2023 Summit Schedule

Welcome Reception
April 17, 2023
5:00 pm - 7:00 pm
Rooftop Pool Deck

Welcome Reception

Meet fellow attendees while enjoying your favorite beverage. The event will focus on creating meaningful connections in small groups to facilitate networking and learning.

Sponsored by SimiTree

Day 1
April 18, 2023
8:00 am - 8:30 am
Marble Terrace

Coffee with Sponsors

Note: a full breakfast for Summit attendees is available at The London Hotel in The Boxwood Restaurant, starting at 6:30 am.

Sponsored by Triumph Behavior Support

8:30 am - 8:45 am
Kensington Ballroom

Welcome & Introductory Remarks

Sara Litvak
CEO, Behavioral Health Center of Excellence

Sara Litvak, Behavioral Health Center of Excellence CEO and Co-Founder of the Autism Investor Summit, welcomes everyone to the 2023 Autism Investor Summit!

8:45 am - 9:30 am
Kensington Ballroom

Keynote: Dexter Braff

Dexter Braff

Autism Mergers and Acquisitions: A Market in Flux

Speaker: Dexter Braff, The Braff Group

Based upon proprietary data collected and analyzed by The Braff Group, one could argue that the boom in autism services M&A officially began around 2015 when a few earlier investments in the space began to catch the attention of other private equity sponsors. That year, PE accounted for 8 transactions, three of which were market-entry platform deals. By 2019, that number had swelled to 43 transactions including an extraordinary 17 platform investments. A pandemic, a shortage of caregivers, payor scrutiny, and a few high-profile stumbles later, autism M&A is a market in flux. And that’s before we consider macro market factors including high inflation, a slowing economy, rising interest rates, and unrest in eastern Europe. To be sure, buyers are still buying, but there is caution in the air. High multiples can still be found, but they are not as de facto as they once were. In this session, we will examine how the autism M&A market has changed, where it is today, and where it is likely headed.

Session 2A: A Conversation with Love on the Spectrum Cast on Hearing Autistic Voices

Russell Lehmann
Aarti Garg
Subodh Garg
Devin Morrissey
Dani Bowman
Sara Litvak
CEO, Behavioral Health Center of Excellence

Moderator:Russell Lehmann, russl.co and Sara Litvak, Behavioral Health Center of Excellence


  • Dani Bowman, Danimation
  • Devin Morrissey, Cast of Love on the Spectrum
  • Subodh Garg, Cast of Love on the Spectrum
  • Aarti Garg, Sister of Subodh Garg
  • 9:45 am - 10:30 am
    Screening Room

    Session 2B: Digital Health Start-Ups for Autism Treatment: Challenges and Opportunities

    Oliver Wendt, PhD.

    Speaker: Oliver Wendt, PhD, Director of the Potsdam Augmentative and Alternative Communication Research Lab, Associate Professor and Chair in Cognitive and Emotional Disabilities at the University of Potsdam, Germany

    This session will focus on the technology transfer process of bringing innovations in digital health from the research lab to the autism market. The last decade has seen an explosion of new technologies aimed at assessing and improving behavioral and health related outcomes in the autism population. Examples include Mobile device applications (“apps”) to aid communication, social media platforms that can help connect to caregivers, health or medical services, or eye tracking technology to identify and monitor gaze responses. Many of these inventions originate in university-based autism research labs and follow the current trend in research-based entrepreneurship. This session will start with an overview on the market for digital health innovations in autism which includes about 5M affected families nation-wide and 85M world-wide. The market is highly segmented into caregivers, clinics, educational institutions, professional societies, state advocacies, and support groups. A multi-faceted marketing and sales strategy is necessary to penetrate these tightly knit communities. The session will discuss business model options based on securing insurance funding, subscription versus in-app and one-time purchases, and site licenses for large networks. Fundraising strategies to support university start-up creation will be compared including non-dilutive federal funding through Small Business Research Innovation grants or autism foundations versus traditional angel investment and/or venture capital funding.

