Join us for our Life in the Community Symposium!

Thank you to everyone who joined us for the
2023 Life in the Community Symposium!

During the 2023 Life in the Community Symposium, presentations and breakout sessions focused on Community Mapping, an effective method for identifying many types of resources in your community that can help you thrive. Together, with our partners  Virginia Down Syndrome Association and The Arc of Virginia, we offered engaging, informative presentations and interactive activities related to Community Mapping.

General Schedule:

Registration & Exhibitors: 8:45am to 9:15am

Opening Session:  9:30am to 10:30am

Breakout 1: Independent Living Focus: 10:45am to 11:45am

Lunch: 11:45am to 12:45pm

Breakout 2: Employment & Vocational Skill Focus: 1:00pm to 2:00pm

Breakout 3: Relationships & Leisure Activities Focus: 2:15pm to 3:15pm

Closing Session: 3:30pm to 4:00pm

Detailed Schedule:

Opening Session:

9:30 – 10:30am

Get up and Get out! Finding Interests and Community Partnerships to Improve Outcomes for Adults with Disabilities

Presented by Dr. Staci Carr


Main Room

Everyone deserves to experience the life they want in the community they choose!

This presentation will discuss key components and strategies to support increased Quality of Life through identifying interests and strengths, along with building community partnerships and relationships. This presentation will set the stage for the symposium and introduce social and community mapping. Active community engagement leads to better outcomes!

Participants will learn ways to engage themselves or their loved ones in identifying interests and hobbies, and how to navigate community partnerships that would support such interests through relationships, employment, life-long learning, independence, and independent living.

Each participant will be able to complete their own SPIN (Strengths, Preferences, Interests, and Needs) to reference throughout the day.

Breakout 1: Independent Living Focus

10:45 – 11:45am

Building Independence: Strategies for Supporting Young Adults with Disabilities

with Dr. Zipporah Levi-Shackleford & Sandra Thompson


Breakout Room A

Join Sandra Thompson, Founder of Sandra L Thompson and Associates, and Dr. Zipporah Levi-Shackleford, Founder of The Creative Approach Development Center, for an exciting one-hour Family Feud style presentation focused on helping young adults with disabilities prepare for independence.

Don’t miss this opportunity to learn valuable strategies for preparing young adults with disabilities for independence in a fun and engaging way. Join Sandra and Zipporah for a Family Feud-style presentation that is sure to leave you feeling inspired and informed.

Building Your Nest: Living in Your Own Home with Supports

led by The Arc of Virginia


Breakout Room B

Hear from people who are using Developmental Disability Waiver services to live in their own place or with others. Our panelists will describe their living arrangements, the resources and services that are available that made it possible for them to live independently regardless of their level of support needs. All means All!

Building Positive Interactions with Law Enforcement


Breakout Room C

More information to come!

Lunch & Exhibitor Fair

11:45am – 12:45pm

Breakout 2: Employment & Vocational Skill Focus

1:00 – 2:00pm

Knowing Your S.P.I.N. & Finding the Job You Like

with Teresa Cogar, M.Ed., BCBA, LBA


Breakout Room A

Teresa Cogar, M.Ed., is a Training and Technical Assistance Associate for Virginia Commonwealth University – Autism Center for Education (VCU-ACE). Teresa will lead attendees through a conversation about discovering a person’s strengths, preferences, and interests to develop those areas and leverage them when finding a job. This session will dive into the four areas of the SPIN and discuss how to use the results of a SPIN to find jobs, volunteer activities, and social activities that will enhance a person’s quality of life.

Top 5 Workplace Readiness Skills

with Hannah Ramsey, M.A. CRC.


Breakout Room B

Hannah is the Program Coordinator for Virginia Commonwealth University’s (VCU) inclusive higher education program, ACE-IT in College, and is a postsecondary transition associate for the Center on Transition Innovations. During Hannah’s session, participants will learn about the top 5 workplace readiness skills needed for employment today. In addition, this session will provide concrete examples of activities to develop each skill, including how to start at home!

Pathways to Success: A Discussion About Employment Options

Panel led by Soar 365


Breakout Room C

Hear from people who have found pathways to success through the many different types of employment available in the state of Virginia. Panelists will discuss how they found jobs that were right for them, as well as share services and supports that have been helpful to them in succeeding.

Breakout 3: Relationships & Leisure Activities Focus

2:15 – 3:15pm

Dating & Romantic Relationships

with Dr. Amanda Randall


Breakout Room A

Dr. Amanda A. Randall is a behavior analyst and consultant who works with schools, families, and organizations to improve the lives and outcomes of individuals with disabilities.

Dr. Randall will lead an engaging presentation that will explore the common challenges faced by individuals with disabilities in relationships, such as communication barriers, social isolation, and stigma. Attendees will leave with a better understanding of how to build and maintain healthy relationships and a variety of resources for support and continued learning.

Abuse Prevention

with Nicole Rada


Breakout Room B

Nicole is a project manager for the Partnership for People with Disabilities at Virginia Commonwealth University. Her presentation will address abuse and neglect among people with disabilities including dynamics, prevention, and responding to abuse, outcomes of LEAP, and promoting positive outcomes for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities and the people who support them.

Get Out & Get Active! Panel on Social & Recreational Activities

Panel led by the ASCV and Jacob’s Chance


Breakout Room C

Panelists will discuss programs and activities that they participate in for social and recreational outlets in the community.

Closing Session

3:30 – 4:00pm, Main Room
Presented by Dr. Staci Carr


Main Room

More information to come

Waiver Sessions

1:1 Medicaid Waiver Mentor Sessions

with Bradford Hulcher & Lucy Cantrell

Lucy and Bradford will explain how to apply, respond to questions about specific services, help you understand the waiting list, and answer questions about the waiver you have during 1:1 thirty minute sessions.

Bradford Hulcher has expertise in Medicaid waivers, special education, and resources for adults on the spectrum. 

Lucy Cantrell is the Information and Resources Director for The Arc of Virginia and a Medicaid Waiver Mentor.