Now and Next Family Conference 2019

Small steps, giant leaps

We invite you to join us at the 3rd annual Now & Next Family Conference Saturday 26th October 2019. The conference will bring together families of children with disabilities and their allies.

Themes of the conference include:

– building the capability of families to build the best life for their child

– ways to promote the voice of our children to encourage independence and flourishing.

Presenters include families, autistic adults and children, people with disabilities and allies.

Through little steps and from the earliest moments we can make giant leaps for our children. In doing so, we lay the foundations for our children to become the directors of their own futures.

The conference is brought to you as a collaboration between Plumtree, Now and Next, Reframing Autism and Reframing Disability.



Saturday, 26th October 2019
9:30am – 4:30pm
Family breakfast and registrations from 8:30am



St Peters Public School
St Peters, Sydney NSW


How much?



Available by application.


8:30am | Breakfast and registrations

Come along and enjoy breakfast and a chance to connect with other families.

You are welcome to bring your child along or come without.


9:30am | Welcome to Country


9:40 | Opening of the Conference


9:50am | KEYNOTE PANEL: Including the voice of your child: Building independence and flourishing

In our family conferences in 2017 and 2018, our panel discussions have centred on parent-professional relationships and the ways in which parents can ‘lean into’ their relationships with professionals. This year, we are shifting focus to how we can support out children to ‘lean in’ too.

Our panel of experts will discuss the different ways that parents can encourage, incorporate, and include their child’s wishes and self-knowledge in decision-making and forward-planning. How can children be integral members of their own teams, even when they are very young? In what ways can children exercise autonomy and self-determination in therapy, home and community environments?

Join us, as we explore how our children can flourish and become independent CEOs of their own lives.


Dr Melanie Heyworth, peer worker

Panel members:

Melo Kalemkeridis

Marlena Katene

Kylieanne Derwent


10:50am | KEYNOTE: Helping children recognise and express emotions | Dr Emma Goodall

It is frustrating for children and their families when a child can’t recognise or safely express their emotion. This session will explain why many children with disabilities struggle to learn about and manage their emotions and then it will give you practical strategies to support them to do so.

These strategies require 5-20 minutes a day and are suitable for all people regardless of their age,  challenges and their support needs. However, whilst children are still learning about their emotions they need the adults around them to help them manage their emotions.

This session will provide you with 3 key practical and easy to implement strategies that will be of use when helping children to manage their emotions before they are able to.


11:35am | Launch of two new parent-led organisations, Reframing Autism & Reframing Disability | Margie O'Tarpey

Since 2015, Plumtree has been investing in new ways to build the capability of families who have a child with a disability or developmental delays, to set a positive hopeful vision for their child and to help them to work towards achieving their goals.

Plumtree has been successful in applying for funding from the NDIS to set up two new parent-led organisations, Reframing Autism and Reframing Disability.

The vision of the two organisations is to:
– Reframe Disability and to Reframe Autism
– Respect, accept, embrace, and empower people, parents, families and children, who have a disability and/or who are Autistic.
– Be evidence-based, founded on the theory and practice of early intervention, post-traumatic growth, prospection, hope, goal attainment, strengths-based and family-centred practice.
– To build the capability of families through empowerment, participation and control
– To be citizen-focused.

Learn more about these organisations.

11:50am | LUNCH



12:55pm | Reframing Autism: Helping parents recognise and manage demand avoidance (PDA) | Dr Wenn Lawson & Katy Reid

Wenn & Katy talk together about the Pathological Demand Avoidant (PDA) profile in Autism, and the role in PDA of neuroception (how our brains distinguish whether situations or people are safe, dangerous, or life threatening), interoception (one’s inner senses, e.g., recognition of body temperature, heart rate, hunger etc.)and poorly developed Object Permanence (knowing objects, people, emotions etc. have a life of their own, even when out of sight)Wenn will explain the neuroscience and Katy will give examples. Together they will offer ideas to assist young people and their families to lower stress and anxiety and increase daily learning/coping skills. 


12:55pm | Getting the start right, Friendships & Building Independence | Melanie Dimmitt, Nerida Bodycote, Sylvana Mahmic

Getting the start right: Creating expectations for our child and family. Melanie Dimmitt, Author of ‘Special

The early stages of navigating a child’s disability can be an emotional rollercoaster – so how can we soften the ride? Melanie Dimmitt will explore ways to overcome fear, turn around negative thinking and carve out a ‘new normal’ for your family.


Friendships: Building a community around your child. Nerida Bodycote


Building independence: Using your individual funding through self-management. Sylvana Mahmic





3:00pm | A Whole Family Approach: Children's insights about having their voices included | William Brown

In a casual interview with his Mum, William reveals the different ways in which his voice is heard in the big and little parts of his life. He will reflect on the everyday ways he expresses his wants and needs, as well as the way his family approaches the ‘big’ decisions that effect his life in which he is the expert.

