Conference Presenters

Kerry Magro

Kerry Magro is an award-winning disability advocate, best-selling author, movie consultant, non-profit founder and full-time employee at Autism Speaks. Magro who was completely non-verbal until 2.5 and diagnosed with autism at 4 had to overcome countless challenges. Today Magro travels the country as a national motivational speaker discussing his journey on the autism spectrum. In 2014, based on his speaking efforts he received accreditation from the National Speakers Association as one of the only professionally certified speakers with autism in the country. His career in speaking which has included giving 2 TEDxTalks later led to a stint in television where he hosts his own local cable TV show called the “Different is Beautiful Show” to highlight people who overcome adversity in their local communities.

Magro since becoming a disability advocate has been featured in major media and worked with amazing brands including CBS News, Upworthy, Huffington Post, BBC News,, American Express, JP Morgan Chase, Yahoo Parenting, and The Mighty. Magro in the future hopes to continue to spread awareness and provide supports for individuals with disabilities to help them pursue their dreams.


Michelle Garcia Winner

Michelle Garcia Winner, MA, CCC is a speech language pathologist who specializes in the treatment of students with social cognitive challenges, which includes diagnoses such as Autism Spectrum Disorder, Asperger syndrome, ADHD/ADD, Twice exceptional and Non-verbal learning disorder, to name a few. She has a private practice in San Jose, California where she works with clients, consults with families and schools and she travels internationally giving workshops as well as being invited to train psychiatrists, psychologists, counselors, and state policy makers. She presents many different all day workshops and helps to develop programs for schools and classrooms.

Michelle is the founder of Social Thinking® and the related treatment strategies. She has written or co-authored numerous books which are published through Think Social Publishing, inc. Michelle’s goal is to help educators, psychologists, psychiatrists, mental health counselors and parents appreciate how social thinking and related social skills are an integral part of students’ academic, vocational and community success. She was featured as a Social Thinking therapist in the 2016 Sundance Premiere Documentary; Life, Animated. She was honored with a “Congressional Special Recognition Award” in 2008. Michelle believes we can all do far more to understand the social learning process and how we can teach more of these concepts to all students.

Michael John Carley

Michael John Carley received his B.A. from Hampshire College, and his M.F.A. from Columbia University. As the Founder, and first Executive Director of GRASP, the largest organization comprised of adults on the autism spectrum, he spoke at over 100 conferences, hospitals, universities, and health care organizations. As the Executive Director of ASTEP, he spoke at conferences focusing on Human Resources, Corporate Diversity & Inclusion, and he conducted numerous trainings and webinars for individual Fortune 1000 companies.

Along with his (then) 4-year old son, he was diagnosed with AS in November of 2000. He lives with his wife, Kathryn Herzog, and 2 sons in Green Bay, Wisconsin. After decades of New York City, they recently moved to the Midwest to take care of family, work as a School Consultant, and write on a porch—when it isn't freezing.

Lynn Dodge

Dr. Lynn Dodge is a private consultant working for Anne Carlsen’s Behavioral Services Division. She is a former Special Education Regional Coordinator for the North Dakota Department of Public Instruction. Her portfolio assignments included: Autism, Universal Design for Learning, Assistive Technology, the National Instructional Materials Standard (NIMAS), and Special Health Care Needs. During her 33 years in multiple school systems, she worked in self-contained classroom settings as well as content inclusion classes. Her experience also includes working as a Transition Coordinator assisting students with various disabilities to find employment. She served as a Middle School Special Education Department chair for six years. During her tenure, she facilitated the transition of students from elementary to middle school and middle school to high school as well as the inclusion of students with varying disabilities in general education content classes.

As a mother of a son with dyslexia, she has personal as well as professional experience with special education. She understands the challenges of inclusion, obtaining needed accommodations at the elementary, secondary and college level. She and her son successfully navigated the transition process from secondary school to college to employment. Her son holds two Bachelor’s degrees and a Master’s degree. Most importantly, he is gainfully employed, married, and a father. She advocates now to ensure her grandson with special needs receives the services he needs.

Dr. Dodge earned her doctorate in Special Education and an Ed. S. in Secondary Transition from The George Washington University. She earned her Bachelor’s degree in Spanish from Mt. Holyoke College and a Master’s Degree in English from Virginia Commonwealth University. As part of her doctoral program she spent a summer at the National Education Association during which she co- wrote its publication, The Puzzle of Autism.

Morgan Draxten

Morgan Draxten is a behavior support specialist in the Behavior Health Services Department at the Anne Carlsen Center. She received her Bachelor of Science degree in Psychology from the University of North Dakota and her Master of Science degree in Psychology with a specialization in Applied Behavior Analysis from Capella University. Currently, Morgan is working with children with various developmental disabilities to teach functional skills utilizing evidenced based practices based upon the principles of Applied Behavior Analysis. During high school and college, she worked in various Skilled Nursing Facilities. She held various positions in these facilities including: Certified Nurse’s Assistant (8 years), Certified Medication Assistant (5 years), and a Social Services Designee (1.5 years). In addition to these positions, she holds a certificate in advanced dementia care and has first-hand experience with residents in a memory care unit.

