2024 Keynote and Invited Speakers


The Conference Organising Committee is pleased to bring you an exceptional line-up of Keynote and Invited Speakers for the 2024 Conference. As we confirm each of our speakers, we will post information on this page.


2024 Keynote Speakers


Kari Dunn Buron

Kari taught in the K-12 MN public school system with students on the autism spectrum for 30+ years, is a Past President of the Autism Society of MN, and was a founding member of the MN Autism Project.  She developed an Autism Spectrum Disorders Certificate program for educators at Hamline University in St. Paul, MN and is on the Advisory Board for the Autism Society of Trinidad and Tobago; Life College in MN and the Autism Society of MN.  

In 2003, Kari received a Self-designed Fellowship that allowed her to spend a year interviewing and working internationally with a number of scientists and researchers in the area of Neuroscience, Social Cognition, Education and Autism with a focus on challenging behaviours.  Kari has presented her work both nationally and internationally and has done volunteer work related to autism in Ghana, Tanzania, Nigeria, Trinidad and Tobago, Barbados and Nepal.  

In 2012, she was inducted into the Illinois State University Department of Education Hall of Fame. Kari is the co-author of The Incredible 5-Point Scale and Social Context and Self-Management.  

She is the author of When My Worries Get Too Big, (winner of the 2013 Mom’s Choice Award); A 5 Could Make Me Lose Control; A 5 is Against the Law! (2008 ASA literary award winner); Adalyn's Clare (an early chapter book about a highly anxious 4th grader); and The Social Times magazine. Kari is the co-editor of the landmark textbook for educators entitled Learners on the Autism Spectrum: Preparing Highly Qualified Educators (2009 ASA literary award winner and currently in press as 3rd edition from Routledge Publishing).

Keynote Overview

Worries Are a Big Deal!

Kari will give participants an overview of emotional regulation and social problem-solving skills and how the development of those skills is ultimately impacted by stress and anxiety. 

Pulling from research in the areas of anxiety, social thinking and emotional regulation, Kari will highlight the importance of considering the research when attempting to accurately interpret another person's behaviour. 

When a student is at their worst, we should be at our best, Given anxiety is the most infectious of all emotions, it is imperative that educators truly recognize and plan for it, so that they have a chance of remaining calm in the midst of trouble.


Professor Phil Riley 

Phil Riley, a former school principal, spent 16 years in schools before moving to the tertiary sector. He researches the overlapping space of psychology, education and leadership, producing >200 publications. He has been awarded >$8 million in research funding including 3 prestigious Australian Research Council (ARC) Grants. 

Phil won an inaugural Monash University Researcher Accelerator award in 2010. He has since won the Dean’s award for Excellence by an Early Career Researcher, and the award for Excellence in Innovation and External Collaboration, at Monash in 2011. In 2015, Phil won the International Study Association of Teachers and Teaching (ISATT) Award for Most Outstanding Article of 2014. 

In 2017, Phil won the Australian Council for Educational Leadership (ACEL) Researcher of the Year Award. He has been invited to present international Keynote addresses in Belgium, Canada, Finland, France, Germany, Hungary, Ireland, India, New Zealand, Sweden and South Africa and >100 invited Keynote addresses to education industry groups in all states and territories of Australia. 

Phil has provided regular, detailed school leadership advice to every department of education in Australia, New Zealand and Ireland. Phil also provides regular advice to the International Confederation of Principals’ Executive.

Keynote Overview

An Educator Reflects: Are we losing or regaining sight of the big picture?

In a famous essay of 1937, Analysis Terminable and Interminable, Freud asserted that “government, education, and analysis” constitute three impossible professions, the results of which are doomed to “failure,” according to some French translations, or “insufficiency” according to the original text.

In this keynote I will present a series of provocations/paradoxes/ ponderances for educators to reflect on about education in the 21st Century.

- Back to Basics: The 3 Rs – Relationship, Relationship, Relationship
- Are children born more into the human condition or their era?
- Who chooses to teach and why? Who chooses education bureaucracy and why? 
- Artificial Intelligence or Intelligent Artifice?
- Castles in the Air: Who Builds them? Who lives in them? Who collects the rent? 
- Education and Government: How can two impossible professions dialogue with each other?
- Where to next?


