Our Founder: Harold "Hackie" Reitman, M.D. Dr. Harold “Hackie” Reitman is an entrepreneur, philanthropist, children’s…
Dr. Harold “Hackie” Reitman is an entrepreneur, philanthropist, children’s activist, and neurodiversity advocate. He is also a retired orthopaedic surgeon and a former professional heavyweight boxer who currently serves as the CEO of Fort Lauderdale, Fla.-based PCE Media, LLC, the multi-platform production company he founded in 2004. Dr. Reitman’s mission is to achieve excellence in creating family-friendly content that will effect positive social change. It is in this spirit, and with a desire to get society to understand and embrace neurodiversity, that he founded DifferentBrains.com. Besides blogging, he also hosts the interview show “Exploring Different Brains.”
Dr. Reitman wrote, produced and co-directed the full-length independent film, The Square Root of 2, the story of a college student with various challenges and a seizure disorder. After the making of this film, his daughter Rebecca graduated from a prestigious college with a degree in discrete mathematics. Shortly after that, he learned that she also had Asperger’s syndrome. Wanting to help other children, families and members of society living with neurodiversity, autism and Asperger’s, he wrote the book Aspertools: A Practical Guide for Understanding and Embracing Asperger’s, Autism Spectrum Disorders and Neurodiversity. The journey from book to movie was detailed in his documentary “Asperger’s, Autism and The Square Root of 2: A Neurodiversity Documentary.”
Denise Resnik is the founder and president of the marketing and communications firm, DRA Strategic Communications. She also serves as a member of the Arizona Community Foundation Board of Directors and member of the Arizona Advisory Board of BBVA Compass.
The mother of a 24-year-old son with autism, Denise is the founder, president and board chair of First Place AZ, a nonprofit dedicated to developing new, innovative housing options for adults with autism and other ‘special abilities,’ and the co-founder and board member emeritus of the Southwest Autism Research & Resource Center (SARRC), an internationally recognized nonprofit organization dedicated to autism research, education and community outreach and the support of individuals with autism and their families throughout their lifetimes.
Other nonprofit leadership includes serving as a member of the Autism Speaks Housing Committee, Advancing Futures for Adults with Autism (AFAA) Leadership Council, National Association of Residential Providers for Adults with Autism (NARPAA) and the National Autism Transition Research Network Advisory Panel. Denise also served as a federally appointed member of the Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee (IACC) of the National Institutes of Health.
Denise’s son, Matt, is the founder of SMILE Biscotti. “SMILE” stands for Supporting Matt’s Independent Living Enterprise, an important endeavor to help Matt and others like him who are impacted by autism continuously strive for advancements in life skills development, social connections and pathways toward greater independence.
Alicia Palelis has been an autism coach for Broward County Schools for 12 years. She received her bachelor’s and master’s degree at the University of Florida, specializing in early childhood and special education. She is presently overseeing three new programs in the southwest area. She has dedicated her professional career to helping improve the lives of children on the autism spectrum.
Mari Nosal, M.Ed., CECE received her B.A. in psychology and her Masters degree in Educational Foundations from Curry College. She spent years as a school age coordinator, blogger and author, and has over 30 years’ experience within the human services and education fields. She has had special needs articles published in several magazines. Mari is a published author whose special needs Autism and Asperger related books can be found on Amazon.com, Barnes and Noble, and Createspace. She is certified by the Department of Early Childhood Education as a lead preschool teacher, an infant and toddler teacher, and site coordinator qualified to manage school age programs.
Mari also works with Non Profits, schools, and society at large as well. She conducts public speaking engagements that provide them with the tools and knowledge to help special needs children, (predominantly autism and Asperger (with her specialty being Asperger Syndrome) to become as independent and successful as possible.
Mari has presented autism workshops to staff, management teams, and parent groups. She offers tips on curriculum development and behavior modification within the classroom and through in-services. She is certified by the Department of Early Childhood Education as a lead preschool teacher, an infant and toddler teacher, and site coordinator qualified to manage school age programs.
Inquiries regarding availability for Workshops, Public Speaking Events, motivational speaking and training can be arranged via messaging on LinkedIn.
