School mental health symposium 2.26.15

Mental Health Symposium

On February 26, 2015, an inaugural mental health symposium took place.  This symposium was the brain child of a group of high school district special education directors and staff who were concerned with the minimal resources available to our  young adults with mental health needs exiting the school system.  

Out of this concern grew an idea for a symposium bringing together experts in the field of education and mental health to share resources and have conversations to drive future directions to support students with emotional disabilities transitioning into adulthood.  Representatives from Legal, Legislative, Mental Health Agencies, Schools, Medical and Behavioral Health Facilities, Vocational Entities, University Researchers, and Families explored the issue and identified potential actions for transforming the future for young adults with mental health needs.  

Below are links to information regarding the day, presenters, and ideas generated during the symposium.  Forthcoming will be a consolidated action plan from the list  of ideas synthesized based on attendees' feedback.  

  • In Illinois alone, there are approximately 175,000 school aged children and adolescents who receive special education services as  students with emotional disabilities.

  • Of these students, over 4,000 of have needs that exceed the resources of
    their local school district,  and they require ​educational  placement in the therapeutic day school setting.

  • In 2014 school year, 275 of these students’ needs were so  ​significant, they required residential  placement through the school  system to meet their needs.

  • The number of school aged children in need of residential placement through the school system has  increased by 18% over the  last 5 years.

  • Many of these students in Illinois are also represented in the 20% Illinoisans who experience mental  illness and the 25% who  experience mental illness, nationally.

Testimonials from the Mental Health Symposium  2.26.15:  

 We believe that stigma is the greatest barrier to  individuals accessing mental health services.  Katie

 Continue to talk about mental health everywhere  we can to take away the stigma.  Kim

 Lack of financial resources for both individuals  and agencies are barriers to mental health access.  Katie

 ...we need to become very active in telling our  state senators and representatives that we need  funding to remain the same and that we want  more resources for this population.  Mary


think on these things...



  • With abysmal outcome statistics staring us in the face, let’s not forget who is at the heart of this critical conversation. 

  • 75% of individuals suffering from mental illness believe that people do not care about or have sympathy for those suffering from mental illness;

  • Many suffering from mental illness feel guilt, hopelessness and worthlessness

  • For the young and old alike, mental illness is the attributing cause of 90% of suicides in America

  • Baring in mind that 1 in 4 individuals nationally and 1 in 5 in individuals in Illinois suffer from mental illness 


  • The impact on the families of those suffering from mental illness is “unimaginable,  unless you’ve lived it.” 

  • It is reported that over 60% of parents caring for a child who suffers from mental illness  feel that they are unable to adequately care for their other children;

  • 50% report having to change jobs, in order to care for their child;

  • 70% report significant strain on their marriages, often resulting in divorce or separation;

  • Over 50% report stigma and prejudice related to mental illness had been experienced by  members of their families

  • And more than 20% report having made the unimaginable decision of relinquishing  custody of their child with mental illness, to give them a fighting chance at receiving  the care and treatment they need


  •  It is estimated that for every $1 spent on mental health services, there is $5 in overall  healthcare savings.  Mental illness accounts for approximately 15% of the economic  burden of all illnesses in the United States.  However, as funding decreases, the burden  will only stand to increase.

  • Conservatively, it is estimated that mental illness costs Americans $193.2 billion dollars  per year in lost earnings

  • And between lost wages, healthcare costs and disability benefits, mental illness costs  Americans $317 billion dollars per year


  • Over the last 20 years, psychiatric beds available to individuals with severe mental illness have decreased by nearly 33%, while the number of Americans suffering from severe mental illness has increased by over 8%

  • Since 2009, States have collectively cut over $5 billion in mental health service funding, with Illinois ranking 3rd in the highest amount of funding reductions

  • Between 2009 and 2012, funding in Illinois decreased by 18%

  • With more people in need and fewer services available, access to mental health care is of critical concern.

  • Of the millions of Americans who experience mental illness annually, less than 40% will receive mental health services this year.

  • Only 50% youth ages 8 to 15 experiencing mental illness will receive mental health services

  • And in Illinois, only 20% of students with emotional disabilities will receive mental health services


Of the nation’s students identified as having emotional  disabilities, over 50% exit the school system without a high  school diploma.  Nearly 75% do not continue their education after high school.  And of those who continue their educations beyond high  school, over 70% have experienced mental health crises while  on campus, which often results in the lack of degree  completion.