From her work experience in a memory care unit and a rural nursing home providing all levels of care, she found that non-pharmacological mental health services were not considered much less provided to residents. From her observations patients receiving mental health services requiring medication experienced loneliness, difficult interactions with staff and family members as well as peers. These individuals tended to be excluded rather than included in social activities. The combination of her experience and her concern about the lack of non-pharmacological treatment for mental health and dementia have prompted her to advocate for non-pharmacological treatments for geriatric patients with behavioral health concerns related to dementia.

John Fode

John Fode grew up in Fargo, ND, and he was officially diagnosed with Asperger’s (now known as ASD) at age 19 right after graduating from Fargo North High School. He was a very active in extracurricular organizations such as DECA, Speech, Debate, Student Congress, and Future Business Leaders of America. His DECA experience eventually lead to him serving as the club president, State Vice President, and winning first place at the International competition for creating a marketing plan and a TV commercial. John studied sales and marketing at M-State College in Moorhead, MN, which he graduated from in 2012. John has traveled to many places over the years, such as Florida, California, Atlanta, New York, and three cities in China, and has climbed the Great Wall. John is both an aspiring public speaker who speaks primarily on Asperger’s and a filmmaker, having directed a commercial and an educational video on Support Groups for ASD. He continues to improve his craft in both areas and always pushes

himself forward to learn and experience more. John has had to deal with a lot of the negative sides of Asperger’s which often gets in the way of life, but he also takes the time to appreciate the advantages of Asperger’s and he strives to never give up.

Sarah Fuchs

Sarah Fuchs MS RN, Clinical Educator, serves at the primary clinical educator for Anne Carlsen Center employees across the state. She holds a Bachelor’s of Science degree in Nursing (BSN) form North Dakota State University and a Master’s Degree in Nursing Education from Concordia College, Moorhead MN. Sarah has been a BLS, Pediatric Advanced Life Support, and Neonatal Resuscitation Program instructor for over 10 years. Her clinical background is in pediatric and obstetrical nursing. Prior to joining the Anne Carlsen Center, Sarah worked in higher education where she has presented both local and nationally on various topics related to staff development and team based learning. Sarah is a member of Sigma Theta Tau International Honor Society of Nursing. She lives in Jamestown with her husband and three children.

Susan Gerenz

Susan is a Regional Special Education Coordinator for NDDPI with the portfolio of autism spectrum disorders. She previously was director of Manchester House, a psychiatric residential treatment facility for children ages 5- 13 with serious emotional disturbances. Susan has extensive experience working with youth demonstrating social, emotional, behavioral, attention and learning difficulties as well as those with ASD.

Emily Coler Hanson

Emily is a child and adolescent therapist working in the outpatient clinic at Prairie St. John's. She has been working as a therapist with youth and their families while youth participate in inpatient, day treatment or outpatient programming for the past ten years. In particular, she works with youth on the autism spectrum.

Crystal Henderson

Crystal Henderson has been practicing the science of ABA, Applied Behavior Analysis for over 18 years. She holds a M.S., in Applied Behavior Analysis and is a BCBA (Board Certified Behavior Analysts). Her experience ranges from educating, training and creating behavior success for children, families, and school professionals. Her experience includes: Providing in-home support for families, behavior treatment centers, schools and daycares, Behavior Modification Specialist for North Dakota (ND) Behavioral Health Services, Member of the ND Behavior Intervention Committee, RTI Tier III Lead Behavior Consultant for South East Education Cooperative, Adjunct Professor at University of North Dakota, Founding member of the ND Association on Behavior Analysis, and Behavior Consultant for area school districts. Currently, she is the owner of Heart of Behavior providing behavior services for families, schools, and agencies.

Caitlin Johnson

Caitlin Johnson is a current NDSU & UMARY Graduate Student, earned a bachelor’s degree in English and Political Science from NDSU, and is currently a Masters Student in UMARY School of Education, as well as a Doctoral Candidate in the NDSU School of Education. She is an enrolled member of the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa Indians. She is the mother of one son on the Autism Spectrum named Sage. She currently works as an English Teacher at the Turtle Mountain Community High School.

Carol Johnson

Dr. Carol Johnson has devoted her professional career to supporting children with disabilities and their families in home and community settings. She was initially trained as a Speech Language Pathologist and pursued a PhD with an emphasis in family centered services within natural environments. Carol currently teaches graduate courses in the area of ASD at the University of North Dakota. She continues to provide consultation and technical assistance in the area of ASD and Early Intervention.

Connie Lillejord

Connie Lillejord, MOT, OTR/L is an occupational therapist. She has worked in the field of pediatrics for over 30 years. She is currently employed at the Anne Carlsen Center where she served as Director of Therapy for 16 years and is now currently working in their Ideation Center providing internal and external trainings and works in Autism Diagnostic clinics across the state. Her interests and trainings have included: Adapting a Child’s Play Environment, Developing Handwriting and Fine Motor Skills and Sensory Strategies for Learning. She completed her undergraduate work at the University of St. Catherine in St. Paul and received her Master’s degree from the University of North Dakota. In addition, she has a graduate certificate in Assistive Technology from Northern Arizona University. At home, Connie and her husband have been licensed foster parents to over 20 children, for the past 15 years, and enjoys the rewards and challenges of that.

