The University of Scranton: Academics: Annual Conference on disAbility


Registration and Contact Information

Registration is closed for this year's conference.
For more information about this year's conference, please contact Dr. Rebecca Dalgin ( or Dr. Lori Bruch (

Conference Mission

The University of Scranton believes that disability is part of the human experience and that assisting individuals and families living with disabilities to achieve optimal quality of life requires multidisciplinary interventions, education, research and leadership. The mission of the Conference on disABILITY is to positively influence the quality of life and wellness of individuals and families living with disabilities by promoting in its deliberations the foundational principles of individualization, self-determination, productivity, employment, independence and full participation in community life by creating an effective learning environment, collaborative and focused discussion and the identification and sharing of effective practices useful in the United States and around the world.



Devin Wildes, Artist

Devin was diagnosed at the age of 3 with severe autism. He didn’t talk, he had lots of tantrums and his parents had a hard time taking him anywhere out of the home. They had no idea how to reach him until they found Fraser. 

What his mother wanted the most from her son was to hear his voice and to communicate with her and one day be able to go to school with his neighborhood friends.  He attended Fraser Child and Family Center until the age of 6 where he was able to transition to a public school. 

Devin continued to use services from Fraser through-out his life.  Not only did he learn how to speak, Devin found his voice through art - quite literally. As a young autistic artist, this is his story of triumph. Through the power of art, Fraser and family, Devin surpassed all expectations to not only speak; but move the world around him through his art.

Now as a young adult in his twenties, Devin has a fulfilling career attending Interact Visual & Performing Art Center where he creates art every day.  Not only does he speak, he professionally talks about his art around the country to large audiences that love him for his talent and perseverance.  He sells his art through ArtForce, whom he is a spokesperson for their Wings program, and a portion of his proceeds goes back to fund the very special place that helped him find his voice; Fraser Child & Family Center.

A.J. Paron-Wildes, Mother & Designer

Allied Member ASID, Associate Member IIDA, Associate Member AIA, LEED AP ID+C,WELL AP

A.J. Paron-Wildes has acquired significant experience working in the design/build industry.  She has created and led a multi-million dollar award-winning design/build firm, developed national programs for ASID, developed and funded design research programs for the University of Minnesota and pioneered various charitable programs.  She, and her work, is featured in many television segments on HGTV, PBS and Bob Vila.

A.J. has been a design consultant for interiors in healthcare and education, specifically dealing with autism & ADHD.  From school settings, therapy environments to her most noted work on the building for the MIND Institute in Sacramento, California; AJ has used her skills as a designer and blended them with her experience of raising a son with autism.

Over thirty publications have published articles of projects completed by Ms. Paron-Wildes. She has served as a design judge for several design professional organizations. These efforts have not gone overlooked, A.J. has been honored with accolades from numerous organizations like NKBA, NARI, Chrysalis Awards, Professional Remodeler Magazine, Remodeling Magazine, USGBC, IIDA and ASID.  She recently completed her co-chair term on the State Autism Legislative Task Force.  She continues to work with government organizations, school districts, and the community at large to help individuals on the Autism Spectrum Disorder.

In 2013, Ms. Paron-Wildes completed a triology e-book series on Design for Autism for Wiley publications.  She continues to lecture and teach design principles that help others design in a more empathetic way for individuals with autism.

A.J. currently serves the design community as the National Architectural & Design Manager for Allsteel, a commercial furniture manufacturer.


Maria Davis-Pierre LMHC, is the Founder and CEO of Autism in Black Inc.  This organization aims to bring awareness to Autism and reduce the stigma associated with the diagnosis in the Black community. Her unique approach exemplifies her drive and motivation toward greater acceptance and overcoming the barriers and personal struggles associated with raising a Black autistic child. Maria has been featured in Forbes, The New York Times, USA Today, and has collaborated with Microsoft.


V R Ferose

Senior Vice President, HEAD of SAP Academy for Engineering, SAP SE

Based in Palo Alto, Ferose heads the SAP Academy for Engineering. The mission of the organization is to create the next generation of engineers who are involved in solving some of the most complex problems in the world.