Dr Michael Kennedy

Michael J. Kennedy's main area of research is the design, implementation, and experimental testing of multimedia-based interventions to support pre- and in-service teachers' knowledge and implementation of evidence-based practices. He has designed and experimentally tested numerous multimedia products intended to support teacher and student outcomes.

Kennedy is the head of the STORMED Lab (Supporting Teachers through cOaching, obseRvations, and Multimedia to Educate students with Disabilities). Before completing his doctoral studies, Kennedy was a high school special education teacher for six years and an elementary-level teacher for three years. Kennedy has published over 65 peer-reviewed articles; and, received numerous training grants from the Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) within the U.S. Department of Education. Kennedy and colleagues have won two grants from OSEP's Stepping Up Technology Implementation competition, and one from OSEP's Development of Innovative Technology Tools to Improve Outcomes for Students with Disabilities.  Kennedy has received over $15 million in total awards to develop and study processes for supporting teacher and school leader implementation of evidence-based multimedia including a $1.4 million grant from the Institute for Education Sciences' National Center for Special Education Research (NCSER) to develop and test a multimedia professional development process to support teacher candidates' readiness to implement evidence-based multimedia.

He was an inaugural winner of the early career research and mentoring grant competition from the Institute for Education Sciences in 2013. He is co-editor of the Journal of Special Education Technology and Chair of UVA’s Faculty Senate (2023-24). Kennedy was awarded the 2021 TED/Pearson Excellence in Teacher Education Award, and UVA’s Alumni Board of Trustees Award for excellence in university teaching in 2015.

Keynote Overview

When People are Overwhelmed, Teaching, Learning, and Decision-Making All Suffer: Using Lessons from Cognitive Load Theory to Live a Successful Life

Cognitive load theory teaches that all humans are limited in any given moment in terms of their capacity to learn or perform tasks.  When available cognitive resources are expended, learning or performance will suffer.  For students, cognitive overload happens all the time – whether from content being too difficult or voluminous, or from how teachers are delivering instruction (or a combination of both).  

Students can also be overwhelmed by the impacts of disabilities, hunger, anxiety, and a range of other environmental factors.  Teachers also get overloaded from teaching content they are uncomfortable with, student behaviour issues, pressures from administration, issues at home/with family, and other stimuli.  

When family members are overloaded, whether through financial or other pressures, they often make extremely poor choices that negatively impact their spouse and children.  In all cases, poor performance and choices that might not be made otherwise can be explained through cognitive load theory. 

 In this session, Dr. Michael Kennedy from the University of Virginia in the United States will present research and an applied lens through which attendees can consider the impact of cognitive load on their practice and life.  He uses real world examples like feeling overwhelmed when driving to a new place (and add in poor weather, being at night, and your spouse and children yelling at you). 

 The end result will be an entertaining lecture on the different types of cognitive load, and how they can be leveraged to make better decisions when designing and delivering instruction to students of all ages, or how to succeed at home when meeting the needs of individuals with disabilities.  



Bill Wilmot 

Bill Wilmot believes that school can be redesigned for all students. As an Implementation Specialist, he works with school teams to rethink curriculum, instruction, and learning environments to provide access to all, using the UDL framework as a tool for redesign.

Bill also brings his experience as a school leader and math, science, and music teacher in a variety of inclusive schools, project-based, and arts-integrated schools. He also brings a special interest in the role of social emotional learning in achieving academic and personal goals. His impulse to teach grew out of his journey through rocky and transformative school experiences. From this he believes firmly in the need to reshape the relationship between students and teachers from control and compliance toward mutual learning and ownership.

Keynote Overview

Individual and Context: How We Can Design for Access and Ownership and Coach Resilience

Circle Up is a new project at CAST that seeks to integrate academic, social, and emotional learning with a Universal Design for Learning lens, together with the Collaborative and Proactive Solutions problem solving model and the Check and Connect mentoring model. UDL is a research-based framework to support instructional design. It supports the work of teachers, administrators, curriculum and technology developers, and policy makers to drive the ongoing process of ensuring that everyone has access to learning and the opportunity to make meaningful decisions about their own learning leading to deeper ownership. Supporting emotional regulation and social connection play a fundamental role in designing meaningful learning environments and expectations. The UDL Guidelines have always included checkpoints, particularly in the Engagement principle, related to the role of emotion in learning.

