The Board of Directors is the governing body of the Autism Society of Greater Phoenix. Our Board consists of passionate parents, family members, and professionals dedicated to our mission of creating connections, empowering everyone in the Autism Community with the resources needed to live fully.
Cynthia Macluskie is a licensed health insurance agent in the State of Arizona. She speaks nationally and locally on healthcare, Medicaid, Medicare, the dually eligible and navigating systems of care for the developmentally disabled. Cynthia has been an active member of the Autism community for over 20 years. She has been an active member of the Autism Society of Greater Phoenix, serving as the Vice President and now the President of the Board. She has served on many community and government committees, including being appointed to the Governor’s Committee on ASD, the governance and member committees for United Health Care, Phoenix Children’s Family and Patient Counsel and the District West IOC (Human Rights Committee). She is passionate about improving access to care, integration of medical and mental health, and making the crisis system more responsive to those with developmental disabilities. Cynthia has worked with other stakeholders in the developmental disability community to craft and run legislation to successfully pass Autism Insurance Legislation that changed the way healthcare covered Autism services. She also assisted with the successful passage of several restraint and seclusion bills and helped update the Silver Alert to include those with developmental disabilities. She is also a trainer and champion for the Be Safe Program that trains those with developmental disabilities, their families and law enforcement on how to interact safely and build understanding and connection to keep everyone safe. Cynthia has been a grant reviewer for Autism Speakers and First Things First. She has been interviewed by local news organizations including: New York Times Magazine, Good Morning America and Lifetime TV.
Besides being a proud Autism Mom, Kerrie Mallory Thompson is Co-Owner of ThelmaLou Creations, LLC a personalization small business with a big mission. She is also a full time employee of MUTOH America where she leads the Marketing Department.
Over the years, Kerrie has also volunteered and dedicated her time to helping with a variety of autism organizations. May of 2015, Kerrie along with another Autism mom, formed a local Autism advocacy organization called “Arizona Autism Network of the West Valley”. Her goal with this organization was to assist families in the West Valley of Phoenix to seek answers about services, provide networking opportunities, education and resources and community events. In 2018, Kerrie and her board chose to merge the Arizona Autism Network of the West Valley with the Autism Society of Greater Phoenix allowing for a stronger Autism community. In addition to serving the Autism community for the Autism Society of Greater Phoenix, Kerrie has been serving as the Arizona Autism Charter School PTA President since 2018.
Kerrie is a single mom whose Autism journey started in 2012 when her then, 2 year old son was diagnosed with Autism. She has been documenting her Autism journey with her son since 2012 and shares everything they deal with on a daily basis, both good and bad. Kerrie believes knowledge is power and having the power to spread awareness, in turn creates knowledge. Her life with her son is an open book for that very reason. You can follow Kerrie and her son Conor along their autism journey on their Facebook page, “Autism Will Not Define My Son”.
Regina Flint 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. Regina always had a desire to find out what the next level of education or the transition for a child from elementary, high school, college and eventually work place really entailed in the success of a child.
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 curricula writing committees, worked on transition issues and writing assessments for the school district along with being a special education department lead for over 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.
Karen L. Starbowski has been practicing since 2007 and has been a Financial Planner with MassMutual Arizona since 2010. Providing financial advice has become Karen’s passion because she enjoys helping people and their families. This includes assisting people with making the appropriate decisions in regard to accumulation of wealth and the preservation of assets. Her goal is to create strategies to help relieve the family of their stress allowing them to retire, send their kids to college or just enjoy life!
Karen has completed her SpecialCare Planning designation, ChSNC through The American College. This allows her to use her financial planning passion to assist families who have loved ones with special needs. Her mission is to help make a positive difference in the lives of individuals with special needs, their caregivers and other family members. Karen 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 for many years. She received her BS in Mathematics from Eastern Michigan University. In addition to being involved with many Special Needs organizations, she is on the board of the Autism Society of Greater Phoenix.
Jim Adams is the proud father of an adult 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.