Stephanie Nelson

Stephanie Nelson, M.S., CCC-SLP, ATP is a licensed, certified speech-language pathologist. She has been employed by the Anne Carlsen Center for 12 years and has been practicing as a speech language pathologist for the past 14 years. In her current role as the Director of the Ideation Center she works with the Ideation Center team on developing, planning, implementing, and evaluating ACC training and professional development programs along with the overall coordination, management and delivery of consultative services. These activities include staff development training, client consultations, comprehensive programmatic evaluations, professional trainings/workshops to outside entities, and autism diagnostic clinics throughout the state of North Dakota. Steph’s primary interest is augmentative and alternative communication for children and young adults with complex communication needs. In addition, her professional experience includes working with individuals with speech/language delays, Autism Spectrum Disorder, and Traumatic Brain Injury. Stephanie received her Master’s degree from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. She is a member of the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA), including Special Interest Division 12-Augmentative and Alternative Communication. Stephanie is a certified ATP (Assistive Technology Professional) through RESNA.

Trisha Page

Trisha Page, Behavioral Health Program Administrator for the Anne Carlsen Center, is the recipient of multiple leadership awards, including the NDASDAC Visionary Leadership Award, Pathfinder’s Katheryn Erickson Exceptional Achievement Award, and the RRVAAN Trail Blazer Award. She has a degree in psychology from Minnesota State University Moorhead and also holds a Master’s Certificate in Autism Studies from the University of North Dakota. Trisha has presented on autism for local, state-wide, and national events. She is a member of the National Autism Leadership Collaborative, has chaired the Governor’s Taskforce on Autism, and currently sits on the ND Autism Spectrum Disorders Advocacy Coalition. Her passions are her husband and her four boys; her oldest son was diagnosed with autism at age two. 

Vicki Peterson

Vicki is a single mother with two sons, youngest is Aaron who is 15 with ASD and intellectual disorder with chronic health concerns. She has worked with Family Voices of ND for close to 14 years. Vicki is a member of the ND State Autism Task Force, an Autism State Task Force Member, and a Growing Futures Presenter. Vicki holds a Bachelor Degree in Psychology.

Kodi Pinks

In April 2014, Kodi Pinks was hired as the Autism Database Administrator for the Children’s Special Health Services Division in the North Dakota Department of Health. She is a 2011 graduate from the University of Mary where she received a Bachelor’s of Science degree in Biology. She is completing her Master of Public Health degree with emphasis in health promotion and policy from the University of Missouri, Columbia. She has been involved in the health care industry for over ten years with experience in direct patient care. During that time, she worked with diverse population groups including children and adults with special health care needs.

Blake Plankers

Blake Plankers has worked with individuals with ASD in several capacities over the past 10 years. He is currently serving as autism consultant for the Moorhead school district. He designed a program called Strategies for Interpersonal and Academic Success which seeks to holistically meet the needs of secondary students on the spectrum. Prior to that, his experiences have included working as a paraprofessional, camp counselor, swimming instructor, job coach, and funky drummer. He currently holds a master's degree in special education and strives to maintain a learner's mind in all endeavors.

Barb Stanton

Barb is currently employed at Prairie St. John's as a therapist with a specialty in autism spectrum disorders. She does diagnostic assessments, individual and family therapy, public education, program development, advocacy, collaboration and consultation. Barb works to empower individuals with autism and their families so they may reach their highest potential for success. She promotes a belief in understanding and acceptance for those who are neurologically diverse.

Barb graduated from the University of Massachusetts Amherst with a doctorate in Counseling Psychology. She graduated from North Dakota State University with a Bachelor’s degree in psychology and sociology and a Master’s degree in child development and family science: marital and family therapy.

She is a licensed Professional Clinical Counselor and a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist. She is also an approved supervisor for Marriage and Family Therapists in North Dakota.

She is an emiratis board member for The Red River Valley Asperger Autism Network.

Marcy Szarkowski

Marcy Szarkowski, M.S., SES, ATP has been employed by the Anne Carlsen Center for 17 years. In her current role as Ideation Center Specialist she serves on a team of professionals responsible for internal and external development for the organization. These activities include staff development training, client consultations, comprehensive programmatic assessments, community-based vocational assessments, and professional trainings/workshops to outside entities throughout the state of North Dakota. She completed her undergraduate work at Jamestown College in Elementary Education. She completed her Master’s degree at the University of North Dakota and is credentialed as a Special Education Strategist. Marcy is a certified ATP (Assistive Technology Professional) through RESNA.

Emily Vieweg

Emily Vieweg is a parent to a teenager who was diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome at the age of nine. She is a writer and advocate for persons with different abilities, while also working full time at a local university.