Inclusion In Action
FIRE Foundation
FIRE Foundation
FIRE Foundation

Join Us

The FIRE Foundation is pleased to present an inclusive education conference for principals, teachers, paraprofessionals and parents who are committed to creating and strengthening K-12 inclusive learning opportunities at their Catholic schools.

Please help us spread news about this opportunity.


 Inclusion in Action in Catholic Schools

This conference is designed to light the way for Catholic schools who desire to welcome and support students with disabilities and learning differences. We believe that our Catholic faith calls all of us to be inclusive. Sometimes it’s difficult to know where to start. And it’s always essential to continue learning and growing. Whether you’re considering the idea of formally offering inclusive education opportunities at your school for the very first time or you are seeking new information to strengthen and expand your existing inclusion program, this conference is for you! FIRE Foundation hosts and presents this conference on a biennial basis. In person conferences were held in 2017 and 2019 in Kansas City.  In 2021 we hosted a virtual conference and we are excited to be offering a hybrid event in 2023, both in-person and virtual opportunites to participate will be available!

a conference presented by the FIRE Foundation

FIRE Foundation works to advocate for and fund inclusive Catholic education in the Diocese of Kansas City – St. Joseph (MO). Since 1996, FIRE has invested over $7 million to support inclusive learning opportunities for hundreds of students K-12. FIRE funds make it possible for schools to hire special educators, para-educators, acquire technology, and provide professional development so learners with a range of intellectual and developmental disabilities can learn, grow, and thrive in Catholic schools. We believe that inclusive education fosters a culture of acceptance and compassion where ALL students grow together in faith, knowledge and friendship.

In addition to supporting inclusive education in the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph, FIRE is pleased to partner with our affiliates including FIRE Foundation of Northeast Iowa (Archdiocese of Dubuque), FIRE Foundation of Central Illinois (Diocese of Peoria), FIRE Foundation of New Hampshire (Diocese of Manchester), FIRE Foundation of Dallas (Diocese of Dallas), FIRE Foundation of Northwest Indiana (Diocese of Gary), FIRE Foundation of Northwest Iowa (Diocese of Sioux City), FIRE Foundation of Denver (Achdiocese of Denver) and the FIRE Foundation of Milwaukee (Diocese of Milwaukee).


Keynote Presenters

Dr. Paula Kluth
Paula Kluth, Ph.D., is a consultant, author, advocate, and independent scholar who works with teachers and families to provide inclusive opportunities for students with disabilities and to create more responsive and engaging schooling experiences for all learners. She is a former K-12 special educator who has served as a classroom teacher, co-teacher, and inclusion facilitator. Paula has also been a university professor and has taught courses on both inclusion and disability studies.
Keynotes: 
* Universal Design Daily: Supporting All Students in the Diverse Classroom 
* You’re Going To Love This Kid!: Educating Students with Autism Inclusive Schools 

Dr. Christie Bonfiglio
Christie Bonfiglio, Ph.D., directs the Program for Inclusive Education at the University of Notre Dame.  Read her bio here.  
Keynote: 
* Inclusion in Catholic Schools:  Called to Welcome, Dedicated to Serve, and Prepared to Celebrate!  

Dr. Matthew Braun 
Matthew J. Braun, Ph.D., L/CCC/SLP, is a speech-language pathologist and owner of Speech and Language Solutions, LLC.  Read his bio here.  
Keynote: 
* Embracing a Strengths-Based Approach to Support Inclusion in Schools 

Debra Hart 
Director of Education & Transition Team at Think College 
Keynote: 
* Did you know that students with intellectual disability can and are going to college? : National overview 

Conference Agenda

The Inclusion in Action conference will offer opportunities meet the education team at four inclusives, learn from national inclusion experts, and network with other inclusion advocates.  Below is the conference schedule, keynote topics, and more.  The conference will offer content covering a broad range of inclusion topics.  Are you planning to pay for attendance at the conference with Title Funds?  If so, please feel free to use the Justification Letter.

As presenters are confirmed, they will be added to the agenda.  

