pandora’s Lab: Seven Stories of Science Gone Wrong (National Geographic Press/Random House, April 2017), Bad Advice: Or Why Celebrities, Politicians, and Activists Aren’t Your Best Source of Health Information (Columbia University Press, June 2018), Overkill: When Modern Medicine Goes Too Far (HarperCollins, April, 2020), and You Bet Your Life: From Blood Transfusions to Mass Vaccinations—The Long and Risky History of Medical Innovations (Basic Books, in press).

Ongi Kaplan-Gal

Overview: Ongi is an Occupational Therapist with over 18 years of experience working with children with complex developmental disabilities and their families. She is the lead OT at BIS’s Early Intervention Center.

Ongi has a Bachelor’s Degree in Occupational Therapy from Tel Aviv University and a Master’s Degree in Child Development from the University of Haifa. 

Senator Elijah Reichlin-Melnick and Assemblyman Mike Lawler

State Senator Elijah Reichlin-Melnick represents the 38th State Senate district, which includes the towns of Clarkstown, Orangetown, and Ramapo in Rockland County and the town of Ossining in Westchester County. He was elected in November, 2020 and is currently serving his first term. He chairs the Senate Committee on Contracts & Procurement. 

Senator Reichlin-Melnick is a graduate of Nyack High School, Cornell University (B.A. double major in history and government), and Rutgers University (Master’s Degree in City & Regional Planning). Prior to his election to the State Senate, he was twice elected as a village trustee in the Village of Nyack and also served on the staff of several elected officials including State Senator James Skoufis (39th District), former Members of Congress Eliot Engel & Nita Lowey, and former Orangetown Town Supervisor Andy Stewart. 

Mike Lawler was elected to the New York State Assembly on November 3, 2020. His district is comprised of the southern portion of Rockland County. As an Assemblyman, Mike will work to reduce the state’s onerous tax burden, bring fiscal discipline to its budget, provide law enforcement with the resources needed to do its work, and craft legislation to improve public safety.

Prior to being elected to the Assembly, Mike served as Deputy Town Supervisor in Orangetown under Supervisor Teresa Kenny and previously worked in the Westchester County Executive’s Office as an advisor to Rob Astorino. In those roles, he gained invaluable experience dealing with issues ranging from crafting a disciplined budget to public policy and community outreach initiatives.  Previously, Mike served as Executive Director of the State Republican Party and has helped secure the election of candidates at federal, state, and local levels.

Amy M. Wetherby, Ph.D., CCC-SLP

Amy is a Distinguished Research Professor in the Department of Clinical Sciences and Director of the Autism Institute in the Florida State University College of Medicine and the Laurel Schendel Professor of Communication Disorders. She has over 40 years of clinical experience with Honors of the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association. Her research has focused on improving the early detection of autism and communication disorders and providing community-viable evidence-based early intervention for toddlers with autism and their families. She is the Executive Director of the Florida State University Center for Autism and Related Disabilities. She served on the National Academy of Sciences Committee for Educational Interventions for Children with Autism and on the DSM-5 Neurodevelopmental Workgroup of the American Psychiatric Association. As Director of the FIRST WORDS Project, she has extensive experience developing and implementing screening tools for ASD and communication delays in large population-based samples of children 9-24 months of age. She also has experience directing multisite RCTs. She is the lead investigator of an RCT that is part of the Emory Autism Center of Excellence to test the efficacy of teaching parents of infants with early signs of ASD how to embed evidence-based intervention strategies into everyday activities.

Krista Bilodeau

Krista, with an MS in Education, has been in the recreation field for 20+ years, and is the Director of Camp Venture’s Creative Arts & Recreation Department which is dedicated to making the arts and leisure activities available and accessible to the people we serve. Through painting, music, ceramics, theater, sports, swimming, and the incorporation of technology we strive to assist our participants with self-exploration and expression, as well as enhancing the quality of life by offering a wide variety of hobbies and leisure activities.  The Creative Arts Department brings our community of Venture artists, musicians, and actors to the greater Rockland County community by way of public art gallery showings, special presentations, and annual musical productions. Our participants also enjoy speaking within the community about their love of the arts and showing off their talents with the hope of creating meaningful relationships with community members through shared interests.  Venture also offers additional enhancement activities in a state-of-the-art technology center, a multi-sensory therapy room, an outdoor musical garden, and a newly renovated performance hall and theater.


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