3rd Annual Rethinking Autism Conference Returns April 20-21, 2017


After last years highly successful event, Optimal Rhythms, Inc. / ACCESS Academy will host the 3rd Annual Rethinking Autism Conference this April, which is National Autism Awareness Month, an initiative created to “promote autism awareness, inclusion and self-determination for all, and assure that each person with ASD is provided the opportunity to achieve the highest possible quality of life.”

While in the coming weeks we will be writing more about the Autism Awareness effort, it’s evolution into the new Autism Acceptance movement, and the efforts of organizations like Saved By Typing, ACCESS Academy, and the Wellspring Guild to represent the nonverbal ASD community, we want to provide details of the 2017 Rethinking Autism State Conference. This years event will include a number new training opportunities and special events.

Hosted by Optimal Rhythms and the ACCESS Academy, a special private day school for students with severe autism, the 2016 Rethinking Autism Conference will take place on Thursday, April 20 and Friday, April 21, at it’s new location, the St. Mary’s Medical Center Manor Auditorium in Evansville, IN.

About the 2017 Rethinking Autism Conference

Hosted by Optimal Rhythms/Access Academy

Hosted by
Optimal Rhythms/Access Academy

The Rethinking Autism Conference will bring together hundreds of voices as a passionate network to inspire hope and ignite change. Come explore compelling research that challenges our original understanding of autism spectrum disorder and uncovers the evidence behind innovative and neurologically-based sensory supports and accommodations that are increasing functioning through improved regulation, reliable communication, and lasting behavioral outcomes for individuals on the spectrum.

Conference participants will engage in multi-modal learning experiences related to the hidden motor struggles of complex communication challenges for many individuals with autism. Attendees will explore strategies that are proving to successfully promote improved sensorimotor regulation, reliable communication, educational access and independence for individuals once believed to have intellectual disabilities.

At the 2017 Rethinking Autism Conference, you will:

  • Explore important laws, autism research, and treatment models that are informing clinical and educational practices around the country.
  • Hear from self-advocates, clinicians, educators, and special education law experts who are rethinking limits placed on the lives and educational opportunities of individuals on the spectrum.
  • Hear from individuals on the spectrum about how their lives have been changed when those around them learned to rethink autism.

Hear from Keynote speaker Matthew Hayes, Autistic Self-Advocate and the inspiration behind the new PBS Documentary, My Voice; Tracy Thresher, Autistic Self-Advocate and star of the film, Wretches & Jabberers; Casey DePriest, Neurologic Music Therapist and Founder of Optimal Rhythms / ACCESS Academy; Christine King, Occupational Therapy Assistant and Coordinator at Project CHILLD in Massachusetts; and others. CLICK HERE for more information about this year’s speakers.

The conference committee is also excited to welcome additional self-advocates and professionals to participate in our Conference Education Panel, Sensory Motor Training, and Self-Advocacy Spotlights.

my-voiceAdditional events include a screening for conference attendees of the new release of the PBS Documentary, My Voice: One Man’s Journey thru the Silence of Autism during Friday’s session, with another screening on Saturday, April 22, at 2:00 PM at Optimal Rhythms, Inc., 8122 Robin Hill Rd in Newburgh, IN for those that can’t attend the conference.

Watch the inspiring true story of Matt Hayes, as he navigates life and finds his place in the world as a defender of human rights for noncommunicative autistic people. This young autistic man fights to help others, like him, who were born without the ability to communicate. It promises to be a powerful way to celebrate World Autism Acceptance Month.

Tickets for Saturday’s screening are available for a suggested donation of $5.00. To join in, call 812-490-9401 to RSVP.​

Who Should Attend?

Anyone who wants to learn about cutting edge autism research and evidence-based practices related to the diagnosis, treatment, and education of individuals on the autism spectrum, or who wants to hear first-hand accounts from individuals on the spectrum about how their lives have been changed when those around them learned to rethink autism, is encouraged to attend this informative conference, including:

Physicians & PAs
PTs & PTAs
OTs & OTAs
Speech & Language
Physicians & PAs
Direct Care Staff
Music Therapists
Mental Health Workers
Special & Gen Ed Teachers
Educational Assistants
Social Workers
Law Enforcement
Criminal Justice
School Administrators


Why attend the 2017 Rethinking Autism Conference?​

Conference participants will:

  • Recognize autism-related symptoms and difficulties consistent with movement disorders,
  • Discover the latest neuroscience research that uncovers connectivity differences in the autistic brain that impact motor planning, movement, and sensory regulation,
  • Understand the role rhythm plays in organizing movement, increasing attention, and overall executive functioning
    Learn brain-based therapy strategies that are improving sensory-motor functioning in individuals on the spectrum with complex communication challenges, and
  • Discover why assuming competence is the least dangerous assumption during assessment, treatment, and education of individuals on the autism spectrum.

Continuing Education Training

Optimal Rhythms, Inc (501c3) is pleased to offer Continuing Education (CE) units for professionals attending the 2017 Rethinking Autism Research Conference.

