Our 12th Annual Summer Leadership Institute

Join us for 3 interactive days with national experts in making schools and districts inclusive. Take away a multitude of practical ideas and inspiration to do this important and timely work of creating more inclusive schools!


August 3-5, 2020

Syracuse University
Syracuse • New York

Travel to Syracuse

  • Air – The local airport is Syracuse Hancock International Airport, 1000 Colonel Eileen Collins Boulevard. Most major airlines fly through Syracuse. For more information you can call the airport at 315-454-4330.
  • Train/Bus – The Syracuse Regional Transportation Center services AMTRAK train services, as well as Greyhound and Trailways bus services.
  • Taxi/Ride Share – There are a number of taxi companies as well as UBER and Lyft available in Syracuse.

Recomennded Accommodations

Hotels within walking distance of the Syracuse University campus.


Registration Fees

  • $660 per person for individual registrations
  • $600 per person for teams of 3-9 people from the same district/organization
  • $500 per person for teams of 10-19 people from the same district/organization
  • $450 per person for teams of 20-29 people from the same district/organization
  • $375 per person for teams of 30+ people from the same district/organization
  • $100 for students taking the institute for graduate credit (see link for details)
  • Limited number of needs-based scholarships for parents attending on their own. Email sli@inclusiveschooling.com?

Taking the institute for graduate credit ?

$50 Off per person for Early Bird Special (Register by 4/30/20)

New This Year – Dare to Lead Book Club

Sign Up at Registration ? Click to Learn More


Leading with 2020 Vision: Celebrating & Including All

Julie and George lead this engaging kick-off. You?ll leave inspired with ideas on how to help move your school and district in an increasingly inclusive direction.?

Julie Causton & George Theoharis

What Getting a Voice Means for Getting a 21st Century Education

Tracy Thresher and Larry Bissonnette will share their perspectives on the importance of communication in inclusive educational settings and provide ideas on what educators can do to provide access to meaningful communication for nonspeaking students.

Larry Bissonnette and Tracy Thresher With Pascal Cheng and Harvey Lavoy

Voice, Competence, and Special Education

During this presentation, through the use of narrative stories and humor about her own experiences in the special education system, Brianna will question the “special-ness” of special education and will offer suggestions and possibilities for how we all might approach difference and inclusion is more humanistic, authentic, and meaningful ways.

Brianna Dickens

Inclusion and Identity

How does identity connect to inclusion and how can we develop and capture it in our students, to help us plan for them in inclusive classrooms?

Shelley Moore

My Education Journey: From Low Expectations in Special Education to Realizing the Dream in University

Kayla describes her journey from special education to full inclusion.? She will tell of her struggles to find her voice, her desire for a real education, and realizing her ultimate goal:? to be a student in her hometown university.

Kayla Takeuchi

Special Education Law: Myths and Realities

This presentation reviews the common myths and misunderstandings about special education law that prevent progress toward the inclusive model of education actually intended by applicable federal law and regulations.

Pat Radel

My Inclusive Journey!

Sean Selini with Leslie Sieleni

Ripples of Resilience: Helping Yourself & Others Conquer Challenge & Change

We are going to close out our time together with an uplifting session that?will send us home with a renewed sense of purpose and some practical?strategies for rising above difficulty with style and grace. Besides?picking up some simple assessment tools you can use with yourself and your?colleagues, you’ll leave this session remembering seven easy-to-implement?stress management actions and three questions that will quite possibly?transform how you think about the upcoming year.