    Dr. Wendt will speak from his experience as a research entrepreneur and former chief science officer of a technology start-up; he is currently not associated with any commercial entity but serves as an advisor to two autism software companies.

    10:30 am - 10:45 am
    Marble Terrace


    Sponsored by Waller Law

    10:45 am - 11:30 am
    Kensington Ballroom

    Session 3A: Autism Care Trends Amid Uncertain Economic Conditions and Industry Constraints

    Chris Sullens

    Speaker: Chris Sullens, CentralReach

    Even with unprecedented pressures such as a global pandemic and the Great Resignation, the ABA industry has continued to experience rapid growth with no signs of slowing down. In 2022, providers saw a 39% year-over-year increase in the demand for autism services and a 21% year-over-year increase in services billed. Will the ABA industry remain resilient in 2023 with uncertain economic conditions and continued industry constraints ahead?

    Based on a dataset of nearly 1,000+ ABA providers, Chris Sullens, CEO of CentralReach, will deep dive into the factors impacting the industry at a macro level and how providers, and their clients are responding to those pressures. Sullens will discuss the:

    - Outlook on growth in the demand for autism services
    - Evolution of care delivery and the settings where care is provided
    - Trends in service composition and which providers are seeing the most growth
    - And, more.

    Session 3B: Storytellers

    Rajashree Balasubramanian
    Doreen Samelson
    Rob Nicolai
    Lori Ann Dotson


    • Better Outcomes, Better Business, Lori Ann Dotson, Senior Director of Strategic Vision and Innovation, Institute for Applied Behavior Analysis
    • Data Analytics as a Critical Component of Operations Management, Rob Nicolai, Chief Strategy Officer, Autism Behavioral Institute, LLC
    • It's Not Just About Goal Attainment: WellBeing as an Outcome Measure, Doreen Samelson, Chief Clinical Officer , Catalight Foundation
    • Journey of an Autism Company in the Middle East, Rajashree Balasubramanian, Behaviour Enrichment, Dubai
    11:45 am - 12:30 pm
    Kensington Ballroom

    Session 4A: Building a Winning Strategy for New Market Expansion and Growth (and lessons learned along the way!)

    Benjamin Wessels
    Dennis May
    Anna Bullard
    Rick Loewenstein

    Moderator: Rick Loewenstein, CEO, TeamGame Advisors


  • Dennis May, CEO, Hopebridge Autism Therapy Centers
  • Anna Bullard, Accelerated Delegated Credentialing
  • Benjamin Wessels, Early Autism Services
  • Outstanding clinical quality, leadership, and clear communication are key factors to building a successful ABA practice. Leveraging those qualities with a strategic, operational-focused growth initiative will ensure expansion plans are executed with success and become the lifeblood of an organization.

    This presentation will explore various operational growth strategies that can be standardized and replicated. It will explore the de novo vs. acquisition discussion, how to build a winning implementation team, and ways to develop internal capacity to meet your growth goals. And it will provide attendees an opportunity to hear about some lessons learned along the way!

    The following topics will be discussed;
    1. The importance of clinical quality
    2. Types of growth
    a. Internal (service lines)
    b. External (geography)
    3. De novo vs. acquisition
    4. Center-based v. Home-based v. School-based
    5. Site location, size, and hours of operations options
    6. Referral partner outreach and collaboration strategies
    7. Operational readiness

    Clearly defining organizational goals and executing on expansion plans are the cornerstone of building a winning ABA organization.

    Session 4B: Autism Innovators' Fast Pitches

    Chris Olmanson
    Kelly Bertenthal-DeJean
    Michelle He
    Brandon Herscovitch
    Amanda Raston
    Jon Stout

    Autism innovators pitch their ideas to celebrity judges.