Rebecca Adams became interested in disability issues after her daughter was diagnosed with Speech Delay, Otosclerosis and ADD/ADHD. She previously served as a parent mentor for families with special needs in the Southern California area. She left her career in Forensic Accounting after her twin sons were diagnosed with Autism before the age of three. Rebecca was a board member for the Arizona Autism Network of the West Valley and facilitated various events in the West Phoenix area. Rebecca has volunteered for numerous events and charities within the Phoenix area. Rebecca has advocated to make sure that everyone, no matter of age, receives treatments that are necessary and assists other families going through the same struggles she faced with her four children. Since starting the special needs journey over twenty-five years ago, Rebecca discovered that the journey is full of speed bumps and forks in the road but with the willingness of others to reach out to one another, our community will succeed and for that, she is inspired to help as many as she can. Being part of an organization like the Autism Society of Greater Phoenix, that has done so much good for the Autistic community, inspires Rebecca to do her part to spread awareness and acceptance.
Crystal Benzing is from Arizona. Her husband is currently a Captain with the Fire Department. Crystal “retired” from the full-time corporate world and is currently a part-time habilitation provider. In 2021, she decided to create “Roasting Beans,” an LLC, with the goal of being able to provide life and employment skills for her teenage son. Crystal is a college graduate and continues her education through a plethora of opportunities. She enjoys earning CEU’s in a variety of topics including therapies such as Challenging Behaviors, Applied Behavior Therapy, Acceptance and Commitment Therapy and Social/Critical Thinking Skills. She also attends conferences about Epilepsy, Autism, Type one Diabetes and Tourettes. In 2016, she completed the Partners in Policymaking training. She has run a variety of support groups within the East Valley. Crystal loves Legos, roasting and drinking coffee, painting and gardening. She also has social anxiety and sensory processing challenges. In 2014, her youngest son was diagnosed with Autism, in 2015- Type 1 Diabetes, in 2016- Tourettes, in 2018- Hashimoto Thyroid Disease, and in 2020 Insomnia. Her daughter has her own medical challenges. After years of struggling with the school system with METs/IEPs trying to get support for her children, Crystal now homeschools her daughter and educates her son at home. You can find Crystal drinking coffee and being her unique self at a variety of events around the Valley.
Kristen Puma grew up in Pennsylvania and went on to graduate from James Madison University in Virginia with a Bachelors of Science in Fine Art. Following graduation Kristen did a year with a national service organization called AmeriCorps NCCC. After graduating from AmeriCorps, Kristen returned to work for one of the organizations served with AmeriCorps. In 2007, she moved to Arizona to pursue a career in firefighting. Kristen worked in the field as a firefighter for several years, before having to step away due to a medical diagnosis.
Kristen is married and her husband is a local Law Enforcement Officer. Together, they are the parents of two incredible boys. Their oldest son was their introduction to the world of developmental disabilities and medical complexities. In 2014 just before his 3rd birthday, he was diagnosed with Autism, then followed with a brain cancer diagnosis at 4 years old and posterior fossa syndrome following his brain surgery. During this time, Kristen learned how to advocate to help make change and be a voice, not just for her child, but for other children that would endure similar situations in the future. Sadly, their oldest son died at 6 years old due to his cancer diagnosis in 2018. Their youngest was also diagnosed with Autism just after his 3rd birthday in 2018. The journey of learning and advocating continues daily with their son.
Being an active member of the community has always been important to Kristen. She volunteered in the community as a member of the City of Avondale’s Crisis Response Team while working as a firefighter. Kristen actively volunteers with several different non-profit organizations and organizes a yearly book drive for local children’s hospitals, along with blood drives. Kristen currently serves on the Patient and Family Advisory Council with Phoenix Children’s Hospital for the Center for Cancer and Blood Disorders. Kristen is a Partners in Leadership graduate.
Kristen and her family currently live on a small farm in the south west valley, as they have found hope and healing through time with animals and nature. They hope to share this space with other families by providing opportunities for special needs families to visit for a day of healing and respite.
Erica Smith is an Arizona native, born and raised in Yuma, Arizona. She and her husband have been happily married for over 13 years and are the proud parents of four beautiful boys: Enoch, Elijah, Emmitt and Ean. Her family and Jesus have her heart. Her eldest son, Enoch, is on the Autism Spectrum and is non-speaking. He was diagnosed at 2 years of age with regressive Autism. He lost all speech and many motor skills. He now utilizes spelling to communicate on both a letter board and an augmentative communication device. Along with ASD, Enoch has many other medical conditions that keep mom and dad on their toes.