Shawn Smith M.Ed., CCC is the proud founder and CEO of Don’t dis-my-ability consultation services Inc., an innovative, multifaceted company specializing in the emerging field of Neurodiversity located in Fredericton New Brunswick, Canada. Shawn’s story is unique in that he was diagnosed with ADHD Inattentive Type at age 30. Prior to his diagnosis, Shawn struggled at every level of the public education system. It took Shawn 4 years to complete 3 years of high school, 32 attempts to earn the 18 credits required to graduate including failing grade 10 math 4 times. Since being diagnosed and taking prescribed medication at age 30, Shawn has experienced a tremendous amount of self-growth in a relatively short period of time and has a unique understanding of his thought process. In 2010 Shawn was accepted to the Master of Education in Counseling Psychology program at the University of New Brunswick on Academic Probation and graduated in 2011 at the top of his class.
Shawn is a self-advocate, entrepreneur, innovator, counsellor and psychotherapist specializing in the emerging field of Neurodiversity. Shawn is a director at large for the Technology in Counseling Chapter of the Canadian Counseling and Psychotherapy Association (CCPA) and a board member of the New Brunswick Career Development Action Group (NBCDAG). For inquiries regarding keynote and other speaking engagements please contact Shawn directly at email@example.com. “Don’t dis-my-ability; I may not learn in a conventional manner but this does not mean I cannot learn, only that you have not been able to reach me”. ©
To learn more, visit Shawn’s website: www.ddmacs.ca
Donna Levin is the author of two novels, Extraordinary Means (William Morrow) and California Street (Simon and Schuster), as well as two books on the craft of writing, Get That Novel Started and Get That Novel Written, both published by Writer’s Digest Books. Her papers are part of the Howard Gotlieb Archival Research Center at Boston University and her novels are part of the “California novels” collection in the California State Library.
Cheryl Checkers, M.S., MHC has a Master of Science Degree in Psychology, with a concentration in Mental Health Counseling from Nova Southeastern University. She received a post graduate certification from UCLA’s Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior and is a UCLA Certified PEERS therapist. Cheryl has taught the Program for the Education and Enrichment of Relational Skills (PEERS) intervention at Florida Atlantic University (FAU) and in a private psychology practice. She has worked as Clinical Director for the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) where she created a life skills program for adolescents and young adults with a behavioral health struggle. She also worked as a Clinical Support Specialist, Contractor and Coordinator for FAU’s Center for Autism and Related Disorders (CARD) and was recipient of the 2015 Autism Society of America (Palm Beach/Martin County Chapter) Outstanding Autism Advocate/Volunteer award. Cheryl specializes in working with individuals who have an Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) in the areas of intensive resource and transition planning, life skills training, relationship and friendship skill building, parent and family education and support, and professional consultation.
Dr. JR Harding is a recognized disability leader from both personal and professional experiences. As a 2x quadriplegic, author of “Now What?” and “ADA Adventure,” accessibility expert, and international speaker, he has contributed for over 30 years to national, state, and community policy for the independence and self-sufficiency of persons with disabilities. He has served under 2 US Presidents, 4 Florida Governors, and continuously serves on a number of community-based organizations. This service currently includes: Evergreen Life Services (Director), The Florida Alliance for Assistive Service and Technology (FAAST) (Director), The Florida Network on Disabilities (Director), Blueprint 2000 (Advisor), and the Delta Disability Advisory Board (member). He is the first person with a significant disability to graduate from both Leadership Florida, Leadership Tallahassee, and he is also a co-founder of Florida Disability Mentoring Day (DMD) which is now a part of the Florida Disability Employment and Awareness Month (DEAM) annual programming. He completed his doctorate from Florida State University (FSU) in Higher Education and Public Policy. And after nearly 20 years of federal and state disability policy development and implementation, he now works full-time at FSU. He and his lovely wife Erika live and work in Tallahassee, FL.
Dr. N’Quavah Velazquez is a veteran educator with more than 20 years of experience. Moreover, as a published Ivy League medical and education researcher, she is adept at applying proven research strategies to decision-making and efficacious practice. She is the CEO and Executive Director of Achievement Heights Academy, Inc. (AHA), a 501(c)(3) nonprofit and nonsectarian organization that Dr. Velazquez also found. In addition, a dedicated governing board of directors and an esteemed advisory board are part of the AHA leadership team. Their culture is based on an environment where students flourish and faculty self-actualize as master instructors. Finally, they sincerely value all stakeholders and seek to engage families and the community as vital members of Achievement Heights Academy.