    • Jon Stout, Optum Ventures
    • Kelly Bertenthal-DeJean, Multiple
    • Michelle He, Autism Impact Fund


    • Wearable Medtech for Monitoring and Treating Self-Injurious Behavior in Autism - Brandon Herscovitch, HBH Development
    • A Pop Music Relational Frame for Outcome Measures for Autism - Amanda Ralston, NonBinarySolutions
    • Beaming Health - Chris Olmanson, Beaming Health
    12:30 pm - 4:30 pm
    Private Rooms

    "Speed Dating" — One-on-One Meetings with Investment Bankers

    Must be registered for speed-dating in advance of the Summit. Onsite appointments are not available.

    Sponsored by Intrepid

    12:30 pm - 1:30 pm
    Hampton Court

    Lunch Break

    Sponsored by CentralReach

    1:30 pm - 2:15 pm
    Kensington Ballroom

    Session 5: Developments in Neurodiversity, ABA Reform and Patient Treatment Experience

    Christopher Banks
    Keith Wargo
    Sara Litvak
    CEO, Behavioral Health Center of Excellence

    Moderator: Sara Litvak, Behavioral Health Center of Excellence

  • Keith Wargo, CEO, Autism Speaks
  • Christopher Banks, CEO, Autism Society of America
  • 2:15 pm - 2:30 pm
    Marble Terrace


    Sponsored by TripleTree

    Session 6A: Raising Capital: Options for Self-Financing

    Harry Nelson
    Steven Shill
    Kris Gochenour
    Patrick Bunt
    Yvonne Bruinsma, Ph.D., BCBC-D
    Dr. Ronit Molko

    Moderator: Dr. Ronit Molko, RonitMolko.com


    • Patrick Bunt, MeBe
    • Yvonne Bruinsima, In STEPPS
    • Kris Gochenour, CFO, Verbal Beginnings
    • Steven Shill, BDO
    • Harry Nelson, Nelson Hardiman
    2:30 pm - 3:15 pm
    Screening Room

    Session 6B: Using Clinical Standards, Data & Technology to Drive Better Outcomes

    Mahin Para-Cremer
    Dr. Jodi Nuernberger
    Mike Miller


  • Mike Miller, CEO, Caravel Autism Health
  • Dr. Jodi Nuernberger, VP of Clinical Excellence
  • Mahin Para-Cremer, Director of Clinical Systems and Outcomes
  • Clinical excellence is at the heart of autism treatment and organizations continue to strive to achieve the best outcomes for clients served. This presentation will provide an overview of how an Outcomes Platform founded upon a quality improvement framework can be used to drive the delivery of quality care and best outcomes. Clinical standards and a clinician centered approach served as the foundation for the development of leading and lagging indicators of quality care. Using cloud-based data collection that can be evaluated using advanced analytics and machine learning, the outcomes platform provides visibility into ‘near-real-time’ clinical KPIs, access to program recommendations via Artificial Intelligence algorithms with objective to improve care quality and allow for more responsive treatment. Data Insights are provided that enhance the clinician’s ability to differentiate learning styles and design the most effective treatment package. The impact the development of quality framework and outcomes platform has had on the delivery quality care will be discussed.

    3:30 pm - 4:30 pm
    Kensington Ballroom

    Session 7A: Evolving Payment Models: The Role of Self-Insured Employers in the Future of ABA

    Rob Paczkowski
    Ling Shao
    Melissa Reilly
    Justin Funches

    Moderator: Ling Shao, CEO, SpectrumAi


    • Justin Funches, President, LEARN Behavioral Health
    • Melissa Reilly, Chief Growth Officer, Evernorth
    • Rob Paczkowski, Senior Director, Global Benefits, eBay

    The ABA industry’s explosive growth and change in funding sources has been a wild ride during the last two decades. While a large opportunity still exists to penetrate untapped markets for commercial, Medicaid and TRICARE reimbursement, ABA providers should familiarize themselves with another new funding source: self-insured employers.

