Current Trainees

New Hampshire

Gina ApgarI obtained a BS in Human Services and Early Childhood Development with a track in administration and leadership from Granite State College. Prior to that, I earned an AS in Early Childhood Education from New Hampshire Technical Institute. I am now pursing my MSW at the University of New Hampshire. I’ve spent the last 12 years working with children and families from vulnerable populations. I dedicated several years to Head Start in various roles: parent, student teacher, associate teacher, lead teacher, administrative/leadership intern, and home visitor. I’ve taken an active leadership role as a governing board member for the New Hampshire Association for the Education of Young Children (NHAEYC). I’ve coordinated several professional development experiences, from statewide conferences to the trauma informed cohort series I piloted last fall. I’ve also been fortunate to have had several opportunities to engage in advocacy efforts at the local, state, and national levels, including on Capitol Hill. In my full-time paid position, I administer a regional program that serves young adults and families of children with chronic health conditions (developmental disabilities excluded). I am responsible for both administration and direct service delivery which allows me to work closely with my clients to address their unique needs and goals. My days are mostly spent advocating with and on behalf of clients, overcoming and reducing barriers, navigating systems, and accessing appropriate community resources. I look forward to enhancing my knowledge, skills, and networks through LEND to promote positive outcomes for children and families.

Caitlin ArmstrongI graduated from the University of Maine in 2012 with a BA in Communication Sciences and Disorders. While at UMaine, I completed coursework in interdisciplinary studies, earning minors in disabilities studies, and child development & family relationships. After graduating, I worked for several years in NH public schools as a certified speech-language assistant. I developed and have maintained a strong interest in working with children who have complex communication needs requiring augmentative and alternative communication. My graduate experience so far has provided me with ample opportunities to hone my clinical skills. This past year I was given the chance to work with four very different clients, each possessing a variety of abilities. The skills that I feel I have most improved upon are my ability to problem solve and “think on the fly”, which I feel will serve me well as I enter my final year of graduate school. My main tenets during this experience have been to be an active participant in my education and to get involved in as many extracurricular activities as I am able. This past year, I worked as a research assistant for the University of New Hampshire Behavioral Health Initiative. This work gave me insight into the grant writing process and all the background work required to secure funding. I am so excited to participate in this program, as it perfectly aligns with my professional interests and personal aspiration to act as a strong advocate for individuals with disabilities. Both my work and graduate experience have taught me the importance of collaborative teamwork, and I am eager to strengthen those skills while working with professionals from other disciplines.

Miriam ArsenaultI am a current graduate student in Communication Sciences and Disorders at the University of New Hampshire. I completed my Bachelor of Science in CSD in May of 2018. This degree has fostered my growth, skills and theoretical knowledge regarding communication. During my undergraduate education I completed an internship with Family Centered Early Supports and Services. Through this unique internship opportunity, I was allowed to work closely with children who had a variety of disabilities and delays and to work inter-professionally with SLPs, OTs, early educators, early interventionists, and paraeducators. This experience brought me to realize the importance of collaboration, interdisciplinary teamwork, and family-centered approaches, and I look forward to continuing to grow in these areas.

Katrin BergeronI am first and foremost the mom of five amazing kids who range in age from 17 years to 17 months. I am blessed to be married to my husband of 19 years, who is a performing musician as well as the music teacher at Eliot Elementary School in Eliot, Maine. I have the privilege of working per diem as a family physician at Lamprey Health Care in Newmarket, NH. There I see patients of all ages including pregnant women and their children. I am involved with our substance abuse treatment program and have worked on collaborative efforts through Dartmouth to improve the care of women during their pregnancy as well as outcomes for their infants. I received my undergraduate from Brown University in 1996. After working for a couple of years in HIV clinical trials and at a nursery for infants and children affected by HIV, I went on to medical school through the Dartmouth-Brown program. I did my family medicine residency at Maine Medical Center in Portland, ME. Over the past year and a half, I have also been learning more about navigating the medical care system with a child with special needs. I am lucky to be the mom of a wonderful little boy who has Down Syndrome. I am growing with him as I learn about all the detailed steps involved in each phase of motor development. It is such a joy to witness his unique, deep connection with the world around him. I am constantly amazed by the richness that he brings to our family and others.