The Achievements Heights Academy model consists of an early learners’ school and a school of choice for kindergarten to eighth grade. AHA highly values and respects students for the right they have to the best education. Our program is framed in the caring theory, positive psychology, Lev Vygotsky’s zone of proximation and sociocultural theory, STEAM and effective character education. We know children are powerful and that early learners present a window of opportunity to learn during the most vital and fertile period in a child’s development. In neuroscience, this period is known as synaptogenesis. To maximize learning outcomes for students, they need: (1) teachers who receive appropriate professional development and believe in them; (2) family-school connections; and (3) to be engaged with adults who seek education. Visit achievement heights here: achievementheights.org
Tom McGranahan Jr. was born in Richmond Va., the second oldest in a family of eight. Lives with wife Angela and 2 daughters, Mariah and Arielle. He has a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration. He was a member of Virginia State Board for People with Disabilities 6/95-6/99, and speaker at Department of Education’s 3rd National Employment Conference 9/11/00. Exercises every other day at a gym and operates a residential painting business. He steadily perseveres to life’s challenges – like writing these articles – even after 50% of the language section of his brain was removed in his 4th brain operation.
To learn more about Tom’s story, visit his website: www.epilepsyintheopen.com
One can also view Tom and his wife on a ‘Virginia Currents’ TV show (debut -2013, rerun -2015): www.pbs.org/video/2365130524
And check out this video of Tom speaking: https://youtu.be/g0nLdv4ObO8
David A. Grant is an internationally recognized brain injury advocate, freelance writer, keynote speaker and brain injury survivor based out of southern New Hampshire. He is the author of Metamorphosis, Surviving Brain Injury, a book that chronicles in the first year-and-a-half of his new life as a brain injury survivor. His second title, Slices of Life after Traumatic Brain Injury, was released in 2015. In 2016, David and his wife Sarah coproduced To Be Inspired: Stories of Courage and Hope after Brain Injury, a complication book of survivor stories. David is also a contributing author to Chicken Soup for the Soul, Recovering from Traumatic Brain Injuries and Chicken Soup for the Soul, Why I chose Gratitude.
As a survivor of a cycling accident in 2010, he shares his experience and hope through advocacy work including public speaking as well as his weekly brain injury blog. David is a regular contributing writer to Brainline.org, a PBS sponsored website. He is also a BIANH board member as well as a columnist in HEADWAY, the Brain Injury Association of New Hampshire’s periodic newsletter. David is the founder of TBI Hope and Inspiration, a Facebook community with over 20,000 members including survivors, family members, and caregivers as well as members of the medical and professional community. In late 2016, David’s brain injury blog was awarded “Best Brain Injury Blog of 2016” by Healthline.org, a leading health information provider. Together with his wife Sarah, they publish of TBI HOPE Magazine. TBI HOPE Magazine is the world’s largest monthly magazine dedicated to brain injury of all kinds and is now ready in over thirty countries around the world. TBI HOPE Magazine is a free, all-digital monthly magazine that features stories by brain injury survivors and those who love them. When David is not in front of his keyboard, he can be found cycling the byways of southern New Hampshire.
Lacey Craddock is a busy mother of two and is an executive assistant at Nova Southeastern University in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Lacey’s 11‐year‐old son was diagnosed with ADHD at 8 years of age and she takes pride in being his strongest and most loyal advocate. She has educated herself on ADHD to ensure proper treatment, not only for her son, but for herself, as well. Lacey is a natural leader and innovator with a positive demeanor, and always focuses on the brighter side of life. Her passions include spending time with her children and fund raising for invaluable and lifesaving research.
Angela Mahoney, MEd is a middle school special educator in a remarkable program in Danbury, CT called Skills for Life where she teaches students on the autism spectrum. Skills for Life is a functional skill based program focusing on developing communication skills through sensory focused, hands‐on activities in the classroom and in the community. Angela has worked with students of all ages in a variety of settings over the last 16 years. Her career includes tenure at a private school where she worked with over seventy‐five middle and high school aged students on a weekly basis, implementing an inclusion‐based elementary program for students with autism, as well as co‐teaching core academic classes as part of a team comprised of fellow middle‐school educators. Angela’s passion for education and community connections has evolved into much more than she ever imagined. She is fortunate to travel the United States sharing her vocational and life skills program called I Can Work! with other wonderful, hardworking educators, inspiring along the way the best she can and always feeling inspired herself to do so much more.
