Overview: What are we talking about?
Ever since 2011, when Profectum emerged as a leading organization to provide expert training related to DIR-FCD (Developmental, Individual Differences, Relationship based- Functional Capacities for Development) autism intervention, they have held fall conferences in the northeast. These conferences have always included some of the most progressive and research-based strategies and presentations from leading experts in the field. Three years ago, the focus of these fall conferences began to focus specifically on how to incorporate the DIR-FCD model into schools.
Profectum’s Educators Conference is typically held at Celebrate the Children (CTC) in New Jersey – the first school to integrate the DIR philosophy into an educational setting. Founded by Monica Osgood and Lauren Blaszac in 1995, CTC is now the model program for children with difficulties in relating, communicating, and thinking (ages 3-21).
Just a few short weeks ago, Profectum held their 3rd annual Profectum Educators Conference at CTC, ‘Raising the Bar: Developmental School and Adult Programs Around the World!’ While the conference was virtual, I was delighted to be invited to present with their team in-person. As we have learned over the past 18 months or so, virtual conferences have both their strengths and challenges. A huge strength is the number of individuals who are able to access training, and the quantity of information that can be shared. For example, this year, hundreds of participants joined from across the world, and there were 4 tracks for participants to choose from, including: professionals working in educational settings, parents as experts, paraprofessional Registered Developmental Technician (PRDT) Course intro (NEW!) and professionals working in adult programs!
With the rare opportunity to participate in this virtual conference in person, I couldn’t help but share some of my experiences and highlights! So, here are my top 6 highlights from the big event. I couldn’t narrow it down to 5, and also couldn’t ‘rank’ these awesome experiences, so they are (more or less) in chronological order.
1. Entering CTC and Finding Monica
Every. Single. Time. I head to Celebrate the Children, or a Profectum conference, I know I’m in for a treat, and this year was no different. I arrived at CTC extra early and was warmly welcomed with coffee, breakfast treats, and warm smiles from staff who I have missed seeing in person the past couple of years. I was then escorted to Monica Osgood’s office (who is not only the executive director of Profectum, executive director and co-founder of CTC, rockstar in the DIR-FCD world, my own personal mentor and dear friend). Even though there were no students in the school, it was all-a-buzz with excited staff gearing up for their presentations that were about to begin.
I was delighted to find Monica in her office restroom, which had been totally transformed into a ‘prep room’ inspired by Moira Rose (Schitt’s Creek reference), featuring a wig wall, fashion lights, bench, make-up table, and neon lights. This is one of the many, many things I admire about Monica Osgood: no matter how much she has going on, she prioritizes making experiences fun, memorable, and meaningful!
As she’s putting the final touches on her hair and make-up, she’s simultaneously assisting with video edits from pre-filmed presentations from the day before (is there anything she can’t do?!). While I’m taking in the excitement in the air, she pulls me aside to share, “So, it’s not final yet… but it looks like Temple Grandin is going to join us for the adult panel tomorrow.” WOAH! Talk about starting off with a bang!
2. Presenting Key Principles
For the past several weeks, I have had the pleasure of virtually working with amazing CTC floortime specialists (including Monica Osgood, Regina Frandano, Lissette Gray and Aretha Hurt) to create a presentation focused on the basic principles for supporting children for Profectum’s new Registered Developmental Technician (PRDT). After connecting virtually for so long, I was extremely excited to be with the whole team in person. While it was my first-time meeting Lissette and Aretha in 3D, Regina* and I started volunteering together at Profectum conferences nearly 10 years ago but had never presented together so it was a real treat!
*Special shout-out to Regina who offered to both pick me up from the airport and find a dog-friendly hotel for me and my Buddy to stay in together! (See Buddy at right!)
After a quick run-through of who was saying what, we scurried up to our filming spot- the ‘staff lounge’ that had been transformed into a filming set with lights, cameras, high top tables, proctors and all! Throughout the presentation we all brought specific strategies and videos illustrating each principle and it was incredibly powerful to see everyone’s work in action, and to really talk about why and how we do what we do. We also had a fairly hysterical blooper, so be sure to check out the recording when available to see it first-hand!
Check out more information about Profectum’s Registered Developmental Technician (PRDT) course and related benefits (including carry-over qualifications with Positive Development) HERE.
3. Day 2 Kick-Off! Insurance, PD's Video and Partnership with Profectum!
Day 2 of the conference kicked off by PD’s very own Mike Suiters and Natalie Kitts presenting, ‘DIR Insurance Coverage: What you should know!’ While introducing them, Monica shared the exciting news that PD and Profectum will be partnering to create an expedited training program for PD licensed professionals, based on their CL1 and CL2 training programs! This is big news!!! This collaboration will help to ensure that PD’s advanced clinical team will receive the highest quality training from the Profectum content. At PD, we are able to make it an expedited and intensive program, integrating the training into our everyday experiences.
Watching Mike and Natalie present the recent advancements around DIR and insurance gave me chills. My entire career with DIR (beginning in 2008), it has been a dream of mine (and most professionals) that this incredibly effective, meaningful, and respectful approach would be covered by insurance. So many times there has been hope, but no progress… but the tides are turning! Not only has there been significant progress in this area in the past 18 months, but looking into the future is even more exciting, and a reminder that the best is yet to come. Wahoo!
Directly after their talk, the conference featured a plenary session that took us around the world for a peek into various model programs for individuals ages 3-adulthood. I watched as Michele Havens presented home programs in NJ (live!), Maria Aggio presented adolescent and adult programs in Argentina, and then I had the privilege of presenting Positive Development (locations in CA, FL, IL, and NJ), before introducing Limitless Adult Day program (an extension of CTC). Presenting PD was a dream! We had a pre-recorded video that I introduced, featuring who we are and why we do what we do. As I sat there presenting PD in front of a Profectum step-and repeat, with the book ‘The world needs more purple people’ mounted to the backdrop, our partnership felt real and incredibly powerful!