Dawn Hoyt, President (Delaware County)
Maureen E. Reilly, Esq., Secretary (Delaware County)
Joseph Gousie, Sr., Treasurer (Delaware County)
Keith Bartley (Chester County)
Erica Brignac (Delaware County)
Randi Davis, R.N. (Bucks County)
Deb Dunn, Esq. (Delaware County)
Michael Fogel, MA, ATR-BC, LPC (Philadelphia County)
Bradley C. Norford, Ph.D. (Chester County)
Maleita Olson, MSW (Delaware County)
Elena Perri (Delaware County)
Cindy Schneider (Chester County)
Carol Weinman, Esq. (Montgomery County)
Ryan Wexelblatt, MSS (Montgomery County)
Deirdre Cummins Wright, Founder and Emeritus
ASCEND’s board is comprised of family members, individuals with ASD, and professionals who work in the field of autism. See bios below.
Keith Bartley is a young man in his 20s with Asperger Syndrome who recently moved to the Philadelphia area. He works as a research assistant at the Center for Autism Research at CHOP, where he processes and analyzes MRI images and otherwise assists with research projects. Keith’s previous experience includes conducting trainings for individuals with ASDs and other disabilities on dating and self-advocacy. He was instrumental in setting up groups for college students with ASD and other disabilities at the University of Tennessee. Keith graduated from the University of Tennessee with a MS in Plant Sciences. He lives with his wife in Malvern, PA.
Erica Brignac is the mom of two boys in elementary school, one with a PDD-NOS diagnosis and another with ADHD. She is the senior art director for Bank of America, based in Wilmington, DE. In that capacity, Erica has worked with a number of clients, including Major League Baseball, the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, and Stanford University. In 2012, Erica was selected to represent the State of Delaware at Parenting Magazine’s Mom Congress on Education and Learning in Washington, DC. In her spare time she often volunteers her services to nonprofit organizations, including ASCEND. Erica is an active member of the Garnet Valley Autism Support Group and is always looking to increase her knowledge base by attending various conferences on autism and ADHD. Erica received her BFA from the University of Delaware. She lives in Garnet Valley, PA, with her husband and sons.
Randi Davis is the mother of two boys, ages 11 and 13. Her younger son was diagnosed with Asperger Syndrome at age 6. Randi and her family have raised funds for Autism Speaks via the annual Walk Now for Autism and have been involved in the NJ Summer Special Olympics. Currently, Randi and her family are involved as “buddies” with a soccer league in Bucks County for children with autism. On a professional level, Randi has used her knowledge of Early Intervention and community resources as a nurse for a local pediatrician and as the nurse at a JCC Camp, a camp that has created a reputation for being accommodating to campers with special needs. She holds multiple degrees from the University of Pennsylvania in the Biological Basis of Behavior and Nursing. Randi has served on the board of directors of the School of Nursing at Penn and as a member of the executive board of her synagogue. She lives in the Yardley area.
Deb Dunn, Esq., is the Outreach Director for the Center for Autism Research (CAR) at The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and the University of Pennsylvania. In this capacity, she coordinates recruitment of research participants, plans events of interest to the autism community and the community at large, participates in autism educational events for parents and professionals, and organizes CAR’s community fundraising program. She is a professional member of the Montgomery County Autism Network and the Delaware County Autism Collaborative. Deb is a lawyer who practiced with a litigation firm in Philadelphia in the areas of employment, products liability, medical malpractice, antitrust, and insurance coverage, until her son, now a teenager, was diagnosed with Asperger Syndrome. She graduated with honors from Duke University and The University of North Carolina School of Law.
Michael Fogel, MA, ATR-BC, LPC, is a licensed, board-certified art therapist with nearly 20 years of clinical experience. In 2006, he was honored by the Delaware Valley Art Therapy Association with the “Innovative Application of Art Therapy” award. This prompted him to found the Child and Family Art Therapy Center which houses the Art of Friendship program and offers unique individual child therapy services for a wide range of childhood behavioral and emotional challenges. Recently, Michael introduced a social skills/anti-bully program, the Team for Fun Community, for implementation in neurotypical school communities, which focuses on using the creative arts to help children grow in healthy ways. Michael is an adjunct professor at the graduate art therapy program at Drexel University and a frequent presenter at workshops and conferences. Michael resides in the Philadelphia area with his wife and two children.
Joseph Gousie, Sr., currently serves as ASCEND’s Vice President. Joe has worked in the field of intellectual and developmental disabilities for nearly 40 years. He currently serves as the director of non-traditional services for Elwyn, a nonprofit human services organization, at its Work Services office in Aston, PA. Previously, Joe was the executive director of Community Services for Autistic Adults and Children (CSAAC), the largest nonprofit in the country serving exclusively individuals with autism. Joe also spent 35 years as the executive director of agencies serving individuals with developmental disabilities in RI and PA. He has extensive experience as a workshop presenter on both the national and local level. Joe is inspired to serve on ASCEND’s board by his personal experience of having a son and grandson diagnosed with Asperger Syndrome.
Dawn Hoyt is the mother of an eight-year-old boy diagnosed with PDD-NOS in 2006 and a six-year-old daughter. In 2007, Dawn started Team Hoyt as a group to raise funds through the annual “Walk Now for Autism.” In addition to being one of the leading fundraising teams in each of the last three years, Team Hoyt has committed to raise an additional $100,000 over the next four years. She is also the President of the Garnet Valley Autism Support group. This active group has support group meetings for parents as well as a monthly social event for their children with ASD and their siblings. Prior to becoming a fulltime mom, Dawn worked as an operations supervisor for Vanguard. Dawn, her husband and their two children live in Glen Mills, PA.