You can learn more about Angela and her work at http://icanwork.therapro.com/
You can also follow her on Facebook for weekly updates and new ways to increase vocational learning for all at https://www.facebook.com/ICanWork2013/
Amalia Starr is a Motivational Speaker, Author, Transition and Independent Living Coach, founder of Autism Independence Project, and Mother to an autistic adult son. She is the author of Raising Brandon: Creating a Path to Independence for Your Adult “Kid” with Autism & Special Needs. In it she describes how she led her son, Brandon to independence when the professionals deemed it impossible. Her latest book, “I Have Autism…What’ll I Do Without You, Mom? How to Prepare for When Your Special Needs Child Outlives You” was released in October 2014.
Amalia offers keynotes, presentations, and conducts workshops and coaching sessions worldwide. With more than forty years of experience, she specializes in independence training for parents, teaching them how to help their special needs children reach their full potential and gain maximum independence. She has been recognized as a pioneer and trailblazer, shining a light on the path ahead helping parents prepare for whatever comes their way.
Joanne Giacomini is a writer, speaker and parent coach, at “Exceptional Parenting/Exceptional Balance,” www.exceptionalparenting.net. She also blogs about how her son with autism is raising her at “Exceptional Mom/Exceptional Child,” www.exceptionalmomchild.com. She writes regularly about parenting and autism at “Huff Post Parents Canada”, “M List by the Suburban,” and “Parenting 101 by the Suburban. She has also been featured on “BlogHer Family-Special Needs,” “Yummy Mummy Club Canada,” “Scary Mommy”, “Her View From Home”, “Romper”, “KidsOutAndAbout,” and many other publications.
Joanne has released her first EBook about Anxiety, 5 WAYS TO MANAGE EXCEPTIONAL FAMILY ANXIETY, which can be found at www.exceptionalparenting.site88.net. She is also at work on a book about how her son with autism has changed her life, “5 Ways My Exceptional Child Has Made Me an Exceptional Human Being.” She offers four coaching programs to help parents find the tools they need to address challenges with their children, as well as to help empower them in their own parenting journey. You can follow Joanne on Twitter @exceptmomchild.
Toni Boucher’s articles on autism and sensory integration are referenced worldwide by families, doctors, psychologists and therapists and have helped to fundamentally change the way we offer interventions by addressing anxiety and sensory challenges first. She is the author of Autism Translated: 5 Keys to Help You Understand & Connect With Teens and Adults on the Spectrum. While she shares her message with as many people as possible through writing, nothing gives her more happiness than helping individuals develop the necessary skills to get and keep meaningful employment and foster healthy relationships. She facilitates ongoing groups for teens and adults as well as a parent support group in Charleston, SC. Her own daughter was diagnosed with PDD-NOS at age 11 and is now a thriving adult. Although Toni was never officially diagnosed, her clients and people who know her well say Asperger’s is the reason she “gets it”. She always drives the speed limit and loves reading the dictionary in her spare time. You can connect with Toni or get her book at www.toniboucher.net
Camilla Bixler has taught English as a Second Language at City College of San Francisco and abroad for 40 years. She also trained Chinese English teachers in Lanzou, China. She is the mother of an adult son on the spectrum, born in 1981 before much was known about the autism. She and her husband became founding and sustaining board members of Star Academy, a school for students with complex learning needs. Camilla later started the Asperger’s Teen and Young Adult Club and the monthly, We Gotta Dance, to provide social opportunities for the community. In 2000, she became a founding member of AASCEND for autism spectrum and neurotypical adult collaboration.
Dr. Jennifer Jo Brout is a New York State Certified School Psychologist, a Connecticut Professional Licensed Counselor, and she also holds a Doctorate in School/Clinical-Child Psychology. She graduated from New York University, Columbia University, and Ferkauf School of Psychology (at Albert Einstein School of Medicine) respectively. She is also the mother of adult triplets, and is a Misophonia sufferer herself.
Disappointed by her own experiences with the state of the field when seeking help for her own child in 1999, Dr. Brout began efforts to establish better research practice, improved diagnosis, and innovative clinical practice related to Misophonia (under the name “auditory over-resposivity).
Dr. Brout has been at the forefront of research in this area for over 18 years, having established the Sensation and Emotion Network (SENetwork) in 2007, along with Sensory Processing and Emotion Regulation Program at Duke University in 2008. She has also worked Dr. Lucy Miller at the Sensory Processing Disorder Foundation since 1999 and is a member of their scientific work-group (and a recipient of their Advocacy Award). Dr. Brout continues to bring together multi-disciplinary teams of highly esteemed academic researchers and clinicians in order to share resources, eventually culminating in research papers, academic conferences, and evidence-based translational treatment. She established the IMRN in order to lead the way toward a new paradigm of research that bypasses lack of governmental funding and paves the way toward better relationships between Misophonia sufferers and those who research and treat them. She is also proud to be the SPD and Misophonia Advocate for the Advocacy Organization A2A, Adversity to Advocacy.
