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Ask the Expert with Amber McDonald and Courtney Palm: Introduction to Trauma and the Special Needs Population

Date: July 17, 2019

Time: 10:00 - 11:30 am

Register Here

Course Description:

The trauma field has always acknowledged heightened rates of abuse within the special needs community — however, despite the frequency of occurrence, this is one of the least served populations. Limited abuse reporting, atypical disclosure styles, and lack of education for providers has contributed to this community remaining left out of services.  

The process of providing more support to these families begins with understanding how the abuse experience differs from what is commonly seen in this field. This webinar will focus on highlighting those differences in the following areas: grooming behavior, conditioning the victim and family, investigation considerations, and treatment approaches.

Participants will be able to ask specific questions about their cases before and during this interactive session.


Amber McDonald, PhD, LCSW, MSW

Dr. McDonald’s research and professional practice is entirely rooted in understanding and providing effective prevention and intervention strategies for youth who've experienced trauma.  She has extensive experience in trauma informed systems of care, forensic interviewing, complex trauma, and program and curriculum development.  She has spent the last 15 years honing her skills in mental and behavioral health and has had the opportunity to share her skills across the United States and internationally.  Dr. McDonald is committed to integrating the most current empirical literature in to her practice and frequently provides training to others where she is tasked with translating data and evaluative results to others in a comprehensive and digestible fashion. 

Courtney Palm, LMFT

Courtney Palm is a licensed Marriage and Family therapist specializing in child development and trauma as it relates to victims with special needs.  She graduated from Pepperdine University with a Master’s Degree in Clinical Psychology and completed a three year internship with the Child Development Institute in assessment and treatment of children with neurocognitive disorders.  During her time at the Child Development Institute she completed training in evaluations using the Bayley, Mullen, and other developmental assessments to determine cognitive, language, motor, and social-emotional skill levels. After relocating to Denver, Colorado she worked with the University of Denver’s Fisher Early Learning Center, Children’s Hospital Colorado, and Early Intervention Colorado.  Her professional work with these agencies included evaluation, treatment, and professional education around intervention with children with special needs.  Courtney also worked with the Denver Children’s Advocacy Center and Blue Sky Bridge conducting trauma counseling and forensic interviews for victims of crime.  Courtney co-authored an article with Dr. Amber McDonald for the APSCAC journal’s best practices issue on conducting forensic interviews with children with special needs. 

If you have any questions or comments please contact Willow Cleverly at (805) 876-0291 or email


Produced by the Center for Innovation and Resources, Inc. (CIR) with funding from the California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services (CalOES), Victim Services Branch with funding made possible through the United States Department of Justice, Victims of Crime Act, 2015-VA-GX-0058.

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