Louis BrassardIn 2019 I received my BS in Human Services from Granite State College. After working as the Director of Corporate Development for an investment services firm for over twenty-five years, I left my career to go back to college and pursue my passion of working with individuals who are misunderstood and oftentimes underserved. As a member of senior management, I gained many leadership skills and learned the importance of collaboration and creative thinking in order to overcome obstacles. I have always believed in the importance of volunteering and giving back to my community. I have been a Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) for the past eight years. In my role as a CASA I work with abused and neglected children and advocate on behalf of the best interest of the child. In conjunction with my CASA work, I volunteer as an Educational Surrogate for educationally disabled children whose parent(s) or guardians are unknown or unavailable. I enjoy my work as a CASA and Ed Surrogate, but my true passion is in a small non-profit I run called the National Organization for Fetal Alcohol Syndrome New Hampshire (NOFAS NH). NOFAS NH’s mission is to prevent, educate and advocate regarding Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASD). Raising awareness of FASD is important to me because I have a close family member with FASD. I have seen first-hand how they are misunderstood and the struggles they experience as a result of this disability. The different roles I have served in have shown me the importance of collaboration across different fields. Everyone has a piece of the puzzle and only when we work together can we truly help others in need.

 

Grace CanavanI recently graduate from the University of New Hampshire, with a BS in Nursing. Nursing school provided me with many experiences that allowed me to foster a nursing philosophy focused on a holistic approach to providing care to my patients. I was unsure of where my nursing career would take me, as I felt equally as interested in all the specialties I had worked in during my clinical rotations. I knew that I would like to focus on holistic medicine, however I was unsure of how I would tie that into my nursing career. It was not until I began working at Camp Allen that I realized my true passion in nursing was in working with individuals with disabilities. Camp Allen is a summer camp that accepts individuals no matter what their background may be. This camp showed me how to work with people to enhance their experiences and taught me to focus on adapting to everyone I work with. Not only do I feel I am doing meaningful work, but I also feel that working with individuals with disabilities is a privilege. As I continue to develop my nursing career, I hope to apply a holistic approach to nursing care towards individuals with disabilities with the hopes that I can enhance their health care experience. I also hope to educate other health care professionals on how to better serve these individuals within the health care field.

Meaghan CullinaneI am a parent, an advocate, an educator, and a learner. I have spent the last decade working as a volunteer within my community, and an advocate and leader for children and families. Most importantly, I am an advocate for my own children, one who has multiple disabilities; navigating the systems of special education as well as the systems of health care and medicine. I have completed the Volunteer Advocate Training Program through the Parent Information Center and have gained the skills to successfully guide families in similar situations. I also serve on the NH State Advisory Council for Special Education and as a Board Member and chair of the Access Committee at the Seacoast Community School in Portsmouth, NH. I am a graduate of Bates College and Lesley University where I obtained my BA in American Cultural Studies and my master’s degree in Elementary Education. I am currently working with a team of educators, administrators, and mental health professionals to create a web-based platform for elementary schools and communities to use in supporting families and teachers, helping them to find their students the resources they need to succeed and to build the experiences that will support their successful journeys. I want to take my 10 years of classroom teaching experience, along with my own personal advocacy and volunteer experiences and be an agent for change in how the world views individuals with disabilities.

Emily GillichI have been working with individuals with disabilities since I was in Best Buddies in high school while volunteering my free periods in a special education classroom. Until I moved to a rural area in New Mexico, I was unaware of the barriers and the extraordinary lengths families sometimes go to in order to get high quality services for their child with a disability. As a behavior technician and training coordinator in New Mexico, I saw first-hand the hope that telehealth brought families who have children with autism in areas where there were no applied behavior analysis (ABA) service providers in a 50+ mile radius. Currently, I am a Board-Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA) with Community Partners, an area agency providing developmental and behavioral health services to Strafford County. I am responsible for managing a client caseload, training and supervising new behavior technicians and BCBA-candidates, working with insurance agencies to secure funding for my clients, and working directly with families and caregivers in an underserved area of New Hampshire. I earned my undergraduate and graduate degrees from Endicott College in Beverly, MA. Expanding insurance laws to include funding for ABA services to utilize telehealth, serve adults with autism, and children with behavioral challenges who do not have a diagnosis of autism, as well as mandating state licensure for ABA providers in NH are my most pressing goals. I hope to help create a more inclusive world for individuals with disabilities through advocating for job, education, sexual education, social and overall societal inclusion.