Giuliana Fenwick is an author (“Indian Head Massage for Special Needs,” by Jessica Kingsley publishing, available from Amazon here), a writer for various national and international publications and autism websites, a specialist therapist working extensively with children and young adults on the autism spectrum and with special needs , a teacher/trainer, fundraiser and international public speaker.
Most importantly she is a mother to a beautiful, courageous, gifted autistic son, Ollie. for more information, click here for Giuliana’s extended biography.
And visit her site, www.therapiesforspecialneeds.co.uk
Rebecca Witonsky is the founder and president of Essential Business Planning. EBP produces business plans for entrepreneurs to attract venture capital and bank loans. She created the business plans for two businesses that she launched herself, namely Private Equity Research which involved the publication of a Latin American newsletter that successfully targeted investment banks, venture capital, and legal firms and a private tutoring service. She has also written business plans for a mobile car wash service for a young Hispanic man, and Pet Group Homes of America which allows disabled people to take care of pets whose owners have become disabled.
Rebecca discovered her autism at age 36. This discovery changed her life and empowered her to help other people with disabilities. To that end, she has worked as an adjunct instructor of personal finance and entrepreneurship at the Dan Marino Foundation which serves young adults with disabilities. Rebecca also serves on the board of Leadership and Economic Empowerment for Developmental Disabilities which provides entrepreneurship services to the disabled population. In addition, she serves on the Florida Rehabilitation Council which monitors the state vocational rehabilitation system. She has delivered oral presentations before the Society of Human Resources of Broward County in 2015 and the Florida Rehabilitation Council in 2016 about employment issues concerning the disabled population.
Her other work experience includes serving as a research analyst for dbusiness.com which involved creating and managing a database of Venture capital backed technology companies. She published a research paper on storage virtualization and storage area networks for an IT auditing course. She has taken the Gold Coast School of Real Estate Course and is qualified to take the state real estate sales associate exam. She currently works as a staff accountant for Pompano Beach Holdings, a commercial real estate firm. Her educational background consists of a BA in International Relations from Brown University and a Masters Degree in Tax from Florida Atlantic University. She is fluent in Spanish and her industry strengths include Latin America, technology accounting, taxation, finance, and real estate but she welcomes the opportunity to work with clients of all industries. Her work experience includes serving as a research analyst for a local hedge fund. She has found successful investments in the US and Latin America including America Movil in the public markets and Mercado Libre in the private markets. She seeks the opportunity to deliver a presentation about her services to the Gold Coast Venture Capital Association and to participate in the global capital markets and investment world in general.
Rebecca can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Lynn Harrelson, a graduate of the University of Kentucky College of Pharmacy, received the national 2012 Excellence in Innovation award as recognition for her pioneering eHOP concept, enhanced Healthcare Outcomes Program. The Ohio Valley Appalachia Regional Geriatric Education Center also has recognized her comprehensive medication management services as a best practice model. Throughout her career, Ms. Harrelson has held various positions where she developed and implemented innovative patient-centered programs. Practicing as a geriatric integrative clinical pharmacist in various practice settings, her services have supported improved health and conserved resources by avoiding medication related problems and their associated costs. The focus of her practice has been senior patients and other others using multiple medications.
Today, Ms. Harrelson practices as a Senior Care Pharmacist. She serves as community resource for pharmacy related issues for senior and those using multiple medications and has penned articles for several publications. She supports Louisville’s Healthy Home Town Initiatives with her presentations throughout the greater Louisville area, provides presentations at healthcare related meetings and pens articles for publications throughout the United States including her eNewsletter, the Stay Well Tablet as well as providing support for questions on several national websites.
Her innovative Senior Pharmacy Solutions Medication Therapy Management Services have been instrumental in helping seniors and other taking multiple medications use them more wisely, improving their overall well-being and supporting their continued independence. For more information, e-mail: email@example.com
Lisa Geng got her start as a designer, patented inventor, and creator in the fashion, toy, and film industries, but after the early diagnosis of her young children she entered the world of nonprofit, pilot studies, and advocacy. As the mother of two “late talkers,” she is the founder and president of the nonprofit CHERAB Foundation, co-author of the acclaimed book, The Late Talker, (St Martin’s Press 2003), and is instrumental in the development of IQed, a whole food nutrition meal replacement. Lisa currently serves as a parent advocate on an AAN board for vaccines, and is a member of CUE through Cochrane US. Lisa is currently working on a second book, The Late Talker Grows Up and serves as a Late Talkers, Silent Voices executive producer. She lives on the Treasure Coast of Florida.
