Conference Session Information

Nobody Told Me About The Parents...

Presenter: Kathey Chvostal-Schmidt

Early Intervention Credit: 1.5 – Working With Families

Kathey Chvostal Schmidt is a child development specialist who works with at-risk families with babies and toddlers in an ISBE-funded Prevention Initiative program at the SPEED Early Learning Center in Chicago Heights. She has worked with families in many different stages of life including case management, service coordination, residential placement and early childhood education. She holds a master's degree in early childhood education and a bachelor's degree in social work. She is also an adjunct professor at Elmhurst College where she instills in future teachers that it's OK for young children to get messy. On the weekends when she isn't working at a library story time or coaching Special Olympics Young Athletes, she enjoys spending time with her granddaughter.


In early childhood preparation classes, we are taught several strategies to enhance the learning for our young students ages birth to five. We are given standards to mark their achievement and we write goals and objectives to ensure the students are doing their best. The one area which we do not get much assistance is in the area of working with the parents of the children we serve. How do you make those parent-teacher conferences and family consultations less stressful? How do we build the bridge between home and school that creates a successful educational experience for the student/teacher and child/family? Building the bridge between home and school starts in early intervention. Service providers work with parents at the very beginning of the road to establish a healthy working and trusting relationship with the family. Often the relationship that has been built in the early years of a child's education lends itself to how the parents and school personnel will interact in the future. Establishing a positive early relationship is only one vital step to a good working relationship with families. There are simple strategies that any teacher and service provider can use to work with parents that can create that working relationship with parents. We will examine these strategies and how you can use them to communicate with the families in your classrooms and on your caseloads.

Key Principles for Early Intervention: What Do They Look Like?

Presenter: Susan Connor, M.Ed.

Early Intervention Credit: .75 Intervention - .75 Working With Families

Susan Connor has 15 years experience working on behalf of young children and their families in the Part C Early Intervention system. Susan's educational background includes a Bachelor's Degree in Human Development and Family Studies with an emphasis on early childhood and a master's Degree in Early Childhood Special Education. Susan has worked in a variety of capacities at all levels of the EI system. Currently, Susan is a Regional Training Coordinator with the Illinois Early Intervention Training Program. Her responsibilities include planning, developing and disseminating learning opportunities for early interventionists statewide. Her professional interest currently include developing professional development opportunities that support interventionists in translating theory to practice, which interventionists will say is one of the hardest things to do. To this end, Susan has worked hard to maintain involvement at all levels of service delivery – from training and consultation to working in the natural environment with caregivers and young children to partnering with community stakeholders.


The field of Early Intervention is talking about key principles and evidence based practices to help guide our work with families and young children, but what do they look like? This session will support participants in understanding what the principles and evidence based strategies look like in practice. Group discussion, problem-solving and family video examples will be utilized to examine these practices and share some tools that can be incorporated into day-to-day work with young children and families.

ANGER – The Misunderstood Emotion

Presenter: Kitty Cunningham

Early Intervention Credit: 1.5 Working With Families

Kitty has been a Social Worker working with families of children under the age of 3 for over 30 years. She considers it a great privilege to have been included in the life journey of so many families. Kitty is the Social Worker at the ECHO Family Enrichment Program, a Prevention Initiative Program for children aged birth to three and their families, located in Riverdale, Illinois. She is also a Social Worker provider in the Early Intervention System.


What do we, as professionals, do when a client or parent is angry? This session will discuss how an emotion that may be uncomfortable for us can be the catalyst for great positive change. How to react, respond and work through another person's (or our own) anger will be explored.

iDevices and Young Learners

Presenter: Erin Hackett

Early Intervention Credit: 1.5 Intervention

Erin Hackett is an administrator at Southwest Cooperative where she is the professional development coordinator, supervises the program for students who are blind or visually impaired, is a member of the assistive technology team, and is the Infinitec liaison for 11 local school districts. She has over 18 years experience in special education and has also been an adjunct professor for Lewis University on both the Romeoville and Tinley Park campuses for 8 years. She has presented at local, statewide and national conferences on utilizing Apple devices with students with diverse needs. Erin has won multiple grants for projects related to Apple devices from IAASE and IAER in the past few years and is passionate about getting accessible technology into the hands of students, teachers, families and administrators.