Paul Wesselmann, The Ripples Guy


  • 8:30-9:00 | Networking and Coffee
  • 9:00 | Welcome
  • 9:15-11:30 |? Leading with 2020 Vision: Celebrating & Including All, Dr. Julie Causton & Dr. George Theoharis
  • 11:30-12:30 | Lunch
  • 12:45-2:15 | Wretches and Jabberers- Film
  • 2:15-3:00 | What Getting a Voice Means for Getting a 21st?Century Education, Larry Bissonnette and Tracy Thresher with Pascal Cheng and Harvey? Lavoy
  • 3:00-3:30 | Networking and Team Time
  • 3:30-4:15 | Keynote: Voice, Competence, and Special Education, Brianna Dickens
  • 8:30-9:30 | Dare to Lead Book Club*, Facilitated by Julie Causton & Kathy Kramer
  • 9:45 | Welcome
  • 10-12:30 | Inclusion and Identity, Shelly Moore
  • 12:30-1:30 | Lunch
  • 1:30-2:30 | Breakout Sessions ? Walking the Talk
    • Secondary School Inclusion: North Penn School District
    • Elementary School Inclusion: District 41
    • Walking the Talk Break Out Sessions are led by school leaders who will provide key steps/strategies they have used to create and maintain inclusive schools. Institute attendees can choose between a secondary focus or an elementary focus.
  • 2:45-3:15 | Networking and Team Time
  • 3:30 ? 4:15 | Keynote – My Education Journey:? From Low Expectations in Special Education to Realizing the Dream in University, Kayla Takeuchi
  • 4:15 | Wrap Up & Host Your Own Institute

*Sign up to participate in this optional book club.

  • 8:30-9:30 | Dare to Lead Book Club, Facilitated by Julie Causton & Kathy Kramer
  • 9:45 | Welcome
  • 10:00-11:00 | Special Education Law ? Myths & Realities, Pat Radel
  • 11:15-11:45 | Networking and Team Time
  • 11:45-12:45 | Lunch
  • 12:45-1:30 | Keynote – My Inclusive Journey! Sean Selini with Leslie Sieleni
  • 1:30-1:45 | Break
  • 1:45-3:00 | Ripples of Resilience: Helping Yourself & Others Conquer Challenge & Change, Paul Wesselmann
  • 3:00 | Institute Wrap Up

Speaker Bios

Larry Bissonnette

Larry Bissonnette is a disability rights advocate and artist who lives in Williston, Vermont. He has been painting and drawing since he was a young child and exhibits his art regularly both locally and nationally. Over the past 20 years, he has been a featured presenter at many national educational conferences and has written and spoken on the topics of autism, communication and art. He is both the subject and writer of a film about his art and life, called, ?My Classic Life as an Artist: A Portrait of Larry Bissonnette? (2005) and starred in the documentary ?Wretches and Jabberers? (2010)?? He also is a contributing author to?? ?Communication Alternatives in Autism: Perspectives on Typing and Spelling for the Nonspeaking (2019)?, a book edited by California Lutheran University professor, Dr. Edlyn Pena.

Dr. Julie Causton

Dr.?Julie?Causton is a passionate expert, author, and teacher in the area of inclusive and special education. As a Syracuse University professor, elementary, middle and high school teacher herself,?Julie?has experienced firsthand the positive outcomes of inclusion.? This work lead her to found Inclusive Schooling. As the CEO of Inclusive Schooling, Julie, offers interactive large group presentations, motivational online courses, hands-on workshops, and more to administrators, educators and parents interested in inclusive school reform, inclusive teacher training, collaboration, humanistic behavioral supports, lesson planning, and providing invisible adult supports.?Julie?believes that disability is simply a form of diversity and helps schools to create strength based inclusive systems where every individual can reach their full academic and social potential. As a prominent educational researcher, Causton has published over 30 articles in academic journals and has written six books for school teams about the most innovative theories and practices in inclusive education.  These books and articles are utilized across the country to teach and support pre-service and in-service educators and administrators. With her newest title, The Too Much Unicorn, Julie hopes to continue to empower children directly to joyfully, stylishly, and confidently embrace their own beauty. Julie lives in New York with her wife and two awesome kids.

Pascal Cheng

Pascal Cheng has a M. Ed. and C.A.S. in Special Education from the University of Vermont and has worked for over 30 years with children and adults with developmental disabilities in school and community settings. He currently is an educational and communication specialist for Howard Center Developmental Services in Burlington, Vermont, providing training and consultation in the areas of communication, assistive technology and literacy for children and adults. He serves as a member of the Vermont Communication Task Force, a group that works to improve communication supports and services for individuals with developmental disabilities in the state of Vermont.

