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Break Out Sessions 3

Take your time reading about each session and so you can customize your conference experience! You will be able to choose one (1) session from this group.

My Journey of

Autism & Faith

Led by: Ron Sandison

Ron Sandison, an author, speaker, and minister, shares his journey of autism and faith. He shares his challenges with autism and how God helped him overcome by learning social skills and handling sensory issues. An American with Disability case enabled Ron to compete in sports his senior year of high school and become a nationally known disability advocate.

Including and Supporting Kids on the Spectrum With Mental Health Concerns (FULL)

Led by: Stephen Grcevich, M.D.

More than three in four children with autism experience at least one mental health condition - half experience two or more. This breakout is designed to help ministry leaders include kids with autism with concomitant mental health concerns - anxiety disorders, compulsive behaviors, ADHD, depression and gender dysphoria.

Find Your Niche

Led by: Taylor Duncan

This presentation highly emphasizes the power of creativity and innovation one can have in encouraging those with disabilities to discover their God-given talents through inclusive opportunities. This session also highlights the ways and methods in which the encouragement of these developed skills and talents can contribute throughout and beyond the church setting.

Everyone Needs a Spiritual IEP


Led by: Lynn Wilkerson

What is the ultimate goal for each individual in your ministry? Do you have a plan to reach that goal? All special needs families know the term IEP. We will take that concept to a whole new level. By developing a plan that takes the unique abilities, interests, and needs of that person, parents and volunteers will know how to reach and disciple each individual. Through this method, everyone will know the best strategies for that person to grow in their relationship with Jesus. Practical ideas and resources will be shared in this interactive session. You will leave with a unique program to help people with special needs and disabilities understand their role as a child of God.

Inclusion in Children's Ministry


Led by: Stephanie James & Jillian Palmiotto

This breakout session will help you understand strategies for including children with special needs in your already existing programming for Sunday morning, camps, and events.. You will gain a better understanding of how children's pastors, volunteers, and worship leaders can partner with and collaborate with the special needs team to ensure all children are receiving the gospel.

Disabilities and

Gender Issues

Led by: Dr. Stephanie Holmes

Special interests and passion, entrenched thoughts, and impulse control are part of the challenges in working with adolescents on the autism spectrum. Spectrum youth can struggle with social skills, social interactions, and finding belonging in their community, which can make them vulnerable to bullying, and exclusion, and more likely to be persuaded by social contagion, if social pressure can lead to belonging or to a social group. When an autistic youth comes to believe something, it becomes a “truth” to them, much like we in Christian counseling have come to a belief in God and Scripture. We believe what we believe, not out of proof, but faith. When an individual on the spectrum locks their mind onto a belief system, it becomes a perception of truth. Trying to argue logic or present them with what we believe to be facts does not usually dissuade them, but can instead almost entrench them into the position. In this session, ministry leaders and families will learn strategies to work with these adolescents, when their interests become focused on gender, technology, or pornography.

Critical Conversations to Have with Your Pastoral Leadership

Led by: Stephen & Tina Taylor

You have an amazing idea to develop a ministry for the disability community. In your excitement, you take initial steps to learn how to develop this ministry and are gaining momentum. You go back to your faith community and face challenges from pastoral leadership. This session will provide information that pastors need to hear and get leadership support for your ministry!

Quiet Moments

Led by: Pamela Vandewalker

The spiritual discipline of silence is often overlooked but needed in our present culture. Discover ways to offer creative, practical, & simple times of spiritual reflection and quiet moments with your students.

Supporting High-Impact Caregivers

Led by: Rachael Chisholm

It’s easy to get tongue-tied in a conversation with a struggling special-needs caregiver. We don’t want to say the wrong thing but often don’t know what to say. We also feel the fear of getting roped into something we don’t want to do, so we don’t offer to do anything. This session will help you to confidently enter these difficult conversations with practical ideas about what to say to convey that you care, as well as some manageable and impactful ways to offer support.

Practical Ways to Love and Support Special-Needs Families (FULL)

Led by: Becky Davidson

In this workshop, Becky Davidson provides practical tips and tools from her unique perspective as a widow, a mom of an adult son with profound special needs, and a disability ministry leader to help church leaders see how they can love and serve families living with disabilities.

Winning Your

Pastor's Support

Led by: Steve Chatham

This breakout, led by someone who spent nearly 30 years in church leadership, will teach you the five keys to getting the leadership at your church on board with your plan to start or expand a ministry to special needs families.

Behavior Strategies: Next Level


Led by: Stephen Culver & Kent Wright

This course will provide practical examples of how to effectively de-escalate individuals who might display challenging behaviors during your services, sessions, or classes. Let's go on a journey of digging deeper to identify why these behaviors might be occurring so that we ensure all individuals have the opportunity to participate in what we have to offer!

Building Your Inclusive Ministry Team

Led by: Samantha Jones

Volunteers are the lifeblood of every ministry. Our volunteers are the biggest investment of every ministry leader. This workshop is designed with practical strategies for structuring, growing, and retaining volunteers for inclusion ministry for any leader from new to well-seasoned.

The Power of Community

Led by: John Fellageller

In this session, John will reflect on the impact that having found and developed an intentional community around him supported his journey as a special needs father and single father. John will describe his experiences in finding both established groups and communities of special needs families and parents, as well as how he was able to create his own support groups both locally and on a national level. John will also then share his own advice on how to find and develop community and support groups in your area.

The Breakdown of

Special Needs Ministry

Led by: Valeria Lobo

Valeria meets with many churches who are interested in having a special needs ministry at their church because they are already serving the special needs population in some capacity, and they want to do it well. She will talk about her ministry, Thrive, and where they've started, how they’ve grown, and how they operate. She will give practical steps to helping churches start a special needs ministry or help implement strategies in the inclusive classroom along with volunteer requirements.

Shine Basketball League

Led by: John Griffith

Join Coach John Griffith in the Johnson Ferry Gym to cheer on the Shine Basketball team. Witness the importance of creating a special needs adapted sports league as a local outreach to families. By partnering with Special Olympics or creating your own league, this is a great way to create community for individuals with special needs.

Read About Our Fabulous Speakers!


Lynn Wilkerson | Special Needs Director at Johnson Ferry Baptist Church

Lynn has been the Special Needs Minister at Johnson Ferry Baptist for 8 years. She is married to Thomas and they have 2 children, Emily and Isaac. Emily is a sophomore at UGA and Isaac is a junior at Walton High School. Lynn enjoys being outside, finding unique coffee houses, and laughing as much as she can. One of her favorite places to go is Dollywood!

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