As a whole family approach of negotiation and conversation, William shows how he is supported to make the important decisions and to become independent. Covering everything from schooling, to hobbies, to screen-time, to therapies, William will discuss what works for him so he can have his voice included and can flourish.


3:15pm | Communication through a child's eyes | I am Cadence

In this session, we will launch Cadence’s new reflection on communication from her perspective as a non-speaking young person. In a self-directed documentary video, Cadence explores the differences between acquiring language and learning language, and between different language codes. Cadence’s reflections show how spoken or verbal communication is not just a product of language processing, but also a product of thinking processes. She gives speaking people access to her unique perspective of the value and richness of non-speaking communication and thought. Cadence’s video will show us all that not speaking doesn’t mean having nothing to say.


3:35pm | 10 things I love about having an inclusive life | Marlena Katene



4:05pm | Closing of the Conference


4:15pm | Karim's Mojo Disco

Karim’s Mojo Disco is a life changing motivational presentation by “Don’t Dis My Ability” ambassador, Abdul-Karim Bouchafaa. 

Guaranteed to put a smile on your dial and a spring in your step, Karim’s Mojo Disco will completely change the way you think about people living with disability and might just change the way you look at yourself and the world altogether.



Dr Emma Goodall

Dr Emma Goodall is an autistic disability researcher, author and professional.

She is also a wife and mother of a young adult who grew up with challenges, but who is now proudly growing in confidence and skills.

Marlena Katene

Marlena Katene is a music journalist, business owner, workshop presenter, trainer and first base jumper with CP.

Her goal with is to become the next Molly Meldrum and is already seeing this goal be achieved having interviewed the likes of Boy George, Russel Brand and may other celebrities.

Check out Marlena’s YouTube channel the AAC Journalist.

Dr Wenn Lawson

Dr Wenn Lawson is an Autistic lecturer, psychologist, researcher, advocate, writer and poet. He has passionately shared his professional and personal knowledge about Autism for 25 years. He has written and/or contributed to over 20 books and many papers. Dr Wenn iTutor for the University of Birmingham’s Masters Autism course, participant with the Autism CRC, member of the ‘I CAN Network’ board, and is on the Editorial Board for journal, Autism in Adulthood. Dr Wenn also consults for the South Australian Government, and is a family man with both Autistic and non-autistic children and grandchildren. In 2017 he presented to the United Nations on matters of Autism and ageing.   

Katy Reid

Katy is Wenn’s daughter, and a neurodivergent mother to her own Autistic daughtersaged 12 and 9. Katy has a degree in Disability studies and a postgraduate degree in Primary Education (primary). She is partway through her Masters of Education and her Graduate Certificate of Autism Studies at Griffith UniversityKaty has been teaching for over 16 years and is currently homeschooling her own children as well as lecturing at Federation University in their Bachelor of Teaching course within their disability sector.  

Nerida Bodycote

Nerida Bodycote is an accomplished Chartered Accountant, a passionate advocate for various causes including rare diseases, disability, medicinal cannabis and inclusion but most importantly is the mother of 11 year old Madison.

Nerida has held various senior finance roles at Ernst & Young, international law firms and media companies as well as running her own successful accounting business for the last 25 years.

Madison has a number of rare diseases but no overall diagnosis.  Nerida manages a team of over 20 medical specialists and therapists.

Nerida’s advocacy sees her regularly speaking to various press and media outlets as well as local, state and federal politicians. Nerida also holds various honorary board roles for disability organisations and is a parent advocate for Plumtree, Rare Voices, the Touched by Olivia Foundation, the Sydney Children’s Hospital Foundation and the Inner West Council as well as providing support to other families in their rare diseases and/or special needs journeys.

Sylvana Mahmic

Sylvana Mahmic is the CEO of Plumtree and an advocate for early childhood intervention and self-management. She has served on over 15 reference and advisory groups in addition to five Ministerial appointments including membership of the Disability Council NSW. She is Member of the Access Advisory Group NSW Department of Premier and Cabinet, member of the NSW Family and Community Services Multicultural Advisory Group and Board member of Diversity Disability Alliance.

Sylvana has worked for over twenty years in the early childhood intervention field, with a particular expertise in a whole of family and community approach to early childhood intervention. She has developed several initiatives which target the wider community, in particular, the culturally and linguistically diverse community.

Currently, Sylvana is undertaking post-graduate research with a focus on individualised support and self-directed funding. She has a son who has cerebral palsy and an intellectual disability. He has been utilising self-managed funding since 2009.

Sylvana was a member of the first IAC from 2013-2017, and was reappointed for a second term in July 2017.

