2021 OVC Applied Research and
Best Practice Symposium

Helping Children with
Disabilities Thrive

Play, Powerful Behaviors, and Full Potential

May 5-12, 2021  |  Virtual Event


If you are serving children with disabilities – as an NGO team, professional, biological parent, adoptive parent, foster parent, kin, teacher, service provider, practitioner, researcher – this symposium is for you.

Together, we will explore how to help children with disabilities thrive.

We know it can feel overwhelming and at times, even isolating – especially when children are separated from the love and support of a family. 
Join us and hear practical tips and insight from the top researchers in the field.

Join us for the 2021
virtual Symposium


Curated content from top contributors and experts in the field.

Once you’ve registered, set aside time between May 5 – May 12 to watch the Symposium Presentations together as a team or individually.  The 2021 Symposium content has been thoughtfully curated from top organizations, academic institutions and leading experts in the field and will be sure to inform, equip, and inspire you wherever you are on your journey.

Virtual Content and Participant Guide

Resources and materials will arrive in your inbox, preparing you for a day of learning from expert researchers in the field. Whether you are going to experience Symposium as an individual,  facilitating, or participating in Symposium as part of a group, you will receive special instructions, resources, and discussion questions to help guide you through the content. 

Live Interactive Session and Coaching Groups

On Wednesday, May 12, registered attendees can join two live Keynote General Sessions. Each registrant will also have the opportunity to join a coaching session* in the afternoon.

*Coaching sessions require video participation and spaces are limited.


Kyriakos Demetriou

Kyriakos Demetriou

Dr Kyriakos Demetriou is a lecturer in Special and Inclusive education at the University of Nicosia in Cyprus. He holds a PhD in Inclusive Education from the University of Leeds, United Kingdom. He worked as a Postdoctoral Teaching Fellow and as a Lecturer (2016-2019) in Early Childhood Studies (Inclusive Education) at Liverpool Hope University in the United Kingdom between 2015-2019. He is a qualified primary school teacher and has taught in several mainstream and special schools both in Cyprus and England. His research interests relate to special educational needs, inclusion, play and disability, friendship and disability, cultural representations of disability, assistive technologies etc. His work has been published in a number of leading academic journals such as Early Child Development and Care, the International Journal of Disability, Development and Education etc.

Delia Pop

Delia Pop

Over the last 20 years, Delia provided her expertise and to government agencies, NGOs and other professionals in Europe, Africa and Latin America to reform child protection systems, with a focus on strengthening families and transitioning away from reliance on institutions. Delia is the Director of Tanya’s Dream fund, a time-bound initiative, seeking to catalyse renewed action and leverage new resources and commitments for the care reform in Bulgaria. Delia is the co-author of a number of publications focused on deinstitutionalisation, family strengthening, and family based alternative care, a gifted trainer with direct experience in working with children and families.

David Finn

David Finn

Dr. David M. Finn is a Professor of Special Education at Samford University and also serves as the School of Education International Director. Prior to coming to Samford, he directed several programs for infants, toddlers and school-age children who had significant disabilities.  His programs serving adults with disabilities included On-the-Job Training (OJT) and managed sub-minimum wage contracts for client employment opportunities.  After completing his doctorate, he held teaching and clinical positions at the University of Washington in Seattle, the University of Hawai’i at Mano’a (Honolulu) and UAB. Dr. Finn helped to start the first teacher certification program in special education and, at the same time, developed the Children’s Learning Center; a fully inclusive child development center.  David is a frequent keynote speaker at state, national and international conferences most recently in Beirut, Lebanon, Dubai and Taiwan.  His research interests include serving refugee children in the Middle East who have special needs,  Autism Spectrum Disorders, Educational Neuroscience,  and school safety.  His publications include a variety of tests for families of young children with special needs.

Melody Aguayo

Melody Aguayo

Dr. Melody Aguayo has a Master’s in Marriage and Family Therapy and a Ph.D. in Psychology.  She is the founder of Real Child Consulting, LLC that specializes in providing coaching and training to parents and organizations that caretake “at-risk” children.  She has spoken at many notable locations including CAFO, City of Orphans, Vanderbilt Neurological Symposium, and others.  She is also a parent of two children through adoption.  Her personal journey has compelled her into a professional world she wasn’t planning on being a part of.  She has a passion for helping hurting families and children turn their pain into purpose.

Johanna K.P. Greeson

Johanna K.P. Greeson

Johanna Greeson, PhD, MSS, MLSP, is an Associate Professor at the School of Social Policy & Practice at the University of Pennsylvania. She is also the Managing Faculty Director at the Field Center for Children’s Policy, Practice, & Research. She is passionate about reforming the child welfare system, using research to build better futures for youth who age out of foster care, and realizing the power of connections to caring adults for all vulnerable youth. Her research agenda is resiliency-focused and based in the strengths and virtues that enable foster youth to not only survive but thrive. Dr. Greeson’s published work includes scholarly articles on natural mentoring, evidence-based practices for older youth in foster care, including independent living programming, residential group care, and intensive in-home therapy, low-income homeownership, child/adolescent traumatic stress, and domestic minor sex trafficking. Her work has been cited over 2,000 times in the scientific, peer-reviewed literature. She is the developer of Caring Adults ‘R’ Everywhere (C.A.R.E.), a novel, trauma-informed natural mentoring intervention for older youth in foster care, intended to heal the aging out crisis. Her TEDx Talk about C.A.R.E. has been viewed over 87,000 times. Dr. Greeson received her PhD in social work from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 2009.

Daniela Bulgarelli

Daniela Bulgarelli

Daniela Bulgarelli is a developmental psychologist, particularly interested in: a) Effect of early childcare on children’s psychological development; b) Play and disability; c) Development of social cognition (Theory of Mind and emotion understanding) in typically and atypically developing populations, d) Development of communicative and linguistic competences; e) Development of empathic and prosocial competences. She is an assistant professor at the University of Turin, in Turin, Italy.

Serenella Besio

Serenella Besio

Serenella Besio is currently Full Professor of Special Education at the University of Bergamo, Italy. Formerly a speech therapist for children with cerebral palsy, she moved to the field of Assistive Technologies (mainly for learning and communication) where she worked both as a consultant and a researcher.

Maria Pallisera

Maria Pallisera

Dr. Maria Pallisera is a professor at the Department of Pedagogy in the University of Girona (Spain), where she teaches on the Social Education and Social Work degrees, and on the Masters programme in Diversity and Inclusive Education. She has researched and written about several issues related to social inclusion of people with disabilities (independent living, transition to adult life, supported employment), as well as inclusive research. Currently, she is involved in researching about supporting people with intellectual disabilities to improve their social networks. See https://recercadiversitat.wixsite.com/diversitat for more details about her work.



The content will only be available between May 5 – May 12. Be sure to set aside time that week to go through it as a team!

May 12th will be a day of live, interactive content, including webinars and small-group coaching tables.

Early Registration

$179.00 – Now until March 31st

General Registration

$199.00 – April 1st – May 5th

Yes! Whether you are attending independently or with a group or organization, the cost is the same! If you are registering on behalf of a group, you will receive a special code which will allow the rest of your group members to register for free.

Yes, a select number of scholarships are available! Apply here by April 9th.

You’ll receive an email prior to the event to download a  facilitator’s guide. This guide will have all the information you need to lead your team through the day.

You can email the Research Center Team with any further questions.

Join us, as we learn how to better help vulnerable children and families...together.