Brad Norford, Ph.D., is the director of Bryn Mawr Psychological Associates in Bryn Mawr, PA, a private practice specializing in therapy and consultation for children, adolescents and parents. Brad earned his degree in clinical psychology at the University of South Carolina. He has a considerable background in treating children on the autism spectrum as well as those with the full-range of other psychological issues. Brad previously worked as a psychologist in community mental health settings, in residential treatment with the Devereux Foundation, and in large outpatient practices. For the past decade, he has been active in advocating with state legislators for healthcare reform and other mental health causes. Brad grew up in Bucks County and now resides in Chester County with his wife and three children.
Maleita Olson, MSW, is the parent of an 11-year-old with Asperger Syndrome. For more than 10 years prior to his birth, she had trained and worked as a social worker with persons with various developmental disabilities. Maleita combines her personal and professional experiences to provide help and guidance to families with children and adults on the autism spectrum. She is a frequent presenter at conferences and runs a private practice, Spectra Support Services (Springfield, PA) that primarily serves families with young adults with Asperger Syndrome. Maleita is currently pursuing a graduate certificate in autism from Drexel University and certificates in Advanced Child Development and Play Therapy via the Family Play Therapy Center in Mt. Airy. She lives in Springfield with her husband and children.
Elena Perri is a public relations specialist who has a communications degree from Temple University and also received training in journalism and photography while serving in the U.S. Army Reserve. She has extensive journalism, public relations, editing and public speaking experience. Elena has been a board member of the Philadelphia chapter of the International Association of Business Communicators for more than 15 years and served in many capacities on its executive board. She is also a member of the Catholic Press Association. Elena’s personal experience with autism comes from raising a young son with Asperger Syndrome, which has given her a great understanding of the needs and challenges faced by families in our region. She and her family live in Havertown, PA.
Maureen (“Mo”) Reilly is the mother of a ten-year old boy with high functioning autism, and an eight-year old daughter who does not have autism. In the eight years since her son was first diagnosed, Mo has been an active member of a variety of organizations that serve the autism community both locally and nationally. Currently, she serves on the parent advisory board for the Pennsylvania Department of Public Welfare’s Bureau of Autism Services. Mo is employed as senior employment counsel for SunGard Data Systems. She earned her law degree from the University of Virginia School of Law and also has a Ph.D. in industrial/organizational psychology from George Mason University. Mo lives in Media, PA, with her husband and two children.
Cindy Schneider founded Acting Antics Art Center, based in Chester County, in 2007 to provide music and theater programming for youngsters of all ages and ability levels. Cindy’s book, Acting Antics: A Theatrical Approach to Teaching Social Understanding to Kids and Teens with Asperger Syndrome, is published by Jessica Kingsley. Cindy has trained professionals throughout North America in the Acting Antics techniques and serves on the board of the International Association of Theatre and Autism. Cindy was a special educator and consultant for Chester County IU for 27 years, specializing in autism spectrum disorders. As a thespian and children’s community theater director, she began to develop acting workshops for students diagnosed with social deficits in 2002. Cindy earned her bachelor of science degree from West Chester University and her master’s degree from Immaculata University. In addition, she was awarded autism certification by Penn State and communication specialist certification by Temple University.
Carol S. Weinman, Esq., has spent 20 years as a domestic relations lawyer and trial attorney. She has advocated for clients in juvenile, adult, family and dependency courts. Recently, Carol shifted her focus to being a life coach and mediator for parents of children with Asperger Syndrome (AS) and women going through divorce. Carol has authored and edited educational reference books on special education law, employment law, and higher education law, and is well versed on the law in the area of special needs and available accommodations. She has instructed classes at Temple University and served as a Philadelphia prosecutor. Carol earned her law degree and a bachelor’s degree in communications from Temple University. She became an authority on Asperger Syndrome after conducting extensive research in her effort to successfully diagnose a family member and from months of teaching applied behavioral analysis techniques to a child with Aspergers. She grew up in Philadelphia and lives in Fort Washington, PA, with her twin boys.
Ryan Wexelblatt, MSS, is a clinical social worker who has focused much of his work on serving students with Asperger Syndrome and other autism spectrum disorders. In 2011, Ryan launched Camp Sequoia, an overnight camp (Pottstown, PA) that draws students from across the US. This innovative program integrates Michelle Garcia Winner’s “Social Thinking” framework to help campers build social skills through a traditional camp program. Ryan also offers the Sequoia Kids Program to extend the social learning through the school year for Philadelphia-area students ages 8-15. He previously was a staff member at the Y.A.L.E School (Cherry Hill, NJ) and Hill Top Preparatory School (Bryn Mawr, PA). At Hill Top, Ryan created and served as Director for Hill Top Summer Day Camp. Ryan lives in Narberth with his wife and son.
Deirdre Cummins Wright (Founder and Emeritus) launched ASCEND in 2001 with the help of many parents of children with Asperger Syndrome. She recognized a need for support for family members during a time when Asperger Syndrome was a little known disorder. ASCEND was her passion for more than 10 years. Deirdre retired from the board in 2012 knowing that the organization was in good hands and proud of all that ASCEND has accomplished in terms of providing resources, raising awareness, and building a community. Deirdre is now the Quality Manager for PA’s Adult Autism Waiver, a program that serves 300+ participants across the state.