In the workforce, 60 – 80% of individuals who live with mental  illness are unemployed, with number estimated to be as high  as 90% for individuals living with severe mental illness.  Of those who are employed, many experience elevated rates  of underemployment, such as being passed over for  promotions or employment instability, as they experience increased rates of being fired from a job.


With an education that may not even equate to a high school  diploma and high rates of unemployment, under employment  and employment instability, independent and stable living  situations are difficult to achieve.  In 2010, it was estimated that over 14,000 Illinoisans  experienced homelessness each night.  Comparably, on a national level, over 30% of adult homelessness is associated with severe mental illness.


Involvement in the criminal justice system is a frequent  reality for those who experience mental illness.  In Illinois, over 60% of local jail inmates, over 55% of state  prisoners and approximately 45% of federal prisoners  experience a form of mental illness.  Of those 14,000, nearly 32% suffered from severe mental i  illness.         Nationally, over 70% of youth in the juvenile justice  system experience at least one mental health condition.  It is estimated that individuals who suffer from mental illness  are 3 times more likely to be in the criminal justice systeM than receiving treatment in an inpatient facility.


Registration, Coffee, Exhibits  8:00 a.m. - 8:55 a.m.

Courtesy of the Menta Group

Opening Remarks  9:00 a.m

Jennifer Pearson, Director of Special Education, Glenbrook High School District #225

Renee Erickson, Director of Special Education, Township High School District #211

Morning Keynote Speaker  9:15 a.m.  

National Perspective: Research to Improve Services for Young Adults

Dr. Sloan Huckabee, an Advanced Rehabilitation and Research Training (ARRT) Postdoctoral Research Fellow at Boston University’s Center for Psychiatric Rehabilitation and the Learning and Working During the Transition to Adulthood Research and Training Center (Transitions RTC) at University of Massachusetts Medical School funded by the federal National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research.

Panel Discussion  9:45 a.m.  

Perspectives on the Issues

Janis Morgan (Facilitator), Associate Superintendent for Student Services, High School District #214

Ray Connor, Parent of Two Young Men with Mental Health Issues and Member on Multiple Advisory Committees

Rory Conran, Director of Education and Careers, Menta Group

Marc Fagan, Vice President of Clinical Operations & Youth Services at Thresholds

Stephanie Henrichs, Special Education Teacher/Transition Specialist, Glenbrook High School District #225

Senator Dan Kotowski, Illinois State Senator, 28th Legislative District

Micki Moran, Attorney and founding partner of The Child & Family Law Center of the North Shore

Gene Oulvey, Coordinator of Evaluation and Psychiatric Rehabilitation Services for DHS, Department of Rehab Services

Christopher Yadron, Director of Chicago Recovery Services

Keynote Speaker  10:30 a.m.  

From Fragmentation to Systems of Care

Dr. Peter Nierman, Assistant Professor of Psychiatry and Board Certified Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist at the University of Chicago; Chief Medical Officer, Chicago Lakeshore Hospital; Former Associate Director of Child and Adolescent Services for the Illinois Department of Human Services' Office of Mental Health

Lunch 11:15 a.m.

Courtesy of:  Alexian Brothers Behavioral Health and Members of the Transition Action Network for Mental Health

Networking and Exhibits available through the lunch hour

Community Conversation: Topic 1 12:15 p.m.

How can your real world experiences contribute to understanding the mental health needs of young adults?

What is a Community Conversation?

It is a way to bring a diverse group of community members together to collectively brainstorm strategies that can be used to address a challenge facing the community.

Conversation groups.  ALL participants converge into small groups of 8-10 with a facilitator to converse, engage, collaborate, and generate ideas.

Community Conversation: Topic 2  12:45 p.m.

How can we seamlessly connect resources to build a supported future for individuals with mental health challenges?

Short Break

Cookies courtesy of Quest Food Management Services

Large Group Collaboration 2:00 p.m.

A message from Senator Julie Morrison

Jennifer Pearson and Pam Radford, Facilitators

Development of Action Plan that will individually and collectively transform the landscape for young adults with mental health challenges




Ray Connor

Ray is the parent for two sons, 27 and 24, with early onset of Severe Emotional Disorders continuing into adulthood.  Both had Illinois Individual Care Grants (ICG) for such children and adolescents.  The 27 year-old has been in community treatment for many years, has a full time job and his own car and apartment.  The 24 year-old lived independently for a while with intensive support from a community mental health agency. He is now in a secure residential facility under court supervision.