Linda Mastroianni is a writer, parent coach, public speaker, and autism advocate. She coaches parents of children with special needs with effective & positive strategies to help them live, thrive and be their best self. Linda dedicates herself to inspiring change and empowering every family raising children with exceptional needs.
Constance Nicole Metropulos, Au.D. received her Doctorate in Audiology from Northeastern University in 2012. She completed her undergraduate studies in Communication Sciences and Disorders at the University of Florida in 2008. She has experience and training from nationally recognized hospitals and clinics including the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary, the Boston Veterans Hospital, Georgetown University Hospital and Hearing Help Associates in New York. She is a proud Fellow of the American Academy of Audiology and an advocate for hearing and brain function, focusing on the geriatric population.
Dr. Metropulos’s areas of expertise include: Diagnostic Testing, Selection and Fitting of Hearing Aids, Tinnitus Counseling and Management, Assistive Devices and Bluetooth Technologies, and Vestibular/Balance Assessment. Dr. Metropulos currently sees patients at ENT Hearing Associates of South Florida in Plantation, Florida. If you are interested in making an appointment with Dr. Metropulos, or would like additional information, please contact the Plantation office at (954) 476-0400.
Sarah Howard lives in the Central Valley of California. She was diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome at the age of 29. Sarah works for children on the autism spectrum, as well. She plans on going back to school to complete her Bachelor’s Degree. Then I could move on and get a higher-paying job after working my way through school or volunteer with an organization that works for peace and social justice. Sarah would eventually like to go to graduate school and get a higher degree. She has also started a MeetUp group for people in her area of the Central Valley for adults on the autism spectrum. It has been running for the last seven years.
Nea Hanscomb is a single parent of a 15 yr. boy with severe autism. Since 1980, she has held numerous positions as a graphic artist in advertising agencies, book publishers, retail companies and more. As a fine artist Nea has exhibited in restaurants around the Bay Area and in SF City Hall — and is active in Open Studios. Her work is largely inspired by her son and her visits to Baja, Mexico. She is the CEO & Founder of Appropo Software, a company that aims at building more options for parents, educators and clinicians to teach our children to use their voices for a more successful future. Visit them at: www.sayinitsam.com
Jackie Marquette Ph.D. is dedicated to bringing innovative and unique solution based career tools and leadership to organizations and individuals with ASD and diverse challenges. Dr. Jackie provides consultation, writes, and conducts her own research. She has a son with autism in his 30s who is an accomplished award winning artist. Visit:
Cassandra Dunn is the author of The Art of Adapting (Touchstone/Simon & Schuster), a novel about a mother of two teenage children seeking balance after her marriage ends. She takes in her brother, who has Asperger’s Syndrome, to help cover her mortgage, and he becomes the unlikely anchor of her new family dynamic. Cassandra grew up with an uncle with Asperger’s Syndrome, and he was the inspiration for the character in her novel. Cassandra has an MFA from Mills College, she was a semifinalist for the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award and a finalist in Glimmer Train’s Short Story Award for New Writers. Her stories have appeared in All Things Girl, Midwest Literary Magazine’s Bearing North, Read Short Fiction, Literary House Review, The MacGuffin, 322 Review, Fix it Broken, Clapboard House, Every Writer’s Resource, Rougarou Fiction, and Sand Canyon Review. Her articles have appeared in Daily Worth, ESME, and Good Housekeeping. A professionally trained editor for 20 years, she works with select clients on developing and copyediting their novels, preparing them for agent submission or self-publishing. She lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with her two daughters. Her website is www.cassandradunn.com.
Martha Summa-Chadwick, DMA, has achieved a wide reputation as a performer of chamber and solo works for piano and also as an advocate of the use of music in therapy. She holds a Bachelor of Music degree from the Hartt School of Music, a Master of Music degree from the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, and a Doctorate of Music Arts degree from the University of Kansas. Dr. Summa-Chadwick has performed in roles of both piano and harpsichord soloist with orchestras in New York, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Maine, and Alabama, and has also specialized in performing 20th century chamber and solo works. She is currently on the faculty of the Cadek Conservatory in Chattanooga and is the Executive Director of the nonprofit organization Music Therapy Gateway In Communications, Inc. She also recently hosted her own TEDx Talk, which can be viewed here. Her website is www.marthasumma.com.
