2021 Sensory Symposium Speakers

Agenda \ Speakers \ Presentation DetailsSponsors


Stephen W. Porges, PhDSpeaker - Stephen Porges
Author of the Polyvagal Theory
University Scientist ~ Indiana University
Professor ~ University of North Carolina / University of Illinois at Chicago / University of Maryla

Dr. Stephen W. Porges is a distinguished university scientist at Indiana University, where he is the founding director of the Traumatic Stress Research Consortium. He is also a professor of psychiatry at the University of North Carolina and professor emeritus at the University of Illinois at Chicago and the University of Maryland. His more than 350 peer‐reviewed scientific papers, published across several disciplines, have been cited in approximately 40,000 peer-reviewed papers. He holds several patents involved in monitoring and regulating autonomic state and originated the Polyvagal Theory, which emphasizes the importance of physiological state in the expression of behavioral, mental, and health problems related to traumatic experiences. He is the author of The Polyvagal Theory: Neurophysiological foundations of Emotions, Attachment, Communication, and Self-Regulation, The Pocket Guide to the Polyvagal Theory: The Transformative Power of Feeling Safe, and Polyvagal Safety, as well as co-editor of Clinical Applications of the Polyvagal Theory: The Emergence of Polyvagal-Informed Therapies, and Polyvagal Safety.

Teresa A. May-Benson, ScD, OTR/L, FAOTA
TMb Education and OTR, Inc.

Speaker - Teresa May Benson
Teresa A. May-Benson, Sc.D., OTR/L, President/Owner of TMB Education, LLC and OTR, Inc., is a well-known lecturer and researcher on sensory integration. She is the author of the Adult/Adolescent Sensory History (ASH), the GI Assessment and the Test of Ideational Praxis in addition to numerous articles and book chapters on praxis, ideation, and sensory integration. She has extensive experience with children and adults with autism and a diverse clinical background having worked in private and public school settings as well as private practice. She is past Chairperson of the Sensory Integration Special Interest Section of the American Occupational Therapy Association. She is the recipient of the Virginia Scardinia Award of Excellence from AOTF, The Alice S. Bachman Award from Pediatric Therapy Network, and the Catherine Trombly Award from the Massachusetts Association of Occupational Therapy.

Sarah Sawyer, MA, OTR/L

President of the Board
Spiral Foundation
Speaker - Sarah Sawyer

Sarah is the Clinical Director at OTA The Koomar Center and is responsible for overseeing all therapeutic activities. She has extensive clinical experience working with children and families. Sarah began her career in the United Kingdom working with children, adolescents and adults with sensory processing dysfunction (SPD) across home, school and clinic-based settings. In 2003 Sarah was awarded the Elizabeth Casson Trust Scholarship from Oxford Brookes University, Oxford, UK, to attend Tufts University to complete her post-professional masters. Her thesis focused on therapists' clinical reasoning. Sarah has broad experience evaluating and treating individuals with SPD and has specialized training in listening therapies, feeding therapies and visual vestibular difficulties and DIRFloortime® Approach. Sarah has a particular interest in working with and supporting the families of neurodiverse individuals. Sarah is also passionate in supporting individuals and families that have experienced trauma and has collaborated with a number of colleagues to support the development of the role of OT in mental health and specifically the intersection of sensory processing, trauma and attachment. As well as overseeing the day-to-day running of the clinic, Sarah regularly shares her experiences through mentoring and presentations to educational facilities and other professionals broadening understanding of sensory processing and sensory integration therapy. In conjunction with her role at OTA, Sarah is also the president of the board of the SPIRAL Foundation - The Sensory Processing Institute of Research and Learning is a nonprofit organization founded in 2001 by Dr. Jane Koomar and Anne Trecker whose mission is to conduct research and provide professional and community education about sensory integration and sensory processing. 


Dana Johnson, PhD, MS, OTR/LSpeaker - Dana Johnson
Interplay Therapy Center and Founder of Invictus Academy Tampa Bay

Dr. Dana Johnson, PhD, MS, OTR/L is the owner of Interplay Therapy Center and Founder of Invictus Academy Tampa Bay, a non-profit private school for students with sensory motor differences. Dr. Johnson has a Master’s Degree in Occupational Therapy and a doctorate in Infant and Early Childhood Development with Emphasis in Developmental Disabilities and Infant Mental Health. Dr. Johnson has worked with individuals with motor and sensory differences for over 15 years. She started her career as an occupational therapist supporting children in the public school system. From there she moved to the clinical environment in Raleigh, NC working in a private pediatric clinic supporting children with varying diagnoses. In 2009, Dr. Johnson moved to Tampa, FL where she gained experience working with children on the autism spectrum. Her private practice opened in 2010 and has grown to serve children, adolescents and adults with motor and sensory differences, including autism, apraxia, sensory integration disorders, and other developmental disabilities.
She works with many families locally, nationally and internationally to educate and provide training on sensory motor differences and purposeful motor skills. Dr. Johnson is also a Spelling to Communicate (S2C) practitioner and a practitioner mentor for the International Association for Spelling as Communication (I-ASC) a non-profit organization that supports training, education, advocacy, and research for non-speaking and unreliably speaking individuals. Dr. Johnson’s passion is to continue to advocate for non-speaking individuals so that they will have access to reliable communication, autonomy and community accessibility.
In her spare time, Dr. Johnson loves to spend time in the mountains with her husband and two yellow labrador retrievers, Bauer and Newman.