Brianna Dickens

Brianna Dickens is an autistic self- advocate and currently a PhD candidate in special education and disability studies at Syracuse University. Brianna has a masters degree?in special education and bachelors degree?and teaching certification in elementary education. She has been a?research assistant at the Institute on Communication and Inclusion which researches and supports?typing to communicate, teaching assistant and is currently a research fellow at SU. As someone with her own neurodivergent and alternative communication journey, her research and work focuses on exposing the possibilities?when different ways of being are centered in schools, in the community, and in research.

Harvey F. Lavoy, 3rd

Harvey F. Lavoy, 3rd has worked for Community Developmental Services since 1994, a Division of Washington County Mental Health Services in Barre, Vermont and is the Director of Communication Training and Resources. He has a Bachelors-of-Science in degree in Special Education from Southern Connecticut University. He provides education, training and technical assistance to adults and children with complex communication needs as well as their families, support staff, educational teams, schools and agencies. In 2006 he received a Certificate of Recognition as a Master Trainer in Facilitated Communication Training from the Institute on Communication and Inclusion (ICI) at Syracuse University and is a member of an International Master Trainer Network.? He has been a member of the Vermont Statewide Communication Task Force since 2000 providing statewide trainings, workshops, and conferences to enable adults in Vermont with developmental disabilities to communicate more effectively.

Kathy Kramer

Kathy Kramer is a?multifaceted?educator whose career spans from academic instruction to business and leadership coaching. For more than 25 years, Kathy has honed her craft with roles ranging from teacher, corporate trainer, curriculum development consultant, and professor of aspiring and practicing educators. Kathy brings a passion for advocacy to her work and aims to build environments focused on inclusivity, equity and creativity. She holds an EdD in Leadership in Curriculum and Instruction and is currently the Director of Graduate Studies in Education at Carroll University. Her passion for professional empowerment led her to obtain an advanced coaching certificate in 2019 with Co-Active Training Institute. She works closely with and coaches educational professionals who are transforming and leading systems of equity and inclusion.

Shelley Moore

Shelley Moore: originally from Edmonton, and is now based in Vancouver, British Columbia, Shelley Moore is a highly sought-after teacher, researcher, speaker and storyteller and has worked with school districts and community organizations throughout both Canada and the United States.?Her first book entitled, ?One Without the Other? was released in July 2016 and her second will be released summer 2019!?Shelley completed an undergraduate degree in Special Education at the University of Alberta, her masters at Simon Fraser University, and is currently a PhD candidate at the University of British Columbia.

Patrick G. Radel

Patrick G. Radel is a member of the law firm of Getnick Livingston Atkinson & Priore, LLP, located in Utica, New York.? He received his law degree summa cum laude from the University at Buffalo Law School, where he was the Executive Editor of the Buffalo Law Review. From 2002 to 2004, Mr. Radel served as confidential law clerk to the Honorable William M. Skretny, United States District Judge for the Western District of New York. Mr. Radel is passionate about the rights of people with disabilities and has been honored to represent families of students with disabilities at CSE meetings, in due process proceedings, and in federal court. He is admitted to practice before the United States Supreme Court, the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, the United States District Court for the Northern and Western Districts of New York, and in the courts of New York State. Mr. Radel is a member of the Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates (?COPAA?), New York State Bar Association, and Oneida County Bar Association.? He is a Fellow of the New York Bar Foundation and he is a frequent speaker on the legal rights of students with disabilities. He lives in New Hartford, New York with his wife, Mary Snyder Radel, Esq., and their three sons.