Becca Lory, CAS was diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (Asperger syndrome) as an adult and has since become an active advocate for individuals on the autism spectrum. Ms. Lory is the Director of Development for GRASP (Global & Regional Asperger Syndrome Partnership) and is also the current Chair of the Board of Directors. Along with her multiple published articles, Ms. Lory speaks publicly about being on the autism spectrum in order to spread awareness, understanding, and encourage self-advocacy of the autism spectrum community. Ms. Lory is developing and teaching improvisational workshops in order to assist adults with the practice of independent living skills and is working to promote the inclusion of females in ASD research.
Chris MacLellan is affectionately known as “The Bow Tie Guy” in many caregiving circles. Faced with his partner’s diagnosis of esophageal cancer in 2011, Chris started a caregiving blog entitled, “The Purple Jacket” and is an ardent advocate for caregivers and their carees through his blog and radio show, “Healing Ties™”. Chris’ Master’s Degree thesis entitled, “Spiral of Silence: Caregiving, Stress and its Impact in the Workplace” was accepted by the faculty at Gonzaga University, where Chris earned a Master’s degree in Leadership and Communication in 2016. Chris is the founder of the Whole Care Network and the South Florida Caregiving Coalition. The author of “What’s The Deal With Caregiving?” Chris is a Certified Senior Advisor (CSA), Certified Caregiving Consultant (CCC). and a Certified Caregiving Educator (CCE). Chris presents regularly on topics that impact family caregivers, LGBT seniors and life after Caregiving ends.
Steve Gregory grew up in rural Ontario and had a variety of broadening experiences such as living overseas for 3 years. Steve excelled scholastically and started his Masters in Engineering on the second best scholarship in the country. During this time he developed a psychosis which went undiagnosed and untreated for years.
At the end of this time he had a very serious vehicle accident resulting in a coma that registered as level 3 on the Glasgow Coma Scale. His recovery has challenged his beliefs and his strength of character to the maximum possible.
More recently Steve has undertaken new challenges such as training to run a marathon and seeking to impart lessons he has learned the hard way to others who may be facing similar challenges. He is also the author of “The Journey: Tips and Tales.” You may read more about his life and struggle at www.thejourneytipsandtales.com and afterabirehab.com.
Steve’s book is available here.
Eric D. Zimmerman is Founder and Chairman of The Buddy Project, and should know about technology’s ability to unlock some of the everyday barriers faced by the special-needs community: The 28-year-old has Asperger’s syndrome, a form of autism which hinders social interaction. From working with Best Buddies International, he grew to recognize that, unlike him, many of the disabled have little to no access to such commonplace household technologies as even their own email account. Zimmerman, a graduate of Frederick High School, decided to take action. Officially, since 2007, his technological savviness (certified in computer repair and rehabilitation by the Career Technology Center’s IT program), united with his caring, altruistic drive to help others, has been brightening lives. That’s when, out of his Frederick home, he began The Buddy Project. And, ever since, his not-for-profit organization has acted upon its mission of providing free computers (and/or other technologies) to qualifying IDD candidates. It’s also a mission that the Frederick County Commission on Disabilities has duly honored by bestowing Zimmerman with its Distinguished Service Award. He also serves on the Board of Directors of Service Coordination, Inc. the largest provider in Maryland of targeted case management for people with developmental disabilities. The Buddy Project has branched out to also offer the Autism Advocacy Speaking Programs which include the 2015 Desire Tour and the Current 2016-2017 Anything But Ordinary tour (Named after Eric’s eBook) where Eric shares about his life and experiences both professional and personal living with Autism. Eric intends this to be a big support for parents who have kids with Autism.
Eric’s e-book is available here.
To Order the Anything but Ordinary eBook and for more information about the tour, please visit: www.abotour.org
Julie Saumsiegle shares her life experiences with an audience that spans the globe. She has been a successful financial advisor for over 25 years, is the single mother of two children, and the author of the blog www.whoisbetterthanyou.com. Her passion for the underdog in all situations is the inspiration for her writing. Growing up as a military brat, she understood the need to adapt to constant change as no place was ever home for more than a few years at a time. This experience enabled her to see the world in a different light than most kids growing up. Always the new kid on the block, she had to fit in and remember a lot of names. Julie has a passion for children’s causes and believes in a world that needs to unite for the betterment of all humanity. Her blog is dedicated to those seeking enlightenment or just a better life.