Conference Agenda at a Glance
Meeting times are in Central Standard Time

Thursday, February 16, 2023

7:45 am – Registration Opens & Continential Breakfast
8:30 am – Welcome & Prayer
9:00 am – 10:00 am – Keynote Speaker: Dr. Christie Bonfiglio
10:15 am – 12:15 pm – Class is in session
Meet the education team at four inclusive schools.  
12:15 pm – 1:30 pm Lunch & Keynote Speaker: Dr. Matthew Braun
1:30 pm – 1:45 pm – Break
1:45 pm – 3:00 pm – Breakout Sessions
3:00 pm – 3:15 pm – Break
3:15 pm – 4:30 pm – Breakout Sessions
5:00 pm – 7:00 pm – Happy Hour off-site 

Friday, February 17, 2023

7:45 am – Breakfast
8:15 am – Welcome & Prayer
8:30 am – 10:00 am – Keynote Speaker: Dr. Paula Kluth
10:00 am – 10:15 am – Break
10:15 am – 11:45 am – Keynote Speaker: Dr. Paula Kluth
Noon – Lunch & Keynote Speaker: Debra Hart 
1:15 pm – 2:30 pm  – Breakout Sessions
2:30 pm – 2:45 pm – Break
2:45 pm – 4:00 pm – Breakout Sessions  

Conference Detailed Agenda:

Thursday, February 16, 2023
8:00 am Registration and Breakfast

8:30 am Welcome & Prayer by Lynn Hire, Executive Director, FIRE Foundation

9:00 am – 10:00 am Keynote
Inclusion in Catholic Schools: Called to Welcome, Dedicated to Serve, and Prepared to Celebrate!
Inclusion creates a vibrant, diverse community that enriches everyone’s lives. Catholic schools are charged to meaningfully include every student, and when we do, the benefits and outcomes are boundless. There are increases in academic achievement, social skills, and empathy and community for all students. In this session, Dr. Bonfiglio will discuss the impact and implications for inclusion in Catholic schools as we are called to welcome, dedicated to serve, and prepared to celebrate!
Presented by Dr. Christie Bonfiglio, Ph.D, Director of Professional Standards & Graduate Studies, Director of the Program for Inclusive Education, Professor of Teaching IEI Fellow, University of Notre Dame

10:15 am – 12:15 pm
Class Is in Session
Conference participants will get to visit four inclusive schools without leaving the building! Check your class pass and don’t be tardy. There’s no need to board a bus because we’re bringing four outstanding and committed inclusive learning teams to you. At each school “visit” you’ll meet the principal, inclusive learning coordinator and other key team members who work together to build learning communities where students where a wide spectrum of abilities and challenges are welcomed and supported.
Presented by FIRE partner schools in the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph: St. Elizabeth School, St. Patrick School, Our Lady of the Presentation School and Saint Michael the Archangel High School

12:15 pm – 1:15 pm Lunch & Keynote
Embracing a Strengths-Based Approach to Support Inclusion in Schools
Most of us have heard the term “strengths-based approach”, but what does that really mean and how do we know if we are taking a strengths-based approach? Dr. Braun will discuss what it looks like when we take a strengths-based approach to working with students, particularly those with neurodiverse learning needs. He will discuss how taking a strengths-based approach in education promotes inclusion and how such approaches are more conducive to all learning styles. Dr. Braun will also provide some simple steps and strategies that educators can take to start the shift towards a more strengths-based approach in their school environments.
Presented by Matthew J. Braun, PhD, L/CCC-SLP Owner/Speech-Language Pathologist Speech and Language Solutions, LLC

1:30 pm – 1:45 pm Break

1:45 pm – 3:00 pm Early Afternoon Breakout Sessions

Breakout Sessions | Town Square
Supporting Social Emotional Learning in the Classroom
This interactive session will feature a social emotional learning curriculum housed in a virtual reality setting. Available on the iPad, Chromebook, and Oculus, VOISS is an app that features 140 scenarios to teach students knowledge and skills in the ever-demanding area of social emotional learning. Participants will learn about the app, how to access and use it, the research behind the app, and how to implement it with learners across the classroom setting.
Presented by Dr. Sean Smith, Professor at the Department of Special Education at the University of Kansas

