ASCEND's Board

Providing guidance and support for ASCEND

Elena Perri, President (Delaware County)
Steven Glazier, M.A, Vice President (Montgomery County)
Richard Fry , Treasurer (Delaware County)
Robert Schmus, LSW (Camden County NJ)
Randi Rentz (Montgomery County)
Sandy Shacklady-White (Chester County)
Susan Paul (Montgomery County)
Andrea Kirshenbaum (Philadelphia County)
Susan Peterman, MPH (Chester County)
Terry Peura, CRNP (Delaware County)
Frank Buttaro, (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.


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.

Steven Glazier, M.A. is a Psychologist who has been working with individuals with developmental, emotional, and behavioral challenges for 30 years.  Since 1995, he has been in private practice, specializing in treating Autism Spectrum Disorder.  Steve has been on the faculty of Widener University’s Early Childhood Mental Health Program and the Boards of the Philadelphia Preschool Early Intervention Autism Committee and the Delaware Valley Chapter of the World Association for Infant Mental Health.  He currently is a Faculty member of Profectum Academy, an international agency dedicated to training professionals who work with special needs and he is designated an “Expert Practitioner” by the Interdisciplinary Council on Developmental and Learning Disorders. In his spare time, Steve directs the Challenger Program for children with special needs in Cheltenham Little League and spends time with his wife, three teenage children, and four pets.

Richard Fry, is a finance professional who has a MBA from Temple University and has worked in non-profits for 20 years. He spent 5 years at Bancroft, an organization that serves the autistic and developmentally disabled community, in a senior management position. Richard’s personal experience with autism comes from having 2 children on the autism spectrum. Richard and his family live in Havertown, PA.  

Bob Schmus, LSW is a young man in his mid-20’s who was diagnosed with Asperger’s at the age of 10. Bob currently works as a program counselor at Albert “Bo” Robinson Assessment and Treatment Center in Trenton NJ, counseling the corrections population. In his spare time, he is a volunteer speaker at The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia’s Reach for the Future program; helping adolescents on the spectrum transition to adulthood. Bob is also an advisory board member on a research project at Drexel University’s Autism Institute, as well as a member of the institute’s community workgroup. Bob earned his B.S. Degree in Social Work from Concordia College of New York in 2011 and an MSW degree in 2012 from the University of Pennsylvania. He is a Licensed Social Worker (LSW) in Pennsylvania and New Jersey and is working towards attaining his LCSW license.

Randi Rentz, MS, is a special educator who has worked in the public school setting since 1993. She understands how to create success with individuals with ASD and the importance of accepting people with differences. Randi developed a newscast for children with Asperger’s Syndrome to teach skills related to modulating behavior, developing social and communication skills, and how to turn differences into assets. She has coordinated and presented workshops nationally and locally on a variety of special education topics. Randi has been published in The Autism File and has been featured in regional news, including articles in the Philadelphia Inquirer and Main Line Today and on 6ABC ‘s Fast Forward. In 2014, Randi was named a “Woman of Note” by the Wall Street Journal for her work in autism. She graduated from the University of Maryland with a BS and received her MS in Special Education from Johns Hopkins University.

Sandy Shacklady-White, M.Ed, has been employed since May 2017 as an educational consultant with the Pennsylvania Department of Education: Bureau of Special Education's Pennsylvania Training and Technical Assistance Network (PaTTAN) based out of the PaTTAN-East office. Sandy is currently on state special education initiatives for: Autism, Leadership, Procedural Safeguards, & Behavior. Additionally, she is a on the state-wide team for Pennsylvania's ESSA implementation, especially section 4 of the PA Plan for school accountability and improvement efforts. Prior to employment with PaTTAN, Sandy was a supervisor of special education for nearly 12 years working with all grades in public schools.  Prior to working as an administrator, Sandy was a special education teacher for almost 18 years in a public middle school and an approved private school. In the past she was an adjunct staff for 7 years at West Chester University in the undergraduate special education program.  She is a member of CHADD, ASCD, PASCD, PA CTESP, Penn ABA, Chester County Reading Association, CEC, and a board member at large for PA CEC.  She is currently in the dissertation phase for her doctorate degree via Arcadia University. Sandy is passionate about all things special ed!  She lives in Coatesville with her husband of 29 years and 2 furry children (cats). 

Susan Paul- is an ASHA certified speech/language pathologist with over 30 years of experience. She attended the University of Maryland and received her B.A. and M.A. from Temple University and received her teaching certificate from the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. As a private practitioner, Susan has consulted with child growth and development centers, schools, and early intervention programs, and has provided individual and group therapy, including social communication groups. In her private practice, Communication Imaging, LLC, she and her associates pride themselves in fostering effective and functional communication techniques by utilizing a team approach while drawing upon individuals’ strengths. Susan is an expert in the field of autism and was featured on Friendly Neighborhoods, a cable television program produced by LaSalle University. Susan has presented workshops to both professionals and laypeople on the topic of autism/social communication and early language, learning and literacy development.

Andrea Kirshenbaum-  is the Chair of Post & Schell, P.C.’s Wage and Hour Practice Group and Principal in the firm’s Employment & Employee Relations Practice Group in Philadelphia. She defends employers nationally in federal and state court litigation involving all major employment statutes, represents them in government investigations, and counsels them proactively on compliance with these statutes. A significant portion of her practice is focused on wage and hour related compliance and litigation under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) and applicable state laws governing wages and pay practices. 

Ms. Kirshenbaum is the parent of two children on the Autism spectrum. In addition to serving on ASCEND’s Board, Ms. Kirshenbaum also is a Board Member of OROT, which provides diverse learners in Jewish day schools a personalized support program addressing academic, social and behavioral needs while building confidence and promoting success.

Susan Peterman, MPH -is a Marketing Manager for a private health insurance company. She has an MPH from Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health. Susan has over 20 years' experience working in the healthcare industry. She served as a Co-Coordinator for B.U.I.L.D., Better Understanding of Individuals with Learning Differences in the Tredyffrin Easttown School District (TESD) and has a family member with Asperger's.

Terry Peura, CRNP- is a pediatric nurse practitioner and has a master's degree in nursing from the University of California San Francisco. He has been working in a private psychiatric practice in Berwyn for the past 15 years providing psychiatric evaluations and medication management to kids with mental health issues up to the age of 21.  His 13 year old son who is on the autistic spectrum got him  interested in raising awareness of the need to create appropriate social opportunities for individuals on the autistic spectrum and looks to help mobilize folks to create and expand such opportunities in hopes of creating a cohesive and dynamic community.

Frank Buttaro III -  is the Director of Sales for New Horizons, the world’s largest independent training company.  For over 10 years, he has been providing learning solutions to organizations, helping them improve their businesses by creating and implementing various training initiatives. Frank is part of an innovative team that invests in learning models which deliver effective, accessible and personalized solutions.  He has a Bachelor of Science Degree in Business from the Pennsylvania State University, as well as a Master Degree in Business Administration from the University of Phoenix.  In addition to his career, he volunteers and sits on several Boards including Non-Profit, Government, and Business entities.  

His personal connection to Autism is his son, who has an Autism Spectrum Diagnosis, as well the time he spends working with several Autism charities and research organizations here in the Greater Philadelphia area.  When not at work or volunteering, he loves to travel and is passionate about food and photography


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.