Leslie Sieleni

Leslie Sieleni is a disability Advocate and member of the White Bear Lake community for over 20 years. Leslie and her husband John have three children; the youngest has the attribute of Down Syndrome. Leslie set out on the disability journey to navigate the world of disabilities in order to be the best advocate she could for not only her son, but for all community members . Leslie has over 20 years of experience advocating on behalf of those with disabilities at the state and local levels including the Arc Minnesota Public Policy Committee and the Department of Education Special Education Advisory Panel (SEAP). Leslie is a graduate of the MN Governor’s Council on Developmental Disabilities Partners in Policymaking (PIPM) program and Founder of the MN Growth Through Opportunities Police Cadet Program.

Sean Sieleni

Sean Sieleni is 20 years old and a Bethel University BUILD student. BUILD stands for Bethel University Inclusive Learning and Development. Sean is also the first Minnesota Growth Through Opportunity (GTO) Police Cadet Graduate! His dream is to graduate college, work in law enforcement, buy a house with four of his friends, and get married.

Kayla Takeuchi

Kayla Takeuchi is a nonspeaking individual who types to communicate.? After being in special education classes for 10 years, Kayla graduated with a real high school diploma. She has attended Clovis Community College and graduated with an Associate in Arts degree in Social Sciences from Fresno City College in 2018. Kayla is currently a student at California State University, Fresno, majoring in History and aspires to become an advocate for her nonspeaking brothers and sisters.

Dr. George Theoharis

Dr. George Theoharis is a Professor in the Teaching and Leadership Department at Syracuse University. He has extensive experience as a principal and teacher. He previously served as Department Chair, Associate Dean for Urban Education Partnerships, and as the Director of Field Relations. His research and work with K-12 schools focuses on issues of equity, justice, diversity, inclusion, leadership, and school reform. His books titled The School Leaders Our Children Deserve (2009), Leadership for Increasingly Diverse Schools (2015), and The Principal?s Handbook for Leading Inclusive Schools (2014) focus on issues of leadership and creating more equitable schools. George?s work bridges the worlds of K-12 schools and higher education. ?As such, he writes for public audiences in outlets such as: ?The School Administrator, Educational Leadership (online), The Principal, The Washington Post, and The Root, and The Syracuse Post-Standard. He co-runs a summer institute for school leaders focusing on issues of disability, equity and inclusion. He consults with leaders, schools, and districts around issues of leadership, equity, diversity and inclusive reform around the United States and Canada. His Ph.D. is in Educational Leadership and Policy Analysis from the University of Wisconsin?Madison. George grew up in Wisconsin in an activist family committed to making a more just world. Currently he lives in Fayetteville, NY with his 2 awesome children, and recently his parents have moved in too, making for 3 generations of Theohari living and laughing together.

Tracy Thresher

Tracy Thresher is a native Vermonter who lives and works in Vermont. Tracy began using Facilitated Communication in 1990 and was one of the first individuals with autism in Vermont to be introduced to the method. He has presented at local, statewide and national workshops and conferences. Tracy is an employee of Washington County Mental Health Services and has consulted with local schools and adult service agencies, mentors high school students and adults with communication challenges, is a member of the Vermont Statewide Communication Task Force, and the WCMHS Communication Alliance. Tracy additionally performs freelance work for Green Mountain Self-Advocates and works with the Wellspring Guild as a Master Trainer. Tracy and his friend Larry travel the world promoting their documentary, Wretches & Jabberers, in an effort to change the World’s view of disability to one of positivity.

Paul Wesselmann

Paul Wesselmann is an educator, writer, and founder of Unleash Ripples, an experiment in nurturing kindness with over 30,000 followers. After earning degrees in psychology and higher education, Paul worked on several college campuses, often giving professional development pep talks that focused on reaching-OUT skills to help people more effectively connect with others and reaching IN skills to more consistently bring their best selves to school, work, and life. For the past twenty years he’s been self employed full time as a leadership trainer and keynoter, and has spoken at hundreds of conferences, in-services, and professional development events focusing on people in the helping professions. You can get to know Paul better at TheRipplesGuy.com and by following him @RipplesGuy on most social-media platforms.

Interested in next year?s Summer Leadership Institute?

Questions?? Contact sli@inclusiveschooling.com