Breakout Sessions | Troost Room
Great Education for All – Common Special Education diagnoses in the Typical Classroom
We are seeing more students who are struggling in our classrooms. Let’s spend some time exploring what the most common trends in the classroom are and how building our toolbox to meet the needs of struggling learners can help us provide a better education for all students.
Presented by Nicolette Gibson, Associate Superintendent of the Diocese of Kansas City

Breakout Sessions | Brush Creek Room
A Collaborative Approach to Inclusion: Supporting the Communication and Language Learning Needs in the Classroom and Other School Environments
Dr. Braun and his team of speech and occupational therapists work in 10 Catholic schools and have a number of other school contracts across the Kansas City area. He will discuss how their model of collaboration has helped promote inclusion in those schools. Participants will learn how collaboration with teachers, special education teachers, parents, paraeducators, administrators and other providers can positively impact outcomes when it comes to student achievement. Additionally, attendees will be given strategies on how to support communication and language based learning needs in the classroom and other school environments.
Presented by Matthew J. Braun, PhD, L/CCC-SLP Owner/Speech-Language Pathologist Speech and Language Solutions, LLC

Breakout Sessions | Paseo Room
Understanding Behavior in the Classroom
Tyler and Megan of Down Syndrome Innovations will present on support students in the classroom by gaining a better understanding of both the definition of behavior and common functions of behavior. The material will also include strategies for teaching new behavior repertoires and discussing behavior’s role in communication.
Presented by Tyler Goevert, MSE, School Age Program Manager Down Syndrome Innovations and Megan DeBoom, BCBA, LBA, Director of Therapeutic Services, Down Syndrome Innovations

3:00 pm – 3:15 pm Break

3:15 pm – 4:30 pm Afternoon Breakout Sessions

Breakout Sessions | Town Square
Innovations that Promote Inclusion
Technology tools are increasingly offering solutions to individualize the learning experience for all students, particularly those with disabilities. This interactive session will feature tech tools applicable to reading, writing, grade, and content level instruction, and a host of other areas of learning applicable to today’s K-8 and 9-12 classroom. Increasingly available to all learners, we will highlight tools that are particularly relevant and supportive of struggling learners and those with disabilities to enhance support, facilitate learning and improve student outcomes.
Presented by Dr. Sean Smith, Professor at the Department of Special Education at the University of Kansas

Breakout Sessions | Troost Room
Building Inclusion in Catholic Schools: The Foundation and Framework
Inclusion in Catholic schools requires an open heart and a thoughtful plan. Saying yes to a family seeking a place in your school community is paramount. Building the structures and assembling the resources is the critical next step. In this session, participants will explore the necessary foundation for meaningful inclusion, as well as the key components that frame an inclusive school. A school-based example will be offered as illustration of the lessons learned for our exploration into welcoming, serving, and celebrating diverse learners.
Presented by Abby Giroux, MS, MA–Associate Director of PIE

Breakout Sessions | Brush Creek Room
PromOTing Independence
This session features a review of occupational therapy topics including core strength, fine motor skills, sensory processing, and emotional regulation and their integration into the classroom. Participants will be provided with concrete strategies related to various topics such as handwriting and sensory regulation, and learn ways to implement them in the classroom to allow students the greatest chance for success.
Presented by Megan M Blaufuss, OTR/L, PT/OT Education Coordinator, Children’s Mercy Hospital, Kansas City, MO

Breakout Sessions | Paseo
Effective Practices for Para Support
Tyler and Megan of Down Syndrome Innovations will review effective and evidence-based skills and supports for paraprofessionals to use in the classroom. This material will cover the importance of rapport building, proactive supports, and responding to challenges with a confident, purposeful, and supportive approach.
Presented by Tyler Goevert, MSE, School Age Program Manager Down Syndrome Innovations and Megan DeBoom, BCBA, LBA, Director of Therapeutic Services, Down Syndrome Innovations

5:00 pm – 6:30 pm Happy Hour Reception at Grand Street Café, 4740 Grand Ave, Kansas City, Missouri 64112, Tickets are required to attend.