Melanie Dimmitt

Melanie Dimmitt is an Australian journalist who has written for publications including The Age, The Sydney Morning Herald, Collective Hub magazine, Broadsheet, The Tot and Mama Disrupt magazine, and has created content for Smack Bang Designs and You & Co Media. A Perth native, who has also lived in Melbourne and London, Melanie currently lives in Sydney with her partner and two young children.

Melanie is author of ‘Special: antidotes to the obsessions that come with a child’s disability’ – a candid companion for parents who are coming to terms with their child’s disability.

Karim Bouchaffa

Karim is a performer, university student and two times “Don’t Dis My Ability” ambassador.

His dream is to show the world just how much people with disabilities have to offer. Since 2010 he has been a public speaker sharing the benefits of self-directed funding. His business, Karim’s Mojo Disco, is a life-changing motivational presentation, in which he conveys his message that disability shouldn’t stand in the way of achieving goals.

Dr Melanie Heyworth

Melanie became interested in disability four years ago, when her eldest son was identified with autism. In the subsequent years, her two other sons, and Melanie herself, have also been given identified as autistic. In order to better understand the implications of her sons’ autism diagnoses, Melanie completed her postgraduate study in autism in 2015.

She is a passionate champion of autism acceptance and inclusion, equity, neurodiversity, and listening to autistic voices. Although she home-schools her three boys, Melanie is deeply committed to helping families with school-aged children in their journey to experience genuinely inclusive schooling.

William Brown

William is a twice-exceptional, Autistic 10-year old who is homeschooled after deciding that mainstream school was not the right place for him. William enjoys his life which is a mix of routine, and flexibility and freedom. William spends much of his time engaging in his passions and talking about them to anyone who will willingly (or not so willingly) listen. His passions include modelling Warhammer 40K, and WWII aircraft and land vehicles; building realistic architecture in Minecraft; working on his Hornby train layout, and listening to audiobooks (bankrupting his Mum in the process).

Margie O'Tarpey

Margie O’Tarpey is an accomplished CEO, with over 30 year’s experience in the Not for Profit sectors, primarily in heath and community services and professional Associations. Margie has a background in law, social work & nursing.

She is recognised for her ability to lead people through change; being an innovative thinker, with a strategic focus.

Margie is committed to sound governance and financial sustainability standards and human resources emotional intelligence management.

She has proven success in change management and in liaising and advising at senior levels of organisations, with all levels of Government and Industry.

I am Cadence

Cadence is an active, playful and bright 11 year old girl diagnosed with ‘Autistic Disorder’ (commonly known as ‘Classic Autism’).

Cadence delights in writing, twirling, patterns, counting, and painting. She has a great love for animals, being outdoors and all things princess and fairy. Her first public piece, ‘Autism is why I am different’,  published by Kidspot magazine in August 2015 when Cadence was just 7 years old, has since been made into a Spanish short film, ‘Acceptance’ (released August 2016).

Brought to you by


The 2019 Now and Next Family Conference is a collaboration between Plumtree, Now and Next, Reframing Disability and Reframing Autism.

Plumtree is delighted to officially launch, Reframing Disability & Reframing Autism, two new parent-led organisations at the 2019 Now and Next Family Conference.

This fantastic collaboration promises to deliver an engaging conference celebrating and highlighting the benefits of an approach in which disabled people and families lead their communities. Plumtree has long believed and invested in building the capabilities of families who have a child with disability or developmental delay, and the role of the broader disability community to support this capacity-building.

Reframing Disability is run by families for families and aims to combine capacity-building and leadership development with education, research, resource development, mentoring, and support. Reframing Disability will provide an innovative platform in which families unite to understand their role in creating a future of possibilities for their child.

Reframing Autism is run by Autistic and neurodivergent people, for their families and allies. It is a group in which Autistic people and their non-autistic families and allies come together to understand Autism and neurodiversity to effect social change and achieve genuine respect, acceptance and inclusion for the Autistic community.


We acknowledge that Plumtree Children’s Services was funded by the NDIA to auspice the two new organisations in June 2019 under the Program Name ‘Community Inclusion Capacity Development’ and Activity Name of ‘Information Linkages and Capacity Building (ILC) Readiness Round 2018-19’ and we commend the NDIA for enabling these two new organisations that will champion peers to pioneer change.


We are excited that St Peter’s Public School have opened up indoor spaces and the playground and oval to be used for child-minding.

The usual Plumtree child-minders and preschool staff will be on-site to care for the kids. The children will be enteratined with arts & crafts, games & activities, chill-out space and lots of outdoor fun!

There will be breakfast available, but please bring enough food and snacks for the whole day and any comforters or things your kids enjoy (such as a device or book).

It is very important that if you are no longer bringing your child, that you cancel their registration or let us know, as spaces are limited and  the child-minders are booked on the ratio of children.

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