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Autism Urban Connections


First Annual




Autism Is Not A Whites Only Disorder

Virtual Conference

Thursday April 22, 2021


Speakers Bio


Mistress of Ceremony

Ki Ki Brown Host, Whats Good In Ya Hood KDKA Radio


Jamie Upshaw, MS

Jamie Upshaw is the Founder and Executive Director of a 501 (c)(3) Nonprofit Organization called Autism Urban Connections Inc. Ms. Upshaw formed Autism Urban Connection Inc. as a support group that began in 2015 after her son received a fairly late diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder and the lack of support and services in our African American communities.

The growing organization has now evolved as the number of families that received services continued to grow, thus Autism Urban Connections Inc. was born with a mission is to provide education, support, advocacy, and empowerment with an emphasis on self-care to parents/caregivers of those diagnosed with Autism, with priority placed on the African American, minority, and economically disadvantaged member of the community. As an advocate for the Autism community and more, Jamie is currently a full-time graduate student at Arizona State University for a master’s degree in special education with an emphasis on Applied Behavior Analysis. A former PEAL Center Board Member, Jamie, is a Certified Parent Ambassador under the Office of Child Development at the University of Pittsburgh and served as Chair of Council of Three Rivers American Indian Center (COTRAIC) Policy Council for 2 years and Vice-Chair for one year.

Ms. Upshaw is a Pittsburgh Native, 44-year-old, proud mother of 3 who possesses an extensive background in human and community service, including a master’s degree in criminal justice administration and a bachelor’s degree in legal studies from Point Park University

Taneha Scott, RBT. I am a Registered Behavior Technician (RBT) in Pittsburgh Pennsylvania, but a native of Rochester NY. I attended Monroe Community College and obtained my associate's degree in Human Services and Medaille College for my undergraduate degree in Business Administration. In May of 2020, I completed my Graduate degree in Applied Behavior Analysis from Ball State University. While completing my graduate program ;I became a Board Certified Registered Behavior Technician (RBT). In the past, as a Registered Behavior Technician (RBT) I have provided ABA services in the home for children ages 2-12. I am passionate about ABA and disseminating the science across different settings. Currently, I am working as a Behavior Specialist with teenagers and adults in residential facilities while studying to sit for the Board-Certified Behavior Analysis (BCBA) exam.


