Dr. Paige Cervantes is a clinical psychologist and a clinical assistant professor in the Department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at the NYU Grossman School of Medicine. Affiliated with the Center for Implementation-Dissemination of Evidence-Based Practices Among States (IDEAS), one of the NIMH ALACRITY centers, Dr. Cervantes’ research aims to improve the accessibility and quality of community services for autistic youth and their families, with a specific emphasis on addressing co-occurring psychiatric conditions. Her current work focuses on the co-occurrence of autism and suicidality, including the development and dissemination of recommendations for modifying the assessment and management of suicide risk in emergency departments, and on improving care within general inpatient psychiatric settings for minimally verbal youth on the autism spectrum.
Dr. Varleisha D. Gibbs Ph.D., OTD, OTR/L is the Vice President of Practice Engagement and Capacity Building at the American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA). She previously served as the Scientific Programs Officer at the American Occupational Therapy Foundation. Dr. Gibbs is an occupational therapist, international lecturer, researcher, and author. Her areas of expertise include neuroanatomy, self-regulation strategies across the lifespan, health inequities, and trauma-responsive approaches. Dr. Gibbs founded and operated a private therapy firm for over 10 years.
Dr. Gibbs began her career after receiving her baccalaureate degree in Psychology from the University of Delaware. She continued her studies in the field of Occupational Therapy receiving a Master’s of Science degree from Columbia University and a clinical doctorate from Thomas Jefferson University. Dr. Gibbs completed her Ph.D. program in Health Sciences Leadership at Seton Hall University.
Morénike Giwa Onaiwu, PhD(c), MA, (she/her/they/them pronouns) is an educator, writer, public speaker, parent, and global advocate whose work focuses on meaningful community involvement and leadership, disability, racial, and gender equity, dismantling stigma, and inclusion and empowerment. Morénike has been published by Palgrave MacMillan, Jessica Kingsley Publishing, and most recently, Beacon Press. Often drawing from relevant educational and professional experience combined with lived expertise as a multicultural non-binary woman of color in a neurodiverse and serodifferent family; late-diagnosed adult on the autism spectrum; and survivor of intimate partner violence, Morénike is a highly sought-after presenter, consultant, and subject matter expert who resides in the US Gulf Coast with a spouse and six amazing biological and internationally adopted pre-teen to young adult children with disabilities. Morénike, a Humanities Scholar at Rice University, is also the founder and principal operator of Advocacy Without Borders and holds leadership positions in various organizations, including Autistic Women & Nonbinary Network, Foundations for Divergent Minds, and Dove Orchids.
Rachel Honore is a child enthusiast, advocate, and parent of a child diagnosed with Autism and ADHD.
The founder of Literacy and More which assists families in accessing community resources.
Rachel is a former LEND Fellow and LEND – Parent / Family Consultant.
Rachel attended and graduated from Temple Disabilities Institute’s program, Competence and Confidence in Policy Making (C2P2). Rachel is a member of the State Interagency Community Coordinating Council (SICC) Planning Committee. She is a former Member of the Mayor’s Steering Education Committee and a former core volunteer team member of the Building Early Learning Links (BELL), Homeless Early Childhood Education Initiative.
Dr. Christina Nicolaidis, MD, MPH is an internal medicine physician, Professor of Social Work at Portland State University (PSU), and Professor of Medicine at Oregon Health & Science University (OHSU). She is the Co-Founder and Co-Director of the Academic Autism Spectrum Partnership in Research and Education (AASPIRE; www.aaspire.org), a long-standing partnership that uses community-based participatory research (CBPR) to address the priorities of autistic adults. She was the principal investigator (PI) on a series of NIH-funded studies to develop and test the AASPIRE Healthcare Toolkit (www.autismandhealth.org) and is currently the PI on a large NIH-funded project to develop and test patient-reported outcome measures for evaluating the effectiveness of services for autistic adults. Other AASPIRE projects focus on pregnancy, employment, suicide prevention, and autistic burnout. She also is the founding Editor-in-Chief of the peer-reviewed journal, Autism in Adulthood (www.liebertpub.com/aut). More broadly, Dr. Nicolaidis directs the Social Determinants of Health Initiative (www.pdx.edu/social-determinants-health), teaches research methods at PSU, practices internal medicine at OHSU, and mentors dozens of junior faculty members and trainees across the world.