Erica enjoys spending time with her family, traveling, volunteering at church and for many special needs organizations, coaching youth soccer, being outdoors running, hiking, biking, and trying new foods! She also loves all things Disney! Fun fact about Erica, during her senior year of college, Erica interned at Walt Disney World as part of their College Program at Animal Kingdom and Epcot. She worked as a veterinary assistant at Animal Kingdom and an event coordinator at Epcot.
Erica holds a bachelor’s degree in science with an emphasis in Biology from Northern Arizona University, a master’s degree in Secondary Education with an emphasis in Biology from Grand Canyon University, and a master’s degree in Nursing with an emphasis in Public Health, also from Grand Canyon University. Erica served as a special education high school teacher for three years prior to becoming a Registered Nurse. In years past, Erica worked as a LDRP nurse (labor, delivery, recovery, and postpartum.) In 2018, Erica was called to active duty with the United States Public Health Services and is currently stationed with the Department of Homeland Security Immigration Customs Enforcement, in Florence, Arizona and works as the Clinic Coordinator for an ICE medical clinic.
Erica is a certified BLS, Basic Life Support, Instructor through the American Heart Association, Partners in Leadership graduate, and was an Executive Committee Member of the Arizona Autism Network of the West Valley for three years. Erica is dedicated to serving Autism families and the special needs community.
Dana Woods is a special needs mom with over 30 years of experience caring and advocating for those with physical and developmental disabilities. She is passionate about the power of networking in the service of her goal – to improve the quality of life for individuals on the spectrum and their families. To that end, she has volunteered with numerous Autism non-profits in various capacities for the past 12 years. Dana interviews experts on social media for the Autism Research Coalition and she has been interviewed by several notable publications including Smithsonian Magazine and Discover Magazine. Additionally, she has made an appearance on PBS and on Patricia Lemer Spear’s radio show, The Autism Detectives. The subjects of these interviews are wide-ranging, some include information about her son’s remarkable results in Arizona State University’s Microbial Transplant Therapy study. In her free time, Dana is an amateur photographer and videographer who dreams of perfecting her skills someday.
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 retired in 2022 as the Community Director and Treasurer for the Autism Society of Greater Phoenix. Katie also volunteers each week at her church, and helps train and educate in the community on Autism awareness.
Olivia Fryer has lived in Arizona for fifteen years. She and her husband are the proud parents of two children. Their oldest son is diagnosed with Autism and utilizes an augmentative communication device. Her youngest son is neurotypical and is his brother’s best friend and supporter. Her sons are her pride and joy. Olivia loves spending time with her family and likes to travel, garden, read, bake cookies, and is an avid Arizona Coyotes hockey fan.
Olivia holds a bachelor’s degree in Psychology from the University of Akron. Prior to becoming Executive Director, Olivia was an Executive Committee Member of the Arizona Autism Network of the West Valley and was a board member of the Autism Society of Greater Phoenix for four years.
Olivia is a certified BE SAFE instructor, Sibshops facilitator, Partners in Leadership graduate, and has participated in community advisory boards. She has worked within the disability community since 2014 and previously worked with children in kinship foster care. Her previous employers include Southwest Human Development, Arizona Autism United and T.E.A.M. 4 Kids. Olivia is dedicated to helping other parents, families and adults.
Sonya L. Hernández is a third generation Arizona native. She and her husband have two children, two dogs, one tortoise, and six chickens. Their son was diagnosed with Autism at age four and is currently in high school. Her daughter is presently studying at ASU. Sonya enjoys reading, yoga, eating out, volunteering, and traveling.
Sonya holds a BA from the University of Arizona (Bear Down!) in Mexican American Studies with a minor in Physiological Sciences. She also holds a SLPA and realtor license in the state of Arizona. She and her husband have been operating their own real estate business for the last 16 years.
Sonya has slowly become more involved in the Autism community as her children reach adulthood. She started volunteering with AZ Assist and is excited to start her new role with the Autism Society of Greater Phoenix. She is committed to expanding the services and opportunities for Autistic teens and adults.