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Committee Members

Our Committee Members that make all of our meetings and events possible


Laura England

Laura is 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 - West Valley Meeting Coordinator

Teri is 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.

Regina Flint - Committee Chair

Regina 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.

Sam Bartlow

Sam 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

Claudia is 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 mom’s tenacity and a love for learning propelled her to educate herself as much as possible about autism and the community, a path that led her to AZ ASSIST about three years ago.

Karen L. Starbowski

Karen 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.

Maria V. Dixon

Maria 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.

Katie Wride - East Valley Meeting Coordinator

Katie 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 the Community Director for the Autism Society of Greater Phoenix and on their Board of Directors as Treasurer. She also co-founded a parent support group called E.V.A.N. (East Valley Autism Network) with two other Moms in 2006.

Katie enjoys reading, raising goats and chickens on their family farm and in supporting families in all areas of need. She is a resource for Autism Awareness Education for future teachers, for students, and families throughout the valley. She enjoys sharing information to both families affected by Autism and throughout our communities.

Lynne Knudson - GPS Coordinator

Coming Soon!

Angela Paturzo

Angie is the mother of a son and a daughter, both in their twenties.  Her son was diagnosed with autism in 1995 and she has been a fierce advocate ever since.  Angie is a Navy veteran and was a Navy wife and has lived in several states and locations (Including Antarctica!)  She has dealt with many different service organizations and school districts in her role as her son’s advocate.  While living in California she was the parent liaison between her son’s school district and the Ventura County Special Education Local Plan Area.  She also represented the Autism Society of Ventura County on the Community Advisory Committee of the SELPA.  In Nebraska, California, Arizona and North Carolina she volunteered in her children’s classrooms and could always be counted on to chaperone field trips and organize book fairs.  Although most of her adult life she was a stay at home mother and volunteer, while living in NC, Angie joined up with the Autism Society of North Carolina, the state’s preeminent non-profit service provider and support organization for individuals on the autism spectrum and their families.  In her accounting role with ASNC, Angie learned the ins and outs of Medicaid funding, service delivery and bureaucratic red tape, a role in which Angie thrives and excels.  When she decided to move back to Arizona in November of 2017 to be near family, ASNC allowed her to continue in her position and work remotely from a home office in Gilbert. 

Angie is also on the board of directors of the Autism Society of Greater Phoenix.  In her free time, she enjoys hanging out with her niece and nephews, embroidery, and going to concerts.  She travels back to the east coast to see her favorite band play in multiple concerts throughout the southeast.

Sonya Hernandez

Coming soon!

Arizona Autism Network of the West Valley (AZANOW)

Kerrie Mallory-Thompson

Kerrie is a single mom of a little boy named Conor and an adult daughter named Sarah. She is a huge advocate for anything autism, as it directly affects her little boy. As of today, he is considered non-verbal but she works on this every day. She is an employee of Johnson Plastic Plus, the Color Center Manager of the Phoenix location. She runs the lasers as well as UV-LED printers and helps the corporate marketing department when needed. Since February 2012, when her son was diagnosed with autism, she has been running a Facebook/Blog 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 that knowledge is power and having the power to spread awareness creates knowledge. Her life with her son is an open book for that reason. In May 2015, she formed a local autism advocacy organization called “Arizona Autism Network of the West Valley”. In January of 2018 she merged her organization with the Autism Society of Greater Phoenix, where she currently sits as the Board Secretary.

Becky Adams

My name is Rebecca Adams. I’m a single Phx Native that has lived in Avondale, Buckeye, Glendale, Phoenix, Prescott and Mesa. I have also lived in Guam, California and Texas, with 4 special needs kids.  I have two daughters who are 26 & 20 and my twins boys who are 8 1/2 years old. I retired from being a Forensic Accountant after my boys were both diagnosed with Autism in 2012.  I have been involved in the California and Arizona Special Needs Community for almost 20 years after oldest daughter received her diagnosis.  

Between volunteering my time with the Arizona Autism Network of the West Valley, Autism Society of Greater Phoenix, and working part-time, I love to read, play at the beach and swim. 

Olivia Fryer

Coming Soon!

East Valley Autism Network (EVAN)

Holly Reycraft

Recently, Holly began a career in residential real estate, where she specializes in assisting families relocate in the Phoenix area, based on their child’s educational needs. Holly has spent the last two decades consulting parents on school choice options for their child as an educational consultant and has now expanded her knowledge to assisting families in purchasing a home in a community that meets their child’s unique educational needs. Holly has followed the market trends and property values in the east valley for several years. She feels fortunate to have joined the team at Realty Executives East Valley, where her broker shares thirty years of experience and knowledge with her and her clients. She would love to assist your family in buying or selling your home.

Holly has spent over two decades advocating for special needs children in several capacities. She worked ten years in public education as a counselor, special education teacher and administrator. Holly is the co-founder of East Valley Autism Network (EVAN), a parent support group and affiliate of the Autism Society of America for the last twelve years. Holly enjoys helping families and passing legislation to better the lives of individuals with autism and special needs. She is married and has three children. Her oldest son has autism and Type 1 Diabetes. Holly’s husband, Ken, has worked in commercial real estate as a land broker for the past two decades. Together they love to spend time looking at model homes and following the new product of home builders.

Katie Wride

Katie 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 the Community Director for the Autism Society of Greater Phoenix and on their Board of Directors as Treasurer. She also co-founded a parent support group called E.V.A.N. (East Valley Autism Network) with two other Moms in 2006.

Katie enjoys reading, raising goats and chickens on their family farm and in supporting families in all areas of need. She is a resource for Autism Awareness Education for future teachers, for students, and families throughout the valley. She enjoys sharing information to both families affected by Autism and throughout our communities.

Central Phoenix Autism Network

Anani Vasquez

Anani Vasquez is a wife and mother to two teen sons. Her oldest is on the spectrum and her youngest has overcome learning disabilities, while still dealing some with sensory processing disorder. Anani’s children have had a variety of educational experiences, ranging from district developmental preschool, to homeschooling, to charter school, to private schools through the ESA scholarship. She is a graduate student at Arizona State University in Mary Lou Fulton’s Learning, Literacies and Technologies PhD program. She has experience as an elementary school teacher with certifications in Elementary and Special Education and endorsements in Bilingual and Gifted Education. She has also mentored pre- and in-service teachers as a Professional Development School mentor, Teacher Coach and Instructor for Elementary Mathematics and Math Methods courses through ASU West. Anani has dedicated her career to better understanding the special needs of underserved populations, promoting differentiated instruction in the regular classroom and implementing problem-based, student-centered mathematics instruction.

Michele Thorne

Michele Thorne is the mother of two children who have been diagnosed with autism. After her son was diagnosed with autism she left her career in genetics and teaching and founded D.A.M.E.S. (Differently Abled Mothers Empowerment Society). Michele facilitates the Central Phoenix mom’s meet up and support group. Michele is very excited to connect and engage with other families who are affected by autism and share her experiences in the hope of helping others. 

Anita Frayer

Coming Soon!

Vanessa Santiago

Coming Soon!