Categories > Conference Speakers

The ART of AUTISM Tour takes on Hollywood on May 19th! Keri Bowers – Advocate, Speaker, Seminar Leader, and Filmmaker – will host The ART of AUTISM, at the Barnsdall Gallery Theatre to celebrate the talents of individuals on the autism spectrum. Music, dance, drama, monologues, art, film, and great fun. Performers include: Arrest My Sister, The Miracle Fly Kids, Autism Movement Therapy Dancers, Taylor Cross, Diane Isaacs, Susan Sheller, Nick Guzman, Dani Bowman, Kennedy Moore, Ballet for All Kids, and more.

HEARTS AND ARTS AWARDS will be presented to Janet Grillo for her work in advocacy and film (Fly Away and Autism the Musical); Naomi Heller (posthumously) for 30 years of dedication to children with Special Needs (Founder Intercare Therapy, Inc.) and Susan Baukus, behaviorist, for her dedication to children with special needs.
Debbie Hosseni will share her book, ARTISM: The ART of AUTISM, published by Autism Today, and a couple of guests will win free books and films at the event. Come see Trevor Aykin’s spray art LIVE, and artist Joel Anderson will be there to sign books as well!

Tickets are 20 bucks, visit to purchase.

This event will make you laugh and cry. BRING TISSUE! for more information

The ART of AUTISM; Hollywood is principally sponsored by Intercare Therapy, Inc. with co-sponsorship by Autism Today, Debbie Hosseini, and


What can I say about Eustacia Cutler?  It is impossible to know Temple Grandin‘s story without intuitively knowing the strength, the dogged determination of the woman who never gave up on her daughter.  Even if you knew nothing of Eustacia, her background, her own beautiful telling of her story, A Thorn in My Pocket, you would know her through Temple.   And if you talk to Temple, you learn how much Temple herself is the product of an ethical, and maternal act of faith, in Temple’s inherent worth, autism and all.  At a time science would have instructed her to abandon her child to an institution, she embarked on a deeply personal equivalent of the Apollo mission, sacrificing her own ambitions (which were many for a Harvard-educated young woman of the 50s), and focusing on Temple’s potential.  How richly that journey has paid off – for Temple, and for all of us.

Temple Grandin honored her mother so beautifully at the Emmy Awards.  Even those not entirely familiar with the autism story, or even the movie Temple Grandin, remember the moment when the lady in the cowboy gear brandished an Emmy statuette and gave her mom a shout out.  It was an electrifying moment for autism moms.  Those tributes to Eustacia Cutler have continued to flow since the Emmys.  I wanted to be sure everyone has seen this one. In it, Julia Ormand, the actress who played Eustacia in the HBO movie, gives Eustacia her Emmy statuette at a conference last November.  Noting that Eustacia had once hoped to be an actress, Ormand jokes that Eustacia can use the Emmy as a door stop.  But then, unscripted, Ormand says: “I want you to have it for all the doors you have opened.  I want you to have it for the thing you let go – that you gave to me.”

See video of Eustacia’s Tribute to all mothers

Ormand’s explanation of an autism mom’s sacrifices is a restatement of a code we all are familiar with, as autism moms.  ”This mother met the challenges of motherhood with such courage.  She did not attempt to be her kid’s best friend.  She said ‘I’m here to give you boundaries.  I’m here to do the tough stuff so you can walk through life empowered.”  Eustacia, in accepting the award, drives the point home.  ”This is for all the mothers who work in silence.  Autism is a family disorder — everyone is affected.”

Eustacia, thank you for joinning us in Vancouver.  We can’t wait to welcome our favorite mom – and to be warmed by your triumph.

Dear friends,
Welcome to this special Autism Vancouver edition of the Autism Today newsletter.  In just two weeks, I will stand up at a podium at the magnificent Vancouver Convention Centre, on the harborfront of one of Canada’s most beautiful cities, and open our 3rd Biennial Behavioral and Biomedical Congress.  I am thrilled by how far we’ve come since our first Biennial Congress.  And imagine our speaker line-up: Temple Grandin’s mom, Eustacia Cutler; Sheila Wagner of Emory University, one of America’s top autism educators; Dr. Bill Shaw, CEO of Great Plains Laboratories, and one of the top advisors to health professionals on the biomedical aspects of ASDs; popular behavioral experts like Stephen Shore and Doreen Granpeesheh; and many others.