He formerly headed the Globalization Services unit and was responsible for enabling the global adoption of SAP products worldwide.

Ferose was also the Managing Director of SAP Labs India. Starting at the age of 33, he held this post for over 5 years during which he transformed SAP Labs India into an innovation hub. In 2012, the company got the Great Place to Work certification in India for its very first time.  

Ferose is the Chairperson on the Board of Specialisterne USA, a not-for-profit foundation with the goal to create one million jobs for people with autism and similar challenges. He is the founder of the India Inclusion Foundation a nonprofit that aims to bring the topic of inclusion to the forefront in India. The India Inclusion Summit, The Inclusion Fellowship, Art For Inclusion and The Inclusive Walkathon , Everyone Is Good at Something, are some of the initiatives under the nonprofit.

Ferose has co-authored a best-selling book on people with disabilities, GIFTED. The book has been translated into six Indian regional languages. The Kannada translation won the prestigious Karnataka Sahitya Academy Award. He also co-authored “Innovating the World: The Globalization Advantage” and “GRIT: The Major Story”. Ferose teaches “Personal Leadership” at Columbia University, New York and is a columnist for Forbes, New Indian Express and Mint.  

Honors & Achievements

  • ‘Young Global Leader’ - 2012 by the World Economic Forum
  • ‘India’s Top 40 under 40’ – 2014 by Economic Times and Spencer Stuart.
  • Rising star at SAP by Business Insider in 2016
  • ‘Happiness Hall of Fame’ inductee at Stanford in 2016.
  • Eagle Award by Disability Rights Advocates (DRA) 2016 for advancing equal rights for people with disabilities.
  • AUCD award by Senator Tom Harkin in March 2017 for his groundbreaking initiative at SAP - ‘Autism at Work’.
  • Leadership Energy Award, Kuala Lumpur in November 2017 for showing that Diversity and Inclusion makes business sense.
  • GIFTED won the Karnataka Sahitya Academy award in 2017.
  • Lifetime achievement award for Global Philanthropy in 2018 by Transperfect
  • India Living Awards for Thought Leadership in 2018 by Global Adjustments
  • GRIT: The Major Story was nominated for the Neev Literary Award in 2020


All details about Ferose at:

Follow Ferose @

LinkedIn: Ferose V R


Thorkil Sonne Specialisterne Foundation

Thorkil Sonne is the founder of Specialisterne and Specialisterne Foundation.

He founded Specialisterne in 2004 in Denmark after his son was diagnosed as autistic at the age of three. Since 2004, the Specialisterne concept has been replicated in 13 countries and led to 10.000+ jobs for neurodivergent persons.

The overarching Specialisterne Foundation is an NGO associated with the UN Department of Global Communications and works globally to transform labour markets to become inclusive for 1M autistic/neurodivergent persons as well as enabling inclusion in the education system and local communities.

Thorkil Sonne is a previous chairman of Denmark’s council for corporate responsibility and sustainability development goals, and currently chairman Specialisterne Foundation, a World Economic Forum Schwab Foundation Social Entrepreneur and Ashoka Globalizer Fellow. He was honored with the Autism Prize by Autism Denmark, IT Prize by Danish IT Industry Association. He was also named “European of the Week” by ARTE, “Brave Thinkers” by the Altantic Magazine and the “Intelligent Optimist” by Ode Magazine.

Thorkil has contributed to a number of books and articles, such as Harvard Business Review “The Case for Hiring Outlier Employees” and “The Dandelion Principle: Redesigning Work for the Innovation Economy”


Jose H. Velasco 

Mr. Velasco’s 30-year Information Technology career spans private and public sectors and companies ranging from startups to Fortune 50 enterprises. During his tenure of 22 years at SAP, Mr. Velasco has occupied positions in product management, consulting, development, strategy, go-to-market and diversity functions.

