Friday, April 6


5:30 pm – 7:00 pm   Meet & Greet Reception, Hors D’voeures,

                                 Silent Auction, Exhibitor Fair,

                                 Entertainment by Reid Soria

7:00 pm – 9:00 pm   Movie Screening, Deej  / Q & A with DJ (Deej) Savarese 

                                 & Self-Advocate Panel

Saturday, April 7


8:00 am – 8:30 am Registration / Exhibitor Area Open

8:30 am – 9:00 am Welcome / Opening Remarks

9:00 am – 10:00 am Keynote Address: DJ Savarese

10:00 am – 10:15 am Break / Snacks

10:15 am – 10:45 am Jordyn Pallett, Jordyn’s “Rocky” Journey

10:45 am – 12:00 pm Casey DePriest, MT-BC, How Rethinking Autism Leads

                                   to Improved Therapeutic and Academic Outcomes

12:00 pm – 1:00 pm Lunch / Entertainment / Student Panel

1:15 pm – 3:15 pm Presentation: Aja McKee, Ph.D. Providing Educational

                               Access for Diverse Needs in a System that Celebrates  


3:15 pm – 3:30 pm Break / Snacks

3:30 pm – 4:00 pm Rene’ Hayes, The 10 Commandments of Inclusion for

                               Parents, Teachers, and Therapists

4:00 pm – 4:30 pm Wrap-Up / Evaluations


*Optimal Rhythms is a pre-approved provider for :

Music Therapists, Occupational Therapists, Occupational Therapy Assistants, Social Workers and Clinical Social Workers, Marriage and Family Therapists, Mental Health Counselors, Addictions Counselors, Clinical Addictions Counselors.  Certificates will be provided to all professional registrants to be used as deemed appropriate in their pursuit of continuing education.

The 4th annual Rethinking Autism Conference is returning to Evansville, Indiana, this April. The conference will kick off with a Friday evening Pre-Conference Hors D'oeuvres Reception, including Silent Auction and Exhibitor Fair at 5:30 PM, with entertainment by self-advocate and vocalist, Reid Soria, of Autism Sings.

At 7:00 PM, we will host a regional Film Screening of the newly released and award-winning "Deej".   We will wrap up the evening with Q&A with the film's subject and our conference Keynote Speaker, DJ Savarese, and other self-advocates.

Saturday's innovative education conference is themed: PATHWAYS TO INCLUSION.  This conference will challenge us all to explore new ways of thinking and educational practices that have great potential to improve academic outcomes and increase successful inclusion. 

Presentations will highlight fascinating new autism research, innovative therapeutic supports and accommodations, inclusion success stories, and the highly relevant experiences of self-advocates, including our esteemed Keynote Speaker, DJ Savarese, and influential blog writer, Jordyn Pallett.  We will hear from Dr. Aja McKee, Assistant Professor in the Department of Special Education at California State University, Fullerton (CSUF), about the importance of implementing literacy-based academic learning for students with complex sensory-motor and communication needs and how to write better IEPs to support these needs.  Optimal Rhythms' founder, board-certified music therapist, and autism consultant, Casey DePriest, MT-BC, will discuss support strategies that improve regulation in students on the autism spectrum and reduce problematic behaviors at home and in the classroom.  Rene' Hayes, will return this year to provide a session for parents, teachers, and therapists, discussing advocacy and self-care.  

Lunch will be included and will feature lunchtime entertainment by the talented, Reid Soria of Autism Sings, all the way from Florida.  A panel of self-advocates will answer questions and offer insights.

*Continuing education credits available. (see below)

REGISTER NOW and watch the Optimal Rhythms Facebook page for more timely updates!  Take advantage of the Early Bird Discount Rates and save $20 per professional or general registration!!  We expect this year's exciting conference to SELL OUT!!

Excitement is building!!! This is going to be our biggest conference yet and we expect it to sell out!

This year's conference will highlight new trends in education that are creating successfully inclusive and literacy-based strategies for autistic students with intense sensory-motor support needs and complex communication challenges.

Hear from self-advocates about their struggles and what resources and strategies have led to their success as a student.  Hear from educators who are on the front lines of research and implementation practices that are making a way for students previously considered poor candidates for inclusive education.