Lauren Raskin Ramos, MPH, is the Director of the Division of Maternal and Child Health Workforce Development at the Health Resources and Services Administration’s Maternal and Child Health Bureau (MCHB). In this role, Lauren leads federal efforts to train the current and future MCH workforce. Lauren is also the lead for MCHB’s Autism investments in training, research, and state systems development. Previously, Lauren held leadership roles at the Association of Maternal and Child Health Programs and the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials. Lauren is a member of the Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee. She served as an Officer of the MCH Section of the American Public Health Association (APHA) and as a Board member of the National Healthy Mothers, Healthy Babies Coalition. Lauren completed her MPH at the UCLA School of Public Health and received her BA from Tufts University. Lauren is a recipient of APHA’s MCH Young Professional Award.
Dr. Wendy J. Ross, MD, FAAP is the inaugural director of Jefferson Health’s Center for Autism and Neurodiversity. As a developmental pediatrician, she identifies developmental challenges in children and then helps to create and integrate their medical, educational, and therapeutic plans. As a program lead, she helps create community opportunities throughout the lifespan for those with intellectual and developmental challenges. Most recently she identified that having an intellectual disability was the number one reason for getting Covid and second only to age for dying from Covid. She used this data to change CDC policy and to create a neurodiverse-friendly vaccination practice with community members. Dr. Ross has been named a top 10 CNN hero for her community projects. She attended the Humanities and Medicine Program at Mt. Sinai School of Medicine and completed her pediatrics residency at Yale and her fellowship in developmental pediatrics at Harvard.
Dr. Matthew Siegel is an Associate Professor of Psychiatry and Pediatrics at Tufts University School of Medicine, Vice President of Medical Affairs, Developmental Disorders Service Line of Maine Behavioral Healthcare, and Faculty Scientist II at Maine Medical Center Research Institute. Dr. Siegel attended Amherst College, Stanford Medical School, and trained at Brown University in child psychiatry, psychiatry, and pediatrics. He is the Principal Investigator of the Autism and Developmental Disorders Inpatient Research Collaborative (ADDIRC), a network of specialized child psychiatry units performing studies of children severely affected by autism and intellectual disability. Dr. Siegel has developed a continuum of care and clinical research focused on the treatment of serious challenging behaviors in youth with autism and related disorders. He is a co-author of the American Academy of Child Psychiatry’s Practice Parameter on the Assessment and Treatment of Children and Adolescents with Autism Spectrum Disorder and the Parameter for the Assessment and Treatment of Psychiatric Disorders in Children and Adolescents with Intellectual Disability. He is a member of the NIH Inter-Agency Autism Coordinating Committee (IACC).
Dr. Sarah Spence, MD, Ph.D. is a child neurologist with a Ph.D. in neuropsychology. After training in neurology at UCLA, she joined the faculty and spent 5 years as the medical director of the Autism Evaluation Clinic then another 5 years doing clinical research focused on autism at the National Institute of Mental Health. She was recruited to Boston in 2010 where she was one of the founders of the Boston Children’s Hospital Autism Spectrum Center. Working with the stellar team at the center, she has spent the last 12 years focused on ways to improve the care for patients with autism and related neurodevelopmental disabilities through a variety of inter-professional partnerships in the hospital.
She has been involved in many initiatives in the clinical care and research of individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder working with Cure Autism Now, Autism Speaks, the Simons Foundation, the Nancy Lurie Marks Foundation, and the dup15q Alliance.
Dr. Rena Sorensen joined CCHMC in 2000 as a clinical psychologist specializing in the assessment and treatment of children with neurodevelopmental disorders and severe problem behavior. She is currently the Director of Behavioral Programming for the Behavior Safety Team at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital, serving patients with behavioral risk admitted for medical care with the goal of helping patients access the care they need while keeping everyone safe. She has built intensive models of care including home-based ABA services, community consultation with schools and agencies, an intensive severe behavior treatment day program, neurobehavioral inpatient psychiatric stabilization for acute crisis management, as well as the Behavior Safety Team. She consults nationally on both behavior management and the development of behavior safety systems outside hospitals. She serves as a subject matter expert with the Solutions for Patient Safety – Patient Behavior Events cohort and is a hub team expert on the ECHO Autism Crisis Care/Behavior Solutions for Hospitals program.