We have received pre-approval CE units/credits for:

  • Occupational Therapists
  • Occupational Therapy Assistants
  • Social Workers
  • Clinical Social Workers
  • Marriage and Family Therapists
  • Mental Health Counselors
  • Addiction Counselors
  • Clinical Addiction Counselors
  • Music Therapists (pending approval; [CBMT Approved Provider #P-155])

Please check this webpage for updates on CEUs; additional professionals will be added as approved. If your discipline is not pre-approved, you will receive a general certificate with the total contact hours indicated. If your desire or approval to attend the conference is contingent upon availability of CEUs, please email admin@optimalrhythms.org with your inquiry and/or call us at 812-490-9401.


2017 Rethinking Autism Conference Details

Thursday, April 20, 8:00 AM – 4:30 PM
Friday, April 1, 8:00 AM – 4:30 PM

Click here for Schedule of Events. (PDF opens in new window)


St. Mary’s Medical Center Manor Auditorium
3700 Washington Ave.
Evansville, IN 47750
Main Phone: 812.485.4000

St. Mary's Medical Center Click to download campus map (PDF opens in new window)

St. Mary’s Medical Center
Click above to download campus map.
(PDF opens in new window)

St. Mary’s Medical Center is a faith-based, acute care facility providing general medical, cardiac, surgical, diagnostic, rehabilitation, senior, mental health, oncology, and emergency services, in addition to a separate but attached Hospital for Women and Children. Partnering with a medical staff of more than 650 physicians, St. Mary’s mission is to serve all persons, with special attention to those who are poor and vulnerable. St. Mary’s is a member of Ascension Health, the nation’s largest Catholic sponsored, not-for-profit health system.

The St. Mary’s Medical Center Manor Auditorium is directly across from the ER. From Washington Ave, go right around the Hosp for Women and Children and park in the lot by the helipads (or anywhere near there except ER parking). Use the double doors right across from the ER. There will be signs outside the building and inside directing you to the Manor Auditorium.

Comfort Inn & Suites Evansville Airport
901 Highway 41 North, Evansville, IN 47711
(812) 423-5818

With all the amenities you need, and hotels everywhere you want to be, the Comfort Inn & Suites® Evansville Airport hotel will get you rested and ready for anything. Get going with a great breakfast. Start your day with their free hot breakfast offering everything from eggs, waffles and meat to healthy options like yogurt and fresh fruit.

To make a reservation, call the hotel directly at (812) 423-5818. The Group Code is Rethink Autism. This special rate is only available while room supplies last​​.

Your registration fee includes:

  • Two days of conference programming with nationally recognized speakers
  • Continuing Education Credits (Professional Registration Only)
  • Door Prize Drawings​
  • Free Parking and Hotel Shuttle Service to/from airport and conference venue
  • Vendors/Exhibitors
  • Lunch and Snack on each day
  • Access to the PBS premiere of My Voice (documentary about Matthew Hayes)

For more information about registration categories and costs, or to register, visit the 2017 Rethinking Autism Registration page, or download the Conference Registration Packet for complete details. (PDF opens in new window) Early Bird Rates are available through March 18th, 2017.

Registration fees include:

  • Two days of conference programming with internationally recognized speakers
  • Continuing education credits (Professional Registration Only)
  • Silent Auction/Door Prize Drawings
  • A Free Conference T-Shirt (if registered by March 18)
  • Free Parking
  • Vendors/Exhibitors
  • Snack on each day
  • One ticket to the Rethink Autism Benefit Luncheon on Saturday

Registration cancellation requests received by March 18, 2017 will be processed without a cancellation penalty. A full refund will be granted. Registration cancellation requests received after March 18, 2017 will be processed minus a $50.00 cancellation penalty per registration.


  • Need-Based Scholarships: There are a limited number of need-based scholarships that will be awarded to students and family members (one per family limit) for those who are interested in attending but cannot afford the fee. Scholarships are provided on a first-come, first-serve basis. Individuals on the spectrum/self-advocates with financial needs can call (812) 491-9401 or email us at (admin@optimalrhythms.org) to request help with registration fees.
  • Family & Caregiver Training: The Rethinking Autism Conference will qualify for Family & Caregiver Training via Indiana Medicaid Waiver. Please contact your case manager or call Integrative Music Therapy (an approved Family & Caregiver Training provider) at 812-491-9400 for information about how to select FCT as an option in your waiver budget.

Join Optimal Rhythms / Access Academy in their mission to serve and support those on the autism spectrum in our communities by becoming a sponsor of the 2017 Rethinking Autism Conference the April. Your participation can help us to equip area medical and educational professionals, businesses, churches, and community members to better understand, serve, and include individuals and families affected by the complex communication challenges of autism. For more information about the various Sponsorship packages, CLICK HERE.

The Exhibitors and Vendors area will be open both Thursday and Friday in the conference space so attendees will have ample opportunity to visit their booths and see what they’re doing to Rethink Autism. CLICK HERE to download the Exhibitor Registration form.

For more information about becoming a Conference Sponsor or Vendor, download the 2017 Rethinking Autism Conference Registration Packet. (PDF opens in new window)