President: James B. Adams, Ph.D. is President of the Autism Society of Greater Phoenix. He is the proud father of an 23-year-old daughter with autism. He is a professor at Arizona State University, where he directs the ASU Autism/Asperger’s Research Program focused on understanding the biomedical causes of autism and how to treat it.
Vice President: Cynthia Macluskie is the mother of a wonderful sixteen year old boy who has recovered from autism. She is actively involved in the autism community. She is the Vice-President of the Autism Society of Greater Phoenix and runs the Phoenix Valley Parent’s Autism Group which holds monthly meetings to provide support and information. Cynthia sat on a variety of committee’s including the APIPA (Medicaid provider) Parent Advisory Committee, the Department of Economic Security Autism Workgroup and currently serves on the Governor’s Committee on ASD. Cynthia was one of the seven mom’s who lobbied successfully for Steven’s Law that requires insurance companies to cover autism in the state of Arizona. Cynthia received The Autism Service Award for her work on Steven’s Law. She also worked on and helped pass Restraint and Seclusion Legislation this last year. Cynthia has also served as a grant reviewer for First Things First and Autism Speaks. She is currently a board member and Vice President of the Autism Society of Greater Phoenix. She has written articles for Autism File and spoken nationally on autism.. She has been interviewed by local news organization, The New York Times Magazine, Good Morning America and Lifetime TV as parent and autism expert. Cynthia currently organizes conferences on autism, teaches classes on Social Thinking, Autism 101, Goal Setting and runs several family events including Lego Club that meets once a month.
Treasurer: Katie Wride received her Bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education in 1996 from Brigham Young University. She taught second grade in Utah before returning home to the East Valley with her husband to raise their family. She has four children, her oldest son has Autism. Katie has been active in the Autism community for many years. She is currently a Parent Mentor for the Autism Society of America-Greater Phoenix Chapter Board, on the ACT Today board, and co-founded a parent support group called EVAN (East Valley Autism Network). Katie also volunteers each week in each of her children’s classes at school, for the PTSO, at her church, and helps teach in the Cub Scout program for the Boy Scouts of America.
Trisha Folk-DuBois is the proud mother of twins, a boy and a girl. Her son was diagnosed with Autism in 2009. After a professional dance career Trisha became the Artistic Director of Arizona Dance Theatre for 14 years. She is currently a performing and fine arts teacher as well as presenter and researcher for the National Arts Education of America. Her focus now is on Autism Spectrum Disorder program development with an emphasis on enrichment programs, first responder’s safety projects and arts based, environmental learning for specials needs education.
Susan Sunseri has a nine year old child on the spectrum. She currently chairs the Phoenix Children’s Hospital’s Family Advisory Council for the Children’s Neurosciences Institute, and is a board member for the Autism Society of Greater Phoenix. She has personal experience in the fair hearing process for both DDD and AHCCCS. She is an active advocate for the national law center known as EBCALA: the Elizabeth Birt Center for Autism Law and Advocacy. Her special interest is in the federal entitlement for disabled children known as EPSDT: Early and Periodic Screening Diagnosis and Treatment. Susan credits her son’s success to a combination of her decision to homeschool; intensive therapies achieved through the program known in Arizona as Habilitation Masters; specific biomedical treatments that have been helpful; and her son’s augmentative and alternative communication device.
Kerrie Mallory Thompson is an employee of LaserBits, now part of the Rowmark family, where she is the Director of Marketing/Webmaster. She loves her job! Since February 2012, Kerrie has been writing a blog/Facebook page called “Autism WIll Not Define My Son” which chronicles the crazy autism journey that she and her son are on and everything they deal with on a daily basis, both good and bad. She believes knowledge is power and having the power to spread awareness creates knowledge. Her life with her son is an open book for that reason. Kerrie has also dedicated her time to helping a variety of autism organizations including Autism Society of Greater Phoenix. In May of 2015, Kerrie along with another autism mom, formed a local Autism Advocacy Organization called “Arizona Autism Network of the West Valley”. Our mission is to assist families in the West Valley seek answers about services, provide networking opportunities, education and resources, as well as organize community events which will allow for a stronger and more knowledgeable autism community. Autism Society of Greater Phoenix is proud to partner with her organization.