Patricia Oetter, MA, OTR/L, FAOTA
Enriched Pediatric Practice Instructors Consortium
Speaker - Patricia Oetter

Patrica Oetter, MA, OT, FAOTA has earned her B.S. degree in occupational therapy from the University of Kansas and her master’s degree in special education from Kansas State Teachers College. She has clinical experience with individuals of varying disabilities, ages newborn to adult. Her primary emphasis has been infants and toddlers, preschool and elementary aged children with learning, communication and/or sensory processing disorders. Ms. Oetter provides consultation and education for teachers, parents, and therapists in the US, Asia and Europe; she has worked extensively in schools, special programs, and private practice. She is a Fellow of the American Occupational Therapy Association. She is currently a private practice consultant. Ms. Oetter has co-authored a number of publications related to treatment of sensory processing disorders including “M. O. R. E.: Integrating the Mouth with Sensory and Postural Functions” and “Out of the Mouths of Babes: The Developmental Significance of the Mouth.”

Tracy Murnan Stackhouse, MA, OTR

Executive Director
Developmental FX (DFX)
Speaker - Tracy Stackhouse

Tracy Murnan Stackhouse, MA, OTR is the Executive Director of Developmental FX (DFX) in Denver, Colorado, a non-profit organization providing clinical and training services to engage and elevate pediatric therapeutic practice. She is a leading pediatric occupational therapist (OT) involved in clinical treatment, research, mentoring, and training regarding OT intervention for persons with neurodevelopmental disorders, especially Fragile X Syndrome and autism. Tracy has a master’s degree in developmental psychology/neuroscience. She received her NDT training with Lois Bly. She is SIPT Certified and was the clinical specialist in sensory integration at The Children’s Hospital in Denver as well as the OT for the Fragile X Research and Treatment Center. Tracy continued her clinical and research work with Dr. Randi Hagerman at the UC Davis M.I.N.D. Institute during its start-up year prior to starting Developmental FX. Tracy has written several book chapters on sensory integration and neurodevelopmental disorders and teaches nationally and internationally on sensory integration, autism, fragile X, and related topics. She is the lead author for the SpIRiT  & S.T.E.P.S.I. Clinical Reasoning Tools which are leading-edge evidence-based models in pediatric OT. These models are utilized in OT practices around the globe and included in the model at Camp Jabiru in Australia.  The tools are shared through the “Spirited Conversations’ Podcast as well as through DFX’s training platform, Learning Journeys. Tracy has ongoing courses offered through Medbridge and iLs/Untyte (remote training use of the Safe and Sound Protocol). Tracy is a member of the National Fragile X Foundation Clinical Research Consortium, the Scientific And Clinical Advisory Committee, and the NFXF Advisory Council, and an expert advisor to the CDC and RTI Fragile X Priorities Panel.

Antoine L. Bailliard, PhD, OTR/LSpeaker - Antoine L. Bailliard

Associate Professor of Occupational Therapy
Duke University School of Medicine

Dr. Antoine Bailliard is Associate Professor of Occupational Therapy at Duke University School of Medicine.  He is Adjunct Professor in the Department of Psychiatry and the Division of Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He earned an M.S. in Occupational Therapy and a PhD in Occupational Science at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. His research focuses on exploring how sensory processing patterns affect community integration and participation in meaningful occupations. His community-engaged scholarship focuses on improving the delivery of community-based services for adults with serious mental illness. His theoretical work focuses on expanding understandings of occupational justice to enhance inclusion and understandings of how sensory processing patterns affect meaningful participation. Dr. Bailliard uses participatory methods to partner with people with lived experience with mental illness to design and implement research activities and in the development of tools and programs that improve the health, wellbeing, meaningful participation, and community integration of persons with serious mental illness. Dr. Bailliard’s clinical experience spans from working in acute inpatient mental health, chronic inpatient mental health, and community-based mental health settings. Currently, Dr. Bailliard is Co-Principal Investigator of a 5-year $2.4 million federal grant from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration to design an innovative assertive outreach team to meet the needs of adults with serious mental illness who are homeless or at risk of homelessness.  Dr. Bailliard is also a consultant for the Public Mental Health Partnership between the L.A. County Department of Mental Health and UCLA and a consultant and trainer for the Institute for Best Practices at the Center for Excellence in Community Mental Health at UNC-Chapel Hill.

Heather Kuhaneck, PhD, OTR/L, FAOTASpeaker - Heather Kuhaneck
Associate Professor of Occupational Therapy
College of Health Professions at Sacred Heart University

Dr. Kuhaneck is the co-editor of Case-Smith’s Occupational Therapy for Children and Adolescents and editor/co-editor of 3 editions of Autism: A Comprehensive Occupational Therapy Approach. She is the co-author of a textbook on play in occupational therapy and the Classroom Sensory Environment Assessment. She is a Fellow of the American Occupational Therapy Association and has practiced as an occupational therapist for over 30 years, specializing in autism and sensory integration, working in urban, suburban, and rural public schools as well as private clinics in Connecticut, West Virginia, and Ohio.