Optimal Rhythms, Inc. is a 501(c)3

tax exempt organization

Creating Optimal Rhythms for Life, 

Learning, Communication, and Independence

Neurologic Music Therapy Services

  • Individual and Group sessions
  • Treatment for Various Developmental Disabilities 
  • Treatment for Stroke, Parkinson's Disease, Traumatic Brain Injury

Our Presenters   

DJ Savarese graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Oberlin College in May 2017 with a double major in Anthropology and Creative Writing. An ASAN Scholar Fellow, he was also the recipient of Oberlin’s William Battrick Poetry Fellowship and their Comfort Starr Award for meritorious scholarly work in Anthropology. His poems and prose have appeared in The Iowa Review, Seneca Review, Prospect, Disability Studies Quarterly, Stone Canoe,, Voices for Diversity and Social Justice: A Literary Education Anthology, and A Doorknob for the Eye (chapbook). Currently a 2017 Open Society Foundations Youth Exchange/Human Rights Initiative Fellow, he works to make literacy-based education, communication, and inclusive lives a reality for all nonspeaking people. 

Aja McKee, Ph.D. is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Special Education at California State University, Fullerton (CSUF). Dr. McKee has worked in the public-school system since 1999, teaching in general and special early childhood education. After years in the classroom, she accepted a position as an Autism Specialist, and then a Program Specialist, while teaching adjunct at CSUF and pursuing her Ph.D. in Education with an emphasis in Disability Studies at Chapman University. Dr. McKee is also a certified special education advocate, trained through the University of San Diego. Dr. McKee’s most recent publications include a co-authored book chapter in a Peter Lang series titled Enacting change from within: Disability Studies meets teaching and teacher education, which examines using Universal Design for Learning (UDL) to promote accessibility to curriculum, as well as a study titled, The impact of disability studies curriculum on education professionals’ perspectives and practice: Implications for education, social justice, and social change, which was published in Disability Studies Quarterly. Dr. McKee’s presentations include several national conferences. Her research interests include issues of access, inclusion, autism, early childhood special education, and teacher preparation.

Casey DePriest, MT-BC, is a Certified Neurologic Music Therapist, owner of Integrative Music Therapy, LLC,  and Founder of Optimal Rhythms, Inc. / ACCESS Academy, a non-profit organization committed to educating communities on the latest autism research related to sensory-motor differences in autism.  ACCESS Academy is a therapeutic day school and alternative placement that utilizes a neurologic approach with autistic students with complex communication challenges who have struggled to make adequate academic progress in their previous educational placement, due to behavioral concerns or other high needs. Casey has over 20 years of clinical experience, provides autism-related consultation to parents, first responders, school districts, and others, and has presented at state, regional, and national conferences.  She is the Indiana Music Therapy Advocacy Task Force Chair and serves as a member of the American Music Therapy Association's Strategic Priority in Music Therapy and ASD Committee.

René Hayes is the parent of Matt Hayes, a young man with autism, who believes there is an upside to being on the autism spectrum.  They believe seeing autism as a way of being as opposed to something destructive in a person’s life changes the paradigm and the approach that someone takes to dealing with the difficulties of autism. That makes her a student of people on the spectrum as they work on living their best possible lives. In her spare time she is a C.P.A. and an organizer of communication workshops and training sessions.  In the summer she hosts workshops on South Bass Island in Lake Erie where she boats with her son Matt in the sun. Landlocked in St. Louis, she and Matt work on innovations to help Matt live an independent life one day.

Jordyn Pallett, learned to communicate by spelling on a letterboard at the age of 12, Jordyn is an advocate for his peers.  His mission in life is to make a difference and bring love and peace back to the planet.  Through his weekly blog, Facebook presence, documentary about his brain/body disconnect, and being an open book for questions he hopes to educate about living with autism such that there is no misunderstandings that leave people excluding autistics.  Living in Canada and being homeschooled, he loves to learn, climb, and be in communication with his friends across the globe.

Reid Soria was diagnosed with autism at the age of three, and the prognosis given to his family was very grim.  In fact, the only recommendation offered was to place him in an institution, as there was little hope for any significant progress.  This option was very quickly rejected.  There were few resources available to parents in those days, but his parents were determined to improve the quality of life for young Reid. It was a long, hard journey, but one filled with hope and perseverance which eventually brought Reid to where he is now, surpassing all expectations.  He graduated from high school with a special diploma in 2004. About eight years ago, it was discovered that Reid had developed a talent for singing.  Reid released his debut album “Imagine the Possibilities” in 2013, and he continues to pursue his career in singing and entertainment.  He welcomes the opportunity to enlighten the general public that everyone has gifts and talents to be shared to help make this world a better place.  When words fail, Autism Sings


ACCESS Academy

Our private day school provides students with severe autism:

  • A general education environment
  • Support for sensory and communication needs
  • Innovative neurologic supports

     Outreach Programs

       We have a number of outreach projects           we are offering soon: