top of page

September, 2018

Convention Report

Ellis M. (Pat) Craig, Ph.D., FAAIDD
AAIDD Texas Chapter President

The 2018 AAIDD Texas Chapter Convention was the 43rd consecutive convention held by the Texas Chapter of the American Association on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities.  It was held July 24-27 at the Omni Corpus Christi.  This has been a popular location, dating back to 1989, when I was first the President-Elect of the organization.  The hotel was called the Hershey back then, and the Association even had a different name (TAMR).  More of our conventions have been held here than at any other location.  Further, at least the next two years the Convention will continue here.  Part of the appeal has always been the ocean and the wide variety of options for family vacations along with the Convention.

The Convention theme this year was “Recover.  Rebuild.  Rejuvenate.”  This theme was selected by the AAIDD Texas Chapter Board to reflect the recent experiences of many in southeast Texas following the historic flooding and wind damage from Hurricane Harvey.  It is noted in the program brochure that individuals with IDD, their families, and staff need much support in the recovery process from this event. 

The Convention Committee, chaired by President-Elect Melissa Whitworth, did an excellent job of organizing the presentations so that similar topics were presented at different times.  A wide variety of topics were covered, and continuing education credit was available.

Two pre-convention workshops had been scheduled.  The first dealt with Mental Health First Aid, a very hot topic recently, and IDD.  A second workshop on new medication updates had to be canceled because of a family emergency of the presenter.  However, the attendees were reimbursed their payments and given an alternate presentation that day on ethics.  This alternate presentation met the requirement for 3 hours of ethics training for many professional groups.

At the opening session the CEO of the AAIDD, Maggie Nygren, gave an overview of national AAIDD developments.  This was followed by a unique keynote presentation by John Cronin and his father Mark.  John is a young man with Down Syndrome. After finishing school, John decided to start a business with his father.  One of John’s personal passions is colorful and unusual socks.  So, he began a mail-order business selling such socks.  The business has attracted a wide clientele, including former President George Herbert Bush, who wore a pair of John’s library-themed socks to Barbara Bush’s funeral.  The business employs a number of people with various disabilities.  It would be fair to say that this was one of the most widely-applauded keynote presentations in the history of AAIDD Texas Chapter conventions.  The Cronins even made another presentation at a breakout session that day when another presentation slot came available.  

The breakout sessions began after the keynote.  The Convention theme was aptly represented by two presentations on Trauma Informed Care with the IDD population.  Sexual health education, ethical practices, employment options, and behavior supports were among the important topics covered the first day of the Convention.  In addition, HHSC staff covered the Residential Survey Checklist for the HCS waiver program.

At the annual business meeting it was announced that 205 people had registered for the Convention.  It was also reported that AAIDD Texas Chapter should have about $40,000 available going into next year.  The election of Board members was also conducted at this meeting.  Those elected included Charlotte Kimmel as President-Elect, Cheryl Petty as Secretary, Connie Cisneros as Treasurer, Ollie Seay as the Direct Support Professional representative, Ashley Cupples as the Self-Advocate representative, and for two Member-at-Large positions, Margo Childs and Lisa Shelby.  These individuals will join six whose terms continue on the Board.

That evening a special reception and poster presentation was held.  The four poster presentations were made by public school staff from the Corpus Christi area and UT – Rio Grande Valley students.  Very invigorating discussions ensued.

The next day offered an extensive array of presentations, covering such topics as music therapy and brain injury recovery, aging issues, autism & mood disorders, menopause & mood disorders, professional quality of life, evidence-based psychotherapy, and the Kennedy legacy in ID services.  HHSC surveys of ICF-IIDs and APS investigations also emphasized important regulatory issues. 

There was an Awards luncheon held this day as well.  Awardees included

  • Claudia Southern - Helen G. FitzSimmons Leadership Award

  • Scott McAvoy - Knowledge Award for Excellence in Education or Research

  • Maria Vasquez - Support Award for Excellence in the Provision of Direct Supports

  • Laurie Scoma White – Empowerment Award for Excellence in Promotion of Self-Advocacy

  • Gala Hestilow – Student Award for Excellence in Knowledge, Support, or Empowerment

  • Cheryl Petty – President’s Award

The final session the next morning began with acknowledgement of the Exhibitors and Sponsors.  The Sponsors included Tarrytown Expocare Pharmacy, the Center for Life Resources, iTherapyDocs, Golden Rule Services, Inc., Integral Care, Spindletop Center, The Wood Group, Twogether Consulting, Limited, and Mosaic.  Various prize drawings were held as well.

The closing session was a panel of state leaders discussing the current state and future trends in IDD services.  Panelists included:

  • Erin Lawler, Director of IDD Services for the Texas Council of Community Centers

  • Kyle Piccola, Government Affairs Director for The Arc of Texas

  • Carole Smith, Executive Director of Private Providers Association of Texas (PPAT)

  • Beth Stalvey, Executive Director of the Texas Council for Developmental Disabilities (TCDD)

  • Haley Turner, Deputy Associate Commissioner for the Texas Health & Human Services Commission (HHSC)

  • Heather Vasek, Legislative Consultant for the Provider Alliance for Community Services of Texas (PACSTX)

The Panel discussion provided a fitting conclusion to a very informative Convention.


For full coverage of the AAIDD Texas Chapter 43rd Annual Convention, including photos, award winners and sponsors, visit the Convention page.

43rd Annual Convention Committee

Melissa Whitworth, Chair

Program, Awards/Nominations, Consumer Stipends

Bluebonnet Trails Community Services


Justin Botter

Mosaic South Central Texas


Margo Childs

Silent Auction

The Harris Center for Mental Health and IDD


Connie Cisneros

Chair, Local Arrangements

Tropical Texas Behavioral Health


Pat Craig, Ph.D.

Chair, Consumer Stipends, Awards/Nominations


Ashley Cupples (John Harper)

Silent Auction, Consumer Stipends

Lawrence Davis
Unicorn Centers, Inc.

Steve Fitzner

Charlotte Kimmel, Ph.D
Local Arrangements

Rachel Medina

LiveOak Living Community


Cheryl Petty
Chair, Silent Auction
Integral Care

Ollie, Seay, Ph.D.
Texas State University 

Lisa Shelby
Consumer Stipends
Integral Care

Dion White
Chair, Exhibitors/Sponsors, Silent Auction
Center for Life Resources 

bottom of page