I won’t kid you – it’s not easy to combine the true believers from either the purely behavioral or purely biomedical schools of thought at a single event.  Some people feel deeply antagonized by the mere suggestion that both sides could have something to teach us.  Some speakers don’t like the format, some families and teachers don’t understand it.  And imagine trying to explain the significance of such a happening to the mainstream media!  But at Autism Today, we are deeply focused on empowering individuals – people with autism spectrum disorders and their families – on the most complex, personal journey they will face – the path of emergence (some even say, “recovery” and even, “cure”).

The argument over how to define a fulfilled, fully expressed life is as varied and endless as the human race.  Our job, as we see it at Autism Today, is to equip each person and his or her family with information about every legitimate tool they might use to find their own way.  There are not top-down answers in autism.  It’s not only grass roots; it’s deep in the soil.  Success depends in part on a willingness to get dirty!  And on some level, love that process.  Watch the HBO movie about Temple Grandin, or listen to painter Keri Bowers describe her work with her son Taylor Cross, literally spending hours, dipping him bodily into paints, and creating art, or listen to almost any narrative of successful intervention, and you learn – it’s a hands-on process.

Autism Vancouver is still two weeks away.  But it is not too early to give thanks to our champions who will make this such a special event.  None of this could happen without a dedicated staff and the support of our Autism Today friends and family.  We especially wish to thank Keri Bowers, founder of Normal Films, and director of Normal People Scare Me, Debbie Hosseini, author of our newest title, Artism: The Art of Autism – both tireless champions of the arts as a vehicle of emergence — Kelly Lebrock, who has donated her star power and agreed to act as honorary hostess of our Gala, and Diana Graling, of Helms-Briscoe, whose invaluable logistical counsel is helping us to run a tight ship in Vancouver.

For those unable to join us in Vancouver, I hope you won’t mind this special Congress edition of the Autism Today newsletter.  Please remember we will be broadcasting segments of the Congress via webcast every day of the Congress, April 7-9, and for those who wish to experience the complete program, we will make this available in DVD for purchase.

Soon, we will have the capacity in place to make all of our programming available by live webcast, so you can enjoy and benefit from it without the expense of travel, and in the company of family, students or colleagues.  Keep an eye on our newsletters for announcements about these enhancements to our program offerings.

Thank you again for your friendship and support.

Warm regards,

You’re invited to join us for a Special Live Webcast on March 14th, 2011 presented by renowned Dr. Doreen Granpeesheh on Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA): A Flexible and Affordable Intervention for Autism! This web-cast is being brought to you from Autism Today and is Absolutely FREE! With the 3rd Autism Vancouver Biennial Congress just around the corner we’re extremely excited to give you this no-cost gift featuring one of our amazing event speakers.

The Live FREE Webcast Details are Listed Below:

Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA): A Flexible and Affordable Intervention for Autism
Dr. Doreen Granpeesheh, Executive Director and Founder of the Centers for Autism and Related Disorder (CARD)

March 14th, 6pm PST / 7pm MTN / 8pm CST / 9pm EST

The webcast can be viewed at the following URL:

As you know, Doreen is one of the world’s leading ABA practitioners and will be a featured speaker at the Autism Vancouver Biennial Congress, this coming April 7-9 2011!

What you will learn on the Live Webcast…

Internationally-renowned pioneer of Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA), Dr. Doreen Granpeesheh, provides a practical, informative introduction to this powerful treatment methodology. Widely practiced in North America, intensive ABA has been scientifically proven effective as a means of improving social and intellectual function in pre-schoolers.  Dr. Granpeesheh will also explain how  online tools and services now enable parents and educators to apply ABA more affordably and conveniently.

See you there!

Based on my book, Surrounded by Miracles

When I woke up, I couldn’t believe the pain shuddering through my entire body.  I wanted to die.  But wait, where was the baby?  I knew I was pregnant and that I had just delivered a beautiful baby boy, but he was nowhere in sight?  As I glanced out the window I noticed the grass was green, but just yesterday snow had covered every square inch of the landscape.  How could this be?  As my nurses came into focus, as well as the faces of my husband and mother, a story began to unfold as miraculous as those angels that surrounded me. They began to tell me what had happened during the past 57 days. I had almost died, was given a 1% chance to live, and was even read my last rites, but I had somehow managed to live again, against all odds.

Yes, I had survived, and so had my son.  But our real story was just beginning. My new baby, Alex, was soon to be diagnosed with ADHD.  His brother Jonathan, my two-and-a-half year-old, had just been diagnosed with autism.  It was a double-whammy!  Along with these two special boys and so many children like them, I had survived for a reason that would soon become very clear.

