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Keynote Speakers

Keynote Speaker Friday March 3rd
Tia Nelis 
A Story of Inclusion by Tia

A Story of Inclusion by Tia

Tia Nelis is the Director of Policy & Advocacy for TASH. Prior to her position at TASH, Tia served as the Self-Advocacy Specialist at the Rehabilitation Research and Training Center within the Institute on Disability and Human Development at the University of Illinois Chicago. She is a past chairperson of the National Organization of Self-Advocates Becoming Empowered. She founded and successfully promoted People First of Illinois, where she served as president. Tia, a long-time member of TASH, has received the Burton Blatt Award, awarded by the Illinois TASH chapter, as well as the Elizabeth Boggs award from the President’s Committee.


Tia has drawn on experiences relating to her own disability in promoting and demonstrating the benefits of empowerment for people with disabilities. She has wide experience in conducting training and advocating for progressive polices with legislators and public officials.

Keynote Speaker Saturday March 4th
Diane Ryndak
Where We Are in Transforming Educational Services for Better Outcomes: 
A Call to Action

Where We Are in Transforming Education Services for Better Outcomes A Call to Action

Diane Ryndak, Ph.D., is Professor of Special Education in the Department of Specialized Education Services at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, and Principal Investigator on an OSEP Leadership Development Grant (Project LEAPS). She had been the Principal Investigator on a sub-contract for The TIES National Technical Assistance Center on Inclusive Practices and Policies, and Co-Principal Investigator on an IES Research Project studying the impact of malleable factors on long-term outcomes for students with significant disabilities. Previously she was a Professor at the University of Florida for 19 years, and Chair of the Department of Specialized Education Services at UNCG. Her work focuses on teacher and doctoral level preparation, with a focus on collaborative teams meeting the complex needs of students with extensive and pervasive support needs (e.g., severe cognitive impairments; autism; multiple disabilities) through the use of evidence-based practices that result in access to grade-level general education curriculum, contexts, instruction, and classmates. Additionally, she works with state departments of education and school districts to facilitate sustainable systemic reform, multi-tiered systems of support, and specially-designed instruction in general education contexts to improve outcomes for all students. She has served multiple terms on the Executive Board for TASH; is on editorial boards for several professional journals; and has completed Fulbright Research related to inclusive education in Poland, where she continues to work with colleagues at universities and in the schools.

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