2018 AASE National Conference
SUNDAY 8th - tuesday 10th july, 2018 | cairns Convention Centre, CAIRNS, Queensland

2018 Des English Memorial Lecture

Chris Varney

Chris Varney is Founder and Chief Enabling Officer of I CAN Network. I CAN Network is driving a rethink of Autism so that young Australians on the spectrum think ‘I CAN’, not ‘I Can’t’, in response to their challenges and opportunities. Chris was inspired to start I CAN from the exemplary support his family and friends provided in helping him channel his Asperger’s.

Chris has a strong background in advocating for children’s rights. With World Vision Chris has held roles including Youth Ambassador, VGen Co-Director and Manager of Youth Supporters. With the Australian Government, Chris served as the 2009 Australian Youth Ambassador to the UN. For his advocacy Chris has received awards including the 2011 Monash University Student Alumni Award, the 2012 National Award for Youth in Advancing the Legal Rights and Interests of Children and Young People, 2012 Future Justice Medal and 2014 Monash Vice-Chancellor Social Inclusion Award.

Presentation Title: Creating schools that benefit from embracing Autism

Chris Varney will use his personal experiences with Asperger's and with over 600 Autistic learners to inspire educators to go the extra mile with their students on the Autism Spectrum. Chris will give educators an insight into the culture of the I CAN Network - an organisation Chris founded to spearhead 'game changers' for Autistic students in the education and employment sectors. Fifty percent of the national I CAN team is on the Autism Spectrum. 

In the style of Des English, Chris' talk will be very personal, highlighting the huge efforts of his personal 'I CAN Network', which included educator Christine Horvath, to empower him to channel his Autistic talents into meaningful community pursuits. Chris will reflect on the phased nationalisation of I CAN Network's mentoring and training programs and highlight simple ways educators can improve their school communities for Autistic learners. 

2018 Invited Stream Speakers

Dr Bree Jimenez

Stream: Curriculum as Practice

Dr. Bree Jimenez is a Special Education Research Consultant with Mater Dei, Camden and Honorary Research Associate in Special Education with the Faculty of Education and Social Work at the University of Sydney. Before coming to Australia in January of 2017, she was an assistant professor at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro.  She was a classroom teacher of students with moderate-severe intellectual disability.

Bree’s research focuses on general curriculum access and assessment for students with moderate to severe intellectual disabilities, including autism. She has published several research manuscripts in peer reviewed journals, multiple book chapters, academic programs, and a book on strategies to support academics for students with severe disabilities. She works closely with school systems and state departments of education both nationally and internationally.

Kate Freiberg

Stream: Wellbeing and Resilience

Dr Kate Freiberg is a Senior Research Fellow at the Griffith Criminology Institute, Griffith University. She is a developmental psychologist who has a broad interest in promoting young children's social, emotional and cognitive development. Her interest in the theory and practice of applying preventive interventions in community settings includes a particular focus on the effectiveness of home-school-community group partnerships in the promotion of positive outcomes for children.

Dr Kay Ayre

Stream: Relationships

Dr Kay Ayre is a Lecturer in Education (Special Education) at the University of Southern Queensland (USQ) where she has been a staff member since 2014. Kay lectures in challenging behaviour, positive behaviour support and childhood wellbeing. 

Kay was awarded her Doctorate in Education in 2013, for her thesis titled “Disengaged and Disruptive: Behaviour Intervention for Boys from Year Four to Year Seven”. An early career researcher, Kay’s areas of interests include: trauma-informed positive behaviour support and building teacher capacity to address the challenging behaviour of children with trauma, helping teachers to think functionally about disruptive student behaviour and childhood wellbeing and resilience. Prior to commencing work as a lecturer at USQ, Kay worked for Education Queensland for thirty-two years as a classroom teacher in the early years, as a deputy principal, an advisory visiting teacher in behaviour and a behaviour team leader

Jacquiline den Houting

Stream: Wellbeing and Resilience

Jacky is a registered psychologist with unique experience in her field; she spent 5 years working as a prison psychologist with Queensland Corrective Services, and currently holds a position with the Queensland Police Service. Jacky is currently completing her PhD through the Autism Centre of Excellence at Griffith University, supported by an Autism CRC PhD Scholarship.

Jacky is also a determined Autistic advocate. After being identified as Autistic at the age of 25, Jacky was introduced to the Autistic community through her participation in the inaugural Future Leaders program at the Asia Pacific Autism Conference in 2013. Jacky is a current member of the executive committee of the Autistic Self Advocacy Network of Australia and New Zealand, an all-Autistic advocacy organisation committed to bringing about systemic change in order to improve the lives of Autistic people. Jacky has also performed various advisory roles with the Autism CRC and other organisation, including her current role as a committee member of the Autism CRC’s Biobank Access Committee.

Greta Cooper

Stream: Social Emotional Learning

Greta Cooper began her career as a classroom teacher and has worked for the Department of Education and Training across a diversity of roles including Head of Special Education, Advisory Visiting Teacher- Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), Transition Coordinator Education Adjustment Program, Project Manager and Senior Policy Advisor. Her special interest in disability, in particular Autism saw her seek further undergraduate and postgraduate studies in psychology. In her role as a school Guidance Officer Greta became very passionate about the potential role schools can play in promoting the social and emotional learning (SEL) development of children and adolescents. This interest saw her undertake research in the area of SEL and the link between wellbeing and learning.

Greta is currently employed as a State-wide Mental Health Coach at The Department of Education and Training (DET). The Central Office Mental Health Coach provides leadership and direction in the planning and implementation of the State Schools' Division priorities, particularly those in relation to mental health and wellbeing. The key duties of this position is to work with regionally based mental health coaches to ensure a co-ordinated and responsive whole-of-school approach to the provision of mental health and wellbeing services to students.



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