    Over the last 20 years, ABA went from cottage- to mainstream behavioral health specialty, as school district and private pay funding gave way to commercial insurance reimbursement. During that same period, self-insured employers have driven many of the breakthrough innovations in healthcare benefits. The reasons are simple: 1) employers are the ultimate payors for most Americans, and, 2) self-insured employers are less-encumbered by regulations that govern benefit offerings, structure, payment and steerage than insurance companies can offer to their fully-insured membership. As such, large, brand-name self-insured employers have catalyzed adoption of significant innovations like price transparency, centers of excellence, value-based purchasing, narrow networks, telehealth and expansion of behavioral health benefits.

    A highly-expert panel will discuss how employers and payors work with service providers to find solutions to employees’ evolving needs to attract and retain talent, the role insurance companies play in broad adoption, and how market leaders should think about delivering employer-based ABA solutions.

    3:30 pm - 4:30 pm
    Screening Room

    Session 7B: Healthcare Transaction Deal Killers: How to Avoid Them

    Rachel Boynton

    Speaker: Rachel Boynton, Vertess

    Although there are always situations where deals fall apart, there are those potential deal killers that can be avoided. This discussion will make references to the diligence process as well.

    These include:
    - Knowing your P&L and financial landscape. Offers are made based on financial numbers that are sometimes incorrect or misrepresented. There are steps to take to clean up your financial picture and to help improve the likelihood of a close.
    - Find strong and knowledgeable representation – Lawyers with M&A experience and regulatory knowledge is key, while an M&A advisor and an accountant/tax advisor can also be very helpful. A bad lawyer can cost not only time and a lot of money, but bad advice can kill a deal.
    - Be completely truthful and honest from the beginning of the discussions because any skeletons you might have will be found during diligence.
    - Recruit a trusted and discrete team member to help with diligence, as it’s time consuming and involved
    - Commit to the process- diligence is painstaking. But taking too long to get this done can kill a deal. A seller needs to keep their eye on the daily operations while getting the diligence done.
    - Chose your buyers (don’t let them choose you) since a cultural fit is as important as the purchase price

    Takeaways from this session include:
    - Understanding your financials and their importance to the deal.
    - Knowing what the deal process is like and how important the diligence piece is.
    - Successful completion involves a team of knowledgeable people - from inside and outside your organization.

    5:00 pm - 7:00 pm
    Rooftop Pool Deck

    Networking Reception

    Sponsored by Ziegler

    Day 2
    April 19, 2023
    8:00 am - 8:30 am
    Marble Terrace

    Coffee with Sponsors

    Note: a full breakfast for Summit attendees is available at The London Hotel in The Boxwood Restaurant, starting at 6:30 am.

    Sponsored by Boost (formerly SIDIS Health)

    8:30 am - 8:45 am
    Kensington Ballroom

    Opening Remarks

    Sara Litvak
    CEO, Behavioral Health Center of Excellence

    Sara Litvak, Behavioral Health Center of Excellence CEO and Co-Founder of the Autism Investor Summit, welcomes everyone back for Day 2 of the 2023 Autism Investor Summit!

    8:45 am - 9:30 am
    Kensington Ballroom

    Keynote Speaker: Allison Kluger

    Allison Kluger

    Speaker: Allison Kluger, Lecturer, Stanford Graduate School of Business

    Reputations Rules! Our reputations are defined not by who WE think we are, but how other people perceive us. In business and in your personal lives, a strong and positive reputation can be like currency. A strong reputation will open doors for you, create lasting bonds, and present valuable opportunities. In today's seminar we will discuss how to repair a damaged reputation, how to make a great first impression, what to be aware of your online reputation, and strategies to curate and maintain a positive working reputation among your colleagues and clients. Also covered will be topics that explore personal, team and corporate reputation. The good news is that no one is stuck in a reputation they don't want. Reputation is on a continuum, and we are the masters of our reputation destiny.