Gabrielle JordanI graduated from UNH with a BS in Occupational Science in 2018, and plan to graduate with an MS in Occupational Therapy in December 2019. As an undergraduate, I gained experience working with children with disabilities while working as a playgroup’s educational assistant with Thom Pentucket Early Intervention Services and through nannying for several families affected by disability. While in the OT program at UNH, I interned in multiple settings, most recently, at a 12-week fieldwork placement at an outpatient pediatrics clinic working with children with a variety of disabilities and their families. Working with families from diverse perspectives has furthered my interest in developing a better understanding of the community of professionals who work with people with neuro-developmental disabilities. None of the children I have worked with receive solely OT services, which has sparked my curiosity to have firsthand experience with the other services these children receive.

Alahna Kinney-SandefurI am a graduate from the University of New Hampshire with a BA in Psychology and Justice Studies with minors in Forensics and Sociology. My career path led me to working with children and adolescents providing school-based and home-based therapeutic services. My decision to enroll in the online MSW program at UNH has been one of the most challenging yet fulfilling decisions I have made. Over the last 18 months of this 28-month program I have learned an immeasurable amount of information that has directly shaped my career goals. I have always been interested in working with children but was not sure of the setting I would be in or exactly what kind of work I would be doing. I have been able to drastically hone in my interests and passions and have come to realize that my potential lies in providing trauma-focused education and training to adults working with children who have experienced trauma. Ideally, I see myself working with foster care and adoptive agencies to provide them with the tools they need to care for a child who may be trauma reactive. Through the education I have received thus far, I have learned that all behavior is communication, and children’s behavior is often mistaken for intentional “badness”. I am hopeful that the LEND program will expand my knowledge infinitely and allow me to make the necessary connections to better the lives of misunderstood children.

Tamara Le, MA - Policy & Advocacy/Family Trainee, New Hampshire

Tamara LeTamara Le is currently serving a second term as a NH State Representative. Appointed to the House Education Committee, Rep. Le has sponsored and advocated for a number of bills supporting NH public schools, educators, special education, persons with disabilities, the LGBTQi community, firefighter cancer initiatives, the environment and transportation infrastructure. As an assistant majority floor leader, she helps organize and facilitate votes on key initiatives, and mentors’ new legislators. She has been appointed to the State Advisory Committee for the Education of Children with Disabilities (SAC), Seacoast Cancer Cluster Study Committee and was founding chair of the first-in-the-nation Bipartisan Legislative Disability Caucus. Prior to politics Le had a lengthy career in Public Broadcasting, served two terms on the North Hampton school Board and as President of the NE Philanthropic Education Organization. Le is a member of the North Hampton Municipal Budget Committee, ABLE and 2010 graduate of the New Hampshire Leadership Series. Le holds a BS in Speech Communication from Iowa State and MA in International Relations from Boston University. She lives in North Hampton with her husband Quang, two school -aged daughters and two kitties.

 

Devyn MaloneI graduated from UNH with a Bachelors in Social Work. I have spent three years as a Direct Support Professional helping people with a variety of disabilities including Autism, Down Syndrome, and Cerebral Palsy. This experience has provided me with many different skills including teaching classes about accommodations, assistive technology, and everyday living skills such as how to take public transportation and proper hygiene. I also gained skills of proper medical administration, CPR and First Aid. At UNH I worked at the disability services for student’s center where I learned different programs and technology that help students. During this time, I taught other people how to use these programs at an open house. I also showed people around campus and was on a panel in which we spoke about college life while having a disability. I just graduated from the UNH leadership series where we learned about the history of people with disabilities in America and spoke with legislators about unemployment within the disability community.