Friday, February 17, 2023
8:15 am – 8:30 am Welcome & Prayer by Lynn Hire, Executive Director, FIRE Foundation

8:30 am – 10:00 am Keynote
Universal Design Daily: Supporting All Students in the Diverse Classroom
Too often a “one-size-fits- all” approach is used to design lessons, leaving some learners struggling to participate and their teachers scrambling to find alternative supports. In this presentation, Dr. Kluth will illustrate alternatives to this retrofit-style of teaching and learning by discussing the benefits of Universal Design for Learning. Specifically, she will outline and give examples of UDL methods (engagement strategies, action & expression strategies, representation strategies) and emphasize how a UDL model can help teachers reach a wider range of students and include those learners who may previously have been excluded. This Universally-Designed presentation also features “TikTok teaching”, a rock-paper-scissors challenge, and a unique dance party!
Presented by Paula Kluth, PhD

10:00 am – 10:15 am Break

10:15 am – 11:45 am Keynote Speaker Dr. Paula Kluth
You’re Going To Love This Kid!: Educating Students with Autism In Inclusive Schools
In this session, participants will learn practical ways of supporting students with autism spectrum labels & other disabilities within a general education classroom. Topics addressed include listening to the voices of those with autism, teaching to fascinations and providing opportunities for communication skill development. The session will focus on the importance of pushing beyond access and asking schools to challenge students and to understand each learner as complex and capable.
Presented by Paula Kluth PhD

11:45 am – 1:00 pm Lunch & Keynote
Beyond High School: College Programs for Students with Disabilities
DId you know that students with intellectual disabilities can and do go to college?  Think College is a national initiative dedicated to developing, expanding, and improving research and practice in inclusive higher education for students with disabilities.  Learn what is happening across the country.  What can we do at the k-12 levels to prepare students with disabilities for success in post-secondary programs?  
Presented by Debra Hart, Director of Education & Transition Team at Think College

1:15 pm – 2:30 pm Early Afternoon Breakout Sessions

Breakout Sessions | Town Square
The Ins and Outs of Dyslexia: Instructional Adaptations
* Gain up-to-date data and information about dyslexia
* Learn explicitly what dyslexia IS and what dyslexia is NOT
* Learn about the characteristics of dyslexia at each age level
* Learn about identifying dyslexia
* Gain ideas on how to partner with families
* Learn evidence-based practices to implement into classrooms
* Hear success stories
Presented by Colleen Daugherty, Inclusion Coordinator at Our Lady of the Presentation School, Graduate of University of Notre Dame’s Program for Inclusive Education

Breakout Sessions | Troost Room
How to find, pay for and be better prepared for college
Higher education opportunities for students with disabilities have greatly expanded over the past 20 years as a result of advocacy and improvements to the Higher Education Act. In this session, learn about the over 300 college programs, how to find the right fit, and how to be better prepared for college.  Think College staff will describe how to use their database of college programs and the positive outcomes from the evaluation of federally-funded model programs. Helpful resources will be provided and the workshop will include time for discussion and questions and answers.
Presented by Debra Hart, Director of Education & Transition Team at Think College

Breakout Sessions | Brush Creek Room
Planning and Designing for the Inclusive Setting – Diving Deeper into UDL
While Inclusion is a growing expectation for ALL learners, efforts to meaningfully include all of God’s children takes purposeful planning and design efforts to ensure success. This interactive session will feature the Universal Design for Learning Framework. Together we will explore ways to unpack the framework and make meaningful application to the classroom in order to address barriers and plan for the variability of all learners, particularly struggling students and their peer with identified disabilities.
Presented by Dr. Sean Smith, Professor at the Department of Special Education at the University of Kansas

Breakout Sessions | Paseo Room

Developing a Student Education Plan 
Through a team approach that includes educators, administrators, and families of students with disabilities, Catholic school classrooms can be a place where students with exceptionalities are valued, accepted, respected, involved, and have the same opportunities as students without disabilities. During this session, participants will explore components of a student service plan development and implementation in relation to Universal Design for Learning. 