Join us for a lively session where we will share the latest and greatest Apps, tips and tricks for using an Apple iPad, iPhone, or iPod Touch with young children. This will be a fast paced session dedicated to sharing your knowledge. During this session we will explore the capabilities of the devices and look at resources to help you find the best apps to fit your needs. At the end of the session, the audience will drive the content as participants will be given 2 – 3 minutes to share their favorite apps and tips with group. If you have device, bring it with you but this is not a requirement of the session. All levels of users are welcome to attend.

Speech and Language Milestones: Birth to Five

Presenter: Becky Handler

Early Intervention Credit: .25 Typical, .25 Atypical, .25 Intervention

Becky worked for many years as a speech pathologist in a communication development classroom and as an inclusion facilitator. She has extensive experience consulting in early childhood elementary classrooms, day care sites and Head Start programs. Becky is able to provide trainings and assistance in the areas of autism, behavior, literacy and speech and language development. Becky has a B.S. and a M.S. in speech language pathology.


This presentation will explore speech and language development in children birth through five years old. Strategies and suggestions will be provided to help facilitate language development. The presenter will also focus on "red flags" to be aware of.

Cultural Competence: Identify Development In Multiracial Children

Presenter: Annie Hysaw

Early Intervention Credit: 1.5 Working With Families

Annie Hysaw is a licensed Social Worker who has worked with children and families in several capacities including; early childhood, teen pregnancy, child welfare, special education and substance abuse. Currently Mrs. Hysaw serves as the Social Emotional Specialist for Child and Family Connections in Joliet, a program of the state Early Intervention Program. Mrs. Hysaw is also the parent of multiracial children.


Identity development is a lifelong process, beginning in early childhood and continuing into adulthood. The goal of this process is to answer "Who am I?" Although it may sound simple for many people this is a difficult question to answer. Our identity influences our perceptions, behavior and the way we relate to others. For multiracial children, this process is complex and different from their peers who identify as mono-racial. In our ever diversifying world, it is essential that those of us who work with children understand the different ways multiracial children process identity. This training provides both current research on the topic of multiracial identity development and techniques early childhood professionals can incorporate to support healthy identity development for the children they serve.

Modern Family

Presenters: Benton Johnson II, Ph.D., LCPC, DT and Susan Nevin, M.Ed.

Early Intervention Credit: 1.5 Working With Families

Dr. Benton Johnson, LCPC , is a counselor who has an Early Childhood specialty. He has a private practice in the Quad Cities, consults in Early Childhood for many Illinois counties, instructs for Universities, trains for the EI training program and provides psychotherapy for children and families of Illinois and Iowa.

Susan Nevin, M.Ed. has worked as a Developmental Therapist in the Illinois Early Intervention system since 1997. Susan earned both her Master's degree in Early Childhood Special Education and her Bachelor's degree in Child Development and Family Studies from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Susan is a state evaluator who also provides ongoing intervention/support to children and their families in various environments with in the EI system. Susan has coordinated and facilitated toddler playgroups and parent support groups. Also, Susan has consulted with Montessori schools and other early learning programs in the Chicago land area providing classroom observations/feedback, staff workshops and parent education events. Presently, Susan works with the Illinois Early Intervention Training Program and provides trainings throughout the State of Illinois. Susan's area of interest lies in the social emotional strengths and needs of children and families within the context of their ever-changing environments and available resources.


Children grow and develop within a larger context of a family. Cultural changes in America have shifted the essence of what was once termed "The Traditional Family". With this shift comes a deeper understanding of what family truly means, especially with regard to service providers in the field of Early Intervention and Early Childhood Education. In this fun and interactive session, participants will explore the dynamics of adoptive/foster families, gay/lesbian parent families, single parent/teen parent families, military families and others in an effort to gain more insight regarding this very special influence on a child's life.

Today's Typical Child: Are they different?

Presenter: Dr. Jeannine M. Klomes

Early Intervention Credit: .5 Typical

Dr. Klomes holds a B.S. in Education/Child Development, M.A. in Education /EC SPED; M. S. in Educational Administration/Supervision and Ed.D. in curriculum and Instruction/EC SPED Traumatic Brain Injury. Her education interests include recognizing children's strengths, perceptive reasoning/decision making.


With so much emphasis on the atypical child, what should we be keeping abreast of regarding the typical child? How should we best teach them every day? Content will pertain to all ages of the early childhood spectrum 0 to 8 years.

I Wish I Didn't Look Like Me

Presenter: Denise Lumpkin, M.Ed.

Early Intervention Credit: 1.0 Working With Families, .5 Intervention

Denise Lumpkin has been involved in the field of early childhood education since the early 1990's. For more than 10 years, she has been the director of Moraine Valley Community College Children's Learning Center and she is also a member of the college's Child Care Program faculty. Currently, she is pursuing a doctorate degree in Educational Leadership.