Karen L. Starbowski practices Financial Planning with MassMutual Financial Services. Providing financial advice has become Karen’s passion because she enjoys helping people and their families.Karen has completed her SpecialCare Planning designation, ChSNC which allows her to use her financial planning passion to assist families who have loved ones with special needs. She now leads the Team for MassMutual Arizona. The MassMutual Arizona SpecialCare Planning Team’s mission is to help make a positive difference in the lives of individuals with special needs, their caregivers and other family members. The SpecialCare Planning Team has developed a unique network of professionals within the Special Needs community. This devoted network assists families, not only with their financial planning, but also provides a wide range of expertise to fit the diverse concerns of Special Needs families. Karen Starbowski was born and raised in Michigan and has been living in Arizona since 1999. She received her BS in Mathematics from Eastern Michigan University. In addition to being involved with many of the Special Needs organizations, she is also involved with the Ahwatukee Chamber of Commerce. When Karen has free time, she enjoys watching her beloved Red Wings or hiking in the Superstition Mountains.
Regina Flint has been married for 32 years and has two adult sons. She recently retired from teaching after 32 years. She has worked and taught all grade levels from preschool through seniors in high school and finds that her favorite grade level of students is the one she is currently teaching! Every grade is exciting to her. Sometimes her students would say, “Mrs. Flint, I think you are having way too much fun!” Regina has a love for learning and researching new methods, materials and books to assist her with her work with children, teens and adults. As a result, Regina has taken and attended hundreds of hours of workshops and classes plus has participated on numerous curriculum writing committees, worked on transition issues and writing assessments for the school district along with being a special education department lead for the last 14 years working directly to train and assist other teachers at the schools. In addition to the school setting, Regina was a caretaker for 30 years for a woman with both intellectual and mental issues which gave her exposure to the world of support services for those with disabilities and numerous medical field treatment plans available to those in need. Regina holds many certifications and endorsements in both elementary education and special education with an emphasis on learning disabled and emotionally handicapped students. Regina was a board member for the Arizona Professional Education Association/Peoria Classroom Teachers Association for 15 years, taught Sunday School at her church for 15 years, conducted Marriage Preparation classes with her husband for 20 years and was the founding president for a high school football booster club for 6 years.
AZ Assist Committee
Laura England, a founding AZ ASSIST board member, became active in the autism community after the birth of her son 24 years ago. Her early career as a registered clinical dietitian, educating in-hospital patients, prepared her to become an advocate for her son in the school system as well as the community. She led her church’s educational program, and eventually earned a Master’s degree in Special Education. Far beyond advocating for her own son, Laura felt compelled to help other families navigate the complex journey that those affected with ASD travel with their amazing children. She currently tutors students with autism and works with the emotional and behavioral challenges. Laura knows the acquisition of life skills never ends; one of her teaching philosophies is “Go as far as you can see and, when you get there, you’ll be able to see further.” Laura received her Bachelor of Science in Dietetics from Miami University in Ohio and her Masters in Special Education from Grand Canyon University. In her spare time, Laura loves researching history, traveling, hiking and exploring other cultures.
Teri Beardsley, married with two children, is now retired after 31 years in Special Education. She holds multiple certifications and endorsements. Over her career, she specialized in Cross Categorical Resource, Developmental Preschool, and Kindergarten. Her passion for autistic children was enriched, as for most involved with AZ ASSIST, by a wonderful son who is currently very involved in SEEDS for Autism. Volunteerism is a way of life for Teri, and retirement has not slowed her down. She serves as coordinator for West Valley AZ ASSIST in addition to teaching online courses and supervising student teachers for Grand Canyon University. Before Teri moved to Arizona in 1985, she earned a Bachelor of Science in Speech and Language Pathology from Illinois State University, and a Master’s in Special and Elementary Education from Northern Illinois University. Her many interests include her two well-loved dogs, reading, cooking, and knitting. Teri loves travel enough to enjoy setting up itineraries for other’s vacations, although she is a strong supporter of all things local, including shops and restaurants of downtown Phoenix.
Sam Bartlow is an Autistic self-advocate. He was initially diagnosed with Asperger’s in 2003 at the age of 22. Since then, he has taken it upon himself to learn everything he can about Autism. In 2006 he started receiving emails from the Autistic Self Advocacy Network where he first learned about Neurodiversity, the concept that each person’s neurology is unique to that individual and adds to the beauty of human diversity. He started working for AZ ASSIST in February of 2009 as a volunteer mentor to the young adults, something he still does every month to this day. In 2010 he started an Autism related bible study that met twice a month for two years. He is a former member of the Autism Coalition who was inspired by the AZ ASSIST youth to go back to college in 2011 to complete his college degree. He graduated with honors in 2013 with a GPA of 3.51. He has spoken in a number of panels, including two affiliated with the Autism Society of America. In April of 2014 he helped put together the AZ ASSIST fashion show together with his other employer, Dillard’s, at Superstition Springs Mall. In June of that same year, he put together his first social for the AZ ASSIST youth when he invited them to join him for his birthday. He continues to have a passion for learning about autism and especially for guiding the AZ ASSIST youth that continues to inspire him and influence his career choices to this day.