Taneha M Scott, MA RBT


Erica L. Givner, LCSW

Erica L. Givner is a pioneer in the social work space who has served Black/African American clients for the past two decades. Since the beginning of her professional career, she has been inspired by the plight of Black America and uses her professionalism as a tool to heal her community. Givner has stated that her agility and focus when she has had to “hit the ground running” in various life circumstances has defined her outlook and workflow in the most positive way. From being a teen mother, a veteran, to an entrepreneur of 2 businesses Givner is thankful for the many challenges in her life which have allowed her to remain deeply connected to her clients and colleagues. In 2007, Givner received her Bachelor’s and Master of Social Work from the University of Pittsburgh and began her career as a therapist and soul connector, contributing to healing Black America. A doer, risk taker, and critical thinker, Givner exemplifies commitment to her community by standing on the frontlines of intergenerational wellness. She founded her passion project, A Vision Towards Peace Counseling Services, LLC in 2012 and takes pride in her direct and hands on and approach to healing from a culturally sensitive perspective. By 2013, Givner was ready to add a brick and mortar to her resume and opened A Peace of Mind (APOM). APOM is a non-traditional therapeutic wellness studio which also provides a soon to be 20-hour day care center for Allegheny county. APOM is truly a family project and was proudly founded by Givner and her daughter, Felicia Robinson. Givner draws strength from her family and prefers to spend her valuable time with her husband, four children, and three grandchildren soon to be four, when she is not working. She views her family as a close knit unit and safe space, which empowers her to do her absolute best, every day. Because of her unit, she is able to stay committed to healing and exemplifying her best self, every day. Known for her “feelings aren’t facts” mentality, Givner’s resiliency, reliability, and commitment to Wilkinsburg earned her the recognition of Business Person of the Year in 2013. She is a past member of the Pittsburgh African American Leadership Association and also won the 2013 Blazing Leader Award. In 2014, she was nominated for the 50 Women of Excellence Award and joined the inaugural class of Who’s Who in Black Pittsburgh. That spring, she was also invited to join the Greater Pittsburgh Business and Professional Women’s Club. She is currently a member of the African American Leadership Council. She has been featured in the Pittsburgh Courier, SoulPitt, the Wilkinsburg Sun, the Atlanta Daily World, Whirl Magazine and PublicSource detailing topics related to purpose, health and community. Along with Pennsylvania State and Allegheny County Proclamations from both Governor Tom Wolf and Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto. She was also on nationally syndicated talk show host Mel Robbins of the Mel Robbins Show invited her as an expert to discuss addiction and trauma and their correlation to mental health. In 2017, Givner was recognized as Entrepreneur/Business of the Year through the Wilkinsburg Chamber of Commerce and by Softer Side Seminars as a Champion for Building Self Esteem in Women. In an effort to give back the honors and accolades which have been presented to her, Givner created “Passion Meets the Road” in 2013. Which is a platform she uses to honor local professionals in the social service industry, who work diligently and consistently to serve others. She is happy to have been honoring professionals of color in her network for the past 8 years. Erica draws her inspiration from media icon Beyoncé and has embodied her work ethic from a therapeutic and trauma-informed healing perspective. While staying committed to her husband and family, she personifies black woman excellence and proudly continues to lift as she climbs. She has been described as fearless, faithful, loving, and proud, gives all glory for God for her trials and tribulations and stands proudly on the frontlines of healing and mental health.

LaKeysha is the Founder and Clinical Director of Key Essentials to Behavior Management (KEBM), an Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) company providing in-home, telehealth, adult residential, and group home services across Southern California. Having worked her way through all facets of behavior, from working hands-on within school systems and in-home therapy, to designing and implementing training protocols for behavior companies. She used her experiences to build her own ABA company (KEBM), and train professionals from all backgrounds to become impactful in their work. LaKeysha has built KEBM to specialize in providing quality service across multiple aspects of ABA. LaKeysha focused on using her core and proven methods to show the effectiveness of ABA in all aspects of life, for all individuals and groups. After proving the effectiveness of her methods, she then turned her attention to training and mentoring, designing effective trainings for both private and corporate individuals and groups. This led to becoming a Behavior Mindset Coach, where she has successfully developed people to become proven leaders, business owners, and entrepreneurs. LaKeysha is dedicated to showing the world, by example, that by using behavioral methods anyone can achieve anything - with the right coaching and training.


LaKeysha Cobbs-Hayes MA, BCBA


Amber Lynn Owens, Esq.

    Amber Lynn Owens was born and raised in the Homewood, Penn Hills, and East Hills sections of Pittsburgh, Pa. Amber is a product of teen parents. She attended Spelman College and graduated from Temple University with a Bachelors in Political Science, with a concentration in African American Studies, and Education. After receiving her Bachelor’s Degree, Amber returned to Pittsburgh, Pa and worked as a Social Worker. She greatly enjoyed her work but realized that many of the families she served faced much larger social-economic issues. This sparked her interest in law. Amber then decided to attend law school at Southern University Law Center in Baton Rouge, LA. Taking a strong interest in the clinical education program, Amber began handling cases in the Criminal and Juvenile clinic in her second year of law.