Ray is very active in mental health advocacy and family support. Specifically,  Ray is the  Director of the ICG Parents group which provides support for parents through regular meetings, an active email exchange and direct sharing of experiences. Currently Ray serves on the Children’s Mental Health Partnership executive committee. He was an original member of the Partnership in addition to a co-chair of the Partnership’s Residential Treatment Workgroup. Ray was also an active member of other committees.

Ray is a long-time member of the Illinois Mental Health Planning and Advisory Council as well as other state councils and workgroups.  He is co-chair of The Child & Adolescent Committee of the advisory council and an active member of the Mental Health Summit. Additionally, Ray is Vice President of the Board of Directors for Mental Health America in Illinois and a member of the Policy and Nominating Committees.

Rory Conran

Rory currently serves as the Director of Education and Careers for the Menta Group. Founded in 1973, The Menta Group holds firmly to the belief that every child has the right to be in school. I have worked with individuals with Mental Illnesses in an educational setting for over eight years. I started out as a paraprofessional with Menta and quickly developed a passion for assisting youth with mental illnesses. Over the past three years I have worked in an administrative role in supporting young adults with mental illness in meeting their post secondary goals. Our programs have a successful graduation rate of over 95% and of those graduating, 95% have graduated with competitive employment.

Senator Dan Kotowski

A lifelong resident of Illinois, Dan Kotowski was born and raised in Chicago’s Rogers Park neighborhood. He attended Loyola Academy in Wilmette for high school, and went on to the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, graduating with a degree in English and Communications. Dan completed his studies at DePaul University in Chicago, obtaining a Master’s Degree.

Dan spent much of his early professional career working with non-profit organizations. He served as Vice President of the Uhlich Children’s Advantage Network (UCAN), which helps more than 5,000 children and their families recover from neglect, abuse, and trauma, and later, Executive Director of the Illinois Council against Handgun Violence (ICHV)—an organization dedicated to improving public safety in our state. In both roles, Kotowski worked with individuals, business leaders, and legislators to foster a safer, more positive environment for every person in Illinois.

Dan brought his passion for helping people with him when he decided to run for office in 2006, and since taking the oath of office in January of 2007, he has taken many of Illinois’ most pressing issues head-on.

Senator Kotowski has worked tirelessly to usher in a new era of reform, transparency and accountability in our state government. He successfully passed legislation to protect taxpayers through the posting of government contracts on the internet, and sponsored landmark legislation to create new penalties for officials convicted of public corruption and to reform General Assembly members’ pensions.

As chairman of one of the Senate’s Appropriations Committees and vice-chairman of the other, Senator Kotowski continues to challenge how the state constructs its annual budgets. He recently sponsored a bill ending the automatic transfer of more than $2 billion out of the state budget into specialized accounts. Believing that these dollars deserve the same level of scrutiny as any other state spending programs, his plan pushes for increased transparency and requires funding recipients to provide evidence-based information about why taxpayer money is necessary to support their programs.

Another of Kotowski’s main focuses has been public safety. He has passed legislation to guard against head injuries to student-athletes through concussion education, protect children from online predators, and reduce the number of weapons in the hands of those who present a danger to society.

Senator Kotowski has long been an advocate for affordable healthcare. His bills requiring insurance providers to cover women at risk of breast cancer and the standardization of the medication prior authorization form, enabling patients to receive medicine in a more timely fashion, have made significant improvements to Illinoisans’ quality of life.In addition to sitting on both the Senate Appropriation I and II Committees, Senator Kotowski is a member of the Senate Criminal Law, Higher Education and Revenue Committees, the Committee of the Whole, Subcommittee on Special Issues (CL) and Subcommittee on Special Issues (AP).

Marc Fagan

Marc A. Fagan, Psy.D. is the Vice President of Clinical Operations and Youth Services at Thresholds in Chicago.  Dr. Fagan oversees comprehensive programs for emerging adults with mental health needs and traumatic histories, teen parents, homeless youth, and young children.  These programs have been published in numerous scholarly journals, and were most recently featured in the SAMHSA sponsored book Residential Interventions for Children, Adolescents, and Families: a Best Practice Guide (  

Dr. Fagan has presented to audiences both locally and nationally regarding youth in transition to adulthood, and participates in numerous workgroups dedicated to improving outcomes for emerging adults and young people in care.  Dr. Fagan was honored to speak at a Congressional Briefing in Washington DC in support of the Healthy Transitions Act for youth with serious mental health needs.As a Certified Consultant for the National Network on Youth Transition, Dr. Fagan trains audiences in the Transition to Independence Process (TIP); an evidence-informed framework for assisting emerging adults with emotional disorders and/or mental illness.  Additionally, Dr. Fagan is a Master Trainer in Aggression Replacement Training (ART®) and a Certified Trainer in Therapeutic Crisis Intervention (TCI). 