Megan MoreyIn 2017 I graduated with a BA in Communication Sciences and Disorders from the University of Maine. I also focused on Interdisciplinary Disability Studies and Psychology, receiving minors in both. I was honored to serve a year as the Undergraduate Representative for the President’s Council on Disabilities. To further develop my involvement with the disability community, I joined an organization called Best Buddies, eventually serving as Treasurer for our chapter. Through this organization, I was able to spend more personal time getting to know people with disabilities. I gained an understanding of what their lives were like, what issues they may have faced and what they had wished for their future. While at UMaine, I also served as Parliamentarian for a service sorority, Gamma Gamma Sigma, completing community service in a variety of areas with my sisters. This opportunity taught me how much one person, or even a small group of people, can make a difference. I began formally working with individuals with disabilities my junior year of college. I took a year off between my undergraduate and graduate studies to develop clinical skills specific to children on the autism spectrum. Becoming a Registered Behavior Technician allowed me to further develop a skillset that may be helpful as a future Speech Language Pathologist. Through my personal and professional experiences, I have gained a passion for learning about and advocating for those who may not be able to do so themselves. By being a part of the NH-ME LEND program I hope to contribute my experiences as well as learn more about how we, as interdisciplinary colleagues, can achieve the highest quality of life for individuals with disabilities.

Sarah SadowskiMy husband Jon and I have four terrific kids and our lived experience as parents of a child who experiences Cerebral Palsy dramatically shapes our work and our worldview. My Master’s degree is from Clark University in Worchester, MA where I received a fellowship to study social change and international development. My BA is from the University of New Hampshire. I first became interested in policy as a tool for social change while serving as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Sofia, Bulgaria where I had the opportunity to write issue briefs for members of the new Bulgarian Parliament. I also had the opportunity to work and study in Mexico and Guatemala before returning home to my native New Hampshire. I serve as the Executive Director for the New Hampshire Association for the Education of Young Children (NHAEYC) and am inspired by what a difference access to quality childcare and early educational opportunities makes for all children. Prior to my current role, I focused on state-level policy issues related to the health and well-being of New Hampshire families at Kids First Consulting and at the political consulting firm Civic Strategy Group. Prior to that, I served as the Community Engagement Director at New Futures bolstering advocacy efforts for effective behavioral health policies. I am an alumna of the New Hampshire Leadership Series and currently serve on the board of the New Hampshire Children’s Trust, The Children’s Place and Parent Education Center, and am a steering committee member of the New Hampshire chapter of MomsRising. Currently I am a consultant for Kids First Consulting where we work on issues related to the health and well-being of New Hampshire families. Other than working at Civic Strategy Group to advance the issue of access to paid medical leave for families like mine, most of my prior work experience has been in the NH nonprofit sector including serving as the Community Engagement Director at New Futures where I worked to support advocacy efforts for effective behavioral health policies.

I studied Political Science and Business at the University of California at Berkeley and entered the legal profession thereon after. I have been grateful to work in both the private and public sectors advocating on behalf of individuals with developmental and invisible disabilities, as well as other marginalized groups, through targeted and strategic legal advocacy efforts at the federal, state and local levels. Since then I have shifted my career to becoming an account manager for a data analytics company that assists higher education institutions with enrollment and retention issues, among other businesses and organizations. I hope to implement the skills I have polished in the data analytics field to spearhead legal advocacy efforts at the federal and state levels alongside children with developmental and invisible disabilities and their families while helping researchers and educational institutions create methodologies in analyzing tracked data on children and adults with disabilities.