The African-American child from birth is exposed to numerous negative messages regarding his/her physical appearance. Although many of these messages are subtle, the impact that they have on the child are quite powerful and damaging, leading to low self-esteem, feelings of inferiority and self-hatred. Strategies will be discussed to assist educators/parents in identifying these messages and combating their negative effect.

Children's Exposure To Violence

Presenter: Kelly McLaughlin MSW, ICDVP

Early Intervention Credit: 1.5 Atypical

Kelly is the Safe from The Start Project Manager and a children's counselor at South Suburban Family Shelter (SSFS), a domestic violence agency. Kelly has been employed with SSFS for 5 years, previously facilitating presentations for our school-based violence prevention program. Kelly currently provides counseling to children ages birth - 17, parent/infant sessions, family counseling and facilitates parent education classes at the agency. Kelly also provides Safe From The Start outreach services as well as trainings about children's exposure to violence. Kelly holds a Master of Social Work degree from Governors State University. Kelly is also a Certified Domestic Violence Professional in Illinois (ICDVP).


During this session, participants will gain a better understanding on how young children are impacted by the violence around them. Participants will learn about the effects of children's exposure to violence on brain development as well as the effects on future functioning. In addition, information on the latest theories and studies will be discussed.

Dog Therapy In School and Beyond

Presenters: Cheri Mills and Debbie Tomasik

Cheri is a graduate of University of Illinois and an Occupational Therapist with 22 years experience. She currently works for ECHO in their Early Childhood Program. Cheri is trained in neurodevelopmental treatment and sensory integration (S.I.PT). She has participated in pet therapy with her Soft Coated Wheaten Terriers the past 5 years.

Debbie has taught special education for 25 years and is a graduate of Saint Xavier University. She has participated in the pet therapy program with her Golden Retriever for the past 12 years. This includes visits to her classroom as well as programs outside the school such as nursing homes, libraries and grief support groups for children. The dogs have been featured in the Chicago Parent Magazine, Illinois Library Association and the Tribune.


Session will include information and strategies using pet therapy for occupational and physical therapy, academics and behavioral programs for children. In addition a discussion of how service dogs impact the lives of children with a variety of disabilities. Come meet Waylon and Cooper the therapy dogs.

Move Your Boogie Body

Presenter: Tamara Notter

Tamara has worked in the field of Early Childhood & School Age Care and Education for approximately 33 years. She has worked as a Lead Teacher, Trainer, Education Coordinator and an Assistant Director. Tamara has a Master Degree in ECE Administration from National Louis University.


Participants will learn how to use movement to promote the Illinois Early Standards in the environment for 3 to 5 year olds. A variety of movement strategies will be used: music, creative dramatics, parachute play and more.

Blending and Partnerships

Presenters: Ami Porte-Lewis, Dawn Soukup and Jacci Brown

Ami Porte-Lewis, M.A., Ed.S. is the Assistant Director of Special Education in Orland 135. She has been assistant director since July, 2012. Previously, she was the Special Education Director for New Lenox School District 122 for 5 years. Ami has also worked for Lincoln-Way Area Special Education as a School Psychologist.

Dawn Soukup, M.Ed. is the Director of the Sandbox Early Care and Education in Orland Park. She has been a Director with Sandbox for 18 years. She has been working with District 135 in the Partnership Program for over 16 years.

Jacci Brown has worked in the area of Early Childhood for 15 years. She has taught 1st Grade, Kindergarten and At-Risk Pre-K. She has also worked as a Parent Educator for a Preschool For All Birth to Three Program. From there she went to serve as the Program Coordinator for Birth to Three & Pre-Kindergarten. Currently, she works in New Lenox School District 122. She has worked as the Early Childhood Coordinator for 4 years. For the 2012/2013 school year the district experienced some restructuring and opened Cherry Hill Early Childhood Center. She now serves as the Principal of Cherry Hill, which is all preschool programming.


The Sandbox Early Care and Education Center in Orland Park partners with School District 135 to provide a placement option for children who qualify for District 135 Early Childhood Services. The included educational environment along with paraprofessional support assigned to students by School District 135 offers the child an opportunity to be in an inclusive setting with typical developing peers.