    By her 3rd year of law school, she was the director’s assistance of the law clinic, who was responsible for handling the criminal docket by assigning cases to other students. She was also a TA for Evidence and Professional Responsibility courses. While in her third year of law school, Amber argued before the Louisiana Supreme Court, gaining a victory for her client. She graduated from law school with honors and a commitment to Criminal Justice and stopping the school to prison pipeline. After graduating law school, Amber started her own private practice focusing on Criminal Defense and Business Organizations and Transaction. Attorney Owens has practiced in multiple counties inside the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Over her six years as a practicing attorney, she has offered free workshops in urban communities throughout the cities of Pittsburgh, Philadelphia and Charlotte, NC: (1) Know Your Rights Workshop, (2) Pardon and Expungement Workshops, (3) Forming a small Business and non-profit Workshops, and (4) Wills and Estate Planning Workshops. Attorney Owens has prepared presentation and lectures on the school to prison pipe line, and has special interest in the pipelines effects on children with disabilities, in particular autism. Attorney Owens hopes to peruse a career in academia attempting to find ways to end the school to prison pipeline. In May 2017, Amber obtained her LL.M in Trial Advocacy from Temple University Beasley School of Law. In December 2016, Amber joined with the Montgomery County Public Defender’s Office as an Assistant Public Defender. In July 2018, Amber begin working as an Assistant City Solicitor in Philadelphia. Working in the Child Welfare Unit of the City Solicitor’s Office, Amber found her niche of serving youth and using the law to benefit the community. In September 2019, Amber return to Pittsburgh, PA to pursue her passion for Civil Rights. Amber currently maintains her own practice, is a law clerk for a family court Judge in Allegheny County, and is “of counsel” at Cobb Counsel, LLC. Amber has been of Counsel with Cobb Counsel, LLC. since August of 2019. She handles criminal, business, employment discrimination, and civil rights cases within the firm. Amber continues to stay committed to mastery of her craft, and providing the best service possible to each client. Amber’s favorite quote, “The only difference between stumbling blocks and stepping stones is how you use them.”

Vanessa Bethea-Miller is the founder and CEO of Bethea-Miller Behavioral Consulting, a New Jersey and Pennsylvania based agency providing ABA therapy for children and adults diagnosed with Autism and/or a Developmental disability and Shaping Tomorrow Child Care Services, an ABA based child care center. Vanessa is also the Co-Founder of the ABA Taskforce, an organization charged with leading behavior analysis to address social injustice issues. In addition, she is the author of I Know What I Want to Be, a sweet children’s book about a young girl exploring different careers in science before deciding she wants to be a Behavior Analyst. Vanessa has dedicated her time to working with individuals with Autism, Developmental Disabilities with or without a co-occurring mental illness, and youth at-risk/adjudicated due to juvenile offending behavior. She is passionate about providing quality and effective ABA services to these population. In line with her passion for helping others, Vanessa provides coaching and mentoring to other individuals starting their own ABA practices.ide. Talk about your team and your areas of expertise. 


Vanessa Bethea-Miller, M.A, BCBA, LBS


Anika Costa, M.S.Ed, BCBA

Anika Costa, M.S.Ed, BCBA Introduced to Applied Behavior Analysis in 2000 while working as a speech therapist, Anika quickly discovered her passion. For almost two decades, she has directly provided effective behavior and performance support to individuals, groups, and organizations across educational, private and community-based agencies. A presenter at local and national conferences, Anika has used her extensive field experience as a platform for providing meaningful training, supervision, and mentoring to behavior analysts across the country. As a former teacher in New York City Public Schools, Anika is equipped with a specialized skillset that has allowed her to effectively work with teachers and school leaders in classroom and school improvement efforts across the nation. A seasoned instructor, she is passionate about applying principles of Organizatonal Behavior Management during assessment, training, and coaching initiatives to support measurable performance improvement within the natural enviornment. As Executive Director of Training & Curriculum at Brett DiNovi & Associates, Anika is currently laser focused on process improvement, the use of instructional design in professional development, and behavioral coaching aimed at bringing out the best in behavior technicians, behavior analysts, teachers, and school leaders so they can bring out the best in the learners they support. Stay tuned for the 2021 release of her co-authored book, QUICK Responses for Reducing Misbehavior and Suspensions: A Behavioral Toolbox for Classroom and School Leaders.

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