    9:45 am - 10:30 am
    Kensington Ballroom

    Session 2A: What Every Investor Wants to Know about the ABA Workforce

    Dr. Ellie Kazemi

    Speaker: Dr. Ellie Kazemi, California State University, Northridge

    Join me in an honest conversation about employee retention, talent recruitment, quiet quitting, burnout, callouts, and voluntary turnover. I will share what the clinical team (technicians, supervisors, directors, CEOs) have shared with me about what made them pursue a career in behavior analysis and what motivates them. We will take a look behind the curtain and unveil some shared values that can be communicated openly for meaningful change at every level. In this session, I will ask tough questions and provide some practical solutions for a better future for you and your organizations.

    Takeaways from this session include:
    1. Hearing the lived experiences of your clinical teams at your organization
    2. How to reduce burnout, callouts, and voluntary turnover through open communication
    3. How you can generate profit by keeping your clinicians motivated and happy

    Session 2B: Advancing Whole-Child Value-Based Autism Care

    Mark Mintz
    Jia Jia Ye
    Neil Hattangadi
    Kathleen Stengel, MS, BCBA, LBA
    Chief Executive Officer, NeurAbilities Healthcare

    Moderator: Kathleen Stengel, CEO, NeurAbilities Healthcare


    • Neil Hattangadi, Co-Founder & CEO, Cortica
    • Jia Jia Ye, Founder & CEO, Springtide Child Development
    • Mark Mintz, Pediatric Neurologist, Chief Medical Officer, Founder, NeurAbilities Healthcare
    10:30 am - 10:45 am
    Marble Terrace


    Sponsored by Chorus Cloud

    Session 3A: The Next Era is Here for Investment and Innovation in the Autism Space

    David Aspinall
    Cheryl Tierney, MD
    Rob Sarrazin
    Ling Shao
    Vijay Ravindran

    Moderator: Rob Sarrazin, Chief Investment Officer, Autism Impact Fund


    • Ling Shao, Founder and CEO SpectrumAI
    • Vijay Ravindran, Founder and CEO, Floreo
    • Cheryl Tierney, MD, Chief Medical Officer Meliora Health
    • David Aspinall, CEO auticon US
    10:45 am - 11:30 am
    Screening Room

    Session 3B: Revenue Cycle Management: The Achilles Heel for ABA Organizations

    Chris Cason
    Brent Koskosky
    Jonathan Mueller
    Michele Silcox-Beal

    Moderator: Jonathan Mueller, Element RCM


    • Brent Koskosky, Simple Fractal
    • Michele Silcox-Beal, ABA Therapy Billing and Insurance Services
    • Dan Cross, 360 Behavioral Health
    • Chris Cason, Ziegler
    11:45 am - 12:30 pm
    Kensington Ballroom

    Session 4A: Negotiating Reimbursement Rates: Changing the Payor-Provider Narrative from Transactional to Relational

    Jonathan Mueller
    Rick Loewenstein

    Co-Presenters: Jonathan Mueller, Ascend Behavior Partners, Element RCM and Rick Loewenstein, TeamGame Advisors

    Want to negotiate better reimbursement rates? Learn best practices focused on identifying the right Payor contact, understanding Payor policies around rate increases, how to collect and provide data to justify your requested increase, benchmarking, and more.

    It all starts with investing in the Payor relationship, then building a strong Payor Relations Platform. This disciplined approach impacts almost every department of your autism therapy practice and is often the most overlooked. Whether it’s rate negotiation contracting, credentialing, VBC, APMs, clinical excellence, accounts receivable, growth, or just creating open lines of communication, developing a rock-solid working relationship with your Payors is imperative to growth and success.

    11:45 am - 12:30 pm
    Screening Room

    Session 4B: The Hiring Dilemma: Culture, Core Values, and Servant Leadership

    Erin O’Donnell
    Katrina Hille
    Eric Scharber
    Sarah Trautman

    Moderator: Eric Scharber, SimiTree


  • Sarah Trautman, Defy Community
  • Katrina Hille, Aprendamos
  • Erin O'Donnell, Aprendamos
  • 12:30 pm - 12:45 pm
    Pacific Time