Good Idea! Activities From The Book: "The Very Hungry Caterpillar"

Presenter: Maria Navarro-Lopez

I have been an active member of the Early Childhood Education field for over 27 years. I am currently working full time as a Bilingual Training Coordinator at Good Shepherd Center, which is a Community Partner of Illinois Action for Children. Throughout my career, I have taught children ages 6 weeks through 12 years in my Family Home Day Care. With 7 years of experience in educational leadership, I also have experience in adult training and education, presentations and workshops and course development which have been the highlights of my career.


Who doesn't love The Very Hungry Caterpillar? You will learn many ways to incorporate this wonderful story into your classroom. Through literacy, art, math and dramatic-play activities, children will engage in activities that extend Eric Carle's story The Very Hungry Caterpillar and ideas to teach healthy eating. Learn to extend other stories with this using this strategy. This workshop includes introduction strategies, basic concepts (counting, days of the week, back and front), ways to discuss change and a post-reading activity making caterpillars and butterflies.

Links to Literacy

Presenter: Maggie Martiniak

I received a Bachelor of Arts degree in elementary Education (1992) and a Master of Arts degree in Early Childhood Education (2002) from Governors State University. I have been teaching Pre-kindergarten at West Harvey-Dixmoor School District #147, in the south suburbs of Chicago, Illinois since 1995 and am enthusiastically implementing the Creative Curriculum Approach to learning in my classroom.


This workshop will focus on literacy using The Creative Curriculum Approach. Topics discussed will include the components of literacy, the Literacy Implementation Checklist and teaching techniques that inspire teachers to engage students in the learning process through play. Participants will learn a variety of strategies and activities that help strengthen their knowledge of literacy development and walk away with some practical ideas and resources for maximizing student development of literacy learning throughout the day.

Bringing Books To Life: Speech Pathologists and Early Childhood Teachers Working Together

Presenters: Katy Nydam and Kimberly Hines

Katherine Nydam began her career in the special education field as a substitute within the ECHO Coop. She was then hired as a 1:1 for a non-verbal student with autism and a behavioral disorder and later as a Teacher's Assistant for an Early Childhood classroom. She graduated from Benedictine University in May, 2009 with her Bachelor's Degree in Special Education. Currently, her classroom makeup consists of three through five year old students and that have multiple disabilities. Her belief is that the classroom can be fun and educational. She engages the students with song, dance, puppets and play based experiences that allow students to use their senses to connect to the activity.

Kimberly Hines has been an educator for many years, serving many school districts in the south suburban areas of Cook County, Illinois. She has provided speech and language therapy for many populations, including Early Intervention and special needs children. She currently works for an Early Childhood program within the ECHO Joint Agreement Cooperative. She enjoys storytelling and encourages students to learn, explore and speak using a total communication approach.


This presentation is geared towards Special Education Teachers and Speech Language Pathologists. Discover how to choose appropriate books and modify them to impart educational skills, facilitate language and encourage social communication for significantly delayed students.

Math: It's More Than Counting!

Presenter: Nancy Pufahl

Nancy is an experienced early childhood teacher. Nancy received her undergraduate degree from Northern Illinois University and her Master's in Early Childhood Education from Governors State University. She taught ECSE and worked in early intervention as a developmental therapist. Nancy is trained in several areas of assessment including Creative Curriculum Gold, Classroom Assessment Scoring System, and ECERS-R and is able to provide support in these areas as well as trainings on topics such as autism, behavior and curriculum.


Discover how math can be integrated in all areas of your classroom! Help children build knowledge through fun BUT intentional activities.

First Responders in The Early Childhood Setting

Presenter: Carolyn Williams

Carolyn is a Registered Nurse and Graduate of DePaul University. Carolyn has been honored and awarded many times over her 40 year career; she was chosen for the March of Dimes Best Nurse in Cook County by the Cook County Department of Public Health. Carolyn was also appointed by the University of North Carolina, School of Public Health as one of four to be a lead nurse consultant for the Healthy Child Program.


This workshop will help staff identify and prepare for emergencies that can occur in childcare programs. This workshop will describe situations involving child or adult injury or illness, natural disasters, evacuations, evacuation emergencies, missing children and potentially violent situations.

Transition: Part B To Part C

Presenter: Karen Withgott

Early Intervention Credit: 1.5 Working With Families

Karen is the parent of two sons both of which have special needs. She brings a wealth of personal experience because of her two sons as well as her work as a Parent Liaison and LIC Coordinator.


This session will use the Family Transition Workbook "When I'm Three Where Will I Be?" The objective of this session is to give the participants a clear understanding of the transition process.