Where a life starts and why it starts again is the question every survivor faces. My story actually began fifty-three years ago when I was born in Oklahoma City.  Six years later our modest family of four packed up and moved to Florida where I grew up, from one hurricane season to the next.  This must be the reason for my attraction to high-energy people and my fearlessness, which both have served me well.
Dad had his own aeronautical engineering company, and mom worked for Pan Am Airlines, so my sister and I got to travel the world at an early age.  I loved the picturesque, quaint communities and the unique perspective others had in the many different cultures I visited.  I remember one woman in Ratnapura, Sri Lanka, being totally content sitting on top of a pile of rocks and breaking the big rocks into little rocks.  That’s what she did all day long and she had the biggest grin on her face I’d ever seen!  This is also where I fell in love with gemstones, which would become one of my callings in life.

After graduating from high school I attended college in north Florida and then decided to join the U.S. Air Force where I was stationed in Panama City, Florida. But four years was more than enough time for me to realize that the military life was not for me, so I received an honorable discharge and enrolled in the Gemological Institute of America in Santa Monica, California to become a Graduate Gemologist. Upon graduation I started a company in Bellevue Washington.  I later sold the company when, at age thirty-one, I met my current husband and moved to his home in Canada where I set up a jewelry store called The Gem Gallerie.

Jim and I had a wonderful life together. When I was younger, I would never have thought I wanted children, but at age thirty-four, Jim and I began our large, happy family.  We had our first three children in three consecutive years, one right after the other. I had my fourth child, Jonathan, when I was thirty-nine years old. He was rather quiet from the start, which was fine with me since I had three other kids in diapers.  I never noticed anything was different.  How could I?  Kim, Matt, and Christina consumed all of my energy, and I was still running the jewelry store.  Jonathan, I thought, was the perfect baby.  He would lie quietly in his crib, apparently perfectly content with the world.  In fact he didn’t really like to be held much.

It was my sister-in-law, Anna, who insisted that Jim and I get Jonathan evaluated for autism after she happened to listen to a radio talk show on the subject. How could I have known he was autistic?  I didn’t even know what autism was or what symptoms I should be looking for.  This was 1992 and autism was still relatively new territory, even for specialists.  It turned out that Jonathan did have autism and I was told to bring him back in a year, when he would be three-and-a-half years old.

For the next two years I met with special needs counselors and teachers who helped us work with Jonathan and I attended special needs conferences all across Canada.   We also went on to have our fifth child, Stephen, who was perfectly healthy. We thought we had faced our major hurdle in life and had come through it together as family.  We never guessed what lay ahead.

On April 18, 1994, I checked into the hospital for what I thought would be another routine childbirth like all the others. I was ready to deliver what would be our sixth and—though we didn’t know it at the time—last child. I had had a typical, healthy pregnancy.  I expected to go home in a couple of days and resume our busy, fun-filled life together.  But just minutes after Alex was born, I started to hemorrhage.  Nothing could be done to stop the bleeding.  What happened in the next 57 days was an unimaginable fight for my life. My family, friends, doctors, and nurses tried everything to pull me through—including a few “wild” schemes to get through to me in my comatose state.  It was ultimately just a few words from my husband that, unknown to him, gave me an ironclad will to live and to return to my family.  His words still ring in my ears.

“Don’t worry, honey.  I’ll take care of the kids”

After I woke up from my near-death experience, or “back-to-life experience” as I like to call it, one thing after another began to happen.  I had an internal drive and relentless passion first to write a book for my autistic son, Jonathan, called Little Rainman so he could understand his own autism as well as the people and the world around him.  I had six children at home at the time, so it’s not like I had extra time on my hands!  In fact every spare moment went into my urge to share my experiences with Jonathan with the world.

Shortly after the book was published I started a non-profit organization.  I would wake up in the middle of the night with visions of what this would be and the words “Key Enrichment for Exceptional Needs” would appear in my head.  In 1996 the KEEN Education Foundation was born as a driving force behind the effort to serve not only autism but also all types of special needs. Today, KEEN continues to support the educational goals of people with exceptionalities by providing them with the tools, research, and resources they need to thrive.
After this I started Autism Today, a small company that became the exclusive Canadian distributor for the worlds largest publisher of autism books and resources at the time.  I attended conferences and workshops to learn as much as I could about autism and special needs.  We’ve now grown from a simple one-computer, home-based business to an international organization that receives close to three million hits a month on our website,  Parents, educators, and more come to us for resources, coaching, and the latest news and articles from the top experts in the field. When baby Alex was diagnosed with ADHD, I expanded Autism Today to offer information and resources for the parents and educators of all special needs children.