Sonia Tagliareni is a writer and researcher for DrugRehab.com. She is passionate about helping people. She started her professional writing career in 2012 and has since written for the finance, engineering, lifestyle and entertainment industry. Sonia holds a bachelor’s degree from the Florida Institute of Technology.
Champe Barton is a student at the University of Florida. In his blog, he likes wondering, investigating, and surprising himself with the strangeness and beauty of science. He founded, runs, and writes for Trout Magazine, a literary satire magazine based out of the university. He also curates a daily newsletter dealing with politics and current events called The Murrow Daily Report and writes a personal blog called The Wannabe Liar. The magazine can be found at TroutMagazine.org, the newsletter can be subscribed to by sending an email to MurrowDaily@gmail.com or checking out Facebook.com/MurrowDaily, and the personal blog can be found at thewannabeliar.wordpress.com.
Peter Bochner is a writer and editor for subjects related to information technology and medicine. He has worked on such publications as Computerworld, Asian Sources and the Journal of Alzheimers Disease, served as editor for several TechTarget websites, and has written for several high-tech research firms. In addition, he served as editor for the recently published book Aspertools: The Practical Guide for Understanding and Embracing Asperger’s, Autism Spectrum Disorder and Neurodiversity, by Harold S. Reitman, M.D.
Roland E. Jung is a graduate student who was diagnosed with ADHD in 2015. He hopes to share his story and experience with the condition to help other millennials, their friends, and their families navigate today’s Attention-Deficit-enabling world.
Mike Nickas received his Bachelor of Arts in Film and Multimedia Studies at Florida Atlantic University in December of 2015, and is currently pursuing an education in the fields of neuropsychology and special education. He is the host of the online news show The Week in Neurodiversity, and author of the column Notions by Nickas. He also currently works as a camp counselor at Dr. Mike Rizzo’s Child Provider Specialists in Weston, FL.
Harry Lowe attended Indiana University Bloomington and is currently pursuing an education in political science at Metropolitan State University of Denver. He joined Differentbrains.com in September 2016 as an intern and blogger.
Megan Baksh received her Bachelor of Science in Exercise Science at Nova Southeastern University in May of 2016, and is currently pursuing an education in the field of psychology.
Jeff Edelstein is currently a senior at Florida State University studying Management Information Systems and Music while researching the college experiences of adults on the autism spectrum. He will be pursuing graduate studies in higher education with a focus on supporting those on the spectrum and other students with disabilities this fall at the University of Michigan. His brother is diagnosed with PDD-NOS, and was his initial inspiration for his work. Jeff is also an avid juggler/joggler, pianist/accompanist, a novice slack rope walker, and is always eager to help others learn those skills as well.
Michael Capone was born in Long Island, New York and now lives in south Florida. He graduated in 2012 from Fort Lauderdale Preparatory School and is now pursuing new avenues of knowledge in neurodiversity.
Charles Lafferty graduated from Lynn University with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Film and Television Production. He is a recent Florida resident, previously an Illinois native. He is an aspiring filmmaker and a multi-instrumentalist specializing in vocals, keyboards and guitars.
Matthew Ryan thinks he knows something about social media marketing, and fits-out whenever the opportunity presents itself; A different brains philosopher.
Will Bernick is a board member of AASCEND, the adult autism group of the San Francisco Bay Area, and co-host of the AASCEND television show, “Life on the Autism Spectrum.”
Valerie Herskowitz has been a speech and language pathologist for over 38 years. She was the founder of Dimensions Therapy Center. She was the recipient of the Stevie Lifetime Achievement Award for her work with autistic and special needs children and has also been honored for starting two innovative community programs, Mothers of Special Needs Individuals (MOSI) and the National Autism Registry (NARY) Family Club. She is the author of Autism and Computers: Maximizing Independence Through Technology and Always Leave Them Laughing, which is a fiction-based book that deals with the subject of autism and what will happen when 1 out 67 individuals are adults with autism. She has lectured all over the world on this subject of technology and computers. Presently, Valerie is an adjunct professor at Nova Southeastern University, where she teaches and directs the autism courses for the Department of Speech-Language Pathology. Valerie is also the mother of a 24 year old son with autism. She is the owner of The Chocolate Spectrum, a business with a staff of people on the spectrum, including Valerie’s son. She is also the President of the National Autism Registry, on the Advisory Board for the US Autism and Asperger Association, and is the President of the Florida Association for Speech-Language Pathologists and Audiologists.