Never Been to OCALICON?

Wonder what all of the buzz is about? Hear veteran and new OCALI staff share their thoughts and excitement about OCALICON.


Wendy Szakacs, Regional Consultant

“I still remember the feeling of awe and wonder riding down the escalator toward my first year at OCALICON ten years ago. The excitement and anticipation had me practically skipping down the corridor. That feeling returns every November as we set up for OCALICON week and get ready for everyone to arrive! Here are 3  of my favorite things:

  1. One of my favorite things at OCALICON is the keynote sessions. And it’s not just the amazing, knowledgeable keynote speakers, but also the gathering of attendees, the entertainment, and the information sharing. I try to absorb the positive communal energy that moves across and through the crowd as we gather in unity with and in support of children and adults with disabilities.
  2. A second favorite is connecting with people from Ohio, the United States, and around the world and watching them connect with each other. OCALICON provides a unique opportunity to meet and learn from people with disabilities, family members, and professionals. I suggest taking a chance to talk to those seated near you or asking others to join you for coffee, tea, or a meal to maximize your experience.
  3. A third favorite thing is the highly energetic exhibit hall! So many things to do and see—exhibitor booths, the OCALI booth, art displays, door prizes, and the immensely desired energy breaks!! The exhibit hall is a must see!

My hope is that each attendee leaves inspired, connected, and ready to share and use what they have learned.”


Courtney Yantes, Early Childhood Grants Coordinator

“If you’ve never been to OCALICON, I recommend you don’t miss the 3 P’s: 1) the people, 2) the program, and 3) the products.

  1. First, the people. Maximize the time to learn from other attendees and presenters! Make it a priority to network, engage, and capitalize on those around you. Be curious, ask questions, and lean into the wisdom and expertise that are roaming the halls of the Greater Columbus Convention Center.
  2. Second, the program. It seems simple, but seriously, read the conference program front-to-back. It includes basic information about how to find rooms and how to access Wifi, but it really does include vital information about the conference from start to finish. Most questions that get asked can often be found simply by reading the program thoroughly. It’s a gold mine of information!
  3. Last, the products. The Exhibit Hall is not an afterthought or a footnote to the conference, nor is it a bunch of people just trying to get you to spend money on their goods. The exhibitors are knowledgeable individuals who legitimately care about helping you find products and services to meet your needs and the needs of the individuals you serve. Participate in the Scavenger Hunt and meet them. Be curious about their products and explore what they have to offer. Before you breeze by the booths, pause and make a point to interact with our vendors and browse their products.”  


Shawn Henry, Executive Director

“The heart behind the effort of OCALICON makes it different than any other conference or professional learning event I’ve been to over the years. Inspiring change and promoting access to opportunities for people with disabilities has become our mission, and OCALICON truly helps us move that mission forward. While there are so many things attendees should not miss, the three things I would encourage attendees to do are:

  1. Network with the National Autism Leadership Collaborative (NALC),
  2. Connect with colleagues from Ohio’s State Support Teams (SSTs) and other experts and organizations from across the globe, and
  3. Network with the families and get to know them, their stories, and their battles and victories.”


New OCALI Staff Are Excited, Too

“I think the thing I’m looking forward to seeing at OCALICON is the community itself. It’s always great to see everyone come together to discuss and explore new ideas. There is an excitement of learning something new or teaching someone an idea that can help them.”

 —Samantha Brown, Clearinghouse Librarian

“What has me excited is the sheer anticipation of seeing so many people gathered together for the sole purpose of making the world a better place. It is such an amazing feeling to be a part of something so much bigger than yourself, and to know that together, there are no limits to what we can achieve. Gaining as broad of a perspective as possible by attending a wide array of sessions by presenters from all around the country and the world. Being able to see what inspiring change looks like on the people best suited to help carry out our mission, and being able to see all the practical, real-world ways that we can help people has me excited.”

—Danny Gruber, Project Assistant

“Everything that I’ve heard and read about OCALICON is that it’s a huge event. There’s a lot to take in. If I walk away having learned something new, which as far as I can tell is very likely, it’ll be a great experience.”

—Jeff Liffick, Web Content Assistant