Kathy O’Connell provides trainings, workshops and keynote presentations to individuals, families and professionals. Each is done with a combination of storytelling, lecture, discussion, interactive exercises and personal reflections.


The core of the presentations stem from Kathy’s self-help book, Firewalk: Embracing Different Abilities. Kathy’s trainings and presentations are geared toward helping people, as well as the professionals and families who support them, feel empowered and motivated to use their abilities to contribute to their community and the world.

All presentations can be tailored for keynote presentations for conferences, hour-long sessions, half or whole day workshops. Presentations can also be designed for, people with disabilities, family members, professionals, and/or general audiences. Kathy does significant preparation when requested to do a presentation. This includes calls with the conference organizers and/or the team to hone in on the needs and interests of conference attendees in order to provide maximum value.

Conference organizers and their team are asked to complete a brief online survey to provide Kathy an outline of needs and requests.

What’s Your Firewalk?

A firewalk, if done correctly, involves being so connected to your purpose, that although you may feel fear, you take a risk anyway. This was the philosophy Kathy used in doing an actual firewalk, which she equates to living with disability. Both involve fear of getting hurt and failure, but if you’re attuned with your purpose, you will accomplish much. In this presentation, you will learn:

  • How to go for what you want and pursue more in life, no matter how insurmountable the challenges.
  • An approach to integrating the challenges of living with a disability into a stronger version of yourself as someone moving from pain to purpose.
  • How to believe in your purpose as the directing force in creating a happy and successful life with a disability.

Healthy Sexuality and Relationships

This is a powerful presentation for adults and teens with disabilities, as well as the families and professionals who support them. In order for people to have rich and full lives, a healthy sense of relationships and sexuality has to be part of it. You will be engaged in discussions about:

  • The societal myths about sexuality and disability and how these false beliefs can be disempowering for developing a sense of sexuality.
  • The concept of body images and shame are examined, as well as how to heal from shame and create a more positive body image.
  • How releasing negative stereotypes helps you embrace your sexuality and Power to Attract healthy, loving relationships into your life.
  • Family members and professionals will learn in this presentation how to effectively support someone to develop Healthy Relationships and Sexuality.

Empowering Your Child with a Healthy Sense of Self

Geared mainly toward families, this presentation can also be tailored for professionals working with families. You will have an opportunity to learn and discuss ways to powerfully enhance the self-esteem of a child with a disability. You will leave with tools to help empower children with a healthy sense of self. Kathy intertwines stories from her own childhood to correspond with the concepts of:

  • Assisting your child in developing an awareness of self;
  • Helping your child to develop healthy boundaries;
  • Actively joining your child in the recognition of his/her potential;
  • The two key components to building the foundation for a healthy sense of self;
  • The four elements of empowerment and how to develop them in your child and;
  • How to help your child find meaning in his/her disability.

The Deeper Meaning of Disability

This presentation encourages you to focus on how you can use the life experience of living with a disability to draw a deeper connection to their family, community and the world as a whole. You will learn:

  • The driving principle of there are no random and senseless acts of disability.
  • Disabilities are purposeful and come with significant lessons, both learned and taught.
  • When you learn to see disability on a deeper level, life begins to transform.

Embrace. Integrate. Radiate. Live.

In most cases, a disability is with you for a long time, if not for life. So why not live the life you want and problem solve the challenges in doing so? This presentation can also be for families and professionals in their path of helping others to live more fully. You will learn:

  • How to embrace your disability as a key component in the process of accepting it so that you can live more the life you want to live.
  • The steps of how to integrate a disability into a self-concept.
  • How to radiate your gifts, talents, and abilities to the world and how it will make you feel more alive.

Opening to the Possibilities and Trusting in Your Abilities

This presentation is geared toward individuals with disabilities, particularly teenagers and young adults and their family members, but can also be geared toward professionals. Kathy intertwines her story of discovering her career as a means of illustrating the key concepts of this presentation. You will be:

  • Encouraged to have dreams, dream big, and be open to all the possibilities before you.
  • Focus on discovering how you want to contribute and have a voice in the world.
  • How to be open to changes and learn crucial life lessons from changes to live a more fulfilling life.

Advocacy from the Inside Out

Designed to offer a new way of thinking about self-advocacy. Often the efforts of self-advocates can carry the message of “Treat me right,” rather than “I am right.” Key concepts can also be taught to family members and professionals who are teaching others to be self-advocates. Here’s what you’ll experience:

  • How to develop a more introspective response to advocacy.
  • How when people become grounded in the belief that they naturally deserve what they are pursuing for themselves, a powerful shift takes place.
  • Encouragement to develop a more integrated approach to advocacy, which cause others to take notice and respond in more positive ways.

Find out when new presentations are developed »

Previous Speaking Partners

  • TASH Annual Conference
  • US Business Leadership Network
  • Texas Parent to Parent
  • The disAbility Coalition of Talbot County, MD
  • New York State Department of Health for Traumatic Brain Injuries
  • Keuka College
  • Burton Blatt Institute of Syracuse University
  • Arc of Oswego, NY
  • Belvedere of Syracuse
  • AccessCNY
  • Arise
  • David’s Refuge