Presented by Dr. Kelly Cogan, Director of Special Education and Inclusivity Programs, Benedictine College, Founder and Director of Administration and Community Outreach, Exceptional Humans

2:30 pm – 2:45 pm Break

2:45 pm – 4:00 pm Afternoon Breakout Sessions

Breakout Sessions | Town Square
Using the Problem Solving Process to Identify Student Needs and Goals
Participants will learn about a three-tiered model of behavioral and academic support for students and the “big picture” changes schools should consider when striving to meet the needs of ALL students. A description of the six-step problem solving process will be provided and an actual student plan will be reviewed.
Presented by Karen Kroh, EdD, Superintendent of the Diocese of Kansas City – St. Joseph

Breakout Sessions | Troost Room
Fostering Students’ Strengths: How to Grow Independence with Executive Function Skills
Does your child or students struggle with organization, prioritizing tasking, task initiation, working memory, impulsive control, or mental flexibility? This session will talk about how to directly teach executive functioning skills and we will explore strategies to support growth and development. Audrey Hihn is an inclusive educator who has worked with high school and elementary school students and seen the benefits of executive function support in and out of the classroom.
Presented by Audrey Hihn, Inclusion Coordinator at St. Elizabeth School, Graduate of University of Notre Dame’s Program for Inclusive Education

Breakout Sessions | Brush Creek Room 
Supporting Appropriate Behavior
This presentation will provide background on variables that maintain challenging behavior, an array of approaches that can increase appropriate behavior, and how to best universally support a wide range of learners.
Presented by Kyle Hamilton, M.S., BCBA, LBA, Behavior Analyst and Autism Training Specialist, University of Missouri, Thompson Center 

Breakout Sessions | Paseo Room
Building Your Trauma Informed Classroom
During this session you will learn more about what is means to create a trauma-informed classroom. Learn from an Early Childhood Educator and a Clinical Therapist about how a trauma-sensitive approach can strengthen connection and regulation within your classroom. 
Presented by Blair Ballard, LPC, RPT (Clinical Director of Day Treatment Services at The Children’s Place), Pam Simpson, MS, ECE (Early Education Director of Day Treatment Services at The Children’s Place)

Conference Center:

Registration Rates

  • $299 for in-person attendance. Please note the capacity is 200. Includes two light breakfasts and two lunches.
  • Please note there are two additional options for in-person attendees:
    *  $20 to purchase Universal Design Daily: 36 Ways to Teach, Support & Challenge All Learners by Dr. Paula Kluth. (discounted from $28). Book         orders MUST be purchased prior to the event.
    *  $35 to attend a Thursday Happy Hour Reception (5:30 – 7 pm at a Country Club Plaza restaurant location.) Enjoy appetizers, beer/wine and   opportunities to network with inclusion advocates.
  • $199 for virtual attendance. Conference sessions will be live streamed and most sessions will be recorded.
  • Discounted rates are available for attendees who live/work in dioceses served by a FIRE affiliate partner including Diocese of Manchester (NH); Diocese of Gary (IN); Diocese of Peoria (IL); Archdiocese of Milwaukee (WI); Diocese of Sioux City (IA); Archdiocese of Dubuque (IA); Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph (MO); Archdiocese of Denver (CO); Diocese of Dallas (TX); Diocese of Phoenix (AZ). Contact your FIRE affiliate to obtain the discount code or contact Erin Schmitz at fireaffiliates@gmail.com.

Hotel Reservations

  • The Fontaine is offering a $179 rate.  Book your hotel reservation online at FIRE Foundation/Inclusion in Action.   
  • Aloft KC Country Club Plaza is a new hotel and opening in mid-December.  The hotel is offering a $129 group rate.  Please email Jeffrey.K.Kempton@marriott.com directly to make your reservation.  Please reference the FIRE Foundation/Inclusion in Action group and include the following:  Name on reservation, check-in date, check-out date, king or 2 queen room request, number of guests in room, phone and Marriott Bonvoy Loyalty number if applicable. https://www.marriott.co.uk/hotels/travel/mcias-aloft-kansas-city-country-club-plaza/ 
    RESERVATIONS MUST BE MADE BY JANUARY 20, 2023

Contact Information

FIRE Foundation
20 West 9th Street
Kansas City, MO 64105
816-520-2619
info@firefoundation.org