Claudia Weemes, a native of Mainz, Germany has been married 26 years to now retired Army SFC Jimmy Weemes. They have two adult children, three cats and a doglet. Claudia obtained an AAS from Central Arizona College where she was also employed as a certified tutor in Chemistry, Biology and Mathematics. Prior to this, though primarily a ‘stay-at-home’ mom, she spent over 10 years both as an employee and a volunteer with Mesa Public Schools working with K – 6 neurotypical and special needs children. Now a Certified Pharmacy Technician, she has been working with Cigna Medical Group for the past seven years, most recently as a Medication Refill Authorization Specialist serving patients of over 100 physicians. Outside work she is an active member and leader in her church, likes reading, needlework (such as tatting, knitting, crochet) and spending as much time as possible on the beach. Her entire adult life has been marked by volunteerism wherever the need arose. It was within one of the volunteer settings that she noticed how her young son did not quite develop at the same rate as his peers, starting her on a path of advocacy for him at a time when autism was a more foreign than familiar term to most professionals in the medical and scholastic communities. A momma’s tenacity and a love for learning propelled her to educate herself as much as possible about autism and the autism community, a path that led her to AZ ASSIST about three years ago.
Maria V. Dixon is a Clinical Associate Professor at Arizona State University. She has been a Speech-Language Pathologist (SLP) since 1997. She graduated with a B.A. in Economics from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign which lead to a career as a Survey Statistician with the U.S. Census Bureau. During that time, she volunteered with an SLP at a residential facility for adults with severe and profound cognitive impairments, this was a catalyst to her enrolling in a graduate SLP program. She graduated from the University of Maryland at College Park in 1997. She then worked as an SLP providing direct service in schools for children with language and reading disorders. Following work as a Clinical Faculty member at Purdue University and then the University of Maryland at College Park, she joined the faculty in the Speech and Hearing Sciences department at Arizona State University. In each of these positions Maria has worked with children and young adults with autism spectrum disorders and their families. She is the faculty for the Autistics on Campus student organization at ASU. She served on the Board of Directors at the One World Center for Autism which provides a clearinghouse of information and support for individuals with ASD and their families in Prince George’s County, Maryland. More recently she has served as a mentor in Free Arts of Arizona which provides visual arts activities for abused and homeless children in the Phoenix area. Maria has lived and traveled extensively in Central and South America because of her father’s diplomatic career. She speaks Spanish fluently and some Portuguese. Maria is a fiber enthusiast; she knits, crochets, weaves and even spins her own yarn from natural fibers. She lives with her family, a dog named Twix and a cat named Topaz.
Tracey Regan has been married to her best friend Brian for 19 years and has two teenage children. Tracey and Brian were blessed to become parents through special needs foster adoption. Tracey devoted her time the needs of her growing children while working with the families of all abilities she is called to serve. She began her career as a preschool teacher in her home state of New Jersey. She successfully operated a state certified home daycare for seven years after making the decision to become foster parent. This allowed her to manage the time needed for the in and out of home therapies and interventions her children needed to thrive. She moved to Arizona in the summer of 2006 after the adoption of her children was finalized, and immediately began working as an educational assistant in a public school adaptive preschool program. She continued to develop her passion for children diagnosed with autism working with mentor teachers, habilitation agencies, and Autism Society events. She is currently employed by Glendale elementary school district where she spent the last five years as part of the district’s autism program. She is a 2016 graduate of Grand Canyon University with a dual degree in elementary and special education. She is using her degree to serve as the K-5 elementary special education resource teacher at Horizon elementary school in Glendale. She strives to give back to her community in service to others. She has served on the board for National Association for the education of young children, Family Daycare Providers Association, and Girl Scouts of America. She has served in children’s ministry for most of her adult life teaching Sunday school, adapting curriculum, and providing respite events. She currently serves alongside her husband as part of the equip team for Joni and Friends Arizona disability ministry. Together they have taught autism workshops to churches and volunteers throughout Arizona. Tracey will tell you that she credits her accomplishments to her deep faith. In her spare time, she enjoys crafting, writing, serving with friends, and spending time with her family.