Maria SieperFriends and family call me Masha. I was born, raised and graduated with a MS degree in International Economics from Moscow, Russia. In 2011 I moved to the US to marry the love of my life. In November 2015 I became a US citizen. While my initial career path was in HR and Finance, my priorities changed when my son was born and shortly after diagnosed with neuro-developmental disabilities. Currently, I’m a stay-at-home mom and volunteer on the board of a Family Support Council at a local Area Agency as a co-chair/treasurer. Advocating for my son, whether in school or in the State House, and serving on the board of FSC made me aware of the fact that there is a constant need for advocates who advocate for people with disabilities and their rights by educating people, spreading awareness, breaking stigmas and barriers of discrimination and isolation for all. I recently graduated from NH Leadership Series program. It was a life changing experience that improved my leadership and advocating skills. I got to experience the process of driving change in my community through advocacy in front of the NH State legislators. I’ve overcome a lot of mental and physical challenges while caring for my child. Having that experience taught me that grit and perseverance is important to achieve various goals in life. My husband and I are big advocates for our son. We testified in front of the Department of Health and Human Services advocating to legalize medical marijuana because it was the only medicine that could control our son’s seizures. I look forward to growing my leadership skills and implementing them in line of work with families who have children with disabilities. I want to help organize and educate my community for people with disabilities to live their lives to the best of their abilities full of inclusion and equality.

Deanna WhitmoreIn 2004 I received my AAS in Travel and Tourism Hospitality Management from Morrisville State College. I then went on to obtain a BS in Business Administration with a concentration in Management from Buffalo State College. Management coursework prepared me for leadership roles to manage public and nonprofit organizations. After completing my undergraduate work, I became employed at Onondaga County Department of Social Services (DSS) for five years. The titles I held in different departments included; community service aide, child protective caseworker, income maintenance worker, and income maintenance specialist. I left DSS and entered the medical and mental health field working in nursing homes, in home care, two state psychiatric hospitals, and community mental health. All the while I have been involved in community organizations and events such as; fundraising for Autism Speaks, SPARK autism research participant, youth basketball coach, co-founder and co-coach of a youth summer running program, PTA member, Destination Imagination Team Manager, and most recently the co-founder of a new 4-H club in our town. While in these roles I saw the importance and benefits of inclusive sports and organizations for children with disabilities. The work that I was/am part of is much bigger than me. I’ve learned so much working with other adults allowing the opportunity to sharpen my interpersonal skills. My experiences have given me the awareness of other people’s perspectives and openness to different approaches. I’m excited to continue my personal and professional growth through the LEND program.

Maine

Carolyn CoeI am an adjunct professor of English at the University of Maine at Augusta as well as a yoga instructor, teaching trauma-sensitive yoga both locally and overseas. As a volunteer, I report and produce news reports for a community radio station and have published writings both in print publications and online. I have an A.B. in English Language and Literature from the University of Michigan and an M.A. in Humanities and Social Thought from New York University. As a yoga instructor, I hope to share the physical and psychological benefits of yoga with those who have a disability. As a reporter, I wish to contextualize the experiences of those with developmental disabilities within the movement for human and civil rights worldwide.

Nicole DrownI am currently an Early Intervention Specialist at Sandcastle Clinical and Education Services and I just completed my master’s in special education with a concentration in Early Intervention through the University of Maine. While completing my Bachelor’s in Social and Behavioral Sciences through the University of Southern Maine I worked at a Head Start Program working with children 6 weeks to 3 years. At USM I served as the Vice President of the Student Education Association of Maine for the Lewiston/Auburn Campus. While working at Head Start, I fell in love with early intervention and went on to complete my 282 Endorsement (0-5 years) through the University of Farmington. I am interested in working with children with neurodevelopmental disabilities because traditionally it has always been looked at as a physical or functional abnormality and I am interested in how to get evidenced-based practices and information out in the community about how it can also affect a child’s behavior, memory or ability to learn. Those behaviors are often overlooked or labeled as something that it is not because many of the disorders related to neurodevelopment are “invisible disabilities” or disabilities that you can’t see by just looking at a child (anxiety, ADHD, sensory processing, dyspraxia). I have two children who are 10 and 8 years old named Addison and Emma. Addison was diagnosed at 4 years old with Motor Coordination Dyspraxia, Sensory Processing and General Anxiety Disorder. It has been so hard for me to watch her struggle to do some hard things, academically, physically and mentally, but she has taught me more than I could have possibly imagined. I want to bring that experience to the table and help parents realize that they are not fighting the fight alone.