The growing need for social, emotional learning programs is evident even before the COVID pandemic but especially in its wake. These programs have been shown to improve student well-being and learning outcomes. They are however often delivered as add-ons to regular academic programming. In the Circle Up project, we are seeking to take the best of SEL programs and weave these strategies into academic learning to support deeper self-regulated learning. The proactive design of learning provided by UDL is supplemented by a process in which teachers coach the development of a student’s learning identity, an inherently emotional and social process. Moreover, the coaching and problem-solving processes create an opportunity for crucial design feedback for teachers.


Des English Memorial Lecture Presenter 


Prof. Dianne Chambers

Prof. Dianne Chambers coordinates tertiary courses on inclusion/inclusive education, adaptive education, behaviour management and social skills, children with special needs and research methods. She supervises students completing Masters’ and PhD degrees.  Dianne is published in the field of inclusive education, assistive technology, use of coding robots, service learning and children with ASD.   Dianne has consulted with UNESCO on guidelines for persons with disabilities and Open and Distance Learning using open solutions and assistive technology, and teacher education for global citizenship. She is also currently working with TVET lecturers in low-income countries to develop skills in assistive technology for Open and Distance learning.

Plenary Overview

The Place of Technology for Wellbeing in Special and Inclusive Education

Development of new technology seems to be increasing at an alarmingly fast rate.  Do you wonder whether you should be using technology in your teaching? Are you unsure of how and when to use the technology? Does the thought of artificial intelligence scare you likes it does me?  This presentation will address some of these questions and propose some ways forward in what seems an overwhelming array of technologies and expectations.

During the presentation, a description of educational technology, assistive technology, and AI will be provided and the use of each examined for its capacity to support the needs of students with disabilities in both special and inclusive environments. After the session you will hopefully be able to look at technology in a new and exciting way and leave with tips for use in the classroom.  


2024 Conference Dinner Speaker


Assoc. Prof. Chris Cormier

Dr. Christopher J. Cormier is a former special education teacher and an Associate Professor of teaching and learning in the School of Education at Loyola Marymount University. He has taught first through 12th in Title 1 schools in the Greater Los Angeles Metropolitan area. His research program focuses on the social and cultural contexts of minoritized learners and teachers in special education. Under this overarching theme, he has two lines of scholarship. The first is on the professional and socio-emotional lives of minoritized teachers. The second is on culturally informed identification of minoritized students in special education. Dr. Cormier brings a comparative lens to both of his research lines with studies in national and international contexts. He has served as the President of the Division for Culturally and Linguistically Diverse Exceptional Learners (DDEL) of the Council for Exceptional Children and was a Director-at-Large for Kappa Delta Pi Incorporated.

Address Overview

Assembling A Broader Picture of Special Education: The Need for More Mainstream International and Comparative Special Education Scholarship

Scholars who explore the many challenges affecting students served in special education have rarely looked beyond a single national context. Moreover, U.S. based scholars assemble pieces of the picture to create an image of special education that contains no information gathered outside the country. 

The most troubling implication of the lack of international comparative perspectives in both empirical and theoretical research is that it especially harms students who are from marginalized and minoritized backgrounds. This is because there appears to be a common belief trauma experienced by these groups are more in the U.S. and less other places in the world. 

In this presentation Dr. Christopher Cormier will address the need to connect the experiences of students across national borders—to bring pieces of the jigsaw puzzle from all over the world together to assemble a more complete picture. 

Key Dates

Early Bird Registration Available
Tuesday, 6th February 2024

Early Bird Registration Closes
Friday, 31 May 2024

Standard Registration Available
Saturday, 1 June 2024

Standard Registration Closes
Tuesday, 29 August 2024

Conference Dates
Wednesday, 4  - Friday, 6 September 2024

Conference Convenor

The Australian Association of Special Education (AASE) is a broad-based non-categorical association concerned with all who have special education needs. 

Western Australian Education Support Principals and Administrators Association (WAESPAA) is a professional association representing the interests of the Education Support sector in all schools.


Conference Secretariat

GEMS Event Management Australia 
30 615 654 629

Contact us 
For all registration and accommodation inquiries call
02 9744 5252 or email: registration@gemsevents.com.au


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