Gene Oulvey

Gene is the coordinator of evaluation and psychiatric rehabilitation services for DHS, Department of Rehab Services. He also serves as an adjunct professor of psychiatry for SIU medical school. He received a Ph.D. in philosophy from St. Louis University and a M.A. in Education with a specialty in counseling from SIU. He is an Illinois Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor, a licensed family therapist, and a clinical member of the American Association of Marriage and Family Therapists. He is lead consultant and spokesperson for DRS on the Illinois Evidence-Based Supported Employment Initiative. He has served on a number of groups including founding president and state representative to the national board for the Illinois chapter of the International Association for Psycho-Social Rehabilitation, the state board of directors of the Illinois Association of Marriage and Family Therapists, and President-Elect of the Self Employment Resource Network.

Christopher Yadron

Christopher Yadron is the Director of Chicago Recovery Services. He oversees the clinical operations for Rosecrance in the Chicago area, including two adolescent outpatient treatment programs and student assistance contracts for several area high schools.Yadron joined Rosecrance in 2011 as Director of Outreach and has been in the behavioral health field for 18 years. As a counselor, he has worked in a variety of clinical settings helping individuals and families with addiction and mental health concerns. He holds a Master of Divinity degree from Covenant Theological Seminary, and a Master of Arts from Loyola University in Chicago. He earned a Bachelor of Arts degree at Trinity Christian College. He is a Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor and a Certified Alcohol and Drug Counselor in Illinois. He belongs to the American Counseling Association (ACA). Yadron often speaks at conferences and workshops on adolescent addiction, multicultural competency & addiction counseling, and co-occurring disorders.


Stephanie Henrichs

Stephanie Henrichs is a Transition Specialist for the Glenbrook High Schools. She completed her undergraduate degree work at Illinois State University where she obtained her special education degree. Ms. Henrichs completed 10 years of classroom instruction. During that time, Ms. Henrichs identified a passion for assisting students that lead to working in the area of transition services. She then continued on to obtain her school counseling masters degree from Concordia University. Ms. Henrichs has worked in the special education field for 15 years and the past 5 years have been spent working with transitioning high school students. Ms. Henrichs has a passion for assisting students in gaining independence, teaching students the skills to become prepared for adulthood along with creating successful linkages to the community. Ms. Henrichs works closely with students, families and school staff to allow for individualized transition planning.


I am looking forward to this event and the speakers and learning information on mental health information
9:26am, Thurs, Feb 26, 2015 by ta813

Me looks like a lot of great information.
9:29am, Thurs, Feb 26, 2015 by Ryan

Everyone "experiences" mental health issues must be careful with stating stats using that language
9:35am, Thurs, Feb 26, 2015 by DrHinton

I'm looking forward to getting more information that I can take back to my district to help my transition students.
9:46am, Thurs, Feb 26, 2015 by Tawann

good article yesterday..‐hlth‐0218‐mental‐illness‐college‐20150212‐story.html#page=1
9:47am, Thurs, Feb 26, 2015 by Ellie

I wasn't aware of the significant increase of students with mental illness placed in residential schools in the last few years‐ I wonder why
9:51am, Thurs, Feb 26, 2015 by Mardi

Could it be more students now have more significant challenges or are residential programs offering more comprehensive services?
9:52am, Thurs, Feb 26, 2015 by Mardi

Perhaps schools are too overloaded to handle these high‐need students. It may be easier to pay or an outside agency
9:54am, Thurs, Feb 26, 2015 by Ryan

What are some of the club house models that are located in this area?
10:07am, Thurs, Feb 26, 2015 by Mardi

Schools can often handle needs but can't get school refuses to school due to intense anxiety or depression
10:11am, Thurs, Feb 26, 2015 by Ellie

I have a chronic mental illness and I had to stop college at age 21 and I am now 43 and have not finished my college degree.
10:13am, Thurs, Feb 26, 2015 by ta813

I live in Thresholds housing which is HUD‐subsidized and would not be where I am without their help, youth need these type of services.
10:14am, Thurs, Feb 26, 2015 by ta813

Thresholds and inspiration cafe come to mind but it feels very fragmented and hit or miss in illinois
10:14am, Thurs, Feb 26, 2015 by Ellie