Looking back now, I believe that breaking open my own rocks to see shining gems emerge from what look like only rough stones has always been part of what makes me smile as well–even today–only the stones have changed. What we experience when we are young and what we gravitate to as we grow is preparing us for everything life has in store for us.  Our new banner headline for Autism Today is “Shining New Light on Special Needs.”

As far as surviving, I suppose it is only in looking back at where we’ve been that those meaningful patterns start to emerge.  A new phase in my life is starting Healing Attitudes Seminars, which redefine perfection to share the secrets of the survivor’s story with others who have been there and for those who realize there will always be challenges in the road ahead.  In one way or another, we all are or at some point will be survivors. Here are just seven of the secrets I have learned and now develop and share with others through this program:
What doesn’t kill us makes us stronger–for a reason.

We all teach what we need to learn most, and by doing so everyone’s life is enhanced.
We all have special needs—some are just more obvious than others.  Do what you can to help others heal.
At any given moment, choose peace rather than conflict, love and acceptance rather than fear, and compassion and understanding rather than guilt and judgment.

Practice empathic listening and hearing your own inner, intuitive voices as well as  “true” voices of others.
Transcend all “types” of spirituality to embrace and teach the underlying message of love.
Bring others “up” to shine, acknowledging each person’s special gifts–the beauty and the hope.

I am certainly no angel, but I feel to the very depth of my being that I’m surrounded by miracles.

Karen Simmons is the parent of six children, ages 10 to 20, two of whom have special needs.  She is the founder and CEO of the internationally recognized Autism Today© non-profit organization, established in 1998, one of the world’s leading resources for all special needs, both online and at numerous conferences and events worldwide.

Karen is also the author of four celebrated books, including her soon to be re-released survivor’s story, Surrounded by Miracles.  Currently based in Alberta, Canada, Karen is a dual citizen of the U.S. and Canada, which gives her and her organization a uniquely expansive network with the special needs community worldwide. For more information about Karen’s Healing Attitudes around Special Needs Seminars, her books, and other special needs resources, please visit

caseI just went to a conference in Edmonton Alberta hosted by the Children’s Autism Services of Edmonton. It was a refreshing break to get to attend this event at my leisure and network from the many parents and professionals that frequented our Autism Today booth. Parents came up to me and thanked me for the emails we send and while I know we do communicate quite frequently with our audience, she assured me that she felt it was the right thing for us to do. She said “I get so bogged down with my regular life and lose track of where I am in relation to my kids, work and in between that its quite refreshing to receive your emails”. Gaining the perspective as an exhibitor also is great, especially for our upcoming exhibitors and sponsors. Because of this we have chosen to have all our exhibitors in our main presentation room instead of being tucked back away from the attendees. We’re even thinking of other unique ways our sponsors and exhibitors can reach the people that need them the most.

The most fun was to meet many parents and professionals I already knew like my own sons doctors. When Temple recognized my first book, Little Rainman, in front of close to 1,000 people, Jonnys doctor recalled with pride his smiling face and of course his challenges too. I reconnected with my friends, Amy Weatherby, where I co-presented in St. John, New Brunswick along with Emily Rubin and the late Peter Zwack from Montreal. I remember the tides as they went up and down. I never knew that St. John, New Brunswick was world renowned for the greatest tide shifting in the world until that conference.

Temple and I also reconnected and she gave us the rights to give away her presentations for free. I know our members and people associated with Autism Today will gain so much from this tremendous gift she is sharing with the world. Watch for some new streaming video in the near future. Another buddy of mind, Diane Twachtman-Cullen joined me for dinner and cocktails the last day of the conference. Diane, whom I’ve known for many years, is coming out with a brand new IEP (IPP in Canada) book that covers autism and other special needs. I feel this book has been a long time coming. Diane is an amazing woman who has helped so many parents and teachers in so many ways. Through the work we as women have done both together and individually, each in our own unique ways, we endeavor to make the world a friendlier happier place for people with autism. The challenge of money for research, ignorance, and the loneliness and heartbreak of children who become adults, abandoned by family and society, because they did not get interventions must be overcome. It is bigger than all of us combined. As parents and professionals, we should all work hard to work together. Though we fight the battle as parents and professionals day in and day out we will get a lot farther if we are unified in our approach

I am proud to live in the Edmonton, Alberta area which is the best province in the autism world to support Pervasive Development Disorder policy. Mary Ann Sinclair is a wonderful advocate and director in their field. Canada is awesome and certainly progressive. Talk about how municipalities and states in US are facing gigantic crunch, and victims will be ASD people, and others with disability.  Non-profits are really important in this capacity.  That’s why I started the KEEN Education Foundation in 1996 in Canada.

