Auburn hosting transition conference to explore ways to help young people with disabilities gain independence

AUBURN UNIVERSITY – The Auburn Transition Leadership Institute will host its 24th Alabama Transition Conference March 3-4 at the Auburn Marriott Opelika Hotel and Conference Center at Grand National in Opelika.

The conference brings together parents, students, agencies, businesses, educators and policymakers who will gather to share ideas and work toward the goal of preparing young people with disabilities to live independently.

The Auburn Transition Leadership Institute, established in 2000 at Auburn University, is affiliated with the College of Education and the Department of Special Education, Rehabilitation and Counseling.

Through sessions, workshops and speakers, participants will learn more about helping students bridge the gap, or transition, from high school to post-secondary employment opportunities and about supporting their development in all areas of life including education, employment, rehabilitation, social support, advocacy and self-efficacy.

The conference theme is “Transition – Forging Strength from Within” and highlights the city of Birmingham in recognition of its history of economic transition and growth, founded in the iron and steel industry.

The keynote speaker will be Derrick Tennant, an athlete who received a brain injury resulting in surgery and years of rehabilitation. Tennant will talk about his recovery process and his experience of changing obstacles into opportunities.

Other featured presenters will include Teresa Grossi, a faculty member in the School of Education at Indiana University and author of Teaching Transition Skills in Inclusive Schools; Julie Weatherly, an attorney and award-winning advocate for students with disabilities; and Ashley DeRamus – named in 2013 as one of the “Top 6 Entrepreneurs with Down Syndrome Changing the World” by Disney’s – who has created her own clothing line for young women with Down syndrome.

Workshops and sessions will cover topics such as school-based mental health collaboration, expansion of disability services, ethical concerns, updates on Alabama’s New Diploma and Pathways for students, Olmstead Laws and programs in science and mathematics for students with disabilities.

Speed Conferencing, a popular event that gives attendees an opportunity to quickly circulate through three informative transition information sessions, will include presenters Becky Fields, Alabama Department of Rehabilitation Services; Steve Lafreniere, Alabama Department of Mental Health; and Crystal Richardson, Alabama State Department of Education.

In addition, the conference will include poster presentations, a share fair to showcase transition-related work and exhibitor displays of transition and disability-related products and services.

The conference will offer a transition update on the latest information about the state of transition in Alabama. It will feature three prominent state leaders – Alabama State Superintendent of Education Tommy Bice; Alabama Department of Rehabilitation Services Commissioner Cary Boswell; and Alabama Department of Mental Health Commissioner Jim Reddoch.

For information on registration, fees, deadlines and specific details, go to or contact Courtney Dotson at (334) 844-5918 or

(Contributed by Courtney Dotson.)

Courtney Dotson, College of Education, (334) 844-5918 (,
Mike Clardy, Office of Communications and Marketing, (334) 844-9999 (