I'm having trouble posting.
10:17am, Thurs, Feb 26, 2015 by Tawann

I'm a psychologist in a transition program and I don't have the clinical experience to address some of our students' mental health needs
10:18am, Thurs, Feb 26, 2015 by Tawann

Thresholds has vocational and social rehabilitation programs, their website is
10:18am, Thurs, Feb 26, 2015 by ta813

How can we create accountability for clients refusing school and mental health referral services?
10:19am, Thurs, Feb 26, 2015 by LillyC

NAMI also provides education and advocacy on mental health issues, There are chapters in Chicago, Illinois, and nationwide.
10:19am, Thurs, Feb 26, 2015 by ta813

We definitely need more collaboration with outside agencies. Funding is always a barrier
10:20am, Thurs, Feb 26, 2015 by Tawann

Funding is the key to treatment and collaboration with outside agencies and their ability to provide mental health services.
10:33am, Thurs, Feb 26, 2015 by ta813

I've experienced cultural differences as barriers first hand. The student suffers.
10:44am, Thurs, Feb 26, 2015 by Tawann

Thanks for commenting. Your feedback is critical to the success of this event and future actions.  Kelp talking. Jennifer Pearson
10:52am, Thurs, Feb 26, 2015 by Jennifer

My nephew is a persons with a high‐functioning autism disorder. He does special recreation activities with NEDSRA in DuPage County
10:56am, Thurs, Feb 26, 2015 by ta813

which is immensely helpful to him. Look them up at I think is the website.
10:56am, Thurs, Feb 26, 2015 by ta813

Should I reach out to officials in my school district or where I live?
10:58am, Thurs, Feb 26, 2015 by Tawann

Tawann I would encourage you to reach out to officials in both your school district and where you live, they need to hear from you.
11:00am, Thurs, Feb 26, 2015 by ta813

11:00am, Thurs, Feb 26, 2015 by Tawann

Let's explore the Bill that Senator Kotowski mentioned.
11:04am, Thurs, Feb 26, 2015 by Jennifer

Absolutely. I'm going to also take a close look at the State's proposed budget!
11:07am, Thurs, Feb 26, 2015 by Tawann

Funds for crisis and recovery are important, but funds and energies s/ be allocated for education and prevention too.
11:07am, Thurs, Feb 26, 2015 by SPR

What Ray said is powerful‐ intervention is not only necessary but cost effective.
11:11am, Thurs, Feb 26, 2015 by Mardi

Your welcome Tawann!
11:12am, Thurs, Feb 26, 2015 by ta813

I agree we also need to fund education and prevention also.
11:13am, Thurs, Feb 26, 2015 by ta813

12‐18 cents on the dollar?!! No wonder I can't find any doctors! I didn't know it was THAT low!
11:38am, Thurs, Feb 26, 2015 by Tawann

Contact your local legislator. Be specific. Tell your story
2:06pm, Thurs, Feb 26, 2015 by Jennifer

Identify the problem and give solutions
2:07pm, Thurs, Feb 26, 2015 by Jennifer

Please go and contact your legislators when they are in their district offices. They want to meet you and learn what is important to you.  

2:10 pm, Thurs, Feb 26, 2015 by ta813


Presentations from Symposium 2.26.15

Supporting Transition Age Youth with Mental Health Challenges (Dr. Sloan Huckabee)

Dr. Sloan Smith Huckabee

Dr. Sloan Smith Huckabee is currently an Advanced Rehabilitation and Research Training (ARRT). Postdoctoral Research Fellow at Boston University’s Center for Psychiatric Rehabilitation and the Learning and Working During the Transition to Adulthood Research and Training Center (Transitions RTC) at University of Massachusetts Medical School funded by the federal National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research. Dr. Huckabee’s research is concerned with the characteristics and needs of transition age youth and young adults with psychiatric difficulties as well as effective strategies for supporting their successful transition to adulthood. She has conducted engaging, well received professional development for in-service and pre-service teachers as well as presentations to education practitioners, mental health advocates, and family members. Additionally, Dr. Huckabee has presented shared and independent research in professional conference settings. A former classroom teacher, she spent eleven years teaching on the middle and high school levels, including students with disabilities. The last two years of her teaching were in a therapeutic classroom for students with emotional and behavioral disorders. She is also the wife of a retired soldier and JROTC instructor and mom to three emerging adults/transition age youth- one of whom has a serious mental health diagnosis.