Dan Burton at Autism One Conference 2003


Autism One, what an awesome group they are. I remember when we covered Dan Burton  through Autism Today Magazine. That was so interesting and it was wonderful to be able to offer online attention to the issues Dan brought up. Autism One is doing some exciting things with social media that we look forward to sharing in the near future. This community belongs to all of us. Its about helping everyone on the planet understand and support children with autism. There is no such thing as a rolodex anymore, there are just relationships with the people in our community and connecting everybody to the resources they need.

As my son, Jonathan enters the next phase of his life, so do I and so many other parents with children in the autism Tsunami. In the next decade the world will begin to burst at the seams in so many different areas which is why William Davis and I wrote our most recent book “Autism Tomorrow” so parents and professionals can begin to answer the questions of where will my child live, what will my child do when he or she grows up. Not that I have a crystal ball, however, it doesn’t take a mental giant to figure out that we will urgently need people worldwide who are trained to work with people on the autism spectrum. We will also need employment and work force training. Big corporations have got to step up big time to meet the demands of our future children. I do know that Walgreens is already making accommodations to fit those with special needs into their work force. Other companies, especially high tech ones like Microsoft, always are on the lookout for graduates with Asperger syndrome and high functioning autism because they have an innate gift to focus on certain areas thereby developing core strengths. We are on the brink of publishing a new book showcasing the magnificent artwork by those on the autism spectrum including Dr. Temple Grandin. What is needed now is a movement to brag about our people on the spectrum and even offer a training manual for employers so future employers know their core strengths and challenges so they can not let detriments get in the way of hiring the best talent.  We will be starting a corporate training program to help people on the autism spectrum and their potential employers so that both employees and employers have a better understanding of each other in the future.

Be sure to stay tuned to and of course, 

Karen Simmons

Eustacia Cutler

Eustacia Cutler is the mother of four children. Her oldest child is Temple Grandin, who has become a successful person with autism in the world today. Eustacia is a graduate of Harvard. She has been a band singer at the Pierre Hotel, New York City, performed and written for theatre and cabaret, and written for major television networks.

Her current book, “A Thorn in My Pocket” describes raising Temple in the conservative world of the 1950′s.

Dr. Temple Grandin

Eustacia was one of the first to tread new water as she overcame the difficulties of “challenging the system”. Like every parent and teacher, she wanted the best for her child. She understands the myth, reality, angst, and guilt a family experiences in society. She is where you will be in the future: looking back on the things you did to help you.

When the “system” is not meeting the needs of your child, you must be creative and design your own program. Piece by piece, you and your child can develop a meaningful, interrelated reality.

Hear Eustacia Cutler speak at this extraordinary upcoming event, the 3rd Autism Vancouver Biennial Congress 2011, April 8 – 9, 2011, Vancouver BC. Register early and Reserve your seat today!

We are looking for a limited number of enthusiastic and energetic volunteers to distribute fliers and posters throughout the entire Vancouver area!

We will be screening the first 50 volunteers that reply. Volunteers can be organizations or individuals who have an interest in advocating for the autism community and its increased awareness in education.

Volunteers will receive free registrations to the conference!

Join us at the Autism Vancouver Biennial Congress 2011 April 8th – 9th 2011!

Autism Through the Lifespan, featuring the Autism Expo & Market, will feature 18 plus of the world’s foremost autism experts speaking on topics covering the full range of everything that you must know about Autism Spectrum Disorders Across the Lifespan.

This theme reflects the reality that autism spectrum disorders present an evolving set of personal, familial, societal, and therapeutic issues as affected individuals pass from infancy, childhood through adolescence, adulthood, and finally old age.

Adopting a life-span perspective is a fundamental requirement for developing a set of comprehensive services to individuals and families who are dealing with Autism Spectrum Disorder.

This 2 day event assembles leading experts on autism spectrum disorders. Speakers include:
– Jerry Newport
– Dr. Stephen Shore
– Keri Bowers
– Bill Davis
– Julie Matthews
– Tasreen Alibhai
– David Kirby
– Dr. Bill Shaw
– Eustacia Cutler (Temple Grandin’s Mom)

Speakers will focus on ways to improve the quality of life for those affected by autism and the families, caregivers, and professionals by conducting presentations in the areas of:
– Behavioral and Biomedical Interventions
– Adjunct Therapies
– Social Skills Training
– Diet and Nutrition
– Family Issues

Please contact Susan Simmons at for details.