Dr. Jackie Ward, DNP, RN, NE-BC is currently the Chief Nursing Officer and Senior Vice President for Texas Children’s Hospital. She began her career at Texas Children’s Hospital as a graduate nurse in 1993. Throughout her career, Jackie has held various leadership roles in nursing administration.
Jackie holds a Bachelor of Science in Nursing from Texas Tech University, and a Master’s of Science in Nursing with a focus in Health Care Systems Management from Loyola University. She holds a Doctorate in Nursing Practice with a focus on executive leadership from the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston Cisik School of Nursing. She holds a Board Certification as a Nurse Executive from the American Nurses Credentialing Center and a Healthcare Management graduate certification from Rice University Jesse H. Jones Graduate School of Business.
Yetta Myrick is the mother of a young adult son diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder and Intellectual Disability. She is the Founder and President of DC Autism Parents (DCAP), a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization in the District of Columbia. Ms. Myrick has served as the CDC’s Act Early Ambassador to the District of Columbia since 2016 and is currently leading the DC Act Early COVID-19 Response Team Project. She leads the DC Autism Collaborative’s Developmental Monitoring, Screening, and Evaluation Subgroup and serves as the Parent Educator/Advocate on the ECHO Autism HUB Team at Children’s National Hospital. Ms. Myrick co-leads the“Family Voices United to End Racism Against CYSHCN and Families” Project and the stakeholder collaborative for the “Building Capacity in the African American ASD Community for Patient-Centered Outcomes Research” funded through the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute Eugene Washington PCORI Engagement Award. She holds a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Communication Studies from The Catholic University of America. Ms. Myrick was the Community Outreach Coordinator at the Center for Autism Spectrum Disorders (CASD) at Children’s National from 2016-2020 and a Studio Technician at C-SPAN from 2005-2016. In 2021, she was appointed to the Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee by Secretary of Health and Human Services, Xavier Becerra, J.D. Additionally, Ms. Myrick is a member of the DC Developmental Disabilities Council and the Got Transition® National Family Health Care Transition Advisory Group. She deeply believes that parental involvement is key to obtaining quality services for all children and that an informed parent is an engaged parent.
Scott Allen, MS is a practicing counselor on the autism spectrum who specializes in working with autistic adults, as well as their families and partners. He cofacilitates an empowerment group called AS WE ARE for college students on the autism spectrum through the UW-Madison McBurney Disability Resource Center, and serves as a board member of the Autism Society of South-Central Wisconsin. Mr. Allen is the co-founder and coordinator of the INTEGRAL Adult Autism Conference, the first of its kind in Wisconsin. INTEGRAL is dedicated to expanding and improving communication between people on the autism spectrum and the countless specialists, supporters, and family members whose lives and work are entwined with theirs, with a focus on ensuring that autistic voices are fully and accurately represented to professional, political, and parental leaders in the wider autism community. “Nothing about us without us.”
Mary Rumple, BA, CCLS, is a certified child life specialist in the Child and Family Life Department at C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital, University of Michigan Health, Ann Arbor, Michigan. She utilizes evidence-based interventions to help reduce stress and anxiety associated with healthcare experiences for children and families. She has been doing this work in the medical setting since 2006. Through identifying individual stressors, child life specialists work to empower patients with coping tools and advocate for environmental and experiential modifications to improve the hospital experience. Mary currently serves as her department’s primary multidisciplinary staff educator.
Prior to her career as a child life specialist, Mary began her work with children as a paraprofessional for adolescent-aged students with both developmental and physical disabilities. She is a current member of both the Association of Child Life Professionals and the Great Lakes Association of Child Life Professionals.
Donnie TC Denome (they/them) is a nonspeaking autistic self-advocate, public presenter, health educator, graphic designer, and award-winning journalist. They hold a master’s of public health degree from Claremont Graduate University with a focus in health education for people with intellectual, communication, and developmental disabilities. Donnie works as the Autistic Self Advocacy Network’s Publications Associate, where they create and curate many of ASAN’s Easy Read and plain language materials. Their work focuses on promoting autonomy, dignity, and access to equitable healthcare for disabled people. Donnie has previously presented at conferences such as Closing the Gap, AAC in the Cloud, and Gender Spectrum’s annual professional symposium; their presentations often focused on supporting nonspeaking people of all ages and their families in accessing equitable health care.