Kari PayneMy educational background includes: Exercise Science undergraduate degree from the University of Alaska, state of Maine certificate in regular education (K-8 020) from the University of New England, a special education certificate (birth to 5, 282) from University of Maine Farmington and most recently I am completing my last course for the graduate program at the University of Maine Orono in Special Education, Early Intervention. I have been working in the education field for 20 years, with 13 of those years with Sandcastle Clinical and Educational Services as an inclusion classroom special education teacher for children 18 months to 3 years old. As an educator with the passion to serve the youngest population, I feel the need to continually pursue the highest level of understanding and knowledge available in order to be an effective communicator, versed in all areas of early childhood development, teaching strategies and advocacy. I am also a parent of 4 children, 2 of which have a diagnosed disability and Individual Education Plans within the school system. I have served on many school committees including the leadership roles of: Vice president of the Martel Elementary School PTO, Girl Scout Leader of troop 1230 and Secretary of the Lewiston High Boys Lacrosse Boosters Club. I can bring a different perspective weaving my experience from life and work. I want to be more impactful as I learn how policy can be impacted by advocacy and to impart knowledge to improve the health of children and youth with disabilities and for their families. I recognize that there is strength in numbers and value collaboration to make a collective voice. Leadership is less daunting when working with others, sharing the passion and workload.

 

Desiree PeñaI am a licensed speech-language pathologist who has lived in several states along the east coast. Prior to my professional transition to speech-language pathology, I taught high school Spanish and English as a Second Language (ESL). My role as the school’s ESL teacher was professionally transformative for me, as I learned to become an advocate for students who were learning English as well as to engage collaboratively with other teachers, counselors, and administrators to support better practices around differentiated instruction and student-tailored accommodations. While living in Georgia, I worked as an assistant preschool teacher at a listening and spoken language program for children who are deaf or hard of hearing. In this program, I also served as an interpreter and translator for Spanish-speaking families. This role later expanded to include designing parent and teacher materials in the form of an online weekly newsletter that also served as a community resource for early interventionists in the state of Georgia. I earned my master’s in Communication Sciences and Disorders at the University of Georgia, where I treated individuals with a variety of speech and language disorders across the lifespan. As part of my graduate training, I completed a thesis project examining the impact of dual language intervention on a bilingual elementary student with autism spectrum disorder. Currently, I continue to work with preschoolers as well as school-age children in various programs in the greater Bangor area. Working alongside families and children, ages birth to five, has galvanized my desire to improve advocacy efforts for providing early intervention, evidence-based services, and increased community inclusion for children with disabilities.

 

Deborah TardifMy name is Deborah Tardif and I am a 48-year-old female living in the Jay area, which is in Central Maine. My experience both personally and professionally is varied. I am a Reiki Master, I have a Bachelor of Science in Mental Health and Human Services, and an Associates of Art, in Liberal Studies. I am certified as a DSP, BHP, and MHRT-C. Currently, I am working as an Adult Case Manager with Kennebec Behavioral Health. I worked as an Adult Education teacher for approximately three years with students of all ages some with learning disabilities. I taught Math, English, living skills and several beginning computer classes to senior citizens. I worked with America Corps, part of the Aims High Program, as a volunteer at the local high school. I worked as a DSP with adults and children who had autism. I worked as a BHP with children who had behavioral issues. These are just some of the various jobs that I have done over the last 25 years.

Cynthia ThielenI graduated with a BA in Journalism with a Studio Art Minor from the University of Maine. Much of my interest involved photography. Occasionally writing for the Penobscot Bay Press as a student intern. I’ve experienced what disability advocacy is like because my mother has spent several years speaking up for what I need whether it was IEP meetings at school or local workshops and community groups. I’m an autistic self-advocate and I received special ed support since elementary school and was formally diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome at 13. I can be shy and my voice has always been somewhat high pitch, but it’s gotten better. I’ve always wondered how I can help other disabled people in the community, so I hope this training can lead me to doing just that.