Mr. Velasco participated as a panelist at the United Nations World Autism Awareness Day, testified before U.S. Congress on the “Global Challenge of Autism” and collaborated on the topic of Corporate Social Innovation at the World Economic Forum. He has presented the topic of autism in the workplace to private, public, educational and 3rd sector audiences in conferences around the world. Mr. Velasco was the recipient of the 2015 Employer of the Year Award by the Department of Rehabilitation of the State of California, The Brighter Futures Occupational Wellness Award by the Philadelphia DBHDS, SpArc Philadelphia Employer of the Year Award, on behalf of SAP, the 2015 Arc Catalyst Employer of the Year award and the 2016 Ruderman Family Foundation Best in Business Awards. Through his work at SAP Autism at Work, Mr. Velasco and his team have been featured in more than 1,800 global, national and local publications and TV/Radio segments including the Wall Street Journal, CBS Sunday Morning, NBC, Fox, Inc. Magazine and Forbes among others.

In 2016, Mr. Velasco launched the first Autism at Work Summit, a conference series designed to foster collaboration between private and public sectors, academia, government, schools, philanthropists, civil societies and the autism community with the ultimate purpose of improving opportunities for individuals with autism in the labor market.

Mr. Velasco is a board member of The Arc, the largest national community-based organization in the United States advocating for and serving people with intellectual and developmental disabilities and their families. He holds a Master’s Degree in Technology Commercialization from McCombs School of Business at the University of Texas at Austin and B.S. in Computer Science from Tecnologico de Monterrey in Monterrey, Mexico.

Michael Kelley

Michael E. Kelley, PhD, LP, BCBA-D is a professor at the University of Scranton (Department of Counseling and Human Service, Panuska College of Professional Studies) and Director of the Applied Behavior Analysis Program. He has held faculty positions at the Florida Institute of Technology (2012 – 2019), University of Nebraska Medical Center (2010 – 2012), University of Southern Maine (2007 – 2010), and Emory University (2004 – 2007). Dr. Kelley has also served as the Executive Director of the Scott Center for Autism Treatment (2012 – 2019), where he supervised over 75 staff and 7 clinical service, training, and research programs (approximate $2M annual budget). Professionally, Dr. Kelley is a licensed Psychologist (PA, FL, NE, ME) and a Doctoral-level Board Certified Behavior Analyst. He integrates education, clinical service, training, and research in his professional activities. Dr. Kelley has over 50 peer-reviewed publications, and has served as an investigator in several federally funded grants. Dr. Kelley has extensive training and experience in developing and directing programs, tele-medicine service delivery, and supervising staff for clinical services and research. 


Kerry Magro

Dr. Kerry Magro Ed.D. is an award-winning autistic professional speaker, best-selling author and autism consultant to the HBO series Mrs. Fletcher that aired in Fall 2019. He started professional speaking 10 years ago via the National Speakers Association after he fell in love with theatre as a child to help with his social and communication skills. Today he has spoken at over 1000 events during that time include 2 TEDxTalks and a 'Talks at Google' presentation. In addition, Kerry is CEO & President of KFM Making A Difference, a nonprofit organization that hosts inclusion events and has provided 100 scholarships for students with autism for college and counting since 2011. In his spare time, he hosts a Facebook Page called Kerry's Autism Journey that now has 214,000 Facebook followers where he does on-camera interviews highlighting people impacted by a diagnosis to breaking down barriers in our community. His videos have been watched over 35 Million times. 

Kerry’s best-selling books Defining Autism From The Heart, and Autism and Falling in Love have reached Amazon Best-Seller Lists for Special Needs Parenting. You can contact him about speaking with your group virtually or in person at He is based in Hoboken, New Jersey


Director of Business Relations for Council of State Administrators of Vocational Rehabilitation (CSAVR)

Kathy West-Evans is the Director of Business Relations for CSAVR (Council of State Administrators of Vocational Rehabilitation) where she leads The NET (National Employment Team). Kathy is a Certified Rehabilitation Counselor (CRC) who is fluent in American Sign Language. Kathy started in the field of rehabilitation in 1978.

She has worked at the community, state, federal and national level over her career.

Kathy is a sought-after consultant and presenter on topic areas related to serving individuals with disabilities and business through a dual-customer approach. The focus includes developing strategies with business to employ and retain the talents of individuals with disabilities across the footprint of the company.