A System of Care Approach to Child and Adolescent  Services:  Transitional Age Youth (Dr. Peter D. Nierman)

Dr. Peter Nierman 

Dr. Peter Nierman is a Board Certified Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist. He has been Chief Medical Officer for Chicago Lakeshore Hospital since October 2006. Dr. Nierman was previously an Associate Director for the Illinois Department of Human Services, Office of Mental Health where he directed the Illinois Child and Adolescent Mental Health Network for 10 years. Dr. Nierman is a graduate of Grinnell College in Iowa and Rosalind Franklin University of Health Sciences, The Chicago Medical School.

Dr. Nierman is an Assistant Professor of Psychiatry at the University of Chicago where he teaches Forensic Psychiatry and Systems of Care for Children and Families.

Dr. Nierman devotes his clinical career to the care of child and adolescent serious mental health disorders, he supervises residents and students from the Pritzker School of Medicine in the hospital setting, and provides forensic services such as school and custody evaluations.  After work, Dr. Nierman stays busy helping to raise his four children.

State Senator Julie Morrison:

State Senator Julie Morrison is dedicated to improving the quality of life in Chicago’s northern suburbs and for all the people of Illinois.

After taking office, Morrison continued her long history of advocating for children’s welfare by pushing for the creation of a special subcommittee to find ways to improve Illinois’ child welfare system. As chair of this committee, she has worked to help DCFS and other agencies charged with protecting the health and safety of the state’s children find procedural and legislative solutions to help increase efficiency and take down artificial barriers. Before joining the Senate, Morrison served on the Governor’s Statewide Advisory Council to DCFS.

In addition to standing up for children’s welfare and working to reform DCFS, Morrison also has focused on water safety. Her interest in this issue stems from a family tragedy, when an intoxicated boater claimed the life of her young nephew. Championing his cause, Morrison passing laws requiring drivers who are involved in serious accidents to submit to drug and alcohol testing, allowing law enforcement officers to seize boats used in serious crimes and requiring boaters who are towing passengers on water skis or inner tubes to fly orange flags.

Morrison also believes that improving the accountability and transparency of state government and protecting the environment are especially important for the communities in the 29th District. So far, She has also passed laws making it easier for county boards to remove appointed officials who act unethically and requiring lobbyists to disclose their employers. She has also passed a law making it easier to recycle electronics equipment.

State Senator Julie Morrison is the Vice-chair of the Human Services Committee, and holds a seat on the Commerce and Economic Development, Education, Environment and Conservation, and Transportation Committees. The governor has also reappointed her to the Statewide Advisory Council to DCFS and appointed her to the Council on Aging.

Morrison was born in the downstate community of Beardstown and graduated from Knox College. After serving on the DCFS advisory council, she took the position of supervisor of West Deerfield Township, which she held for 15 years.

She lives with her husband, Joe. The couple has three grown children.  

Jennifer Pearson

Jennifer Pearson is the Director of Special Education for the Glenbrook High Schools providing overall direction and leadership for developing and evaluating the district’s special education services.   She brings a wealth of knowledge with over 20 years of experience in the field of special education as a teacher and visionary leader.  Ms. Pearson is also a doctoral student in the College of Education at the University of Illinois at Chicago.  Her research is focused on improving outcomes for students with disabilities through access to the general education curriculum and development of teacher skills.  Her current scholarly interests include: the inclusion of students in high school and community settings, transition planning, content-area curriculum development for individuals with extensive support needs, professional development and mentoring for new and veteran staff.   

Across her career, Ms. Pearson has presented a local, state and national conferences and is a member of the Illinois Alliance of Administrators of Special Education (IAASE) and the Council for Exceptional Children (CEC).  She has been instrumental in expanding post-school options for students with disabilities through her participation on adult agency advisory boards and legislative advocacy.

Renée Erickson

Renée Erickson is the Director of Special Education for Township High School District 211.  In this position, Ms. Erickson provides leadership in the development and evaluation of the district’s special education programs and services and oversees special education policies and procedures for the district.  Prior to assuming her current position Ms. Erickson served as an assistant director of special education and special education teacher.  As a special educator and district leader, Ms. Erickson’s passion rests in the development of opportunities to support and prepare students, for the transition from high school student to young adulthood.  

Ms. Erickson holds a bachelor’s degree in special education, a master’s degree in educational leadership and is currently pursuing her doctorate in teaching and learning, with a research focus on post-secondary outcomes of young adults with emotional disabilities and mental illness.  Ms. Erickson is a member of the Illinois Alliance of Administrators of Special Education (IAASE) and the Council for Exceptional Children.